Life Driven Purpose, pg 52

Feb 9, 2016

“How do atheists know how to be good? How does anybody know how to be good? Should you simply “give a little whistle, and always let your conscience be your guide,” as Jiminy Cricket counseled Pinocchio? Conscience is defined as a “moral sense,” but what is that, exactly? Is it a physical sense? Do we simply perceive the right thing to do? If so, why do so many people do the wrong thing, and why is it often so hard to know what is right? If our “conscience” is so deplorable, why do we need laws? Why do we have moral dilemmas? Jiminy Cricket had a sweet idea but it sounds simplistic, like something you would hear in a movie. How exactly does a “conscience” guide us, and why does it not always work very well in reality? Luckily we are not puppets-turned-human or we would all have very long noses.”

-Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 52

197 comments on “Life Driven Purpose, pg 52

  • Years ago I had no proper appreciation for the enormous effort that it really takes to teach children to live their lives in a strong, ethically balanced way. The reason for this, as I see it now from some temporal distance, has to do with my having the bad luck of being brought up in an authoritarian, tea-party, church going, puritanical family. Families like mine believe they have the monopoly on good behavior and correct thinking but I see it differently now. With their discomfort of emotional displays and emphasis on physical and emotional punishment they actually teach their children certain skills that have the result of sending their teens and young adults out into the world in a state of moral confusion.

    Instead of teaching children that the family is a safe place of support and acceptance, they end up producing adults that operate with an undercurrent of fear, insecurity and the inability to trust another human, especially in relationships of intimacy. The skills needed to survive in an authoritarian family include slick lying to avoid punishment, walking on eggshells around authority figures, conniving to get what is wanted and needed because it would be impossible to make a rational case for fairness, and in the end, this is the recipe for the production of a skilled and talented hypocrite of the first order.

    Religion adds to the worst of this by providing a framework of rules that are based on nothing that the modern child, teen and adult can relate to. The ten commandments and every parable I’ve ever heard of and read in the Bible offers nothing in helping us work through social challenges of this current time. The emphasis on following these archaic rules with threats of disproportionately cruel, horrific punishment is absolutely consistent with the authoritarian parenting style described above. It’s bad enough that a child can’t relate to the lessons but what is more crippling is that it doesn’t teach a child to work through ideas of right or wrong and to consider consequences for themselves and others in that moment.

    There’s a better way of producing a morally balanced child who will go out into the world with a solid grasp of right and wrong, good and bad, and an understanding of what is of value and what is not. This is where ethics can make all the difference. The superiority of a life lived with the conscious application of the principles of an ethical framework instead of an archaic, rigid framework of religious rules is that ethics requires us to consider a list of ethical obligations and to work those obligations in any given scenario to come up with the best possible solution at that time. It doesn’t have to be a perfect solution but just the best one we can manage in full view of consequences to ourselves and others.

    If our society moves more toward a goal of egalitarian, compassionate parenting while teaching children the principles of ethics in an age appropriate way for the twenty or more years that they remain in the domain of their parents and extended family, I predict that our whole society will move closer to the ideal of the humanist values that we admire. I believe S. Pinker when he says that this is already happening on a large scale historically. But this is how we will continue this trend; one child and one family at a time.



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  • 2
    Pinball1970 says:

    Quite beautifully put Laurie.

    I am glad you added the optimistic Pinker reference at the end, I tend to get glass is half empty reading about ethics, religion, morality and children so I needed that.



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  • LaurieB
    Feb 9, 2016 at 9:40 am

    The ten commandments and every parable I’ve ever heard of and read in the Bible offers nothing in helping us work through social challenges of this current time. The emphasis on following these archaic rules with threats of disproportionately cruel, horrific punishment is absolutely consistent with the authoritarian parenting style described above.

    While it is claimed the “Ten Commandments” were set in stone, this has not prevented assorted versions of them being arrived at for convenience.

    http://undergod.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000824
    Chart Comparing Four Versions of the 10 Commandments
    Particularly of note is the absence of reference to “graven images”/”idols”, in the Roman Catholic version!



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  • “How do atheists know how to be good? How does anybody know how to be good?

    Trial and error.

    Why do we have moral dilemmas?

    Because there’s no such thing as absolute good or absolute right/ wrong.



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  • 5
    maria melo says:

    Awful paragraph, I wouldn´t loose my time reading the book from where this paragraph came, perhaps “Evil in Modern Thought” from Susan Neiman seems a better choise to me (only read what was available on internet and listen to interviews on radio).
    Sorry.



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  • @ all my cherished co-members on this site

    I’ve noticed that the site has gotten rid of the reply option, so that we cannot reply directly. We still have the option of doing this, however: @. That’s better, I think.
    Anyway, I hate it when authors ask these enormously complex questions and try to give answers in their paltry little self-help, money-making books.
    There is no simple answer.
    My advice (based on years of experience, reflection and study) is to form your own sense of what is morally good or bad. Use instinct and inner feeling as a guide. No rules. It is an existential question. We can never know if we are good or bad. We can never be sure. Read Moby Dick. We are all Ahab to one degree or another. Kierkegaard has taught us that precisely when we think we are being good we are being bad or evil. (I use the word evil. Tough shit.) Conversely, we may think we are engaging in a wicked act and may be doing something morally praiseworthy. Sometimes we do what we think is good and really are doing something good.
    As for my definition of good and bad: I have different definitions. One might be that which augments my zest for life. A bad act is that which diminishes it.
    In a moral sense, a good act is that which arises from the motive of sympathy; whereas a wicked or evil act arises from selfishness.
    This all has to be lived and decided for oneself. I advocate a self-legislative, individual moral philosophy (which can conflict with the interests of the state) and defining for oneself what is good or bad. As I said, that which enhances life, augments it, is good…
    No way that these questions can be adequately addressed here.
    One more point. We need laws and some element of authority, as Dostoyevsky and others have said. Left to our own devices and to self legislative morality (which very few people are capable of doing as they have no sense of morality and if they did it would be injurious to others) we will prey on each other. This impulse could change, but I doubt it.
    Conscience? I believe in it, but the concept is on its way out. You can blame the anti-transcendentalists for that (Wittgenstein, and now the uninspiring neuroscientists who haven’t a clue what real goodness of heart is, and never will.)
    Have a good day – and read Schopenhauer. Read Dawkins. Read great philosophers, great writers.
    Read Mailer, read Henry Miller, Tolstoy…People like that, novelists.—These are the great moralists. Don’t read this second rate buffoon who, like so many others, trivializes the great questions.
    (In a foul mood.)



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  • 9
    maria melo says:

    “(…) has to do with my having the bad luck of being brought up in an
    authoritarian, tea-party, church going, puritanical family. Families
    like mine believe they have the monopoly on good behavior and correct
    thinking but I see it differently now.”

    Sorry to hear.
    Well, I feel much more lucky, despite being a child of a religious mother, religion is NOTHING comparing with inconditional love from a mother and familiy,
    I never felt any authority in my whole life, I am free as the wind and always was.



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  • @maria melo

    Feb 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    inconditional love from a mother and familiy,

    How lucky you are for having that Maria. If only every child could feel that much support then the world would be a better place. Don’t be sorry though, I am a resilient person now because of that and not afraid to speak out for what I think is right. Fight fire with fire if you get my meaning.



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  • @ maria

    …religion is NOTHING comparing with unconditional love from a mother
    and family…

    I don’t think Laurie would disagree with that. Good point.

    Made some mistakes in my post. Sorry.



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  • Sorry. I hate mistakes. I may need meds for this, will look into it. Anyway, here are two corrected and improved sentences:

    We need laws and some element of authority, as Dostoyevsky and others have said. Left to our own devices and to self legislative morality (which very few people are capable of establishing as they have no sense of morality and if they did it might be injurious to others) we will prey on each other.

    Conscience? I believe in it, but the concept is on its way out. You can blame the anti-transcendentalists (Wittgenstein, in particular) who destroyed the romantic spirit for that (and above all the uninspiring neuroscientists who haven’t a clue what real goodness of heart is, and never will).



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  • Given that all religions are man made, there are no gods and there never has been or will be any divine inspiration into what constitutes morality this whole question seems moot and pointless to me. Anyone who isn’t a sociopath or psychopath knows what constitutes right and wrong based on little more than “would I like this to be done to me or not”. Simples.



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  • Yes, Arkrid, but there is a big difference between knowing what is right and being able to actually do what is right (based on that knowledge). Knowledge of what is right will not compel someone to do what is right.
    Everyone is capable of understanding the golden rule, but that knowledge is not enough. Knowledge is just a medium. When a motive is presented, say, stealing, and a counter-motive is also presented: doing what is right; I wouldn’t want that done to me, the counter-motive, if not accompanied with a greater desire to do what is right, will have insufficient impact upon one’s (moral) decision.
    The true and only basis of morality is compassion, as opposed to what one may know, or a rule. Compassion or sympathy is a feeling.
    Knowledge of the so-called golden rule will never be enough. Never has been. Never will. There has to be desire to do what is right, a desire that is stronger than the desire to do what is not right.
    The strength of our desire to do what is not right must not be underestimated.



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  • Glass half full for me too and filling nicely.

    Those religious folk clinging desperately to their moral dogma need the prospect of imminent moral catastrophe to keep like minds clinging together.

    Morality is a collective negotiation which I am delighted to say takes up increasingly more of our lives and I marvel at my kids and their friends and their level of time-investment in it.



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  • It is also pleasing to see a new understanding of real difference between us all, the diversity of folk and the diversity in nature of our wants, needs and talents.

    The age of the Gold Rule that presumes we are clones of each other is giving way to the smarter Platinum Rule. Do unto others as they would wish to be done by. We are made in no-one’s image, and we can presume nothing until we hear what we each has to say.



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  • @LaurieB
    Feb 9, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    So no gray areas then? How did you manage that?

    I’m talking about simple moral decisions such as those mentioned in religious books – don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t covert your neighbour’s bottom etc. I see no need for divine guidance on any of those.

    However of course there are more complex moral dilemmas such as the well known “Trolley Problems” where a person has the choice to divert a railroad trolley down a side track killing one person but saving the five people on the main line. There are many variations. However no religions that I am aware of cover such complex thought exercises other than perhaps exhorting someone to pray to their imaginary sky friend for guidance. In the end it all boils down to each person’s inbuilt morality which is no doubt a combination of nature and nurture.



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  • @Arkrid Sandwich

    However no religions that I am aware of cover such complex thought exercises

    Yes I agree. They are utterly simplistic in their analysis of good and bad. What worried me is that “don’t steal and don’t covet your neighbor’s bottom could both fall into certain gray areas. Again, the ten commandments are too black and white. I can think of scenarios where both of those behaviors could be seen as ethically acceptable and in fact, I can probably work out an acceptable ethical explanation of why the whole ten commandments in it’s several versions are way too black and white and there may be cases where it’s fine and dandy to break these commandments in certain situations. Of course, this is exactly what people do in every day life.



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  • @LaurieB

    The problems with the ten commandments are numerous. The first four (no other gods, graven images, name in vain, holy Sabbath) are clearly only there to promulgate the religion itself.

    Number 5, honour thy parents, is probably rooted in the same thing as parents pass religion on to their children like a genetically transmitted disease. Plenty of parents are awful people and certainly not worthy of honour for its own sake. That only leaves five with any real moral purpose.

    6) Thou shalt not kill, is contradicted almost everywhere in the old testament. You are supposed, nay commanded, to kill people for all sorts of spurious reasons. Homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery (women only of course), worshipping other gods, the list goes on.

    7) Adultery. This seems to be fine for men but of course most religions are invented by men for men so no great surprise.

    8) Don’t steal. Again the OT is full of stories about people stealing land, possessions, their neighbour’s bottoms, but of course they cite their imaginary sky pixie’s instructions as justification.

    9) False witness. This actually seems reasonable.

    10) Covet. So does this I suppose.

    When half of the commandments are only there to promulgate the religion, three others are contradicted leaving two out of the ten left you have to think that anyone with a brain could do better without trying very hard.

    I think I’m guilty of all of them apart from kill and graven images but I still like to think of myself as a good person. I had a wonderful time with my neighbour’s bottom once for a year or so until we split up but only after her husband had already left her. I’m not sure if that counts as adultery as I wasn’t married myself but she still was. Only last night I pinched a bit of the cattle feed up at the farm for my chickens when I was walking the dog but they’ll never miss it. Mind you I cleared up all the rubbish for them that had blown everywhere from one of the rubbish bins that had tipped over in the recent gales so fair’s fair.



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  • Arkrid,

    Very amusing. May I suggest that there’s really nothing so bad about coveting? Annoying possibly, but if we turn it into motivation to save money and work hard so we can have that same delightful Michael Kors handbag then how can that be a bad thing? But coveting doesn’t seem bad to me as long as one doesn’t lean over into the next category of stealing or adultery say.

    I’ll agree with you on the false witness being reasonable. I didn’t need to learn it from the Bible though. Back in the old neighborhood, when a ball went through someone’s window, just try to bear false witness against an innocent ball player and you’ll be getting a punch in the stomach later for your trouble. Another lesson learned the hard way. 🙁



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  • LaurieB
    Feb 9, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    I’ll agree with you on the false witness being reasonable. I didn’t need to learn it from the Bible though.

    Strangely, Jehovah’s Witnesses (or should that be witlesses?) who claim to follow the Bible, profess witness to things they could not possibly know! 🙂



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  • @LaurieB

    I’d agree that maybe “covet” is not even a bad thing. It can spur you on to working harder to get the same toys yourself. Only acting on the covetting if that amounts to stealing is wrong. So we’re down to 4 with some sort of justification of which 3 are contradicted anyway. Not good.

    The graven image bit also mystifies me. Churches are full of images of Christ, angels, god him(her)self. Every crucifix must be a graven image and they are hardly in short supply. Only the Amish seem to take that bit seriously.

    Going even deeper into religious f**kwittery boggles the mind. I’m no fan of shellfish after getting a badly upset tummy after trying clams at a work’s dinner but everyone loves pork. I know pigs are supposed to be even more intelligent than most dogs but it’s their own damn fault for being so tasty. Yum. Anyone for a bacon sarnie?



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  • @Arkrid Sandwich

    Feb 9, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    graven image bit

    Right. Strange that they’re prohibited and yet there they are all over the place. I’m thinking just now that I remember the Methodists expressing their scorn towards the Catholics for all of their fancy windows with pictures and the stupid statues in every nook and cranny in those opulent churches of theirs. But why don’t they see their own damn graven images? Muslims also rant about graven images and yet they all bow down with bums in the air in front of a big black box. Inside it is an old well that has magical powers. The North Africans have the khamsa or hand of Fatima that wards off the evil eye and then of course they love to explain to me that worshiping objects as the Christians do is very sinful. Does everyone think that their own magical images are fine but everyone else’s are an abomination?

    The reason that we should like these images and objects of veneration is for the wonderful collections of art and religious trinkets and chachkas that we enjoy now-a-days.

    Have you seen this video of those guys who are carrying this stupid statue around in church and the thing takes a nose dive?! I swear I was dying laughing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Ian6oV5RQ



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  • @ Arkrid Sandwich (Richard Dawkins) and Laurie

    Very amusing.

    Copped that from George Carlin.

    Inbuilt morality

    Yes, it is inborn and environment plays a (secondary) role. Again, knowledge of what is right and wrong is often powerless against the desire to engage in selfish acts. Morality is a not determined by logic or maxims or laws or rules. (It can, however, be destroyed by logic, if we are not careful. Conscience will be the first thing to go. It’s already on its way out.)

    Ten Commandments? Why are we into that? They do make bad men do good things.



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  • P.S. Ran out of time, and having trouble organizing my thoughts tonight.—There is no reason to be hopeful (or hopeless) about the future of kindness and compassion. There is no rational argument that I know of in favor of goodness. And even if there were, it would not affect morality; it would only affect people’s behavior. This is the function of laws. The golden rule is a most flimsy thing. After religion ends acts of kindness will be just as uncommon as they are now. The only difference will be that wicked people will no longer fear punishment after death. We will be even more in need of laws, and will most likely always need laws.



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  • @ Laurie

    When I read your comments I feel less pessimistic, less cynical, more hopeful about the future. I don’t know exactly why; I think it’s because you have a scientific orientation, are most definitely not a theist, and yet radiate (through your comments) pure and unmistakable good will. (o_O?)

    🙂



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  • @Dan
    Feb 9, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Nice of you to say so Dan, but I’m sitting here feeling like a cruel meany for laughing at those people in the statue video. I feel bad about it now.



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  • I think ethics and morality can be a creative effort. But many -most ?- people talk like they expect to find the answers, they already exist, it’s out there, the perfect society has been described, the best course of action is known to someone somewhere, just look hard enough etc, etc. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately anyway regarding this topic. The answers to ethical and moral dilemmas often come up short because they don’t attempt to generate at the very least an image of the future state of things hoped for.

    -not doing this justice, maybe I’ll try again later

    –//–

    Trump’s victory tonight —glass still half full?



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  • Our behaviour was first governed by the need for the tribe to get along and prosper for the last 2 million years. Don’t steal. Don’t run off with Ug’s wife. Don’t kill. Respect the elders. Don’t be a political sphincter. So these commonsense rules were incorporated into the 10 commandments. The ones where god has his psychological profile on display should scare away one away from worshiping HIM. God’s pretty shallow if he has to demand that you don’t worship any other god or take the piss out of him. If god did a good job instead of hiding all the time, he wouldn’t need to ORDER you to worship him, you’d probably be quite glad to tip the lid to him. If the boss of my office showed these tendencies, I’d be looking for a transfer. I digress.

    Homo Sapiens that followed these basic communal living guidelines did better than tribes that didn’t. I would argue that evolution has selected for homo sapiens that can work cooperatively in a tribal setting, over loners or misfits. Genes get passed on that select for cooperative behavior. Evolution gives us the first morals and ethics, to prick our conscience, not god.

    The original morals and ethics that pricked our conscience were just commonsense rules for tribal living. And you felt that “prick” in your conscience every time you breached one of the rules. That translates into fear of being busted.

    Since tribal times, society have advanced. We’ve been able to think about things and make conscious decisions about what we now accept as right and wrong. So we’ve added to the tribal commonsense, with rationalized commonsense. The feeling of conscience is still just a feeling of “I’m doing it wrong and I might get busted, sanctioned, ostracized etc…” Your evolutionary imperative to be a cooperative tribal member is still strong in our brains.

    Do we simply perceive the right thing to do?

    Yes. We know what is good for the tribe and thus what is good for us.

    If so, why do so many people do the wrong thing,

    I don’t know. I suspect the answer probably contains hundreds of factors that either alone, or in concert with some or all of the other factors means the bad guy goes for it.

    and why is it often so hard to know what is right?

    It may be for the author (a bit suss) but for me, and most of the people in my acquaintance, its dead easy to know what is right. I live by, “First, do no harm.” The platinum rule that replaced the deadly golden rule.

    If our “conscience” is so deplorable, why do we need laws?

    I dispute the word “Deplorable” I don’t think the conscience of most of the people on the planet is deplorable. Most people are good people. It’s just the greedy rich coveters who rape the world, and Phil’s and my psychopaths that are deadly. We need laws to protect society from these people, and throw in the stupid people as well. We need laws to protect stupid people from themselves. We need laws because the homo sapiens that would have been killed or expelled to certain death from our tribe, now prosper among us. Natural selection has been shelved in favour of “Every Player Wins a Prize”.

    Why do we have moral dilemmas?

    I don’t. Most people that I know don’t. IMHO.



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  • @ David and The Ages. (I am addressing an Age, said the pretentious fool).

    Well I don’t share all of your views, for the reasons I gave in my poorly phrased yet cogent comments that nobody read. (Poor me.)
    Knowing what is right is a paltry thing. Doing what is right because you feel compelled to do so is another. Your analysis of the origin of moral feelings is questionable. I don’t think that fear of punishment or promise of reward by the “tribe” was the sole incentive then. Nor is it now.
    It is not merely sociopaths who do “wrong” things; we all are tempted to and we all do at times. Why? We want things. We want to sleep with someone, we want money, we want this and that. The pleasure principle.
    You mentioned conscience.
    I fear (and I think I am right to fear this) that conscience will soon be deprived of the status as a concept and as a feeling that it has always enjoyed, particularly during the Romantic Age, which is long gone. Soon logic will prevail. There will be nothing to prevent us from exterminating masses of people. It is all perfectly logical; if someone is a “deviant” or a psychopath, then kill him, etc. This is what we can expect. Conscience will be annihilated as a feeling and an idea.
    You know why? No one will believe in spirit anymore. That is the one thing that Jesus emphasized that is useful, vital. Without a metaphysical connection of Self and Other based on compassion (a spiritual concept, in my opinion), we are all doomed to die as a cipher in a vast statistical operation, at the hands of totalitarian beasts. And we will become beasts ourselves.
    That is one reason why I encourage people to read Schopenhauer. His metaphysics have a strong foundation in reason and clear, cold analysis. Conscience, finally, is feeling that accompanies the knowledge that we ought to have done otherwise, or that we should do other than what are lower impulses tell us. What determines what we do is our Will (a transcendental concept), which is determined by motives.
    Self and Other. No, sympathy has not been merely programmed into us and we do not respond like rodents in an experiment where an alarm is sounded. Something deeper is at work. Love. Such a powerful, all-consuming feeling. It is more than feeling. What is it? A biological function? No, it is more than that. I have no evidence to support that. But there is, I am sure, something that unites us all. This unifying principle is irrational, inexplicable and rooted in the metaphysical. Those who feel that identification with the suffering (and the joy) of others are moral. Those who don’t are callous criminals at worst and simply commonplace egotists at best.
    I am a pessimist as far as the moral and physical future of mankind is concerned. We as a species will kill each other off.
    You are all so much in horror of anything even remotely suggestive of the transcendental or metaphysical.
    Well we will soon be divorced from eternity, completely. And that will be our punishment. A life completely divorced from the eternal, from the absolute: no truth, no morality, no love, no conscience.—Nothing left but Reason – as we head to the abyss.
    -Dan the consummate woomeister
    P.S. “Dogmatic and unscientific. Pure woo.” There I saved you all the trouble of saying that.



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  • @ Dan Feb 10, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Thank you for your considered response. Philosophy is way above my pay grade so its a bit wasted on me. You may as well being talking Mandarin. I’m a simple man able to cope with simple explanations.

    We are the product of 3.5 billions years of evolution. Ever molecule in your body is there because of evolution. Our kidneys filter 1.5 kilos of salt a day from our blood, then return all but a few grams because our kidneys have change little from the time of our common fish ancestor. Every molecule. Every function, joint, pipe, bone, brain function…. Everything your body does it does because in the history of your genes, there was a selection pressure that kept that activity over others.

    I can see no reason why this doesn’t extend to our brain and everything the brain does. Loyalty to a tribe is an evolutionary survival strategy. There is positive selection pressure on homo sapiens for the loyalty trait. The tribe does better than loners. Translate that tribal loyalty to today, you get nationalism, racism and football fans. They are all reacting to an evolutionary drive to belong to their tribe and stay loyal.

    Young males have been bred so that the parts of their brain that assess risk don’t mature until they are 25. Lots of young males die doing stupid things in cars and jumping off stuff before 25. Why. Evolution. Think of a pride of lions. The young males. If a young man can take risks, slay the mammoth, fight off intruders, take risks in front of the tribe, he will do better in the mating stakes than me, and probably you, who think a lot about stuff.

    So when we feel our conscience prick, I say that there must be an evolutionary reason. I speculate about tribal consequences for poor behaviour. But it is probably more than just that.

    Love. Such a powerful, all-consuming feeling. It is more than feeling. What is it? A biological function?

    Why a philosopher may attributed meaning to what we call love, I attribute a cocktail of chemicals including Oxytocin, “The Love Hormone”. A bonding hormone for breastfeeding mothers and bonding with other human beings. I attribute biological cause and function to “Love”.

    Nothing left but Reason – as we head to the abyss.

    I don’t share your pessimism. To me, a world where most humans have a rational understanding of what is happening and why, devoid of any of a long list of (I’ll use your word” Woo, then it will be a better place. No more global warming. Stable and sustainable population. Knowledge, study and discovery highly prized. Our passports would read, Citizen of Planet Earth. I can envisage a much more vibrant future if we can shed the irrational.



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  • @DanielR

    I don’t see your problem with people doing the right thing as well as knowing it. I think the vast majority of people do the right thing instinctively most of the time. Of course there are those who are greedy, selfish, criminal, sociopathic but most are not. Most people have an instinctive aversion to causing others harm unless they themselves have already been wronged.

    I see no great need to overthink this. Some of it is clearly hereditary and some caused by the way we are raised.

    [Edited by moderator to correct @ reference. The correct form of the @ reference can be found by allowing your cursor to hover over the user’s name in any comment. Their @name is shown in the very final part of the long link that then appears at the foot of your screen. In this case DanielR with an @ immediately in front of it. Important to get it right, as users are notified of any comments that reference them, and you want the right user to receive the email.]



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  • @LaurieB

    Actually I feel a little sorry and also a little sad for the people with the statue. Whatever their faith delusions something precious to them got broken but it’s a shame their time couldn’t be spent on something more productive than glorifying a non existent sky pixie.

    Imagine if everyone who went to church or mosque spent that time helping out elderly neighbours, doing the shopping for them, digging a garden or mowing a lawn. Billions of man hours per year of time spent productively making the real world a better place instead of praying about an imaginary one.



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  • @Arkrid Sandwich

    Feb 10, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Billions of man hours per year of time spent productively making the real world a better place instead of praying about an imaginary one.

    Ahh, yes, couldn’t have said it better.



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  • A capuchin female monkey turns up at the large ‘anvil’ stone, that has been used for thousands of years, to place nuts on and crack open using a small stone in the hand. She has remembered to bring the nuts but has no small stone to use. There is a larger male capuchin breaking nuts with two smaller stones a little away from the main anvil. She walks slowly towards the male looking submissive. She stops just a little more than an arms length (away etiquette?) and holds out her hand with palm up and open and takes care to only look into the males eyes for short periods of time but keeps her hand open. He breaks another nut, slowly picks up the smaller stone and gently places it in her hand. The move from both of them looks tender and very deliberate and he goes on with picking the bits of nut out of the broken pieces. She takes the stone and with body language that shows she is happy, turns and climbs the anvil and begins breaking open her own.

    I can’t find the video, with David Attenborough, at the moment and can’t remember if the film crew stayed to show her giving it back.

    I might have written this before?

    Before the days of CCTV cameras but after the introduction of bus lanes, sitting in traffic rather than whizzing down the bus lane was a choice. The chances of getting caught depended on actual police presences and you soon worked out where they would park in order to hide themselves to jump out at drivers with less patience and avoid that bit. I have always had a social conscience but when I first started driving I was still in my teens so other factors of self control were harder for me to deal with. I don’t ever remember using the bus lane with me as the only person doing so but if other drivers would constantly be using the bus lane to beat the traffic, I would soon lose my inhibitions and join them. I got caught twice. The first was a long line of cars doing the same when a policeman came out in front of us and made us turn left into a road that just went around that small block and back out onto the main traffic. The road was very narrow and soon there was a long line of cars stuck traffic with the drivers looking a bit sheepish but raging underneath. Took a long time to get back on my way and of course I was later than ever for work. The second time I got a fine.

    The feeling of injustice and thoughtlessness of these other people who would use the bus lane as if they owned it was what made me do the same. The feeling of injustice as I was being booked while others were weaving in and of the bus lane as the policeman stood there was even greater.

    Now the feeling of injustice is when I get that letter drop through my letter box with a picture of me doing the dirty dead in it but when I sit in traffic and the bus lane beside me has nothing in it but buses I feel less anxious about doing so. An level playing field has been formed and everyone behaves as they should do (whether they like it or not). Now my bugbear are the black cabs who have managed to get permission to use these lanes. When I am sitting in my van in heavy traffic and a black cab comes by empty I get pissed of because I am trying to get to work just as the cab driver is so can’t accept that this is right and fair.

    The point I am trying to make is that we have a long list of abilities and morality is one of them. It will make an appearance when called for or summon other ways to deal with each situation as it arrises.

    My inner thoughts.



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  • @david-r-allen

    I disagree. Many times it’s difficult to know the right thing to do, and most people seek advice to help them do the right thing in all sorts of situations. It gets even more difficult when we go up from the personal to society, from what I should do here, to what the best society should look like.

    I want to focus on the creative aspect of ethics and morality, rather than the “knowing” or a purely discovery oriented approach. But I don’t think I’m there just yet. 🙂



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  • Chawdrik D. Sarni et al. 197234

    I see no great need to overthink this

    I completely agree. Learning to live mutually is a work in progress. Any moral-ideologies, religious, philosophical, or scientific (should they exist) stand exactly in the path of becoming a free-flowing moral author. Being informed by ethics and science, however, is a useful tool set to find a better path. Ethics poses moral questions that help analyse novel circumstance and science and the scientific method help us find evidence for our deliberations.

    Sadly, morality, like the debate about free will comes framed with antique concepts that utterly fail to note what the possible “modes of better” that are actually available are. We have to climb out of a pit before we can begin.

    The “modes of better” for morality lie in no abstract formulations, but in mutual interactions that maximise for all personal happiness/welbeing/flourishing, maximally express individual talents, especially those still to come, accept the varieties of moral aesthetics, stabilise communities into the future, enfranchise ever outwards to achieve that stability and robustness to the unexpected.

    I am very happy not talking of morality (the stuff between feelings and behaviours) but rather of the cultivated skill of mutuality and its modes of improvement.

    A recent scientific observation-

    http://www.nature.com/news/cultural-differences-determine-when-kids-learn-to-play-fair-1.18816

    tells us that a sense of fairness works in all of us. We hurt when treated unfairly, but only some cultures deliver older children who seem troubled at unfairness to others.

    Curiously capuchin monkeys seem to test as this generous champion of fairness for others also. (Age of Empathy, de Waals.) Why do they seem more moral than some humans?

    It may be that those who experience privation, who live in unequal and more dangerous societies, are more selfish out of a simple need to survive?

    Living more mutually helps us live more mutually.



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  • @phil-rimmer

    It may be that those who experience privation, who live in unequal and more dangerous societies, are more selfish out of a simple need to survive?

    This resonates with other recent discussions on America. This is the American Dream. This is in part, the crime and gun problem.



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  • @arkrid-sandwich 197234
    @ Phil R.

    I don’t see your problem with people doing the right thing as well as

    knowing it. I think the vast majority of people do the right thing
    instinctively most of the time.

    I see no great need to overthink this. Some of it is clearly
    hereditary and some caused by the way we are raised.

    Hi, Arkrid,

    Maybe there is no spiritual realm. I go back and forth on that.
    But I’d like to comment on this (above).
    No problem with knowing and doing; my point is that knowing is not the cause of doing (what is right).
    As for the hereditary nature of the moral disposition, I see no reason to under think that one; it is an enormously complex issue.
    I am simply incapable of getting the @ numbers thing in red! Damn it all to hell. I must be a retard.
    Phil, I made another crack about neuroscientists recently. R U mad at me?



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  • Dan 197312

    I fear (and I think I am right to fear this) that conscience will soon be deprived of the status as a concept and as a feeling that it has always enjoyed, particularly during the Romantic Age, which is long gone. Soon logic will prevail. There will be nothing to prevent us from exterminating masses of people. It is all perfectly logical; if someone is a “deviant” or a psychopath, then kill him, etc. This is what we can expect. Conscience will be annihilated as a feeling and an idea.
    You know why? No one will believe in spirit anymore.

    D’ye mean this?

    I do disagree with it, but I didn’t think it pointed to me. As I have stated in the past many times, our morals are like aesthetics, are personal feelings, and society negotiates mutuality.

    You may fear what you fear, but it is the polar opposite of my hopes or expectations.

    Did I get the wrong bit? I can’t see “neuroscience”.

    I do believe that philosophy in this area is rather more a threat with its antique and entirely synthetic concepts. These concepts refined as much in response to theology as to how things actually are and the freedoms we have to improve, diminish the scope of our deliberations and constrain our decision making. Just as “free will” is a poor indicator of what we are and what we may want for ourselves, rather than thinking of wanting to “be happy to own our own actions” and “holding correct (truthful) views”.

    Killing psychopaths? This?

    Again I remind you I am the champion of neuro-diversity. We, as a society, have exploited all these varieties. We just have to mitigate the worst of such diversity. Having a fed, content, educated and engaged populace greatly reduces the psychopath’s capacity for harm.

    Culture is an evolutionary wonder to behold. As we increasingly understand and engage with each other we increasingly seem to find a reason not to fight…..but, nor does this make me a pacifist, just pacific-ish.



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  • @Phil

    Conscience? I believe in it, but the concept is on its way out. You
    can blame the anti-transcendentalists for that (Wittgenstein, and now
    the uninspiring neuroscientists who haven’t a clue what real goodness
    of heart is, and never will).

    I thought this comment might have rubbed you the wrong way. It’s unfair, kind of a put-down, a stupid remark.



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  • 49
    rocket888 says:

    The simplest and perhaps best two ethical rules for life that I’ve come across are those created by the libertarian writer Richard Maybury.

    Don’t encroach on others or their property.
    Do all you promise to do.

    This is what I taught my children.

    Commandment 1 covers all of criminal law, while commandment 2 covers contract law. To determine if some act is “right”, one need only apply the 2 rules. A rule based ethic makes it possible for any rational mind to distinguish good from evil.

    Now few would argue with these 2 rules, however, many people believe these should only apply to individuals. Often these principles are ignored by groups, especially when those groups call themselves a government or a religion.

    It should no more be “wrong” to commit murder as an individual as it is by a government. Unfortunately, most of us would not apply this to governments. Phrases like “collateral damage” are used to justify group killing of innocents. But that only applies to “them”. When it’s our innocents, we still call it murder. A good ethic should not make this distinction.



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  • @rocket888

    I’m a little uneasy with the two rules. The rules may rightly apply to criminal law and contract law, but they don’t seem to address the ethics or morality of individual action. Being human. Are you a good person. Not just whether you’ve breached any law. Are you a good person. Do you return your shopping trolley to the bay or do you leave it in a vacant car park.

    I prefer and try to live by. “First, do no harm.” All other rules are subservient to that.



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  • 52
    rocket888 says:

    @David R Allen

    “First, do no harm” is fine, however, it does not give guidance when one may use force. Maybury’s rule uses the word encroach. This implies that man has a right of property which is required to understand why theft is wrong. Since people firstly own their own person, it also explains why it is ok to do harm to someone who is first trying to harm them.

    I would agree, that it does not cover acts of kindness, which don’t require laws. There are no positive responsibilities either. While it might be an act of kindness to return the cart, there should be no law requiring such an act unless when one enters the market one promises to return the cart – or a sign is posted that permits the use of a cart provided one returns it.

    His first rule covers using the cart without permission as one’s homeless vehicle while his second rule covers the use of the cart with a promise of returning it.

    I guess I’m really commenting on the question in the paragraph “Why do we need laws?”. Maybury’s answer guides us as to when it is ok to use force (self defense, return of private property, punishment for a crime etc.) Kindness or politeness is not so clear cut. Dawkins might state that we develop a notion of fairness using a tit for tat rule. However, this does not require a law (which always implies force).



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  • @David-r-Allen197225
    Feb 10, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Interesting perspective; I have no fixed views on the complex issue of morality and its dubious future and certainly nothing even approaching a good understanding of its origins: I am just expressing certain concerns and questions., based on my own perspective: just a little food for thought I hope.

    I am incapable of getting the number of a comments to turn into a link.



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  • Dan 197326

    Neuroscientists

    Ah! I must have read through that a number of times.

    In my encounters with neuroscientists, I find them most often compassionate and introspective about what it is to be human. It is the apparently un-machine like capacities of humanity that may prove entirely beguiling, I suspect.

    As ever it is the non-scientists, I believe, who pose the greatest threat in the use of scientific knowledge.

    Dan, you do rather post from the hip. A number of years ago I put a post-it-note on my monitor, “don’t post angry or drunk.” I also posted only a quarter of what I wrote. Even now it is about two to one. A lot of that is about figuring out if I have misunderstood intentions of others, or if I have written anything that can be misapprehended. (I’m not good at either of these, but its part of my hobby of mild aspiedom, gaining slow insights. FWIW this brief post has taken 40 minutes contemplation.)



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  • @ phil rimmer
    Feb 12, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Yes, you’re right; I am often too impulsive. I do have a certain concern, however, about progress. And I cannot imagine that one can ever “understand” everything by examining brain activity. The neurons associated with thoughts and feelings can be observed, but so too can the absence of thoughts and sentiments. What can such empirical observation, particularly of that kind, ever tell us about the real inner nature and the meaning of our thoughts and feelings? Everything? I will end it there – on a very trite note.

    Btw, I am incapable of getting the number of your comment to appear as a link. I give up.



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  • > And I cannot imagine that one can ever “understand” everything by examining brain activity. The neurons associated with thoughts and feelings can be observed

    A rough analogy. We know how a car works, but where it goes is up to the driver. We know the effect of oxytocin on the brain, but how will the human that carries that brain react can only be categorized as somewhere within the bell curve that previous studies have observed. It is that “Somewhere” that is the problem.



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  • Dan 197346

    What I’m seeking to do with the red/orange clickable link in the top left (as here) is allow a quick way to get back to the post that this responds to (click on it and it will take you to it) but also alert the casual reader who the post is directed at and with the comment number of the specific post.

    This is only me experimenting with what might be useful to others and as an experiment observable by the developers for their interest. Currently the use of comment numbers is flawed because it is not immediately visible and also (being “dynamic”) is subject to subsequent change (decrement by one) if a post is deleted. I am persisting with it to observe the frequency of post deletion (so far none) and also as a promotion of the form, with the suggestion that post deletion means deletion of its contents not its dissappearance. I believe the fact of a deletion is useful public knowledge.

    If you hover your cursor over the date and time stamp of a comment you will see at the bottom left of the screen the address (location) of that comment. Part of this address is the comment number right at the end. If you now right click, a menu extending out and following the cursor gives you some choices. Towards the lower part of the choices is an option to copy the comment’s location (address). Left click it to copy.

    If you now (left) click into the reply window at the bottom to put a blinking cursor in top left, you can insert a hypertext link to your copied address. Click on the third from left “tool” along the top of the new comment box, the world overlaid with an arrow. This will open a new text box all ready to accept a web address. Simply press the keys Ctrl and then V whilst still holding Ctrl. This pastes your copied comment address into your new comment. Left click OK.

    You will see a red/orange highlighted text “enter link description here”. Any text you immediately type will substitute here, so you might type “bonnie” or whatever then insert some comment identifier if you want. This latter might be the comment number which can now be seen at the bottom of the text window or you could, more reliably copy the date and time stamp from the referenced comment, or it could be a key part of the comment itself, or it could be nothing at all, this afterall is a clickable link to that very comment.

    Incidentally, the link address you can see in your comment text box will not appear in the final posted comment. It is a referenced instruction to the visible text of your link.



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  • Excellent. My link above to comment 197346 doesn’t work. I’m presuming because the comment no longer exists. Did you delete a comment, Dan? At least my link doesn’t take you to someone else’s comment…



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  • @ Phil and David

    I do not recall deleting any of my immortal words, Phil. What was it that I had said that is now no longer in existence?
    I am a lousy pupil. I do not understand your instructions. I will review them later and try again. I also do not have a right-clicking type mouse. It’s an apple computer. One click only.

    “It is that ‘Somewhere’ that is the problem.”

    I like this comment and the analogy a lot.



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  • Moderator message

    Can we please not clutter up threads with computer or coding issues. The site developer is continuing to look at solutions for ways of handling replies, so the chances are that the current situation will be only temporary.

    Anyone who cannot master Phil’s way of highlighting references to comments can identify the comment they’re replying to by simply quoting the user’s name and pasting in the date/time stamp of the comment. You can also simply write the user’s name at the top of your reply and then paste in a specific quote from their comment that you are replying to.

    On a related note, if using the new @ feature to identify the person you’re replying to, please make sure you use the person’s user name and not their display name. The user name appears at the end of a long link at the foot of the page when you hover over the display name. If you don’t use the correct user name, the notification will go to the wrong person, which is clearly irritating for them.



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  • A bit of context and background for this week’s Paragraph:

    Dan Barker is a former preacher (years ago), who now co-runs Freedom From Religion Foundation.

    Hard working, most affable guy.



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  • Technical tip: How to use the new @ function

    The new @ function allows you to address specific users, but you do need to be a little careful with it.

    It works here the same way as on Twitter, i.e. you need to use the person’s user name, which may not be the same as the display name.

    To find the user name, let your cursor hover over the name displayed beside any comment by the user in question. A long link like this will appear at the bottom of your screen:

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/members/[USER NAME]/
    

    For the @ function you just need the final bit of the link, i.e. the user name – without the / before and after.

    It is important to get it right, as otherwise the notification of your comment will be sent to the wrong person, which they will obviously find annoying!

    The mods



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  • @ Phil, David R, et al

    My argument continued:

    I am as much an advocate of reason as anyone else on this site, but the point that I have been trying to make is that reason is powerless against the will. You can deny that we have a will, but you cannot convince me that we don not have one. Nor have you yet convinced me that reason can ever be the foundation or basis of acts of kindness. There is, again, a huge difference between knowing what is right (reason-based morality) and willing or doing what is right.) History has shown this. We have seen countless instances of individuals who WILL not understand, in spite of overwhelming evidence. This site has articles and threads on this all the time. This applies to morality as well. You can give someone a million good arguments why we’d all be better off as a society, as a species, if we all practiced kindness and were compassionate. But those arguments will never, can never, compel someone to act on them. Not without coercion.
    We will always need laws to restrain and we will always need prohibition from without. Perhaps someday (if we survive long enough), through the process of evolution, we will develop this will to goodness (an idea that I have referred to and have not adequately defended) and more people will have it. (A transvaluation of our values would be of some use as well.) Until then I see no reason to think that the cultivation of reason (a most valuable thing in so many ways and yet a double edge sword) will go hand in hand with cultivation of true goodness of heart.
    I see no reason to be optimistic, and no evidence to support such optimism. The Twentieth Century was replete with unspeakable atrociousness. And we are seeing it today as well, will see it tomorrow.
    The irrational force of brutality, of cruelty, is just too powerful…



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  • But those arguments will never, can never, compel someone to act on them.

    I think it is innate in our evolutionary make up. This evolutionary traits that made us such a successful species are still active in everyone on the planet. We will act in self interest over greater good almost every single time. Very few people are capable or suppressing these powerful instincts. We are just incapable, due to a permanent ROM brain that cannot be reprogrammed.

    The Tragedy of The Commons is an expression of this trait. I can cut down a tree. There’s plenty more. I can take a catch of fish from the lake. There’s plenty more. etc. Now that was absolutely fine when there was 2 million homo sapiens participating in a nomadic lifestyle. But with 7.5 billion homo sapiens all taking a tree or a fish (Planetary Resources) on a planet that can only sustainably support 1 billion, heading for 9 to 12 billion, is always going to end in tears. It is a Ponzi scheme on the planets credit card.

    So back to your point. We can never compel anyone to act in the greater interest. Agreed. To do that requires self sacrifice. That means overriding millions of years of evolution. That requires an intellect capable of joining all of the above dots. What percentage of the planets 7.5 billion people do you think are capable of doing that. I think people who vote “Green” is a good indicator. Around 10% in Australia and I would guess similar in other developed countries.

    So we need laws to protect us from ourselves.

    I share you pessimism about the future. I see the planet as the island in Lord of the Flies. Jack’s crew will always outnumber Ralph. And we know how that all ended up.



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  • @ Dan

    Last night I watched a program in which a crack head woman is being treated. I can’t give you scientific details but they measured her brain activity. They asked her to give into her cravings and think about taking the drug. They then measured the reading.Then they asked her to resist her cravings and measured that too. Using these figures they were able to project an arrow with red to one side (craving) and blue (?) to the other representing her resistance to the craving, and she could, with practice, control where the arrow pointed and retrain her brain. With the first (craving) measurement, they showed her negative pictures of drug taking and with the second positive. So through her eyes she was rewarded with positives when resisting. The idea is for her brain to produce more dopamine when she is resisting than when she is not. This then becomes a pleasant experience and automatically the brain craves that.

    The program showed that our decisions are made in whichever direction the dopamine takes us. It shows that being good comes from good experience with good. It seems we already have what we need. and only need to evolve our culture. We just need the right conditions in order for them to work in that direction. So the ‘will’ is flexible and can go either way and as long as reason is rewarded ‘will’ hasn’t got much choice. If your dopamine levels are higher when you visit a church or pray to a god then that is what will drive you. So whichever way you look at it, the ‘will’ runs on addiction.

    Sorry my post is not more technical but that is my understanding as a layperson.



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  • @ Olgun and David

    Very interesting comment, Olgun. It is good for me (a somewhat rigid man, I must admit) to acquaint myself with other perspectives and ways of thinking about these and other issues.
    (Again, I love cats. They are very smart, and have feelings. How little we understand the cat’s brain. I have noticed great differences between cats too. Like people they vary considerably.)
    David, thank you. I think we agree on a great many things. You know quite a lot. (“Simple man.” Indeed!)



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  • Dan 197407

    reason is powerless against the will. You can deny that we have a will, but you cannot convince me that we don not have one. Nor have you yet convinced me that reason can ever be the foundation or basis of acts of kindness

    I for one have never suggested any such thing as the emboldened text. You may have noticed me talk about “moral values” “moral aesthetics” (my favoured term) and about Jonathan Haidt and his discussions of differing moral aesthetics (per my use) in the Righteous Mind based on his Moral Foundations theory.

    His work as a psychologist is a top down analysis based on lab work that reveals what emotional valuations are in play when using either unconscious or conscious judgments and how they differ. He reveals to us that some of these moral valuations are universally shared (concerns for harms and fairness) though in differing degrees and some are not (concerns for respect for authority, community and inviolability of entities.)

    The universaly shared values first started when the boundary between individuals evolved to be a little more blurry in the mammals. Nurturing, calming an infant so it would suckle became essential, in fact for mother and child alike. A chemical used to topically relax the cervix during birth became useful for relaxing both mother and child. Its release was triggered by contact with fur/hair, It even evolved selective nerves (C-tactile afferent nerves) that respond only to the slow stroking of affection and grooming. Oxytocin relaxes muscles, lets down milk and dilates pupils. It underlies bonding, so that anticipation of nurturing and grooming, cuddling etc. , trigger oxytocin just at the prospect of seeing mother or seeing child. Associate triggers are formed from from soft words, smiles, kindness etc. And because evolution is a lazy mother, these mechanisms of bonding through grooming and cuddling and kindness can apply to all in the vicinity. This becomes not only our unconscious kin detector but it is also an as-if-kin detector. Oxytocin binds groups with positive feelings but by default creates opportunities for out-groups to be defined.

    We are only just learning about how oxytocin has an interdependency with “reward” chemical Dopamine. (Reward is best understood to be a release from action. “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”)

    I have embarked on a tale I can’t finish at this time. I’ll have to skip homeostasis, that motor for action that seeks to return us to our rewarded “that’ll do, Pig” state. But later, from learning how mirror neurons probably work when young, helping us to acquire mechanical skills, reading expressions, feeling the pain of others, further losing our separateness, how over-imitation creates cultural clones of kids, and how a recently exploded cortex confers a slow-couch reason to analysing the consequences of our more primitive unreasoned aesthetic values and rushes these insights through our near unique spindle cells to our vetoing anterior cingulate cortex to stay the raised hand, I’ll argue how reason leverages evolved (visceral) values.



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  • Oxytocin binds groups with positive feelings but by default creates opportunities for out-groups to be defined.

    Dan. We’ve just had our premier science journalism show Catalyst do a special on Oxytocin. I would commend it to you. Further to what Phil has already outlined, it will give you an understanding of the chemistry involved in how we feel and react to situations. Oxytocin is just one of many compounds that plug into receptors in our brain and cause effects.

    Drugs like Efexor, are noradrenline serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. In the brain of a drepressed person, seratonin and noradrenaline are reabsorbed by the brain too quickly leaving a deficiency which results in depression. Efexor plugs the reabsorbtion.

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4402591.htm



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  • @LaurieB

    He seems to be fine Laurie. I haven’t seen anything on TV but a couple of on line news papers are saying he is at home and expect full recovery.

    Get well soon Richard.



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  • phil rimmer
    Feb 13, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Hi, Phil,

    When I say “you” I mean people on the thread in general, unless I address you by name.

    I am not familiar with Haidt’s writings.

    “His work as a psychologist is a top down analysis based on lab work that reveals what emotional valuations are in play when using either unconscious or conscious judgments and how they differ. He reveals to us that some of these moral valuations are universally shared (concerns for harms and fairness) though in differing degrees and some are not…”

    I have no doubt that we have these emotions and values in varying degrees; they seems to vary tremendously; I do not see anything approaching universality in this regard. I also know that there is tremendous rage, a ferociousness, a sadistic, violent element amongst humans. It is all well and good to argue that the lower animals have some of the same “universally” shared “emotions” and that these shared emotions give rise to acts of kindness in the case of humans. But I am not convinced that these human values and emotions you speak of – in a rather fuzzy, fluffy way, compared to your usual precise, clear and authoritative way of presenting your ideas – are strong enough. They will always be, and always have been, extinguished, overpowered by brute force. One’s own rational mind can be that very force! And there is the force (rational and physical) of various external influences. A certain dictator wanted Germany to return to its primitive roots. He was largely successful. (The rational mind is, again, a double edge sword par excellence.)

    I see no reason to think that Man will not continue to engage in acts of violence and inhumanity in the name of some vile ideology. These ideologies will have all the force of logic behind them. Humans are violent. They are vicious. If totalitarianism gains the upper hand, fear and the instinct of self-preservation will take hold of the masses and all hell will break loose once again People are generally passive, as Einstein said. The paltry emotions (of most people) and the various chemicals in the brain that correspond to them will continue to be powerless in the face of such an onslaught.

    The truly good people will go underground. The rest will conform and do what they are told. They will be obedient. Or they will be swept up by their own latent viciousness.

    You, Phil, mention universal emotions and values, and yet you admit that these universal values vary. I would be inclined to argue that there are no universal moral values shared by the species Man. On the contrary, it would seem that antipathy and inhumanity are the rule; compassion (so vital for the future of civilization) the exception. What would Haidt say about the overwhelming empirical evidence that Man is predominantly devoid of any moral feeling to speak of, and that whatever moral inclinations he or she may have are – it would seem – all too easily silenced?

    Regards,

    Dan



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  • @ Phil

    Fact: these so-called emotional valuations (Care, Fairness, Liberty, Loyalty, Authority, and Purity), discovered through lab work (Ha-ha!), have never manifested themselves except in isolated cases. The history of the world is predominantly the history of man’s inhumanity to man. What are we waiting for? We have these precious valuations; why don’t we use them?

    I will read Haidt’s book Righteous Man, although the title repels me. Then I will give you a more considered opinion of this great thinker.

    (Foul mood.)



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  • P.S. Some people care (but most don’t), some people are fair (but most aren’t), some people are loyal, many have a sense of purity – although purity is a highly unfashionable idea these days, is beloved by anachronistic aesthetes (such as myself), racists, antiquarians, and savages. Authority? The overestimation of authority might approach universality, is a bad thing.
    You’re telling me that these valuations are IN the mind? And you have an affinity for Wittgenstein?
    Sounds farfetched. Where in the brain is fairness? Is he talking to purity right now? Are they sipping tea?
    What happens if fairness disagrees with loyalty? What if authority disagrees with liberty?
    As Socrates said, the Gods differ amongst themselves.



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  • Sorry, Phil.— Haidt sounds like a beast. Here’s an excerpt from the wonderful Chris Hedges’ review of The Righteous Mind. You can read it in its entirety to get a different perspective. The title of the review is The Righteous Road to Ruin. Yes, I know that Hedges is a Presbyterian minister, but he is also a superb journalist, one of the few people in this sick country who tells the truth.
    —DR

    “Haidt lists six primary concerns of those he considers morally whole—care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity. He believes liberals, because they do not sufficiently value fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity, are morally deficient. The attributes he champions, however, when practiced among social conservatives, often mask a rapacious cruelty to the weak and oppressed. Slaveholders in the antebellum South, courteous and chivalrous to their own class, church going, fiercely loyal to the Confederacy, in short morally whole in Haidt’s thesis, created a hell on earth for African-Americans. One could say the same about many German Nazis and members of most cults. Haidt, although he acknowledges this dilemma in his moral constructions, would do well to ask himself whether there is something deeply flawed in a model of moral behavior that a slaveholder, a member of a cult or a fascist could attain.

    “He concedes that even though many conservatives opposed some of the great liberations of the twentieth century—of women, sweatshop workers, African Americans, and gay people—they have applauded others, such as the liberation of Eastern Europe from communist oppression.’

    “This is a remarkable passage. It apologizes for bigotry and repression by social conservatives at home because these conservatives had an abstract enthusiasm for liberation movements 3,000 miles away in countries most of them had never visited. Not that liberals are immune from this specious morality. They can shed tears over Darfur and never mention the carnage in Iraq. The definition of the moral life, as the Bible points out, is how we treat our neighbor, not our concern with moral abstractions or the sanctity of our tribe.”

    http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/the_righteous_road_to_ruin_20120628



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  • I just read an articles by Haidt, and I have to say now that my comments were premature, and that Hedges might not have understood him. It is also possible that he did. I just don’t know.
    I have great respect for Hedges but perhaps I allow myself, at times, to become seduced by certain authoritative voices, and perhaps I suffer from an undue sense of loyalty to these figures. I then lose a certain liberty of mind, and my pronouncements come across as unfair.



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  • Dan 1977711 197718 197720

    Slaveholders in the antebellum South, courteous and chivalrous to their own class, church going, fiercely loyal to the Confederacy, in short morally whole in Haidt’s thesis

    Strawman. Remember I preferred to call these “moral aesthetics”? These are utterly pre-intellectual valuations. Remember I went on to talk about the cortex where the consequences of pre-intellectual feelings are hypothesised and we reconsider those consequences of the imminent actions of our automatic self?

    Why/how did the right wing set of moral aesthetics evolve do you think? And why the simpler set (just harms and fairness) of the left evolve? Which group came first? Why?

    Wittgenstein. You are the one being inconsistent, thinking mankind a monster and when being presented with a possible set of mechanisms (that some folk may laud subjection to authority, loyalty to others and purity of institutions) that may detract from focusing merely on concerns for harms and fairness then reject it!

    ” He believes liberals, because they do not sufficiently value fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity, are morally deficient.”

    Lie! He makes no such value judgment. The left, lacking aesthetics for authority, loyalty and purity, it seems, fill the gap with greater concern for harms and fairness to others as his statistics clearly show. His scholarship would be tainted by any personal moral judgments.

    Free will (which in my book is more usefully thought a capacity for better finding what is true) depends on a clear headed search for true things, assembling them in the most reasonable form and only then deciding what you think of them. Hedges is no authority. He is a pamphleteer. He paints the facts as you take them in. Like the hyper-pro-social critiques of The Selfish Gene (from Mary Midgely and the like) arguing that it promotes the “naturalness” of selfishness.



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  • Thanks for the vid Phil. Don’t know if Chaser is one of the five mentioned but an amazing interesting animal. I think it shows that understanding and talking don’t have to evolve together necessarily.



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  • Dan

    I remember watching a program years ago that elephants in Africa were tearing down trees for no good reason and were causing their own extinction in that area. I only watched an update on that theory a short while back. It’s now known that the elephants are pulling down the wrong (to them) type of tree so that their favourite trees can grow. They are actually farming as such.

    Question:

    How do your theories fit in with evolution?



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  • @ Phil
    @ Olgun

    Which theories, Olgun? I am merely questioning, on this thread, the notion of a moral sense that can evolve to the point that we will not be annihilated by beasts in the end.
    The a priori qualities, that I have argued for in the past and still do argue for (space, time, and the knowledge of causes) are, functions of the brain. The brain, like any other organ, has certain functions.
    This peculiar aspect of our brain, which gives us what we call reality, is the product of evolution. I would never argue otherwise.
    Phil, I am sorry to hear that a man so acute and so knowledgeable and fluent as Hedges is, lied or distorted this author’s ideas. If that is the case, and I have no reason to doubt you, then Hedges indeed has an insidious side.
    My favorite authors get that shit all the time. It’s infuriating.
    The best thing for people to do is to read the damned books and decide for themselves just how accurate or distorted these critics / liars are.
    It is often the case that people will say: “I hate Mailer; he’s a chauvinist.” I’ll ask him or her what she’s read. Precisely nothing –or maybe half of Naked and the Dead.



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  • @danielr

    Dan. This New Scientist article is a short discussion on the brain chemistry of love in humans.

    First things first: what is love? For Shakespeare, it “is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken”. For neuroscientists, it’s less poetic: a neurobiological phenomenon that falls into three subtypes: lust, attraction and attachment – all of which increase our reproductive and parental success.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129564-600-cure-for-love-chemical-cures-for-the-lovesick/?utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=SOC&utm_campaign=hoot&cmpid=SOC%5BNSNS%5D2016-GLOBAL-hoot

    I suspect on this topic, like many of the topics we discuss in this forum, that the answer is rarely A or B, but a smear of causation from A to B. In this case, mechanical chemical evolution A through to free will and psychological issues, B.



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  • @david-r-allen

    I shall read it, but not without a certain trepidation. Thank you.
    I will say this: neither lust, attraction, nor attachment does justice to love.
    Let a neuroscientist first describe it as well as Dante, Petrarch, Goethe, and Shakespeare.—Then maybe I will be more inclined to pay heed to what these deluded folk have to say. (Deluded as far as this and other issues are concerned; obviously we can learn a great many things for neurobiologists.)

    -Dan the hopeless romantic

    P.S “Simple man” Indeed! You are nothing of the sort, but I think I know what you mean: a straight shooter, authentic, honest, unpretentious, someone who doesn’t put on airs, a man of the people.



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  • Dear Dan the hopeless romantic,

    Whether you call it lust or attraction or love, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

    Don’t be afraid of this Dan. Knowing the facts that come from the neuro bunch on this doesn’t take anything away from love.



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  • Dan

    Don’t be afraid of this Dan. Knowing the facts that come from the neuro bunch on this doesn’t take anything away from love.

    They certainly don’t for me.

    Love stories have me (more than most) weeping. That I know some of the story of the jelly only makes it the more wond’rous. No exhaustible familiar story but one nameless strange.

    Whilst I have some attention, let me recommend my new favourite love story of the old, new-minted West, a world of unparalleled beastliness tamed by love curiously requited.

    “Slow West”. Unloved by young American critics, but they will grow into it.

    Hedges like so many insistent upon a morality that they feel must surely have been meant to be, despise a non rigorously teleological evolution and entirely neglect our ability to culturally invent. He, like Mary Midgely and most of the regressive left utterly fail to see the two speed co-evolution of genes (and something like) memes. and our own sculpting of our lives, the while hoping for gifts and shirking the responsibility of authorship. These are folk denied the austere poetry of cool science.

    I’m sorry you didn’t take a shot at my questions. I wanted a chance to explain why the right are scared and have the appropriate morals to go with fear of loss. I think you are deeply conservative, yearning not to be…



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  • @phil-rimmer

    I didn’t think that your questions warranted an answer.

    “Why/how did the right wing set of moral aesthetics evolve do you think? And why the simpler set (just harms and fairness) of the left evolve? Which group came first? Why?”

    This is all nonsense to me. (Sorry.—Annoyed that you think I’m a fucking conservative.) By the way, there is no such thing as a pre-intellectual valuation. A valuation is necessarily intellectual, a conscious judgment. Perhaps a new language has been created. It is one that I do not understand.

    I am not conservative, although I do want to conserve certain ideas that I consider to be true.

    I haven’t read Haidt. I asked my friend and yours (Paul) what he thought:

    “Here’s where he goes wrong:

    ‘Haidt lists six primary concerns of those he considers morally whole—care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity.’

    “In many circumstances, yes. This categorical framework can account for much morality. But it’s also abstract. It takes words like care, liberty, and loyalty and makes them into qualities which one possesses or not.

    “In you, as things, expressed as behavior which can then (putting the cart before the horse) be said to freshly indicate care, loyalty, etc.

    “It is a simple reification of part of an analysis and a transformation of that part of the analysis into first principles which are then reapplied. So its value can be shown only in its protective capacity and its utility. There is much to admire in it without results as there is in a filing system. ” -Paul



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  • I just listened to Sam Harris’s latest podcast. At the end he mentioned that an upcoming podcast will include in interview with J. Haidt. Also coming up is Maryam Namazie. Will be watching for that. I have Haidt’s book here on my table. Not far enough into it to discuss yet.



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  • @laurieb

    “Knowing the facts that come from the neuro bunch on this doesn’t take anything away from love.”

    I appreciate that, Laurie – and Happy Valentine’s Day, btw.

    Namazie has nothing to say that you are not already aware of, and Harris has nothing more to say. Harris has said everything he has to say. You’re reading Haidt? Read Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality. Why won’t you read that? I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Here is an excerpt. Compare this with Haidt. This is like walking into a brightly lit room. Reading Haidt is like trying to maneuver through an old, dark attic, filled with cobwebs and trap doors.

    Now, how is it possible that trouble which is not
    mine, and by which I am untouched, should become
    as direct a motive to me as if it were my own, and
    incite me to action? As already explained, only
    through the fact that, although it comes before
    me merely as something outside myself, by means
    of the external medium of sight or hearing; I am,
    nevertheless, sensible of it with the sufferer; I feel
    it as my own, not indeed in myself, but in him. {…]

    This, however, presupposes that to a certain extent
    I have become identified with the other, and con-
    sequently that the barrier between the ego and the
    non-ego is, for the moment, broken down. It is then,
    and then only, that I make his interests, his need,
    his distress, his suffering directly my own; it is then
    that the empirical picture I have of him vanishes,
    and I no longer see the stranger, who is entirely
    unlike myself, and to whom I am indifferent; but
    I share his pain in him, despite the certainty that
    his skin does not enclose my nerves. Only in this
    way is it possible for his woe, his distress to become a
    motive for me; otherwise I should be influenced solely
    by my own. This process is, I repeat, mysterious.
    For it is one which Reason can give no direct account
    of, and its causes lie outside the field of experience.
    And yet it is of daily occurrence. Every one has
    often felt its working within himself; even to the
    most hard-hearted and selfish it is not unknown.
    Each day that passes brings it before our eyes, in
    single acts, on a small scale ; whenever a man, by
    direct impulse, without much reflection, helps a
    fellow-creature and comes to his aid, sometimes even
    exposing himself to the most imminent peril for the
    sake of one he has never seen before, and this, with-
    out once thinking of anything but the fact that
    he witnesses another’s great distress and danger. It
    was manifested on a large scale, when after long
    consideration, and many a stormy debate, the noble-
    hearted British nation gave twenty millions of pounds
    to ransom the negroes in its colonies, with the
    approbation and joy of a whole world. If any one
    refuses to recognise in Compassion the cause of this
    deed, magnificent as it is in its grand proportions,
    and prefers to ascribe it to Christianity; let him
    remember that in the whole of the New Testament
    not one word is said against slavery, though at that
    time it was practically universal […]



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  • P.S. “…the noble-hearted British nation gave twenty millions of pounds to ransom the negroes in its colonies…”

    I’m no historian but I think Schopenhauer is alluding to William Thornton, a Quaker. He devised his own version of “ransoming” which resulted in the liberation of many slaves.



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  • But love is in our hearts, Dan. And in our eyes. We read our own bodies, mostly unwittingly, to discover what we ourselves and what others feel. Our hearts race at the prospect of our beloved. Her eyes, dilated, read my face with an urgency that mirror mine. Here, manifestly, is love, surely?

    This is not a competition, Dan. As I said in only my second or third post to you ever (about Schopenhauer on animals?) Observations accumulate. The armchair philosopher may think as deeply as he likes, deeper than any, but, like the ancient Greek philosopher scientists failed to discover, some knowledge is only accessible to experiment. Haidt tested the general population’s INSTINCTIVE reactions to statements/scenarios to discover a spread of implied value judgments. This, incidentally, is what I mean by pre-intellectual…. before any introspections on your own immediate feelings on the matter. The “intellectual” phase is considering consequences of your actions and in a sense deciding against your feelings…or with them. For me this is the old-school morality phase. We cannot help or “get behind” our instinctive judgments too well (this is mostly accessible only during childhood enculturation…if at all) but we can better learn to wait until reason has done its job before acting.

    My suggestion of “conservative” is entirely that you see the accumulation of knowledge an attack on the purity of other pre-existing authorities. Your loyalty is admirable. But, it isn’t needed, at least not in this case. Newton is no less magnificent, because Einstein or Maxwell. (Not that I’m elevating Haidt. He just discovered something waiting to be discovered.

    I am targeting here only the five moral aesthetics I mentioned, harms, fairness, authority, loyalty and purity. (The sixth is on another axis if you will, more shared by aspies and libertarians and describes how keen we are to identify working together or alone. By rights my nervousness amongst strangers should push me to individualism. I claim to be a house trained aspie because of teen and tween involvement in theatre that helped me cope, at least enough to get fall in to love with the creative power of groups over individuals. We can fight our less productive instincts if we allow unpainted evidence in.)



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  • If love is not in the heart (and it surely isn’t – not in a literal sense) how likely is it that it is in the brain?

    It is in the body and maybe a little around that.

    As Antonio Damasio has it…. cognitions are embodied. How we feel and experience is entirely the product of having bodies with their tremulous feedbacks. Others argue that it is not just a matter of embodied cognition but indeed of situated cognitions. We experience as part of a culture, from the colours we notice to the feelings we have of others. Romance was invented, so too childhood.



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  • @ Phil

    “At first I disliked watching Fox News and reading National Review. But within a year, I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and economics was just as coherent as the alternative liberal vision.
    Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered. Some of them struck me as quite good, e.g., the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order.” –Haidt

    This guy sounds to me like a cult leader. As flimsy and pernicious to my ears as Scientology. No interest whatsoever in him or his labels or his “foundations”. Thanks.



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  • Dan

    A valuation is necessarily intellectual

    This is not how aesthetics work which is why I refer to them as moral aesthetics in preference to moral values.

    Most valuations are instinctive and very fast. (“Thinking Fast. Thinking Slow.”) Judgments of familiarity are made for instance in a totally subconscious manner that allows things like Capgrass syndrome to happen to my aunt. She recognised that person to look identical to my dad but, entirely lacking that feeling of familiarity, judged him to be a cheap Chinese copy. Very, very many of our judgmental feelings, positive or negative, are made quickly and without any conscious intellectual process.



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  • Dan 197869

    I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and economics was just as coherent as the alternative liberal vision.

    It is coherent. But it doesn’t make it right for now. It is a coherent response for a nation under dire threat. (My points you did not want to engage.) Right wing folk preach dire threat even when there is none in order to co-opt that banding together as if war. Right wingers are fearful and seek to infect others with that fear to better protect themselves.

    Haidt’s nervousness in the world doesn’t negate his real statistical observations. You might not like Steven Pinker either. Me I’m viscerally left of centre, irredeemably so, but right wingers are a brute fact and we can’t remove them from the planet. But if we understand their fears we might get them to accept objective evidence and be less afraid of say, institutional progress or definitions of statehood, who is in our group etc. etc.

    My thesis only uses Haidt (and many others) Turchin equally falls over on the left.



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  • Dan

    Maybe theory was the wrong word? You do seem to suspend reality a little when you question things and being the practical mechanically minded person I am, I find it difficult to understand how you manage to do that.



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  • Phil

    Judgments of familiarity are made for instance in a totally
    subconscious manner

    As you have already mentioned the film ‘Slow West” I can give you a for instance with its leading actor. In my subconscious Micheal Fassbender looks too much like a friend of a friend (who I have never really liked) who has recently spent time inside for molesting his daughter. My conscious mind loves what he brings to the screen, and I can only think of Christoph Waltz and Benedict Cumberbatch that do it for me at the moment, but can’t seem to get over the fact he looks like someone who actually makes me cringe. My mind is pulled in two directions only avoiding turmoil because I admire his acting so much. I find the arrow swings closer to the middle when he is not acting but being interviewed.



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  • Olgun

    Fassbender

    Even now I can’t bring Fassbender’s face to mind, though I find him awesome (not least his role in getting this film made). There are no handles, no personal handles. I’ve seen and loved all his indie films and admire how he lives his life and its integrity (he lives only a couple of train stops away), yet I could not pick him out in an identity parade….

    What I need perhaps is a personal delta. He is like X but older, slimmer, blond. But I am very poor on faces…

    Such an extraordinary amount of unconscious decision making goes on using fast heuristics to service our immediate needs. Not often do we stop to analyse whats going on in our heads. Its almost impossible to get behind these to stop them. All we can do is analyse our feelings and overlay a more reasonable narrative.

    My argument regarding morality has always been that it is our day job to do this, the daily due diligence of introspection and integration to be consistent moral authors. And only by being aware of our “thoughtless” heuristics, the auto-pilot of our gifted aesthetics/proclivities (thanks, Mum…thanks, Dad…) can we make better decisions than automatons.



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  • PeacePecan

    By some definitions we are those.

    My point. Some more than others

    (Oh, and do automatons “make decisions”?)

    Increasingly, though when hampered by a fixed set of valuing heuristics and algorithms these become increasingly ineffective in a changing world. Unless, that is, education facilitates a better over-layed narrative/model to redirect their increasingly poor decisions..

    (In a statistically determinist world all decisions are rooted in a process, however complex and contingent.)



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  • My point. Some more than others

    Really? This is contradictory. Your previous statement suggests a distinction between “we” (us) and automatons. Is there one? If so, what is it? And if not, how does one make sense of the statement?



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  • I was referring to those of us who effectively behave as automatons by making thoughtless decisions using instinctive heuristics….But, if you want to include something silicon, that is not excluded.

    Both make decisions but of little entrained value.



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  • I was referring to those of us who effectively behave as automatons…

    Yes, that’s what I assumed. (But, it’s still not clear to me that there is a distinction.)

    …by making thoughtless decisions using instinctive heuristics…

    Part of the definition of “automaton” (?). (Is there a difference between “instinctive heuristics” and the non-instinctive kind in terms of their effect on the automaton?)

    But, if you want to include something silicon, that is not excluded.

    I would think the substrate is irrelevant.

    Both make decisions but of little entrained value.

    “Entrained value”?? (A little help here?)



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  • PeacePecan

    But, it’s still not clear to me that there is a distinction

    Between what? Between instinctive deciders and those who may do the same but follow this up with some conscious deliberations? Or between humans and machines? (Non instinctive isn’t a meaningful alternative here. The alternative is specifically deliberative.)

    I would think the substrate is irrelevant.

    Again my point.

    entrained value

    Literally- value drawn along with the decision. Extra value bundled with the decision. etc. etc.



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  • Between what? Between instinctive deciders and those who may do the same but follow this up with some conscious deliberations? Or between humans and machines?

    Yes.

    Is it not possible that “conscious deliberation” is instinctive? And is not instinct just another word for programming?

    Please tell me which is the automaton and which is “we”.

    (Non instinctive isn’t a meaningful alternative here. The alternative is specifically deliberative.)

    (Pardon my language deficiency, and thank you for understanding me nonetheless.)

    Again my point.

    Understood. (I was agreeing.)

    entrained value: Literally- value drawn along with the decision. Extra value bundled with the decision. etc. etc.

    So, “extra” value (perhaps meaning more, or “better”, value?) comes along with conscious, specifically deliberative decisions as compared with instinctive decisions. (Is that a fair summary?)



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  • I’d like to preface this one by saying that there is a lot I simply do not know, and this is, as usual, a bit muddled. But that does not mean that I am entirely wrong. Here are some additional thoughts on this subject.

    The neuro bunch has, in my view, the potential to mislead us all and take us to a place where infants’ brains will be tampered with. They put the cart before the horse.

    There in nothing in the brain that can be labelled. Remember when J.F. Kennedy was assassinated? Was that his essence, his moral virtues exploding out? Yes, we can observe the behavior of neurons and whatnot but we can never locate the source of a righteous act or any other act in the brain.

    That has to be manifested in context and above all through action. Feelings do matter, and thoughts have meaning of a kind, but this mania, this over-reliance upon the data of the neuro people, and the overestimation of their observations and tests regarding these feelings and emotions, is a grave error in judgment, in so far as we are merely looking at objectified neuronic activity corresponding to various reactions as organisms to the stimuli and motives associated with our environment; nothing observable within the brain can ever be a first cause when it comes to moral acts.

    The brain can be diseased and affect one’s behavior, and it can explain why some people are better at math and science and others are good at virtually nothing. But I don’t see how the brain can actually cause a moral act or determine one’s personality in a moral sense. When it comes to morality or ethical choices the chief function of the brain is consciousness. Motives are presented to us through the medium of knowledge.

    I am, as you all know, an ignoramus when it comes to science (and yet highly intuitive and gifted), have virtually no science background at all – and yet my theory is, I believe, more in keeping with evolutionary biology than one might think; evolutionary biology emphasizes environmental elements and the reactions to these elements. That is how the brain was formed. The neuroscientists and Haidt et al have it backwards.

    We act. We are what we do; we are not our brains anymore than we are our hearts or kidneys. We are not our bodies. No one can explain what we are or why we are good or selfish. Except Schopenhauer.



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  • Olgun, Hi! How are you? “Life can be regarded as a dream and death as the awakening from it: but it must be remembered that the personality, the individual, belongs to the dreaming and not to the awakened consciousness, which is why death appears to the individual as annihilation. In any event, death is not, from this point of view, to be considered a transition to a state completely new and foreign to us, but rather a return to one originally our own from which life has been only a brief absence.” – Guess who?

    P.S. Life is dreamlike, but only in so far as we confuse empirical reality with absolute reality. – Me



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  • PeacePecan 197948

    instinctive

    relating to or prompted by instinct; done without conscious thought.
    “an instinctive distaste for conflict”
    (of a person) doing or being a specified thing apparently naturally or automatically.

    However, your question

    Is it not possible that “conscious deliberation” is instinctive?

    is in some sense true, after all the roots of all actions, instinctive and deliberative, are unconscious. But this doesn’t mean we have no deliberative control of what we do. We have the possibility especially with the help of an enabling teacher or parent or friend to start a process of rehearsal or training, like an athlete to (instinctively!) begin that process of introspection and deliberative analysis under every circumstance like thus or so. (Just such an occasion might be when answering another’s questions! I was going to give you a pat answer, then realised the question demanded more.) Like any training we can condition ourselves to do X when the circumstance is Y.

    My desire in this thread is to encourage everyone to precisely start this deliberative process with every moral dilemma we encounter even though we have the ability to, the capacity to form near instant, instinctive judgments. Is this moral dilemma (about Z) now before us truly the same old, same old stuff or is there a new aspect to it, or a new thing I have recently learned that may change understanding and my judgment?

    And yes a fair summary.



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  • Corrections:

    “It [Haidt’s foundation] is a simple reification of part of an analysis and a transformation of that part of the analysis into first principles which are then reapplied. So its value can be shown only in its protective capacity and its utility. There is much to admire in it without results as there is in a filing system. ” -Paul

    “It is a simple reification of part of an analysis and a transformation of that part of the analysis into first principles which are then reapplied. So its value can be shown only in its predictive capacity and its utility. There is as much to admire in it without results as there is in a filing system. ” -Paul



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  • Hi Phil,

    … the roots of all actions, instinctive and deliberative, are unconscious. But this doesn’t mean we have no deliberative control …

    That would seem to be the conclusion of the few reports we receive on neuroscience.

    Like any training we can condition ourselves to do X when the circumstance is Y

    Yes, and if we act X instead of the previous act W the next time we encounter Y is that instinct? I ask more for nuance than for revision.

    I propose an intermediate between instinct and deliberation – intuition. It has seemed to me for a long time that learning does not create minds that constantly delve into deep consideration of all the facets of a Y every time we detect a possible Y2. Rather, learning has two discernible outcomes. First, we tend to deliberate (consider carefully with conscious cognition) more when we have both the time and the energy. Second, we employ what we have learned from previous considerations to create short-cuts in our thinking that we hope or believe will see us through our next Y encounter. I call these short-cuts intuitions.

    It may not be everyone’s definition of intuition, but my definition does seem to cover what most people mean by it.

    We have the desire to use our capacity to form near instant, instinctive-style judgments because thinking is costly. In evolutionary terms stopping to think might be deadly (particularly if that rustle in the grass is a cheetah), a false negative needs to be avoided. Even if that were not true, thinking for longer means diverting brain power, energy and time.

    “Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.”
    Bertrand Russell (attrib.)

    I can’t fault you, Phil, on wanting to get more people to think, or think more. If science teaches us anything it is how powerful our instincts and intuitions really are. Remember that study on how scientists can see our unconscious making decisions while our conscious minds are still telling us we’re undecided.

    We need to question our own, learned, intuitive, behaviours more, and more often. Bertie is our go-to man for quotes on this:

    “Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.”
    Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

    “What makes a free thinker is not his beliefs, but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after careful thought, he finds a balance in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.”
    Bertrand Russell, The Value of Free Thought

    Peace.



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  • …after all the roots of all actions, instinctive and deliberative, are unconscious. But this doesn’t mean we have no deliberative control of what we do.

    I think it might, actually.

    We have the possibility especially with the help of an enabling teacher or parent or friend to start a process of rehearsal or training, like an athlete to (instinctively!) begin that process of introspection and deliberative analysis under every circumstance like thus or so.

    Training = programming.

    (Just such an occasion might be when answering another’s questions! I was going to give you a pat answer, then realised the question demanded more.)

    The fact that you didn’t means that you were never “going to”.

    Like any training we can condition ourselves to do X when the circumstance is Y.

    Condition ourselves?

    My desire in this thread is to encourage everyone to precisely start this deliberative process with every moral dilemma we encounter even though we have the ability to, the capacity to form near instant, instinctive judgments. Is this moral dilemma (about Z) now before us truly the same old, same old stuff or is there a new aspect to it, or a new thing I have recently learned that may change understanding and my judgment?

    Yes, I understand. Thanks for your replies.



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  • @ Phil
    @ Stephen

    “… the roots of all actions, instinctive and deliberative, are unconscious. But this doesn’t mean we have no deliberative control …” – Phil

    “That would seem to be the conclusion of the few reports we receive on neuroscience.” – Stephen

    If you think you are saying anything new or anything substantive here, then you and your cherished neuroscientists are, in my honest opinion, and with absolutely no offense intended, deluding yourselves.



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  • @ Phil Rimmer

    I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and
    economics was just as coherent as the alternative liberal vision. -Haidt

    No it is not cohesive. They are a bunch of evil, greedy bastards. They lie like hell. Cohesive! You can say that about anything; it means nothing in this context. And the sub title: “why good people are divided by politics and religion” says it all. We are not all at heart on the side of truth, as Emerson famously said. We are not all good. Good people? That’s pathetic. Naive, manipulative, shallow, and/or just plain stupid. I don’t have any problem with people thinking that politics and religion makes some good people do bad things, but to assume that we are all good is…well, what I just said it was.



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  • “I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and
    economics… ”

    He began to see nothing. He saw nothing at all. He’s a jerk, in my opinion – a class A jerk, with a degree and and an education. “Coherent” my ass.



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  • Dan, anyone,

    An argument may be coherent but based upon false premises is wrong. This is my clearly stated opinion of the right wing position at this time.

    One day you will offer evidence and not opinion based on appearances.

    As Stephen observes by quoting Russel, thought is rendered free of the indoctrination of others by getting to truth, for instance through a process like the scientific method.

    This acceptance of truth by using processes we have demonstrated time and again to sift the truer from the less is the only way free of our mind forged manacles, (most often forged with the indoctrinating help of other self serving minds.)

    Your rejection of how people actually are, the way they think and the workings of our different jellies, throws away the greater part of how we can achieve freedom for ourselves.

    Cooperation, equality and the mitigation of harms are here to stay and will ultimately prevail because the evidence is clear. (The Spirit Level, Ultrasociety, Better Angels) Football teams, companies and countries thrive stably and sustainably because of it. There is no trick of argumentation needed. If folk were indoctrinated to the merits of evidence and reason we stand a chance of having equality become a goal for a wider set of people.

    This is a curious kind of indoctrination. It is not the indoctrination of idealogues but that of the less ideological atheist community. Their kids are uniquely less inclined to be like their parents. Religious evangelists reliably turn out religious evangelists, but atheists more often seek out for their sprogs a good education and leave them to form their own opinion. They are “Indoctrinated” into a process that helps liberate thought.

    The right’s error is to be unduly fearful, to fear setting kids thought free. They need kids to be afraid, to circle the wagons and protect home lest it change one scintilla. Once in a blue moon the right are right. We are attacked, literally targeted by dangerous others and their coherent strategy is exactly the one to get us through. This was particularly so in the past when fewer people understood the non-zero-sum gain of co-operation and behaved only as klepto-zero-summers or guardians against the same.

    All thought is cloaked in unconscious processes revealed to us as individuals late in the day. My favourite saying for a while was “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?” I am proud of my unconscious. It invents solutions, discovers all manner of new stuff and continually delights and surprises me. BUT I cultivate it. I feed it with stuff (endless reading, listening and debating). And then I alsoI skill my conscious self to better test its output with all the cultural inventions endlessly refined and all visible to the conscious self.

    Rehearsal of how we will consciously test unconscious ideas is how we can free ourselves in thought. This process of testing is the essence of what I am seeking to encourage. Our early indoctrination because of the childhood phenomenon of “over-imitation” cannot be cured (else we will kill the very process that builds culture itself) but we can enculturate to processes of truth sieving and testing our own mental product and trusting its output above our instinctive thoughts. It doesn’t turn out clones though. We are neurally diverse (thankfully) and have wildly different life experiences.

    Morality is rooted in endless public debate and cross education. It is the greater when it acknowledges our diversity, the diversity of needs, whilst protecting the vulnerable. It is the greater when fuller use of all our talents is achieved. And the Platinum Rule beats the Golden.



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  • Phil,

    I am very heartened, very glad that you ‘believe’ in the unconscious. That is on its way out. Not for me, however – and apparently not for you.
    I try to state my views as well as I can. I do offer many opinions.
    Morality is not “rooted” in debate or education. Morality is morality. Debate is debate. Education is education.
    The identification with another’s suffering and the ability to feel it as if it were one’s own suffering (which it is) is a mysterious phenomenon. You have, I am sure, felt this at times. Ask yourself if this was learned or whether it isn’t something bound up with who and what you are, something more primary and elemental than anything produced by any form of “indoctrination.”
    The Pythagoreans (who are among the wisest societies ever to appear on earth) understood that all the creatures of the world are one. This is not necessarily a metaphysical concept, but it could be.
    I would argue (without evidence) that true moral feeling (which can only be compassion) is based on this unifying aspect.
    There I go again: opinions! Nothing but opinions!
    I appreciate your comments above and will try to be more open minded.
    I beg you to read Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality at some point.
    Be well.
    Bye, for now, my friend.

    -Dan

    P.S. There’s a YouTube video on the Europe Organizes thread of Krauss debating the most irrational religious schmuck I’ve ever heard. Check it out. I’d be interested to know if you think there is any hope of rehabilitating people like that. Seems pretty hopeless to me. (I am not crazy about the idea of “indoctrination” although I am sure you mean that in a very specific, esoteric, unconventional sense.)



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  • Dan

    Morality is not “rooted” in debate or education. Morality is morality. Debate is debate. Education is education.

    Discussion then. It is only about finding out about the other that we know how they feel and what they wish for themselves. Without sure knowledge of this morality has no work to do. We are set free to wallow in our own delights.

    the ability to feel it as if it were one’s own suffering

    This is not sympathy (introspected and deliberated on empathy) but empathy itself. This is a prime component of those instinctive aesthetics about fairness and harm (to others). So far it has been found to have possibly ten separate neural aspects to its working. It can also be wrong in its get-feel heuristic. Hyper pro-socials over-read and plain invent (imagine) harms to others where there is none.

    As aspies have found, compassion and sympathy can be theirs too, and more often based on facts when, though denied a visceral empathy, through discussions with and accounts from others they learn of harms truly experienced.

    “One-ness” is not a thing outside of poetry. Maybe “sharing agency” might be a more productive concept?

    Surprised by your unconscious comment. Most of our neural processing is below conscious experience. Conscious experience marks what has currently been (subconsciously) assessed by a myriad of heuristic “aesthetics” to be potentially salient and thereby have the potential to become memories. (The second filter in part depends upon conscious deliberations to save the gold nuggets from the soon to be emptied and refilled pan of the short term memory.)

    Krauss is robust but not best skilled. He needed to argue that Islam was not the latest update to religion as they believe, not that it is just one amongst many. He needed to attack their strongest point First.

    Schopenhauer. I have read much philosophy in my many years and lost much of it. I reread a bit of the Freud and had to stop. I am not interested so much in people who believe as I do yet cannot explain in terms I have little confidence in. I now want facts upon which I can produce my own philosophical hypotheses. Building hypotheses upon hypotheses is getting too rickety for me. I have no axe to grind with him, think him an astonishing and insightful observer. I have Kant as a modest hero.

    Forgive me, Dan. I feel my age as new little nuggets of truths pour in, faster now than ever and I see them so poorly joined up by others (the lag is growing). I want to work there and have to trust to my earlier education, rather than revisit it. I am though very grateful for any specifics you have to offer.



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  • Dan 197983

    P.S. Coherent rather. Cohesive is actually a better word.
    Coherent? So was the final solution.

    Exactly, Dan! So why, when Haidt said coherent did you read “good”?

    Incidentally other researchers have come up with other sets of moral aesthetics, that more or less map to Haidt’s. There is one (can’t recall atm) who had four terms rather than five, more or less mapping to Haidt’s but conflating two of the those right wing attributes. Their definitions were more abstruse, but in so being were less amenable to testing with the general public. Like the colour sensors in our eyes which are three very specific profiles these aesthetics are phenomena which linked to by culturally flexible connections. “Loyalty” is as hand-wavy as “red”.

    There is no discovery of a definitive set of moral aesthetic terms merely a discovery that extremely left-indentifying folk relate very powerfully on harms and fairness for everyone and the extreme right have these concerns only half as much but supplement this reduction with an equal amount three new concerns that are entirely more automatic, parochial or tribal for the local group, its members, leader and traditions. For politically centre folk they have all these concerns but rather more harms and fairness and rather less the three “tribal” co-operators.



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  • Stephen 197967

    Intuition is a version of instinct to me, perhaps a little more rehearsed to have happen but maybe not.

    The third option for me between instinct and deliberation is what culture brings to us. I have often called culture a second (super) cortex over our own. As it is our own cortex allows us to consciously test our instincts and intuitions using cultural inventions of language, reason and culturally derived semantic knowledge. Trained to test, we can more surely reject what is false and await our unconscious to deliver the next instinctive/intuitive variant idea.

    What culture does now though, is offer judgements of its own from others or third party experience etc. which we might consider as part of our own testing. More importantly it is the source of a plethora of instinct-like inputs which we can examine, test and co-opt or reject, moving on to the next, like we might with our own instinctive inputs.

    Russel notes the primitive energy accountant roots of brain ownership. They cost a lot of energy to run and the “strategy” a hundred million years ago was to was be rather more knife edge than the primates have now demonstrated. Maybe best not to get the upgrade and have to work harder to fuel its use.

    But the ancient ways have been turned on their head for some, by turning brain use into a source of positive pleasure. Find a problem (dopamine hit), solve a problem (dopamine hit). A cultural driver to sell the idea of the pleasures of having a rich interior life is abroad and needs every encouragement. Education should be for life and sustaining reward (in the fullest sense).

    My dad was cured of boredom by Professor Frederick Soddy. He in turn cured me (with supplementary inputs from a few teachers and lecturers. My kids increasingly astonish me with the richness of their interior lives.

    The rich interior reward of moral deliberation and its steady expansive effects on a society thus made more co-operative, less in need of obedience, unlocking more talent, is one of the more gratifying deliberations.

    Education.



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  • @Dan

    I am sure this will interest you as well Dan. From 28:20 on is very interesting about the interaction between the Thalamus and the visual cortex. To me, the information coming back from the visual cortex could be the explanation for dreams. The input stops when you close your eyes but if the information coming back is still operating then millions of images are being sent to the Thalamus which causes the eye to move in REM sleep. (Just my thoughts and not stated in the film)



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  • Eagleman is excellent. Your guess that the feedback from visual cortex to the thalamus to fill in and smooth out the gaps of our discontinuous and jerky perceptions may be also, and literally, the stuff of dreams, I think is entirely correct. (I must watch these programs rather than scitter through them.) If we could look through the data on our optic nerves in some direct way, apart from the curious splitting of colour, edge and moving edge information we would be made ill be the endless eye saccades creating little snippets of stable image and much useless sliding around. The internal (visual model) we create is smoothed out and the actual stable inputs from the eye are more like course corrections, once the scenario starts unfolding in our head. This is spectacular data compression (and as indicated in the program) leads to all the optical illusions we know and many other forms of miscognition. Richard Gregory back in the late sixties was the first to propose such failures were based on expectations and must signal an internal model of what is being seen. If this model needs only course corrections then it is entirely fit for the “purpose” of experiencing dreams but it may also be the generator of Halucinations when visual input or visual semantic information is missing. This may be what underlies Charles Bonet Syndrome, the vivid visual experiences of the newly blind.

    Many years ago, this internal model generator that created our smoothed perceptions I termed “The Prosaic Apparatus”. Its job was entirely to create a smooth untroubled account of our world. Drabness was its default mode. For a decade or so I used to set two alarms an hour apart to improve my chance of catching more of my everyday dreams. (Being awoken by the occasional spectacular dream gives the impression that dreams are mostly spectacular. They mostly aren’t.) Strange rather grey things they are. Curious in retrospect but with no sense of that within them. They often (to me at least) segued between sequences like an Eisenstein movie. He held that all shots should “modulate” through a shared ending and beginning movement type, image type (or sound type). A clock face becomes a face, a leaf blown into the air becomes a bird or its obverse, books thumped on a table. The logic of my grey everyday dreams had entirely this kind of thematic linking.

    It is now known that in some sense this is a period of memory consolidation, perhaps partially to ensure a continuous sense of self.. Deprived of sleep we hallucinate and also become greatly more suggestible and less autonomous. Dreams often have an element of recent biographical memories but changed out of immediate recognition. The dream narrative seems almost like very sporadic biographical elements pop up, perhaps during this consolidation process and the prosaic apparatus takes up the task of stitching these elements together in a mostly non-troubling and unremarkable way, “modulating” as best it can between these selected fragments.



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  • @ Phil
    @ Steven

    This is an example of what I find objectionable. Neuroscientist are just plain myopic. The philosophers you dismiss as irrelevant are far more precise.

    A prominent neuroscientist (in an online article) referred to a pulse of neural electrons as a representation!

    THE PULSE OF NEURAL ELECTRONS OVER A MEMBRANE IS A REPRESENTATION? WHO IS LOOKING AT IT? ANOTHER PULSE?



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  • Dan #138

    The philosophers you dismiss as irrelevant…

    No. Incomplete. Their (semantically rigorous!) models are top down inferences only. But some modern philosophers are bang up to date, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Daniel Dennett, and metaphysician, David Chalmers….

    WHO IS LOOKING AT IT?

    The single pulse may represent a phosphene or an edge feature or the inference of a closed loop of edges in a greater schema to the “feeling generators” on the two paths of the visual circuit. As we have discussed already with my aunt’s Capgrass Syndrome, the various feelings that comprise “perceiving” a concious internal representation of an external entity (my dad, say) occur in different locations depending on the qualities being perceived. So a semantic understanding (its my Dad) is a parallel and separate understanding to the feeling, “friend, foe or unknown”. The representations at the highest level of the schema have no homunculus observing. Rather they have many experience/feeling generators/hypothesisers working in parallel.

    The astonishing thing is the way we build an integrated understanding of our parallel sets of experiences. The way our tagging and linking memory works is the essence of our evolved narrative selves. We are better named Homo Memorator, man the narrator. (Etymology can be hugely revealing sometimes.) The fascinating (often terrifying) thing is when this capacity fails.



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  • Phil 137

    Thanks for the explanation Phil.

    perhaps partially to ensure a continuous sense of self.

    I did struggle to give a reason why there isn’t a complete or more of the brain shutting down but we still have to be aware of our selves and our environment if we are to avoid being eaten whilst asleep.

    Dan

    Seems to me that your response, or lack of, says you are in denial about this whole thing and putting all your eggs in the philosophical basket. No disrespect but, you are taking the same dopamine hit when a chance to enjoy mystery presents itself instead of getting that hit from facts. 😉



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  • 139, 140

    Not really, Olgun (although I might be in denial) ; I just don’t see what, say, information or representation
    actually corresponds to within the brain. Those are just metaphors borrowed from real empirical experience. Information is delivered in the brain and received? I am, I admit, an ignoramus when it comes to these and other matters, but I have begun to question the whole notion of explaining what we know and experience in such terms. What precisely is being explained? Information is not, cannot, be the precise word.

    When it comes to such things as compassion (which is not empathy, Phil) I do actually prefer a certain mystery. Apart from that and a handful of other things such as the end of space and the beginning of time, I would welcome facts. (A fact that could explain the beginning of time does fill me with a certain horror; I cannot deny it.)



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  • Dan #141

    A fact that could explain the beginning of time does fill me with a certain horror

    For me it would be sadness as it might well signal game over for our adventure. Still, it only figures in a few of the leading cosmologies….

    I do actually prefer a certain mystery.

    But on a website dedicated to science and reason expect attempts to shut down these two, because of a personal aesthetic, to meet some aggravated resistance. Our visceral responses must be followed on with deliberations.

    Besides mystery is boundless. The “but why’s” never truly end and for me, as I have said before, the poetry is the greater, the possibilities for us less imagined. The sense of adventure a little more cosmic, a little less parochial.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like the idea of being a visceral conservative determined to be an intellectual progressive. I thought it rather noble myself. I would that more fought their fearful natures. Visceral stuff is not the part of us we can change,… only the post deliberations. Blame attaches to this deliberative overlay.



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  • Dan

    An orange as information could be:

    Colour
    Fruit
    Texture
    Taste
    Smell
    Supermarket
    Orange grove
    Vitamin C
    shape
    etc etc etc………

    The filing system partly fixed and partly dynamic according to the individual experience. Orange appearing in a dream could come from any of these files and confuse the story (In my mind anyway) without visual input to clarify. If your filing system has a slight fault then things can get a little weird. Synesthesia can pull out the wrong file and a word comes out as a colour or a taste as well as a word.



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  • @ Phil 142
    @ Olgun 143

    Mystery is not in itself incompatible with science and reason.
    A stubborn adherence to mystery at the expense of reason and in defiance of evidence is.

    Olgun, I like the the first part of your message. Orange as information can be many things. Reminds me of Wittgenstein and his emphasis on context and plurality. The second part I am, unfortunately, unable to comprehend at the present time. (Honesty. Humility.)

    Olgun, may I ask you what you do? (Don’t feel constrained.) You are a very intriguing person. So is Phil.—I’ve told him that . . . and so am I!



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  • @ Phil #139

    I think I understand what Phil is saying, Danny, but it would be exhausting to fashion a reply. It’s not nonsense, but it defers the question of consciousness rather than answering it decisively like W at least attempts to do. I like the idea of edges in the previous sentence, no I don’t completely understand it.

    I think it’s a weakness to use the word perceiving twice in a definition of perceiving, even if the first time in quotes, and I think it is unwarranted to call (whatever he’s constructing here) a representation. I take issue with the idea that there is a separate layer of friend photo or unknown, then that’s my dad. Certainly things may happen in that order. But they just as well may not, also. Or if we are measuring chemicals we may be talking about some kind of hindbrain “BOO!” reaction, in which case, it’s not that interesting, is it.

    “the various feelings that comprise “perceiving” a conscious internal representation of an external entity (my dad, say) occur in different locations depending on the qualities being perceived. So a semantic understanding (its my Dad) is a parallel and separate understanding to the feeling, “friend, foe or unknown”. The representations at the highest level of the schema have no homunculus observing. Rather they have many experience/feeling generators/hypothesisers working in parallel.”

    You can send this to Phil if you like. He is a thoughtful interlocutor.

    Paul



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  • Dan #145

    Certainly things may happen in that order.

    This is not what I said. They happen in parallel. This is woefully under-informed guess work where science does a proper job.

    Here is a a very old scientific paper on the varieties of parallel pathways and the modularity of different cognitions.

    When I have time I’ll get you something more modern and specific. Better still. You have the world at your fingertips, if you can take them from covering your eyes. Look up Capgrass Syndrome. Buy a copy of Vilayanur Ramachandran’s “The Tell Tale Brain”.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/95/3/883.full.pdf



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  • @ Phil 146

    Thanks, Phil,

    I will inspect the paper later today. (kidding)

    I wrote a short essay on the NECSS thread. We were discussing labels.

    Your general aversion to the word “ideology” exemplifies my point. You associate in your mind ideologies with bad ideologies and they all get put in the same box. That is exactly what I think is wasteful and bad for us a culture. There are good and useful ideologies, and the word has many usages. But now we are allowing the conflation and confusion surrounding words to inhibit us, to frighten us, to narrow our appreciation of the complexity of these concepts, and we then eschew them.

    On this website there have been numerous topics about how to deal with those who misuse the word atheist, and the word theory came up recently as well. I say: don’t run from the words; we will have no words left. Explain what atheism means and doesn’t mean. Explain what fascism means and what it doesn’t mean. Don’t let those who misrepresent and distort words force us into avoiding these words. National Socialism is not Bernie Sanders’ idea of socialism. Rather than avoiding associating yourself with “labels” and “ideologies” altogether because it is an “ideology”, explain, clarify, educate!

    I have – dare I say it – a very nuanced view of labels and words. That is not the case with other well-intentioned folks on this site. (Yourself excluded.)



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  • @phil-rimmer 146

    I looked at the paper.

    When you consider how utterly dependent we are upon the brain, and then consider how vital and essential a role the brain plays in relation to all of our cognizing and representations, doesn’t that support Schopenhauer’s thesis that space (externality) and time are “functions of the brain” and have no meaning apart from the brain? Wouldn’t it be safe to say that empirical reality is completely determined by the brain?

    Dan’s jabs are piling up! (Not a competition.—I know.)



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  • The point that I have been making for the past year or so is that the world is not a ready-made world, not something real in that sense. It requires our participation as subjects with brains in order to exist as reality.
    Neuroscience supports this “idealistic” view.
    Describe something, anything, but try to imagine that there is no brain as you do this.



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  • The point that I have been making for the past year or so is that the world is not a ready-made world, not something real in that sense.

    There is an old computer acronym that is appropriate here. WYSIWYG. What You See is What You Get. The stuff you talk about is philosophy and thus beyond me. But it seems like we’re are trying to attach greater significance to stuff which is just stuff. It’s like gymnastics for the brain. I don’t get it so I stick with my commonsense.



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  • What you see is what you get. I agree. And the world is flat and the sun revolves around it.
    Some philosophy is scientific. Some science is very close to philosophy.
    I sense a prejudice.



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  • I sense a prejudice.

    No prejudice. I just don’t get it. I know it’s important and I know great wisdom can come from it, but it just goes through to the keeper with me (Cricket Expression). I’ve tried reading books on philosophy…. I even started Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy but I got bored.

    I’ve got a planet to save so I probably put philosophy down the priority list. Once we’ve got problem number one under control, then maybe I could spend some time with your guy Shoppinghour.



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  • As a test, I Googled the Top Ten Philosophy quotes. I get these, mostly, but the stuff that you are Phil debate is another language. Number 10 is about my level.

    Albert Einstein: A real sign of intelligence isn’t knowledge, it’s imagination

    Gandhi: Live simply that others may simply live

    Socrates: I only know one thing, and that is I know nothing

    The Book of Job: Remember: life is a breath; Soon I will vanish from your sight. The eye that looks will not see me; You may search but I will be gone. Like a cloud fading in the sky, Man dissolves into death. And never comes home again.

    Socrate: My advice to you is to get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; If not, you’ll become a philosophe

    Pascal: It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not the reason

    Aristotle: Happiness is something final and complete in itself, As being the aim and end of practical activities whatever… Happiness then we define as the active exercise of the mind In conformity with perfect goodness or virtue

    Albert Camus: It was previously a question Of finding out whether or not life Has to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary That it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning

    Plato: There will be no end to the troubles of states,Or of humanity itself,Till philosophers become kings in this world,Or till those we now call kings and rulers really And truly become philosophers,

    Bruce Lee: I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.



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  • Socrates: I only know one thing, and that is I know nothing.

    I assume Socrates actually made that remark. In which case it appears that Socrates was very ignorant about semantics, that words are ambiguous. So realizing that I am being judgmental, it seems that statement by Socrates was senseless trivia. He should have said that he knows nothing about semantics.



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  • 155
    Cairsley says:

    To CBrown (#154)

    Beware of a single sentence cited out of context, and bear in mind that, if Socrates is known for anything, he is known for irony. If this interests you, a very good treatment of Socratic irony is found in Chapter 1 of Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher by Gregory Vlastos.



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  • Cairsley #155

    Good point. One remark or two: the writer who best understood Socrates as ironist had to be Kierkegaard. (The irony of Socrates is most evident in the Apology, the Phaedo, and the Symposium.) Kierkegaard wrote about this way before the gentleman you mentioned. He may have been the first writer to really explore this subtly apprehended aspect of Socrates’s mode of communication, as it were. It is indirect communication.
    I would argue that most people do not appreciate this. The way Socrates employs irony and the reasons why he uses it is not easily understood. You say if he is known for anything he is known for irony. No, he is not known for that.
    Most people make no distinction between Plato (a direct communicator) and Socrates. You have to dig and you have to read Kierkegaard (who was also an ironist) to get to the real Socrates. The Socrates of the Republic, for example, is more Plato than Socrates.—No irony in that one, as great as it is in other ways.



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  • Dan #148

    space (externality) and time are “functions of the brain”

    This is misleading and unhelpful. Nor do rays come out of our eyes. Our internal representations of external realities are imperfect and the merest of “glimpses”

    Our internal models of space (externality) and time are “functions of the brain” and culture.

    But using this internal map we can successfully discover (external) novelties in spacetime. It may be that we can only map that which is computable (parsable and/or susceptible to mathematics).

    Given that much of our models are too large to mentally encompass in a single brain but reside more fully in the cultural space, I find these musings well behind the curve of how we are now.



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  • Dan, Olgun , anyone…

    The existence of (what I call) the Prosaic Apparatus, our internal model of a perceived world, proved by the problem of eye saccades, needs a whole heap of non-conscious wiring to feed it rationally with course correcting visual inputs. This excellent new paper details some of how this is done.

    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/370/1677/20140205

    The separate processing of visual information is made clear here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight

    from which let me extract this

    The brain contains several mechanisms involved in vision. Consider two systems in the brain which evolved at different times. The first that evolved is more primitive and resembles the visual system of animals such as fish and frogs. The second to evolve is more complex and is possessed by mammals. The second system seems to be the one that is responsible for our ability to perceive the world around us and the first system is devoted mainly to controlling eye movements and orienting our attention to sudden movements in our periphery. Patients with blindsight have damage to the second, “mammalian” visual system (the visual cortex of the brain and some of the nerve fibers that bring information to it from the eyes).[3] This phenomenon shows how, after the more complex visual system is damaged, people can use the primitive visual system of their brains to guide hand movements towards an object even though they can’t see what they are reaching for.[3] Hence, visual information can control behavior without producing a conscious sensation. This ability of those with blindsight to see objects that they are unconscious of suggests that consciousness is not a general property of all parts of the brain; yet it suggests that only certain parts of the brain play a special role in consciousness.[3]

    Blindsight patients show awareness of single visual features, such as edges and motion, but cannot gain a holistic visual percept. This suggests that perceptual awareness is modular and that—in sighted individuals—there is a “binding process that unifies all information into a whole percept”, which is interrupted in patients with such conditions as blindsight and visual agnosia.[1] Therefore, object identification and object recognition are thought to be separate process and occur in different areas of the brain, working independently from one another. The modular theory of object perception and integration would account for the “hidden perception” experienced in blindsight patients. Research has shown that visual stimuli with the single visual features of sharp borders, sharp onset/offset times,[9] motion,[10] and low spacial frequency[11] contribute to, but are not strictly necessary for, an object’s salience in blindsight.



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  • 159
    Cairsley says:

    To Dan (#156)

    . . . The Socrates of the Republic, for example, is more Plato than Socrates. . . .

    Plato’s Republic belongs to his middle period and contains very little Socratic material, though the device of using ‘Socrates’ as protagonist is carried over to it from the dialogues of Plato’s early period, when the young Plato sought to make known the thinking and character of Socrates, partly as a vindication of his good name. Karl Popper is very good on this matter, taking a rather hard line with Plato in Volume One of his The Open Society and Its Enemies, accusing him of betraying his former teacher. You may find it interesting, if you have not already read it. Gregory Vlastos is also very good on this question of distinguishing between the thought of Socrates in Plato’s works and Plato’s own thinking, which is markedly different.



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  • @Dan

    Olgun, may I ask you what you do? (Don’t feel constrained.)

    I study philosophy at Oxford……………………… 😉

    I have been an electrician, eventually having my own business, since the age of 14. I became an excellent fault finder which makes me function in the real world. I found many an electrician not thinking clearly about how to go about finding faults and put it down to their philosophical nature ( 😉 )

    Oh! and can I ask why you asked? (Don’t feel constrained.)



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  • Olgun

    Not sure what my motive was: Interest? Curiosity? You see someone’s name on a computer screen, someone who writes interesting comments, and sometimes you try to imagine what they do. I don’t know. I guess I was just being friendly.
    What’s 42?



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  • @ Phil

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I just don’t see how the “external” universe or world can come to us from the outside in, ready-made, as it were. I don’t say (anymore) that all matter and all the things that constitute the existing universe are dependent upon brains; what I am saying can be put in the form of a question: what do you mean by glimpses of an external world. In order for something to be external there has to be something internal – and I am NOT playing with words. This is logic. This point is invalid? imprecise? “A glimpse of something” would be a better way of putting it I think. Maybe not. I don’t know anymore.



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  • Dan #162
    Feb 20, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    What’s 42?

    I recommend you read the Sci-Fi novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_%28number%29#The_Hitchhiker.27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

    The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years.



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  • Dan

    Maybe you should approach this from the point of view of the universe. The universe that has been here much much longer than we have. ‘What an upstart’, it must think of us, to think we imagine it rather than the other way around. In the short time we have been here, we have tuned into it on a tiny planet. It’s forces coming together to build an internal understanding but with the ability to update second by second.



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  • Thanks, Allan. I’d like to recommend a great sci-fi story to you (and others) called The Last Question, by Isaac Asimov. It was his personal favorite. It’s about a computer. I won’t say anything else.

    I’d recommend Asimov to anyone who likes Sci-fi. He was the best, by far – imo.

    Olgun (#166), Phil, I can try to approach this from the point of view of the universe, with an understanding that the universe is something prior to Mind, more primary than our paltry brains which in fact appeared on the scene quite recently – but I can’t. Where do I begin? As soon as I attempt to detach myself from the situation and get to that other (objective) point of view, I discover that I have unwittingly carried certain forms of knowledge to the other side, where they do not, cannot belong. I imagine an objective universe existing before the brain had evolved and continuing to exist even after the last glimmer of consciousness is annihilated along with the last brain through death or extinction, and yet I still see space and I still see bodies in space. A body can only be represented as an extended thing in space. But without the mind nothing can possibly be represented as extended. There is nothing about the pure universe that I can imagine or think without bringing myself into the image or thought. So approaching this from the “point of view” of the universe is, for me, easier said than done.

    Btw, Krauss and other physicists are very interested in these “philosophical” questions, and I predict that Kant’s indirect contribution to physics has yet to be fully appreciated.



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  • I just don’t see how the “external” universe or world can come to us from the outside in, ready-made, as it were.

    What? Whats this “ready made” thing?

    It takes thousands of cultural years to build those internal models, first from glimpses then from more contrived and tool assisted glimpses. Yet none of that imposes upon the external.



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  • Dan #149
    Feb 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    The point that I have been making for the past year or so is that the world is not a ready-made world, not something real in that sense. It requires our participation as subjects with brains in order to exist as reality.

    Perhaps you are not aware of the philosophical sources of this confused thinking about sensed mental images of “reality”!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/02/the-five-most-common-misunderstandings-about-evolution/#li-comment-198457

    essential beliefs of the Catholic faith
    {The image of} All that exists outside (the) God{Delusion} was, in its whole substance, produced out of nothing by (the) God{Delusion}.

    Neuroscience supports this “idealistic” view.

    It does as far as human delusions and mental images go, but the physical universe, as revealed by science, existed for billions of years before the formation of the Earth, and the Earth existed for billions of years before the evolution of brains.



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  • @Allan

    I’ll have one more go at it (for today): what would a planet, say Neptune, look like without a brain?

    Yes, it existed before there were brains (presumably) but what can we say about it when the senses are debarred from any consideration of the question of what that planet is in itself? What part of the planet is left when the brain is no longer present? What remains, energy? unperceived matter?

    This applies to everything. I used Neptune as an example.



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  • Dan #170
    Feb 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    What part of the planet is left when the brain is no longer present?

    All of it, as it was before brains evolved, and as it would be, after human extinction.

    What remains, energy? unperceived matter?

    Yep! – unperceived matter and energy (which are different forms of the same thing! E = MC² ).



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  • @ Phil

    Look like. Yes. That was my point. Absurd.
    It wouldn’t look like anything.
    So what would it BE like? What would it BE?
    Unperceived matter and energy, according to Allan.
    What can unperceived matter BE? Pure matter?
    I for one can form no conception of pure matter.
    (I am able to acknowledge that if I cannot conceive
    of something it doesn’t mean that that something doesn’t exist.)
    I’ll leave you guys alone.
    Bye, for now.



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  • Dan #173
    Feb 20, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    It wouldn’t look like anything.

    Of course it wouldn’t “look like anything”! That is the circular nature of your argument that a brain and mental image are required for physical existence of the universe surrounding you.

    It would look like your view from behind a blindfold, or our view of the universe beyond the observable universe!

    What can unperceived matter BE? Pure matter?

    It is simply unseen matter!

    I for one can form no conception of pure matter.

    That has no bearing on its physical existence, before you were born, at present, or in the far future!



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  • Dan #167

    Btw, Krauss and other physicists are very interested in these “philosophical” questions, and I predict that Kant’s indirect contribution to physics has yet to be fully appreciated.

    No. No. Truly it was appreciated at the time. It was understood at the time that we saw through a glass, darkly. All of modern physics is built on this understanding. You have simply not noticed and have applied the same lesson a second time….

    Once was enough. What Kant said, we get it. Krauss gets it. We build models and continue adventuring and never ask what colour an electron is…

    Quantum Electro Dynamics is the most perfect predictor of the behaviour of coloured light at surfaces.

    Now we can ask what colour a quark is and cognise behaviours using Quantum Chromo Dynamics, but all of this, these laws of Physics, is/are man made. It helps us see through a glass, darkly.

    The laws of physics we make for ourselves, to help us understand, DO NOT DRIVE THE UNIVERSE.

    Stuff does stuff from its own nature, with or without our attempts at cognising.



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  • @Phil and Alan

    Matter is tied to her sister form and has never appeared without her. No one has ever seen the subject. Neither Matter nor the Subject have ever appeared naked and isolated. Both are abstractions. At bottom, however, they are one entity. (S. paraphrased)



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  • They are one entity, perceived by itself and perceiving itself. Yet its being-in-itself cannot consist of being perceived or in perceiving itself for these are divided between them. (S. Paraphrased)



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  • Dan #176
    Feb 20, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    @Phil and Alan

    Matter is tied to her sister form and has never appeared without her. No one has ever seen the subject.

    This is simply stating the issue backwards. The (imperfectly) copied image is “tied” in its creation to the original. Not vice-versa!

    The word “appeared” begs the question as to the presence of a human observer to create and see the copy.

    As with a photocopy of a portrait, the original is required for a human to produce a copy, but if we remove the human, or burn the copy, this has absolutely no bearing on the existence of the original!



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  • 179
    bonnie says:

    Philosophy, physics, Moog, Neptune-the Mystic, oh my!

    @ #174 & 178

    You have stated it well, don’t know how it could be any more clear! I’m in the camp of “the universe doesn’t give a s’t what we (humans) think“.



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  • @blue-bird-2

    Hi, Bonnie,

    What’s up?

    I put some time into this one.

    Like everyone else you just don’t get what I am saying (and that is my fault, although I am constrained here in terms of time and space).

    It’s not about what the universe is or isn’t. I am asking the question (and it is a good question to ask): what is the nature of the physical existence of the universe without a mind to perceive or experience it? It is
    all well and good to say that the universe doesn’t give a shit, but I give a shit about what the limits are (if any) of what we can ever know about absolute (mind-independent) existence. This is not mysticism.

    If you would just read Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic (Critique of Pure Reason) or some chapters from Schopenhauer’s WWR, you might get an inkling of what I am trying to say.

    Alan has argued that pure matter exists. I have asked how one can conceive of matter without form and of form without mind. Externality (space) in itself is meaningless without internality . . . Correction: problematic. —Much better word.

    I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that there is a universe that has existed and will continue to exist before brains and after brains. And Neptune was there too. But what IS anything without us? What is its nature? You can no longer use any of the words we are all accustomed to using (Locke’s secondary qualities): Big, small. hot, cold, vast, expanding, contracting, exploding, imploding, red, blue, hard, not hard, etc. Think about that. What would an explosion BE like without a mind to perceive it? Think about an explosion. You see things in your mind’s eye, don’t you? Be honest now! That is why I asked the absurd question: what does Neptune-in-itself look like? I was making a point: it would not be a visual object! This is not sophistry, casuistry, playing with words, etc. – and it is NOT mysticism. (I saw an interview with Chopra last night. I hate that patronizing charlatan! I like Reason – as much as anyone else on this damned site.)

    I am not a mystic. I am a critical idealist. Materialism, realism, the idea of starting from the object and forgetting the subject (because the object, the universe, doesn’t give a shit), is, I think, a position that has warranted my poorly presented questions and remarks.

    I love Holst’s The Planets. My favorite (by far): Venus.

    Bye, for now. Be well.

    Dan



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  • Dan #180

    What is its nature? You can no longer use any of the words we are all accustomed to using (Locke’s secondary qualities)

    Stuff does stuff out of its own nature.

    No cognising required. All the rest is about cognising….simply. We use maps and-

    The map is not the territory.

    Gottit….long ago.

    This is now built in to science and doesn’t need to be super-added.

    Holst

    Much as I love Ishtar I think I am jovial by preference.



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  • My comment that I spent an hour on was eaten up by word press. Could be the bad wi fi too.
    Short version:
    Stuff. Nature.
    Matter without form (a visible or perceptual shape).
    What kind of reality is this?
    You are talking about absolute reality.
    Is there one reality or two?
    I say there are two: empirical and absolute.
    But you may still be mixing up the two unwittingly, out of sheer habit.
    Stuff. Nature. Matter without form.
    Stuff has to be something.
    Stuff, as you say, has to do something. It’s nature is to act.
    But nature and doing and being presuppose knowledge.
    Doing without motion? Motion without time? Time without knowledge of time?
    Knowledge is dependent upon matter, IS matter – and matter (in so far as it is not formless) is dependent upon knowledge.
    What is formless matter?
    The universe of matter had to have existed before there were brains but can you tell me what the nature of that existence is without simply referring to it as stuff that does things out of it own nature, like Aristotle’s unmoved mover?
    There are two realities: subjective (real) and absolute.
    I am arguing that it is harder than you might be willing to acknowledge to keep the two separate and still make plausible references to the so-called external (and “original”) universe.



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  • But nature and doing and being presuppose knowledge.

    This is the error. This is the injection of the human mind into nature. Nature just does what it does as a result of the laws of physics, which aren’t knowledge. That’s just how our universe is post the big bang.

    Humans have a brain. We can inject anything we like into nature but nature can’t and doesn’t care. We can attribute values and labels like knowledge, but they are human constructs. Stuff that just exists in our mind, not in nature.

    And around about now my philosophy argument comes to an end.



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  • Dan

    You might be interested in Australian aboriginal song lines where some believed they sang the world into existence as they moved through Australia.



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  • Futher to Olgun’s Australian Aboriginal reference, here is a link that will expand on his comment. It is a beautiful mythology. You may enjoy it Dan. Australian Aborigines have had continuous occupation of Australia for around 50,000 years and are the second most ancient race on earth. There is speculation that they may have been part of the first “Out of Africa” migration. They have around 7% Denisovian DNA. When you read about their Song Lines called the The Dreaming, you can see the proto-origins of a religion. They never advanced much past nomadic stone age culture and while their stories are very real to their people, they never went on to the priest / shaman stage.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamtime



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  • Thanks for that. At last, a plausible theory of the world’s origin.
    Let me just finish up with what I was saying: I am merely asking the question: how much can we ever know about the universe without “injecting” the conditions that are bound up inextricably with the knowledge of all possible human experience, into the realm of the absolute universe, and thereby contaminating it? Physicists (listen to Dan, physicists!) must be careful not to unwittingly inject (Good word) the conditions of knowing that are associated with perception and understanding vis-à-vis the empirically real universe. As they try to gain knowledge of the non-empirical universe, this must be kept in mind. Otherwise we will forever have one foot in empirical reality and one foot in the universe that existed before there were brains – which is not empirically real, but has existed in some other way. As soon as you say something like “the universe just is, and exists independently of our paltry little brains” you have to then take responsibility for that premise (which is undoubtedly true) and separate all subjectivity from the absolute universe, which can hardly be said to be natural. But I don’t want to quibble.
    My assumption is that physicists are very much aware of this challenge. —At least I hope they are.



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  • I am merely asking the question: how much can we ever know about the universe without “injecting” the conditions of all possible experience into the realm of the absolute universe?

    How. Maths. One of the offshoots of Einsteins work is that the laws of physics are universal. That is, they are consistent throughout the universe. So when an alien civilizations uses their maths to discover and write the equation E=MC2 in their hieroglyphics, they have not brought any of their persona to the result. The maths says it all. It is universal.

    I think this is the divergence. To borrow from quantum mechanics, this is your alternative universe, but it is not mine.

    Otherwise we will forever have one foot in empirical reality and one foot in the universe that existed before there were brains – which is not empirically real, but has existed in some other way.

    The universe would exist even if there was no life to perceive it. So brains are not an element in the equation of the universe. It is something you’ve put into the equation, because in the universe you inhabit, probably because you enjoy philosophy so much, this is the sort of stuff you discuss. (I see philosophy as a contact sport for brains. Tongue firmly in Cheek) The universe to me is a just a white board with maths equations across it. Anything else is human construct, and so not interesting to me.



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  • How much can we ever know about the absolute universe?

    I didn’t ask how; I asked how much?
    The “universe” is no further away from you than the tree in your back yard. We are in the universe. This planet we inhabit is in the universe.
    It would exist without life to perceive it? As Mathematics? I thought it was matter and energy. (Same thing?) The nature of “Maths” as an existing entity of some kind yet without life seems even more divorced from anything actually real (as I know it) than even pure matter is or pure energy is.
    But, I don’t understand E=MC2 or the universal laws of physics so I will shut up (for a while).
    Btw, without philosophy, we’d still be equating God with Intelligence. Many people (charlatans and morons) still do, but Descartes established (indirectly) that the brain and the body are one and inseparable. No mind without a body. And there is a book about the philosophical bases of neuroscience, which I probably won’t read. But it’s out there. I could go on.



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  • @danielr

    Enjoy your comments. And yes, I understand philosophy has made great contribution to the progress of civilization.

    Your post alerted me to the need to correct my reference to Maths. You are correct, the universe is ultimately just energy. Maths just provides an understanding of what that energy is doing.

    E=MC2 is brilliant. If your mass, 80 kilograms? was converted entirely to energy in an instant, it would release more explosive power than all of the atom bombs that have been ever exploded thus far on planet earth. You’re full of it Dan. Energy.

    I’m currently reading a book. 17 Equations that Changed the World. Starts with Pythagoras. I’m up to the equations of fluid dynamics which explains why aeroplanes fly and a baseball curves through the air. The maths is beyond me but I can understand the concepts under discussion.



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  • @david-r-allen

    Sounds fascinating! (No sarcasm intended. Emails often sound sarcastic.)
    You’re into cricket, right? If you’re interested, C.L.R. James wrote a great book about cricket called Beyond a Boundary. I think I mentioned that.
    I believe I’ve already boasted of this, but you might have missed it: my grandfather (born in Ulm) was a cousin of old Albert.
    Have a great evening. It’s night time in Australia, right?



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  • The distance from the earth to the moon, at any given time, is the same whatever unit we use to measure and divide it. Whether it is miles or football pitches, until we understand what the universe and physics is telling us, allowing us, we can use philosophy (or an educated guess) at its condition. Once proven beyond a reasonable doubt it has no need of philosophy and philosophy no longer exists. Philosophy fades in an out but reality remains to be discovered. If our lack of understanding is called philosophy, then it can also be called god.



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  • “Philosophy … is a science, and as such has no articles of faith; accordingly, in it nothing can be assumed as existing except what is either positively given empirically, or demonstrated through indubitable conclusions.”

    ― Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

    If the philosopher needs to be scientifically literate the scientist needs to be philosophically literate. For what you call reality is one of the objects in question.



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  • Dan #192

    Which is what I basically said.

    **

    demonstrated through indubitable conclusions

    Then philosophy disappears in puff of smoke.



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  • Dan #182

    But nature and doing and being presuppose knowledge.

    You’re doing it again. Cognising when you don’t need to. Go to sleep and the world will still turn. Set your alarm and find out.

    My assumption is that physicists are very much aware of this challenge.

    Exactly. Faraday in an unpublished piece was the first to have the vision that EVERYTHING might in fact be the result of interacting fields. Lacking the maths to deal with this he could not following into that more abstract, less subjective world of cognising. As I have already noted we, may only so model that which is model-able. There may indeed be aspects and entities innaccessible to us, un parsable stuff, beyond experience. BUT if it so it is a matter of utter indifference. Our models of anything we experience directly or indirectly (by Hooke or by Crookes) are tractable and pertinent. Concepts of the currently innaccessible, metaphysics, the might-be-physics either becomes a predictor of experience or it does not.

    What is the kind of mistake you think a physicist will make?

    For me they are William Crooke’s kind of mistake, mistakenly seeing more shadows than those cast by electrons.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Crookes



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  • I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman’s irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

    — Albert Einstein



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  • Dan #194

    that one of the strongest motives that lead men to *art and science is
    escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless
    dreariness

    Insert any variable!!! e.g…….business man, hippy, drug addict etc…..



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  • Dan #195

    Physicists make all sorts of personal mistakes. Quite a few like Crookes cast a metaphysic too far and are religious. How does the work of physicists fail by not accounting for Kant’s hypothesis about the nature of reality and perception?



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