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Author Topic: Religion and the Declaration of Morality  (Read 5040 times)

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Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #75 on: September 01, 2017, 01:08:41 PM »
One has to admit though that Christianity has evolved (for the most part) from the first generation of Christian belief and practice. For better or worse, it has.

The problem with admitting that, though, is that you cannot claim that your moral authority is derived from the earthly teachings of Jesus through a line of living witnesses and tradents, if subsequent revelation holds that the earliest believers had it all wrong. If Jesus can give revelation at any time to correct the record, as it were, then one could claim anything, preach anything, and speak with just as much authority as Paul or the Disciples.

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #76 on: September 01, 2017, 01:27:41 PM »
My argument is that the earliest generation of Christians, including Jesus himself, if he existed, preached Torah observance and the necessity of becoming Jews in order to achieve salvation. This is confirmed by the earliest writings (the genuine and pseudo-Pauline epistles) as well as later writings (Matthew, the letters of John and James, and Revelation). Thus, to circle back to the original discussion, "But that's the Old Testament" isn't a valid defense when someone pulls something form the Old Testament to criticize. Because non-Torah observance was a later feature, not original in the first generation of Christian belief and practice.

Matthew only wrote his Gospel; John wrote his, three short letters, and Revelation; James just wrote his letter.  (As far as we know.)  Also, all of the writers of the New Testament were Jewish writers, with the exception of Luke (and the possible exception of Mark, though Biblical lore states that if the writer of Mark was the same Mark as the cousin of Barnabas named in the Book of Acts, then he was almost certainly Jewish).

The question, in my mind, is to demonstrate that either the writers or Jesus himself, somewhere in those documents, preached conversion to Judaism.  Torah observance is one thing - I'll explain below - but to try and sum up really quickly, just because you observe the Torah does not necessarily make you Jewish.  Judaic conversion, on the other hand, would necessarily imply observance; you can't be a good Jew without it.

Of course, if you want to argue that the first generation of apostles and disciples just got it wrong, and Torah observance isn't necessary, then fine. But then the onus is on you to demonstrate how you know that Paul got it right, that non-Torah observance isn't required. And you must apportion some space in your certainty to the possibility that you are wrong. And any qualifier you put on that "I might be wrong" space must therefore be attached to any statement you make about the content of your beliefs. "I don't think that a Christian has to observe the Torah, but I could be wrong"

I don't really think it's necessary that I do state that I could be wrong - human nature is by default flawed and inherently temporal.  We get things wrong all the time; to me, saying "I could be wrong" is a statement comparable to "I need to drink water."  It's implicitly understood.  Moving on.

Yes, I do believe that Paul got it right, and that the Judaizers (as they have been referred to) got it wrong.  I'm not sure if the nuance of my argument will carry across, but I'm going to try.

First off, to restate - with the exception of Luke, all the writers in the New Testament were Jewish.  They were raised as such, practiced as such, and presumably died as such.  However, I would argue that after their conversion, their continued practice of Torah observance did not mean that they believed that one needed to follow Mosaic law in order to be a Christian.  It stopped being a religious observance and simply became a cultural custom.  To try and use a (rather imperfect) analogy, consider a diet.  People go on diets because they need to lose weight, primarily for reasons of health.  So they change their eating habits, work out more, alter their behavior to lose weight.  The person loses all the weight they want to lose (or perhaps more), and the diet ends.  Does the person immediately go back to their pre-diet habits?  Maybe.  The successful people, however, keep some of the behavioral changes they made during the time they were dieting.  (As keeping all the changes would mean in theory they would KEEP losing weight.)

Now, you can make the argument that this is because losing weight is a two-step process - losing weight and keeping it off - which is why I stated the analogy is imperfect.  To continue, though.  The dieter no longer needs to lose weight, but he kept on habits he formed while dieting despite the fact that they are not strictly necessary.  Same idea with this here - the writers no longer needed to practice Jewish religious observance, but at the same time, there was no prohibition against their practice, either.

Second line.  You are correct that early Christianity in Roman records was considered a cult, specifically a Jewish cult.  But at some point, it stopped being about Jewish religious observances and practices and became what it is today.  This is a direct result of Paul's argument that adherence to the Torah and being converted to Judaism was not necessary in order to become a Christian - what was necessary was to believe in the redemptive work of Christ and in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  We can presume that other people argued otherwise, but that doesn't change the fact that Paul's argument was the one that ultimately won out.  Why?  Because Paul's argument was superior, for two reasons.

The major reason was that it opened up an entire new world for evangelizers.  If believers did not need to practice Judaic religious observances, then the Gentiles could be evangelized and converted without the stigma of becoming Jewish (and if there's one thing that hasn't changed in a long time, it's that being Jewish is not popular).  The argument of salvation by grace as opposed to salvation by observance enabled the winning over of people who otherwise would have remained unconverted.

The minor reason deals with two somethings written about in the Synoptics - the tearing of the temple curtain at the death of Jesus, as starters.  It might simply be symbolic illustration on the part of the writers, but the tearing of the curtain is generally accepted as the fact that God was no longer just God of the Jewish people, but all peoples, and as abolishment of Judaism.  The second something deals with the Great Commission, which most people attribute to Matthew, but was actually in some form in all of the Gospels.  Matthew just gets props because he wrote it the best.  In Matthew, Jesus tells his followers to go and make disciples of all nations - one of the ideas that was concurrent at the time that the idea of a strong, independent Jewish nation, a sort of precursor to Israel today.  The Gospels are generally attributed to around 70AD, at the time that the Great Revolt - or the First Jewish-Roman War - would have been going on, an event that resulted in the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, the holy place of Judaism.  By telling the apostles to go to all nations, Jesus was refuting the idea that his teachings were meant for native-born Jews and Jewish converts.

Final line.  We've talked about guys like Matthew, John, and James, but there's one major book of the New Testament that has no established author, and that is the book of Hebrews.  I'm not sure how much you know about the book, so I'll simply state that the entire point of it is to state to Jewish converts that practice of Judaism and Torah observance is unnecessary to the practice of Christianity.  If you want to know more, I can follow up.

You're right, I don't believe in Satan and his demons. I also don't believe that Jesus was killed by the Romans at the behest of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, I don't need to explain why Jesus was killed by the Sanhedrin if he was a Jew and preached Torah observance among other things.

Isn't that a bit of a hairsplit, though?  If you don't believe that Jesus was killed by the Romans at the prodding of the Sanhedrin, that does absolve the Romans from their role in Jesus' death, but that still leaves the Sanhedrin on the hook for the act, and people don't generally kill other people without a reason.  Or, perhaps the statement I should be making, what precisely do you believe about the death of Jesus?  (Nothing is an acceptable answer.)

The problem with admitting that, though, is that you cannot claim that your moral authority is derived from the earthly teachings of Jesus through a line of living witnesses and tradents, if subsequent revelation holds that the earliest believers had it all wrong. If Jesus can give revelation at any time to correct the record, as it were, then one could claim anything, preach anything, and speak with just as much authority as Paul or the Disciples.

It is worth pointing out that out of the traditional Apostles, the educated ones were Matthew and Paul.  John, James, and Peter were fishermen - their ignorance might have caused them to make missteps.

Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #77 on: September 01, 2017, 01:48:21 PM »
The problem with admitting that, though, is that you cannot claim that your moral authority is derived from the earthly teachings of Jesus through a line of living witnesses and tradents, if subsequent revelation holds that the earliest believers had it all wrong. If Jesus can give revelation at any time to correct the record, as it were, then one could claim anything, preach anything, and speak with just as much authority as Paul or the Disciples.
Therein lies the point of this thread, I think, and on that point, I agree with you.

And with that, I'm ducking out of this discussion.

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #78 on: September 01, 2017, 02:01:23 PM »
The question, in my mind, is to demonstrate that either the writers or Jesus himself, somewhere in those documents, preached conversion to Judaism.

Allow me to give you my references.

Alan Segal, ‘Conversion and Messianism: Outline for a New Approach’, in The Messiah
W.D. Davies, ‘The Jewish Sources of Matthew’s Messianism’, in The Messiah
David Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community
Margaret Williams, The Jews among the Greeks and Romans: A Diasporan Sourcebook
Richard Carrier, Proving History

The earliest known Christians prostelytized to Gentiles but required that they convert to Judaism before they could become Christian. It sounds weird to us to think of evangelical Jews actively seeking Gentile converts to full Judaism, but that was nevertheless an active feature of Judaism at the time.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 02:03:46 PM by Regina Minx »

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #79 on: September 01, 2017, 02:26:45 PM »
It's not that surprising, if you know the Bible.  Jesus castigated the Pharisees by telling them that they would travel over ocean and earth to win a convert, and then make him out to be twice the son of Hell they were.

I'll check out your references, but it may take me a while to get them all together, and it will certainly take me time to read them over.  And I will point out that this could just simply devolve into a battle of the experts - you line up yours, I line up mine, and...well, I think we can understand how those usually turn out.

Let's go out on a limb, though, and say that your experts are right, and that Jesus didn't teach what we thought he did, which means that modern Christianity is a fraud and that really what we should be doing circumcision and not working on Saturdays instead of Sundays and have to give up eating a lot of different things.  Except Judaism - really, all the Abrahamic religions - has all these nasty, horrible things to say about women and gays and witches and attitudes that don't belong in a moral society.

If we cannot say that religion provides a basis for morality - that in fact, the saying about it taking religion to make good people do bad things is indeed true - then where does morality come from?

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #80 on: September 01, 2017, 02:45:21 PM »
If we cannot say that religion provides a basis for morality - that in fact, the saying about it taking religion to make good people do bad things is indeed true - then where does morality come from?

Short answer: An evaluation of the effects and intent of human actions with respect to the standard of well-being.

Long answer:


Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #81 on: September 01, 2017, 03:00:56 PM »
Okay.  I'm not currently in a place that I can watch the whole thing - so take what I say here with a grain of salt for the moment - but I did watch the first couple of minutes of it, and I'm hearing echoes of arguments that I've heard before.  Principally an echo of the collectivist notion of 'does what we do help me/our community/our nation survive and thrive'.  I do hope that in the remaining 20+ minutes, he goes into more detail, but collectivist morality is not a better system than religious morality, because under its practice, collectivist morality can frequently trend towards 'whatever is best for the most people in the group.'

I presume you are familiar with The Boat Story?

(I will say that his argument about intent coloring actions is something I can get behind.  There's little I despise more than someone who says that they're keeping faith when all they're doing is using it as a shield to justify their own actions.)

Online Oniya

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #82 on: September 01, 2017, 10:04:35 PM »
I presume you are familiar with The Boat Story?

You're probably going to need to be a touch more specific than that.

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #83 on: September 01, 2017, 10:36:33 PM »
You are with seven other people in a boat.  The boat is sinking and you have no idea how long it will be before you are rescued.  The other people are:

A pregnant girl/woman;
A teenager;
A doctor;
Someone elderly;
Someone who is obese;
Someone who has a heart condition (or other medical malady);
Someone who belongs to an ethnic minority group.

You have managed to determine that if just one of these seven people is removed from the boat, the boat will stop sinking.

Who do you throw out of the boat?

Online Oniya

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #84 on: September 01, 2017, 10:45:23 PM »
Thanks - there's a midrash also known as 'The Boat Story', which could have also been somewhat topical .

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #85 on: September 02, 2017, 08:46:02 AM »
...but collectivist morality is not a better system than religious morality...

That's not the source of the conflict. You can be a religious individualist or a religious collectivist. You can also be a secular individualist or a secular collectivist. Matt is starting off with a discussion of the "get along socially" aspect of morality is because very few moral actions are evaluated in a vacuum. In fact, almost all moral actions are moral with respect to their effect on other people, and the goal of morality is to evaluate a system of behaviors on the basis of well being.

I presume you are familiar with The Boat Story?

I had heard it under a different name, but yeah, I'm familiar (I initially thought you were talking about the Ship of Theseus

You are with seven other people in a boat.  The boat is sinking and you have no idea how long it will be before you are rescued.  The other people are:

A pregnant girl/woman;
A teenager;
A doctor;
Someone elderly;
Someone who is obese;
Someone who has a heart condition (or other medical malady);
Someone who belongs to an ethnic minority group.

You have managed to determine that if just one of these seven people is removed from the boat, the boat will stop sinking.

Who do you throw out of the boat?

I really wonder why it's necessary to spell out that there's a member of the ethnic minority. When I was visualizing the passengers, I actually did visualize the elderly person as an older black gentleman, and can't a doctor also be obese? But those are tangential questions; moving on to the ethical dilemma.

I'm going to guess that REASONS prevent me from putting myself off the boat? If that's the case, and for some other REASON I also have unilateral power to decide who gets off the boat and the means to accomplish the removal, I'd first ask for a volunteer (why can't I volunteer again?). If none were forthcoming, I would have the seven people draw lots.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 09:14:32 AM by Regina Minx »

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #86 on: September 03, 2017, 09:04:08 AM »
That's not the source of the conflict. You can be a religious individualist or a religious collectivist. You can also be a secular individualist or a secular collectivist. Matt is starting off with a discussion of the "get along socially" aspect of morality is because very few moral actions are evaluated in a vacuum. In fact, almost all moral actions are moral with respect to their effect on other people, and the goal of morality is to evaluate a system of behaviors on the basis of well being.

Agreed that you can't have the luxury of being an armchair moralist, at the very least.

I really wonder why it's necessary to spell out that there's a member of the ethnic minority. When I was visualizing the passengers, I actually did visualize the elderly person as an older black gentleman, and can't a doctor also be obese? But those are tangential questions; moving on to the ethical dilemma.

There's nothing saying none of those things can't be true, but the scenario requires that everyone present have only one qualifier to distinguish them from the rest - everyone on the boat could be black, for example, but that's not the important thing for answering the question.

I'm going to guess that REASONS prevent me from putting myself off the boat? If that's the case, and for some other REASON I also have unilateral power to decide who gets off the boat and the means to accomplish the removal, I'd first ask for a volunteer (why can't I volunteer again?). If none were forthcoming, I would have the seven people draw lots.

No, you are perfectly capable of putting yourself off the boat, but it means you are the one most likely to die, given the situation.  As for volunteers, other than yourself, no one would (again, part of the scenario).

And drawing lots?  You'd rather leave it to chance when you can make the decision yourself?

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #87 on: September 03, 2017, 09:32:15 AM »
No, you are perfectly capable of putting yourself off the boat, but it means you are the one most likely to die, given the situation.

I realize. Then my answer is unchanged.
1) I volunteer
If ~1, then 2) I ask for another volunteer
If ~2, then 3) Draw lots

And drawing lots?  You'd rather leave it to chance when you can make the decision yourself?

You mean, would I rather make this very difficult decision in a manner that is utterly blind to bias and subjective value judgments? A method that is the very definition of fair and equitable?

I think a better question is, why wouldn't you? If you have an answer that differs from mine, I'd love to hear it.

But I'm going to make a note ahead of time that unless your motivation is utterly vile (let's kill the filthy Filipino!) I'm not going to say your decision was a wrong one. This isn't precisely a triage situation where you're diverting limited time, attention, and resources onto those that need help soonest and who have the greatest degree of living. Presumably, everyone in this situation has the exact same chance of living once one person is put off the boat. I'm not going to ding you if you say that you would choose one of the seven instead of volunteering yourself. Here's where moral obligation and moral virtue part company, and while it might have been virtuous to offer to sacrifice yourself, that does not mean that you were obligated to do so.

Therefore, you're put in the unenviable position of determining who most deserves to live, or conversely, who most deserves to die for the sake of the other seven people (including yourself). I'm not going to call you out for putting the obese person in the raft as opposed to the old person, or the doctor as opposed to the teen, etc. You have to make a value judgment to get there, but I made the same value judgment when I determined to make the fairest decision possible.



Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #88 on: September 03, 2017, 01:13:57 PM »
You mean, would I rather make this very difficult decision in a manner that is utterly blind to bias and subjective value judgments? A method that is the very definition of fair and equitable?

I think a better question is, why wouldn't you? If you have an answer that differs from mine, I'd love to hear it.

But I'm going to make a note ahead of time that unless your motivation is utterly vile (let's kill the filthy Filipino!) I'm not going to say your decision was a wrong one. This isn't precisely a triage situation where you're diverting limited time, attention, and resources onto those that need help soonest and who have the greatest degree of living. Presumably, everyone in this situation has the exact same chance of living once one person is put off the boat. I'm not going to ding you if you say that you would choose one of the seven instead of volunteering yourself. Here's where moral obligation and moral virtue part company, and while it might have been virtuous to offer to sacrifice yourself, that does not mean that you were obligated to do so.

Therefore, you're put in the unenviable position of determining who most deserves to live, or conversely, who most deserves to die for the sake of the other seven people (including yourself). I'm not going to call you out for putting the obese person in the raft as opposed to the old person, or the doctor as opposed to the teen, etc. You have to make a value judgment to get there, but I made the same value judgment when I determined to make the fairest decision possible.

Technically, there is only one 'bad' option in this scenario, though in certain other cases you might be considered heinous for setting some people adrift.  The bad option is to set the doctor afloat; the doctor has medical knowledge that is valuable, whereas the others may or may not (depending on their profession).  The doctor, though, is more or less there as an easy elimination option - instead of having to pick seven people to die, you know the doctor stays so now you only have to pick six.

Most of the rest, you have to balance the benefits and the drawbacks of each individual.

Also, there is something you stated that doesn't quite make sense to me, so perhaps you can explain it.  You said that by going by chance, you were employing a method that was blind to subjective value judgments...but that you made a value judgment yourself when you determined to make the fairest decision possible.  There's probably a step or three in that chain that I'm missing, but I've read enough Lincoln to know that opposite statements cannot be true simultaneously.  Either it is blind to value judgments or it's not, and you haven't struck me as someone that wouldn't see a contradiction like that, so either this is one of those rare moments or I'm missing something.

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #89 on: September 03, 2017, 01:45:11 PM »
Technically, there is only one 'bad' option in this scenario, though in certain other cases you might be considered heinous for setting some people adrift.  The bad option is to set the doctor afloat; the doctor has medical knowledge that is valuable, whereas the others may or may not (depending on their profession).

Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. You said doctor, not MD. A PhD or DDS would both also be doctors. Even a podiatrist would be an MD who would not be super helpful assisting with medical situations in the foreseeable future. If you want to be artificially super-specified in saying that not only is this doctor an MD but a specialist in survival medicine, then you're putting weight on the scales by adding relevant details to make the doctor seem more valuable. We might as well say that the teenager is an Eagle Scout with merit badges in navigation, or that the ethnic minority is a skilled ship builder who can repair the damage to the ship.

If the purpose of the moral dilemma is to try to get me to make examinations about how I would triage a situation and what skills I would value, the situation needs to be much more well defined. I'm not going to assume that there are health risks on the horizon if that's not part of the original scenario.

The doctor, though, is more or less there as an easy elimination option - instead of having to pick seven people to die, you know the doctor stays so now you only have to pick six.

Most of the rest, you have to balance the benefits and the drawbacks of each individual.

The original framework of the scenario assumes only the immediate crisis of the ship sinking. That was the basis on which I made my decision.

Also, there is something you stated that doesn't quite make sense to me, so perhaps you can explain it.  You said that by going by chance, you were employing a method that was blind to subjective value judgments...but that you made a value judgment yourself when you determined to make the fairest decision possible.  There's probably a step or three in that chain that I'm missing, but I've read enough Lincoln to know that opposite statements cannot be true simultaneously.  Either it is blind to value judgments or it's not, and you haven't struck me as someone that wouldn't see a contradiction like that, so either this is one of those rare moments or I'm missing something.

There's no contradiction. What I was doing was elaborating on the connection between the value and the method. The value in question I'm employing is fairness. The method I use to achieve fairness is letting the person being put off the ship be randomly determined. In a fair system, no person is valued more or than any other person regardless of ethnic status, age, gender, profession, and the like.

If I put the old man on the boat because he has fewer years left to live, I'm employing a moral system that puts more value on youth than age. If I put the obese person on the boat, I'm employing a moral system that (presumably) punishes obese people for being obese. If I put anyone BUT the doctor on the boat, I'm using a moral system that values accomplishment (remember that I was stating only the assumption that the immediate problem of the sinking ship needed to be addressed). If I refrain from putting the pregnant woman on the boat, I'm affording her and/or the fetus special rights. If I put the minority on the boat, I'm saying that that person has less value than the non-ethnic person, and so on.

If I can't volunteer myself, and none of the seven wants to volunteer themselves, I'm going to make the decision in the fairest possible way, because my answer to the moral dilemma of how to value people and who to save in a crisis situation is to be fair to all involved.

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #90 on: September 03, 2017, 02:19:34 PM »
Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. You said doctor, not MD. A PhD or DDS would both also be doctors. Even a podiatrist would be an MD who would not be super helpful assisting with medical situations in the foreseeable future. If you want to be artificially super-specified in saying that not only is this doctor an MD but a specialist in survival medicine, then you're putting weight on the scales by adding relevant details to make the doctor seem more valuable. We might as well say that the teenager is an Eagle Scout with merit badges in navigation, or that the ethnic minority is a skilled ship builder who can repair the damage to the ship.

Really?  We're going here?  I mean, yes, TECHNICALLY those people also carry the title Doctor, but cut me a break.  A DDS isn't referred as a doctor, they're referred to as a dentist in common parlance, for one.  If I were to go out on the street and present this situation to 100 people, I'm more than willing to bet that over 95% of them would assume that when I say doctor, I'm referring to an MD.

And yes, I technically did not say that our doctor was an MD, but your objection is irrelevant, this is not a courtroom.

If the purpose of the moral dilemma is to try to get me to make examinations about how I would triage a situation and what skills I would value, the situation needs to be much more well defined. I'm not going to assume that there are health risks on the horizon if that's not part of the original scenario.

The original framework of the scenario assumes only the immediate crisis of the ship sinking. That was the basis on which I made my decision.

For one, I did state that one of the people on the boat had a heart condition.

If you really want to get your head into this, this is a whole set of philosophical arguments called lifeboat ethics.  To provoke a discussion on that was not my original intent in bringing up the scenario; it was to illustrate (rather badly, in retrospect) that while you are doing a good thing overall - you are saving the lives of seven people - you are also potentially condemning someone to die, which is a bad thing, but would a collectivist moral system recognize it as such, recognize the concept of necessary evil?

There's no contradiction. What I was doing was elaborating on the connection between the value and the method. The value in question I'm employing is fairness. The method I use to achieve fairness is letting the person being put off the ship be randomly determined. In a fair system, no person is valued more or than any other person regardless of ethnic status, age, gender, profession, and the like.

Fairness in only a single sense of the word.  Psychology Today published a short article on what fairness actually means, and it suggests that when we are talking about fairness, we are compositing three things together: sameness, deservedness, and need.

Yes, your idea is fair, but only by the standard of sameness, and even that is dependent upon the method by which you select who gets thrown out.  (The old method of 'drawing straws' is NOT one such case.)  But ideally, everyone has the same chance to be put adrift - one out of seven (or eight, if you decide to include yourself).

In a fairness system that emphasizes sameness, yes, no one person is valued more than any other person - the system would not change one iota from the scenario I proposed above if I swapped out the eight people for eight identical copies of the same person - but fairness should be more than that.

Online Regina Minx

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #91 on: September 03, 2017, 03:00:48 PM »
Really?  We're going here?  I mean, yes, TECHNICALLY those people also carry the title Doctor, but cut me a break.  A DDS isn't referred as a doctor, they're referred to as a dentist in common parlance, for one.  If I were to go out on the street and present this situation to 100 people, I'm more than willing to bet that over 95% of them would assume that when I say doctor, I'm referring to an MD.


If you haven't learned by now that philosophy is the practice of asking very child-like questions with the precision of a veteran lawyer, I don't know what to tell you.

For one, I did state that one of the people on the boat had a heart condition.

But not that the doctor was a heart specialist. If the doctor is an OB/GYN he or she would be more suited to treating the pregnant woman, and any situational advantage his or her status as an OB/GYN wouldn't be relevant if, hypothetically, the pregnant woman was put off the boat. If the doctor was a specialist in geriatric medicine, that advantage transfers to and is dependent on the presence of the older person. And if they doctor is a podiatrist, then I don't see that there's necessarily an advantage.

If you really want to get your head into this, this is a whole set of philosophical arguments called lifeboat ethics.  To provoke a discussion on that was not my original intent in bringing up the scenario; it was to illustrate (rather badly, in retrospect) that while you are doing a good thing overall - you are saving the lives of seven people - you are also potentially condemning someone to die, which is a bad thing, but would a collectivist moral system recognize it as such, recognize the concept of necessary evil?

Since I pointed out earlier that religious ethics and collectivist ethics aren't in conflict, this doesn't work if the intent is to 'gotcha' people who are collectivist. Since there's nothing that precludes them from believing that the ultimate source of ethics that benefit the common good is God. Under religious ethics, is God OK with necessary evil? Although there is no ONE religious answer to a dilemma such as this, I'm curious who you would put on the boat, if we assume that there is only one immediate crisis, the sinking of the boat. I would also like to amend the setup slightly so that it is known that the boat will sink in 2 hours, and that rescue will come in 24, and a person will die in 4 hours of hypothermia. There's no need to ration food, repair the boat, or do anything else but wait for rescue

(and let's just hand wave a rotating system of having people tread water for short periods of time so that there are always 7 people on the boat and it doesn't sink).

Is God cool with you deciding to put the doctor into the water to save the other 7? Or would God rather that everyone stay on the boat and die so that those that can get to Heaven will get there as soon as possible?

Addressing the point of whether collectivist ethics recognizes necessary evil, it behooves us to define evil. The definition I'm going to use here is to define evil as an action that inflicts needless suffering. I don't see the choice to put out one of the 7 passengers as needless, and therefore it can't be evil. It goes back to the earlier talk about the intent of actions affecting their moral character. It's not evil if I accidentally hit you with my car, or if my car hits you because the brakes aren't working (and I'd done due diligence in inspecting and servicing them). It's also not evil to put one person off the boat if the underlying need for that is the present life-threatening situation facing the other 7. In an emergency medical situation in which two people have roughly the same probability of survival, but the surgeon only has the time and attention to provide care to one of them, it's not evil if the doctor makes that decision (unless done for atrocious reasons but all other things being equal)...

Fairness in only a single sense of the word.  Psychology Today published a short article on what fairness actually means, and it suggests that when we are talking about fairness, we are compositing three things together: sameness, deservedness, and need.

Yes, your idea is fair, but only by the standard of sameness, and even that is dependent upon the method by which you select who gets thrown out.  (The old method of 'drawing straws' is NOT one such case.)  But ideally, everyone has the same chance to be put adrift - one out of seven (or eight, if you decide to include yourself).

In a fairness system that emphasizes sameness, yes, no one person is valued more than any other person - the system would not change one iota from the scenario I proposed above if I swapped out the eight people for eight identical copies of the same person - but fairness should be more than that.

It's great that it's understood that there are multiple definitions of the word, but you can't ascribe that my system isn't fair because it doesn't meet all definitions of that word. I specifically was referring to the nature of this system that is equitable. Allowing random chance (or as close to random chance as we can manage) to decide is a socially just means of dividing the limited resources in the society, in this case, the limited amount of space on the boat.

I have also asked this to you a couple of times now. Who would you put on the boat? You said the doctor wouldn't be. I disagree with the rationale behind that decision because it requires that I assume facts not part of the original premise, but fine. You wouldn't put out the doctor. But who would you put out?

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #92 on: October 19, 2017, 08:18:09 PM »
Addressing the point of whether collectivist ethics recognizes necessary evil, it behooves us to define evil.

And this, I think, is where the whole discussion breaks down.

Circular logic in the case of many religions (For example, "Look at all of creation! It proves that God exists! Why? Because God said he made it, and here it is, so God exists. How do we know that? Look at creation! It exists, therefore God made it!) has left a troubling trend of people believing they possess the singular definition of evil and therefore the singular path to good, where such a thing can be said to exist. Of course, that they immediately undercut that by claiming that even though they are the only ones in possession of the blueprint for good, that no one can be good by the definition of humanity and therefore fall into bad no matter what they do is just a trap, frankly, but that is a whole other branch of conversation.

A lot of the time it frustrates me to hear the argument for conditional morality, because it leads to the slippery slope fallacy. Those who claim that morality is different around the world are forgetting the consistencies. Everyone worldwide kinda understands that murder is wrong. They have to or they wouldn't have to come up with excuses to justify it (Such as ... well, religion). People know it's wrong, with the proof being that vengeance is a universal concept. I would posit that the single most common reason for vengeance in any known literature is murder, followed closely by rape and then madness. Jealousy is also a universal concept as far as I am aware, and just as universally rejected. The concept of truth and deceit is, as far as I can tell, globally known and understood to indicate that deceit is despicable.

When people complain about there being shifts in morality between cultures, they're most often talking about things the holy texts do not address: Transgender and alternatively sexual rights, reproduction, celebration, imbibing... in short, things that are governed largely by tradition and not by faith.

For support, I offer up Jehovah's Witnesses. It wasn't until... I think my source said 1981 that they stopped celebrating Christmas and Birthdays because Christmas was based on Pagan traditions (finally, a Christian sub-set that gets their asses outta the appropriation game) and birthdays because of the fact that the Bible says nothing good about birthdays. Apparently there were murders and hangings and all manner of unpleasantness any time a birthday is mentioned in the Bible.

Trouble is, they were established towards the end of the 1800's and didn't change anything about those celebrations until the end of the 1900's. This shows that it is a shift in tradition and not in faith, except where that faith specifically sets out to oppose tradition for tradition's sake.

All of this to say that morality is a very tricky subject. One of my favourite YouTube philosophers (CosmicSkeptic) points out that in order for him to consider morality truly objective, it has to exist in as close to a vacuum as possible. In essence, would it still be moral if humans didn't exist? Now, even he points out that with that argument, he doesn't intend to devalue subjective morality, but is forced to admit that to a degree, all morality is subjective. For instance, if a man steals something from another man, it's immoral. But if a hyena steals a kill from a lion, it's amoral (being without a moral compass or any measurable moral impact) since it is adherent to the innate compulsion for survival. In the end, theft is a subjective immorality because outside of the human world, animals and plants and even the very rocks that make the earth livable engage in a theft of some manner or another as consistently as the earth exists.

The only question left at that point is to what degree we decide that morality need be applied to us and our surroundings. Even theft between humans is considered to scale. We call it looting, commandeering or scavenging, depending on the level of usefulness to the proper owner and our own necessity for survival. Can we really claim to define morality in such absolute terms as the Bible and its fanatics call for?

Online Oniya

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #93 on: October 19, 2017, 08:58:33 PM »
All of this to say that morality is a very tricky subject. One of my favourite YouTube philosophers (CosmicSkeptic) points out that in order for him to consider morality truly objective, it has to exist in as close to a vacuum as possible. In essence, would it still be moral if humans didn't exist? Now, even he points out that with that argument, he doesn't intend to devalue subjective morality, but is forced to admit that to a degree, all morality is subjective. For instance, if a man steals something from another man, it's immoral. But if a hyena steals a kill from a lion, it's amoral (being without a moral compass or any measurable moral impact) since it is adherent to the innate compulsion for survival. In the end, theft is a subjective immorality because outside of the human world, animals and plants and even the very rocks that make the earth livable engage in a theft of some manner or another as consistently as the earth exists.

And if a man breaks a window pane to steal a loaf of bread so his nephew doesn't starve to death...  what would be more immoral: stealing the bread, or allowing the child to die?

Offline Fury AphrodisiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #94 on: October 19, 2017, 09:11:06 PM »
Well, therein lies the rub, doesn't it?

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #95 on: October 19, 2017, 09:35:27 PM »
And if a man breaks a window pane to steal a loaf of bread so his nephew doesn't starve to death...  what would be more immoral: stealing the bread, or allowing the child to die?

Ask the bishop of Digne.  I'm sure he would be able to tell you.

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #96 on: November 11, 2017, 09:45:57 PM »
   

A pair of videos by a pair of YouTubers studying the current use of religion, omitting any arguments over the concept of its truth.

Offline NebulousCass

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #97 on: November 14, 2017, 02:39:41 AM »
And if a man breaks a window pane to steal a loaf of bread so his nephew doesn't starve to death...  what would be more immoral: stealing the bread, or allowing the child to die?

This entirely depends on which ethical theory you subscribe/apply to it.

Under Utilitarianism, it would be considered morally justified to break the window and steal the loaf of bread to prevent a death. The suffering subjected to the store owner would be temporary and the loss of the loaf of bread and destroyed window can be recovered. The loss of a human life, is permanent and can not be replaced.

The only theory in which such an action would be seen as immoral is through Moral Absolutism. Where even though through inaction (not stealing the bread/breaking the window) that a person would die, you would be morally justified because you yourself did not cause harm to another.

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Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #98 on: November 14, 2017, 07:05:42 PM »
Reiji and I were both referring to Valjean's situation in Les Miserables - Valjean's initial crime was the one I presented in my post.  The Bishop of Digne was the one who chose to lie(!) to the police so that Valjean would not be rearrested for stealing the silver during his parole, and indeed, further financed Valjean's ability to become 'an honest man' by presenting him with some silver candlesticks while making his statement to the officers.  (In the book, the candlesticks are specifically not sold, however, and make a significant appearance during Valjean's death scene, when he is asked if he wants a priest.  He gazes at the candlesticks and says 'I have one.')

Offline Remiel

Re: Religion and the Declaration of Morality
« Reply #99 on: November 30, 2017, 08:34:01 AM »
Performing a bit of thread necromancy here--I stumbled across this article today and it deeply resonated with me.  I was wondering what people think of it.

Quote
But trying to nurture moral virtues is one thing; assuming that you are already moral and virtuous simply because you identify with a particular religion is another. The latter turns religion into a tool for self-glorification. A religion’s adherents assume themselves to be moral by default, and so they never bother to question themselves. At the same time, they look down on other people as misguided souls, if not wicked infidels.

For such people, religion works not as cure for the soul, but as drug for the ego. It makes them not humble, but arrogant.

As a skeptic and an agnostic, I think religion, in itself, is not a bad thing.  It fulfills a very basic human need: the need to feel important, that one's life has value in a cold and uncaring universe.  And many of the big religions today have fulfilled a valuable social service--namely, charity organizations, helping the poor and those at the bottom rungs of society.

The trouble, I think, is when theists get into the mindset of thinking of religion not as a kind of moral code, a compass for how to live their lives, but more as an identity--i.e. "I am Christian and you are not."