I know this may seem like a bit of an odd question but I’ve been wondering about it for the past few days and for some reason I can’t escape the feeling that it (atheism) would be a rather ‘conservative’ point of view (that is, at least in title), and yet I’m constantly being called a liberal because of my social and political leanings. I'm just wondering what your views are on this.
PS: I’ll be gone for a few days but I will catch up with this thread when I return.
Why don't you simply come up with a list of superficial arbitrary insults and aim them at me? Rather than digest the concepts. It is clear you are not.
Well this is why I don’t like arguing. Eventually it breaks down into personal attacks and has little or nothing to do with the actual concepts. I will take this opportunity to apologize to you if anything I said has been taken personally, I don’t like offending people or hurting their feelings so please accept my apology if I have insulted you personally. There is of course a blurring of lines when it comes to the beliefs a person has and their actual person, and it is hard to distinguish between them, but I do try my hardest and don’t mean to offend people. You might call me a “bleeding heart” for this (lol), but I sincerely don’t want to hurt your feelings and I actually think you are a pretty decent kind of guy from what I can see. Aside from what I feel about your ethical framework, I think if it came down to it you would show yourself to be just as decent as I or anyone else might be. Plus I think we atheists should stick together, we are obviously bright enough to reject the irrational and I am just pleased to be in the company of fellow non-theists. That being said, let’s get back to our confrontation, but let’s try to keep it from getting personal (difficult though it may be!).
I do not believe that people are either egoists or altruists.
I would like to hear what you do believe about what I consider to be middle ground. What different moral frameworks are you familiar with which blur these lines? I’m also curious what you think the distinction is between power and morality, if you think there is one, and how you see that a political system fundamentally based on the “survival of the fittest” differs from a plutocracy. Although I really don’t want to argue ethics with you because it is an entirely different conversation, perhaps our discussion might turn somewhat in that direction (and it is very difficult to keep that from getting personal, which is why I don’t want to argue about it). The nice thing about an argument about politics is that since politics is based in ethics, any absurdities which arise from a discussion of our politics may shed light on the absurdities of our ethical positions. But as long as we can remain civil, I have no problems with any type of discussion with you.
I held the vast majority of my convictions before I ever read Ayn Rand. I simply think she does a great job of articulating much of it and I use a lot of the same words.
I just find it odd (for lack of a better word) that it just so happens that one person so singularly sums up all your thinking about both ethics and politics in one tidy little package. It’s that convenience that I draw attention to and which I say should “ring some bells”.
Faith, by definition is illogical. Noncontradiction is necessary for logic to exist. Logic and contradiction are mutually exclusive. Your friend, the theist, is extremely contradictory and illogical if he believes in God being all knowing, all powerful, responsible for creation, able to perform miracles.........
You don’t know the difference between reason and logic. Faith is probably irrational by definition (that is at least the argument I have given my friend), but it is not illogical. So many people these days seem to conflate the two. Logic just means adhering to a rigorous system. If the system includes taking things for granted, then as long as it doesn’t take anything contradictory for granted, it complies with being logical. Further, it is hard to see how reason itself does not take anything for granted. If we trust the evidence, it is because we think we have no choice but to do so. That is my point anyway. His is that trusting evidence relies on trusting our senses, which are of course fallible. Is not the trust in our senses a type of faith? Well, I don’t think so, but the conversation quickly gets very epistemological. It’s not nearly so cut and dry as you think it is (if only it were!).
"A state has responsibility to take care of its citizens." Says who? By what standard? Why? I say the state has a responsibility imposed by individuals with rights to ensure people are left free from others feeding on them.
Well, I thought this was pretty non-controversial, but since you want to argue this point... Virtually every political philosopher argues that the rulers of a state have a responsibility to their people (rather than just to themselves). When a people see the ruler as not looking out for their interests, that leader’s authority is illegitimate. Of course, a state MAY abdicate its responsibility to its people, or to some of them, choosing some over others. I am quite confident that this is treading on some very dangerous ground. Since you think that government is SUPPOSED to serve the interests of those with power to prevent others from taking that power away, you would advocate choosing to look after the interests of the powerful over the people in general. It seems to me that you are advocating a plutocracy. Is this what you are saying? This is of course what happens when government is prohibited from interfering with the private practices of the rich. The rich use their power and influence to make laws respecting their own interests and there is no reason for them (other than “morality”) to stop there. They then systematically set about removing the powers of the poor, like collective bargaining, etc. I just want to be clear that this is what you are advocating. It always strikes me as incredibly naive to think that people with power, if left unchecked, will act morally. Once they have unchecked power, what is to prevent them from using it? The argument that a government’s only job should be to protect people is truly laughable. Once the rich have power, the first thing they use it for is to gain political influence. With the military in its corner, the government acts as nothing but a private security force for the rulers who have nothing but “morality” stopping them from subverting and exploiting the poor. Just look at what is happening in such places as Libya and Bahrain. What about human nature makes you think that powerful people wouldn’t use that power for their own selfish good rather than for their own personal gain? Oh, but that is your definition of morality after all, isn’t it?
My statement that one should go somewhere else to work if they don't like it does not stem solely from AR.
It’s straight out of the O’ist playbook.
I have plenty of sympathy and empathy for those who suffer. I just don't think it is right to base a society on need.
Neither do I. Nor is that what I am advocating. Earlier I suggested that you read some Marx. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that he said, only that I think you really haven’t taken the time to “study your enemy”. Am I mistaken? I agree with you that society shouldn’t be based purely on need, and I agree with AR that the outcome of a society based on Marx’s dictum that a society should work “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” results in a populace which is just as parasitic in nature as the one you think we live in today. But this does not mean that need is itself inherently wrong or immoral. Yet this is precisely what a political philosophy based on “survival of the fittest” says. It puts the blame for every weakness on the weak. And this is shortsighted at best. Does it not occur to you that people may be weak out of circumstance just as easily as out of nature? And do you not think that there might be solutions to weakness as a result of circumstance which might be widely acceptable? To say that all such situations are fair game and to even think about using the resources of the haves to right these wrongs is self-destructive altruism seems to demonstrate a serious lack of empathy (of your philosophy, not your person, I should add!).
I am for a laisser-faire 'survival of the fittest' profit motive economy, but that does not mean I think we should go kill all the nonproducers. We should stop telling them, by no longer celebrating altruism like the church, that it is their right to have other people's shit.
My point is that “nonproducers”, as you call them, might easily become producers were the government empowered to empower them, and that this might only be possible on the scale necessary to right many of these injustices against the protestations of those who don’t want their toys taken away from them. And of course, as I readily admit, this could be done very poorly and to society’s vast detriment, but it might also be done quite well and to the benefit not only of the poor and weak but even to the rich and powerful.
Our government is now set up to be corrupt. It is the way business in Washington gets done. Special interest groups get lobbyists to bribe representatives. Both the rich and the poor get hand-outs and they are both corrupt. Buying out banks, forcing sub-prime loans......
Special interests can necessarily only bribe officials if they have any money to do it with. The poor don’t get hand-outs, certainly not the way big businesses do. Just look at these oil subsidies. Who is forcing sub-prime loans?
Well, if that documentary said it, it must be true. The new jobs were war machine making jobs. There was no other new innovation then that created the economic turn around. People got jobs after 1939, when the war started. Whether you like it or not, our government began to create our war machine before we got bombed in 1941. Unemployment was still very high, 17%, in 1939, despite years of FDR's superfluous infrastructure building and wealth redistribution. And what does a poll showing few Americans wanted to go to war have anything to do with it?
Yeah, I give a neutral, respectable source and you pooh-pooh it, and then give no sources of your own to back up your own interpretation of history. Where do you get your information from, the O’ist Standard? Or that libertarian rag “Reason”? The poll shows that before 1940 the US wasn’t even thinking about going to war, so it couldn’t have been the war machine which got us out of the GD. At the time there was a huge resilience to going into another European war, and FDR had to use back channels and semi-legal wrangling just to send Great Britain what little ships and other resources we had. It wasn’t until FDR got re-elected to serve his third term in office was he finally able to come out in stronger support for supplying GB with military tools, and of course it wasn’t until Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that America finally did join the war, so to say that people got jobs after the war started is blatantly false. There was no support for the war at home, so how could there have been jobs for a war that nobody wanted to have any part of? I’d really like to know where you get your misinformation.
First, I would like to direct you to a short essay I wrote, Formulaic Morality and Classic Postmodernism: http://www.mctmd.com/?SSLogoutOk=true¤tPage=4
I believe if one is intellectually honest and defines concepts with essential characteristics only and uses reason and logic for the integration of these concepts into a knowledge base, which is what happens in the cortex to learn, and applies this to epistemology, metaphysics and ethics, you can see that objectivism most accurately describes reality as it is and nothing more. Ayn Rand did this for the most part. And in as much as she did, I applaud her for it. I believe she, I and many others I have met, have a solid noncontradictory logical worldview. I do not consider different views good because they are different. I have read a great variety to understand what I do, but now quoting how someone may think that God controls the world, invisible pink unicorns exist, we create the world with our perception, we have freewill, government is good or knowledge cannot be valid, is ineffectual. Of course my words will look like others who understand more of the true objective nature of reality. I take reality literally, as I believe we must if we are to have knowledge of it, so naturally I use objective noncontradictory concrete language, as does AR.
I definitely believe that ethics is central to politics. And as the great Ayn Rand wrote, "Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law." I believe an intellectually honest and sufficiently educated look at metaphysics and epistemology gives one an accurate view of humanity. A part of this understanding is how, by the nature of the mind, consciousness and causal law, morality properly concerns the individual, not the group. You may choose to be a utilitarian of any large number of varying arbitrary types, but the professed top value will always be in contrast to the fact that the professed utilitarian's brain operates in an egoistic fashion. There s no middle ground. Consciousness and moral decision making is always individual in nature. You claim some middle ground, but there is none. Every moral decision made is always to the end of the decision maker's perceived best interest. If they wish to give away their last breath of air, it is an egoistic, not sacrificial, choice. Morality cannot exist under duress. No one, not even the super powerful government, can make people's decisions for them or remove the need to achieve happiness from the merits of their own mind. Government should only exist to allow people to make their own way. You say tons of philosophers and other people think the government has a responsibility to make people's lives better, but you are all wrong. Government cannot make your life better in any way other than allowing you the freedom to do what you will. The producers produce, that's why we call them producers. They are not exploiters. Producing, essentially, does not entail exploitation. The government is the only party with a gun here. If the government is corrupt and built to redistribute wealth by force, then of course the richest are going to be able to bribe more. That is why the source of the problem is the government, Government is the problem, not the solution. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer as long as government handouts are for sale. Everyone would get richer in a peaceful society of non-aggression, instead of slavery. We have the ability to outlaw government intervention and no one will have an unfair advantage. I am not suggesting that some won't have an advantage, but none will have an unfair advantage. By, the nature of reality, people are different, with different abilities, handicaps, strengths and weaknesses. It is irrational to try and change this and flat out evil to force the attempt on other people.
When you say that something I write is right out of the O'ist playbook, I think then it is very likely to be accurate. Again, Ayn Rand is my favorite famous philosopher because I think she is the most intellectually honest and accurate. Why would I use the words of those I have read that I consider confused? And my words are like her words because reality is objective and causal. We mostly both use essentials only to define concepts.
Power is what one can do. Moral is what one should do, if they are to be happy. Freedom, control and power are relative terms describing a relationship between entities. Humans, while organic robots that operate causally, can make choices and are more free and powerful than any other creatures. We can do so much, but not everything. We have limits. Our greatest specific strength is the ability to use reason and logic to obtain happiness, which is the only end for which all other means are sought. Morality is the set of principles we use to become happy. The more oriented towards reality someone is and the more thoughtful they are about what is good for their life the more successful they will be. If one's top priority is killing other people because they think this will lead to their happiness then they are wrong and immoral, because causing other's harm does, by definition of what it means to be a human, not lead to happiness. Being judgmental does. You would not hug with open arms a shady looking disheveled man with a knife walking towards you, right? And you would not be friends with someone you cannot trust who undermines you on a regular basis, right? It does not make logical sense to reward anything but value. Needs are not a value. Taking money by force and giving it to corrupt politicians to give back to special interest groups will invariably result in the enhancement of nonvalues.
You think logic can include contradiction and I don't know the difference between logic and reason? Unbelievable. Reason employs the use of logic to make knowledge. You can have valid knowledge which correctly uses logic or invalid knowledge arrived at by faulty logic. Any worldview that includes God is illogical, irrational and unreasonable. Logic is more than adhering to a rigorous system. The introduction of something that itself is a contradiction makes any logical syllogism with it in it invalid in any real test. Someone's fantasy may be partly internally consistent I suppose, but would quickly fall to pieces when attempts were made to contextually integrate this fantasy with reality. Sure, I can say that because God is infallible and he made humans, humans are perfect, but this is in direct contrast to to original sin or any sin for that matter. The concept of God cannot, by its own definition, be logically consistent. Logic and contradiction are mutually exclusive. Show me one logical statement that is also contradictory.
Our senses are not fallible. They may be damages, but things are correct or incorrect in as much as they do or do not represent reality. Correct and incorrect are value judgments made by brains. Mistakes happen in the cortex, not the eye. Cones and rods fire only when light hit them, if they work. But under no circumstance do the senses make choices. They do not weigh evidence and pick which to do based on there own goals, they are, by contrast, simple machines the relay information, they do not change the message. When you see the sun 'rise', it is not your eyes that fool you, it is your brain. It is our eyes that allowed us access to reality for our brains to figure out that the sun does not orbit the Earth. When you see the diffracted light showing a 'break' in a pencil as it sticks out of a glass of water, it is your eyes relaying the message accurately. It is your brain that suggests there are two pencils, at first, until you use reason and logic to learn about the difference in the speed of light in different mediums. Reality is objective there before our senses see it. Our perspective is subjective, but not the knowledge we gain from the noncontradictory contextually valid integration of perceptual evidence. That is objective. And able to be known. I do not have faith in my senses. I know that I use my senses to perceive that which is truly there. I can know that the axioms of existence, consciousness and identity are valid and true, because they integrate within my knowledge base without contradiction. It is the only way the world can make sense. That the first thing a mind can say is that there is something it is aware of. This entails the existence of something with identity and a consciousness to be aware of it. At this time it is the thing in reality that caused the sensation that there is awareness of. It is real and came before the observer. It is not faith, but sensation of the real world. Faith is believing in something without evidence. Not the same.
You think it is laughable that the rich, if unchecked won't use their power to be mean to the weak. And then you say that the tool that the corrupt use is the answer.
Survival of the fittest blames no one. Blame is something individuals erroneously place on trade and human nature to convince people to give them power in government. Capitalism places zero penalties. Of course, some people are weaker, out of nature, that is what I'm saying! It wasn't 'the rich' that did it and they are not responsible for it. The only economic policy that places blame is socialism. It is very similar to the christian doctrine of original sin. That left alone capitalists and humans are evil doers and can't live morally without God or government. When God and government are the source of evil, not humans. Empathy should not be used as a source of laws. Reason should. And reason tells us that you cannot make something good from violence. Forcing others to make the world better will inevitably fail. Sure, it can work in the short term, but will always hold us back as a society.
And your WWII source concern in unfounded. What the American people thought about matters not. As if the people really do run the government. They simply hand out power. We were funding a big military then. Where did all those ships that got bombed at Pearl Harbor come from? I'll admit that we had not yet mobilized into a country of tank builders with women going to the factories yet, but our economic hardship had started here and affected the rest of the world as the rest of the world going to war affected us. You cannot point at one statistic, and one year, but in general, low unemployment rates and and significant rises in GDP came after the war began. You can do your own research and point to whatever data you like, but it won't impress me to see yet again someone else thinking that wealth redistribution can increase wealth.
"Tell me, do you think that survival of the fittest necessarily entails survival of the fittest morality?"
Well, I think yes. I think morality is the set of rules we use to help us decide what to do in order to achieve values. The better you are at achieving values, the better off you are. I don't think there really are different moralities. Yes, people claim to use different types of ethical systems, but I think they are wrong about that as I believe morality is objective. We all must use rationality to be successful. It is the same for everyone. And the most fit over time* are so because they can be most rational.
I really think that conservative and liberal are society specific concepts. What is liberal in the USA could be seen as really right wing in the UK, and neo-con is seen as being further to the right that Gengis Khan!
I am a british conservative and proud of the fact. This doesn't mean that I wish to grind the faces of the workers in the dirt. I can't because that's where I am! The problem is more the invariant law of unexpected consequences. Where a political party sets out in a given direction, the nett result is usually 180 degrees out. Whilst I would agree with the equality of all people under the law, that does not mean that all people are equal in their talents or potential contribution, and that people who can contribute their skill, talents and expertise within society should be encouraged to do so, and under current conditions that means paid differently. But, as in all things, moderation. I can't justify banker's bonuses.
So where is this relevant to atheism? It isn't. It is a category difference as apples to oranges. Personal views on deity or the mind numbing unbelievability of the central tenets of the numerous sects is something other than politics and as such, in the british context, I would say that there is no aspect of left or right in this philosophical outlook.
My thinking is heavily centered around reality. So is Ayn Rand's. Like I wouldn't use Einstein's words to describe relativity. But then you'd say that I borrow too heavily from his work and cannot be right because I am not full of arbitrary and conflicting ideas of all different kinds put forth by different people.
So, again, it appears you think I am wrong because I think I'm right.
People, like yourself, think there is a middle ground. I recognize that. If you do not profess altruism or egoism, then you are likely a utilitarian of some sort. This is the perceived middle ground I acknowledge existing. It's as if you think someone can have a valid ethics as long as they use many different types of theories and aren't sure about them. Any dichotomy between egoism and altruism is false, since altruism cannot actually be practiced consistently. It would result in destruction of the self-sacrificer. And I've already explained why choice is always egoistic. Non-egoistic ethics are not valid. And do not exist, except in people's heads as abstract concepts. Invalid ones.
I did not mean to suggest that you said literally that contradiction and logic can coincide, but I think you are implying it when you say that a theist can have a logical worldview. This is impossible because the concepts of omniscience and omnipotence are necesasrily anti-logical and contradictory.
But do not tell me that you have not directly stated that the rich necessarily exploit vis a vis the way they get rich.
And there's little else on my blogs, but AR? About half of my entries are about determined choice and vitrification, both of which Ayn Rand thought were bogus. I doubt you have honestly considered egoism. You keep crying Ayn Rand, instead of bringing up any points as to why it is moral to use institutionalized corruption to take from producers and give to the needy.
1) Atheism is not a "philosophy". "A-" + "theism", or "without theism". All the term entails is lack of belief in any theistic religion.
2) The "atheist community" is actually pretty diverse. You have liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, etc etc all over the map. Me myself? I lean closer to libertarian in that I a) have somewhat of a distaste for the whole left-right paradigm and snooty PC liberals, b) think both left and right extremes tend to use government to moralize to the rest of us and I'm for limited government. That's without even speaking of economics and only on social issues alone
Actually Brad I’d like to challenge the validity of that statement.
When I postulated this question back in March I was hoping I could see something of the political slant of non-secularism. I did manage to get some idea of it but eventually lost interest when the discussion became endlessly nitpicky after awhile (which was about a week later), so I stopped checking up on it. Mostly because I pretty much concluded what you did and considered the issue dropped.
Then to my surprise I came back to the site two months later and saw that it was still going on.
Anyway, back to what I wanted to point out. Personally Brad I would agree with your assessment except I recently got a e-mail from my Far Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist sister once again illustrating how I was going straight to hell for my beliefs as well as telling me about how Sarah Palin would be putting this country back on track again. So, suddenly I realized ‘I bet there are no atheist tea baggers’.
I’m also beginning to realize that the entire Tea Party is everything Atheism is not, which does not make me very comfortable. Because if (IF) the Tea Party does manage to get into office, it could definitely cause a lot of problems not just for this country but for atheism as well. After all, atheism does pose a ‘clear and present danger’ to the Tea Party.