I recently wrote this paper for a graduate class in the humanities. I had to read Plato's "Symposium", which is a story in which Socrates sits down with 6 other men for a night of drinking when one of them suggests that to compliment the drinking they each ought to take turns praising the god of love, Eros, in their own particular fashion. My paper focuses on the role of thumos, or spirit, in Plato's understanding of love and of the Good, and argues that instead of the Good being equated with the Beautiful as Plato seems to conclude, that rather it is the human spirit itself (thumos) which ought to perform this basic function.


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I think we can use other works that are better than spirit or energy or psychic energy – I think that you are related to ancient philosophers and using their terminology, when we have learnt so much since then about how the world operates and have more technical words to describe what’s going on.  I don’t think that we’ve got them all yet, but I think it useful to use a more modern and science based word over sprit, due to my previous complains of being confused with magical thinking.


OK – so you seem to be saying that if we can convince religious folks that we too can experience these ‘spiritual’ experiences as atheists then they will have an epiphany and leave the church? LOL


I have a confession – I love the casting crowns self titled CD.  I found it whilst searching for other music online.  It’s really amazing to listen too – same with Maharaji music – Elan vital – it’s devotional music and very moving.  I can listen to it and get the full experience, but I don’t need to become a christian or start having magical thinking – even though I might be having what I can call a magical experience.  I think this sort of aligning of your happiness can bring on increased healing, as your biochemistry is giving all your cells some loving.


I think that because we are such large communities now that our values have fallen apart – we no longer know what is up and what is down…


That is what religious groups have – they have a map of up and down – literally – heaven and hell.


But us who are secular, don’t have any reason to know where we are.


Small traditional cultures have all that we need – but with mass production society that’s all been messed up.


They had art, crafts, food preparation, festivals, family bones, marriage rules, ceremonies for all stages of life – and everyone made it important in the whole place – you grow up with others.  We still have this now, but it’s all mixed up and fractured.

I'll respond in full when I actually have any time (maybe a week or two). Until then, I will respond to only one thing. You say you can have what you could call a "magical experience" without having magical thinking or being religious. This is exactly what I am talking about. Obviously (Park!) I don't believe in magical thinking! I never have and I never will. What I am focusing on is precisely the type of powerful experience when one feels highly motivated and "good" about oneself.

Park – the question is begged – was it moral to treat a friend as different to an unknown person?  Apparently you – like many of us – if not most – are willing to have double standards – where your behaviour and response is changed by your company.  Interesting – as you have just demonstrated a fact talked about in Sam Harris book – the Moral landscape and an article I read recently.  http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmotherjones.com%2Fpoli...


Harris talks about universal morals based on treating everyone fairly.  He talks about how we all have the same brains that are rewarded for eating, sleeping, drinking, finding patterns, co-operating, being kind and compassionate, treating people fairly – he was talking about how we have a flip side friend and foe – but what happens in our society when we don’t know who is friend and who is foe – do we have a double standard – we do – and this can be embarrassing when we treat friend like foe – by accident.


I believe that we are all very similar.


Wanderer – interesting that you think Park might have been more honest – he was simply under different influences – emotional influences – which lead to him having different values about what you had said – he might not have been being more honest – just differently influenced.  Like how people are more likely to say they believe the myth that Obama is a Muslim if in the company of only white people, whereas, if a black person ask they will more likely say it sounds like a myth that Obama is Muslim.  This isn’t so much about being honest about opinion, as it is about who you spend more time around, black people or white people – even one black person in your life is likely to change your ‘honest’ opinion.  It’s determined, not honesty that tells us of our beliefs.


Oh – I feel some compassion for Phil – the poor bloke – but will I change my ‘honest’ opinion of Phil after more of your company?  Perhaps I’ll be mistaken or mislead?


Well Obviously!  That’s is why I said what I did about magical experiences – to provide you with evidence – that seemed rational to me, and also contextual to your ‘feelings’, that what you talked about was a possibility.


Bit random!  But you get the idea…


Harris argues that morals are common to all humans based on our social emotions of shame, guilt, fear of punishment, embarrassment etc.

Harris argues that our morals are based on our values – that are inherently intertwined with our beliefs, our faith and our reasoning – in the brain.

Another article that I’ve posted elsewhere states that we are bias in our believes and favour evidence that supports our premise – which comes from I don’t know where – perhaps childhood – or personal experience or parenting or even genetics.

It would then be credible that you could breed and select for different moral values or social habits.

Perhaps in the middle east aggression is considered more attractive and therefore they have more children or are more likely to get married and more likely to get her pregnant more often – as she is desiring his aggression.

On the other hand, English women might prefer kindness, tenderness and a man who does housework.

This is perhaps based on the difference in family structure. Women in the middle east look to other women, mothers, mother in law etc to help with emotional caring and house work – whereas in the UK women look to their partners to help with this stuff.

These two different styles of family arrangement lead to different selection techniques for women – when choosing a mate to breed with.

Over many generations this may lead to more aggressive populations in the middle east and more pacifist populations in the UK. This perhaps works differently in the US where each class has it’s own preferences. Lower class might find criminals especially attractive for their ability to steal resources to provide for the family. Whereas in the upper class it is their intellect, their ability to write poetry and inherit lots of money that is more desirable to a women for breeding. In this way we have competing strains of humans – and perhaps their values are indeed very different – and unlike Harris’ argument that we can have an elite group of moral authors is quite wrong due to selective breeding for different traits.

Perhaps a model more related to our tribes, would be more relevant. Starting from individuals, family, kin, clans and tribes being the broader border of our moral sharing.

It seems as though just be nature that – in order for life to exist in fact – that we are not uniform and perfect in any way – it therefore follows that anomalies in moral codes will some die out and some be taken on as great innovations – in fact in all aspects – this is basically the theory of natural selection – of which human or controlled selection is a part.


I notice also that in atheist society we have much more variety that in christian society or other religious society.  Religious societies don’t tolerate any variance very easily.  I therefore follows that it is more likely that newness will arise from atheist societies…



Good is always relevant to current conditions.


There is no ultimate good – there back where I started.  But it doesn’t mean that Harris’ idea of a moral elite group board of sorts wouldn’t be very useful – in gagging the current conditions on what was good and what wasn’t based on a line of evolution – and therefore it would be quite OK to contradict past rulings and bring in new precedents.


Is that like what Hillary said when he left the tent in the south pole – “I’m going for a walk now, I may be some time…”  I hope not, I kind of like you.

What is morality


What is it that we value


This is not necessarily what brings about the best desired state – pleasure, satisfaction, happiness, comfort


Very true.


What is most basic to what we value as humans?


We value a whole range of things.

Yes we have to perform a great balancing act when considering what to do next.


The blank is….  Well being for all


Look at some of the discussions in compassionate communication group I’m in on my AN home page.




  1. be mindful of our own feelings and needs
  2. be mindful to meet our own needs with fully and qual consideration of others needs
  3. use protective force where others lack tools to consider others needs for safety.
  4. be mindful to show appreciation of others


All these relate to a large goal of “well being for all”


I feel good having children – I don’t enjoy being pregnant, I don’t enjoy giving birth, it’s very painful – I don’t enjoy being woken up all night for 18 months, I don’t enjoy getting engorged breasts, cracked and sore nipples and mastitis.  I don’t enjoy shouting at my kids.  I don’t enjoy the fear and adrenaline of having them nearly die running to a busy road.  I don’t enjoy forcing them to clean up or learn how to read or speak properly.  But for some reason I’ve had 3 of them!  Go figure.


What about well-being for all?


It might feel good to a paedophile to have sex with a child.  But it’s not going to be good for the well-being of the child – they aren’t yet sexually developed, don’t have any such drive and will perhaps feel shame and embarrassment all their lives due to this ‘immoral act’ that they participated in as a child.


Therefore – paedophilia doesn’t contribute to general well-being – it has a negative knock on effect past down through generations.  Even though it might feel ‘good’ to one person who started it.


Cutting of female genitals of a child doesn’t contribute to general well-being – even though it is traditional practise for many Muslims.  It’ might feel good to the parents who believe that their daughter is now more attractive to a mate – it might feel good to their future mate that her virgina has a more narrow opening than naturally – but I’m sure that it has greatly reduced the well-being of the girl herself both in the short and long term.


Gay marriage – prevention of which causes much distress to gay couples all over the globe, who wish to enter into a legal commitment that allows them to share resources and legally be eligible for payments on death etc – which increase their financial security, support the love they have for each other and promote their union as valid by society.  And yet christians who don’t know any gay couples or communities and who care nothing of their well-being, get to say democratically that it’s not to be allowed – how would gay marriage effect their well-being?  Not very much – they don’t even know any gay couples that their well-being might be effected by directly.


Capital punishment…

Gun laws…

Global warming…


We could go on…




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