It is my belief that human beings live in an a-moral world, wherein each of us acts only on our own behalf; in the interrest of what we think is "good" or against what we think is "bad." I think that each of us can be certain that we exist (cogito ergo sum) but that we can and do doubt all else.* I believe that each of us operates by our own laws, and that we disregard the laws, norms and common sense of society when it suits us. Essentially, we are subjectively moral; we are moral relativists.


I do, however, think we have evolved to personally want, or enjoy, behaviors that often benefit larger society because groups tend to survive better than individuals, and so those of us who happen to personally enjoy that which benefits a collective are more likely to survive to pass on those preferences. Here is an example, from yesterday's news,  of what I mean:


An Ohio man who needs kidney dialysis to stay alive won $5 million in the lottery--but says he plans on giving part of his windfall away. "I'm going to help people because I love it. It makes me feel good, and I think that's what God put us here for," Phillip Withem of Logan said Tuesday, right after accepting the mega-check from the Ohio Lottery.


Notice that the motivation for doing good for others is never that someone else thinks it's good, but that the individual doing it thinks it is good, or enjoys it (at least not that I've ever heard).



* I have given many examples of why I think we can doubt all else, on previous posts here on A.N. Among them have been the dream argument, which is nicely summed up with the question 'What evidence do you have that you are not dreaming right now?' This argument remains an unsolved basis of doubt for all evidence beyond one's own existence. (If you have a refutation for this argument, the philosophical world would be very interrested in your proof)


The only thing one cannot doubt is one's existence because doubt requires thought, which has qualia we cannot avoid feeling when we engage in it. Existence is that which has qualia, so that the very act of doubting one's existence proves it. This is the assertion behind DesCartes' line cogito ergo sum, and is the basis for subjective knowledge. There remains no proven basis, however, for objective knowledge, which means morality between individuals is an illusion. (And again, if you have proof for any further assertion than your own existence, the philosophical world wants to hear it).


Question? Comments? Refutations?

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Comment by Frankie Dapper on June 19, 2011 at 7:52pm




Comment by John Camilli on June 19, 2011 at 6:18pm

Actually, the last thing you said there was my entire point. Our perception is all we have, and each of us has perception that is unique to our system, so the idea of inter-personal laws, or morals isnt even plausible. People will often say they abiding a system of laws, but this is only to make their lives easier. When the laws they were abiding begin to make their living more difficult than not abiding them, they do away with their allegiance (which means it was never really there to begin with, and they were only abiding those laws that coincided with their own).


I got a great fortune cookie yesterday that goes well with this blog. It said "It is not in my nature to be honest, but I am sometimes honest by coincidence." I laughed my ass off, not only cause I couldn't believe that was written on a fortune cookie, but because it so nicely matched what I've been talking about here.  


As for fundamental particles and re-curring values, I don't think there will be any finality found with them. I suspect that as we become able to look closer and closer at reality, we will simply keep finding smaller and smaller pieces, ad infinitum. I have studied quite a lot of science, not only of the modern age, but back into history, since before there was even a thing called science. One thing I have noticed is that there always seems to come another, more accurate theory than what was previously accepted, but no matter how accurate it gets, it is never quite complete. And when the next generation of tools is made to observe those incomplete parts more accurately, we find whole new realms of understanding, tucked away in tiny recesses that we thought were just minor details needing to be wrapped up. You may think I am knit-picking at trivialities, but I suspect that in irregularities like quantum tunneling, entanglement and the decay of B mesons, we will find the next generation of scientific revolution. And I think that process could go on forever, meaning we will never really be any closer to explaining reality than the ancients were when they decided everything was made of a few elements.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on June 17, 2011 at 1:13pm

Row, row, row your boat. . .

god is but a dream.

Comment by John Camilli on June 17, 2011 at 10:59am

You guys are missing the point of the dream argument. What it basically means is that you can't trust your senses. Empirical "evidence" can all be doubted on the basis that human senses are easily tricked. Have you ever had a dream that felt real, or a waking moment that felt surreal? Haven't you seen any experiments where people's brains are tricked into thinking they've experienced something which didnt actually happen? How do you know that isnt happening to you right now? You can't know, and that's the point. You can't know if what you are experiencing right now is an accurate reflection of reality.


Why can we, as humans, point to so many things that most of us will call common sense? Well, we are all human, to begin with, so there are certainly a lot of similarities in our systems (i.e. we could all be skewing reality in similar ways). For example, did you know the sun emits more green light than yellow/ orange light, but that it looks yellow/ orange to us because our optical pathways filter out a larger portion of green light than the other colors? What we see is not objective reality; it is our reality, and unless you happen to have a mutation that makes you filter less green light, you see the same unreality as most people do.


Brian, as for the "constants" you point of: there is a lot of physicas now that suggests superluminal speeds may be possible, so that commandment may be as breakable as "god's." Plank's is not an example of a law; it's an example of the same number appearing in many different structures, possibly because everything in the universe is built from the same fundamental particles, or possibly for some other reason. Science has not discovered the answer to why Plank's number is so constant/ Perhaps it is not constant at all, but is symptomatic of humans looking to see what they want to see. You ever see a clock say 11:11 or 12:34 over and over again? Does that mean those numbers actually occur more frequently, or that you attribute greater significance to them, and are more likely to remember when you see them because they seems structured to you? And as for kin killing...clearly that's not a universal law, because people do it. And to dismiss those occurences as abnormailities is to suggest that the rest of us are a norm. But our species is continually evolving, so a norm amidst humans is only practical from a short-sighted perspective. Not trying to be insulting by saying that. I'm also not asserting that anything I just said is "truth," but they are hypotheticals that allow me to doubt whether or not what you have said is "truth." Thus I cannot call those ideas objective knowledge. I can doubt them in a way that I cannot doubt my own existence; they are not self-proving axioms.


Cliff, neither would I, bro, but then when I go to sleep at night, I don't usually get to dream what I want either.


Glen, if you were dreaming up the universe, I would think it very likely that everone in it would have similar ideas to you, because the ideas would all be coming from you, after all.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on June 16, 2011 at 9:38pm

Good thinking Brian.

If living in a dreamed universe is improbable, how much greater the improbability of sharing the same universe and experiencing dreams when we are not in a waking state?



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