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  1. #1
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    Default Secular Humanist vs the Nihilist/Atheism vs Theism

    Note: this entire post is copy-pasted from the YouTube description

    [YOUTUBE="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swfItnTUFvY"]Atheists and morals[/YOUTUBE]

    When theists say that atheism cannot exist with morality, secular humanists are quick to say that it is a misconception about atheism. But their objection is misplaced. This isn't so much a misconception about atheism as it is about atheists.

    Yes, there are some theists who do indeed try to assert that atheists can't be moral, and secular humanists are right to object, because such a claim is not true. Atheists can in fact be ethical.

    However, while it is true that atheists can be moral, it is NOT true that one can be logically consistent and be an atheist and a moral realist at the same time. This latter claim is the true argument, not the former.

    Now, as to why one cannot be an atheist and be a moral realist at the same time, there are two very similar reasons why this is so, the first coming from David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers to ever live, and the second coming from J.L. Mackie.

    First the Humean argument. David Hume famously pointed out that one cannot extract an ought-statement from an is-statement. You cannot get an ought from an is, or in more technical terms, one cannot derive a prescriptive fact from a descriptive fact.

    Batman, because he failed to point to a metaphysical, transcendent and ontological foundation, cannot make the case that the joker ought to prefer choice A over choice B. The joker, realizing this, throws Batman's assertion back in his face. The joker laughs in his face, and points out that the secular humanist's rules are a "bad joke." And that the only sensible way to live in his world is without rules. To be a nihilist like himself.

    Even with all of his strength, Batman cannot make his humanistic assertion true. In an atheistic worldview, it simply doesn't follow logically.

    On an atheistic worldview, the only transcendental facts are descriptive facts. By transcendental I mean facts which are true regardless of what anyone thinks.

    Now this being said, there can therefore be no prescriptive facts on an atheistic worldview. Therefore, if atheists are to be consistent, they have to move beyond their short-sighted secular humanism and move into the realm of moral nihilism and sit alongside Ledger's joker.

    Now perhaps morality is just a property. Perhaps certain actions, like shoving a pencil into someone's head, has the property of being wrong, and other actions, like saving people from a hospital rigged to blow, has the property of being right.

    Forgetting for the moment that morality is not descriptive, but rather is a series of statements of certain actions one ought to do or ought not do, we can turn to J.L. Mackie's take on this.

    To say that naturalistic, material objects can stand in a moral relation to one another is absurd. What does it even mean for one object to stand in a moral relationship with another object? It is meaningless.

    The ethical skeptic watching this video might feel tempted to ask "Why does God solve the is-ought gap?" and feel as if he won the day. The problem is, that God's commands are not themselves descriptive, but are prescriptive.

    Therefore, as an atheist, you must either remain silent like Batman, or speak with cynical greatness like the Joker. Be permitted by Dostoevsky to drink up the sea with Nietzsche.
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
    C.S. Lewis

  2. #2
    Junior Member Bachelor Blumfeld's Avatar
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    This entire post presumes secular ethics must adhere to Hume's ideas on ethics. This is as absurd to say as it would be to presume atheism must consign itself to Hume's ideas on causality, infinity, or truth. The post implicitly proclaims that there is an analytic quality to atheism to rescind metaphysics entirely. Which is to say that atheists are pretty much logical positivists.

    While it is true that most atheists do purport something similar to logical positivism (mostly due to their ignorance of philosophy), this does not mean that atheism inherently denies metaphysics. One does not have to espouse an ontological belief in "God" to still maintain an ethic (or any metaphysical belief). A cursory reading of Kant will display the fallaciousness of any other claim.
    I turn'd me round, and to each shade
    Dispatch'd an eye,
    To see if any leaf had made
    Least motion or reply ;
    But while I list'ning sought
    My mind to ease
    By knowing, where 'twas, or where not,
    It whisper'd “ Where I please.”
    “Lord,” then said I, “on me one breath,
    And let me die before my death !” - Henry Vaughan, Regeneration (lines 73-82)

  3. #3
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bachelor Blumfeld View Post
    This entire post presumes secular ethics must adhere to Hume's ideas on ethics. This is as absurd to say as it would be to presume atheism must consign itself to Hume's ideas on causality, infinity, or truth. The post implicitly proclaims that there is an analytic quality to atheism to rescind metaphysics entirely. Which is to say that atheists are pretty much logical positivists.

    While it is true that most atheists do purport something similar to logical positivism (mostly due to their ignorance of philosophy), this does not mean that atheism inherently denies metaphysics. One does not have to espouse an ontological belief in "God" to still maintain an ethic (or any metaphysical belief). A cursory reading of Kant will display the fallaciousness of any other claim.
    Hi BB, thanks for replying--I am unschooled in philosophy and needed a knowledgeable POV.

    One thing: he's not asserting that an ontological belief in a supernatural being is necessary for ethics; he made that clear.

    I wish I remembered what came before in the movie--was it the ferry bombs? He's saying that because the secular humanist does not appeal to a proscriptive set of morals, but rather a descriptive set derived from oneself, Batman is stuck in a situation where he can't explain the morally correct thing to do, in which case the conclusion that nihilism or throwing one's hands up and saying IDK are one's options. (I think? Anyone else weighing in? I need to rewatch the movie.)
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
    C.S. Lewis

  4. #4
    Junior Member Bachelor Blumfeld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Usehername View Post
    Hi BB, thanks for replying--I am unschooled in philosophy and needed a knowledgeable POV.
    First of all thanks, but I really wouldn't consider myself knowledgeable on philosophy, as I'm more interested in literature. It's self-taught, and controlling my wanton flights of fancy on this subject is difficult


    One thing: he's not asserting that an ontological belief in a supernatural being is necessary for ethics; he made that clear.
    I think we're confusing the word ethics...

    However, while it is true that atheists can be moral, it is NOT true that one can be logically consistent and be an atheist and a moral realist at the same time. This latter claim is the true argument, not the former.

    First the Humean argument. David Hume famously pointed out that one cannot extract an ought-statement from an is-statement. You cannot get an ought from an is, or in more technical terms, one cannot derive a prescriptive fact from a descriptive fact.
    My argument against the author was that s/he was asserting that an atheist could not purport a metaphysical ethic. I comprehend that the author wasn't stating that atheists couldn't conjure up an inter subjective ethic deriving from descriptive facts. I was simply bewildered that the author seemed to implicitly state that a denial of metaphysics was an analytic part of atheism.


    I wish I remembered what came before in the movie--was it the ferry bombs? He's saying that because the secular humanist does not appeal to a proscriptive set of morals, but rather a descriptive set derived from oneself, Batman is stuck in a situation where he can't explain the morally correct thing to do, in which case the conclusion that nihilism or throwing one's hands up and saying IDK are one's options. (I think? Anyone else weighing in? I need to rewatch the movie.)
    Re to the bold part: And I'm proclaiming that while typically that holds veracity, that there is nothing inherent within secular humanism that precludes them from deriving their ethics from a metaphysical source, which would be prescriptive.

    Just to let you know, I'm no fan of secular humanism, since a great many of them appeal to scientism, and are rather callous to religious folk.

    Hope this reply didn't come off as too abrasive...
    Last edited by Bellflower; 10-19-2009 at 08:35 AM. Reason: fixed quotes coding
    I turn'd me round, and to each shade
    Dispatch'd an eye,
    To see if any leaf had made
    Least motion or reply ;
    But while I list'ning sought
    My mind to ease
    By knowing, where 'twas, or where not,
    It whisper'd “ Where I please.”
    “Lord,” then said I, “on me one breath,
    And let me die before my death !” - Henry Vaughan, Regeneration (lines 73-82)

  5. #5
    . Blank's Avatar
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    The interesting thing about Nihilism is that it states that there is no objective meaning to anything.

    In the case of the Joker, his reason for existence was to point out absurdity and to perpetuate it. In the case of Batman, his case for existence was to take his society's moral code and apply it to everybody. Objectively speaking, each character is imposing his will forcefully onto other people. This is not to say that both the Batman and the Joker are doing wrong, it is just a statement of fact.

    Objectively speaking, there is no intrinsic "value" to the universe; however, human beings as they are have the power to ascribe relative meaning and connotation to the universe. If you were to look at one galaxy swallowing up another galaxy, chances are, you may not look at the event as being bad or barbaric; however, if you were to witness a crocodile eating your pet bunny rabbit, you would be much more likely to view the event as being bad because you lost an object in which you placed value.

    Humans are able to empathize with not only animals (like our pet bunnies,) but with other humans as well. Most humans do not like being hit and have learned that if they hit another person, chances are, they will be hit back. Most of humanity's morals are based on this kind of thinking. When a large enough group of people have similar morals, they are able to enforce their will onto other people in an attempt to assimilate them into the "correct" way of viewing the world. When a person violates a group's moral code, there are ramifications varying from social ostracization to physical punishment, in which case, Batman is trying to uphold the status quo by having the voice of the majority override the voice of the minority. The Joker is saying that this kind of thinking or reasoning is wrong and should be abolished, thus the conflict.

    EDIT: I guess I didn't really get to the whole theistic look on things, but I was more fascinated by the Batman reference.
    Ti = 19 [][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Te = 16[][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Ne = 16[][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Fi = 15 [][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Si = 12 [][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Ni = 12 [][][][][][][][][][][][]
    Se = 11[][][][][][][][][][][]
    Fe = 0

    -----------------
    Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
    Man got to sit and wonder why, why, why;
    Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
    Man got to tell himself he understand

  6. #6
    Branded with Satan murkrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bachelor Blumfeld View Post
    This entire post presumes secular ethics must adhere to Hume's ideas on ethics. This is as absurd to say as it would be to presume atheism must consign itself to Hume's ideas on causality, infinity, or truth. The post implicitly proclaims that there is an analytic quality to atheism to rescind metaphysics entirely. Which is to say that atheists are pretty much logical positivists.

    While it is true that most atheists do purport something similar to logical positivism (mostly due to their ignorance of philosophy), this does not mean that atheism inherently denies metaphysics. One does not have to espouse an ontological belief in "God" to still maintain an ethic (or any metaphysical belief). A cursory reading of Kant will display the fallaciousness of any other claim.
    I can't see how the author is relying on Hume's metaphysics.
    I don't even see the point of invoking Hume in this situation, I think the author was looking for some brand name support.

    The matter of ethics requiring an ontological structure is easily argued without any reliance on Hume: To define A as B, B must be defined.

    To make any claims as to which life is good, a good life must be defined.

    Ontological structures of ranking become necessary to make these definitions. I've yet to encounter an ontology that defensibly supports moral dogmatism.
    wails from the crypt.

  7. #7
    78% me Eruca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blank View Post
    The interesting thing about Nihilism is that it states that there is no objective meaning to anything.

    In the case of the Joker, his reason for existence was to point out absurdity and to perpetuate it. In the case of Batman, his case for existence was to take his society's moral code and apply it to everybody. Objectively speaking, each character is imposing his will forcefully onto other people. This is not to say that both the Batman and the Joker are doing wrong, it is just a statement of fact.

    Objectively speaking, there is no intrinsic "value" to the universe; however, human beings as they are have the power to ascribe relative meaning and connotation to the universe. If you were to look at one galaxy swallowing up another galaxy, chances are, you may not look at the event as being bad or barbaric; however, if you were to witness a crocodile eating your pet bunny rabbit, you would be much more likely to view the event as being bad because you lost an object in which you placed value.

    Humans are able to empathize with not only animals (like our pet bunnies,) but with other humans as well. Most humans do not like being hit and have learned that if they hit another person, chances are, they will be hit back. Most of humanity's morals are based on this kind of thinking. When a large enough group of people have similar morals, they are able to enforce their will onto other people in an attempt to assimilate them into the "correct" way of viewing the world. When a person violates a group's moral code, there are ramifications varying from social ostracization to physical punishment, in which case, Batman is trying to uphold the status quo by having the voice of the majority override the voice of the minority. The Joker is saying that this kind of thinking or reasoning is wrong and should be abolished, thus the conflict.

    EDIT: I guess I didn't really get to the whole theistic look on things, but I was more fascinated by the Batman reference.
    This.

    Plus, who said the joker was only refering to secular humanists when he said humanaty's morality was a bad joke? When I watched the film I interpretted joker's point to be that, as humans, our beliefs--secular or religious--wouldn't hold out when the "chips are down" either way. He indicated Gordan and the other policmen, I'm sure their would be theists in that bunch.
    I hope I'm wrong, but I believe that he is a fraud, and I think despite all of his rhetoric about being a champion of the working class, it will turn out to be hollow -- Bernie Sanders on Trump

  8. #8
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    The hippo in the room is the fact that there has never been a civilization not based on a religion.

    So before atheism, secular humanism or nihilism even get started, they need to explain, and explain away, this simple fact of life.

    But so far none of them have succeeded in explaining this fact. And none bother to try to explain this fact. So they are dead in the water before they even start.

    So atheism, secular humanism or nihilism are simply intellectual constructs without any empirical base.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Moiety's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bachelor Blumfeld View Post
    My argument against the author was that s/he was asserting that an atheist could not purport a metaphysical ethic. I comprehend that the author wasn't stating that atheists couldn't conjure up an inter subjective ethic deriving from descriptive facts. I was simply bewildered that the author seemed to implicitly state that a denial of metaphysics was an analytic part of atheism.
    Well, were are they conjuring up their ethics from then? And isn't atheism usually based on precluding perspective facts in the first place? And aren't ethics a bunch of perspective facts put together?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Feops's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sytpg View Post
    Well, were are they conjuring up their ethics from then? And isn't atheism usually based on precluding perspective facts in the first place? And aren't ethics a bunch of perspective facts put together?
    Yes, but there are facts that aren't based on perspective at work here. Many people equate cheating with breaking out and getting ahead somehow, but on the whole society relies on the enforcement of ethical behavior for the common good of everyone. Having personal and legal rights that we expect not to be broken establishes a basis of trust that we can use to conduct business and interact without fear of danger or unfair treatment. Law, the practical extension of ethics, is a cornerstone for a functional society.

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