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  1. #231
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    My main point was irrelevant to your idea in this post: it was merely that an action is to be deemed rational or irrational strictly in accordance to how well it advances one towards fulfillment of his goals or desires. In this case if a person wishes to go to heaven suicide bombing is irrational as it does not entail salvation.
    I understand, and this is where I disagree. I would say that a course of action can be deemed efficacious dependent on how well it advances one toward fulfillment of his goal, but not necessarily rational. To be rational, the goal itself must be founded on rational premises. If I observe that I need food to live, that food costs money, and that providing my services is a way to obtain money and subsequently do so, at every step my thinking is founded on demonstrable premises; my actions are rational. If I decide that God exists and he wants me to blow innocents to smithereens, my premises are not founded on demonstrable facts, and my actions are not rational -- no matter how efficacious.
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  2. #232
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    Let me try to address this issue. First of all I want to know what a 'true principle' is. The use of the word principle seems to be out of place. Do you mean by 'true principle' the same thing as a 'truth about the world'. Hence, your point is that if you are looking for an effective method of changing the way people behave, your method must be based on true beliefs.

    In most cases it is certainly helpful to have true beliefs as doing so allows you to organize your activities around the facts. In other words, you will be able to discover what the problem is that you're dealing with and shall know how to solve it.
    Yes I mean that true principles are based upon facts (in a practical sense). Often we cannot know if facts are absolutely true, but we can know if facts are true in a practical sense. For example we know that Newtonian Motion is not absolutely true, but its principles are effective, because it is based upon facts. Newtonian Motion states that a projectile travels in a parabola, while Aristotle taught that a projectile travels in a straight line and then falls perpendicular to the ground when it runs out of energy. Anyone firing a projectile with Newtonian understanding will be more accurate than someone firing a projectile with Aristotlean understaning.

    This is what I mean when I say that true principles lead to effective methods. The closer our understanding is to the truth, the more effective our methods will be. So if we examine two methods trying to accomplish something, then we know that the one that is most effective is the method that is closest to the truth.

    However, I think that your thesis is false because we can find at least one counter example. It is possible for a person who is fundamentally self-serving to improve his behavior by falsely believing that he will receive a payment of a milliond dollars in the event that he regards others with extra-ordinary kindness. Even a sociopath would behave in a saintly manner had he or she harbored such a false belief.
    This is technically not a counterexample, because it is a hypothetical situation instead of a real occurance. However even if this is how things would actually happen, it would only be effective once. Once he didn't get his money, then no one else would follow this method. Therefore the method you are suggesting is not really an effective method.

    Regarding your first point: a Christian who does believe in miracles is more likely to improve his behavior than a Christian who does not.

    I find this doubtful....

    Can you cite a sociological study where thousands of Christians were surveyed and those who claimed to believe in miracles have displayed greater moral virtue than those who claimed not to believe in them?
    The study I can site says that Christians have improved behavior if they accept the authority of the Bible and engage in "costly" behavior. I would think that accepting the authority of the Bible would include belief in miracles, but perhaps it does not.

    I do admit that I wish I had more data. For example the study makes a distinction between those who answer "yes" to twelve questions and those who do not. I know that these twelve criteria are sufficient for improved behavior, but they might not all be necessary. I would have liked to see a follow up study to show which criteria are really necessary. Until I see more data I simply have to draw conclusions based on the information I have.
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  3. #233
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    I understand, and this is where I disagree. I would say that a course of action can be deemed efficacious dependent on how well it advances one toward fulfillment of his goal, but not necessarily rational. To be rational, the goal itself must be founded on rational premises. If I observe that I need food to live, that food costs money, and that providing my services is a way to obtain money and subsequently do so, at every step my thinking is founded on demonstrable premises; my actions are rational. If I decide that God exists and he wants me to blow innocents to smithereens, my premises are not founded on demonstrable facts, and my actions are not rational -- no matter how efficacious.
    My most fundamental claim is that no action is inherently rational or rational withou contingency on any other factor as all actions serve to fulfill a certain goal. I argue that the goal in itself need not be rational in order for actions fulfilling this goal to be considered rational.

    What you have in mind is the very antithesis to my conclusion, that the goal in question must be rational in order for the actions advancing an actor towards its fulfillment to be considered rational. For instance, the goals of surviving, eating food and breathing air are rational, yet goals of suicide bombing are not.

    I would argue that some goals need be rational, yet others do not. For instance, if your most fundamental goal is to survive, then the goal of finding food is rational whilst the objective of finding a wall against which you want to bang your head is not.

    In your post you were working under the assumption that our most fundamental goal is to survive, thus from this premise you have deduced that breathing air is rational yet suicide bombing is not. My question is as follows: is there anything inherently rational about electing survival as our most fundamental goal? It is true that biologically we have been wired in a way that its almost impossible for us to elect any other goal as the most important; however, does this mean that the goal of survival is rational by the nature of itself or inherently rational? I think not, its simply a blind urge that inheres in our very nature. In principle it is possible that a being would exist that has dying as its primary goal, in this case the action of suicide bombing would indeed be a rational choice.

    In short, your basic assumption is that in order for an action to be rational, in must be supporting a rational fundamental goal. My rebuttal is that there is no such thing as a fundamentally rational goal, as our most fundamental goals are no more than our deepest desires or things that we'd like to get the most. In the case of a normal human being it is mere survival. From this it follows that a rational action can be defined as one that allows us to achieve our goals and since our goals are but mere desires, we can define an action's rationality in proportion to how well it advances us towards an achievement of our desires. That of course is granted that we have elected the action in question. If it is my goal to get to the bus stop and I merely slip and fall and as a result slide all the way down to the bus station, my action is neither rational nor irrational. The standard of rationality applies only to actions that we have willingly chosen.

    With the argument above in consideration, do you have any other objections with regard to why we can't define our chosen action's rationality in accordance to how well it advances us towards reaching our goals or desires?

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    To follow up our previous exchange we may ask if going to heaven is the most fundamental goal of a suicide bomber. I would say no because just like all normal human beings he desires to feel well. Hence, he mistakenly assumes that the following notions are true.

    1. There is a heaven.
    2. He can reach heaven by suicide bombing.
    3. Heaven will make him feel good.

    These assumptions combined engender a sub-goal of going to heaven which is means to the end of reaching his most fundamental goal of feeling well. Thus the fanatic that you have envisaged is irrational in a sense that all irrational people are as he has elected absurd sub-goals. However, my main point is that his main goal is non-rational, as it is a pure arbitrary desire to feel well. The same goes with respect to all humans. The fact that our most fundamental goal is non-rational does not in any way undermine the rationality of our sub-goals. In principle, its possible to create a robot that has the main goal of destroying itself and he would be behaving in a way that is purely rational (or conducive to fulfillment of the main goal) yet his actions would seem irrational to us as we would be working under the assumption that his main goal was just like ours or to survive.

    ---------------------------------------------------

    All of the above was aimed at defending my thesis that since our most fundamental goals are mere deepest desires of ours and a rational action can be defined in proportion to how much it advances towards an achievement of the goal in question, we may say that an action's rationality is to be appraised in terms of how well it brings us closer to actualizing our most fundamental desires which need not be rational.


    Important note: Please pay close attention to the following point. In your post you stated the goal itself must be rational, I argued that this is not so as the most fundamental goal of ours is a mere arbitrary biological drive. Hence, its not possible that our main goal will be rational and it therefore follows that your claim does not apply to all goals. However, the sub-goals or goals that we must reach in order to achieve our main non-rational goal can be appraised as rational strictly to the extent that they advance us towards achievement of the aforementioned non-rational goal.
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  4. #234
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    In principle, rationalism is neither good nor evil, its simply an activity of avoiding errors in reasoning. A self-serving person who has a goal of harming others for his own benefit will construct a rational plan to do so which will help him greatly in the regard of acheiving his goals. A kind person would be able to do the same if his reasoning abilities are good. To abuse 'rationalism' in the strictese sense means to make reasoning errors: this has nothing to do with doing evil or abusing an ideology in a similar vein that the terrorists may abuse Islam or Christianity.

    In short, 'rationalism' and religion are simply incommensurable and don't belong in the same discussion, the prescriptions of reason are scholarly and most akin to how people should act when they are doing academic work and prescriptions of religion are the most relevant to how people should behave in a social and ethical contexts. Rationalism in itself has no moral or social prescriptions the abuse of which entails evil. Many corrupt politicians claim to be informed by 'rationalism' or 'reason' and use this to justify their evil deeds, however, in this case they are abusing some other moral ideal than reason in itself as reason in itself is purely hypothetical, unlike the Bible it simply cannot tell people how they should behave. It could only be used by a person to justify his pre-existing moral aims. In recapitulation, a person who intends to do evil and has good reasoning abilities will construct a plausible seeming defense of his ambitions and a person who intends to do good could perform the same action with respect to his own ambitions.
    I just read that as a vaue judgement, rationalism is as open to abuse as revelaton/religiosity and therefore neither can be considered more morally upright or virtuous.

    If the inquisition or crusades are going to be continually reference in a tired fashions as the crimes of religion, religion per se and not corrupt or degraded or anything like that, then equally purges, show trials and the cold war are crimes of rationalism and science. Simple as.

  5. #235
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    I just read that as a vaue judgement, rationalism is as open to abuse as revelaton/religiosity and therefore neither can be considered more morally upright or virtuous.

    If the inquisition or crusades are going to be continually reference in a tired fashions as the crimes of religion, religion per se and not corrupt or degraded or anything like that, then equally purges, show trials and the cold war are crimes of rationalism and science. Simple as.
    I agree that it is possible to use reason and science to convince many that evil behaviors are justified, however, I took issue with the very definition of abusing reason as you framed it. To abuse reason does not mean the same as to use reason to do evil. To abuse reason means to simply think in an irrational manner. Irrational thinking has no relation to either good or evil, someone who abuses reason is not clearly any more or less likely to do evil than someone who does not.
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  6. #236
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    I agree that it is possible to use reason and science to convince many that evil behaviors are justified, however, I took issue with the very definition of abusing reason as you framed it. To abuse reason does not mean the same as to use reason to do evil. To abuse reason means to simply think in an irrational manner. Irrational thinking has no relation to either good or evil, someone who abuses reason is not clearly any more or less likely to do evil than someone who does not.
    There's a value judgement here, to argue that reason has served the same evil ends as religion, fine, to argue that its only been corrupted to do so, fine also, to argue that it is infact not reason but unreason or the want of reason only that is evil. Sorry, no. Especially where you set up the dichotomous relationship of good reason versus evil/bad religiosity.

  7. #237
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    There's a value judgement here, to argue that reason has served the same evil ends as religion, fine, to argue that its only been corrupted to do so, fine also, to argue that it is infact not reason but unreason or the want of reason only that is evil. Sorry, no. Especially where you set up the dichotomous relationship of good reason versus evil/bad religiosity.
    You missed my point. Whether a person does good or evil depends chiefly on his moral character. That is, a person who is good will do good and a person who is evil will do evil. Whether or not this person abuses reason or reasons irrationally has nothing to do with whether or not he will do good or evil. In other words a person who is guided by unreason is not significantly more likely to do evil than a person who is guided by reason and similarly a person who is guided by reason is not significantly more likely to do good than a person who is guided by unreason.

    There is no dichotomy between good reason and bad religiosity but there is an incommensurability problem. Abusing a good moral religion entails moral evils, abusing reason just entails irrational thought. Reason in itself is amoral or has no moral prescriptions, yet religion does have them and that is why the two aren't comparable.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

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  8. #238
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    SW:

    You give accounts of courses of action that are logical, but not rational. I may have given a mistaken impression with my previous example. Let's consider the opposite: a man who wishes to commit suicide. He observes that in order to commit suicide he must destroy himself. He observes that a gun is designed for the purpose of destroying living things. If he is particularly proactive, he may have searched the Internet and discovered that placing the gun in one's mouth is considered the most effective means of committing suicide by firearm. He does so, and succeeds in committing suicide.

    At every step, this hypothetical individual's actions were based on demonstrably factual premises, and his logic was sound. Were his actions rational? If we consider only this section of the larger scheme, yes. However, we must trace back the path of antecedents. Why did he choose to destroy himself? Was he, for example, encumbered with debt that he felt he would be unable to repay? If so, was this truly the case? Had he truly exhausted all means? In the extremely unlikely case that he had, indeed, exhausted all avenues, had he decided that life with debt was not worth living? "Life in debt is in no way worth living" is a proposition that is neither universally accepted nor can be supported on the basis of evidence alone. Tracing back the path of antecedents, we arrive at: I simply wish it so. This is not rational.

    Let's take our "Nazi" example that keeps popping up. A Nazi soldier is charged with the murder of a group of Jews. He employs means similar to those in the above example, albeit other-directed, and achieves success. Again, let's trace back the path of antecedents. Does he truly wish, in his heart of hearts, to murder fellow human beings? This flies in the face of basic human nature, and is extremely unlikely. He is operating under the following flawed premise: orders, even those heinous, must be followed.

    And what of the sociopath who would issue these orders, or the numerous sociopaths among society at any time? Perhaps they do, truly, in their heart of hearts, desire the destruction of other human beings. Yet with any killing, there is always a "should": this person "should" be destroyed. Says who, and by what authority? Where we allow the irrational, numerous answers arise: God; the State; etc. Yet again, tracing the path of antecedents to its root, we find a simple, "I, or someone else, simply wishes it so". In all cases, the methods selected may be logical, but at their root they rest on mere wishes, and cannot be said to be rational.

    Now, let's return to my first example, of a man who wishes to feed himself. The root of his antecedents is summarized as, "I require sustenance to survive". This is demonstrably factual, and this is the end of our path of antecedents. Is it "rational" to wish to survive? Is it rational to require sustenance to survive? Is it "rational" to have blue eyes or brown hair or two arms and two legs, and so forth? All of this things are neither rational nor irrational; they are arational. They simply are. To continue to exist requires we seek to avoid destruction.

    Ration is of no utility to the dead.

    LL:

    Principles exist to explain observed phenomenon in terms comprehensible to the human mind. In your examples, what are the observed phenomenon? A man has begun to act in a manner mild of spirit, and to live in fear of eternal torment in Hell? In a sense, then, I suppose I agree with you: the discovery that this man subscribes to a system of beliefs that espouses mildness of spirit and the existence of Hell would indeed explain the observed phenomenon.
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

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  9. #239
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    This is technically not a counterexample, because it is a hypothetical situation instead of a real occurance..
    It is a counter-example because the hypothetical occurence can happen in the real world. Your principle was theoretical rather than descriptive of empirical occurences and it is therefore fitting that a theoretical or a hypothetical notion can serve as a counter-example to your point. Your point was that if in any situation a person improves his behavior, his motivating belief to do so must be true in all cases. Hence, if I can imagine at least one case where a person can improve his behavior it follows that your statement is false. You could sidestep my counter-example by adjusting your claim to the following: the principle does not work only in a very few rare, hypothetical situations, however, such situations happen rarely and in most situations that happen on a daily basis the principle would work. However, as your principle stands, it cannot overcome the challenges posed by my objection simply because your principle decress that there could not be a situation where a person who has been motivated by false beliefs to change his behavior for the better, I have shown that there indeed could be at least one situation where this happens.





    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    However even if this is how things would actually happen, it would only be effective once...
    That is not true. Suppose we tell the sociopath that he will get his money after he performs five kind acts. Or how about after five years of service of kind acts? In short, we could extend the deadline for the final payment which will inspire the immoral person to perform more than just one kind act. Of course at some point he may begin questioning whether we have the million dollars to give him and to combat his doubts we may start making small payments along the way. However, in the end he will not get the full million dollars. As a result we have a case of a person changing his behavior for the better whilst being motivated to do so by false beliefs. His motivating false belief was that he will get a million dollars and he changed his behavior for the better as he started performing kind acts.



    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    Once he didn't get his money, then no one else would follow this method. Therefore the method you are suggesting is not really an effective method.
    Its more effective than you'd imagine, as I have shown above. Furthermore, whether it is effective is irrelevant is all I need to prove in order to refute your thesis is that there could be at least one situation where a person could improve his behavior by virtue of false beliefs. Its effective enough to produce at least one of such instances and therefore suffices for my present purpose. The question of specifically how effective my counter-example would become more relevant if you choose to revise your principle and state that merely in most cases as opposed to all people who change their behavior for the better are motivated to do so by true beliefs.







    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    The study I can site says that Christians have improved behavior if they accept the authority of the Bible and engage in "costly" behavior..
    What is 'costly' behavior?

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    I would think that accepting the authority of the Bible would include belief in miracles, but perhaps it does not..
    If you wish to be as logically consistent as possible as a believer in the Bible, the yes it would. However, most people have no such concern which means that it would be a good guess that not all people who accept the authority of the Bible in the conventional Christian conservative sense believe in miracles. For the very least, we shouldn't uncritically accept the assumption that if one is a conventional Christian believer in the Bible one believes in miracles.

    Besides, when you say accept the authority of the Bible do you mean to do so in a conventional Christian sense only? Or would this notion extend to the Liberal Christians and a number of other Christian sects? This distinction makes a significant difference.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    SW:

    You give accounts of courses of action that are logical, but not rational. I may have given a mistaken impression with my previous example. Let's consider the opposite: a man who wishes to commit suicide. He observes that in order to commit suicide he must destroy himself. He observes that a gun is designed for the purpose of destroying living things. If he is particularly proactive, he may have searched the Internet and discovered that placing the gun in one's mouth is considered the most effective means of committing suicide by firearm. He does so, and succeeds in committing suicide.

    At every step, this hypothetical individual's actions were based on demonstrably factual premises, and his logic was sound. Were his actions rational? If we consider only this section of the larger scheme, yes. However, we must trace back the path of antecedents. Why did he choose to destroy himself? Was he, for example, encumbered with debt that he felt he would be unable to repay? If so, was this truly the case? Had he truly exhausted all means? In the extremely unlikely case that he had, indeed, exhausted all avenues, had he decided that life with debt was not worth living? "Life in debt is in no way worth living" is a proposition that is neither universally accepted nor can be supported on the basis of evidence alone. Tracing back the path of antecedents, we arrive at: I simply wish it so. This is not rational.

    Let's take our "Nazi" example that keeps popping up. A Nazi soldier is charged with the murder of a group of Jews. He employs means similar to those in the above example, albeit other-directed, and achieves success. Again, let's trace back the path of antecedents. Does he truly wish, in his heart of hearts, to murder fellow human beings? This flies in the face of basic human nature, and is extremely unlikely. He is operating under the following flawed premise: orders, even those heinous, must be followed.And what of the sociopath who would issue these orders, or the numerous sociopaths among society at any time? Perhaps they do, truly, in their heart of hearts, desire the destruction of other human beings. Yet with any killing, there is always a "should": this person "should" be destroyed. Says who, and by what authority? Where we allow the irrational, numerous answers arise: God; the State; etc. Yet again, tracing the path of antecedents to its root, we find a simple, "I, or someone else, simply wishes it so". In all cases, the methods selected may be logical, but at their root they rest on mere wishes, and cannot be said to be rational..
    All of these examples suggest that people can reason in a logical or a deductively valid manner, yet their behavior is irrational because their starting premises are false. In other words, it is false that excessive financial debt is a sufficient reason to terminate life, it is also false that there is an unquestionable divine law or that the law of the state should never be questioned. That is all and well. However, we must take a careful note of the fact that in order to declare the three aforementioned starting premises false, we need to conduct an inquiry into value theory. In other words, what exactly is it that we value the most, or what exactly is the most important to us. Presumably, it is irrational to say that dying is the most important to us or obeying the state is, or following arbitrary commands of a spiritual authority of whose existence we cannot even ascertain of. If that is true, than certainly the above premises are false. I do believe that they are.



    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    Now, let's return to my first example, of a man who wishes to feed himself. The root of his antecedents is summarized as, "I require sustenance to survive". This is demonstrably factual, and this is the end of our path of antecedents. Is it "rational" to wish to survive? Is it rational to require sustenance to survive? Is it "rational" to have blue eyes or brown hair or two arms and two legs, and so forth? All of this things are neither rational nor irrational; they are arational. They simply are. To continue to exist requires we seek to avoid destruction..
    You have pointed out that a man can prove that he truly needs to survive whereas there is no such genuine need with respect to worshipping god, the state or committing suicide. I am inclined to agree as by the very nature of our constitution our drives are such that it is impossible for us to desire anything else more than our survival. Since this aspect of our nature cannot be changed, the most rational decision we can make is to do all that is necessary in order so survive. My challenge is as follows: there is nothing inherently rational about the desire to survive as such a desire need not be shared by all entities despite the fact that it is shared by all lifeforms. It is possible to create a robot that has been programmed to self-destruct; in this event the rationality of its actions could be assessed not in terms of how much they conduce to the continuation of its existence but to the opposite or its destruction.

    In short, your method suffices to appraise only the rationality of the decisions made by humans and all living forms by extension. Thus, although I do not claim to have refuted your point, some limitations have been imposed upon it.

    Ration is of no utility to the dead.

    LL:

    Principles exist to explain observed phenomenon in terms comprehensible to the human mind. In your examples, what are the observed phenomenon? A man has begun to act in a manner mild of spirit, and to live in fear of eternal torment in Hell? In a sense, then, I suppose I agree with you: the discovery that this man subscribes to a system of beliefs that espouses mildness of spirit and the existence of Hell would indeed explain the observed phenomenon.[/QUOTE]
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