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The Moral Argument
by Jack Wellman
2008-09-20 09:31:07
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C.S. Lewis, a former atheist, plainly says, ‘If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.’ 1
The “Moral Argument”
1.) If God does not exist, objective moral values & duties do not exist.
2.) Objective moral values & duties do exist.
3.) Therefore, God exists.
Now this is a logical reason, since 3 follows necessarily if premises 1 & 2 are true. Premise 2 seems intuitively obvious to most people. Mass murdering is unequivocally, objectively wrong. Killing innocent children, torturing animals, have dog fights…all for fun is objectively wrong. That is it is wrong for most of humanity, everywhere. These morals exist worldwide as universal morals. Now if anyone denies premise 2, they don't need an argument, they need help.
The evolutionary explanation strips morality from humans and reduces it to mere descriptions of animal behavior or conduct, a simple physiochemical reaction of the brain‘s cognitive functions. Darwinist can only explain past conduct…past behavior. It cannot inform or predict a human’s future behavior. It only serves to reduce morality to mere descriptions of behavior, which involve both motive and intent. Both of these behaviors are nonphysical elements that can not, even in principle, evolve in a Darwinian sense. So where do morals come from? Why do they seem to apply only to human beings? Are they the product of chance? What world view makes sense out of morality? Why are babies born with what developmental psychologist’s call an intrinsic compassion (one baby cry’s in the nursery, and the others join in).
Moral laws suggest a moral lawgiver, one who communicates through higher, moral laws. Fore example, most people would not murder someone. They deem this to be morally wrong. He expects His imperatives to be obeyed or certain consequences occur. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard pointed out that a person could not have anything on his conscience if God did not exist. Morality is grounded in our hunger for justice. We desire for a day when all wrongs are made right, when innocent suffering is finally redeemed, and when the un-caught guilty are finally punished. This also explains our own personal sense of dread. We feel guilty because we are guilty and most people seem to sense that we might have to answer for our own crimes.
Robert Wright offers no empirical evidence whatsoever for his thesis. He seems to assume that moral qualities are in the genes because he must; his paradigm will not work otherwise. Take this comment as an example: "Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse" (emphases mine).* Wright reflects on the moral equipment randomly given to us by nature, and then bemoans our immoral use of it with words like "tragic," "pathetic," and "misuse." 2
When he's asked about the origin of life I have never seen anyone who supposedly is an expert on the subject more tongue-tied. He simply doesn't know what to say except that maybe life emerged on planet earth as a result of extraterrestrials, which, of course, must mean that life did come from some sort of intelligent design. Of course he doesn't recognize that he actually spoke in favor of intelligent design while disparaging it.

One notable example of this challenge to the transcendent nature of morality mentioned in his book is what he calls the new science of evolutionary psychology. Its adherents advance a simple premise: The mind, just like every part of the physical body, is a product of evolution. Everything about human personality marital relationships, parental love, friendships, dynamics among siblings, social climbing, even office politics can be explained by the forces of neo-Darwinian evolution. 2
Even the moral threads that make up the fabric of society are said to be the product of natural selection. Morality can be reduced to chemical relationships in the genes chosen by different evolutionary needs in the physical environment. Love and hate; feelings of guilt and remorse; gratitude and envy; even the virtues of kindness, faithfulness, and self-control can all be explained mechanistically through the cause and effect of chance genetic mutations and natural selection.
But are morals just freaks of nature.  Then what would explain the moral universals found in almost every part of the world. If these are simply chemical reactions, then taking a human life is just part of the natural, evolutionary process in the brain. How could the killer be held responsible. He is a victim of his brain chemistry. Logic tells us that, by necessity, a Creator or Moral Lawgiver was required to impart internal, intrinsic morals and that this is where they came from and the Source of them. Moral, values and character are not just a bunch accidental or random chemical reactions in the brain are they? I thought the theory held that it was all about survival of the fittest, not making decisions not based solely on self, but only the animal species benefiting from any given situation and even at the expense of others?
1. C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), The Business of Heaven, Fount Paperbacks, U.K., p. 97, 1984.
2. Robert Wright, The Moral Animal Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994), 23.

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Sand2008-09-20 09:44:56
Since many social animals other than humans relate to each other within their own moral systems it seems likely that morality is a necessity for group survival and is derived from basic social processes not related necessarily to the formality of a theological system.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 11:43:01
Good article Jack. Indeed, C.S. Lewis’s reflections give us pause and are in fact even more relevant today than they were fifty years ago given the misguided reductionism of today’s Western “enlightened” man, i.e., reducing man to a mere animal and elevating the animal to a moral being. Within that fallacy the thrust is not upward (standing erect means one looks up) but downward. It never occurs to those reductionists that the reason why lions don’t place other lions who misbehave in jail is that they are wholly unware of a moral system; they are merely and instinctively prone to the survival of the fittest; an arguments dear to all fascists and neo-fascists. Having reduced man to a mere animal, they are simply incapable of wondering why lions, who indeed do have a social life of sort according to their nature, don’t put other misbehaving lions in jail. The Greeks, who devised an ethic according to man’s nature and saw the natural law in the created universe, and Aristotle calls man an animal but with an important qualification: a rational animal.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 11:43:44
P.S. A follow-up: there is a man who has been in jail now for some forty years or so. He remains uncomprehending as to why he is in jail. His name is Charles Manson. He gets an interview almost every year. We are fascinated with him because he puts the mirror before the relativistic times in which we live and exposes our hypocrisy. He says that he is just an animal who behaves by instincts and the kind of family and the society in which he was born, not him, is to blame for anything wrong (for which he takes no responsibility) that he may have committed. We keep it there because we believe that there is a universal moral law which has been violated, but then we turn around and proclaim that moral principles are relative to the society in which we live. Cicero would exclaim: o tempora o mores.

Sand2008-09-20 11:53:58
Obviously Manson and Paparella are living proof that human beings can be totally uncomprehending of realities.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 12:01:05
Point proven by Mr. S. Thank you for the assistance.

Sand2008-09-20 15:28:52
What is most offensive about this article is the implication that anybody not religious is automatically mentally set to steal, rape and murder and this is a huge insult to a large portion of humanity and is highly offensive. Since it is well known that many religious people are quite capable of and practiced in criminal activity and frequently motivated by their religions to do horrible things evidently religion has not much effect in that area. This is not to imply that all religious people are automatically criminals but it has been demonstrated over and over again that a belief in God has little to do with the matter.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 15:53:22
One has to wonder why it never occurs to those misguidedly propagandizing atheism as "enlightenment" and gratuitously bashing religion as obscurantism that theoretical belief in God without commensurate practical ethical actions that bear witness to it is not only sterile but in effect a non-belief in God, despite the high rethoric. Indeed the ethical life stands on reason and nature as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have taught us from time immemorial in his Eutrhrypho and On the Soul. On the other hand Thomas Kuhn has taught modern man in search of soul that science too vaunted as the supreme culmination of reason and objectivity is built on a belief system of some sort (what he calls paradigms)and that without it it will not even begin. Indeed, when Nietzsche's madman went around shouting "God is dead" he paradoxically announced the madness of belief in God without commensurate ethical actions. Nietzsche went mad at the very moment of commiserating and embracing a fellow creature: a horse. The Stoics had it on target: there is a natural law and one violates it at the risk of one's humanity, to wit the Nazis with their law of survival of the fit and "will to power."

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 16:00:07
P.S. By the way, the point of the article, if I understand it, as written is not to show that those who reject religion are ipso facto unethical people or vice versa those who embrace are ipso facto ethical, but rather that there is such a thing as natural law to which the Stoics (who were no Christians) subscribed and that without a natural law the laws of men become the laws of the jungle at the service of the strong and the bully. Look at what is going on as we speak: socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, buttressed by financial laws. Hardly ethical and fair.

Sand2008-09-20 16:14:11
It is good to have Paparella admit that a belief in God is not relevant to morality. What he precisely means by "natural" law still remains a mystery. If it means that when animals form a social group they find that certain behaviors are helpful in that group's survival, I have no argument whatsoever. But I suspect that he feels that if wild deer, bison, ants, termites, bees, and other social creatures paid obeisance to Jesus the world would be a better place and, I fear, this gives me problems.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 16:27:02

Try reading the above article in Ovi on C.S. Lewis explanation of the natural law so that you will not appear as a cultural philistine ignorant of some two thousand years of philosophical history in the concept of natural law. This time, read it without ideological bias or animus.

There is also a follow up article on Marcus Aurelius which also examines the natural law.

Sand2008-09-20 17:18:12
I have read the article, Paparella, and find no logical necessity for a God to establish rules of social behavior. Social groups behave the way they do for preservation of their order so that they may survive and there is no supernatural element necessary. That requirement is superfluously tossed in out of an unrelated agenda.

AP2008-09-20 17:55:54
The distinction between particular morality systems and universal ethical principles is very useful. These last ones probably derive from the experience gained through social interactions throughout the centuries and the need to survive as a species. Principles of conduct are not specific of our species either.

Morality systems can sometimes contradict universal ethics. The problem is how to harmonize the two.
You imply that people who don't believe in God don't have values nor a sense of social responsibility, and that's obviously not true. They can have ethical values (or not). And people who believe in God can also have ethical values (or not). These last ones can also adopt a morality system related with a given religion or not. Finally, they can choose their own moral values independently or not. The ones they choose, how they choose them and if they choose the ones which contradict universal ethics... that's up to them.

So there is always in fact a choice, but we know that people who are not sensitive to basic human principles often show particular chemical, electrical, physiologic patterns in specific areas of their brains, and this (together with the fact that re-education programs hardly work for them) makes us think that they have certain constitucional defects, but those interact with other variables and with one's free choice. Of course, it's always possible that we haven't tried "the right" re-education, but not likely. The priority is to know how to turn them harmless.

AP2008-09-20 18:09:48
Yup, maybe some people need an extra motivation to try to fulfil social behavior rules. They not always succeed, of course.

Probably the harder it is for you to fulfil them, the more "extra motivation" you need. It can take the form of money, punishments or judgments or rules established by a superior omniscient being (not by fallible fellow humans), etc.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 18:29:14
Read what's there Ms. Pereira and not what you wish to read with ideological bias: that is to say, the fallacy of the Fundamentalists in taking the Bible literally as if it were a scientific book of some kind. What it says there, had you reflected on it, is that the Greeks (who were no Christians) have taught us well in the field of Ethics: a human being can live an ethical life under the light of reason according to his nature which includes the instincts of the animals but is qualitatively different from them because the human being is composed of body, mind and spirit (see Plato's Euthyphro still taught in our schools). The problem with modern Man is that he/she conceives of the soul as the sole of his feet and therefore the Biblical injunction "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" comes across to this materialistic mind-set as a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Pity. As previously mentioned, when Platonic and Aristotelian ethics are no longer taught in our schools and their books have been duly burned (as in fact it was attempted in May 1942 in Nazi Germany), and as has in fact been suggested in this very forum, then we will know that the recurring cycle of the "barbarism of the intellect" is bacl. Marx had it on target: those who ignore their history and heritage are bound to repeat all its mistakes.

AP2008-09-20 18:50:40
"Read what's there Ms. Pereira and not what you wish to read with ideological bias"
My God, this seems to fit you so well!

"What it says there, had you reflected on it"
I'm sorry, I forgot that you're the only one here that has a brain (or at least the only one here desperately trying to demonstrate that).

"when Platonic and Aristotelian ethics are no longer taught in our schools and their books have been duly burned"
No one ever suggested that. Maybe you would rather take advantage and pet them in order to preach Creationism?

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 18:54:49
P.S. The first question that an Aristotle or a Thomas Khun would ask the social Darwinist who go around mouthing platitudes as man being just another animal trying to survive as best as he can is this: why do they wish to survive? The gorilla does not the question he lives by natural instincts; man also has instincts but can ask that question and that makes all the difference. That was obvious to the Greeks; alas it is no longer obvious to an enlightenment that still needs to enlighten itself.

AP2008-09-20 18:57:34
Because that's what you have been doing all the time, Mr. P. Disrespecting Philosophy and several philosophers, taking advantage of them (sometimes you just distort works, other times you handle senseless ones without critic) to lend some pseudo-credibility to your false and flatulent rethoric.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 18:59:34
I see, we are back to argumenti ad hominem and sophistry; always an indication of inability to stick to the issue at hand and of intellectual desperation and destitution.

AP2008-09-20 19:13:41
Since it is a senseless question, it's very likely that gorillas don't spend much time thinking about it. Nor do men, except when they face somekind of existencial breakdown.
If you mean "the purpose for all this", well different people find different purposes (and they don't have to rely on God). If the purpose can only be imposed by a superior being, that's not a good sign.
Also some people are so egocentric that they see purposelessness in immediate global survival... but that's no one's fault.

AP2008-09-20 19:17:15
personal attack - victimization - personal attack - victimization - personal attack


victimization - personal attack - victimization - personal attack - victimization


this is your pattern of understanding and discussion

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 19:23:08
For those readers who may be following the Punch and Judy show but remain interested in the issue I would recommend two books: The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin and closer to us The Deep Structure of Biology (Templeton Press)a recent book wherein twelve modern eminent scientists and theologians offer insightful perspectives on evolution and biology. They focus on this question: is convergence sufficiently ubiquitous to give a directional signal? You will not be disappointed.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 19:27:31
PS Ms. P, aside from your vituperations which vies with those of Mr. S., it would indeed be funny if it weren't so sad to even suggest that a philosopher of the caliber of Heidegger woulld start his most influential book with a senseless question. So it goes in our brave new tupsy turvy world...Fellini woudl say: bring in the clowns...

AP2008-09-20 19:34:01
No one said that, it's probably something you just read... wrong (right?). A problem of glasses maybe.

Sand2008-09-20 19:34:02
It is noteworthy that Teilhard Chardin was expelled by the Catholic Church from teaching his concepts. He is not rated particularly highly in philosophic circles.

Sand2008-09-20 19:41:00
Although the soul as an unfounded concept is popular in theological circles that find it useful to dupe congregations and has persisted along with ideas of werewolves, elves, fairies, vampires in naive minds it has no foundation in reality that has ever been clearly demonstrated.

AP2008-09-20 20:00:34
All our fellow living human beings souls have a clear physical foundation, Mr. P., you can believe that, and they surely need it to express themselves, at least for as long as they're alive (independently of what you believe that happens after death, if little souls fly out of the body or not). Even if you don't, just think like this: ultimately we're always breathing many of our ancestors bodies and souls, as they decompose and much of it turns into gas. This morning I noticed that I was breathing Michael Angelo between a toast bite and a coffee sip. LOL

The diffeence between you and most Greek philosophers is that their intent of knowledge was truthful. A true, sometimes naïve wondering intention... the result was not predictable. For you knowledge has the purpose of controlling knowledge itself, it always gets back to the same places and good old conclusions.

AP2008-09-20 20:06:51
And when do you title one of your articles

"The Murder of Philosophy for the Greater Good"

Mr. P.?

AP2008-09-20 20:24:26
It was obvious by your analysis of the "US" exhibition that you can't understand the integration of the physical with the spiritual and the mental, Mr. P.

This concept of integration and balance, even if very earthly, is very strange to an intellectually twisted mind like yours, Mr. P.

AP2008-09-20 20:31:18
You could only analyze it at an individual level, you could not extrapolate to social interactions and relations between human beings. You could not jump from the egocentric "therefore I am" to the "therefore we are". And the tile of the exhibition was "US"...

AP2008-09-20 20:32:13

AP2008-09-20 20:51:37
Sentimentalisms and emotions find no echo on you, so that's no surprise that your theories become devoid of logic and your interpretations can't grasp the collective, the whole. Logic needs emotion so that it doesn't become a mere onanistic intellectual exercise, an artificial rational castle built over ruins.

AP2008-09-20 21:03:40
You know, sometimes people throw things out the window so that they can fly :D

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 21:10:14
Interesting rambling from two birds of a feather and an obvious attempt at vituperation and aspersion. What does this Punch and Judy show have to do with philosophy and the search for truth and knowledge, that of course is another matter and probably beyond most readers to even fathom.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 21:18:34
It woudl appear that the indignation and sheer anger and hatred here exhibited is indicative that the article went against the grain. A philosopher would examine that animus and ask himself why that is; a sophist on the other hand will promptly resort to slander and insults to win an argument, have the last word and cover up his intellectual inadequacy. It all began with the birth of philosophy itself. I suppose gratitude should be aknwledged for offering a current paradigm of sophistry to show to my philosophy students at Barry University.

Sand2008-09-20 21:29:01
We are, I assume, now expected to quail and shudder in horror at what a class of college kids might think of us after their minds have been brainwashed by Professor Paparella who, if his signals here are any indication, will punish severely anyone who questions his odd viewpoints by grading them accordingly.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 21:40:02
Are you sure you are not after all the fellow who hammered away at Michelangelo's Pietà? One insinuation deserves another. Or are we good only at dishing out? How convenient.

Sand2008-09-20 21:45:46
Strange, Paparella, an educated man like you cannot distinguish an insinuation from a bold conclusion as to how you must perform.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-20 21:51:31
Exactly so you must also be the slightly unbalanced guy with voices in his head who hammered aways at the Pietà and then changed his name and took refuge in Finland. Yes?

Jack2008-09-20 22:29:17
Sand; my specific purpose was not what you thought: "What is most offensive about this article is the implication that anybody not religious is automatically mentally set to steal, rape and murder and this is a huge insult to a large portion of humanity and is highly offensive.".

I believe Emanuel understond the intent saying: "By the way, the point of the article, if I understand it, as written is not to show that those who reject religion are ipso facto unethical people or vice versa those who embrace are ipso facto ethical, but rather that there is such a thing as natural law..."

It is not a chemical reaction or herd mentality, but natural conscientiousness towards one's own actions. This inward moralityis inherent, at birth.

My premeditated intent was not to bring judgment on others or condemnation for not believing this, but of the fact that morality is universal. This must have come from someone or thing who held particular moral values to begin with. Slime has not conscious.

Jack2008-09-20 22:55:07
Again, please believe me, there was/is no malice intended on the part of the writer to those who do not agree. My goal is not intended to win a debate or convince someone of something or say I'm right and they're wrong... This argument is placed before readers for their consideration. I do respect those who disagree with it's premsis, but this door (ovi) has always been so eclectic. That's what makes freedom of speech so precious guys. You get to hear all I write and are free from tyranny for not agreeing with it.

The slug has no concientiousness that keeps him up at night, the cow no guilt when she kicks the bucket over (even with the "Great Chicago Fire"), the cat never helps anyone but it's self (-indlugence).

But mankind: How noble, how virtuous, what moral capacity do some have. Morality, that by distinction, sets him above the rest in mental faculties and reasonings, far superior, in general benevolences, and if so influnced by a particular philosophy (Rom. 13), can aspire to reach even higher accomplishments; security, generosity, peace, citizenship, societal cornerstones if there ever were any. How is that bad?

Sand2008-09-20 23:57:41
Jack I respect your intent but reject that moral judgments come about by some sort of molecular or cellular arrangements unique to humans. Social behavior is the result of interpersonal reactions learned slowly through childhood and early impressions become extremely deeply set in a growing mind. Humans especially are subject to strong mind sets by people they trust such as their parents which is why someone raised under some strict morality in childhood has such strong difficulty in thinking logically about it when they mature. All social animals develop tribal or community strictions that become very firmly traditionally set as necessary for the survival of the community but I see no reason to ascribe those strictions to anything more than developed traditions.

Sand2008-09-21 00:08:45
Paparella, your repetitive insistence that I am responsible for damages to Michelangelo's Pieta which both of us are completely aware is a total lie is straight out of the manual of Karl Rove or the late Senator McCarthy and is very revealing of the way you think and your ploys at discussion. That you are so up front in this type of disreputable smear technique, of course, totally disqualifies you from posing in any way whatsoever as a person genuinely interested in seeking out philosophical truth.

Jack2008-09-21 01:27:37

I would not argue with your saying, to me anyway, that social environments and Nature and Nurture are certainly heavy influences. I think you are absoluetly correct.

But what of the intrinsic, systemic, inherent, a priori set of moral values and conciousnesses' that humans seem to have at birth? These and many other things are not learned behaviors. There seem to be pre-dispositions before a human disposition or personality even develops. Prior to birth.

Sand2008-09-21 06:48:36
I have no data on the predisposition of human or any other animals for proper social behavior before environmental influences are incurred. So my view on the matter is speculation. The two possibilities presented (assuming that this predisposition does exist, which is questionable)seem to be that either some alien intelligence has manipulated mental structure to predispose humanity to act well or a genetic structure has evolved for good social behavior. My instincts would go to the latter since I have seen no convincing evidence for the existence of the former. It seems to me to be entirely prejudiced to assume the existence of an alien intelligence because of the observed existence of a social pattern.

Sand2008-09-21 06:51:11
In addition I am most curious as to how one determines the social predisposition of a child before birth.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 08:21:32
Indeed to argue by insults and personal attacks disqualifies one for philosophy and qualifies one for the circus and the Punch and Judy show. You are right there. Where you are not right is in excluding yourself from the proffering of insinuations and slanders and what you call "bold conclusions" something of which you are a master and of which you seem to be proud and then still think that somewhow those are the tools of philosophical argument.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 08:35:22
Jack, as you surely know, C.S. Lewis in one of his books (I forget which) made a list of the innumerable natural law prescriptions as found in innumerable cultures and human societies, even those who had had no contact with each other, and pointed out that indeed the natural law as the Stoics understood it is universal, and societies that violate it do so at the risk of their dissolution and decadence and indeed their de-humanization; a de-humanization and "barbarism of the intellect" that took a most rational and technologically advanced society (Germany) in the 30s and 40s to the very brink of pre-history and beyond. So much for inevitable progress and Darwinian determinism. The Greeks had it righat; the horse goes before the cart and therefore the nature of man needs to be explored and determined before one can speculate how does a human being live and act in the world accirdubg to his nature. The Church fathers beginning with Augustine incorporated the Stoic view of natural law since it was and remains reasonable and nothing human and reasonable is foreign to it.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 08:38:53
Errata above: righat should be "right" and accirdubg ought to be "according"

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 08:53:18
By the way, Mr. S., before listening to the voices and casting gratuitous aspersions you ought to at least check your facts a bit more carefully and at least get those straight: Theilard De Chardin was never expelled from the Catholic Church albeit it is true that some of his writings (not all) were considered controversial and he was not allowed to publish them when he was alive. Moreover, he remains one of the greatest thinkers on the natural evolution of Man vis a vis Natural Law and God's Providence.

Sand2008-09-21 09:33:53
As usual, Mr.P, you have demonstrated an innate incapability to read the simplest statement. It's no wonder you mentally stumble through more sophisticated thoughts. I never wrote that Chardin was expelled from the Catholic Church, merely that the church expelled him from teaching his most peculiar and over imaginative doctrine. He made the simple but gross mistake of many people that evolution has a targeted goal, a concept refuted by many evolutionary biologists including Stephen Jay Gould.

Sand2008-09-21 10:33:00
Another important and prime error in your thinking, Mr. P. which is fundamental in distorting your viewpoint and most importantly the viewpoint of all theological thinking and a good deal of much philosophical thought is that humanity is the pinnacle of evolution and is immutable as a species for all time. The zaniest of the Biblical advocates denies humanity has any relationship to any of the other primates and that the universe is is a mere six thousand years old but I assume (hopefully) you are not a member of that insane crew.

Nevertheless, with full-blown hubris, you seem to indicate a conviction that humans are not animals and constitute a totally different life form like sponges and arthropoda. There is no doubt that extensive capabilities in language and symbolic thought are unique amongst animals much as the strange capabilities of metamorphosis in lepidoptera and the fantastic genetics of hymenoptera have donated to them great successes in existence. But humans as we now know them have had a very short existence and considering how grossly they have misused their intellectual capabilities their existence looks to be exceedingly ephemeral.

Out of this totally illogical paradigm has appeared, for a time, the theological misperceptions of a geocentric view of the universe and a still persistent delusion that some form of totally elusive alien intellect was busily pushing the levers and turning the control knobs of an otherwise chaotic continuum all for the benefit of a totally insignificant planet and its frequently odd behaving human inhabitants. Intelligence is declaimed supreme in this regard although, as Bertrand Russell noted, it has never been extolled in the Bible. And as current practice clearly demonstrates, it is an exceedingly sharp two edged sword rapidly enabling the demise of, not only humanity, but a good deal of all other life on the planet. I find this quite sad considering that I am a human being and my children and grandchildren rather enjoy the bounty of the planet and its positive potential. Human intellect seems to have generated an overwhelming mass of deluded fools unconscious of or too stupid to realize their embedment in natural processes and incapable of integrating themselves properly in the environment, an accomplishment of both insects and bacteria who are not impeded by an uncontrolled delusive intellect.

AP2008-09-21 15:25:06
That's totally right: to neglect the humbleness of recognizing humans as animals among animals (and part of nature) has lead to disastrous consequences both for other species and humankind.

Mr. P's view reminds me much of past geocentric perspectives.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 15:40:30
Logically speaking, were we to act on the advice of Mr. S. and his sycophantic voices we should all declare ourselves nothing more than an animal, never mind the adjective "rational" placed before it by Aristotle, and then act according to our animalistic nature, and voilà the world will be safe for our posterity. Wait a minute, didn't the Nazis try that already only sixty years ago under the aegis of the "super-race"?

Sand2008-09-21 16:24:11
Strange. I have never heard of any animals other than humans herding a subgroup of its species together and slaughtering them for demented reasons.

Sand2008-09-21 16:58:39
It is a very snug psychological fit that egocentric humans who are horrified at the brutality that humans incessantly inflict upon each other and have done so throughout all history into the present declassify these activities away from humanity into what they term the lower animals. These activities are obviously an integral and characteristic part of humanity however repellent they might be and Paparella's ancient Greeks perpetrated them with the same enthusiasm as the military forces do today.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 18:55:47
That they did and no they were not my Greeks, they were there before I came around, however they were not so hypocritical as to declare themselves the light of the world and then in the same breath declare that since those negative traits were part of human nature that got the humans with those negative traits (what they called vices) off the hook. In other words, they were intelligent enough to make the distinction between the world as it is and the world as it should be according to what human nature is. That is what Ethics is all about. "Enlightened" man so called having reduced and degraded human nature to what it was before reason and imagination and rationality and having made it deterministic is currently incapable of devising a reasonble ethical system as the Greeks (especially the Stoics) had.

Sand2008-09-21 19:08:15
As much as I admire what I think human nature should be, after millenniums of humans slaughtering each other in increasing numbers as time progresses it would seem any sensible evaluation as to what human nature is includes an awful lot of senseless butchery of humans by humans in a manner no other animal could faintly approach. The fire bombings, the carpet bombings, the atomic bombings are surely human in all aspects and not attributable to any other animal. Credit should be taken where credit is due. And to flimflam yourself into seeking higher motives for this horrifying and recurring altogether human action is to be, as seems normal with you, totally deluded.

AP2008-09-21 20:18:37
Mr. P.:
"we should all declare ourselves nothing more than an animal, never mind the adjective "rational" placed before it by Aristotle, and then act according to our animalistic nature"
You are an animal and your actions are part of nature, either you like it or not.
We don't need to declare ourselves as anything, simply because we are what we are. That's precisely the problem, you see, self-proclamations of "superior intelligence" and "rational genious", our mind saving us from the beasts. First of all, because beasts are more civilized than humans at times, second because a mind is not enough.
And our fellow "rational" humans have committed the most horrendous crimes, so it might nor be a tremendous compliment to merely classify them as "rational". Humans to be decent need emotions and the ability to identify themselves with the others, and ethic sense (not necessarily a God) - that clearly requires much more than a mind.

Sand2008-09-21 20:31:43
I think we have a problem with words here, AP. I agree that pure reason is insufficient when weighing humanity, but my emotions are just as securely ensconced in my brain as my reasoning ability and both are, I believe, essential parts of my mind. Of course, my body is highly involved in my emotions as all those various hormones that promote emotions are in my body. Essentially the body and the mind are intimately connected

AP2008-09-21 20:45:52
You see no serial killers nor genocides of their own fellows, in other species. Nevertheless the human individuals who perpetrate such crimes demonstrate great rational abilities... and great intelligence even, in the traditional sense (which was defective) of mere abstract thinking and planification skills. Is that really how you want to define us, humankind? The fact that we talk about "decent humans" relates, of course, with an ethic sense already.

"since those negative traits were part of human nature that got the humans with those negative traits (what they called vices) off the hook."
No one is taking anyone off the hook. The fact that you can admit that humanity includes both kind and cruel, amazing and disgusting specimens is healthier than trying to deny it at all cost, and does NOT imply that you excuse criminals or feel deep sympathy for them, on the contrary. The fact that Mr. Sand says that "there are decent" and "not decent" human being implies already a sense of decency, which might not be the same for everybody, but a large slice of the humanity (at least the slice in contact with its feelings and social nature) agrees with some basic stances on this subject (independently of their particular morality systems related with culture, geographical region, religion, ect., and independently of what those subscribe).

AP2008-09-21 21:07:27
"I agree that pure reason is insufficient when weighing humanity, but my emotions are just as securely ensconced in my brain as my reasoning ability and both are, I believe, essential parts of my mind. Of course, my body is highly involved in my emotions (...) Essentially the body and the mind are intimately connected"
Of course they are both essential parts of our mind. That's why a "rational" human being is not a good definition - it doesn't even describe most of the structures of our physical brain. And our physical brain can work in an unbalanced way too. The mere "rational being" definition is unbalanced and describes only humans who are generally not very healthy. Aristotle coined it a long time ago, when many findings had not happened, and he meant it in a broad sense. Mr. P. takes it literally (and lives in our times, right?).
Sure: body and mind are intimately connected, and the mind is deeply dependent of the body, it cannot fully develop without it, it desperately needs it. Of course for some ideologists, everything is fragmented in pieces - physical (and consequently psychological) little pleasures are "sins", the mind should not only be pure and altive as subjugate itself horrendously to physical laws at times. That's the great contradiction.

AP2008-09-21 21:17:33
Both your concepts of "rational" human being and "enlightened" human being are obsolete AND totally distorted, Mr. P. Human beings are not mere "rationals", and that's common sense. And the "enlightenment" was not really an "enlightenment" if we think that your Greeks could already calculate the perimeter of the Earth with a couple of stones on the floor. But that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be a constant dialogue between Philosophy and Science, on the contrary.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 21:19:10
You put your finger on it: by imputing decency to Mr. Sand you probably impute it to yourself too; but by all accounts animals are not capable of understanding what is decent or indecent behavior; they act by natural insticts which are determined and leave no room for freedom and by which they survives as best as they can.

I have a modest proposal; enter a cage of tigers, your fellow animals, and propose to them to act decently and not to attack you. If they refuse to be persuaded and they attack you, which they most assuredly will according to their nature and determined instincts, will you sue them and bring them before a magistrate so that they can be punished and put in jail for having violated the social laws of decency among animals, you of course being one of them? You will say no, an animal is not morally responsible for its actions. So why do we hold the animal Man responsible for being decent; and how do we arrive at the concept of decency which seems to be universal and part of human nature, as C.S. Lewis has pointed out to us? I am curious about this matter.

AP2008-09-21 21:29:04
That constant dialogue was possibly the secret of your Greeks in their time.

You act in an opposite way, discarding even basic scientific facts, such as the observation that groups of animals can develop rules of conduct. I'm sure Aristotle didn't deny that - he might even have been more aware of it than you seem to be.

Sand2008-09-21 21:47:53
I have had close associations with very large dogs with very sharp teeth and never had the experience that they wanted to eat me or attack. Animals, like people, learn to behave in a specific way and you can call that morality or conditioning or whatever. All animals don't attack instinctively. In general wild wolves avoid people. I have had experience with wild untamed rats and we got along fine. Also with seagulls, hedgehogs, a muskrat, strange cats and dogs, crows, etc. None of them attack and all are amenable to friendly approaches. Evidently, Paparella, you are totally ignorant as to how animals react. Just walk through certain slums late at night in the USA and see how people react.

Jack2008-09-21 21:55:34
Sand: This is a good question you had: "how one determines the social predisposition of a child before birth.". It is almost impossible to know, but to see the "rooting" instinct when a baby tries to nurse, having never nursed before in it's life...the desire to look at human faces, the rounder the better (again even present at birth)...these are just two such examples of an already present sense and born with predisposition that no social experiences could have taught the newborn intime for it to accomplish.

AP2008-09-21 21:57:38
"animals are not capable of understanding what is decent or indecent behavior"
If you understand "decency" in the limited spectrum of your particular morality system, then no: animals, even if they could understand what you mean, they don't consider it indecent to run naked on the street, to curse, to be a homosexual or a transvestite. Still some of them consider indecent to kill a brother, to abandon their offspring or to steal food from their friend.

"propose to them to act decently and not to attack you"
You see, my friend, we're talking about genocide and slaughtering inside the same group and the same species.

"You will say no, an animal is not morally responsible for its actions."
No, but the human who enters the cage is.
Many animals actually assume some responsibility for their actions (inside their group, not when a matter of survival is involved - the animal is not imputable not so much because it doesn't have conduct rules, but because he has no other alternatives). Still sometimes it is punished nonetheless (quarantine, abate, etc.).

"for having violated the social laws of decency among animals, you of course being one of them"
Should I feel flattered that after calling me a pig you now decided to call me a tiger?

"and how do we arrive at the concept of decency which seems to be universal and part of human nature, as C.S. Lewis has pointed out to us? I am curious about this matter."
Of course you are :D That's obvious (that you are).
Hummm... such a tough question to me, Mr. P....

Sand2008-09-21 22:04:29
Those reactions you mentioned in a newborn are unlikely to be on the nature of morality. They are instinctive implants initiated by reflexes to ensure the baby survives.

AP2008-09-21 22:15:57
"Animals, like people, learn to behave in a specific way and you can call that morality or conditioning or whatever"
That's true too... it depends of the animal, of the way he is conditioned or not, of previous interactions, of several other factors... and if you are a preferred meal. It's not obvious that the animal will attack.

"how one determines the social predisposition of a child before birth"
I believe Sand meant "the social predisposition to act in a morally correct way".

AP2008-09-21 22:35:57
"how do we arrive at the concept of decency which seems to be universal and part of human nature"
Decency is common sense for "ethical behavior" here.
Hummm... there are several preconditions:
1. you have to think with your own head and possess a critical sense
2. you cannot try constantly to be (or actually be) artificially detached from your own emotional and physical nature
3. you cannot be detached from nature in general, and other animals
4. you must have had at least some rewarding social interactions
5. it depends of your education and environment, that's why even if most humans are aware of ethical principles, they are not universally applied.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-21 23:22:51
Jack, I wonder what you have to say about this very revealing diatribe against religion which your article initiated, a diatribe which wants to pass as “enlightened” philosophical discourse and superior rational stance vis a vis religion while at the same time reducing Man to nothing but another determined animal and then taking offense at being put together with pigs and tigers and wolves, given that “we are all animals and nothing more.” It is quite bizarre but actually nothing new and it is more glaringly apparent in academia where much to the chagrin of skeptical philosophers from David Hume to Bertrand Russell, religion has withstood the onslaught of the Enlightenment project and in fact it is thriving. Indeed, one of the benefits of Western culture’s “postmodern condition” is that it has produced a revival of religion in the academic community. Modern thought, the brainchild of the Enlightenment, failed in its promise to emancipate humanity from the fetters of metaphysics. Given the scientific “rationalization” of war, genocide, the exploitative aspects of globalization in the twentieth century, and the collision of faiths in a post-9/11world, it’s understandable that many scholars express incredulity toward Reason’s grand narrative. As Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer correctly put it in Dialectics of Enlightenment, “Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized.” “Enlightenment” became the very thing it tried to destroy: a religion. And in the course of this (not so) surprising
discovery, what intellectuals once silenced as self-alienation and wish fulfillment is now clamoring for attention. I’d be interested in your take in the field of academia with which I believe you have contacts, or am I wrong?

Sand2008-09-21 23:51:37
I wonder what it is about Enlightenment that raises Paparella's hackles so. The word means to inform and to educate and it seems Paparella is repelled by knowledge and understanding. He seems revolted by technological advance per se and that in one charged with teaching students sounds to me almost criminal.

AP2008-09-22 00:01:11
"taking offense at being put together with pigs and tigers and wolves"
I didn't take offense, I just noticed that it looked like you didn't understand that we were primarily talking about violence and brutality inside the same species.

"a revival of religion in the academic community"
We got that by now. Tell me, do you defend that Creationism should be taught instead of scientific theories which are "product of the enlightenment"?

"Given the scientific “rationalization” of war, genocide, the exploitative aspects of globalization in the twentieth century"
By whom?

"it’s understandable that many scholars express incredulity toward Reason’s grand narrative"
Well, it has some limits...

"what intellectuals once silenced as self-alienation and wish fulfillment is now clamoring for attention."
We all CAN see that.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 00:10:58
Is that what the voices told you Mr. S.? Don't believe them. They don't have your interest at heart. Next time they visit you may wish to ask what is it about religion that raises you hackless so and makes you call Michelangelo stupid which may in turn make some suspect that you may indeed be the criminal who hammered at the Pietà. Another "bold conclusion" which will now lead to a brave victim's stance, I am willing to wager.

AP2008-09-22 00:12:22
I bet Mr. P. is against Edison's light bulb too, as it brought darkness... :D

AP2008-09-22 00:20:40
He didn't hammer the Pietà, but he might have breathed some of Michelangelo's atoms this morning, between a toast bite and a coffee sip. :D What kind of punishment does he deserve for that, according to your morality system?

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 00:27:02
By the way, I know that you don't know Latin or any other foreign language Mr. S. but the etymology of "religion" is derived from the Latin "religare" which means to bind together or bring together. Have the voices told you that such an enterprise of coming together and binding the wounds is criminal in intent? Don't believe them. They are liars.

AP2008-09-22 00:40:40
What wounds? And what/who comes together for you, Mr. P.?

I bet that in the middle of your rethorical buildings you might feel a deep need to reconnect ("religare") yourself with other human beings, but please... there are wiser ways of doing it.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 03:27:09
Of course, of course Ms. Pereira, that is indeed the Enlightenment Program: the liquidation of religion for "wiser" ways to create community, as I mentioned above. The paradox is that the Enlightenment has become itself a religion and a cult of sort.

AP2008-09-22 04:26:55
You didn't understand what I wrote? I think you didn't... it was very personal.

And no one here wants the liquidation of religion.

Sand2008-09-22 06:38:32
In general, whenever Paparella is presented with an argument he cannot deal with he sinks down to insult or presents some ancient misconception as irrefutable because it was spoken by an ignorant but well known authority. This is especially entertaining when he attempts to deny something so obvious that the poor man becomes an intellectual kaleidoscope flashing strange opinions worthy of the most pitiable inhabitant of an insane asylum. His current insistent claim that he is not an animal leaves, of course, the only other classical alternatives of mineral or vegetable. If nothing else, since he seems to have produced progeny, we must accept that he is alive so he must be a vegetable. Although I enjoy eating vegetables, I have never before thought it worthwhile to argue with one. There are some orchids that are clever enough to deceive insects to mate with them to enable them to get fertilized. But it seems Paparella is a vegetable that has designed itself to simulate an intellectual challenge but, as is obvious, he has a long way to go be able to produce viable retorts to intelligent questions and when hard pressed retreats to emitting intellectual stinks. He is thereby revealed as a variation of either skunk cabbage or rafflesia arnoldi, the world’s largest flower that mimics a hunk of rotten meat to attract flies. It is good to finally discover more or less what we are dealing with.

Sand2008-09-22 07:26:05
Well, AP, as much as I enjoy having someone else posting comment opposing the tsunami of idiocy generated by Paparella, I must admit rather strong feelings against religion. Any religion. The possibility of my having any discernable effect on the practice of religion in the world is, of course, nil. It seems to me that the huge expenditure of time and finances involved in religion by humans could be better spent in something more educational and profitable and less irrational like, for example, ping-pong or knitting but that hope, given the demonstrated intellectual capability in, for instance, the current USA presidential election, seems very dim indeed. Ms. Palin who expects to be carried across the threshold of Heaven in her lifetime by Jesus Christ himself indicates the level of US public mental capability and the latest financial crisis completely reveals that the country is totally over run by scoundrels and thugs in the highest places in both political parties and executive positions in finance and industry that is rapidly turning the country into a nation of peons fit only to serve and consume the outrageously unhealthy output of McDonalds. Naturally, in such a climate, religion is doing fabulously well. But I cannot put my seal of approval on that.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 09:12:35
"His current insistent claim that he is not an animal leaves, of course, the only other classical alternatives of mineral or vegetable..."

Is that what the voices suggested? Don't listen to them; read what I wrote without the biased lenses of "enlightenment" ideology and you may be surprised to find out that indeed I agree with Aristotle that man is an animal but with one important qualification: a rational animal.

If those voices were not liars they would have pointed out to you that it is those who reduce the human being to "any other animal" that are the ones who eventually have to impute rationality to vegetables and even minerals (e.g., a fetus is nothing but a tomato growing in the mother's womb and it is not a human being till it comes out of the womb...). Vico, very appropriatedly calls such a hard-wired stance "the barbarism of the intellect" which burns books metaphorically and is much more disastrous than mere physical barbarism because it is blind and deaf to the natural law which any rational animal called Man can discover if he respected his/her own nature.

Sand2008-09-22 09:37:38
Nevertheless, rational or otherwise (and the state of the world seems very indicative of otherwise these days) an animal is still an animal. An animal can be qualified as a mammal or an arthropod or rational or non-rational. It still remains an animal.

The incessant statements you make against the Enlightenment (that includes all the major scientists such as Newton and Galileo) and rationality seems a curious inclination since you seem determined to declare yourself rational. Your statements in general, of course bear clear witness that you are one of the most irrational people around so there seems to be a definite conflict of data.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 09:39:18
"I must admit rather strong feelings against religion" (Mr. S.)

18.09.2008 @ 09:31 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - "Europeans remain strongly religious but like to keep faith out of politics while cultivating an open mind to various forms of spirituality, according to a new survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Seventy four percent of people in Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Austria, Poland and Switzerland said they were "religious." Italy (89%) and Poland (87%) topped the German NGO's "Religion Monitor" chart, with France at the lower end on 54 percent."

COMMENT:Since birds of a feather flock together, perhaps Mr. S. ought to consider changing his name to a French one and moving to France.

Sand2008-09-22 09:52:41
Although a large percentage of Finns are more or less automatically registered into the Lutheran Church actual participation is rather small.

Active members of the state Lutheran Church attend services regularly, participate in small church group activities, and vote in parish elections. However, the majority of church members are only nominal members of the state church and do not participate actively. Their participation occurs mainly during occasions such as holidays, weddings, and funerals. The Lutheran Church estimates that approximately 2 percent of its members attend church services weekly, and 10 percent monthly. The average number of visits to church by church members per year is approximately two.

I am very comfortable where I am in a Finnish atmosphere of intelligence and rationality. Your concern is touching.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 10:27:19
Quite right, quite right! France is only n.8 on the list of the 10 most irreligious countries in the world preceeded by Finland as number 7. On the other hand there are 6 other countries that preceed Finland where you may feel more comfortable with your bias against religion. They are: Sweden (wtih 85% non believer, atheist or agnostic), Vietnman, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Czech Republic. Vietnam and Japan may be too far and not to your ethnic preferences but the others are in your back-yard as it would be expected since Europe as a continent is the most irreligious continent. Ah there is also Estonia in your back yard which is number 10. Number 9 is South Korea.

Emanuel Paparella2008-09-22 10:56:54
The greatest fallacy of all rationalists is the belief that reason consists of nothing but logic and rationalism. They are proud of their rationality devoid of the imaginative, the poetical and the intuitive. In so doing they become "barbarians of the intellect" or in more prosaic language, cultural philistines ready to burn any book and idea that is not in agreement with their reductionism and materialistic determinism.

Sand2008-09-22 13:07:18
What precisely Paparella means by rationalism has remained something he is loathe to divulge in all thetime I have requested clarification. Of course he has offered me directions to a library or two but it seems the concept is too difficult to present simply and I require a university regimen to follow his elusive mental faculties. It seems not to mean logical reasoning since that discipline became vigorously used during the Enlightenment which dispelled much of the idiotic nonsense of religion and that time is definitely anathema to Paparella. And he feels supremely confident to speak for all people who employ logic and reason in their lives in saying they have absolutely no comprehension of poetry. I wonder how he obtains this rather esoteric information without direct consultation with some kind of telepathic source. Are those voices in heads that he keeps insisting bug me actually buzzing around in the huge empty spaces within his own over rated cranium? Perhaps.

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