Essay talk:If there is indeed no objective morality...

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I do not feel sufficiently provoked. Why not link to the original author as inspiration but re-write it in your own words while identifying the most important points and inviting people to debate those points with you here? I know it's a bit more work but you might get more response.--BobSpring is sprung! 20:25, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't get any response either way. Liberal fundamentalists won't let themselves know about anything that may shatter their convenient worldview. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 20:38, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps you're being a bit defeatist there. You seem to be saying that you won't present your own views (or words) because you know that nobody will respond. I'm not going to doubt your word but I'm sure that you will understand that you leave yourself open to the suggestion of simply not being bothered to present the argument in your own words as it's easier to cut and past an extract from the work of somebody else.
But, hey, if you "know" nobody will respond then I can understand why you wouldn't bother.--BobSpring is sprung! 22:17, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Everything one needs to know is in C. S. Lewis's essay. I could "reproduce" it but it would just make it worse. I actually want you to read his essay and not anything I can come up with. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 18:49, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
I've just read "Men without Chests." I intend to read the other three essays as well, so I can better understand this. Blue (pester) 04:58, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 11:04, 21 December 2010 (UTC)


Please explain.Several ingredients (talk) 21:37, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

That is just what I was talking about. You fail to address the real issue already with your first talk-page comments. Fuck you. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 21:45, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
You should be banned from your mommy and daddy's modem. -- (talk) 22:41, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Such a wonderful display of eloquence and courtesy!Several ingredients (talk) 09:29, 19 December 2010 (UTC)


What about those of us who are just here for the lulz? Blue (pester) 04:36, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

WHat, what, in the butt... --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:23, 19 December 2010 (UTC)


I understand what you are saying but I don't understand the point of it. After all, just because the world -is- like this, it still wouldn't mean that we -ought- to respect traditionalist values. Sen (talk) 20:51, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

That's the core of being liberal, you don't wish to conserve the present simply because of tradition. You want to try new things, and wish to move socially towards personal liberty. Conservatives take the opposite approach.Several ingredients (talk) 22:18, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
I said read the actual essay, chickens. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 18:47, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
You claim to be cutting away the parasitic growth of emotion, religious sanction, and inherited taboos, in order that 'real' or 'basic' values may emerge. I'd like you to back that up, you don't seem to be very familiar with our aims. They're plastered on the front page. In case you missed them, or are just plain ignorant of them, I'll replicate them here:
  1. Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement.
  2. Documenting the full range of crank ideas.
  3. Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism.
  4. Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media.
Our aims, basically, are to document and comment on stupidity. We've clearly outlined what we mean by stupidity- as fundamentalism, authoritarianism, crankiness and pseudoscience/anti-science.Several ingredients (talk) 03:04, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
The essay is cringe worthy, if only because the author seems obsessed regarding "nature" and "Man" and who conquers who, when in reality there is no such dichotomy. Men are part of nature and everything they do is automatically natural. A nuclear reactor is no more or less natural than a wild flower.
Then he goes on about how putting machines on the hand of men weakens them. Again irrelevant since it seems to consider the "natural" power of men as qualitatively different than the (also natural) power of machine having men.
Then he continues, about how a miniority is going to have all the power. This is the quaint old idea fo a few technocrats / evil scientists controlling "the sheep" (despite all actual evil dictatorships so far having been religious or nationalist). The problem with that position is that it seems to be based on the assumption that things are going to be too complicated for average men to understand, yet at the same time it assumes that things aren't going to be too complicated for some men to understand. The problem with that is that things are already too complicated for single men to understand, and a new factor, inter-dependancy, results in dilluting their power all over the globe. Out technology has become too complicated for single or few men to hold it all in their heads that now everyone can only afford to specialize in a small bit of it.
No one knows how to built a computer from scratch any more. Aka, how to recognise the minerals in nature, how to mine the minerals (aka the supports needed for the mine etc), how to cleanse them, how to forge them, how to design microchips, how to design GPUs, all the maths regarding boolean logic and such, all the lithography process, all the construction process for the factory where the lithography process is going to be based, all the liquid crystal display manufacturing process etc. And in not doing so, they don't actually have power.
Furthemore, the idea is, as I said, quaint. Or conservative. A worldview which is no more imaginative than "the world in the future is going to be exactly as the world now + more technology". I concider that opinion BS. Other people might be cynical nowdays but I still believe in sexy sci-fi awesome epic science. Like connecting your brain to a computer and instantly downloading knowledge into it, or connecting houses to matter-streams and 3D printing products for the cost of the raw materials with schematics downloaded from YouPrint. Any such technologies would completely change the world (paradigm shift) and extrapolating that future from the current values is meaningless.
A man then, might now be able to hold in his money all of human knowledge. A transhuman might. C.S.Lewis lived in an age where technology was just big fat guns & gears, but now we are tackling synthetic biology, bioinformatics, computational genomics and of cource "computations", themselves which is the level the human body and life works. Today knowledge might seems as something only gained "very difficulty" (years of study), the same way in older times "listening to music" was something you needed an entire orchestra for. For an enhanced species, thinks like awareness, viewpoints and knowledge might as well be exchanged as easily dead signers voices are exchanged today.
The point "humans are getting enslaved on other humans because things are getting too complicated for them", is moot because it assumes "human" bodies and a future civilization which conciders the same things complicated. Through science and technology and the complete re-design of the human brain, conciousness and body, a man could hold the entire knowledge of science in his head. And all of philosophy. And all of law, for every single legal systems past or present in every single country. And all of literature. And be virtuoso in every single instrument. Why? Because he would be that awesome and any attempts to argue against it is like a Roman arguing against the idea that a suitcase could level of Rome in 1 second, or that the best protected roman (Emperor) and all of his awesomest elite guard could easily be killed by fat, soda drinking soldiers, from under the sea, near sicily. (also known as a submarine firing a missile).
Not only would such an individual be rather free then, in terms of being depentant on others for not knowing things, but in fact would be rather free-er than, say, C.S.Lewis (did he know how to make shoes? did he know how to heal a horse's broken leg?) as well as even the most primitive "noble savage" (because even living in "nature" savages, can't possibly hold the knowledge of all plants, herbs and berries etc. And so is slave to his own ignorance, under penalty of pain and death). Furthermore, such an individual could even have knowledge of how his body works, and willingly and conciously change it.
C.S.Lewis whines about "men" being enslaved to oligarchies, but all men are slaves to the "oligarchy" of their own DNAs and genes. If you get defomed in a fire you are going to stay like this forever because the body knows jack shit regarding how to handle some things other than form scar tissue. If you lose a limp, you lose it 'till death. If your genes code for you not to have a spine, you end up without spine. You are slave from the moment you are born to automatic, mindless, uncoupled from your will processes. Yet science has been freeing us. Science has freed us from a lot of deadly illnesses to the point that many people think that the only illnesses around is the common cold and AIDS. Science has freed us from broken bones setting incorrectly, or never, that in a jungle setting would cause you to die on the spot. Science has freed us from myopia (lenses grasshopper. Not all augmentations have to be connected to the body). A superbly advanced civlization is obviously / can have completely control over his conciousness AND the vessel of his conciousness. How can someone ever define a "man" who can't even conciously stop pain when he hits his finger, or who can't stop salivating when he is hungry as "free"? I say humanity doesn't even know what true freedom is yet.
And then he starts to talk about the Tao, which is basically morality really, which brings me back to my original point aka "so what?". Anyone who whines that someone cannot derive an "ought" from an "is", instantly loses the right to make an ought proclamation by describing that is. Any attempt to label anything science wise bad or wrong because they use subjective Taos, is self-nullifying since it, itself is a subjective Tao based opinion.
And finally, there's some total BS regarding about "explaining without explaining away" and "conquering while conquered", which sounds nice and sophisticated but they are really just the kind of stuff you write when you want to sound deep and sophisticated. Overall, the essay would have been much shorter if at about 50% he just wrote "I have a bad feeling about this". To which of course I reply "I don't".
The entire thing ends with the statement: "If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To `see through' all things is the same as not to see". I (surprise) take issue with that. Not to see implies that you can't detect the objective world and so you are not aware of it. Transparency implies that the subject is aware of the objective existence of something, plus, he has the ability to see through it. A person able to see through all, is simply aware of the entire world and has an infinite field of vision. Unlike a blind person, he would be in no danger, since he would be able to see through ignorance and danger and illness as well. Sen (talk) 20:35, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
In before TL;DR Sen (talk) 20:36, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

What a pile of bullshit. About 75 % of your bullshit isn't even relevant. Even your last quote is a quote-mine, a misrepresentation. Did you actually read it or just skimmed trough, "I must produce a progressive-ethical refutation" hammering in your head all the time, thus preventing some real thinking from taking place? How surprising.... --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:00, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

I can tell you read his criticism thoughtfully because of the way you carefully refute his points. Are there any other essays you want to demand people read so you can ignore their attempt to discuss it?--ADtalkModerator 10:12, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
This is not my job doing the refutation. I just wanted you to read that essay. I'm not going to argue about that - and I'm definitely not going to waste my time on pseudo-discussions, such like the Pile of Bullshit by mr. Sen. Oh, I know what you are going say, "You just can't intelligently answers Sen's perfect reasoning", and I guess you have the right to say such thing - since I really didn't answer anything, but on the other hand, you can say that even also when I refuse to "argue" with first graders. Btw, how old is mr. Sen? --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:22, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
You're right. I was just about to type You just can't intelligently answers Sen's perfect reasoning, but you cut me off before I could venture down that magical voyage into Questionable-Grammartown.
I suppose you're right that you aren't to blame for refusing to address criticisms - after all, you're certainly no C.S. Lewis. But it seems pretty obvious to me that Sen is not a first grader, and his criticisms may not be perfect reasoning, but they are seemingly thoughtful and pertinent.
You did encourage people to read the essay, but it makes you seem annoying and dilettantish if you aren't willing to thereafter defend it. We wonder if you read it or if you just pulled some quotes. And we wonder why you didn't just link it in the Saloon Bar instead of whoring this up for attention.
So anyway, congratulations.--ADtalkModerator 10:29, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to `see through' first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To `see through' all things is the same as not to see.

--Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:15, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

...yes, that sure is the end of Lewis' essay and part of what Sen was critiquing, above. Having correctly identified the topic of discussion, the customary next step would be to engage in discussing it.
Don't worry, buddy, we'll get you through this. Take it one step at a time.--ADtalkModerator 10:20, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
Blah-blah, darling --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:24, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Don't you know, by the way, that words "correct" and "thoughtful" exist only in your own head? And more than that you seem to be assuming that these things are something good. Contradiction, I say, contradiction. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:29, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Considering how I successfully communicated my meaning to you enough so that you feel capable of sloshing back some cries of Subjective, sir, I say subjective!, I think the utility of the descriptors "correct" and "thoughtful" is self-evident.
You're aware that it doesn't make you smarter to say things in a deliberately roundabout way, right? It actually makes it seem like you have trouble expressing relatively simple ideas in a clear manner.--ADtalkModerator 10:32, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

I command rationalizing "self-evidency". Otherwise we really can't see trough everything, can we? --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:37, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

When I speak of your trouble expressing yourself, it doesn't help your case to, um, "command rationalizing 'self-evidency.'"
Are you asking me to explain how something can be self-evident?--ADtalkModerator 10:42, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
No, honey. I ask you to dump the idea that something in the universe could be self-evident. That is nout enough rational, progressive and ethical. Now go fuck yourself. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:45, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
So... it's unethical to think something is self-evident, as well as regressive and irrational? Wow, that's pretty serious stuff. I'd say discussing a communicated idea (like the quality of being thoughtful) is evidence that the idea has a place in discussion, which would make that discussion evidence for the utility of that idea - in other words, "self-evident." But is it as bad as murder to make such an argument? How many times would I have to say "self-evident" before I was liable for felony charges?--ADtalkModerator 10:52, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
Wow, honey... you really got what I meant. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 11:02, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
You too are wrong and dumb in a vague and unspecified way.
Oh, wait, no: I can actually articulate things: you are wrong and dumb because you pretend to aloof intelligence but have the communicative skills of a particularly laconic avocado.--ADtalkModerator 11:05, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
I read the essay, but apparently you want people to read it in some special way. Sen (talk) 11:31, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

The Prisoners Dilemma[edit]

It is quite easy to base a morality on the iterated prisoners dilemma where, computer tests have shown, generous tit-for-tat is the optimum survival strategy. When applying this games theory to real life it comes down to do unto others as they do unto you but give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe not a cause worth dying for but a viable model for life because, at the end of the day, the survival of my genes is what it's all about for me. Jack Hughes (talk) 11:34, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

The REAL essay includes many paragraphs about instinct as a "moral source", if that is somehow related to what you said.
You all make the mistake of rationalizing morality. Morality, in most cases (such like "you should not kill"), is actually a premise, not a conclusion. To understand it better, please read the real essay. It's quite a long... but it's worth reading. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 15:25, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
But why are such rules as "killing is wrong" such common premises? My answer is because morality is evolved and rules which assist genetic survival tend to dominate. Games theory shows that generous tit-for-tat is a winning strategy so those who play it will tend to survive. We then take such evolved rules and pin them on made up deities to give our instincts reasons. As for the essay - as you're so fond of saying - tl:dr. Maybe some other time. Jack Hughes (talk) 15:39, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
You are making the mistake of calling rationalizing morality a mistake :P Sen (talk) 20:42, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
The Innovator will not take the first alternative, for practical principles known to all men by Reason are simply the Tao which he has set out to supersede. He is more likely to give up the quest for a 'rational' core and to hunt for some other ground even more 'basic' and 'realistic'.

This he will probably feel that he has found in Instinct. The preservation of society, and of the species itself, are ends that do not hang on the precarious thread of Reason: they are given by Instinct. That is why there is no need to argue against the man who does not acknowledge them. We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species. That is why men ought to work for posterity. We have no instinctive urge to keep promises or to respect individual life: that is why scruples of justice and humanity—in fact the Tao—can be properly swept away when they conflict with our real end, the preservation of the species. That, again, is why the modern situation permits and demands a new sexual morality: the old taboos served some real purpose in helping to preserve the species, but contraceptives have modified this and we can now abandon many of the taboos. For of course sexual desire, being instinctive, is to be gratified whenever it does not conflict with the preservation of the species. It looks, in fact, as if an ethics based on instinct will give the Innovator all he wants and nothing that he does not want.

In reality we have not advanced one step. I will not insist on the point that Instinct is a name for we know not what (to say that migratory birds find their way by instinct is only to say that we do not know how migratory birds find their way), for I think it is here being used in a fairly definite sense, to mean an unreflective or spontaneous impulse widely felt by the members of a given species. In what way does Instinct, thus conceived, help us to find 'real' values? Is it maintained that we must obey Instinct, that we cannot do otherwise? But if so, why are Green Books and the like written? Why this stream of exhortation to drive us where we cannot help going? Why such praise for those who have submitted to the inevitable? Or is it maintained that if we do obey Instinct we shall be happy and satisfied? But the very question we are considering was that of facing death which (so far as the Innovator knows) cuts off every possible satisfaction: and if we have an instinctive desire for the good of posterity then this desire, by the very nature of the case, can never be satisfied, since its aim is achieved, if at all, when we are dead. It looks very much as if the Innovator would have to say not that we must obey Instinct, nor that it will satisfy us to do so, but that we ought to obey it.2

But why ought we to obey Instinct? Is there another instinct of a higher order directing us to do so, and a third of a still higher order directing us to obey it?—an infinite regress of instincts? This is presumably impossible, but nothing else will serve. From the statement about psychological fact 'I have an impulse to do so and so' we cannot by any ingenuity derive the practical principle 'I ought to obey this impulse'. Even if it were true that men had a spontaneous, unreflective impulse to sacrifice their own lives for the preservation of their fellows, it remains a quite separate question whether this is an impulse they should control or one they should indulge. For even the Innovator admits that many impulses (those which conflict with the preservation of the species) have to be controlled. And this admission surely introduces us to a yet more fundamental difficulty.

Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey 'people'. People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others we have already prejudged the case. If we did not bring to the examination of our instincts a knowledge of their comparative dignity we could never learn it from them. And that knowledge cannot itself be instinctive: the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite.

The idea that, without appealing to any court higher than the instincts themselves, we can yet find grounds for preferring one instinct above its fellows dies very hard. We grasp at useless words: we call it the 'basic', or 'fundamental', or 'primal', or 'deepest' instinct. It is of no avail. Either these words conceal a value judgement passed upon the instinct and therefore not derivable from it, or else they merely record its felt intensity, the frequency of its operation and its wide distribution. If the former, the whole attempt to base value upon instinct has been abandoned: if the latter, these observations about the quantitative aspects of a psychological event lead to no practical conclusion. It is the old dilemma. Either the premisses already concealed an imperative or the conclusion remains merely in the indicative.3

Finally, it is worth inquiry whether there is any instinct to care for posterity or preserve the species. I do not discover it in myself: and yet I am a man rather prone to think of remote futurity—a man who can read Mr Olaf Stapledon with delight. Much less do I find it easy to believe that the majority of people who have sat opposite me in buses or stood with me in queues feel an unreflective impulse to do anything at all about the species, or posterity. Only people educated in a particular way have ever had the idea 'posterity' before their minds at all. It is difficult to assign to instinct our attitude towards an object which exists only for reflective men. What we have by nature is an impulse to preserve our own children and grandchildren; an impulse which grows progressively feebler as the imagination looks forward and finally dies out in the 'deserts of vast futurity'. No parents who were guided by this instinct would dream for a moment of setting up the claims of their hypothetical descendants against those of the baby actually crowing and kicking in the room. Those of us who accept the Tao may, perhaps, say that they ought to do so: but that is not open to those who treat instinct as the source of value. As we pass from mother love to rational planning for the future we are passing away from the realm of instinct into that of choice and reflection: and if instinct is the source of value, planning for the future ought to be less respectable and less obligatory than the baby language and cuddling of the fondest mother or the most fatuous nursery anecdotes of a doting father. If we are to base ourselves upon instinct, these things are the substance, and care for posterity the shadow—the huge, flickering shadow of the nursery happiness cast upon the screen of the unknown future. I do not say this projection is a bad thing: but then I do not believe that instinct is the ground of value judgements. What is absurd is to claim that your care for posterity finds its justification in instinct and then flout at every turn the only instinct on which it could be supposed to rest, tearing the child almost from the breast to creche and kindergarten in the interests of progress and the coming race.

The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions nor in any appeal to instinct can the Innovator find the basis for a system of values. None of the principles he requires are to be found there: but they are all to be found somewhere else.

--Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:12, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Maybe I'm dense but it just sounded like someone who desperately wanted to find a "higher purpose". It's like those who cannot see wonder in nature without some "higher being" being behind it rather than simply marvelling how random processes have been moulded by evolution into such wonderful shapes. And to say that planing for the future is less instinctive than cuddling a newborn is pure bollox. Jack Hughes (talk) 11:39, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
It is in the definition of life, to be alive. Obeying it, is no different than rocks obeying "rockiness" and gravity obeying "gravity-ness". It simply so happens that rocks or gravity don't have any choice, while intelligent life does. It also so happens that any position against life is inherently self-destructive since anyone non-hypocritically arguing against it would have to essentially suicide. And when they do, then its not life any more, therefore life simply cannot simultaneously exist, and conform to a morality/instict of death. This is an objective difference vs any other instinct.
You can "not eat apple-pie", and still be alive. You can "not believe in God" and still be alive. You can "not respect the flag" and still be alive. Yet to not have the will to live instantly terminates you, terminate every other future choice, and even converts you to non-life. If an instict can terminate every other insctict (while the termination of others cannot terminate it), then we can call that an unequal relationship.
On top of that for life to be alive, is merely an -is-. Life is alive (duh). While any position/choise saying something different is an -ought- (I hope people get the Hume's law reference every time I use it) since it proclaims that life ought to be something else other than alive.
There's your basis for a system of values then. If anything, you can't find it somewhere else, because the values of non-life are meaningless for life. Rocks for example falling down under the influence of gravity and killing a human are "bad" for us (because we are life and that was an anti-life action), but solid rock-like behaviour for them. Sen (talk) 12:58, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Is altruism reasonable?[edit]

"the death of some men is useful to other men. That is very true. But on what ground are some men being asked to die for the benefit of others? Every appeal to pride, honour, shame, or love is excluded by hypothesis. To use these would be to return to sentiment and your task is, having cut all that away, to explain to men, in terms of pure reasoning, why they will be well advised to die that others may live."

Well, the quintessential example of "self-sacrifice" would be the suicide bomber or kamikaze. Risking one's life is something many humans do just for fun or convenience (not wearing a seatbelt). Others will do it if the price is right. Some are suicidal to begin with. There are fates that seem worse than death (at least for those who don't believe they may go to hell). Living one's life in service can involve a lot more sacrifice/suffering, or at least, it may appear to.
What do we tell people so that they will persevere for the benefit of others? I know! Tell them they should do it for objective morality! But I think they mainly do it for their loved ones. This translates into words like honour, pride, patriotism, etc. If they believe they should look to the sky for a reason, they are more likely to live/die for something that doesn't exist. ~ Lumenos (talk) 12:23, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
You stupid pig. Read the essay, if you think you are capable of understanding it. --Idiot number 59 (talk) 15:27, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
Oh I used to wander in Lewis' labyrinths, back in the day. There are far better arguments developed and organized by more than one intuition diviner. ~ Lumenos (talk) 05:59, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Define "better". --Idiot number 59 (talk) 10:30, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

"Better" in terms of our mutual interest to know and proclaim the truth. In "good faith" I presume this is your intention also. If we have a mutual interest we can agree on what is "better", but if something is better for one and worse for another, this is one subjective value verses another. Logic or science might clarify the issue but ultimately that is a subjective choice. ~ Lumenos (talk) 09:31, 23 December 2010 (UTC)