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Hvad er der galt med ateisme?

 

Filosofi, Etik & Religion

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Jeff
Forum-indlæg: 1943
Område: Sjælland
Denne bruger har i år '14 doneret penge til at holde Vegetarkontakt.dk kørende.
Dato: 29/12 2012 10:31 | Indlæg redigeret den: 29/12 2012 16:57

John,

It is so frustrating to me sometimes, that I find myself in agreement with half of what you say, and sometimes that half is polemically quite viable, and at the same time see that you don't guard other premises within the same set of arguments. I actually think that is why you and I disagree on things on some occasions rather unnecessarily.

Let me give you an example, and this is meant wholly with good will:

That you could feel that this sheds any light on anything just demonstrates, once again, how religion makes people lose their feeling for what ethics is. Dahmer ENTIRELY misses the point.

I have no dispute with this claim. I agree that religion often does supplant or override other ethical clockwork. Perhaps I would have been slightly more cautious than you in the generalization, saying "often lose" or "many people", for instance, but otherwise I think that the thrust of your point is powerful and paramount for this discussion.

Ethics has nothing to do with obeying laws, having someone to be accountable to, or modifying one's behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges.

This statement is problematic, it is too ambiguous w.r.t. what you mean by ethics and it is not clear whether it is your opinion, belief, or something from a consensus definition.

1) If you mean "ethics" as defined by a dictionary or encyclopedia, then yes, it may be said in one sense not to have anything to do with the things in Dahmer's list which you quote. However, this is not because of your next statement where you assert what ethics is about (which I will comment on shortly), but because by its typical definition, let's take Wikipedia as an example, we say

Ethics...is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.

This is not an isolated definition, it is ubiquitous.

2) If you mean by "ethics" what set of principles we should use for determining right and wrong, generally or specifically, then it should be made clear that this is not universally defined, but rather what you and perhaps some others have reasoned or believe for yourself.

However, then once we take that step we must freely admit the other kinds of sets of principles or approaches that may be applied for this determination of right and wrong and for guiding choices, which includes the content of Dahmer's list. It can no longer be dismissed by a wave of the hand - or rather, we usually introduce such statements by something like "I disagree, I argue that...".

For instance, deontological ethics may be said to be very close to "obeying laws" as can rule consequentialist ethics , and we could easily expand on this list.

It's about caring for others.

Again, you make a statement as if it is either a priori knowledge or universally held to be true. However, this is simply not the case. I mostly disagree with the form of this statement and the missing foundation for how it may be deduced or even induced from your next statement. I also disagree ultimately with its content, however, I find the following statement somewhat redeeming.

And the reason we care about others (to the extent that we do) is because we are social mammals, possessed with compassion.


I agree largely with this statement. However, the problem is the seduction of agreeing that Homo sapiens is a social mammal with, for example, the demonstrable effects of oxytocin and dopaminergic processes strongly linked to certain kinds of social behavior, among the many other neurophysiological bases for such a statement. We also need not consider antagonistic actions (aggression, etc.) in the same substrate, they do not undermine the argument per se .

However, this does not underpin your former statement, unfortunately. For instance, if there were a god and this being did order things by a set of rules, then nothing in our biology may matter, would be the argument - and unfortunately, this is exactly the argument, as you well know.

There is no deductive attack on this, but there may be a strong inductive one, as is arising at the nexus of ethics and neuroscience, as you know.

Well, most of us are.

Probably all of us are - and I think what you are getting at is the question of what is going on when we don't seem to behave like we are.

Dahmer did NOT care for others, and thus he could never be ethical, God or no. God would merely be another yet another threat of punishment to him.

Here, again, I have a strong problem with the form. Whereas it may be true that Dahmer did not care for others (I don't know the evidence on that), the conclusion you draw requires premises that you have not established. Not only because you have not robustly established that caring for others uniformly determines our choices regardless of other influences, but because you have not established that it is not possible to be ethical due to a god or some other mechanism, like a categorical imperative.

Now, as I said, I am writing all this in good will.

I, too, take as my point of departure what we have biological evidence for and I must often rely on induction for the basic premises for my arguments to myself and perhaps to others about ethics. And it is easy enough to demonstrate why a statement like

...without a belief in a higher moral law or divine source, it is possible to effectively do whatever one wishes... One can be the arbitary maker of one´s own laws...

is statistically an uninteresting argument.

There is no reason for making strong truth claims, we can simply rely on observation, hypothesis, prediction, and validation.

I will leave it to you to imagine for yourself what my ambitions were for this post. Too often in these kinds of fora people quickly take things too personally rather than realizing that many times respondents are rather dispassionately going about the business of debate.
John
Forum-indlæg: 1388
Område: KBH
Dato: 29/12 2012 14:44 | Indlæg redigeret den: 29/12 2012 14:49

Yeah, I too have wondered about our apparent-yet-doubtful philosophical "kinship"
You sometimes speak my mind exactly, and just as often make absolutely zero sense to me. I find you incredibly difficult to converse with, and have simply given up on reaching agreement, just as I have with Earthling (insult unavoidable...)

When I say

Dahmer ENTIRELY misses the point.
Ethics has nothing to do with obeying laws, having someone to be accountable to, or modifying one's behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges.
It's about caring for others.

, I am using the word "ethics" in a particular way.

Consider the sentence "Nazis had ethics, but they weren't ethical". It might seems to be a contradiction, but because of the two different meanings of the word ethics, there actually isn't one. And most people intuitively understand it.
The sentence could be re-formulated into "Nazis had rules for what constituted acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, but they weren't just or kind people, in that they murdered innocent men, women and children systematically", or something like that.
It is the second sense of the word ethics that I have in mind when saying what ethics is. I am saying what ethical CHARACTER is and consists in. It consists in caring for others, and it comes from compassion. Dahmer was a psychopath, so clearly he didn't qualify.
I THOUGHT that such a meaning could be left implicit, and still be clearly understandable from the context, like it is in the nazi sentence....
I am not denying that there is also an academic field/activity, where one considers the nature and meaning of the concept of ethics, and its many subsidiary concepts. I am saying that this is completely separate from having an ethical character. Dahmer could have studied ethics his whole life, and still have had the same character. Knowing everything about apple pied does not necessarily mean that one likes or wants it.

you have not established that it is not possible to be ethical due to a god or some other mechanism, like a categorical imperative.

Or a gun in your back? Would that also be an ethical motivation, in your opinion? If I help an old lady across the street ONLY because I am being threatened at gunpoint, and would never have done it otherwise (for her sakes), am I then ethical? Because obedience to God out of fear is no different.

The answer should be incredibly obvious, but we have been over this before and got absolutely nowhere...
Jeff
Forum-indlæg: 1943
Område: Sjælland
Denne bruger har i år '14 doneret penge til at holde Vegetarkontakt.dk kørende.
Dato: 29/12 2012 15:44 | Indlæg redigeret den: 29/12 2012 17:01

Okay, so here is what I suggest you consider for own use of English in these kinds of discussions. It would make your arguments much more forceful and less ambiguous in many cases if you distinguish between one term "ethics" and another term "being ethical", since I assure you with great confidence that this is the normal distinction we make. It's not quite that we have two uses of the word "ethics", actually, John, and your own example with the Nazis illustrates this clearly. That is, your example above does not track your original usage from the case we are discussing. I am suggesting that you stick to the kind of usage in your new example, since it is much easier for the reader to disambiguate things. I would have had no reason to examine your claims the way I did, if the assertions were mediated in this way.

I hope you don't take offense at this. If it will assuage any insult, I will say that your English is quite fine and you take care in your grammar and mechanics, which I personally have an appreciation for.

I agree with your statement about the use of the word ethics both as a field and as in "someone's ethics" and there is no reason to debate this further. My point was to illustrate the slippery grey zone into which your argument takes those readers who are familiar with ethics to some degree - in my opinion, this is also a source of some contention here: the things you say in front of me and in front of many who are formally or informally trained or familiar with this kind of discourse should be legible against that background. You have demonstrated your own familiarity with at least some of this background, so I feel confident that you can express yourself such that your arguments are appealing in this setting.

As for the latter part of your post, yes, we have been over this before. Here you would fail to convince many, especially those of the kind I have just mentioned in the paragraph above. You cannot just wipe away the process of reasoning as it tends to work in this space, particularly with the coarse induction you use here - at least since Hume we don't really just let that kind of thing go unchecked.

It is not a matter of whether I, from my frame of reference, feel or believe that your particular rhetoric about duty, with its flourish of violence, is right or wrong. And saying it should be obvious is susceptible to critique. Here I will explain why.

If something is obvious, then we more or less are asserting that it is either a priori or a posteriori knowable. I argue that your claim here concerning the obvious ethical wrongness of following duty it is a bold epistemological leap. When we test this statement, we find how challenging it is.

1) If it is a case of a posteriori knowledge, then we are required to demonstrate from some object of experience how this claim is founded. Go ahead, John, demonstrate from any observable object that you and I can agree on whether it is "unethical" qua "wrong" to feed the poor because there is a commandment to do so. And while you are at it, demonstrate through some empirical test how it would be "right" not to feed the poor despite a commandment to do so.

2) If it is a case of a priori knowledge, then your claim only requires a demonstration of how a knowledge of other objects of experience necessarily include and substantiate facts concerning the wrongness of obeying the commandment.

That's all it takes. I am not even suggesting that there isn't an answer here (given some assumptions or admissions), all I am suggesting is that "it is obvious" is not one of them.

John, although it is no argument, I am in really good company here. It is possible that you have some contempt for living and dead men and women of philosophy, I don't know, but seldom, if ever, has anyone in the heritage of this kind of inquiry in the past many centuries really made a claim that what should be true within meta-ethical discourse is a function of what is obvious.

No doubt, we can take account of things in the sense of moral realism, for instance, however, this is really not the same thing as you present here. You claim that we can know the rectitude of the basis that we use for determining what is right or wrong simply by our feelings about how we make the decision.

Even Sam Harris, whom I know you have read, does not come close to this kind of claim, at all (indeed, he actually takes it to task quite forcefully). Harris may show a picture in a TED talk or give a verbal example in a book and claim that it is obvious that something is wrong, but he does not claim that it is obvious what basis we have for determining this. Indeed, a large part of the beginning of his book on the subject is devoted to arguing why we should accept a particular basis ("a concern for well-being"), one that I accept more so than many other bases, I confess, although not completely and in some ways rather differently (also, if you find yourself persuaded by some of those arguments, I might like corresponding on a few things further).

Anyway, John, I want to turn to another matter of the form here. I feel that your very frequent use of analogies impoverishes your arguments. Well constructed arguments require no analogies and imperfect analogies distract, divert and ultimately detract from reasoning. As a matter of personal preference (and I can convey to you that others have mentioned the same to me) I have a low regard for it, since it seems to be an attempt to instill a common experience in your reader and to persuade them that this experience is generalizable, the latter of which I have criticized frequently in the past.

If you truly are committed to empiricism and reasoning, then you should not require imagined facts or speculation, you should be able to make forceful claims from real evidence and logical rigor.

This is what I am accustomed to, and ultimately this post is about explaining some of the discord between us.
Earthling
Forum-indlæg: 1079
Område: KBH
Dato: 29/12 2012 17:08 | Indlæg redigeret den: 29/12 2012 20:16

Jeff
What are you talking about? Wait, don't answer that, you are off on some tangent that is really completely irrelevant

The topic is/was, "Hvad er der galt med ateisme?".

The sub-topic was/is, "By the way, what is wrong with fornication?" - "anything which reduces human beings to objects of pleasure/lust and isolates sex from love and commitment".

You went off an a tangent about "safer sex" while Ka-ching, John and myself made a valid point about sexually transmitted diseases being a consequence of sleeping around and behaving irresponsibly, and about the fact that not sleeping around is an obvious means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and other consequences.



Aros
Biblen taler også om at det er okay at slå børn, at slavery er ok, at dem der ikke tror på jesus skal bringes og slåes ned for hans fødder(lukas). At man bør stenes for at arbejde på helligdage. Når man håndplukker bestemte ting som feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick osv lyder det fornuftigt nok. Men hvad så med de andre helt åbenlyst umoralske ting?

My remark was in response to the claim that religion has no bearing on people doing good. You are taking that out of context.

Du får det til at lyde som om mennesker er født helt moralsk neutrale, og at det kræver en religion, filosofi eller politisk ideologi osv for at man kan have en moral overhovedet. At slå ihjel er f.eks ikke kun et pricip som kun kristne lever efter. De fleste mennesker i verden anser det for forkert at slå andre ihjel, uanset hvilken religion de har. Inkluderet folkefærd der aldrig har hørt om de ti bud, jesus ellerr biblen.

I don´t think I argued against what you´re saying here. If you think so, you either misunderstand something of what I said or assume something which I am not saying.

Religion is no security against doing whatever one wishes... Moral er noget der udvikler sig. Som regel i takt med at folk bliver MINDRE religiøse.

I agree that religion is no security against doing whatever one wishes, any more that anything else. I never claimed it was. There will always be extremist, fanatics and psychopaths in every group, with or without religion. It´s a human thing... I agree that morality develops as our knowledge and understanding grow. I never claimed otherwise. I don´t agree that it happens as people become less religious. It can also happen within the framework of religion. And has done.

Men det vi trænger til er en logisk rationel moral, og en religion der først siger feed the hungry og bagefter siger det er okay at have slaver, holder ikke. Det er ikke konsekvent. Grundprincippet i religion er ikke at det der fører til skade, lidelse og ulykke er det onde og det der skaber fred, lykke, glæde og frihed fra lidelse er det gode. Hvis religion var det, ville den f.eks både sige feed the hungry AND DONT have slaves. Blot som et eksempel ud af mange. Selvfølgelig kan religiøse også være moralske, men det er kun fordi de i forvejen er moralske og kan vælge de rigtige bud og regler til og vælger at ignorere de helt åbenlyst umoralske bud og regler.

I really don´t believe you and I are as far from each other here. The problem is that you talk about all religion here as if it was one. It isn´t. I agree that we need to use reason and discernment in reading texts. I actually see these attributes as God given gifts. I disagree with what you say about the absence of a ground-principle within religion. Already in the beginning of the Biblical texts, we are told that a choice is being put before us: “I put before you life and death; Choose life...” The principle of Natural Law Theory is to be discerned in many religions, and may be used by believer and non-believer alike: "Do good; avoid evil". And of course, the Bible speaks of slaves within a given culture, it also speaks about freeing the captives. It also points out that the worst kind of slavery is not physical slavery, bad as it is, but slavery of the soul. Soul can be taken to mean the inner being of a person.

Personally, I read the Bible in the light of Jesus Christ, and what he taught/did, especially his commandment to LOVE. I think the trouble usually starts when texts are taking out of context, isolated and spoken in ignorance. I see our capacity to discern between good and bad as a necessary part of growing in understanding and faith. I also see these as a God-given gifts: reason, empathy and informed conscience. I understand this to be the “image of God” in every person and the echo of God´s voice - the "law" written on our hearts - something which can be squashed, distorted and/or deliberately ignored.. I can understand how the behaviour of some believers can be a huge stumbling block for some atheists in coming to know God. I respect that. I also believe that every atheist who is genuinely searching for the truth, and trying to do good, using the gifts of reason, empathy and informed conscience, is on the path towards God, and is known to God.

Men disse skal ideltificeres rationelt, ikke igennem blind accept af hvad der står i religiøse skrifter der ikke har objektivt vurderet hvad der er til gavn og hvad der er til skade for mennesker.

I agree. You will never hear me arguing for blind acceptance of anything. I think it is dangerous. In fact, I believe we should question, search out answers, reflect deeply. Philosophy, science, theology, psychology, the arts, nature, biology, whatever, have a role to play in informing our faith, and vice versa. As such, they have the capacity to help our understanding, reveal something of God and lead us to God. Truth will not contradict truth. If there is seeming contradiction, we misunderstand something and need to get back to the drawing board! I think a basic problem we have between us is that you seem to separate faith from every other aspect of life while I see every aspect of life as informing my faith and being an integral part of it. I believe in an Incarnational God (God-with-us). I reject dualism.

Nu gætter jeg kun, men jeg går ud fra at du hentyder til at jeg er very liberal, "left´ish",

NOPE. I wasn´t speaking of or even thinking of you, sorry... I was thinking of people I know personally...

En måde man f.eks kan sikre det er at man i udannelses systemet, som f.eks angående religions undervisning i skolen, kunne undervise i alle religioner istedet for kun kristendom,

In principal, I agree. In practise, it often means all religions are watered down. Personally, I can say I was given a broad education and a healthy respect for others. I also had some great "morality and ethics" classes where I was free to ask questions, debate, think and learn. I was quite the little agitator!

Vi skal ikke lære børn HVAD de skal tænke, men lære dem at tænke, selv at drage deres egne konklusioner.

I agree. That doesn´t stop me from respectfully sharing what I believe and think. Or from acting in a way that is informed by my faith. For example, if a child says "I don´t believe in God" or that a work colleague doesn´t believe in God, I just say I do, and explain why in a simple way, if appropriate. If a child doesn´t want to sing a "God" song, I will say that´s okay, and just ask them to be quiet for a minute and let the others want to sing. Likewise, I will explain to them why I don´t eat meat if they ask :)

Og selvom jeg aldrig havde læst disse passager ville jeg stadig anse det for at være forkert at gøre børn fortræd... Nu har du her fundet nogle passager hvor der er en positiv instilling til børn, men der er også steder i biblen hvor der står det er tilladt forædre at slå deres børn

You miss my point. Firstly, I did not read the texts as a child. I heard the stories - much like the original Christians! Secondly, I encountered a person: Jesus Christ, not texts. And the central characteristic of that person was welcoming love. That is, always was, and always will be my starting and finishing point (see my profile picture). Sadly, it´s what many atheists don´t seem to get.

Regarding the video you watched, I haven´t seen it. I did read a biography about him two Summers ago. I also read elsewhere that he was baptised while serving in prison, most probably as a means to access another objective. He then went on to kill two more people in prison, so that “conversion” obviously wasn´t worth much...

PS: Aros, you would mind putting your quotes from me and others as citations???
See bar on top:
Citeret

It would make for much easier reading. Thanks! :)





Earthling
Forum-indlæg: 1079
Område: KBH
Dato: 29/12 2012 17:11 | Indlæg redigeret den: 29/12 2012 20:22

John
That you could feel that this sheds any light on anything just demonstrates, once again, how religion makes people lose their feeling for what ethics is. Dahmer ENTIRELY misses the point.
Ethics has nothing to do with obeying laws, having someone to be accountable to, or modifying one's behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges.
It's about caring for others.
And the reason we care about others (to the extent that we do) is because we are social mammals, possessed with compassion. Well, most of us are.

Dahmer did NOT care for others, and thus he could never be ethical, God or no. God would merely be another yet another threat of punishment to him.
As Richard Dawkins says: People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police. (The God Delusion, p. 261).

My point (in response to a comment from Aros) was that he used his atheism as reason to justify his behaviour. I did not say it was ethical, that he was ethical or that I agreed. I don´t. Neither do I equate all atheists with him.

The fact that your constantly equate and associate God, fear, punishment and police says a great deal about your image of God ;) Not mine. I simply don´t believe in operating out of fear; I operate out of love.

Yes, many non-believers and believers care (more than you seem willing to acknowledge). And we care, NOT because of fear of the punishing God of your imagination, not for reward, not for selfish reasons, as you postulated much earlier on this thread. Such a claim is deeply presumptious, arrogant and badly informed.

I care because I care. As far as I´m concerned the existence of compassion is not just an evolutionary devlopement, it is the very sign of God´s life in us, whether we recognize it or not.

Regarding the rest of your comment, I agree with much of what Jeff says in response to it, apart from the last comment. Statistics can be twisted. And they are certainly not the (only) measure of truth.

I find you incredibly difficult to converse with, and have simply given up on reaching agreement, just as I have with Earthling (insult unavoidable...)

No insult taken, old boy! Sorry if I disappoint you ;) Anyway, who said anything about having to reach agreement? All we need to do is speak/listen to each other in respectful dialogue, maybe learn something, and trust in the integrity and good will of the other. It could bring us a long way...

NOTE: I am actually impressed - for the most part - by the tone on this thread :) !ja


John
Forum-indlæg: 1388
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Dato: 31/12 2012 11:55

It would make your arguments much more forceful and less ambiguous in many cases if you distinguish between one term "ethics" and another term "being ethical", since I assure you with great confidence that this is the normal distinction we make. It's not quite that we have two uses of the word "ethics", actually, John, and your own example with the Nazis illustrates this clearly.

This is wrong. It's quite common to speak of it like this. Here's an example that we both should know - Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion:
"Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That's not morality, that's just sucking up."

Note that he says "That's not morality" and not "That's not being moral", as you would demand.
The two really are synonymous.
Just out of curiosity: Have you studied philosophy at the university? Because I have. And this is common usage. Both in and out of academic circles.

That being said, I can at least imagine that your suggested phrasing might be less likely to be misunderstood. I don't know. I'll have to think about it. No one else has ever misunderstood it before, or complained about it - neither inside nor out of academic circles...

I'm writing from work, and I'm off in a few minutes, so I'll have to cut this short and get back to you.
Jeff
Forum-indlæg: 1943
Område: Sjælland
Denne bruger har i år '14 doneret penge til at holde Vegetarkontakt.dk kørende.
Dato: 31/12 2012 13:38 | Indlæg redigeret den: 31/12 2012 15:19

Okay, we are belaboring the point a little too much - that is the wholly fault of my last comment, but not of my original point.

I can see that I did not express myself well enough in this last point (which is rather ironic given its topic), although you omitted the ensuing sentences of that paragraph which gave that statement the context wherein it was meant. Still, I must admit that single sentences of that kind are too assertive not to be constructed as to be viable on their own even out of context. I would be a hypocrite not to admit this since it is a critique I have leveraged towards some of what you assert, even in the posts we are discussing now - so I absolutely concede.

Of course, the word "ethics" can be used to describe the moral fitness of actions or decisions, that is a common usage, but here I must really point out that we actually very often use it with an article, like "the ethics of doing something" or possessive pronoun like "his ethics" (also mentioned in my original post), and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I think most people don't need to refer to a dictionary to know that. I am not quite sure how I ended up constructing my sentence that way, something seems to have gotten lost in the way I strung my points together.

I think maybe that I was too forceful in my assertion in order to try to underline the point that in the context of the current discussion, some precision was warranted. So, I will very gladly correct my comment to say that in contexts where we might cause some conflation of the understanding of the word "ethics" with it various uses, we are careful to make a distinction.

However, Dawkins' example does not really exemplify things perfectly because he only talks about one thing not being moral qua "being morality" and it is rather unambiguous from the sentence that he does not mean to ask whether morality can be about obeying laws as a philosophical question. (Also, I think one could ask if the word "morality isn't being used metonymically* (I feel it might be), but that is a longer discussion) But, no, I would not "demand" some distinction, you're right, and I concede the flaw in my overzealous presentation before (although I actually think that the ensuing sentences made clear that I was recommending a kind of usage in "our" situation).

Whereas your sentence seems to set forth either (a) what ethics is about due to the way it lists things ethics does not encompass and argues in the following for a particular basis for ethics, or possibly (b) what is ethical (given some basis, probably described by something in (a)), which is what you have said you meant.

Here is what I mean:

The original problem, if I may remind you was a specific utterance:

Ethics has nothing to do with obeying laws, having someone to be accountable to, or modifying one's behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges.

The problem exactly arises in that the fields of ethics do actually ask exactly questions about "obeying laws", etc. to a great extent and given certain ethical systems (which we can, of course, reject) ethics (not just "being ethical") has everything to do with "obeying laws", etc., which I pointed out to you originally.

I don't really want to start a debate around what you or I think would happen in the academy in such a discussion, so I am not going to be forceful in rejecting your claim regarding whether one is not precise and unambiguous in writing about ethics.

(Nietzsche actually addresses the question (problem?) of metonymy in philosophical discourse in his essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense and actually earlier in his notes on Ancient Rhetoric , it might interest you, if you are not familiar with it)

W.r.t. Dawkins' (or your argument), I would argue that many unmentioned assumptions are required for this kind of statement to be viable. It requires us to have a some basis for what is actually ethical and establishing the case that "sucking up" does not qualify or may even be a violation of those ethics. Here it is left implicit, since Dawkins' book is not a book on ethics, it is a book on belief in gods and religion and it cuts many corners in order to be succinct and impactful.

However, personally, I actually do not think this would be an allowable move in more rigorous discourse - and I would challenge you as a student of philosophy (I don't mean university, but as the phrase goes) to reexamine some things, if you think it is. By this, I simply mean that it is missing a couple chapters of foundation if it is meant to get to be a statement about morality. I think you realize that, and your point is just about the use of the term. I am just extemporizing by now.

I wish this were the thread to discuss the principle of intention, but it is not, alas, I am told.

And finally, I would point out that fear of punishment and obeying rules are not necessarily the same thing, however, I am not going to start quoting Kant here.

*W.r.t. metonymy, since it is likely an unfamiliar term for many people: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metonymy
Earthling
Forum-indlæg: 1079
Område: KBH
Dato: 31/12 2012 15:29 | Indlæg redigeret den: 31/12 2012 15:35

Did someone mention Dawkins... again?!
Even fellow atheists find his extremism an embarassment... :D

Battle of the professors: Richard Dawkins branded a fundamentalist by expert behind the 'God particle'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2253640/Battle-professors-Richard-Dawkins-branded-fundamentalist-expert-God-particle.html


I agree with your summary of the situation; Jeff.
W.r.t. Dawkins' (or your argument), I would argue that many unmentioned assumptions are required for this kind of statement to be viable. It requires us to have a some basis for what is actually ethical and establishing the case that "sucking up" does not qualify or may even be a violation of those ethics. Here it is left implicit, since Dawkins' book is not a book on ethics, it is a book on belief in gods and religion and it cuts many corners in order to be succinct and impactful.
In fact, I would say cutting corners is rather an understatement...


I would point out that fear of punishment and obeying rules are not necessarily the same thing,

Also agree. Obeying rules may be a means of living harmoniously together, serving the common good and/or getting the best results. One only has to think of a football (baseball!) game, a hospital, utilising laws of nature, whatever...



Jeff
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Dato: 31/12 2012 16:13 | Indlæg redigeret den: 31/12 2012 16:22

Well, Earthling, actually I didn't mean to say that Dawkins is wrong, to be quite clear. I am just saying that encapsulating the whole framework in a single sentence or two wouldn't serve as a book on ethics, but it may make a lot of sense in a book of the kind the God Delusion is.

So, I don't quite understand your interest in quoting that paragraph. Or rather I understand the interest, but I don't think that it makes an argument for you that I support.

Both Dawkins and John have arguments for why actions taken out of fear of punishment may not be morally fit, and even if I may not fully agree with them, I am definitely not dismissing the point, actually.

If you are opening up this thread for that discussion, then why not, let's discuss that - I think it is by far more interesting than the actual topic of the thread, which has only led to a lot of irrelevant recitals, in my opinion.

By the way, I am not sure what someone being a fellow anything has to do with the importance of their comments about the rectitude or efficacy of another's rhetoric or polemics. And once again, to be quite clear about what has been pointed out over and over here, the expression "fellow atheist" is just about as meaningful as saying "fellow someone who doesn't collect stamps". The concept of fellowship makes no sense to me here in this case.

Earthling
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Dato: 31/12 2012 17:24 | Indlæg redigeret den: 31/12 2012 22:26

And I´m not suggesting that you think he´s wrong.

Both Dawkins and John have arguments for why actions taken out of fear of punishment may not be morally fit, and even if I may not fully agree with them, I am definitely not dismissing the point, actually.

I am not dismissing it either - actually. I agree that actions taken out of fear of punishment may not be morally fit. I really have no idea why you think I wouldn´t.

I only mentioned the word "fellow" in so far as he is another atheist, one of many, with a very different view of believers, etc., to Dawkins and what he espouses... As such, I find he is far more open, fair -minded and constructive.

EDIT:
Regarding your opinion on people´s comments being "a lot of irrelevant recitals"... I find it is a rather arrogant, demeaning and hurtful remark given that anything I share is lived out of deep and genuine conviction and informed reflection. I am not given to empty "recitals". I find it offensive too given that I spoke in my previous comment about listening in a spirit of dialogue, possibly learning something, and trusting in the integrity and good will of the other.. You are free to disagree with me or anyone else. You are not entitled to be patronising. A little kindness goes a long way... ;)
Jeff
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Dato: 1/1 2013 09:08 | Indlæg redigeret den: 1/1 2013 10:11

Yes, I called it an irrelevant recital, just as several others on this thread have done so, repeatedly, and several times at length. I stand by it, just as Aros, John, and others will stand by their similar assertions over the past 4 pages.

That comment, that it is an irrelevant recital is itself highly relevant for this thread and it has nothing to do with arrogance towards whether you can make comments in general or not. It is the very subject matter of much discussion here. If I were to start quoting from this thread how much it was discussed I would probably take up a whole page in that post.

It has to do with the fact that the acts perpetrated by individuals or governments that may have one belief system or another - or none! - are not relevant for a discussion of what is right or wrong about that belief system per se or for not having one. This argument cuts both ways and is what prevents anyone from really leveraging an argument about the atrocities committed by nations which have state religions and give it as the reason the reason for the atrocities, without being to demonstrate that the religion explicitly or implicitly motivated the actions. If that move were logically permissible then the laundry list of atrocities would be seemingly never ending. However, I, for one, have blocked that move.

And so does, for instance, Sam Harris:



Since the clip is only less than 7 minutes, you might want to listen to it on the matter of some other misconceptions about atheism, but at least listen to the part that addresses the problem of such irrelevant recitals.

Earthling
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Dato: 1/1 2013 10:26 | Indlæg redigeret den: 1/1 2013 10:36

Yes, I called it an irrelevant recital, just as several others on this thread have done so, repeatedly, and several times at length. I stand by it, just as Aros, John, and others will stand by their similar assertions over the past 4 pages.

In point of fact, many of the "assertions" were blatantly off the thread topic. But whatever, Jeff... I also stand by my assertions, not least the facts I posted and my comments addressing patently false information, restricted definitions and double standards by others. Several other people have also commented on this.

It has to do with the fact that the acts perpetrated by individuals or governments that may have one belief system or another or none are not relevant for a discussion of what is right or wrong about that belief system per se or for not having one. This argument cuts both ways

I don´t know what you mean here. We can´t separate acts from beliefs if the beliefs are the foundation of the acts. I thought people around here were attacking religion, and certain ideologies, on this basis.


EDIT: Just saw your additonal comment. Will watch video clip later. No time now.

Jeff
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Dato: 1/1 2013 11:05 | Indlæg redigeret den: 1/1 2013 11:17

I don´t know what you mean here. We can´t separate acts from beliefs if the beliefs are the foundation of the acts. I thought people around here were attacking religion, and certain ideologies, on this basis.


Try reading the sentence to its end - it doesn't finish where you truncated it. It is pretty obvious what the point is and I am not sure whether you are intentionally avoiding the meaning or just too busy to get to the end of it.

In point of fact, many of the "assertions" were blatantly off the thread topic. But whatever, Jeff... I also stand by my assertions, not least the facts I posted and my comments addressing patently false information, restricted definitions and double standards by others. Several other people have also commented on this.


What are you talking about? I am not talking about being off-topic or on a tangent here.

I am talking about something that centers at the heart of some of your arguments: your incessant claims about the atrocities that have occurred in some places in the world at times and how utterly irrelevant they are for discussing the explicit (or even implicit) role of not believing in a god (or even believing that there is no god) in those occurrences.

This irrelevant recital has no force in demonstrating "what is wrong with atheism". It might have something to do with "what is wrong with some dogmatism that is not connected with monotheism" but that is not the discussion here and not where the burden of proof lies on for the issue, just like discussing what is wrong with pollution is not relevant for "what is wrong with atheism".

And as stated above and which you have either failed to take the time to try to understand or just fail to do so, this also blocks the move of others to condemn Roman Catholicism for every vile act of its congregation or clergy or for those of the states which claim it as their state religion. We are only interested in those that arise in direct obedience to doctrinal guidance at this point - both sides are getting a "get out of jail free" card on the issue of how belief/disbelief may shape morality, at least from my point of view, so far (others have actually started down that path but not I, and I even tried to take issue with a few things, briefly).

So, once again, vacate your assertion about arrogance, please, it was completely undue, as I have illustrated. If you do not, then I have to assert that it is meant to persist as an ad hominem . This I will not take kindly.
Earthling
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Dato: 1/1 2013 16:00 | Indlæg redigeret den: 1/1 2013 16:20

I am talking about something that centers at the heart of some of your arguments: your incessant claims about the atrocities that have occurred in some places in the world at times and how utterly irrelevant they are for discussing the explicit (or even implicit) role of not believing in a god (or even believing that there is no god) in those occurrences.

Jeff, I still fail to see how the fruits of certain beliefs about God have no bearing on the discussion. People do awful things in the name of faith. They also do awful things in the name of supressing or no faith. I am not saying that either belief or disbelief in God is the direct cause. I am saying that (dis)belief can be used, manipulated and inspire deeds on minor and massive scales, both deeds of extreme goodness and deeds of extreme evil. In other words, (like you say) we´re all suspect and none of us gets off the hook.

My objection was and is with regard to those (also here on the thread) who isolate religion as the cause of all the ills in the world while failing to look honestly at how "some dogmatism that is not connected with monotheism" (talk about euphemisms!) is also guilty. Any "irrelevant recital" is made in this light.

And as stated above and which you have either failed to take the time to try to understand or just fail to do so, this also blocks the move of others to condemn Roman Catholicism for every vile act of its congregation or clergy or for those of the states which claim it as their state religion. We are only interested in those that arise in direct obedience to doctrinal guidance at this point - both sides are getting a "get out of jail free" card on the issue of how belief/disbelief may shape morality, at least from my point of view, so far (others have actually started down that path but not I, and I even tried to take issue with a few things, briefly).

Okay. I see what you´re saying here now. It wasn´t evident above.

So, once again, vacate your assertion about arrogance, please, it was completely undue, as I have illustrated. If you do not, then I have to assert that it is meant to persist as an ad hominem . This I will not take kindly.

LOL! Okay. Hands up! I vacate my assertion about arrogance with regard to you. I´m not in the habit of making "ad hominem" attacks. I leave that to other people ;) :)



Jeff
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Dato: 1/1 2013 16:02 | Indlæg redigeret den: 1/1 2013 16:04

I am saying that (dis)belief can be used, manipulated and inspire deeds on minor and massive scales, both deeds of extreme goodness and deeds of extreme evil.


I know you are, and I am still waiting for an unequivocal example of it.

(And not examples of dogmatism in totalitarian states).

Just one example of someone who committed an evil act based on some invocation involved in not believing in god. Just one.
Earthling
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Dato: 1/1 2013 16:39

Sorry, Jeff. Not going there again.







Jeff
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Dato: 1/1 2013 17:20

Fine, but you never did either, which is the point.

However, let's just drop it.
John
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Dato: 3/1 2013 21:00

It is really quite unbelievable that Earthling can't see that a totalitarian regime being atheist does not mean that its crimes are linked to its atheism.
What if that same regime prescribed certain toilet habits as well? Or certain spice-aesthetics in its cultural cooking. Would that mean that those things were linked to its crimes as well?
We are only interested in those that arise in direct obedience to doctrinal guidance at this point

Well said, Jeff. I've been trying to express that. It really can't get any clearer. But Earthling doesn't, can't get it, and never will get it - trust me. I've tried in a much better forum - namely face to face, and over a long period of time...
People do awful things in the name of faith. They also do awful things in the name of supressing or no faith.

No, Earthling. People dont do things in the name of no faith. That's simply nonsense. That is to say that they're doing something in the name of ... nothing. For no reason. Without a motive. And that's not possible.
If someone asks you to do something (be it a philosophy or a person, imaginary or not) and you obey, then it is meaningful to say that you do it in their name.
If no one commands you to do anything, you can't obey or do it in anyone or anything's name. Thats jibberish of the worst kind. This is why we aren't talking anymore.
I only mentioned the word "fellow" in so far as he is another atheist, one of many, with a very different view of believers, etc., to Dawkins and what he espouses... As such, I find he is far more open, fair -minded and constructive.

I'm not sure I got that. Did you just say that I am far more open, fair-minded and constructive than Dawkins?
If so, I'd like to know why, as I can't think of a single point or area where Dawkins and I disagree - cognitively, at least.
And finally, I would point out that fear of punishment and obeying rules are not necessarily the same thing, however, I am not going to start quoting Kant here.

Obeying rules is an activity, Jeff. Fear of punishment is a motive. MOTIVES are what make actions or people ethical.
Clearly, an ethical person might very well devote themselves to an abstract principle like Justice or something. You could call that a rule. I would even say that they SHOULD formulate and clarify their ethical beliefs. But not all ethical people do. Or at the very least, the rule is very intuitive, unclear, unformulated, unconscious.
But the questions is: Why? Why do they try to live by the principle of justice?
If the reason they live by it is fear of hell, then they are not ethical.
By the way, I am not sure what someone being a fellow anything has to do with the importance of their comments about the rectitude or efficacy of another's rhetoric or polemics. And once again, to be quite clear about what has been pointed out over and over here, the expression "fellow atheist" is just about as meaningful as saying "fellow someone who doesn't collect stamps". The concept of fellowship makes no sense to me here in this case.

Right. Agreed. A conclusion is not as interesting as its basis - i.e. the method by which it is reached.
But it would seem, at least, that you, me and Dawkins have the same method of reasoning - the same philosophy, at least cognitively - which is rationalism.

Sorry for the sporadic and chaotic answers. I'm working all the time these days, and keep getting interrupted....
Earthling
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Dato: 4/1 2013 11:44 | Indlæg redigeret den: 4/1 2013 12:04

Jeff
I´m ignoring John´s little rant seeing as he´s not talking to me ;) :D

Sure, I´m fine with dropping it as you suggest

I really don´t find your question relevant to what I´m saying, and I´m not going on a wild goose chase for something which may or may not be out there.

I have a problem with your exclusion zone (atheist regimes or if you prefer, states which have "some dogmatism that is not connected with monotheism") which I consider very convenient for you. Totalitarian states are made up of individuals inspired by and living according to certain world views. As such, I consider them responsible for their actions based on their beliefs/doctrine which in the many examples I give (both in the last century and in our modern world) include strong anti-religious sentiment, violent suppression and the forceful imposition of atheism. Their virulent anti-religious sentiment and the belief that religion was dangerous (the "opium of the people") was the MOTIVE behind their actions. If you disagree that this should be considered in any possible critique of atheism, I think it´s a bit like letting the SAS guys at the Nuremburg trials get away with the response, "I was following orders..."

If, as you claim, atheism is simply "disbelief" in supernatural beings", I fail to see why your question is even relevant. Nothing to be found in dictionaries, Wikipedia or Atheist Empire definitions of atheism as both a disbelief and a belief/doctrine have persuaded you to broaden your definition. And in point of fact, I posted an example from modern China and the experience of Peter Hitchens in modern Russia depicting what can arise in the absence of belief. I also posted four examples of atheists in a comment to Ka-ching who simply disbelieved in a God or gods, and who clearly lacked moral standards, divine or natural.
(18. Dec) http://vegetarkontakt.dk/?-hvad-er-der-galt-med-ateisme=131729&side=3

To that list, I can also add Bernard Nathanson, prolific abortionist (75,000), who also aborted his own son . He lived as an atheist for many years. He also publicly confessed to the fact that he and several other members of NARAL blatantly lied with regard to statistics regarding back street abortion in the USA, and about the premises on which the Roe V Wade case was argued to establish abortion-on-demand into America, something which has cost the lives of 53 million unborn children to date and destroyed countless women´s and men´s lives. He actually went on to undergo a radical conversion, took full responsibility for his previous actions and became a strong opponent of abortion.
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/02/2806/

Given that these people disbelieve(d) in a God or gods, it is safe to presume that they also disbelieve in and/or reject a moral law which might be even remotely divinely inspired. Looking through the histories of these people, it is easy to see the ABSENCE of moral injunctions and limitations such as do not steal, do not lie/slander, do not commit adultery (dishonour marriage), do not kill, and to see blatant disregard for principles such as love God and love one´s neighbour as oneself. I can´t prove this link, obviously, any more that you can prove there is no link. Likewise, I cannot convince you or anyone else that I am NOT a believer out of fear, force, selfishness or hope of reward if you do not wish to be persuaded. I cannot persuade you that my deepest motivation is the desire to dwell in Light, Love and Mercy and to live so that Light, Love and Mercy flows through me into our world and out to others. You (plural) will believe what you want to believe.

Again, to be absolutely clear, I am NOT saying that any critique I make or any weakness I see is representative of all atheists nor would I ever say so! Nor am I saying that believers are immune from committing foul deeds based on certain (mis)interpretations of texts. In fact, I would say that any believer has a far tougher time justifying his actions given that there are very clear moral standards to which s/he may be held accountable. Furthermore, I respect any atheist who is genuinely trying to live a moral life according to what he sincerely believes to be right, even as I might disagree with his/her world view. If such a person should experience God, I am sure that all that is good in their morality will flourish and grow, and all that is faulty will be purified.

I am not interested in letting people off the hook, be they believers or non-believers as we learn nothing from that. Neither does it serve justice to let people off the hook. I am interested in ALL of us, believers and disbelievers, having the honesty and humility to look into our belief systems and world views so that we might see the inherent and latent dangers which lie therein. I am interested in becoming ever more alert and wise so that we might live together in truth and love.

I get the feeling you don´t understand where I´m coming from, but that´s okay. I´ll leave it here ;)




I watched the Sam Harris video. I was glad to hear him mention that Hitler was far more complicated than the references he made to Christian texts in his writings. It´s a pity he doesn´t go into the development of Nazism more, especially the prevalent philosophies which led Hitler to his "lives unworthy of life" and eugenics policies. I also think it is a pity that he overlooks the fact the Christians strongly opposed Hitler, within Germany, in Poland and amongst the Allies.

I dont´agree when he says the North Korean regime is “like a religion”. Making such a comparison shows a pitiful and limited knowledge of religion. I find that very sad. Also as many atheists love to point out, religion is defined as the belief in and worship of supernatural deities. I don´t think you will find any communist manifesto proclaiming belief in supernatural deities or that their regime leaders are supernatural deities. Saying that, I am reminded of the atheists who protested loudly here on VK when someone suggested/asked if veganism was a religion on a thread some months back. I think it would be very interesting to speculate as to why the cult of leadership develops in the vacuum of disbelief in God (eg. desire for security, validation , connection)... But that´s a whole different discussion.




Sam Harris seems very misinformed when he claims that religion inhibits Stem Cell Research, specifically naming embryonic stem cell research. I have yet to hear someone argue against embryonic research on the basis of a soul. The controversy arises because of the scientific evidence that a new human life comes into being when an egg and a sperm fuse and another completely new human life starts. The matter of a soul does not and need not come into the equation. This is evident in the fact that many non-believers are also concerned about embryonic research.

The human embryos in question arise out of one of three possibilities:
- “products of abortion”, usually of totally innocent, and usually healthy lives
- “by products “ of IVF treatment where up to 32 embryos are created for the sake of one viable pregnancy, the remainder being frozen, thrown out as rubbish or used in experimentation
- embryos specially created for use in experimentation.

The big issue is that embryonic reduces the human embryo to “raw material”, “products of conception”, “commodities”, matter to be manipulated and for experimentation. This is seen as fundamentally destructive, as well as a direct attack on human dignity and on human life at its most vulnerable, regardless of the issue concerning the presence or non-presence of a soul.

I find it very difficult to understand why Sam Harris seems unaware that there are several other viable and ethically sound alternatives: stem cells derived from adult tissue, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood and pluripotent stem cells using adult stem cells, all of which are morally acceptable to people of faith. Top class scientists have abandoned the field of embryonic stem cell research. Last year, Geron, withdrew its significant financial support for ESR because it was not producing results. It is also worth noting that embryonic stem cell has produced little to justify itself despite huge investment. On the other hand, the alternatives have produced 73 successful treatments and something like 300 treatments are being developed. For my own part, I can say that Catholic scientists are actively involved in this exciting field of alternatives, and that these projects have the active support of the Catholic church, including financial sponsorship of a project in Australia and the recent contract between the Vatican and NeoStem, a pubic firm pioneering new ASC research. Once again, Sam Harris should inform himself a little better before he pronounces publicly in his generalizing and blinkered way on religion.

He might start here:
The Stem Cell Debates: Lessons for Science and Politics (long, but very fair and informative)
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-stem-cell-debates-lessons-for-science-and-politics

Ethical Stem Cell Research Shows Most Promise for Patients
http://www.lifenews.com/2011/12/09/ethical-stem-cell-research-shows-most-promise-for-patients/

Successful treatments using Adult Stem Cells
http://www.prolifeinfo.ie/bio-ethics/adult-stem-cells/successful-treatments/

Critics points out media bias against adult stem cells
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/critic-points-out-media-bias-against-adult-stem-cells/



Jeff
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Dato: 5/1 2013 09:56 | Indlæg redigeret den: 5/1 2013 12:01

Actually, Earthling, a lot of John's post was directed to you.

Obeying rules is an activity, Jeff. Fear of punishment is a motive. MOTIVES are what make actions or people ethical.
Clearly, an ethical person might very well devote themselves to an abstract principle like Justice or something. You could call that a rule. I would even say that they SHOULD formulate and clarify their ethical beliefs. But not all ethical people do. Or at the very least, the rule is very intuitive, unclear, unformulated, unconscious.
But the questions is: Why? Why do they try to live by the principle of justice?
If the reason they live by it is fear of hell, then they are not ethical.


John, we agree around half way (which is quite far sometimes).

We obviously do agree on the interest of moral philosophy for the intention-choice-action-consequence complex. Your first two sentences manifest clearly that you agree with my statement:

And finally, I would point out that fear of punishment and obeying rules are not necessarily the same thing, however, I am not going to start quoting Kant here.

However, I do not completely agree with your analysis that obeying rules is only relevant for describing actions. Or perhaps I should have articulated things more precisely: "comprehending duty" is not the same as "fearing punishment". I am a little surprised that you don't see the line of argument here - it is an Ethics 101 topic.

But I think we are getting a little far afield from the original point (due to chaos?). Just to remind you of the context in which this arose, it concerned this statement:

John: Ethics has nothing to do with obeying laws, having someone to be accountable to, or modifying one's behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges.


Particularly, you then replied to part of my objection:

Jeff: you have not established that it is not possible to be ethical due to a god or some other mechanism, like a categorical imperative.


with the following:

John: Or a gun in your back? Would that also be an ethical motivation, in your opinion? If I help an old lady across the street ONLY because I am being threatened at gunpoint, and would never have done it otherwise (for her sakes), am I then ethical? Because obedience to God out of fear is no different.


So, part of the problem is that you leave some ambiguity as to whether you mean that all mechanisms concerning "obeying rules" derive from punishment. I argue that there is a rich corpus of argumentation within philosophical discourse that argues otherwise.

Anyway, your new statement seems to accommodate these other possibilities, however, we are still not completely in agreement as a matter of metaethics on some things.

As a discursive matter, you have laid no foundation for how intention or motive is the basis of the moral fitness of choices or actions. Of course, I know of many the works and arguments concerning this, but I feel that you should not assert things in single sentences with such force without further reasoning of your own or through citation, even just a name of an author or of a concept in good circulation in moral philosophy. In any event, there is certainly no consensus within moral philosophy around it, such that you can assert as if it were taken as given.

And I do not really agree with you on the matters of intention or motive from a metaethical standpoint per se, and recent modern neuroscience is quickly making it a very difficult position to hold without a whole new modern reasoning about what one means by intention, motivation, will, etc.

Let's disagree on this one for now. It is quite an important one and we will run into "clashes" on it again and again, however, as long as I feel that your statements are not completely dogmatic, I will probably accommodate the difference in this viewpoint, since I know it is shared by many.
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