I fully support the purpose of this group and think it a worthwhile effort, but I'm beginning to think it is futile to have a rational discussion about these things..because we are talking about a fundamentally non-rational phenomena.  What really brought this to my attention was when I browsed the walls of several Jesus/Christianity groups on Facebook.  Have a look for yourself:

 

http://www.facebook.com/PrayingPeople

http://www.facebook.com/Jesus.page

http://www.facebook.com/JesusChrist.Savior

 

No matter when you look at this page, I can virtually guarantee what you see from people every few minutes is a fountain of emotion.  "I love you Jesus!"  "I can't live without you!"  "You give me strength"  "When everyone else is gone, you still love me!!  "I can't do anything without you, my savior!"   These comments pour in constantly..day in..day out.  These people have a deep psychological need for an imaginary friend in Jesus and/or a surrogate parent in God "the father".   It's not rational.  It's emotional, based on a primal desire for comfort and protection. There are some of us who don't have that constant need, but obviously many more who do.  I hate to sound like a downer and feel bad for having no suggestions..but I just wanted to share this.  By all means, we should attack superstition and apologetics on all fronts..but as long as we are engaging in education and rational discussion, we aren't dealing with the real issue for most people (pure emotion).

 

 

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Alice, you said, "There is no ultimate meaning to why we are here - there is only the meaning we weave out of our own lives.  Our lives are ultimately meaningless - but because we like to feel that we matter and are significant in some way - our living in the illusion of meaning gives us feelings of security and pleasure - and so we manufacture meaning."

 

I agree that "there is only the meaning we weave out of our own lives." But disagree that "Our lives are ultimately meaningless..." Take a step back and look at what we are doing, in our conversation here. We are creating meaning. We are using human-made language (even though memes have independent reproduction). Without speakers and hearers, this event would not exist. Every day human beings create meaning, in art, music, poetry, dance, architecture, commerce, agriculture, all of our activities.

 

Think about the experimenter effect in physics. The particle/wave takes a definite location because a scientist measured it. We are not separable from "reality as we know it." With our language we created this idea of "reality." That concept functions, for our needs, in the context of our language using community. Were all of us to die from a supernova event, "reality" as in "reality as we know it" would cease. Yes there may be alien intelligences who also know reality in their own way. It's not all or nothing. Every complex adaptive system, like a paramecium, knows its environment and therefore participates in the experimenter effect. Whenever a macroscopic coherently moving mass responds to a photon from a distant galaxy, the photon takes a definite location. It's stops being in several places simultaneously. I disagree with the Schrodinger cat in a box idea because I think the cat can by itself collapse a wave function. In sum, "Our lives are ultimately meaningless." is misleading if not self-contradictory. We do not need an external source of meaning, only to respect ourselves as the creators of meaning even in everyday gestures such as stroking the cheek of a child.

 

"We like to feel we matter and are significant in some way." Here I see every action, even trivial choices, as significant. Remember extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. I'm a many-worlds person in that I think there are an infinite number of possible futures. Every action changes the direction our experienced universe takes into the future, selecting it from among alternative possibilities. In other words that action participates in the collapse of those infinite superposed possibilities. While an action now might seem small, such as your smile to a passing stranger, over time it could have significant effect. Imagine that the recipient was a grad student who just had her idea casually trashed by an insensitive professor. She was feeling so unworthy. That little smile could make the difference as to whether she abandons her thoughts or publishes them a year later. The paper could revolutionize some field thirty years after. We never know which actions have long tails and which will be overwhelmed by some catastrophic chaotic event that seems unrelated. Did you do the dishes before the prospective home buyers showed up at your door? Did you do the dishes before the 9.0 earthquake? You never know what will connect meaningfully.

Meaning is not a “non-event”. You are correct that “there is no ultimate meaning”, but you are not correct that “there is only the meaning we weave out of our own lives”. I have been hearing this sentiment a lot on here, and there are two points which are vital to understanding where meaning comes from and what distinguishes genuine and bogus types of meaning. The first is what you mention, which is that there is no ultimate or absolute source of meaning. Meaning is relative to an experience of meaning, so meaning does not arise in all of us just the same way irrespective of our circumstances. This does not mean, however, that meaning is something entirely subjective and completely open to individual interpretation based on whatever opinions one may have formed. There is a great deal of objectivity concerning what our circumstances are, what our natures are, and what this means for how we will experience meaning in our lives. We do not simply “manufacture meaning”, it manifests itself around the types of experiences which we have evolved to experience most powerfully. So while meaning is not absolute but relative to each of us, we are nevertheless objectively so similar in many relevant respects that we can tell when someone might really be experiencing some powerful motivating and meaningful experience and when someone is just manufacturing meaning around something hollow or unsustainable. This helps us in our arguments with religious people in that we can readily agree with them that their religious experiences might be very powerful indeed when it comes to the social bonding aspects, but when it comes to “feeling god” or believing that the world is better or more just than it really is or similar illusions we can point out that they are experiencing meaning more from their own powers of imagination (not something small in itself) than from anything supernatural. We should, for example, have powerful experiences of meaning in parenthood, and from our conversation so far that is just what has happened. Were we to experience no such meaning, we could justly ask whether there was something missing or if there were some problem with our psychological processes. This is not to say that there isn’t a great deal of variation between subjects, because clearly there is. Were there not to be, then this level of complete objectivity might rightly be called absolute or ultimate. Once you allow for some subjectivity then, it seems as if you necessarily need for meaning or values in general to be relative, but this does not mean that values/meaning then becomes completely subjective - far from it.

We should also ask what meaning means. I think it all just boils down to motivation. Something is meaningful to us if it motivates us in a profound way. In turn, this motivation translates into our being compelled towards life, towards experiencing more of these meanings and motivations, in a self-perpetuating cycle. Positive experiences are motivating to us and lead us to have a better chance at more positive experiences, and the opposite is true for negative experiences.

I agree with you on your points about being in touch with our inner desires and deepest motivations. I too had to train myself (and am still trying to do so) to listen more to my intuitions, something I was a lot better at when I was younger but that power had been corrupted owing to many of my life’s experiences. And I agree with you that our culture seems far removed from our true selves.

I think gaining fulfilment from meeting my desire stands alone as enough reward. I don't need any additional motivation. I have desire for fulfilment, I get my need met - I feel happy. It is worthwhile in itself - it doesn't need any further qualification.

Yes I agree with this. There is nothing wrong about this formulation. We are primarily motivated from the inside outwards, but we also do take from things external to us and internalize them. But this is no more than saying that we are internally motivated to explore the outside world and find nourishment for our motivational drives.

I agree with you that intellectualization can distract us from our inner desires, and that life can be made and enjoyed much more simply than we often make it. Some of us prefer complexity, but even though I feel this is true about myself I wish I could easily slow my life down and just enjoy it. Stress is a dampening of our motivations, but too little stress is actually a stressor. But I am not in complete agreement with you that there is no “real” meaning in our lives. Just because it isn’t purely objective or absolute doesn’t mean that our experiences are somehow any less real or worthwhile to us. In fact, since they are all we have, believing that they are meaningless is like saying they are worthless, and this is exactly what religious people would have us believe. Our experiences are as valuable and meaningful to us as anything could possibly be, and they are the essence of meaning and value.

What makes meeting my needs and desires for fulfilment and enjoyment and pleasure is my values - that stem from my instinct and circumstance I find myself living.

This goes right to my point.

I wonder if in talking about values and morality to christains we can basically tear down the hypocracy of christian values and morals - and be left with what we talk of here - something we all share.

This is exactly the point I have been trying to make all along.

We may fight for justice and make value judgments which are need-based as you say without moving away from the source of our needs and the needs of others – the needs to be motivated for life and its experiences, like meaning and social experiences, aesthetic experiences, biological experiences, etc. When we see others who are destroying the motivations of ourselves and others, we are right to stand up for these people and to harshly judge these destroyers and take action against them.


There is no such think as right and wrong from a god place - there is only subjective preferences for us all individually.

Not so much. As I have been arguing, there are some very clear things we can say from a more or less objective POV which goes beyond mere subjective opinion. A person may think he really would like to rape someone, but if he had access not only to all the external information (he will get caught and will have to go to jail) but to all the internal information as well (even if he doesn’t get caught, he will never be able to feel as positively about himself, and this will cause him to behave in further degraded ways, reducing his overall ability to be happy and to experience meaning, motivation, and pleasure from his life), he would realize that he really doesn’t want to rape someone, that what he really wants is to be able to think of himself well and look himself and others in the eye with conviction and an intact conscience. To say that there is only subjective preference is to say that what Hitler did was what really was good for him, that we shouldn’t feel at all sorry for him as a human being but rather we should detest him and dismiss him as just evil. I think there is a lot to be gained for our sense of humanity from looking at people’s circumstances from a more objective viewpoint, and this is a point I would love to push more on if requested.


If someone wants to behave like a selfish prick - then let them - do it on their own. They obviously think that this is the best way to live their live.

I would say that if there is something that can be done about such a person than something should be done. My father is, for example, just such a prick. One day I confronted him on it and told him that I knew he really wasn’t happy with his life. He started to break down and, half-crying, asked me what he should do. Now, being still so young and naïve, I gave him some bad advice. Before it was even completely out of my mouth, his old prickish façade returned to his face and the conversation quickly ended. If I knew then what I know now, I might have suggested some other solution, and it might have had a far more profound effect on him, which would have had better effects for myself and all those around him. If we look at such situations with some hope, we might actually be able to affect change. If we dismiss them all as unworkable, we might miss out on some really important and meaningful developments.

I haven't judgeed either as right or wrong, the situation simply is - making value judgements such as you are bad, wrong, evil or selfish prick, doesn't get me much further along the way to getting that enjoyment for all - it disconnects us from our connection with need and the love we have inside.

Just my point.

Wanderer – I agree – meaning is manifest from our experiences and circumstances, our biochemistry and our genetic coding and ability and personality and so on…  we find ourselves with meaning in our lives….

 

But when I say about manufacturing meaning what I’m aiming to do is to render any existing meaning a non event, so that you can change the meaning in your life so that you don’t need to hang onto meaning that isn’t serving a purpose to you or is holding you back in some way.  Religious people are so caught up with doing that.

 

My claims to there being no ultimate meaning I suspect are a defence towards others in power in my life that have tried to effect me by saying that they had some ultimate power or meaning that I should or shouldn’t do certain things from a ethical or moral stand point.  I use this as a way of refuting their position and finding some small self respect to hand onto despite their demoralising comments.

 

We might also say that our values come out of our preferences?

 

So you wish to highlight to those with supernatural belief that we all share values that are ‘good’ and valid and equal and don’t need god to have them?

 

You said: “When we see others who are destroying the motivations of ourselves and others, we are right to stand up for these people and to harshly judge these destroyers and take action against them.”

 

Sweet Jesus!  You’re starting to sound like the bible here – I’m scared of this sort of position…  I would call it righteous and authoritative and oppressive and domineering – is this a necessary position to take?

 

Or does it just perpetuate the patriarchal society that we (I) are fighting in the oppression of the christian church?

 

I’m not saying that what Hitler did was ‘good’ for him, because that would be a judgement.  But that Hitler did what he did because he believed it to be the best options at the time you would have to agree with.  We can all reflect with hindsight, but he was going along in a forward motion and didn’t have hindsight to guide him.

 

I don’t believe in evil – I think it’s just a word used to justify violence and killing.

 

I agree with looking at using our sense of humanity to look at people’s circumstances from a more objective viewpoint and would be happy to discuss this further.

 

The example with your father demonstrates a good point.  That judging isn’t useful, we all have our unique circumstances and that we are fully determined (caused) and couldn’t do things any other way to how we did them.

 

So it sounds as though you support the idea that we accept everything as it is and then work in the moment to meet my own and others needs with equal consideration – without making value judgements on others that might get in the way of our acting in this way?

You may of course relinquish meaning which isn’t meaningful. We experience meaning when something motivates us. If you find yourself completely unmotivated by something, then it likely has no meaning for you, or even negative meaning.

It sounds as if you are still heavily under the influence of religious people. I am sorry to hear that your circumstances are not well. I am lucky in that I have never really had to worry about others trying to use religion against me personally. But it seems as if this argument of yours that there is no ultimate meaning would have little effect on believers, since this is exactly what they do believe. And for yourself, while it is true that there is no ultimate meaning, because meaning is relative, with the knowledge that we are all determined you can understand why these people believe as they do and know that not only do you know what they do not, but you also have a place to go to where there are others like you who have seen the real truth. You are not alone. Now let’s see how far the rabbit hole goes!

We might also say that our values come out of our preferences?

You are trying to say that our values come from our desires, the things which we prefer over the things we do not. But preferences are a little too close to opinion. Desire is better, and nature may be even the best word. This goes in the direction of the old philosophical question of reason vs. desire. Not that religious people have anything like reason, yet they will still argue that their free will allows them to choose what is rational above our earthly desires. How absurd! But still this is what they will say. Hume says that reason is and ought to remain the slave of the passions (I’m a Humean). Plato and Kant on the other hand think that reason ought to tame the passions. Well, when it comes down to it reason can only tell us the means to the ends of our passions, our desires. But of course we should desire to use reason to better achieve our other desires. Further, we can use desire as part of our reasoning process (as in intuition), and we can use this complete set of reasoning abilities to discover what our ends (desires) are or should be. What you end up with, I think, is the discovery that it is our desire to experience not just the world, but ourselves in particular within the world, as being good. This means that we want to act conscionably, we want to preserve our self-esteem and dignity, and we want to have pride in ourselves and in the people we surround ourselves with. And if you talk to religious people, you may find that they have come to exactly the same conclusion (but without realizing it past the superficial level). They might frame it as doing what is in the interests of the life of the soul (if they have even thought out their own beliefs). We can put it in similar terms, as doing what is in the interests of our spirit, our psyche, our passion for life, and acting out of self-respect.

So you wish to highlight to those with supernatural belief that we all share values that are ‘good’ and valid and equal and don’t need god to have them?


This is exactly so. Well, I’m not so sure “equal” is the right word. Equal implies that we are all equally valuable, which means we all have exactly the same talents and ability with regard to pursuing the values of self-value (e.g. self-esteem, pride, self-respect, etc.) and of having passion for one’s life and those in it. We may each have the right to feel as proud of ourselves as we want, but I’m not sure how meaningful this is. Certainly we all have different talents, and even more certain is that we each are driven differently to experience life more or less powerfully. Some people can just feel life, can just experience life, more fully than others. And perhaps that means they have more to be proud of as well.

You said: “When we see others who are destroying the motivations of ourselves and others, we are right to stand up for these people and to harshly judge these destroyers and take action against them.”
Sweet Jesus! You’re starting to sound like the bible here – I’m scared of this sort of position… I would call it righteous and authoritative and oppressive and domineering – is this a necessary position to take?
Or does it just perpetuate the patriarchal society that we (I) are fighting in the oppression of the christian church?


I’m not saying that what Hitler did was ‘good’ for him, because that would be a judgement. But that Hitler did what he did because he believed it to be the best options at the time you would have to agree with. We can all reflect with hindsight, but he was going along in a forward motion and didn’t have hindsight to guide him.


I don’t believe in evil – I think it’s just a word used to justify violence and killing.


I agree with looking at using our sense of humanity to look at people’s circumstances from a more objective viewpoint and would be happy to discuss this further.

Hah, good questions, and good points as well. I don’t think you have any problems with me saying that we have the right to stand up for ourselves or others who are being harmed by the actions of others. The problems you have are with judging others and/or taking action against them. Well, I am definitely one who believes that we should be very careful about how we judge people. I am not saying we should judge people harshly if at first they seem to hold values which we do not. And understanding that we are all determined helps us to understand why people are often so unwilling or unable to change their behavior, and we can take a much more sympathetic stance towards them with that understanding. But there are two perspectives to take here. One is the objective POV, the one where we understand why a person acts as they do and what the ideal course of action would be to help them. For example, if we could change a person’s socioeconomic circumstances so that they have a more fair chance at life they would be more likely to find respectable jobs rather than to go to jail. This is all fine and good, but we also need to use the perspective of where we are, the subjective, practical, what’s in it for me and what can I do about it now approach. From this perspective, we very well might need to get angry with people, to reject their actions as being unjust or harmful, and even to “take action” against them, as in removing ourselves from their presence (e.g. family members) or putting them in jail (criminals). This wouldn’t entail becoming righteous, authoritarian (authoritative is the good kind of authority), oppressive, domineering, or patriarchal at all. It just means standing up for yourself and for what is right. To go back to Hitler, we may very well understand that he was only acting to the best of his abilities (aren’t we all?), and that if we could have only gone back in time we could have changed his family life or maybe his psychology so that he wouldn’t have become a mass murderer, but from the position of the Allies, going to war with him was perfectly justified. No need to be religiously righteous, just righteous in the true human sense. And if you are not too comfortable with judging people and taking action against them, then you are perfectly justified in trying to take as tolerant an approach as you wish. However, I would warn against too much tolerance, so much that you become a doormat and lose your self-respect. By the way, I have written a good paper recently on a subject closely related to all of this stuff, I would love it if you would give it a read. It’s in the topic named “My Paper on Thumos”. I hope you will take the time to give it a read.

I also do not believe in the word “evil”. There is only that which is good for life and its motivations, and that which is detrimental to the same. People use the word “evil” for those things which seem to have the most detrimental effects on life and its motivations, like murder (stops life’s motivations in its tracks, so to speak). But it also has something supernatural in its meaning, which we reject.

The example with your father demonstrates a good point. That judging isn’t useful, we all have our unique circumstances and that we are fully determined (caused) and couldn’t do things any other way to how we did them.

Judging is useful, it just needs to be done with an eye towards both the objective and the subjective. If time permits, it is best to take the objective into consideration first and take as tolerant a position as possible. However, judging also allows us to determine what outcomes we would like to see and sets us in motion towards those outcomes. We have to keep in mind what is possible within the confines of the objective perspective, but if we work within the system and understand and have tolerance for the actions of others, we can usefully judge them and react in appropriate ways (particularly those ways which preserve our self-respect and our ability to passionately experience life).

So it sounds as though you support the idea that we accept everything as it is and then work in the moment to meet my own and others needs with equal consideration – without making value judgements on others that might get in the way of our acting in this way?

Not quite. We do need to accept things as they are, we are all basically just the manifestation of an incredibly complex game of billiards, and we need to work within this system and understand and have tolerance for others, if for no other reason than that we would only frustrate ourselves by trying to fix what cannot be fixed. We should look after the needs of ourselves and others, but not with necessarily equal consideration. I like to think of it this way. We should out of necessity look after our own interests first, but when we grow powerful enough where our basic needs are met we can begin to include others concentrically outwards in our sphere of concern. There is a middle ground here between looking out only for one’s selfish wants and behaving altruistically as if no one person were any more valuable to you than any other. Obviously there are people who are and should be more valuable to you, starting with yourself and working outwards from the people that you are very close to and the people with whom you share a great deal of your values and interests, etc. The easy way for me to put it, the way I have been finding easiest for myself as of late anyway, is to think in terms of love: on one extreme is narcissistic love, the love of the self to the exclusion of all others. On the other end is altruistic love, the love of others to the extent that the self is lost in feeling and knowing and consideration. The middle ground I call organismic love, that which loves the self and by extension those with whom one identifies with. You may call this one’s “in-group”. But there are many types and degrees of in-groups, and so many organisms to which one may belong. This philosophy may be referred to as organismic relativism, but the name isn’t important. We act for the sake of our interests, which are governed by our desires to be good, to belong to a good group, and to extend that goodness outwards as far as our powers may permit. Goodness means to be motivated, to be set into motion biologically, culturally, and psychologically so as to continue to be, to continue to experience being, and to do all this as best as we can. This can be interpreted as happiness, but I see this as being too broad. Aristotle referred to it as “well-being” (eudaimonia in Greek). It is also known as having a virtuous character. I call it organismic motivation. Whatever the name, we intuitively know what being good means. Aristotle said that virtue is a mean between two vices. So as far as judging others goes, we may go too far in judging others to be sure (this is known as being judgmental or self-righteous), but we may also not go far enough. Judging others is a part of judging oneself, which is necessary. We must continually appraise ourselves and others so that we can take corrective measures which are tailored to reality and to the reality of what is good and what is not.

Wanderer

Oh thanks – I like that idea that I can relinquish meaning that isn’t meaningful – how do I put this to others? Possibly in just this way. I think in the past I’ve preferred the shock tactics of saying that nothing is meaningful – and that way they come to question the whole thing and it brings on a crisis that then allows them to rethink it all. But I accept the possibility of their being more gentle ways of doing this.

Our values come out of our –

Preferences.

Desires

Nature

The word desires for me has connotations of sex – and this historically has been negative for me – I was told as a child celibacy was pure and good and clean.

I don’t see the trouble with preferences – but I like the word nature. Although I think the word nature too broad – whereas preferences is descriptive of a choice event, therefore reflective of a ‘living’ value based in our choice in any moment. It reflects the values in each choice we make – and indicates difference also – nature seems to indicate fixed and none changing – this is not true – we are changing all the time and our values are changing all the time reflected in our choices.

I suppose whether you believe that a persons values are eternal or changing – I suppose it is possible that we have eternal and contradictory values.

Reason is what the mind does – desire is what the body does IMO. From recently conversation I thought that the 3 parts of the brain are different. The instinctual makes us act, the intellect retrospectively interprets our action based on reason, believing in the illusion that it is in control.

It seems my explanation here reflects your understanding of Humeanism where passion comes first then reason is retrospective.

Reason may well tame the passion – how many miserable people we know in long monogamous relationships without joy in sex due to ‘reasonable thinking’, based in religion or other belief.

Intuition is broader than acting on our desires – it’s also the sense of what is the best think to do based on all our knowledge that we have gained from the world in all forms including reasoned language based understanding.

I’m not convinced that everyone seeks to be good – I’ve met many black sheep who wish to be bad.

I do agree that coming to the conclusion that we want to be good and have self-esteem and dignity is a natural and spontaneous response as a human being – a quote from A S Neill in his book Summerhill:

“Parents must renounce. They must renounce hate that is disguised as authority and criticism. They must renounce the intolerance that is the outcome of fear.”


“Children do not need teaching as much as they need love and understanding. They need approval and freedom to be naturally good. It is the genuinely strong and loving parent who has the most power to give children freedom to be good.”

(A S Neill, Summerhill, pp115)

In other words, children are born with this goodness intrinsic to them – they don’t have to learn it, they don’t have to be taught it and they don’t need it beaten into them.

So, we need to highlight to supernatural thinkers that to have values and to be good is intrinsic and we don’t need religion to be that.

But they are told that they are born bad and that only Christ has freed them from sin to be good. LOL A nice trick hey!

I would support you in the use of protective force – see nonviolent communication group for further discussion:

Protective force is used to PROTECT and EDUCATE when there is:

1. A lack of awareness of the consequences of our actions;

2. An inability to see how our needs may be met without injury to others;

3. The belief that we have the right to punish or hurt others because they “deserve” it; and

4. Delusional thinking that involves, for example, hearing a voice that instructs us to kill someone.

Compassion is the natural consequence and implication of understanding determinism and our lack of contra causal free will.

Indeed we can’t stand outside of reality and must therefore act according to our nature and our values. So if someone is wanting to harm me, I will protect myself – but based on my intellectualisation of how I might do that will inform what I do.

EG look at how Buddhists responded to violence. They had different intellectualisation about how to behave than say a US marine in Afghanistan who was trained to shoot to kill.

Perhaps tolerance is appropriate to my life? I am a mother of 3 small children and live with them and my husband. Perhaps tolerance is appropriate in my situation. Whereas for the US Marine, who has a gun and is trained to use it, he has a different set of ideas, and the same with the Buddhist still living in Tibet/southern china or Burma.

It depends on what you base your self respect.

I’m a mother of 3 – my needs get lost often over the needs of my children and husband – who does what you’ve said and thinks of himself first! He’s getting better… : )

What you seem to be saying is that it’s not black and white – it’s more complex than that and this is why we have a brain to reason it all through in any given situation with find ourselves.

I think this is why religion is suitable, as it provides frameworks that mean we don’t have to do all the reasoning every time – we can link to catch phrases – that when responded too will create and build meaning.

Love being the sense of oneness with all and happiness – Spinoza’s:

“If we recognize that everything happens from necessity, we can achieve an intuitive understanding of nature as a whole.

We can come to realise with crystal clarity that everything is related, even that everything is One.

The goal is to comprehend everything that exists in an all-embracing perception.

Only then will we achieve true happiness and contentment.”

This is what Spinoza called seeing everything ‘sab specie acternitatis’.

Aristotle was indeed smart with that one – the middle ground – between too little and excess. A balanced life. Water is essential but too much kills – food is good but too much kills – iron is good at the right level not too much and not too little etc.

Yes, good expression of judgement. I like this attitude. I tend in nature to be an extremist and it doesn’t serve me well. I will aim to remain mindful of your comments here.

Perhaps we could talk of it in terms of if it is talked about it is useful – but in what amount and what words can we describe this middle group with…

Permissive no
Appraise yes
Self-righteous no
Wanderer

This is a quote from:

http://godlessliberals.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=ar...

Has Christianity played an important and contributing role in society? This idea of Christianity somehow being good for a society stems from misinformation spread in an attempt to make the religion more accepted and appealing to a modern audience. However, as history proves again and again, Christianity has never been directly responsible for a single good deed.
I am not one of those that thinks that there is nothing at all redeeming about any religion. Religions can be a force for good, if only a weak force. Religions bind people together and get them to believe in their self-worth and in the value of being good to others. Again, they may do all of this poorly, very poorly indeed in many or even most cases, but this doesn't mean that they are completely incapable of doing so. I think of religion as a step in the right direction for primitives in that it is a beginner philosophy. Philosophy has since evolved far beyond religious creeds, and religions should now step aside for more highly adapted philosophies. But religions are not inherently bad.

Sorry, wrong link, this is the right one... I hope!

http://www.truth-saves.com/chapter6.php?section=3

An awesome page, thanks!

The word desires for me has connotations of sex – and this historically has been negative for me – I was told as a child celibacy was pure and good and clean.


How about passions? You must have really had a rough go of it with those religious nuts, if they’ve made you feel like you are a sinner or something if you’ve associated wanting or desiring in general with sex. I think they have boxed themselves in emotionally because they are led to believe that goodness is only something you do to or for others, and not something you can do to or for yourself. They are imbalanced towards altruistic love, and so when sexual desire manifests itself it necessarily does so by overcompensating and becoming narcissistic. This means both that they have a perverted sense of sex (perhaps often associated with domination over or degradation of the other) and that this naturally terrifies them, causing them to violently repress those desires in themselves and others. But of course when they can no longer keep these desires repressed, when it reveals itself it is like a monster they have hidden in the closet, like a dirty secret they love to hate. It’s imbalanced, but anyway, that’s my take on it.

Reason is what the mind does – desire is what the body does IMO. From recently conversation I thought that the 3 parts of the brain are different. The instinctual makes us act, the intellect retrospectively interprets our action based on reason, believing in the illusion that it is in control.

Delving into the component parts of the mind has been an endeavor since ancient times. People have been dividing up the mind at least since Plato and Aristotle, and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop any time soon. Although I did approach the subject somewhat (at least in passing?) in my paper, have you had a chance to look at it yet?

Intuition is broader than acting on our desires – it’s also the sense of what is the best thing to do based on all our knowledge that we have gained from the world in all forms including reasoned language based understanding.

Yes I agree.

I’m not convinced that everyone seeks to be good – I’ve met many black sheep who wish to be bad.

Well that’s the thing, there are plenty of people who make it a point to say that they are the baddest this and that, they think it makes them look tough or something and they think this is what being good is all about. In other words, they identify being good with being powerful. Sure, people think they want to be bad, but only because that’s as far as their minds have allowed them to go. Just look at Charlie Sheen.

So, we need to highlight to supernatural thinkers that to have values and to be good is intrinsic and we don’t need religion to be that.

But they are told that they are born bad and that only Christ has freed them from sin to be good. LOL A nice trick hey!

That sure is a nasty trick! Yeah, this ensures that the only way to be good is through their religion. The thing with believers is that they see this world as being imperfect, but they see perfection as being made possible through supernatural means. We atheists don’t believe in perfection, so we can only argue that we can only be so good, up to a point, and that to believe that one is better or can be better than is possible is to think overly highly of oneself and is conceit. That’s one point I’d make to them anyway.

Compassion is the natural consequence and implication of understanding determinism and our lack of contra causal free will.

I agree.

Perhaps tolerance is appropriate to my life? I am a mother of 3 small children and live with them and my husband. Perhaps tolerance is appropriate in my situation.
It depends on what you base your self respect.
I’m a mother of 3 – my needs get lost often over the needs of my children and husband – who does what you’ve said and thinks of himself first! He’s getting better… : )

I don’t know enough about your situation, but tolerance is a very good virtue, one which is necessary for one’s self-respect. You should think of yourself of course, and you have to think of others as well. But the best course of action is to identify yourself as being a part of the greater whole. Your family needs you, and if you take great meaning and purpose from that then when you are acting for the good of the family you will feel good about yourself, and that is the key to happiness. Again, this is what I call organismic love, loving the whole organism to which one belongs and seeing yourself as an important and productive member of that whole organism (which hopefully makes you feel appreciated and tries to act in the same way and doesn’t just use you as a doormat). When you are a part of a strong working organism, you feel strong and empowered and proud of yourself and your organism. When others take advantage of you, or when you take advantage of others, the organism becomes imbalanced and becomes stressed, leading to destructive behaviors.

What you seem to be saying is that it’s not black and white – it’s more complex than that and this is why we have a brain to reason it all through in any given situation with find ourselves.

It is often very difficult to tell whether organismic motivation is properly motivated. Sometimes you can tell through intuition when something is wrong, other times it is blatantly obvious, and still other times you may be mistaken. We all just do our best.

I think this is why religion is suitable, as it provides frameworks that mean we don’t have to do all the reasoning every time – we can link to catch phrases – that when responded too will create and build meaning.

I think this is where religion really starts to fall apart! Their method is to treat everyone the same, which is interpreted differently by each person, acted out differently by each person, and leads to utter confusion and a lot of malevolence, narcissism, unrewarded altruism, hurt feelings, and the destruction of organisms (e.g. families) which would otherwise have remained intact. But perhaps you are right to some degree. Certainly without any framework to work off of religion might be better than nothing. This is actually what I believe, that the power of religion is its ability to organize people where there would otherwise not be a sufficient degree of organization. But it is primitive and outdated.

Love being the sense of oneness with all and happiness – Spinoza’s:
“If we recognize that everything happens from necessity, we can achieve an intuitive understanding of nature as a whole.
We can come to realise with crystal clarity that everything is related, even that everything is One.
The goal is to comprehend everything that exists in an all-embracing perception.
Only then will we achieve true happiness and contentment.”

I’m not big on Spinoza. I see love not as oneness with all, because that implies the loss of the self within the greater whole. This is not what I see organicism as being. Rather, organicism entails being a strong individual within an organized group of other strong individuals. It is rather unlike symbiosis, as someone recently brought up, because that implies that one individual member (or cell) could not survive without the others. Love is rather a sense of belonging. It’s a bit of a subtle difference, but one I think well worth making. This is because not doing so can lead to this nonsense about “everything being One”. If you only see the forest and not the trees, if you only see the whole and not the individual parts, you lose out on all the complexity and differentiation of the system. It’s lopsided and imbalanced and extreme. And there is no such thing as achieving “true happiness and contentment”, there is only degrees. AND if the goal is to comprehend everything, we are all doomed to be miserable failures. No, I don’t like Spinoza much at all.

This is what Spinoza called seeing everything ‘sub specie acternitatis’.

The translation I came up with for this quote was “under the appearance of eternity”. Again, it implies losing oneself, losing the subjective perspective in favor of only the objective. Too one-sided, too extreme. There is a duality to perspective. If you only look at things from your subjective point of view, you can’t have empathy or tolerance or anything else that comes with understanding. And if you only look at things from how others view it, from the perspective of reason alone, you lose sight of what made you want to look to begin with. You lose the passion that comes from each moment from the perspective of eternity.

Perhaps we could talk of it in terms of if it is talked about it is useful – but in what amount and what words can we describe this middle group with…

Permissive no
Appraise yes
Self-righteous no

Sure, this works. It reminds me of the different approaches to parenting. The permissive is on one extreme, and authoritarian on the other. An authoritative method is best, because it is assertive and provides a good role model and provides leadership without being domineering, dominating, or oppressive. And this fits in nicely with part of our earlier conversation.

Another thing with this Spinoza chap. I took an interesting class once where the teacher was talking about the difference between rigid, clear, and fuzzy thinking. On one extreme is rigid thinking, which is seeing things in black and white and not seeing the shades of gray in between. This type of thinking sees boundaries where no clear and cut boundaries exist. On the other extreme is fuzzy thinking, which sees everything blending into everything else until it all becomes One, one big undifferentiated blob. This is the kind of thinking that I see Spinoza leaning towards. The middle ground (here's Aristotle again) is seeing clearly, which means being able to see that boundaries are permeable but that there are still things which can be clearly distinguished from other things.

 

This reminds me of another professor who was trying to teach the class this Spinoza crap, that everything is interconnected. I argue forcefully against this kind of thinking. What I am doing today, for example, has nothing to do with the price of tea in China. This is the kind of thinking that leads to the belief in things like telekinesis or telepathy (great quote: "everyone who believes in telekinesis, raise my hand") or any other absurd, random, or completely impossible phenomena. Everything has a natural explanation, so there has to be a way of testing what causes things. There are many things which simply have no causal relation to each other, so the statement that everything is connected is downright meaningless. The most it could be interpreted to mean is that there is some knowable number of connections between some thing or another. Otherwise, this is magical thinking.

Wanderer –

Sorry it’s been a while – I’ve had stuff on..

LOL – yes I think I did feel quite the sinner growing up! We were told we mustn’t have the 5 vice’s lust, anger, green, attachment and ego – and we must maintain a constant connection with god. Bit of a tall order don’t you think? And when do we get to have fun!? LOL That started for me when I was 4 years old – I’m only just getting over it and starting to embrace my natural human nature.

God dam right it’s out of balance… to think that our natural drives are bad…

I’ll have to have a look at your paper – I’m not sure I know where you’ve put the link now – would you be willing to post the link again for me?

Sure – I get the good being powerful thing – black sheep are trying to be good in their own way through gaining power or uniqueness or the opposite of what everyone else is doing – because it didn’t work for them. Charlie Sheen is just having a ‘good’ time isn’t he!?

Interesting points re religious people gaining perfection through supernatural means. Like you say we aren’t perfect – BUT we work – and that’s the point of evolution – we are here performing strategies that work – they aren’t perfect and they might not be pretty, but they do work. The ones that don’t work, die out.

I’ve just read My Ishmael – which puts forward the idea that we can look to past human strategies of success when thinking about our own lives. This idea of having an economy of support – seems to be linking into your ideas about loving your whole family – and perhaps sticking together to provide security – sharing food and giving each other protection. As different to our mother culture that wants us all to pay for everything with money – support services, hospitals, doctors, home help etc

Love is a sense of belonging. That’s what we get when we trade in the economy of support – we give support – we get support. This leads us to a ‘tribe’ were we could have cradle to grave security.

LOL re your comments on Spinoza – I can appreciate that differentiation and seeing identity and complexity is valuable in more ways than one.

Re your comments about the usefulness of religion – they are a good way to get people self regulating in a large society – where law and order is hard to achieve without willing participation – with hell to go to, it’s more incentive to behave well and be self regulated than to put on more police… perhaps…

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