Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Moral Code of Life

In its most general sense, morality is a code which guides one’s choices and actions.

Consequently there are two basic codes available to man, both mutually opposed to one another.

They are:
the moral code of life vs. the code of death.
Let us explore what distinguishes these two mutually opposed codes.

The moral code of life is a code which utilizes a hierarchical structure of values as the standard according to which one governs his choices and actions. Values are those things which we need, given our nature as biological organisms, in order to live and enjoy happy, fulfilled lives.

By contrast, the code of death is a set of duties which one is to obey under the compulsion of psychological sanctions (such as threats of harm or destruction to oneself) regardless of any benefit or loss that may result from such obedience. Invariably, duties of this nature entail some form of self-sacrifice.

Thus the contrast between the moral code of life vs. the code of death, is the fundamental distinction between egoism and altruism.

Since values are pro-life, they are necessarily pro-self, hence a moral code of life – i.e., the moral code which teaches man to pursue those values which make his life possible to live – is necessarily egoistic in nature.

On the other hand, the code of death requires one, not to pursue those values which make his life possible, but to sacrifice them in some way, and is thus altruistic in nature.

In his lecture Religion vs. Morality, philosopher Andrew Bernstein explains the basic nature of egoism, contrasts it with altruism, discusses the egoistic nature of goodwill, and lays out the essentials of the moral code of life (33:51 – 37:19):
The validation of egoism involves this identification: life requires the attainment of values, not their sacrifice. If you understand that, that’s the whole argument for egoism. Life requires the attainment of values, not their sacrifice. To pursue values is to seek life. To relinquish or sacrifice them is to court death. Life requires egoism. Death is the result of altruism.  
Altruism calls specifically for the sacrifice of one’s values and must not be confused with kindness toward others.   
Goodwill towards people one cares about, or at least has no reason to hold in contempt, is properly an important value for a rational man.  For example, one can receive great joy from helping one’s child, spouse, family member or dear friend. One can even receive joy from helping a stranger.  
Conversely, where is the good will toward an individual called upon to sacrifice his values, whether it’s his education, his career, his wealth, his love, his life? There is no good will in demanding or even requesting that a person sacrifice himself.  
Genuine caring for others resides in encouraging them to spread their wings and fly, exhorting them to achieve their values and prosper, urging them to live rationally, productively, egoistically.  
Speaking of Star Trek, what was the old Vulcan salutation? “Live long and prosper.” Now that’s egoism. Live long and prosper. That doesn’t say “Sacrifice yourself and die young.” That’s not a benevolent salutation.  
Millions of loving parents understand this, at least implicitly, and rear their children with such a commonsense form of egoism, taking great joy in their child’s achievements and their prosperity. Put simply, not sacrificially helping others, helping those who are good people about whom one genuinely cares, is good.  
Sacrificing the self is bad. Sacrificing the self or doing things that in any way harms one’s life, is evil.  
Now Ayn Rand asked, and answered, the fundamental questions of moral philosophy.  
What are values? They are those ends or goals that, given an organism’s nature, objectively promote its life.  
Based on this revolutionary insight, she proceeded to ask the three further questions of moral philosophy:  
One – What is the standard of moral value? The factual requirements of human life.  
Two - By what means are men to attain values? By means of reason.  
Three – Who or what should fundamentally benefit from values? The individual acting in pursuit of them.  
These three principles – life as the standard of value, reason as man’s basic means of living, and the individual as the proper beneficiary of his own actions – constitute the ethical code of life. These are the three principles that men must understand and adopt if they seek to live long and prosper.
So, to recap the moral code of life, we have:
Q: What are values?  
A: They are those ends or goals that, given an organism’s nature, objectively promote its life.  
Q: What is the standard of values?  
A: The factual requirements of human life.  
Q: By what means are men to attain values?  
A: By means of reason.  
Q: Who or what should fundamentally benefit from values?  
A: The individual acting in pursuit of them.
Clearly then, we can see that the moral code of life is explicitly objective (since it is based explicitly on facts relevant to man’s life and its needs), rational (since it applies reason to the task of living), and selfish (since the individual himself is the primary beneficiary of his own moral actions).

By contrast, Christianity offers us the code of death. To see why, let’s put these questions to the Christian worldview:

1. What are values?

Christianity's answer:
Unfortunately, Christianity has no answer for this, the most fundamental question of moral philosophy. You can scour the pages of the bible from Genesis through Revelation, and you will find no discussion defining and explaining the nature of values. You don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it. I did a search of the entire bible on keyword ‘value’ and got these results: a total of six verses have the word ‘value’ in the entire bible (my printed version of the bible is 1100 pages long!). Half of these are in the Old Testament (two verses in Leviticus – 27:8, 12; and one in Job – 13:4), and the other half are in the New Testament (two verses in Matthew – 10:31, 27:9 – and one in Luke – 12:7). Of these six verses, the most promising seems to be Matthew 10:31, which has Jesus say to his followers: “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” So our value is to be measured in terms of sparrows. Of course, while such a statement assumes some meaning in the concept ‘value’, it by no means explains it or argues for a particular viewpoint. So we could say that at least some of the authors were aware of the concept ‘value’ and assumed it has some meaning; the same could be said of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. But there is no definition, no discussion, no exploration of the meaning of ‘value’ anywhere to be found in the bible. Quite simply, there is no axiology - i.e., a theory of values - that we can say is distinctively biblical in nature. (If Christians want to defend their worldview or challenge any of these points, I invite them to enlighten me in the comments of this blog.)
2. What is the standard of values?

Christianity's answer:
Sadly, since the bible does not even explain what values are, it fails to give any explicit guidance on this extremely important issue. If one reads through the gospel narratives, for example, there are cases when wealthy individuals are instructed to give away their belongings and follow Jesus. No indication is given on how those individuals acquired the values they possessed – their acquisition of values is simply taken for granted. Given this glaring omission as the pretext to answering the present question, it must be noted that any “standard” that Christianity offers on behalf of values would necessarily be subjective in nature, since it will be related by Christian believers to something they can only imagine - i.e., the god they claim to worship. A subjective, imagination-based standard is nothing more than whim-worship, and as such it will never provide a standard of values that man can use for his life. This is why the thousand-year period of Christian domination in the west known as the Dark Ages was characterized by cultural stagnation and economic decline. Since ideas have consequences when put into practice, this serves as a good example of what will happen to a civilization if and when Christianity rises to dominance.
3. By what means are men to attain value?

Christianity's answer:
To the degree that the concept ‘value’ has any meaning within Christianity, the believer is to rely on faith and assume a role of passivity in this regard, for value is expected to be “bestowed” upon man from a supernatural source. He is to expect the unearned. Christians attempt to threaten non-believers by saying things like “we will still reap what we sow” if we do not “turn to Christ.” The only implication possible here is that one is to expect that he can attain the unearned if he embraces Christianity. And this is no accident: according to Christianity, one is expect to accept unearned guilt - i.e., “Adam’s sin”; he is to hope for unearned forgiveness - i.e., “salvation in Christ”; and he is to expect unearned favor - i.e., “divine grace.” The suggestion of the New Testament teaching is that one will gain if he surrenders. Of course, this undermines the moral sanctity ascribed by Christianity to any self-sacrificial action which it encourages by implying a selfish motivation: “you will gain if you sacrifice.” Thus Christianity cannot provide a motivation for what it considers “moral behavior” that is consistent with its own moral premises. A compounded guilt complex an only result from attempting to put Christian teaching into practice.
4. Who or what will fundamentally benefit from values?

Christianity's answer:
Certainly not the individual who happens to earn and produce any values. He is expected to “die to self” and surrender his values - either to the poor, to the church, to his neighbor – to anything or anyone but himself lest he enjoy the fruits of his own labor for himself, which would be selfish and thus condemned by Christianity altogether.
Clearly then, we can see that the code of death is anything but pro-life: it is explicitly subjective (since it is based entirely on something we can only imagine as opposed to facts which we discover in existence); it is irrational (since it dispenses with reason and relies on faith in revelations); and it is anti-self (since it requires man to sacrifice himself and his values to others or to a being that he can only imagine). Thus the code of “morality” which Christianity affirms is explicitly anti-life, since it is anti-values, anti-reason and anti-self. It is entirely unfit for man because it is entirely unfit for his life. It is thus pro-death.

By contrast, the moral code of life of Objectivism is explicitly and entirely pro-life: it is explicitly objective (since it is based on facts relevant to man’s life and its needs); it is rational (since it applies reason to the task of living); and it isegoistic (since the individual is the primary beneficiary of his own moral actions).

The choice between Objectivism and Christianity could not be any clearer: either one adopts the moral code of life which essentially says “live long and prosper,” or one adopts the code of death which essentially says “sacrifice yourself and die young.”

Since we each get to make our own choice in life, I will go with Objectivism, thank you.

by Dawson Bethrick

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49 Comments:

Blogger ActionJackson864 said...

thank you for another great post! looks like you have been cranking them out lately! : ]

November 06, 2013 5:21 AM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

I know that Objectivism would (does) advocate abortion rights for women mostly due to the ideal that an unborn can not technically be considered an individual and therefore can not technically have rights. However, your statement at the beginning of the post ("Since values are pro-life, they are necessarily pro-self, hence a moral code of life – i.e., the moral code which teaches man to pursue those values which make his life possible to live – is necessarily egoistic in nature.") would suggest that one should not be faulted for doing what one can to help mothers-to-be to lean towards favouring life, does it not? At least, tangentially? Or does the fact that values are "pro-life" mean that they are only "pro" the "life" of the born individual (making the importance of the life of the unborn solely up to the already born)?

Just a weird thought. I think in strange directions sometime.

Daniel




November 06, 2013 6:35 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Daniel,

These are intriguing questions. I’m not sure if I have any satisfying answers as the topics your questions raise are quite wide.

First I want to point out that much of your query here has to do with rights, which is a political concept. Rights become an issue when individuals live in proximity with one another and need some objective criteria by which they can get along. By contrast, the moral code of life is individual-centric – it considers the individual’s needs even before the question of interpersonal relationships become an issue. And this is only logical: an individual is not going to be able to participate in any interpersonal relationships unless he exists, and he will not exist for long if he does not govern his choices and actions according to the moral code of life. So the moral code of life comes first. Only later, when the individual finds himself mixing with others, does the concept of rights become an issue.

As for the right to get an abortion, a woman no doubt has such a right. Human beings have a right to their own bodies. We have a right to get piercings, to get tattoos, to have cancerous organs removed, to have liposuction, to have certain “enhancements,” to have appendectomies, to have Plantar warts removed, etc. So if a woman discovers that she is pregnant, she has the right to terminate it. And yes, there is the argument that rights pertain to the actual, not to potential human beings. I think that argument certainly applies in the case of, say, a first trimester pregnancy.

As for abortion as such, I personally detest the very thought of it, especially given the wealth of alternatives available to us. Then again, I detest the thought of getting a tattoo as well. But my detesting either is no basis for arguing that one has no right to either.

I am the father of a 5-year-old daughter. I cannot put into words how much I love her. Good thing love is not limited to mere words! (The notion that we are to find love in “The Word” only tells me that Christianity completely misses the point on this matter.) There’s not an hour that goes by when I’m not concerned about her welfare.

Before our daughter was born, my wife had a miscarriage during her first pregnancy. Some might call this nature aborting its own. Obviously there’s no way to outlaw that. Some pregnancies simply do not carry to term. It was an awful experience for both of us, a loss that is immeasurable, and often my wife and I wonder who that little potential might have become in our lives had it been a successful pregnancy. So I have to say, I cannot personally understand the mind of a person who opts for an abortion, but at the same time I can certainly understand that certain circumstances in life might lead a person to consider it.

Then again, I think my wife did things in the right order: we had good income, then we got married, then we got a nice house, then we had our daughter. Many start at the opposite end, and that is a formula for disaster that can and should be avoided in my opinion. Govern your choices and actions rationally, is my uncompromising policy. What fault can anyone find with that?

[continued…]

November 07, 2013 3:39 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now, as for faulting people who would do what they can to help would-be mothers to reconsider their choice to abort, as such I see no problem with this so long as their advances are welcome by those would-be mothers and no infraction of their rights is involved. I would also say in this respect that attempts to shame people by invoking some kind of psychological sanction (which is the calling card of any mystical worldview) are irrational; but then again, irrationality as such cannot be outlawed. An individual has the right to govern himself irrationally, just as he has the right to govern himself rationally.

In the end, an individual’s right to his own property cannot be violated. One of the contributors over at Triablogue has posted videos of his own making where he stalks women in the parking lots of abortion clinics, and when those women arrive and get out of their vehicles, he gets out and starts hounding them with his preaching and video camera. Clearly this fellow wants to have some say in other people’s decisions about their lives. But what value does he offer them? And is he violating any property rights by doing so? This of course is to be determined by the law; I am not a legal expert. But it would seem to me that he probably has no right to be on the property, but rather is there by privilege, which the owner should be able to revoke at any time for any reason.

[continued…]

November 07, 2013 3:39 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now let me say that, from a Christian perspective, the heat which Christian organizers produce in regard to abortion in general and “abortion rights” in particular, is rather perplexing. For one thing, Christians tell us over and over that their god has a “plan,” that all of human history is governed by their god in order to fulfill this “plan,” and that everything that happens anywhere, happens because it is “part of God’s plan.” That is what we are told over and over again. So for those Christians who say this, I can only ask (in order to make their position on the matter explicit), is: Is abortion part of “God’s plan”? This is a simple yes-no question, but it’s hard to see how a Christian could answer it in a manner that promotes the Christian worldview. If he answers “yes,” then it would seem quite distinctly that abortion is unavoidable, for there is nothing that can get in the way of “God’s plan.” If he answers “no,” then he is essentially saying that things happen which are outside of his god’s “plan,” which can only mean that not everything that happens is according to “God’s plan.”

So there’s that.

But there are yet further burdens for the psychology of the believer on this matter. The determinism inherent in Christianity makes it hard to take the believer’s manifest outrage very seriously. It seems that it could have no credibility on his own worldview’s deterministic premises. Check out this brief collage of statements by William Lane Craig:

Christian Apologetics – Genocide Is Good For Everybody!

Craig’s point is that we should not look at the issue of genocidal wars )depicted in the bible as being commanded by the Christian god, in which children were killed) in “naturalistic terms.” On his view, “life” does not end with death. Rather, Craig claims that, from his own Christian perspective, a child’s death in childhood means his automatic salvation since – according to Craig’s view – children who lose their lives are automatically saved. It’s hard to see how one could put together a stronger case, from a mystical perspective, for aborting every pregnancy that ever happens. Indeed, if that were to happen, eventually the human race would die out (since no new offspring were being added to the overall population), and the spiritual blight on the earth that is “sin” would disappear (for clearly rocks and cockroaches do not “sin”).

So whence comes this “moral outrage” that Christians pretend to have over abortion? It certainly could not, in a manner consistent with their worldview’s teachings, come from so-called “family values,” for Christians are explicitly taught that enmity with family members is a precondition for discipleship, as we learn in Luke 14:26, which states: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

According to Christianity, one is to hate his own family members, love his enemies, and believe that whatever happens is in accordance with “God’s plan,” and assume that the souls of aborted children immediately get saved.

I’m glad these aren’t my problems!

Regards,
Dawson

November 07, 2013 3:40 AM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

Dawson,
You said:
“These are intriguing questions. I’m not sure if I have any satisfying answers as the topics your questions raise are quite wide.”

Yes, the questions were broad and as I noted they whole notion was merely something that popped into my head due to your completely unrelated use of the term “pro-life”. That’s okay; I think you did pretty well. A five page answer from someone like you should (does) cover the bases fairly well.

As for my questioning pursuing the general direction of rights/individual rights, I agree, as I made concession for this in the framing of my question.

You said:
“As for the right to get an abortion, a woman no doubt has such a right. Human beings have a right to their own bodies... And yes, there is the argument that rights pertain to the actual, not to potential human beings. I think that argument certainly applies in the case of, say, a first trimester pregnancy.”

Agreed. Although you do not get into detail as to why you feel this way, I would assume, for us to err on the side of caution, we would not want to abort after this given point because it may mean we are coming dangerously close to aborting a being who has functioning senses which are delivering information to the brain of the unborn (perceptual input) and the potential that that brain maybe forming a rudimentary concept of the world means we may be dealing with a “thinking” being at such a point; ergo an individual. (Many studies indicate that the infant has “learned” a good deal about the world/his parents by the time he is born.) But that’s just my guess...

[continued]

November 07, 2013 8:14 AM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

You said:
“I am the father of a 5-year-old daughter. I cannot put into words how much I love her.”

I am the father of a few rug-rats myself and feel just as strongly about them as you feel about your little one. But we aren’t relegating decisions on weighty matters merely to our whims, now are we? The real question that was perhaps buried in my original query wasn’t so much even designed to get an absolute answer one way or the other on what you preferred or even what is ethical, really. I understand the “rights” issue. It was more to see if Objectivism’s metaphysical base supports the preference towards life. The favouring of life as opposed to, perhaps, being completely ambivalent in the information/advice given to the struggling potential mother-to-be. In other words, does the Objectivist have to remain “silent” on his opinion that she bring the child to term, or can he urge her to do so and try to see that she does, as long as he is respecting the woman’s rights?

You said:
“Govern your choices and actions rationally, is my uncompromising policy. What fault can anyone find with that?”

Depends on who you ask. Ha.

You said:
“Now, as for faulting people who would do what they can to help would-be mothers to reconsider their choice to abort, as such I see no problem with this so long as their advances are welcome by those would-be mothers and no infraction of their rights is involved.”

That’s all I am asking about. Is there a rational defense for being this person? If there is, it would imply that one should, in the interest of being rational, always (in the right circumstances, of course) try to talk the mother out of the abortion. Or is it up to preference?

In regards to the “providence” of god, to which you referred, the whole notion of pre-destination and free-will is a complete contradictory joke in Christian theology. There is no salvaging the problems in any sane and satisfying way. Actually, the only “resolution” that I have seen, time and time again, is for the believer to say something along the lines of, “It’s all in God’s hands”, or “We aren’t supposed to ‘get it’” or some such tripe. I thought you said very well, all that can be said on the issue, here: http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.ca/2007/04/virginia-tech.html

You said:
“Check out this brief collage of statements by William Lane Craig”

Nothing new to me. I heard this shit for the18 years of my life that I was attending church/Christian “educational” institutions. In fact, the last time I mentioned a conversation between myself and someone I knew from “back in the day”, it was that school teacher to whom I was referring. Earlier, in that very same conversation, he said the following to my brother, who was asking this “teacher” how he knew god to be “his God” and “the right ONE”, etc:

“Your understanding of His favouritism ignores the fact that He loves the whole world and that all of the nations of the world would be blessed through Israel.”

Not sure if he would have felt that way if he and his family were innocent Amalekites, but..... It’s the same psychopathic, inhumane genocide fodder that Craig promulgates. It’s sick.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

In Humanity,
Daniel

November 07, 2013 8:16 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

One Christian, with whom I've had many verbal discussions, has had a very difficult time answering the following questions:

If infant salvation is guaranteed, why wouldn't you, as a Christian who subscribes to this doctrine, be in favor of abortion?

If there is no guarantee that a child will receive salvation after being born, i.e., if there's a chance, no matter how slim, that this child could end up in hell at the end of his or her life, then why risk bringing such a child into the world in the first place? Why shouldn't someone end the pregnancy so the child will be **guaranteed** entry into heaven?

Interestingly, in cases of rape or incest, the same Christian has said that he would approve of an abortion. In making such exceptions, he admits that there is an inconsistency in his position.

Ydemoc

November 07, 2013 10:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Daniel,

You wrote: “Agreed. Although you do not get into detail as to why you feel this way,”

If what you mean by “this way” is my view that the woman has the right to abort, I consider this a corollary of her right to exist for her own sake. But you apparently had my reference to the first trimester in mind, since you wrote:

“I would assume, for us to err on the side of caution, we would not want to abort after this given point because it may mean we are coming dangerously close to aborting a being who has functioning senses which are delivering information to the brain of the unborn (perceptual input) and the potential that that brain maybe forming a rudimentary concept of the world means we may be dealing with a “thinking” being at such a point; ergo an individual.”

That is an issue that has been debated for some time now. If there is such a line, where is it? Who determines it? What determines it? How do we identify the borderland? I’m certainly no expert in this area.

One fellow I used to correspond with years ago (he was at least very sympathetic to Objectivism), argued that a woman has the right to abort her pregnancy any time she wants, but she doesn’t have a right to kill the fetus. His point was that there are many technological advances – and more on the way to be sure – which make both aborting a pregnancy and ensuring the survival of the fetus possible (though I am not aware of how this can be accomplished in the earliest stages of pregnancy). Interesting thought, but I’m guessing that even if such technology existed and was used by would-be mothers who opted to abort, the religionists would still be up in arms against abortion as such.

You wrote: “I am the father of a few rug-rats myself and feel just as strongly about them as you feel about your little one. But we aren’t relegating decisions on weighty matters merely to our whims, now are we?”

I’m certainly not suggesting this.

[continued…]

November 07, 2013 3:44 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “The real question… was more to see if Objectivism’s metaphysical base supports the preference towards life.”

Well, if it’s the life of an actual human being, then obviously yes, Objectivism’s metaphysical base supports the choice to live, provided one makes that choice. If one wants to live, he will need a worldview which teaches him how to distinguish between facts and non-facts and to go with what the facts indicate. Objectivism is not a worldview of indifference. If one wants indifference to human life, it seems that going with the Christian god, or something like it, would be one’s best bet.

You wrote: “The favouring of life as opposed to, perhaps, being completely ambivalent in the information/advice given to the struggling potential mother-to-be. In other words, does the Objectivist have to remain ‘silent’ on his opinion that she bring the child to term, or can he urge her to do so and try to see that she does, as long as he is respecting the woman’s rights?”

Objectivism does not say that one must say something or that one must remain silent on anything. Objectivism does not preach a set of duties. Our actions are determined by the goals we choose to pursue, and that is why we need reason: to identify the proper goals that we should pursue in order to live happy, fulfilled lives. Objectivism does not teach that we are obligated to be campaigners for some social cause.

Now, the question you are posing here is contextually sterile. To consider the question of whether a person should or should not try to persuade a woman considering an abortion one way or another would require knowledge of a whole spectrum of specifics, details which are not given here. How does the person know the woman? What is their relationship? What business is it of his? Why would he have an opinion either way in the context of her specific case?

Suppose the lady who lives across from me has just discovered that she is pregnant and is considering an abortion. First of all, I probably would not know any of this. I do not talk to her often, and I tend not to be able to tell that someone is pregnant until they’re getting close to popping, especially if she’s already fairly heavy. And of course, unless she tells me, I’m not going to know what she’s planning to do – whether it’s to have an abortion or raise the next Jim Thorpe. But even supposing I learn of all this somehow – perhaps she tells me “I’m pregnant but I might get an abortion.” Seriously, what business is it of mine? I have no say in this. Now, if she said, “Dawson, I don’t know what to do. Can I talk to you about it? Tell me what you think?” then we could have a discussion and hopefully enough of those specifics would come out such that we can map out a clear path to a final decision. Only then would I have any legitimate opportunity to offer my input on it. And given her specifics, maybe abortion might be the best option. We cannot make rational decisions apart from considering the context which brought us to that point.

[continued…]

November 07, 2013 3:44 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had written: “Now, as for faulting people who would do what they can to help would-be mothers to reconsider their choice to abort, as such I see no problem with this so long as their advances are welcome by those would-be mothers and no infraction of their rights is involved.”

You asked: “That’s all I am asking about. Is there a rational defense for being this person?”

I don’t think one could make a standing rule either way. The context of each situation would have to be examined on a case by case basis. Similarly with divorce. If my neighbors across the street are thinking of getting a divorce, it’s really none of my business. And I’m not about to go stick my nose in it. Believe me, I have enough worries of my own. I stopped being so concerned about what other people do in their private lives long ago, and I think that’s part of being an adult.

You wrote: “If there is, it would imply that one should, in the interest of being rational, always (in the right circumstances, of course) try to talk the mother out of the abortion.”

Now it seems that you’re moving in the direction of defining some kind of duty. That’s the furthest thing from my view on these matters. Hopefully what I’ve given above fills in some of the blanks.

Okay, I have to head out soon.

Regards,
Dawson

November 07, 2013 3:45 PM  
Blogger David Barwick said...

Very much enjoying the recent flurry of posts!

November 07, 2013 11:18 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

Dawson, have you seen this guy's attacks against egoism? how would you respond to his charges that your morality cannot produce moral duties? http://covenant-theology.blogspot.ca/search?q=morality

November 08, 2013 6:53 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello wakawakwaka,

Thank you for your query and for the link. I have not taken a look at the article (maybe I will later, but no promises), but first off I'd say in response to the charge that my morality "cannot produce moral duties," is that rational morality isn't about "duties" in the first place. Morality is not about "obligations." It's about applying rational principles to the task of living and enjoying one's life. As Rand puts it in "Galt's Speech" (Atlas Shrugged):

<<The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.>>

If the author of that article, or anyone else for that matter, wants to follow a set of "duties" regardless of their impact on his values, he is free to do so. I will not stop him. But I will govern my choices and actions by reason, not by "duties."

How's that?

Regards,
Dawson

November 08, 2013 7:11 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Great to see so much action lately here Dawson.

November 08, 2013 7:36 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

but what if that guy asks you why should he follow your definition of what morality is over someone elses?

November 09, 2013 12:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Wak,

Did you read my blog entry? All of it? Do you not recognize the fundamental difference between the moral code of life and the code of death? Are you not able to put these things together so that you yourself can answer your questions? Do you always need someone else to do your thinking for you?

I did get a moment to look at the entry you linked to over on the covenant-theology.blogspot site. It is difficult to see how anyone could be persuaded by what is found there. The guy simply launches off into a series of assertions which stipulate one thing and then another, some of them incompatible with one another, and none of it well-thought-out at all. What’s worse is the guy does not even keep his diatribe focused on the individual’s moral needs; as is so typical with theistic treatments of morality, he runs right off into social theory and starts telling us what he thinks would be the case, given his extremely limited understanding of rational egoism, in terms of interpersonal test cases. Notice also that his “duties” (which he nowhere defends with arguments) are proscriptive in nature – they only tell us what people should not do – they in no wise provide any guidance on what a person should do. But since we need values and we must act in order to achieve and preserve them, his “morality” leaves the thinking individual completely high and dry when it comes to defining a moral code that he can use as a comprehensive guide for his choices and actions.

So tell you what, Wak, since this is apparently very difficult for you, if I get some time later (today, this week, next month), I’ll post an interaction with this guy’s “devastating refutation” of egoism. And of course, if you have further questions, by all means, let me know.

Regards,
Dawson

November 09, 2013 3:45 PM  
Blogger IratePotentate said...

*chuckle*

Amusing post. Eloquent, but fundamentally flawed.

By your own stated definition of "values" Christianity is an objective code of life because its adherents believe in an afterlife. If God exists, believing and serving Him such that one receives a reward is the only objective, rational, egoistic choice.

If you bound existence to physical life, then your dichotomy of moral codes works; but that which you are trying to refute does not fit inside those bounds. You may wish to impose those bounds so you can tie off your argument in a tidy little blog post, but as always, there is more beneath the surface.

As for a Biblical definition of morality or "values" that's easy; what is moral is anything that pleases or honors God. What is immoral is anything that dishonors or displeases God.

November 09, 2013 5:35 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

IratePotentate:

By your own stated definition of "values" Christianity is an objective code of life because its adherents believe in an afterlife.

Christian values are "objective" because of a "belief"? You've come to the right place to learn about the proper object/subject relationship. The very fact that the afterlife exists as a belief makes it subjective.

The concept of an afterlife is appealing, and I'm not immune to its appeal. However, my worldview won't let me fool myself.

November 09, 2013 7:21 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

" Do you always need someone else to do your thinking for you?"
as long as it has nothing to do with history because ive devoted so much of my mind and time to study history, i become very scatterbrained when thinking about everything else
" Do you not recognize the fundamental difference between the moral code of life and the code of death? "
yes, except i am rather new to objectivism of ayn rand, and your articles are often very detailed and i need time to digest them,

November 09, 2013 7:25 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@IratePotentate

After having parsed out objectivist arguments I have come away with the understanding that when they speak of choosing values they exclude "under duress". By this I mean making a choice under threat of punishment is no moral choice at all as they see it. So obeying god to avoid hell fire is no moral action at all. Perhaps I am wrong but I suspect Dawson will weight in on this.

November 09, 2013 8:23 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello IratePotentate,

I’m glad you commented.

You wrote: “By your own stated definition of ‘values’ Christianity is an objective code of life because its adherents believe in an afterlife.”

Perhaps you did not read my post very carefully. So here it is again:

Q: What are values?
A: They are those ends or goals that, given an organism’s nature, objectively promote its life.


And earlier in the post, I had written the following:

Values are those things which we need, given our nature as biological organisms, in order to live and enjoy happy, fulfilled lives.

Even Christianity does not say that their souls after death will be biological organisms. Indeed, don’t Christians think they’ll be immortal after they die? That’s right – they’re always talking about “eternal life.” So on this view, there would be no requirements for the life they imagine awaiting them after death. They will not need water, food, shelter, breathable air, shelter, clothing, health care, education, etc. From what I gather, all they’ll be doing is singing in some giant chorus for all eternity – no poddy breaks needed. Frankly, it sounds utterly boring. But from what I understand, the afterlife is imagined to be free of need, suffering, want, etc. You’ll never need to brush your teeth or flush again. The alternative between life and death will simply not apply. So there will be no needs. Thus there could be no objective basis upon which to identify one thing as a value and another as a threat.

But in answer to your statement, that’s essentially the whole problem: values as the moral code of life defines them are defined in accordance with facts that we discover and validate about our needs as biological organism by reason. By contrast, the notion of an afterlife is purely imaginary – there are no facts to substantiate the notion that there is such a thing as an afterlife, and consequently there are no facts on which to base a code which assumes that such an afterlife awaits us beyond the grave. The notion of an afterlife is simply part of the code of death. One would have a really hard time selling a code of death if he did not manage somehow to mitigate the prospects of actual death. We are biological organisms, and only a moral code which recognizes this fact as fundamentally important can be fit for our existence. The code of death dispenses with facts and thus has no objective basis.

Even worse, if one believes that there is an afterlife and wants to attain it, he needs to do precisely the opposite of what the moral code of life teaches. If he wants to attain the afterlife that he imagines is waiting for him after death, he first needs to die. Quite simple actually. If you want to live, you have to conform your choices and actions to the facts of reality in order to meet the requirements of life. That’s the moral code of life. If you prefer to invest your passions in some imaginary realm, then you are in effect choosing death over life.

Hey, it’s your choice, Irate.

[continued…]

November 09, 2013 10:33 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “If God exists, believing and serving Him such that one receives a reward is the only objective, rational, egoistic choice.”

And all this time, Christians tell me that they obey their god, not for any selfish gain, but because they “love” their god with all their heart, mind and soul, regardless of what it chooses for them. The Christian god, they say, demands unconditional devotion, and Christians I have known have fervently affirmed that they love their god unconditionally. Of course, I’ve never believed this. Ask a Christian some time if they would still love their god if they believed it had already been “written” that they would go to hell no matter what they do. Typically they want no part of such discussions. To the extent that they respond to such questions, they typically come back with “God wouldn’t do that” in some form or another, as if they know what their god has in store for them (as though they could read their god’s mind). And to be sure, if they’re god is merely imaginary, this is what we would expect: they would be on safe ground saying that their god wouldn’t do this or wouldn’t do that. Something that is not real doesn’t do anything any way. Of course, none of this answers the question, which is a question about the believer’s own character. It is this – their own character – that they are trying to conceal and evade.

Or, how about this: if you are “saved” and find yourself in heaven, but learn that your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, wife or husband, any children you may have had, are burning in hell forever, do you think you could still be happy? I know I couldn’t. But that’s me. I truly love my family members. Love is not mere lip service in my worldview. But it’s hard to see sometimes that it’s nothing but lip service on the part of the devoted Christian.

At any rate, Irate, you’re telling us that the Christian worships and obeys the Christian god only for his own selfish gain. So all the condemnation that Christianity heaps on selfishness is hypocritical poppycock. Well, thanks for admitting this, but I already knew that.

You wrote: “If you bound existence to physical life, then your dichotomy of moral codes works;”

The antithesis between the moral code of life and the code of death does not depend on anything that I have done. These are not my rules. Life is inherently conditional. Sure, we can imagine alternatives to what is real, but the imaginary will forever remain imaginary. The fact that we face the fundamental distinction between life and death is what accounts for the fact that there is a moral code of life on the one hand, and a code of death (with all its many varieties) on the other. I did not create this; I did not make it this way. The facts tell us this, Irate. I recommend that you orient yourself and your worldview to the facts and recognize that the imagination is not a means of arriving at objective knowledge.

[continued…]

November 09, 2013 10:33 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “but that which you are trying to refute does not fit inside those bounds.”

You mean that the afterlife is not part of the realm of fact upon which the moral code of life rests? Of course! I realize that! The notion of an afterlife is completely arbitrary – it has no factual basis whatsoever. Its only “basis” is in the imagination. There is no need to refute it.

You wrote: “You may wish to impose those bounds so you can tie off your argument in a tidy little blog post, but as always, there is more beneath the surface.”

You mean, we don’t face the fundamental alternative of life vs. death? Please, elaborate. Tell us more of what you know. At the same time, explain how you know what you claim to know. Can’t do that? I figured.

You wrote: “As for a Biblical definition of morality or ‘values’ that's easy; what is moral is anything that pleases or honors God. What is immoral is anything that dishonors or displeases God.”

I have not found such a definition of ‘morality’ in any of my bibles. The term is completely lacking in all of them. Perhaps you can cite book, chapter and verse here? Also, the concepts ‘morality’ and ‘values’ are not one and the same; of course, they are related, but they are not equivalent. The definition of one is not interchangeable with the other. So I notice that, even though you make a very weak attempt to provide a biblical definition to ‘morality’, you offer not definition for ‘value’. According to the bible, what is a value?

Here are some basic questions – Christians are invited to give succinct answers and, if they can, tie their answers directly to passages that we can all read in their bible:

1. What is morality? (the answer you gave above is deficient since it does not tie to anything we can read in the bible)
2. Does man need morality? Yes or no?
3. If yes – man does need morality – why does he need morality?
4. What are values? (you gave no answer to this)
5. Does man need values? Yes or no?
6. If yes – man does need values – why does he need values?

The moral code of life answers these questions in a pro-man, pro-individual manner based on facts in accordance with reason. A code of death, such as what Christianity offers, bases its code on what is merely imaginary and in accordance with faith-based beliefs (i.e., yet further beliefs premised entirely in the imagination).

Now you see why I’m glad you commented?

Regards,
Dawson

November 09, 2013 10:33 PM  
Blogger IratePotentate said...

Dawson, you've got fire, I like that. But you must understand that there are hundreds of people on the internet just like you, and if you do not exhibit intellectual honesty and a solid grasp of the fundamentals of logic I simply don't have time for your arguments.

What you have done is the exact same thing men like Sye do and it is tiresome and stifles further discussion. Just as he says, "Because A, B!" "A" being God, you have done the same thing in saying there is no afterlife. You impose on me that there is no afterlife, and then explain what follows, but this is begging the question. You have narrowly defined the scope of your argument such that you can knock down the pins and prove your point.

But coming to the table having already decided that there is no possibility of any afterlife is disappointing. Given that some of the greatest philosophical and scientific minds in recorded history believed in an afterlife, and given that most people on the planet today believe in some sort of afterlife, the possibility must be considered seriously and objectively.

I'm more than willing to concede that it may not exist, as I live and move in the existential wasteland where all things are possible and no stone must be left unturned; do you have the steel to walk that wasteland with me?

November 10, 2013 5:45 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

IratePotentate,

Again you come back to me.

You wrote: “Dawson, you've got fire, I like that.”

It’s called non-contradictory joy, a great value that I have earned.

You wrote: “But you must understand that there are hundreds of people on the internet just like you,”

If only that were the case…

You wrote: “and if you do not exhibit intellectual honesty and a solid grasp of the fundamentals of logic I simply don't have time for your arguments.”

Why are you even here in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish? Do you think you’ve made any progress so far? What exactly do you think is wrong with my position? Try to be clear.

Since you are here, why not give it your best shot rather than the effete spectacle you’ve rummaged up so far? You don’t even address the six questions I gave in my previous response to you. There will be many more. How does your worldview address them? Put your best foot forward and show us.

At least make this clear: Which exhortation is closest to encapsulating your moral view: "Live long and prosper" or "Sacrifice yourself and die young"?

Which do you choose, Irate?

You write: “You impose on me that there is no afterlife, and then explain what follows, but this is begging the question.”

If that’s what you think I’ve done, you haven’t understood what I have written. I do not “impose” anything on anyone. I certainly do not “impose” that “there is no afterlife,” and from this “explain what follows.” My points do not follow from the premise “there is no afterlife” to begin with. Read again.

Man is a biological organism. He faces a fundamental alternative: life vs. death. Man’s life is thus conditional: if he does not acquire those things which, given his nature as a biological organism, he needs in order to live (i.e., values), he dies. Thus he needs a worldview which takes the facts of his nature as a biological organism into account – specifically a moral code which teaches him to apply reason to the task of living. That is the moral code of life – rational egoism.

There’s no question-begging in this. There’s no attempt to draw a conclusion from the premise “because there is no afterlife.” The notion of an afterlife is arbitrary silliness. It warrants no serious attention whatsoever. It is a feature of the code of death, as I explained. You don’t even try to defend the notion!

[continued…]

November 10, 2013 2:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “You have narrowly defined the scope of your argument such that you can knock down the pins and prove your point.”

I focus on the facts relevant to man’s nature as a biological organism. You complain that this is too narrow. That is most telling.

If you want to show that man is not a biological organism, then by all means start there – that is what you would need to unseat in all this. Correct me if you think I’m wrong.

You wrote: “But coming to the table having already decided that there is no possibility of any afterlife is disappointing.”

So you’re disappointed that I do not take seriously some silly notion that you hope is true. That is not my problem. Nor is it indicative of any breach of logical norms on my part. My argument also does not attempt to draw a conclusion from a denial of Buddhist premises, a denial of Islamic premises, a denial of Blarkist premises. The moral code of life does not rest on denials – it rests on facts. This is clearly laid out.

Perhaps the notion of deriving a moral code from facts pertaining to man’s nature is so alien to the thinking of those who take silly notions like an afterlife seriously, that they simply don’t understand what I’m doing. But again, that is not my problem.

You wrote: “Given that some of the greatest philosophical and scientific minds in recorded history believed in an afterlife, and given that most people on the planet today believe in some sort of afterlife, the possibility must be considered seriously and objectively.”

Now who’s trying to impose what on whom? That people throughout history have believed in a notion that is clearly arbitrary, imposes no obligation on me or anyone else to take seriously. We need values, and that is the case given our nature as biological organisms. So let’s get busy focusing on that. I am of the view that human life will be much better if we get rid of all this irrational superstition and focus on what is real. And you want to resist this. In doing so you tell me what you’re all about.

You speak of objectivity. Do you even know what objectivity is? Tell me, Irate, does wishing make it so? If not, why not? Please explain in a manner that is wholly consistent with your worldview (I presume you are a Christian, though you do not identify yourself as one explicitly). Wouldn’t objectivity at least in part guide us in carefully and consistently distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary? If objectivity as you understand it does not do this, it needs a fundamental overhaul.

[continued…]

November 10, 2013 2:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

So, Irate, you want to impose this notion of an afterlife. Then you need to argue for it. Simply saying that vast throngs of people throughout history have believed in an afterlife is simply not compelling. As I have pointed out, we can imagine an afterlife. Fine and dandy. But if that’s all you’ve got, then the jury must rest that it is merely imaginary. The jury needs evidence. The jury needs facts. The jury needs a solid case. Otherwise you have nothing to stand on. Meanwhile, I’ll go with the facts, even if you don’t like it.

You wrote: “I'm more than willing to concede that it may not exist, as I live and move in the existential wasteland where all things are possible and no stone must be left unturned; do you have the steel to walk that wasteland with me?”

I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know where you have chosen to live and move, but I live on a place called earth, and it is no wasteland. Not yet anyhow. If the religionists have their way, however, it will become one. They are on a campaign informed by the code of death, and their goal is not to create values, but to destroy them. They all want to blow it up and go on to their afterlife. Belief in an afterlife always undermines any value one might place on life right here in planet Earth.

A quick history lesson for you:

<<When they discovered, from the admissions of some of them, that there were Catholics mingled with the heretics they said to the abbot “Sir, what shall we do, for we cannot distinguish between the faithful and the heretics.” The abbot, like the others, was afraid that many, in fear of death, would pretend to be Catholics, and after their departure, would return to their heresy, and is said to have replied “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim. ii. 19) and so countless number in that town were slain.>> (Caesarius of Heisterbach on the Massacre at Béziers)

Or, as can rightly be summed up: Given the belief in a god, all things become permissible.

I’ll stick with “Live long and prosper.” If you like sacrificing yourself and dying young so much, have at it. I will not stop you.

Regards,
Dawson

November 10, 2013 2:13 PM  
Blogger IratePotentate said...

A non-contradictory worldview you say?

You stress biology in the extreme. Are then those aspects of reality that are empirically verifiable the only reality that we can know and is valid?

And by the by, I don't answer your questions because you have already established that you don't accept my answers or definitions. If, for the sake of discussion, I define Biblical morality, you are to allow me that definition so long as I am consistent in its use. To deny me the ability to define my terms is to deny my ability to communicate at all.

I understand you assume you have these things figured out for yourself already and so try to cut me off at the pass, but you don't, and your hubris is both discourteous and immature. I willingly accept your definitions and by them try to understand what you are trying to communicate. This is the basis on which all communication is built.

November 10, 2013 4:39 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"You stress biology in the extreme. Are then those aspects of reality that are empirically verifiable the only reality that we can know and is valid?"

seriously! you actually said that? No the question is if it cant be empirically verifiable how on earth could we lay claim to it being knowledge in the first place or are you in the habit of accepting the arbitrary.

November 10, 2013 5:32 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Irate wrote: "I'm more than willing to concede that it may not exist, as I live and move in the existential wasteland where all things are possible and no stone must be left unturned; do you have the steel to walk that wasteland with me?"

You wrote: "I have no idea what you’re talking about."

Count me as another who doesn't understand what Irate is saying here. However, within this yet-to- be-clarified paragraph, I was able to pick out at least one self-contradictory fragment, which is: "...all things are possible."

The question now is: Will Irate be able to identify why it is that this fragment contradicts itself?

Ydemoc

November 10, 2013 8:37 PM  
Blogger IratePotentate said...

Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions.

Stew on that for as long as you like, but I suspect Dawson already knows the truth of it.

November 11, 2013 3:07 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

IratePotentate,

You wrote: “You stress biology in the extreme.”

It’s not clear what you mean by this. Do you think a position can be too dependent on facts or something? That’s all I’m doing – pointing to fundamental facts about man’s nature which inform and support my position. Man is a biological organism. Do you disagree with this? Do you think we are rocks or something? We are not inanimate objects. If you cut me, I bleed. I have organs. I have blood vessels. I have bones. I have muscles. I have a hefty layer of fat. I continually face the fundamental alternative of life vs. death throughout every moment of my existence. Other biological organisms do too. How am I not a biological organism?

Or, do you think that I should ignore the fundamental facts of man’s nature – such as those that I have identified – for some reason? If so, what is that reason? What possible justification can there be for ignoring relevant facts?

Or, are you saying that I am overlooking something? If so, what specifically do you think I’m overlooking? Identify it. Be careful not to misidentify it. Try to apply the principle of objectivity if at all possible. How is whatever it may be that you think I’m ignoring not part of our nature as biological organisms? I have already argued that consciousness is biological. So focusing on that would be a dead end for you.

You wrote: “Are then those aspects of reality that are empirically verifiable the only reality that we can know and is valid?”

I go by reason. Reason is not confined to the perceptual level. It begins with perception and is based on it, but it builds on it conceptually - thus expanding my awareness beyond the perceptual level. That’s how we can have at least basic knowledge of all men as opposed to only those whom I’ve perceived firsthand. That is what Objectivism means by conceptual hierarchy. I go only by what I can learn by means of reason. I know, this annoys religionists to no end. But that’s not my problem.

Moreover, I’m quite careful, as hopefully you’ve noticed by now, not to confuse the imaginary with the real. This slashes off all of religion’s baloney categorically.

[continued…]

November 11, 2013 3:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “And by the by, I don't answer your questions because you have already established that you don't accept my answers or definitions.”

Look, my questions have been laid out for all comers to take a shot at. If you choose not to address them, do not blame me for your choice. I would think that someone who likes to think of himself as guided by an omnipotent and infallible supernatural being could handle it when puny little insignificant men like me do not accept every utterance that comes out of your mouth as though it were divinely authorized. It shows little confidence on your part if you’re reluctant to share your answers for fear of them being rejected. If you think your position is right, state it and try to defend it. Otherwise, if Clarkians adopt your reticence, they surely are a sorry bunch.

You wrote: “If, for the sake of discussion, I define Biblical morality, you are to allow me that definition so long as I am consistent in its use.”

I’m not sure what you mean by “allow me that definition.” I can neither allow nor disallow you anything. So far as I am concerned, you are free to do as you please. But this does not mean that I have any obligation to accept your definitions. I very well may find them faulty. But I would tell you why, and you might learn something in the process. You would like to learn, wouldn’t you?

You wrote: “To deny me the ability to define my terms is to deny my ability to communicate at all.”

I cannot deny you anything, Irate, other than posting comments on my blog entries after they’re 24 hours old.

You wrote: “I understand you assume you have these things figured out for yourself already and so try to cut me off at the pass,”

I have blog entries on these and other related topics going back to March 2005. Have you read any of them? There’s a lot there. I lay it all out for all comers to examine, rebut, accept, wince at, walk away from, laugh at, etc.

You wrote: “but you don't, and your hubris is both discourteous and immature.”

What do you take as an indication of hubris on my part? Is it simply that I do not believe in imaginary beings? Or is it that you don’t like the fact that I think your god is an imaginary being? If you think I’m discourteous and immature, why do you try to engage me? I asked this already, but you do not answer me.

You wrote: “I willingly accept your definitions and by them try to understand what you are trying to communicate. This is the basis on which all communication is built.”

Definitions are indeed important, which is one of the (many) reasons why I think the bible is so deficient as a guide for human life (cf., its failure to define so many crucial terms). But definitions are not unquestionable. Just as the concepts to which they pertain need to be formed by an objective process, so do definitions. Where is any process for forming concepts and their definitions laid out in “Scripture”? Just asking.

Now, as for my six questions, would you like to start there?

Regards,
Dawson

November 11, 2013 3:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

IratePotentate,

You wrote: “Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions.”

I suggest you take some time to learn more about Objectivism. Objectivism is not a casualty of the problem you cite here. Objectivism has a full theory of concepts – a theory explaining how concepts are formed on the basis of perceptual input. Thus we are not bound to the perceptual level of awareness. But your comment suggests that you are completely unaware of Objectivist epistemology.

Meanwhile, notice that the bible presents no theory of concepts whatsoever. Thus it has no account for knowledge. To put it mildly, that’s quite a liability.

Regards,
Dawson

November 11, 2013 3:19 AM  
Blogger IratePotentate said...

*sigh*

This is growing tiresome.

Objectivism is fundamentally flawed at its very core. It is indeed subject to the very limitations I identified. Simply stating that it is not may make you comfortable, but it does not make it so. Perhaps someone with a shred of intellectual honesty will read my comments and consider the absurdity of your claims.

But stating your opinions as fact seems to be your method of discussion, and so I leave you to it. See, unlike others, it does not bother me in the least what anyone thinks or believes. Truth does not change based on the observer, no matter how much we want to think our ideas and convictions matter.

November 11, 2013 4:17 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

IratePotentate,

Does that mean you won't me answering the six questions I posed above?

Regards,
Dawson

November 11, 2013 4:24 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Irate,

These two are contradictory:

Objectivism is fundamentally flawed at its very core

and

Truth does not change based on the observer

If you get to understand why, then maybe you'll understand objectivism a bit better.

November 11, 2013 5:47 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions."

and just what are universal propositions composed of? concepts. and where are concepts integrated from and what are they validated against? empirical sense perception. Try to pick up that chair you are sitting in all you like Irate.

November 11, 2013 8:34 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"Truth does not change based on the observer, no matter how much we want to think our ideas and convictions matter."

Why... Irate you sound like an objectivist:)

November 11, 2013 8:42 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

IratePotentate:

Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions.

So, we cannot trust the empirical evidence of miracles or Jesus being raised from the dead?

November 11, 2013 8:53 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

At least Irate grew enough to find his own ignorance of Objectivism – as he puts it – tiresome.

Irate finds it inconvenient that my moral theory is based on the fundamental facts of man’s nature. This resting on facts is “extreme” in his view, an objection he does not explain. He tries to divert the discussion to baiting questions about “empiricism,” again exhibiting that he knows nothing about Objectivism. He insinuates that I do not have “a solid grasp of the fundamentals of logic” while never indicating where exactly I have breached the fundamentals of logic, let alone how I have allegedly done so. He asserts (again without substantiation) that what I have done is just like what Sye Ten Bruggencate does, and yet Irate himself evades direct questions, accuses me of begging the question left and right (with no attempt to justify such charges – which is typical of Sye himself), and feigns that the discussion has grown “tiresome” apparently only because his assertions are not swallowed whole upon his issuing them.

I laid out a series of questions fundamental to the topic of morality, and while I have shown in my entry how the moral code of life addresses them, Irate makes silly excuses for not addressing them. At the same time, we are presumably to believe that his worldview has unassailable principles in this department, but unfortunately we’ll never get to see them because Irate is afraid they’ll be rejected.

Irate scolds me for not taking the religious belief of an afterlife seriously, and yet makes zero effort to substantiate this belief. He points out that many people in the past have believed in an afterlife (as if this were news). But so what? Are we to suppose all of a sudden that people are infallible? People in the past believed that slavery was perfectly moral as well, that mental problems are caused by demons, that the earth is flat, that the sun and stars revolve around the earth, that using force against “heretics” is a perfectly legitimate form of dealing with them, etc. It seems that it is Irate’s own critical faculties, not mine, that are questionable here.

Irate fails to bring any sustainable challenge against the moral code of life and the thesis that religion offers only the code of death in a variety of guises. He does not pinpoint any actual flaw in the moral code of life, he does not cite any facts on behalf of any viable alternative to the moral code of life, and he demonstrates over and over again that all he can really do is merely scold me for holding the views that I hold. His whole mission is one of negating, not identifying, destroying values rather than creating them.

Irate huffs that “Objectivism is fundamentally flawed at its very core,” which I take to mean that he rejects a moral theory that is encapsulated by the exhortation “live long and prosper.” This leaves only one alternative: “sacrifice yourself and die young.” This is the alternative modeled by Jesus joyfully going to the cross around the age of 30, a model held up by the churchmen like a scarecrow. Irate himself makes it clear that he wants me to be scared and even “terrified” of his imaginary deity. The attitude he displays stems from his frustration that his threats do not take with me. His claims that I have made some kind of logical blunder or that my view is somehow “fundamentally flawed,” is all smoke and mirrors intended to obscure the true nature of his resentment – namely his spite for the thinking human individual.

This is the code of death on display for us. Irate suggests that there are throngs of Clarkians waiting to take over when the Vantillians leave the stage. My, how formidable they must imagine themselves to be! And yet, when I say bring it on, he tucks his tail between his legs and scrambles off in a tiff.

Regards,
Dawson

November 11, 2013 2:39 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Irate wrote: “Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions."

Justin responded: “and just what are universal propositions composed of? concepts. and where are concepts integrated from and what are they validated against? empirical sense perception.”

Right. Like so many mystics, Irate seems to have the impression that “propositions” are these freely floating phenomena that are treated as unanalyzable primaries. But in fact, this is not the case. Propositions are constituted by concepts. Just as there can be no propositions without concepts, one cannot form propositions until he has formed those concepts which inform those propositions. Take for example the proposition “all men are mortal.” Here we have a proposition consisting of four different concepts which in turn rest on more fundamental concepts. Where did they come from? Christianity provides no answers here. In fact, Christians often treat “beliefs” as though they were irreducible primaries. But the same is the case with any belief: beliefs rest on concepts. The belief that “today is a weekday,” for example, consists of concepts. How can one have this belief without the constituent concepts informing it? Blank out.

Christianity has no theory of concepts. It has no distinctively Christian analysis of concepts or explanation of how the human mind forms them. For all one can say about Christianity, it likely would not hold that the human mind forms any concepts to begin with if it did have anything to say about concepts. Desperately eager to make their imaginary god seem real and have relevance in their lives, Christians artificially try to make everything point to their god. Thus you have folks like Van Til coming along and saying that the “Trinity” somehow explains “the one and the many” problem which puzzled ancient philosophers. But this buys into the very falsehood which many of the ancients assumed without warrant, namely that “universals” are some kind of extra-mental, metaphysical phenomena, like “immaterial” concretes (if that could even make sense) that are meaningful apart from human mental activity, and that the human mind somehow passively absorbs them from whatever source whence they come. The human mind is thus irrelevant on this analysis, and along with it you get the idea that “universal propositions” are instances of these metaphysical concretes alleged to have originated in the thinking of an invisible magic being’s mind. Consequently, an understanding of what concepts actually are and how the human mind functions in forming them, is systematically cut off – such an idea is completely out of the question on this view since “universals” are metaphysical rather than epistemological. Thus the very notion of “Christian epistemology” is inherently oxymoronic – it has no epistemology to begin with. It’s just “believe and then understand.”


Notice also that Irate simply asserts his point as if it were some incontestable truth without need of explanation or justification. And yet he states to me: “stating your opinions as fact seems to be your method of discussion.” This is just another example of apologetic projection: he accuses me of what he himself does so regularly as a matter of course that he’s not even aware that he’s doing it himself, and yet he nowhere shows that I am guilty of the charge he levels at me.

I’m glad these aren’t my problems!

Regards,
Dawson

November 11, 2013 4:37 PM  
Blogger NAL said...


IP's comment:

"Empiricism cannot substantiate universal propositions."

Seems to come from Gordon Clark.

Clark and "Cornelius Van Til were the two greatest proponents of the presuppositional method of apologetics."

Clark rejected empiricism, rationalism, and irrationalism. Like many apologists, he seems to argue against "pure" empiricism and "pure" rationalism as if a mixture of the two was never an option.

The key word above is "universal." Like the apologist's use of the word "certainty," it's an absolute that's used to poke holes in worldviews they don't agree with. If a competing worldview isn't "perfect," it's proof of the superiority of their worldview. Philosophies are products of the human mind and hence, can never be "perfect." The imperfection of other worldviews provides zero support of the Christian worldview. What Christians do is called the fallacy of Privileging the Hypothesis.

November 11, 2013 5:55 PM  
Blogger David Barwick said...

Hey Dawson and commenters,

I have a question I've been struggling with as it pertains to Objectivism and moral philosophy in general. I'm on the verge of coming out as a pretty clear Objectivist, but not fully feathered yet. Let me get to the point:

It seems that under Objectivism's moral principles, one has no duties or obligations whatsoever -- not even to one's own children. But it seems to me that one does indeed have obligations to one's own children. We have laws to such an effect. If you willingly let your infant starve to death just because you don't love it (or for any reason, I suppose), it constitutes criminal neglect. Neglect implies a neglect of duties, i.e., duties toward one's children. I'm not saying that U.S. law determines morality, just using that as an example. It does seem to me to be the case that one has an obligation to the relatively helpless persons that one brings into the world. Babies do not choose to be born, to live, or to die. Toddlers cannot pursue values on their own.

What does Objectivism (or the principles of Objectivism) say about children? Perhaps those with more experience can guide me.

Thanks,

David Barwick

December 27, 2013 10:36 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi David,

You ask a great question. The answer to your question revolves around distinguishing between “duties” and responsibility. The two are not the same. A “duty” is an obligation one has essentially for simply existing. In her essay “Causality Versus Duty,” Rand defines ‘duty’ as follows (Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 95):

<<The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.>>

(For more about ‘duty’, see here.)

This is *not* the same thing as a moral responsibility.

A “duty” is not the result of one’s own choices and actions. But a moral responsibility is. When an individual makes certain choices, certain moral obligations follow as a logical consequence. These obligations have everything to do with acting on behalf of one’s own values, and they also often involve recognition of other individuals’ rights to their values (such as when those choices can affect other people’s lives).

If I choose to get into my car and drive down the street, for example, I accept the obligation of driving responsibly – for both my own sake as well as that of anyone else who happens to be on the road at the time.

If I choose to have a child, this too is a choice – a choice that I make. With this choice, I accept the responsibility of raising my child as a consequence of the choice to have a child. Objectivism does not teach that our choices and actions have no causal consequence. On the contrary, Objectivism is emphatic in recognizing the consequences of our choices and actions and the responsibilities they involve. We make choices and perform actions in a context of attendant circumstances, and in that context are the responsibilities which necessarily result. Responsibility in this sense is the law of causality applied to our chosen actions.

[continued…]

December 28, 2013 2:30 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Some choose not to have children because of the enormous responsibility this involves. If they do not want such a responsibility, they should not have children. And this is entirely moral; no one has a “duty” to have children. There is nothing morally wrong with this; on the contrary, if they do not want the responsibility of taking care of a child, there’s everything morally right in not having a child.

However, if one chooses to have a child, he necessarily accepts the responsibility that comes with it as a result of the choice to have a child. Morally speaking, he cannot make the choice to have the child and then later evade the responsibility of taking care of that child. He cannot pretend that his actions do not have consequences. That would be a denial of causality. He would be trying to evade reality in that case.

I did not get married until I was 38 years old. Prior to this, since my teens, I never thought I’d ever get married, let alone become a father. Since I was quite young I was explicitly cognizant of the huge undertaking – the enormous responsibility – of being a husband and a father. Throughout my twenties and the first half of my thirties, I wanted nothing to do with such responsibilities. So I governed my choices and actions accordingly: I did not get married, and I did not father any children. But then I found someone who affected me differently from anyone else I had ever met, and I chose to marry her. In 2008 we had a daughter. I accepted the responsibilities of married life and of being a father. And I act accordingly. Since my daughter was born, she has occupied the center of my life. My love for her is inviolable.

I can only wonder if Christians truly have a comparable bond with their children. After all, their storybook depicts its chief patriarch, Abraham, willingly going through the motions of preparing his only child as a burnt offering on command from his god (cf. Gen. 22). If a supernatural being instructed me to sacrifice my daughter, I would tell it to go to hell. But Christians since the days of Paul the Apostle point to Abraham as a pinnacle of faith, a model of obedience expected of believers.

Naturally, there’s a lot more to say on this, but I’m a bit busy today, and I’m hoping I’ve answered the essentials of your question. If you have more questions, please feel free to send in a comment.

Regards,
Dawson

December 28, 2013 2:30 AM  
Blogger David Barwick said...

Hi Dawson,

This was very helpful. I am glad to see that my moral intuition was correct, and I appreciate you correcting my terms and explaining the concept of moral responsibility. I thought all this over for much of the day and struggled with part of it, but I think I have come to a satisfactory conclusion.

The part I struggled with was this: let's say I do have a child, and I choose to neglect the responsibility that comes with it. So what? If there were no laws against it, who would care? What if it would benefit me in some way to no longer have a child? I struggled to explain why I *must accept* moral responsibility.

I think this part of your response is the key to the answer:
“These obligations have everything to do with acting on behalf of one’s own values,and they also often involve recognition of other individuals’ rights to their values (such as when those choices can affect other people’s lives).”

because I needed to tie my responsibilities to my self-interest. Otherwise, I can’t see a reason that any sort of obligations obtain under any moral philosophy. (I don’t break into houses = I benefit by not going to jail ~ I agree to abide by the laws of society = I benefit from the protection that those laws provide. Etc.) So here’s what I finally came up with:

[continued...]

December 28, 2013 10:57 PM  
Blogger David Barwick said...

If I have a child, then as a consequence of that action I have essentially forced a person into a situation where he or she is totally dependent upon me for his or her survival (in fact, all of his or her values). By extension, if I neglect that child, then I have forced him or her to suffer and/or die. This is morally the same as forcing *anyone* into a situation where they will suffer and/or die. This is morally the same as harming some random person on the sidewalk. I don’t want to do the latter action because it is not in my self-interest to do so; a world where people can freely harm one another is not a world I want to live in. Therefore, by the same principle, I must care for the children I bring into this world until such a time as they can pursue values on their own.

(I realize that I’ve described a pretty spartan version of parenthood, but it was just for the sake of illustration.)

I hope that I’ve related this idea coherently, as I’ve indulged in liquor tonight and we all know what effects that can have on communication. I submit my thoughts for critique, and, as always,

Thanks,

David Barwick

December 28, 2013 10:59 PM  

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