The Truth Part II


Objective truth is an interesting notion. Us finite creatures like to think of it as both existing and accessible, and perhaps, most importantly, capable of informing our morality. I would, however, like to point out that morality and truth-seeking can only really matter to the “developed.” Those starving can only truly care about staving off their hunger and, perhaps, their loved one’s hunger. I, suppose, that might be tipping my hat to Maslow. Still, if one doesn’t think this true, one only has to look at the looting that takes place after a natural disaster.

Furthermore, even in a culture that is developed, one has to ask if objective truth can truly be found. It is quite popular today for people to think that science and philosophical debate can shine a light on objective truth. Unfortunately, people are not rational humans at heart, and as Nietzsche pointed out time and time again in Beyond Good and Evil often a philosopher’s  argument says more about the philosopher than the truth.

The problem, at base level, with trying to use logical methods to carve out objective truth is that human beings are not inherently rational beings. Thus, this begs the question of whether or not human beings even have the ability to discover objective truth. It is as if we can only see through a people through a windshield of car, while driving through a snow storm. We are prone to error, and these errors can be dangerous.

This is to to say, a little knowledge, without enough knowledge, can be dangerous. First year med students are known to want to over diagnosis themselves and their families with horrible illnesses, it is for this reason medical schools don’t give them prescription pads. Nevertheless, we give philosophers and clergy free reign over what constitutes objective truth.

On the other hand, objective truth may be out there, but can humans grasp it? I would argue that this is not clear, and this why much of the time we need to operate in probabilistic and pragmatic truth. It matters that Janet isn’t lying when she says John raped her. It matters that the engineer who worked on the bridge did his math correct, so I can be sure my car can go over it safely. It matters that the underlying mathematical system is sound. I can be reasonably sure, that everything shown on the Ancient Aliens program is horse shit.

Finally, some want to argue that we need to have one undefined axiom and rely on that for system of truths. They, conveniently, want to add God as this axiom. The problem, however, is that the really is no sufficient reason to think that such an entity exists, and its existence raises more problems than it solves. Even if it did exist, this beingm almost by definition, be incomprehensible to us finite creatures, but this isn’t the way most monotheistic traditions see God. Instead, the Western traditions are absolutist and ingrained with either “believe in our God and in our way.” The being the believe is defined with omni properties, acts a certain way, etc. Without these notions, the whole structure of their truth and morality falls apart. I would argue the falling apart of the absolutism of the monotheistic Western God is partially responsible for the chaos and culture wars we see today in the West.

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The Truth As a Woman


“Supposing truth is a woman–what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women?” Nietzsche

What makes forming any type of workable ethical system up hard is that there are a lot of moving parts. For examples, ethics is very tied up with morality, and what is morality tied up with? Truth. What is the truth tied up? The definition of truth. As you can imagine, there are many subcategories I could list, as well as general categories not mentioned.

Nevertheless, here at the bottom rung of truth, there is still an intensive amount of work to be done. For one, there is the issue basic definition. Although, most people go about their lives, as if this isn’t the issue. If a person hasn’t seemed to run into any problems, they don’t see why this can lead this to a meltdown. They are one of the lucky ones! Then there is the question of how we can obtain truth. Then, there of what to do with the truth, once we have found it. Is it better to hide certain devesting truths? Once again, I could go on. And on. And on. Well, you get the point.

It is as if, throughout the ages, people have prized the truth as a pure virginal woman. If she was not protected, she could be harmed, murdered, or worse have her “purity” tainted. People were executed for her. People fought wars over her. Families disowned each other over her.

The truth, however, is not in need of protection. If for example, Big Brother style, every book, every website, every media, and every outlet of every kind was changed from past to present to future to say that Abraham Lincoln was a slave owner, and over time people learned “the new history” and the rest of us died off would that change anything? What if no one ever, even up to human extinction ever figured out that Abraham Lincoln did not own slaves? Does that change anything? Well, the actual truth doesn’t change. The only difference is human ignorance. Martyrs aren’t dying for the truth. Their dying for the spread of the knowledge of what they believe to be true. Their beliefs may or may not be truth. No one can taint what is true.

Now this, is of course, works for certain definitions of truth. Most us, I’m assuming, use the word truth in “objective” way. In other ways, something it something corresponds. Now the problem, is that definition is not always good, and some for example, prefer pragmatic definitions, but that is a post for another day.

Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?


Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism

Objective Morality without God?


A typical argument for God from theists is that claim that without God there is no objective morality. The only morality, in this view, is Darwinian in nature, and some atheists actually agree. Most atheists, who I’ve heard, do not think there really is objective morality. Many people balk when they hear this. Of course, everyone wants to hear that pedophilia and murder are unequivocally wrong, and those deeds are actually wrong. The problem is using terms like “objective morality” in the first place.

I would argue that morality is more complicated than just either being objective or relative. Furthermore, I think the term “objective morality” is a little like the word “evil.” We want to call Hitler evil. We don’t want to think of him just as a bad person who did horrible things, but the term “evil” tends to evoke supernatural or other thinking that is not in the arena of reasonable thinking. Thus, I want to talk just about morality in general instead of arguing against objective morality. It’s just not a useful topic for what I’m trying to say, and I suspect discussing it is a less useful conversation than people tend to think.

What are morals? Morals, I suspect, had it’s origins in biology, but like I said before it’s more complicated than that. People are smart, and as such, inventive. Some amount of morality is certainly hardwired into us, but people are smart enough to out smart their biology. It’s too simple to say morality is objective, or morality is just an evolutionary byproduct. People can and have invented or changed what it means to be moral, as well. Slavery went on for a long time, but now it is seen, almost universally, as the terrible thing that it is.

The problem with morality now is that it still appears to be in it’s infancy. Many people disagree about morality. Many people use religion to decide what is moral. Others pick a moral philosophy, and still, others don’t even think about morality. We all have a long way to go, and I doubt we’ll ever reach perfection. However, my point is that morality is complicated. It’s more complicated than just biology. It’s as complicated as trying to figure what works best for humans individually and as a whole, which is no small task. Still, the shock people feel with atheists saying that there is no objective morality is not useful. The theist is simply shocking their audiences’ emotions, and atheists need to talk more clearly about morality.

Do Atheists get their Morals from Christianity?


I’m not one of those atheists who completely ignore theology or apologetics, but now, unless I uncover a book containing an argument that is unique, I feel like I’ve put in my time. I’ve read theology, apologetics, and watched many video lectures by the more prominent theologians. I’ve even taken a 300 level philosophy of religion course. (I am aware this doesn’t make me a theologian.) Not to mention, I’ve read the Bible several times.

Recently, a commenter recommended a book. I looked at the book on amazon, and the book’s premise was that even atheists use Christian morals. I have heard this argument before. The premise is usually a variant on the idea that people, here anyways, grow up in a largely Christian society, and this is where atheists get their morals. Thus, an atheist’s moral values originate from Christianity.

While no one can doubt that Christianity has had a large effect on many societies, I think the idea that all atheists nowadays are following and should follow Christian morality is wrong. The fact of the matter is that people know, without the Bible, that murder is wrong. Yes, the Bible points out certain things are wrong that most of agree on, but other pre-Christian ethics have done the same thing. The Code of Hammurabi predates Mosaic law with eerie similarities in some places. (Here’s a wikipedia article on it.) The Code of Hammurabi has laws on slander, theft, and more. Still, I do not claim to follow The Code of Hammurabi or the Bible. Just because some of the prohibitions are good doesn’t mean the entirety of the text should be kept, and just because we can all agree on some things, like do not kill, doesn’t mean we got that rule out of the Bible. I do not think most of us would ever be that barbaric with or without the Bible.

Now, I think most atheists keep their morality simply by contemplation. However, their is a wealth of content on morality from philosophy. Moral philosophy has been going on since the ancient Greeks, and I for one try to look at these systems of beliefs. (Although, my work is not done.) I suggest others consult moral philosophy as well. I have posted before that I think any good moral system should look at sources such as psychology, moral philosophy, sociology, and neuroscience. We can turn morality into a system that works for everybody. I think we should try our best to do this.