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Posted: 1/23/2002 5:47:58 AM EDT
I don't agree with the gist of what the author I'm going to quote says, but I thought that some folks here might like to see a "profession of faith" from a secular humanist (although he doesn't call himself that). I've edited out some of the essay for the sake of brevity and to make it more inflammatory. [;)] ******************************* ...Moral knowledge is unattainable because there is, in principle and by definition, no conceivable moral hypothesis that could possibly be proved or disproved by means of any conceivable type of empirical data, test or experiment. That is true, among other reasons, because moral statements do not take the form of empirically testable hypotheses, or hypothetical imperatives ("If you want X, then you can get it by doing Y" -­ but with no guidance as to whether you should want X in the first place). Moral statements take the form of value judgments and categorical imperatives (i.e., commandments or orders as to what you should do or want). Commandments can never be true or false, so they cannot communicate knowledge. And value judgments are incapable of communicating knowledge about the external world; the only thing they can express are subjective wishes, tastes and preferences which are, from a logical and epistemological point of view, completely non-rational and arbitrary, matters of whim, about which we can only say De gustibus non disputandum est. Of course, it has always been known that beauty exists in the eye of the beholder. What had not been seen so clearly, until the scientific revolution, was that the same was true of good and evil... Thus, it is not only God (and the Devil) that are dead; more importantly, so are Good and Evil, the abstract philosophical concepts of which the former are the concrete mythological and theological incarnations... [Continued in next message]
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 5:49:54 AM EDT
[Continuation of previous message] One inescapable consequence that followed from all this was the loss of credibility of the traditional sources of moral authority (God and pure reason). Why did that create such a crisis that most of human history since the 17th century has been a series of attempts to come to terms with it, both in theory and in practice? Because human nature abhors a cognitive vacuum, especially in the sphere of practical reason. For without some way of answering the questions that practical reason asks, concerning how to live and what to do, humans are totally disoriented and without direction, a condition that is intolerable and panic-inducing. Once they have discovered the cognitive inadequacies of the moral way of formulating those questions and answers, as they have to an increasing extent since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and have not yet discovered how to progress to a more cognitively adequate form of practical reason, many people will regress to a more intellectually primitive and politically reactionary set of questions and answers. In the 20th century these took the form of political totalitarianism, which led to genocide; more recently, they have taken the form of religious fundamentalism, which has increasingly led to apocalyptic terrorism... These political/ideological movements have been widely, and correctly, interpreted as rebellions or reactions against modernity (whether modernity is conceived of as Western civilization, Jewish science, modern technology, religious unbelief, freedom to express any opinion, or whatever), though usually without specifying what it is about modernity that threatens our very existence and survival. The deepest threat, I would maintain, is cognitive chaos in the realm of practical reason, and thus nihilism in the realm of morality, anomie in the realm of law, and anarchy in the realm of politics... In fact, to the totalitarian/fundamentalist mind, modernity not only represents absolute evil; it represents something even worse than that, namely, the total absence and delegitimation of any standards of good and evil whatsoever ­ the total death of good and evil, a state of complete anomie and nihilism... [Continued in next message]
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 5:52:22 AM EDT
[Continuation of previous message] ... By this point, in the 21st century, we now realize that it is impossible to answer the moral (and legal and political) questions, "How should we live and what ought we to do?" The only questions that are meaningful, in that they can lead to answers that possess cognitive content or knowledge, are the questions "How can we live? i.e., what biological, psychological and social forces, processes and behavior patterns promote, protect and preserve life, and which ones cause death?" ... In other words, the only possible replacement for ethics or morality that is progressive rather than regressive is the human sciences ­ human biology, psychology and psychiatry, and the social sciences. Unfortunately, the modern human sciences, unlike the natural sciences, had not yet been invented when the scientific revolution of the 17th century first showed that moral knowledge was unattainable. And even today, the ability of the human sciences to predict, explain and control the objects of their scrutiny (human behavior) is extremely limited, whether compared with that which the natural sciences possess with respect to their objects of study, or with the degree of cognitive power that the human sciences will need to attain if we are to gain the ability to avert the headlong rush to species-wide self-destruction that we currently seem to be embarked upon. In other words, to paraphrase Winston Churchill's remark about democracy, the human sciences are the worst (the least cognitively adequate) of all possible forms of practical reason ­ except for all the others (such as moralism, fundamentalism and totalitarianism)! What that implies is that nothing is more important for the continued survival of the human species than a stupendously increased effort to make progress in the further development of the human sciences, so as to increase our understanding of the causes of the whole range of our own behaviors, from life-threatening (violent) to life-enhancing. ************************* The author of the above, James Gilligan, is a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School; he's also a believer in "violence as a public health epidemic". Here's a brief bio: [url]http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/gilliganj.html[/url] .
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 6:15:41 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/23/2002 6:21:11 AM EDT by cck]
Thank you for the article Renamed. As you said it has been edited, but knowing the type of material that you regularly post I would say that you have done a good job of not distorting what point the author was trying to convey. And in that respect he is completely wrong, pure reason has given us a set of moral objectives. Namely that without life you are without cognitive ability, and you are incapable of making any other moral judgements. So from this we can deduce that all things which lead us to cherish man's life as a rational being are good and all things which detract from those bring death of the body or mind are are necessarily bad. Or at least I think that is what Ms. Rand would say. -CK
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 6:25:23 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/23/2002 6:32:45 AM EDT by The_Macallan]
Nothing new here. Same old stuff. If human biology[sex], psychology[%|], psychiatry[whacko] and social science[stick]are destined to replace traditional ethics and morality[0:)], God help us! [;)] [edited to add... thanks for the post anyhow [b]Renamed[/b], stimulating read for those unacustomed to Secular Humanism]
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 6:53:04 AM EDT
For those with a lot of time on their hands, here's a link to the full essay: [url]http://www.edge.org/q2002/q_gilligan.html[/url] I wonder if Gilligan realizes how self-serving his conclusion sounds? "Good and evil are irrelevant, therefore humanity is in crisis, therefore our only hope is to give lots of research money to social scientists -- like me!" [thinking] IMHO, his biggest non sequitur is:
The only questions that are meaningful, in that they can lead to answers that possess cognitive content or knowledge, are the questions "How can we live? i.e., what biological, psychological and social forces, processes and behavior patterns promote, protect and preserve life, and which ones cause death?
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But of course, "How can we live?" is no more "meaningful" than "How can we die?". If values are meaningless, why choose life over death? And even if we decide to promote life, why promote human life instead of insect or bacterial life?
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 7:01:57 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Renamed: I wonder if Gilligan realizes how self-serving his conclusion sounds? "Good and evil are irrelevant, therefore humanity is in crisis, therefore our only hope is to give lots of research money to social scientists -- like me!" [thinking]
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Yup. [:D] I'm willing to bet he's a Democrat. Or at least just a greedy little bugger who wants something for nothing. I'm betting that after 50 years of research, his conclusion would be "I don't know." [}:D] Get a REAL job, Gilligan. Intersting stuff, Renamed.
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 8:19:08 AM EDT
I'm willing to bet he's a Democrat.
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Hmmm... a psychiatry professor in Boston? Yeah, maybe. [;)] At the web site [url]http://www.secularhumanism.org/intro/affirmations.html[/url] of the "Council for Secular Humanism" they have a statement of principles that reads more like a laundry list of nice ideas than a coherent set of ideas. There are [b]twenty-one[/b] statements ranging from "We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence" (Oooooh, there's a bold stance! [rolleyes]) to "We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity" (Or, "Leave me alone but gimme a free angioplasty"). I don't know if Gilligan is a member of the CSH but they both seem to have a leftward bent. I wonder if they spent Monday protesting against that notorious violator of the separation of church and state, Martin Luther King? [:\]
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 8:40:23 AM EDT
Originally Posted By The_Macallan: Nothing new here. Same old stuff. If human biology[sex], psychology[%|], psychiatry[whacko] and social science[stick]are destined to replace traditional ethics and morality[0:)], God help us! [;)]
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the irony being that none of the disciplines that you mentioned were created for the purpose of replacing anything. they started because people got curious about things. sciences are supposed to describe! not direct and control. like the theory of evolution, they have been distorted and hijacked for use in purposed for which they were never designed.
Link Posted: 1/23/2002 9:17:52 AM EDT
The Greek for "Soul" is psyche...aka mind The SH believe that the soul or mind dies when the brain dies....that the soul or mind is basically a chemcial reaction between neuro-tansmitter substances determined by genetics and environment The deist believes the soul is independent of the brain...that is lives afte the death of the brain... The Bible teaches that this is the case A Christian believes that God became man in the personage of Jesus Christ to redeem man from sin...God became man and became sin and took the punishment reserved for sinners..so that those who have been given to Christ by the Father will not die but instead will be given new bodies and a renewed mind...to live enternaly with Christ vs suffering judgement eternal separation from Christ & eternal commitment to the Lake of Fire..
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