Author Topic: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?  (Read 8542 times)

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Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #58 on: December 11, 2011, 07:00:03 PM »
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i believe that my morality descends from god as a created entity.

Are you saying this morality is imposed upon you as your starting condition? If so, what does that imply when faced with the fact that other people are burdened with different starting conditions? Why are psychopaths forced to have psychopathic starting conditions?

i would say that morality exists in isolation, hanging in space, as it were, as a reflection of the nature of god. that i do not naturally develop a particular moral sense, but that i learn it through association with god. because i am less than perfect, i have a less than perfect moral sense. this is a different thing from social mores, which i define as local expressions of moral understanding, heavily influenced by culture.

i think the imperfect nature of our understanding is a plausible explanation for the differences in moral codes, rather than assuming that moral codes derive from a random source. lots of moral behavior seems to parallel that which i would expect from kin selection, but with the important difference that the behavior is not considered moral if it isn't also applied to non-kin, which is non-adaptive. and i don't see mirror neurons as an adequate answer, yet, but i don't know a lot about them.

Oddly enough, I agree, just not about any of the god-stuff. I conclude our natures are imposed by circumstance with no gods involved.

do you mean the "circumstances" are evolutionarily adapative, or random? i don't see how random would persist.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #59 on: December 11, 2011, 07:48:16 PM »
well, graybeard, you've asserted that morals are an expression of group approval or disapproval,
I rather think they are not “an expression of”, they are group approval or disapproval.

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but doesn't the proof that you've presented reduce to saying "acceptable social behavior differs between cultures at different times and places?" that's a valid observation, and if one decides that morality and average social behavior are synonymous, then your point about morality is valid, too.
So, what do you think morals are?

i think this is the key point that we are looking at. you assert that morals are group approval or disapproval. in that respect, i think what you mean by "morals" is what i would mean by "mores," mores being "the fixed morally binding moral customs of a particular group."

i would say that mores are an approximation of morals, and because of that they can differ from place to place, can be expressed with error, and are often discovered just that way. morals, on the other hand, have an ideal platonic existence, exist unchanged because they transcend cultures, and remain universally binding even when an imperfect culture fails to observe them.

if morals are an expression of group approval or disapproval, would you change your morals when visiting a different culture? if, for example, you travelled from britain to calcuttta with a young daughter, and in calcutta she was forcibly taken from you for desi prostitution. (i have no idea whether you have a daughter and don't mean to be insensitive if you do--i'm picking endpoint examples.) because desi prostituion is culturally accpeted in calcutta, and as a good citizen you remain subject to indian law and custom whilst visiting, would you be justified in attempting to free her, or would you return home alone without objection?

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #60 on: December 11, 2011, 08:34:27 PM »
hey azdgari

i'm trying to focus my thoughts here:

. . . Anyway, this is the sticking point I was trying to get at.  Let's say you think your morality is the One True Moralitytm.  And I think the same about mine.  This is what I was asking about in my last post:  What moral argument can you or I possibly make to settle that question?

. . .   What standard do we have to appeal to, in order to settle the matter and get on with the (lack of) baby-eating?  And if that standard is someone's opinion, then what does that tell you?

here's where the mysticism might as well come in, i suppose, because ultimately i think we're going to have to end up there. on the basis of other information than is present in this discussion, i believe that:
 
-- god exhibits a singular morality
-- this morality is preceptible to humans, with error
-- it is our responsibility to abide by our perception of this morality, even if flawed
-- abiding by this preception increases our understanding of it, raising the bar.

given these four points (NOT demonstrated to be true here), then i think it would be possible to convince me not to eat your children. and if you accepted these same propositions, i think there would be enough common ground for me to convince you sooner or later not to eat mine.

your question about how to decide which system of morality is true and which is not can't be honestly answered in any way other than by an assertion of relativism, unless there is an assumption of an underlying and superior frame of reference. either system results logically from its premises, but because the premises aren't shared, the conclusions aren't shared either. the key issue is the premises, and what conclusions they can support.

. . . Let's say a god gives someone a moral intuition that says it's fair, moral and just to kidnap babies, kill them, and eat them.  This is different from its own morality, and different from the morality that it gives to you.  Is that not the very definition of subjective, relative morals?  That they are arbitrarily selected and imprinted by your god, without any objective standard to adhere to?

yes, you are correct, which is why i deny god the authority to expect me to modify my understanding of right and wrong merely by the presentation of an argument from force or a declaration of sovereignity. this is the "job" question:

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Job 40:1  Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
Job 40:2  Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
. . .
Job 40:7  Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Job 40:8  Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?

as a moral creature, i have no choice but to rely on the morals which i believe i have been given. if god decides to impose other morals, and his justification is that he is god, i can't question his right to impose them, but i would have no choice but to refuse to participate. i do not have the right to abandon my moral nature, even if its own creator declares that there is one that is superior. if all i can perceive is a lower order of morality, i must continue to do what i think is right, until my understanding is increased to encompass the higher standard.

i'm using "higher and lower orders" as examples because i don't accept the idea of god maintaining standards that are merely "different." that would contradict my belief in a universal standard of morality. this qualification allows for the possibility of other standards of which i am unaware.

so yes, as a follower of god, i deny the lesson of job-- i question his commands and would refuse to follow those which i consider unjust.

this is a common question in hindusim, btw
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 08:38:03 PM by kevinagain »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #61 on: December 11, 2011, 09:40:32 PM »
-- god exhibits a singular morality
-- this morality is preceptible to humans, with error
-- it is our responsibility to abide by our perception of this morality, even if flawed
-- abiding by this preception increases our understanding of it, raising the bar.

I hope you don't mind if I focus in on these for a fairly brief post this time around - I'm over at the girlfriend's, you understand.

I don't have an issue with any of these premises of yours, assuming a god existed - except for #3, which I've bolded.  One of them is not like the others, and that's because 1, 2, and 4 are assertions of objective fact, which can be true or false.

But moral responsibility - who says what we have a moral responsibility to do?  In this case, you do.  The bolded premise is a moral you hold to.

Do you hold to #3 because of your own morals?  If so, then that is again circular.
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #62 on: December 11, 2011, 10:10:01 PM »
ooh

do you wait until she's in the kitchen to sneak over to the keyboard?

the net does that to people.

i have an advantage, because i drive a lorry for a living, and i'm stuck in truckstops or on the side of the highway every night for weeks at a time. so my social responsibilities tonight end as i crank up the windows to drown out the reefer trailers on either side.


I don't have an issue with any of these premises of yours, assuming a god existed - except for #3, which I've bolded.  One of them is not like the others, and that's because 1, 2, and 4 are assertions of objective fact, which can be true or false.

But moral responsibility - who says what we have a moral responsibility to do?  In this case, you do.  The bolded premise is a moral you hold to.

Do you hold to #3 because of your own morals?  If so, then that is again circular.

actually, i would have said that both 3 and 4 are not propositions in the same sense that 1 and 2 might be. #3 is statement of doctrine, and can't be derived logically. it has to be revealed. and #4 looks like a proposition, but it's doctrine as well. this last one is the quaker idea of being faithful to one's measure of the Light resulting in an increased measure being granted.

that's why i listed all four as "(NOT demonstrated to be true here)," because the last two require mystic contact with god in order to be acceptable. if you haven't had the revelation, then you can't (and shouldn't) accept them as personally relevant to the question. it's the point where theistic and non-theistic evidence divide.

Offline dloubet

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #63 on: December 11, 2011, 10:34:56 PM »
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i would say that morality exists in isolation, hanging in space, as it were, as a reflection of the nature of god. that i do not naturally develop a particular moral sense, but that i learn it through association with god.

With what do you judge the nature of the god and its morals you are seeking to associate with? Do you disagree with any of them, or are they all coincidentally to your liking? If they are, oddly enough, all to your liking, then what do you need the nature of god for? Your own moral sense is apparently sufficient.

If you do disagree with any of the reflected morals, do you follow them anyway or resort to your own judgment?

(I see you've already addressed that in a reply to Adzgari. But if you follow your morality when there is disagreement, that works out to you always following your own morality. What then is the purpose of the association with the god?)

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do you mean the "circumstances" are evolutionarily adapative, or random?

Neither, or both. I mean the state of the universe resulting in the person. Evolution is part of that circumstance, as well as the underlying randomness of the universe.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 10:42:48 PM by dloubet »
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Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #64 on: December 11, 2011, 10:43:46 PM »
ooh

do you wait until she's in the kitchen to sneak over to the keyboard?

the net does that to people.

i have an advantage, because i drive a lorry for a living, and i'm stuck in truckstops or on the side of the highway every night for weeks at a time. so my social responsibilities tonight end as i crank up the windows to drown out the reefer trailers on either side.


Off topic here, but just wanted to say that I've enjoyed watching your mind work over the past few days here. Also to agree that the internet does, indeed, "do that to people"...and, finally, to mention that your reference to being a lorry driver somehow inevitably led the geek in me to picture you as "Rob McKenna"

edited to add: DRAT! Have been waiting for weeks (at my plodding rate) for my 1000th post, and missed it!
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 10:46:37 PM by jynnan tonnix »

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #65 on: December 11, 2011, 10:54:16 PM »
With what do you judge the nature of the god and its morals you are seeking to associate with? Do you disagree with any of them, or are they all coincidentally to your liking?

i judge the nature of god and the various morals i believe descend from him with the same tools that i judge everything, dloubet: reason, emotion, smell and taste, too, if i could. at least, i try to.  i disagree with lots of them, because they require me to do things i'd rather not do.

the moral nature i recieve from god requires me not to lie, which is a real pain in the ass, and has cost me a lot of money over the years. it requires me to treat people better than i'd really like to, which is another pain in the ass. there are easy solutions to social problems that aren't available to me, because they conflict with what i've perceived my moral sense requires me to do. i didn't always think this way, and it's a work in progress, you know. the longer i do it, the worse it gets, and the more i have to live up to.

. . . If they are, oddly enough, all to your liking, then what do you need the nature of god for? Your own moral sense is apparently sufficient. . .
If you do disagree with any of the reflected morals, do you follow them anyway or resort to your own judgment?

i have to follow them, as that's what morals are for. otherwise they ain't morals. but like i said, lots of them aren't particularly easy. how would you distinguish "your own moral sense" from a moral sense that descended from god, assuming it was possible to obtain one?

btw, when i say "morals," i'm talking about the sort of thing that falls into categories of "righ and wrong." i'm leaving out ceremonial stuff like jewish law and such that lots of people regard as moral but which don't fall into a moral discussion, as i see it.

so think about it. it's easy to get circular: if i have a moral urging to do something that i really don't want to do, but do it because i believe it's correct, did i actually want to do it all along, and therefore is it really external in origin? when you set the question up this way, the circular logic is required, because it's built into the question.

Offline kevinagain

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #66 on: December 11, 2011, 11:00:06 PM »

Off topic here, but just wanted to say that I've enjoyed watching your mind work over the past few days here. Also to agree that the internet does, indeed, "do that to people"...and, finally, to mention that your reference to being a lorry driver somehow inevitably led the geek in me to picture you as "Rob McKenna"

i don't know who rob mckenna is. but you can picture me this way, if you want:



Quote
edited to add: DRAT! Have been waiting for weeks (at my plodding rate) for my 1000th post, and missed it!

it was here:

I was raised by Catholics once, and still ended up as a non-believer...don't know how being "adopted" by another set will change anything.

Offline JeffPT

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #67 on: December 11, 2011, 11:07:49 PM »
Kevin,

A lot of us have hot-button issues that we tend to jump on every time they pop up in this forum.  For me, it's morality.  I don't particularly know why, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that many of the Christians that come here are of the mind set that atheists can't be moral or that we are all nihilists.  Both of those really piss me off. 

I am finding it difficult to argue against your stance.  Not because I agree with you in terms of god, but because your stance makes some sense theologically.  But here is the problem... theology, no matter how much it makes sense, assumes god exists first.  That is a terrible way to approach the problem, but before you jump on me for saying that, please hear me out...

In order to seek the truth, you must abandon the notion that god exists and start from the position of neutrality on the subject as much as humanly possible.  I'm not saying you need to say "God doesn't exist".  I am saying you need to ask yourself, "Is it possible to explain morality without the addition of an entity or process that I can not prove in any of the normal ways in which we prove things to each other?"  This is a scientific approach to the problem, and given that science is the most reliable method of truth detection that we have access to, it seems prudent to bring it to bear on this subject.  And once you've answered that first question, you are then obligated to hold it up to all other theories (including deistic, and all theistic possibilities we can find) and see which holds the most explanatory power.  The answer to the first is yes, there is a way to explain it all naturally. And when we hold that explanation up to the god theory of morality, the natural theory is far more explanatory of everything that we observe on a daily basis.  As an off-topic side note: This is just like everything else we see every day (e.g lightning comes from god compared to the theory that lightning comes from natural weather effects, etc). 

So when I hold up your theological perspective, I turn my bottom lip down and nod slowly as if to say... "it's got some holes, but maybe...".  But when I consider the alternate, natural possibility, the one that says we get our morality from evolution, culture and experiences, and that it is subjective and different from person to person, that trumps your theological stance by a mile.  Its got no holes.  Can you see a single hole in that theory?

As an analogy for what you are doing here, I find it similar to you forming some fairly decent theological explanation as to how your truck goes from A to B powered by an interesting, mystical process that swishes the gasoline around in your engine; and then comparing it to the facts surrounding the theory that your truck is powered by internal combustion.  Your theory might be cool and all that, but its not as good a theory as internal combustion.  In this analogy, all we would have to do to figure out who was right is to simply lift the hood, but the nature of your proposed god is such that we can't do that. We can't lift the hood and see god.  Now, you can say this is part of god's nature, but the other possibility, again not trying to assume yes or no on the god issue, is that god isn't real in the first place.  Those would both explain why we can't lift the hood and see god, would they not?  Both notions should be considered.

It seems to me that your viewpoint on morality is contingent on your belief in god. It forces you to take a less logical stance in order to maintain your belief, when all you have to do is abandon that notion and it all makes a ton more sense.  You may not LIKE the implications that morality is subjective, but all the evidence we see in our world points in that direction.  It isn't as comforting to know that there is no objective moral standard for us all to shoot for, but that is really what happens.  Everyone has different opinions on moral issues.  Period.  The best explanation isn't that an invisible, supernatural being implanted some sort of moral compass into each of us and then we screw it up to different degrees. The best explanation (thus far... the one that fits with the most facts) is that we are an evolved social animal, and each of us has slightly different brain chemistry and different experiences from day to day.   

My 2 cents.
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Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #68 on: December 12, 2011, 12:26:57 AM »

Off topic here, but just wanted to say that I've enjoyed watching your mind work over the past few days here. Also to agree that the internet does, indeed, "do that to people"...and, finally, to mention that your reference to being a lorry driver somehow inevitably led the geek in me to picture you as "Rob McKenna"

i don't know who rob mckenna is. but you can picture me this way, if you want:

Thanks :) Appreciated the reminder on the 1000th post, and the image was diverting. Googling "rob mckenna" gives a variety of responses, but i was thinking of this character, per Douglas Adams:
Quote
Rob McKennaDescribed by the scientific community in the novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish as a "Quasi Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer," Rob McKenna is an ordinary lorry driver who can never get away from rain and he has a log-book showing that it has rained on him every day, anywhere that he has ever been to prove it. Arthur suggests that he could show the diary to someone, which Rob does, making the media deem him a 'Rain God' (something which he actually is) for the clouds want "to be near Him, to love Him, to cherish Him and to water Him". This windfall gives him a lucrative career, taking money from resorts and similar places in exchange for not going there. (wikipedia)

Offline Samuelxcs

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #69 on: December 12, 2011, 06:19:21 AM »
If God is good, why are Christians that worship him bad?
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Offline monkeymind

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #70 on: December 12, 2011, 08:19:13 AM »
If God is morality, or, morality is an objective concept independent of humans, then what about God's morality before humans were created?

In other words, without other entities existing, with what does God's morality compare?

And so in this case with nothing to compare God's morality to, in order to exist wouldn't morality have to be independent of God?

And if morality is independent of God, then why give her the credit?
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Offline Add Homonym

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #71 on: December 12, 2011, 08:21:14 AM »

a problem with this definition is that the same act might be good or evil depending upon the immediate motivation of the agent. for instance, if i kill you out of mercy to end your suffering, you're just as dead as if i kill you out of hate to end your life. so if good or evil are to be extended to include more than just my motivations for an action, to classify the action itself, then it seems that i must have an objective standard larger than me or you to classify it with. this means that no action is any more right or wrong than any other action, unless a non-relative standard obtains. this would be the case whether we're talking about stealing your candy, or slaughtering millions of jews.

still thinking.

I don't know if anyone has addressed this by page 3, so I'll reply into the thread abyss.

Morals are defined within an evolutionary context, where we compete for resources. That's generally what causes evolution. Some forms of life, such as bees, termites, naked mole rats, dogs, humans, chimps, have opted to cooperate. Bees lay down their lives to sting hive invaders. No greater love for another bee hath her that lay down her life for another. Of course, bees don't love; but they opt for something that seems virtuous by human standards, purely so the hive can survive, AND they all have the same genetics. Other intelligent mammals can see that this is a way to behave, to further their culture, but since mammals spread their genetics individually, a mammal also has to weigh whether they should be selfish.

There is a tension between resource availability and sharing, and also the evolution of sharing behaviour. You cannot evolve sharing, if individuals share too much, because all the sharing individuals will deprive themselves and die out. A culture goes forth, if they strike a balance between sharing and exploitation of their own culture.

Although dogs have a sense of morality, with the ultra-guilty-look they give after tearing up your furniture, it's arguably conditioned into them by fearing your wrath, rather than an inbuilt sense of true morality. Also, humans work this way. Tribal leaders and people in power, who want to exploit your cooperation, will enforce sharing morals, so that they can tax you, have lots of sex and kill and rape enemies. Morality is beaten into us by those who exploit and nag us. We have a strong sense that societal rules are there to further our culture, even if most humans end up on the wrong end of the shaft.

The Jews were fond of making up arbitrary laws to define their culture. Foreskin removal, beard trimming, and anti-porkness are among the classic pointless morals of Jews.

The problem with the religious obsession with good an evil, is that it's purely about house-keeping and cultural survival - things that we really should decide ourselves, and do for our own sake. But we supposedly have difficulty being selfless for someone elses sake, unless we pretend that God will burn us in hell. Christian/Jewish religion is designed to force the equilibrium towards more orderly, selfless behaviour, so that lawmakers will require less police and prisons.

You have to ask: why is God obsessed about the same things that lawmakers are? Why do we have so much difficulty separating church from state?

I have some respect for religions that espouse that we are supposed to rise above all this and develop something. However, I have yet to see any empirical evidence that this goes anywhere either.

In summary: morals are not arbitrary, they are designed by humans to further their culture. There are no solid solutions to moral quandaries, because they are only "thought experiments" against what we perceive will benefit our culture. This perception is not always correct.

Humans, in general, don't waste any opportunity to be unfathomably stupid - Dr Cynical.

Offline velkyn

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #72 on: December 12, 2011, 09:01:39 AM »

yep, rather difficult when Christians start doing that to each other.  And it's in Genesis, so you don't think that is literal? :)


no, i consider christian scripture a mixture of truth, metaphor, allegory, and self-serving fiction. i decide what is probably true and what is probably not just like anybody else, using a mixture of faith, reason, and skepticism. some parts are probably true, such as aspects of the roman colonization of judea. some parts are probably false, such as the holy nature of the conquest of canaan. some parts i have no information on, and no basis to make any decision about. i don't base my religion primarily on written scripture, so i'm not troubled by the usual criticisms that inerrancy is critical to christianity. i don't think it is, personally.

magic decoder ring.  Hell of a thing to rest your "salvation" on.   And that is what you consider the truth yes, that a man/god was hung on a cross and died and was resurrected?  Or was that just metaphor too? 
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Offline Add Homonym

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #73 on: December 12, 2011, 09:25:37 AM »
Why is JC's 'sacrifice' regarded as the greatest sacrifice in the universe?

He was supposedly nailed to a cross for a day or so, then he died, then he arose three days later. And all the time he knew that would happen.

How does this compare to victims of The Spanish Inquisition, The Holocaust, amputee war veterans, world wide poverty, child abuse etc and the millions of volunteers who sacrifice a lifetime at huge risk to themselves (at war-zones, disease-ridden slums etc) trying to improve the lives of fellow human beings.

How does JC's weekend compare to the life times of these hard working people?

Edit :- Admittingly it was a long weekend  :)

Theologically, Jesus was perfect, so his sacrifice was infinite. Sinful people could not die in his place, because they are not sons of God.

Infomercial over.
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Online relativetruth

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #74 on: December 12, 2011, 11:07:54 AM »
Why is JC's 'sacrifice' regarded as the greatest sacrifice in the universe?

He was supposedly nailed to a cross for a day or so, then he died, then he arose three days later. And all the time he knew that would happen.

How does this compare to victims of The Spanish Inquisition, The Holocaust, amputee war veterans, world wide poverty, child abuse etc and the millions of volunteers who sacrifice a lifetime at huge risk to themselves (at war-zones, disease-ridden slums etc) trying to improve the lives of fellow human beings.

How does JC's weekend compare to the life times of these hard working people?

Edit :- Admittingly it was a long weekend  :)

Theologically, Jesus was perfect, so his sacrifice was infinite. Sinful people could not die in his place, because they are not sons of God.

Infomercial over.

While Jesus was on earth he was not perfect. Show me which scriptures say he was!

If his sacrifice was infinite then he would have gone to oblivion instead of three days later setting up office to save souls.

Don't give up the day job Add Homonym apologist does not suit you   :)
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #75 on: December 12, 2011, 11:14:58 AM »
Here are my two questions:

Why is it that when good things happen, Biblegod did it?

Why is it that when bad things happen, Biblegod did it?

And then I would expand on the two with explanations; especially the latter.

Such as, with the second question: a hurricane rips through a town, and kills a daughter's parents -- why do most always respond with "[Bible]god needed them."? Or something similar.

Things like that.

Why is individual sin the fault of Satan yet big "natural" occurences or even mass murder, genocide, and the like Biblegod's doing?

-Nam
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Offline Samuelxcs

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #76 on: December 12, 2011, 11:20:44 AM »
Here are my two questions:

Why is it that when good things happen, Biblegod did it?

Why is it that when bad things happen, Biblegod did it?

And then I would expand on the two with explanations; especially the latter.

Such as, with the second question: a hurricane rips through a town, and kills a daughter's parents -- why do most always respond with "[Bible]god needed them."? Or something similar.

Things like that.

Why is individual sin the fault of Satan yet big "natural" occurences or even mass murder, genocide, and the like Biblegod's doing?

-Nam

Biblegod is evil! :o
"The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget."
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #77 on: December 12, 2011, 11:29:50 AM »
It's true, though, man.  I mean, if you watch the news, or read the paper; if somebody does a terrible thing, it's that "Biblegod needed them." for whatever reason but the actions of the person doing it was the fault of Satan.  It doesn't make sense, at all.

-Nam
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #78 on: December 12, 2011, 11:34:53 AM »
^^ They even get called "acts of God".
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #79 on: December 12, 2011, 11:35:47 AM »
It's true, though, man.  I mean, if you watch the news, or read the paper; if somebody does a terrible thing, it's that "Biblegod needed them." for whatever reason but the actions of the person doing it was the fault of Satan.  It doesn't make sense, at all.

-Nam

All human religions don't make sense.
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #80 on: December 12, 2011, 11:40:53 AM »
I don't know, I think Jainism makes sense, at least to me.

-Nam
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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #81 on: December 12, 2011, 11:43:05 AM »
All human religions don't make sense.

Because religion is an invention of mankind, the "human" there is superfluous.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Offline kcrady

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #82 on: December 12, 2011, 12:26:49 PM »
if morality has no objective source, then morality is arbitrary, i would think, and whatever each person decides is moral has no application beyond the reach of his own influence. if my morality says that it's okay for me to kill your children and eat them, and i can get away with it, then a third party has no moral authority to intervene. seems a bit anarchic, if i understand you correctly.

(bold emphasis added)

I disagree with some of the others here who are arguing that morality is subjective and arbitrary.  However, I also disagree with your implicit premise that morality derives from authority, in your case, the authority of a god.  If morality derives from somebody's authority, then it is not objective--it is arbitrary and changeable based on the whim of the authority. 

In the orthodox Christian worldview, there was a time when it was immoral to eat shrimp wrapped in bacon, an "abomination unto the Lord."  Gathering firewood on a Saturday was also a terrible moral offense, worthy of capital punishment.  Then one day all that changed.  Either Jesus repealed the Torah (depending on which Gospel passages you want to believe), or a fellow named Simon Peter saw a vision of a sheet coming down from Heaven carrying all sorts of "unclean" animals (perhaps including the aforementioned shrimp wrapped in bacon), and was told by Yahweh to "take, and eat."  Shocked, Peter replied that he would never do such an abominable thing, but after the vision came three times, he finally bought a clue and left the Torah and its rules behind.  Or perhaps it was the Apostle Paul, who, after surpassing Jesus and all 11 of his surviving disciples put together in importance[1] brought the revelation that the Torah was meant as a "schoolmaster" that would show the faith community that they needed salvation from Christ.  Contrary to the assertions in the Torah that its ordinances were not temporary,[2] and not to be altered[3] Paul asserted that they had been rendered obsolete by Christ.  Christianity replaced the old "moral absolutes" with new ones, such as a requirement to believe certain doctrines, e.g. that Yahweh was a "trinity," and Jesus was incarnate divinity.

So, we can see from within the context of the Christian narrative, that its "moral absolutes" can change at any time.  No Christian can offer any guarantee that some prominent Christian leader will not see a vision of a sheet coming down from Heaven filled with gays, strippers, and BDSM people in black leather and corsets, and hear the Big Voice say, "Go, choose, and make love.  What was unclean, I have made clean."  Or that genocide won't come back into fashion, or that shrimp wrapped in bacon won't become an abomination again.

Furthermore, since there is no objective way to determine which proposed divine Authority/Authorities, or which particular sect or interpretation of any particular theology are the "real" one(s), we are presented with a wide array of possible Authoritative "moralities," with no way to choose between them.  If it were to turn out that the Aztec pantheon are the real gods, by the premise that morality comes from divine Authority, it becomes "right" to drag people up the steps of a pyramid and cut their beating hearts out of their chests.
Authority, therefore, whether human or divine, cannot be a source of moral facts. 

Does this mean we are left with a choice between the arbitrary whims of purported deities (or to be more precise, the human clerics who issue commandments on their behalf) and the arbitrary whims of individuals or popular votes or dictators?  I don't think so.  Humans are entities of a specific nature, living in a reality governed by natural regularities that are not up for negotiation.  This means that differing moral codes will function more, or less, efficaciously as guides to human behavior. 

Getting an "Ought" from an "Is"

Quote from: Richard Carrier
It's often declared a priori that "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is'," and that therefore science can't possibly discover moral facts.  This is sometimes called a "naturalistic fallacy."  But calling this a fallacy is itself a fallacy.  Indeed, it's not merely illogical, it's demonstrably false.  We get an "ought" from an "is" all the time.  In fact, this is the only known way to get an "ought" at all.

For example, "If you want your car to run well, then you ought to change its oil with sufficient regularity."  This entails an imperative statement ("you ought to change your car's oil with sufficient regularity"), which is factually true independent of human opinion or belief....This follows necessarily from the material facts of the universe (such as the laws of mechanics, thermodynamics, and friction, and the historical facts of modern automobile construction)...There are countless true imperative facts like this that science can discover and verify, and that science often has discovered and verified, from "If you want to save the life of a patient on whom you are performing surgery, you ought to sterilize your instruments" to "If you want to build an enduring bridge, you ought not to employ brittle concrete."  The desire to do these things...is an objective fact of the world that science can discover and verify (already the sciences of psychology and sociology routinely study what it is that people really want and when and why).  And the casual connection between behavior and result (of sterilizing instruments saving lives, shoddy construction collapsing bridges, or neglected engines functioning poorly or seizing up entirely) is an objective fact of the world that science can also empirically discover and verify.  And whenever both are an empirically demonstrated fact, the imperative they entail is an empirically demonstrated fact.  Therefore the claim that "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is' is demonstrably false and has been refuted by science too many times to mention.  Let if never be uttered again.
[4]

If we want to maximize human well-being, there will be empirical facts (about human nature, about the surrounding non-human reality, about the results of different behavior patterns in practice, etc.) that will provide factual moral imperatives/principles we can discover and implement, and these facts are independent of individual or cultural whim. 

So, the common argument that divine commandments are the only possible source of objective reality, and atheism leads inevitably to a moral tailspin followed by a crash in the darkened swamps of subjective nihilism turns out to be the exact opposite of the truth.  It is divine command "morality" that is inherently subjective and arbitrary, stunting moral progress by preventing the search for empirical moral facts, and atheistic rationality that provides the only path to objective morality.
 1. As measured by the amount of preserved teachings the New Testament, and hence, "share" of Christian doctrine attributed to him.
 2. See Numbers 18:19, also: http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=ordinance&qs_version=NIV
 3. E.g. Deuteronomy 4:2: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."
 4. Richard Carrier, "Moral Facts Necessarily Exist (and Science Could Find Them," in The End of Christianity, John W. Loftus, Ed., pp 335-335, bolded emphasis added.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #83 on: December 12, 2011, 12:39:17 PM »
Kcrady, while I appreciate your reasoning, the last part's basis is fundamentally flawed.  Observe your quote here:

Quote from: kcrady
If we want to maximize human well-being, there will be empirical facts (about human nature, about the surrounding non-human reality, about the results of different behavior patterns in practice, etc.) that will provide factual moral imperatives/principles we can discover and implement, and these facts are independent of individual or cultural whim.

I agree with everything in this quote.  But the bolded part directly contradicts your contention that one can derive an ought from an is.  Obviously, facts affect our moral judgments.  "If we want to maximize our obedience to YHWH, then there will be empirical facts..." etc.  This is the same as what you are describing.  That the deity's wishes to be obeyed are subject to change does not make them subjective.  The rest of reality changes with time, too, but that doesn't make it subjective.

Trouble is, you have not described an ought from an is.  Despite the "is" component, you have ultimately derived an ought from another ought.  If we want to maximize human well-being[1], then X and Z are moral, while Y is not.  Great.  But the desire to maximize human well-being is subjective.  Who says human well-being should be maximized?  A bunch of humans?  Yeah, no great surprise there.  Why do humans want to maximize their well-being?  Is the reason something that critically depends on other human desires, or is it entirely based in fact?

Carrier contests that this "desire" is objective.  Well, yes, it objectively exists.  So does every other subjective desire.  The "subjective-vs-objective" quality of a desire (or value) has to do with whether it can resolve as objectively true or false, not with whether it can be objectively verified to exist.  I wonder whether Carrier understands this?

EDIT:  Typo
 1. And given a definite, coherent definition of "human well-being"...
« Last Edit: December 12, 2011, 01:29:30 PM by Azdgari »
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Offline kcrady

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #84 on: December 12, 2011, 03:24:56 PM »
Kcrady, while I appreciate your reasoning, the last part's basis is fundamentally flawed.  Observe your quote here:

Quote from: kcrady
If we want to maximize human well-being, there will be empirical facts (about human nature, about the surrounding non-human reality, about the results of different behavior patterns in practice, etc.) that will provide factual moral imperatives/principles we can discover and implement, and these facts are independent of individual or cultural whim.

I agree with everything in this quote.  But the bolded part directly contradicts your contention that one can derive an ought from an is.  Obviously, facts affect our moral judgments.  "If we want to maximize our obedience to YHWH, then there will be empirical facts..." etc.

Why would we want to maximize our obedience to Yahweh?  The Bible provides an unequivocal answer in both Testaments: if we do, he will reward us (maximize our well being); if we don't, he will punish us (maximize our suffering).  So, your proposed alternative standard reduces to maximizing human well-being.  The empirical inquiry turns to questions like, "Does Yahweh actually exist?"  "Do we have a valid understanding of his commands?"  "Does obedience to him actually maximize human well-being?" and so on.

This is the same as what you are describing.  That the deity's wishes to be obeyed are subject to change does not make them subjective.

They are subjective, relative to the deity, since he (or again, to be more precise, the humans who purport to speak for him) can make up any arbitrary set of commands he (they) like.  This is no different from you or I asserting a right to just make up any "morality" we like.

The rest of reality changes with time, too, but that doesn't make it subjective.
 

Invalid comparison.  "The rest of reality" isn't a person or persons, and its facts don't change arbitrarily according to whim, like the commands of an absolute dictator (human or divine) can.

Trouble is, you have not described an ought from an is.  Despite the "is" component, you have ultimately derived an ought from another ought.  If we want to maximize human well-being[1], then X and Z are moral, while Y is not.  Great.  But the desire to maximize human well-being is subjective.  Who says human well-being should be maximized?
 1. And given a definite, coherent definition of "human well-being"...

These are the sort of questions that are only vexing for philosophers.  "How do we know we're not all brains in vats?"  "Why should I take care of my car and obey traffic laws instead of just driving it off a cliff?"  "What if there are five people tied to a train track and the only way I can keep a trolley from running them over is to shove a fat guy onto the tracks in front of the trolley to stop it?"  "How do I know you're not just a figment of my imagination?"  Fun for ivory-tower debates perhaps, but not much use for navigating through life.  Most people (I strongly suspect including yourself) have a pretty good general idea of what their well-being consists of, how they would like others to treat them, and why they would prefer to maximize their well-being rather than be tortured, raped, and murdered--even without recourse to a rigorous inquiry into scientific fields like psychology, anthropology, biology, physics, etc..

A bunch of humans?  Yeah, no great surprise there.

Who else would you suggest?  We are talking about principles of human behavior, after all.  Every other species has a set of behaviors adapted to maximize its well-being, why should humans be any different?

Why do humans want to maximize their well-being?  Is the reason something that critically depends on other human desires, or is it entirely based in fact?

Any humans that sought some other goal, like death, suffering, maximal randomness of behavior, etc. would be at a self-imposed disadvantage relative to well-being maximizers, and would be weeded out by natural selection.  Example: the members of the Heaven's Gate cult.  The bases of "well-being" as a standard (natural selection, the nature of the human nervous system--pain hurts!--the requirements of human physical, psychological, and societal health, etc.) are facts.

Carrier contests that this "desire" is objective.  Well, yes, it objectively exists.  So does every other subjective desire.  The "subjective-vs-objective" quality of a desire (or value) has to do with whether it can resolve as objectively true or false, not with whether it can be objectively verified to exist.  I wonder whether Carrier understands this?

I don't think desires/values resolve as "true" or "false," more like "works" or "doesn't work" to maximize their well-being.  I strongly suspect that you personally do not have a great deal of vexing difficulty with this in your own life.  That you do not, upon waking up in the morning, pace back and forth struggling with the choice of whether you'd rather go to work to provide for yourself and your family, or take up Russian roulette as a hobby.  I also doubt that, if you were presented a choice between being treated kindly and courteously by others, and having them slowly skin you alive, that you would find the choice to be a mighty philosophical quandary to wrestle with.  The reasons for this are all based in empirical facts about your physiology and psychology as a human being, and ultimately rooted in the generalized operating principles of physics.

I haven't read Sam Harris' book yet, but I do think his metaphor of a "moral landscape" with various peaks and valleys of well-being is apt.  Yes, there is subjectivity involved in choosing which peak(s) of well-being you might want to pursue.  Mozart might prefer success as a composer to success as a farmer, while Wendell Berry might prefer to have his hands in the good earth.[2]  Nonetheless, both prefer peaks to valleys.  Returning to the analogy of car care, it's a subjective choice whether one wants to drive to San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the contents of the car's maintenance manual and traffic laws still show--objectively--the best principles/behaviors for keeping the car in running order and maximizing its chances of arriving safely.
 2. This diversity of well-being peaks derives from the fact of human individual diversity.  Humans aren't ants, so there is not One, Single Simple, Ten-Commandment-style definition of individual well-being, but that doesn't mean that the peaks and valleys are all an equivalent flat plain.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #85 on: December 12, 2011, 04:15:08 PM »
Kcrady, your entire counterpoint amounts to "we all agree with promoting what we see as well-being, therefore it is objective".  Do you see the problem with that?
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: What are the hardest questions for Christians to answer?
« Reply #86 on: December 12, 2011, 04:50:12 PM »
I'll go into more detail about that:

Why would we want to maximize our obedience to Yahweh?  The Bible provides an unequivocal answer in both Testaments: if we do, he will reward us (maximize our well being); if we don't, he will punish us (maximize our suffering).

It offers us an answer that works if we plug in a positive valuation of the reward and/or a negative valuation of the punishment.  Those valuations are subjective.

So, your proposed alternative standard reduces to maximizing human well-being.  The empirical inquiry turns to questions like, "Does Yahweh actually exist?"  "Do we have a valid understanding of his commands?"  "Does obedience to him actually maximize human well-being?" and so on.

The empirical inquiry which results from an acceptance of the subjective standard does proceed logically and objectively.  Given goals A and B, with A being some definite proportion more or less important than B, the best course of action is objectively X, Y and Z.  You claim the standard reduces to whether it maximizes some coherently-defined idea of human well-being?  Sure.  Everything does.  Everything can also reduce to whether it maximizes the average temperature of the Earth, or whether it maximizes the sum-total of human knowledge.  Or whether it maximizes the temperature of the rest of the universe relative to Earth (the inverse of the goal mentioned above), or whether it maximizes human ignorance.  That we will largely agree on our goals has no bearing on their objectivity.

They are subjective, relative to the deity, since he (or again, to be more precise, the humans who purport to speak for him) can make up any arbitrary set of commands he (they) like.  This is no different from you or I asserting a right to just make up any "morality" we like.

You misunderstand me.  I am not claiming that they are objectively true.  I am saying that they have an objective state:
"X is true of the deity's moral opinions" is an objective assertion, true or false, about the deity's moral opinions.
"X is true of kcrady's moral opinions" is an objective assertion, true or false, about your moral opinions.
"X is true of any other part of physical reality" is an objective assertion, true or false, about whatever part of physical reality is being discussed.

Invalid comparison.  "The rest of reality" isn't a person or persons, and its facts don't change arbitrarily according to whim, like the commands of an absolute dictator (human or divine) can.

You are placing the contents of minds into a different category than that of any other part of physical reality.  That is supernaturalism.  I am treating mind-contents in the same way as I would anything else.  They're real.  They have a state.  It's not a matter of opinion.

These are the sort of questions that are only vexing for philosophers.

And yet you decided to make a statement on one side of the question when you posted in this thread.  Your attempt to dismiss my position on the grounds that it is supposedly useless navel-gazing is disingenuous, given your attention to the same topic.

"How do we know we're not all brains in vats?"  "Why should I take care of my car and obey traffic laws instead of just driving it off a cliff?"  "What if there are five people tied to a train track and the only way I can keep a trolley from running them over is to shove a fat guy onto the tracks in front of the trolley to stop it?"  "How do I know you're not just a figment of my imagination?"  Fun for ivory-tower debates perhaps, but not much use for navigating through life.

Most things don't need to be understood in order to navigate through life.  Hell, most people hold ill-defined religious beliefs without it unduly impacting their navigation through life.  Your point here is null.

Most people (I strongly suspect including yourself) have a pretty good general idea of what their well-being consists of, how they would like others to treat them, and why they would prefer to maximize their well-being rather than be tortured, raped, and murdered--even without recourse to a rigorous inquiry into scientific fields like psychology, anthropology, biology, physics, etc..

Naturally.  I have values, and I act on them.  The difference between us is that I don't pretend that mine are some sort of ultimate truth of the universe.

Who else would you suggest?  We are talking about principles of human behavior, after all.  Every other species has a set of behaviors adapted to maximize its well-being, why should humans be any different?

I would expect us to behave similarly, yes.  As for "is it objectively right for us to do so", the answer is "null".  The question is incoherent as stated, without added assumptions.  Consider:  What is so special about these species-divisions?  Back when Neanderthals were still around, was it objectively right to promote what we see as human flourishing alone?  Or did they get included?  Did it depend on our ability to interbreed?  Why the hell does any of this matter in the first place, outside of what we personally value?

Why [should] do humans want to maximize their well-being?  Is the reason something that critically depends on other human desires, or is it entirely based in fact?

Any humans that sought some other goal, like death, suffering, maximal randomness of behavior, etc. would be at a self-imposed disadvantage relative to well-being maximizers, and would be weeded out by natural selection.  Example: the members of the Heaven's Gate cult.  The bases of "well-being" as a standard (natural selection, the nature of the human nervous system--pain hurts!--the requirements of human physical, psychological, and societal health, etc.) are facts.

This idea of well-being is a fact.  Its adherence by both behaviour and biology is a fact.  That it should be sought, morally, is not.  That was my fault for not asking quite the right question.  I already know enough about why humans end up valuing the things they do.  I meant to ask why they should.

I don't think desires/values resolve as "true" or "false," more like "works" or "doesn't work" to maximize their well-being.

Good.  So you agree that the argument that the value of "well-being" as a positive thing resolves as "true" is a circular one.  "'Promoting X is good' resolves as positive because promoting X is good!" - FYI, this doesn't demonstrate that X is good.

I strongly suspect that you personally do not have a great deal of vexing difficulty with this in your own life.  That you do not, upon waking up in the morning, pace back and forth struggling with the choice of whether you'd rather go to work to provide for yourself and your family, or take up Russian roulette as a hobby.  I also doubt that, if you were presented a choice between being treated kindly and courteously by others, and having them slowly skin you alive, that you would find the choice to be a mighty philosophical quandary to wrestle with.  The reasons for this are all based in empirical facts about your physiology and psychology as a human being, and ultimately rooted in the generalized operating principles of physics.

You're right.  I have values.  They have a definite objective state, encoded as they are in my brain and the rest of me.  They are not objectively correct, they resolve as correct to me subjectively, and for some - to others - incorrect, subjectively.

I don't find it all that vexing.  What I find vexing is the residual attachment others seem to have to having an external value-god, even when the original one didn't offer what it was supposed to, logically.

I haven't read Sam Harris' book yet, but I do think his metaphor of a "moral landscape" with various peaks and valleys of well-being is apt.  Yes, there is subjectivity involved in choosing which peak(s) of well-being you might want to pursue.  Mozart might prefer success as a composer to success as a farmer, while Wendell Berry might prefer to have his hands in the good earth.[1]  Nonetheless, both prefer peaks to valleys.  Returning to the analogy of car care, it's a subjective choice whether one wants to drive to San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the contents of the car's maintenance manual and traffic laws still show--objectively--the best principles/behaviors for keeping the car in running order and maximizing its chances of arriving safely.
 1. This diversity of well-being peaks derives from the fact of human individual diversity.  Humans aren't ants, so there is not One, Single Simple, Ten-Commandment-style definition of individual well-being, but that doesn't mean that the peaks and valleys are all an equivalent flat plain.

The best set of principles/behaviours for achieving a particular set of values is an objectively correct combination.  The values themselves have never been established to be so, and upon reflection I no longer consider the concept to be coherent.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2011, 05:02:48 PM by Azdgari »
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