Sunday School

Sunday School 2nd January 2022

This topic contains 50 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 51 total)
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  • #40614

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, if you were a mathematician dealing with a completely new, contentious theory with little published work, dissenting voices and nothing approaching consensus (let’s call it Theory X), then yeah, it would be ridiculous to say “theory x says…” anything. The best you could get away with is: “some people believe that theory x says…” or “in my interpretation of theory x…”. To not qualify this, is to add a level of authority or “establishment” to their own idiosyncratic views which simply does not exist. This would be intellectually dubious…to put it as nicely as I can, and a little sad.

    Having said that, at least they would be a mathematician, grounded in mathematical theory (even theories they disagree with). To get to that point, they ought to have at least learnt the basics (again, even if you disagree with it). So yeah, if it were a pseudo-wannabe-mathematician acting as though a theory they favoured was more established than it was, speaking on behalf of them as though there were a united theory, it would be even more odd and puzzling.

    #40616

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Davis – look, I’m studying evolutionary ethics, and you can’t stop me:

    #40617

    Davis
    Moderator

    All I can do at this point is roll my eyes and sigh and laugh. Good luck with that Simon…I guess.

    #40618

    Unseen
    Participant

    @simon Paynton What is the evolutionary ethics explanation of Nazi Germany? The exception that proves the rule?

    #40619

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I don’t have one.  That would be more of a sociological and historical issue.

    I can say that the in-group bias was strongly in play, against an imaginarily-harmful out-group, the Jews.  When individuals become Nazis, outside of Nazi Germany, that’s often an issue of personality disorders, specifically narcissism.  Hitler was probably a narcissist.

    #40620

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Simon, isn’t your answer kind of a cop out?

    Are the mammalian ethics of our closest relatives still at play? If not then Nazi Germany may or may not be explained by evolution. Or do you look at more distant relatives? Why are evolutionary ethics even relevant?

    Germany did not become a state until 1871 if i recall and refuse to consult mr. google. But geographically it was a location that had a thriving industry in antisemitism. There was a bit of relaxation for a few decades and even a bit of assimilation. But those stereotypes and racist practices/beliefs were never quelled. The conditions for full expression of anti-Jewish sentiment were present in Germany.

    #40621

    Davis
    Moderator

    Of course it is a cop-out. Mass human cruelty is an evolutionary by-product. Nazi Germany is just an excessive example of what was going on for millennia anyways. Once humans started having a surplus of anything, they built unjust and unspeakably cruel systems. More altruistic and caring societies are exceptions that define the rule. Western democracies are not examples of evolutionary morality but partially the result of the enlightenment which was to escape human nature and remould ourselves into something based on self-awareness of our nature and deciding our own values and goals. It is a counter-reaction to evolutionary morality. Philosophers have been aware of human nature for centuries and have based moral systems on it. It is true that the better we understand how our morality evolved, the better we can develop moral systems, but to base our systems on human nature, rather than to simply have an understanding of human nature in mind while reshaping it, seems regressive.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  Davis.
    #40624

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Are the mammalian ethics of our closest relatives still at play?

    People feel strong when they’re in a group.  Their individual goals are aligned with that of the group.  As with an individual, a group can feel relatively stronger when it has a victim to be cruel to.

    Empathic concern means distress at someone else’s distress, and a motivation to help.  This is quite fragile and depends on how much we approve of the victim.  If the victim comes from an out-group that is perceived to be at least threatening, and at worse subhuman, then there will be very little empathic concern for them.

    #40625

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Once humans started having a surplus of anything, they built unjust and unspeakably cruel systems.

    This is true, we get hierarchy and organised religion when groups get large.  The needs of the individual can become subsumed into those of the group, and religion protects the status quo.

    More altruistic and caring societies are exceptions that define the rule.

    The theory is that all societies were altruistic and caring, before private property (through delayed-return subsistence) existed, and hierarchies and patriarchy reasserted themselves.

    Morality is a product of history and culture on top of evolution.

    #40626

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Philosophers have been aware of human nature for centuries and have based moral systems on it. It is true that the better we understand how our morality evolved, the better we can develop moral systems, but to base our systems on human nature, rather than to simply have an understanding of human nature in mind while reshaping it, seems regressive.

    My version is evolutionary ethics is “based” on the best of human nature, and is underpinned by universal evolutionary principles.  It has an understanding also of the worst of human nature.

    #40627

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I like that answer Davis but i wonder whether human nature isn’t as hard and fast as our cousins in nature. Would make sense intuitively that brain plasticity has survival value. As you point out (sounds of jared Diamond) agriculture created surplus that led to cruel systems. There is on an individual and group basis plenty of precedent for kindness. So perhaps humans are capable of culturally inculcating a less cruel way of proceeding.

    I am curious to know whether evolution is a model that is instructive in that endeavor.

    #40628

    Unseen
    Participant

    Are the mammalian ethics of our closest relatives still at play?

    People feel strong when they’re in a group. Their individual goals are aligned with that of the group. As with an individual, a group can feel relatively stronger when it has a victim to be cruel to. Empathic concern means distress at someone else’s distress, and a motivation to help. This is quite fragile and depends on how much we approve of the victim. If the victim comes from an out-group that is perceived to be at least threatening, and at worse subhuman, then there will be very little empathic concern for them.

    Cats (lions excepted) and wolverines are lone hunters with little inclination to socialize apart from mating. Does that place them on a lower evolutionary rung? (BTW, the world is a better place that we don’t have packs of leopards or wolverines running around. LOL)

    #40629

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Cats (lions excepted) and wolverines are lone hunters with little inclination to socialize apart from mating. Does that place them on a lower evolutionary rung?

    They’re better than we are at being cats and wolverines.

    There are a number of documented cases of lions caring for creatures like young antelopes.

    #40630

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I am curious to know whether evolution is a model that is instructive in that endeavor.

    I’d say that evolution has already provided the ability, and we can fairly easily be socialised into and out of a compassionate mindset.

    #40631

    jakelafort
    Participant

    From Simon: I’d say that evolution has already provided the ability, and we can fairly easily be socialised into and out of a compassionate mindset.

    There is virtually zero doubt about socialized out of a compassionate mindset. No need to elaborate such an obvious point.

    But there is front and center the issue whether we can be socialized into a compassionate mindset. There are not a great many who can or will live like subsistence slash and burn primitives or nomadic cultures. There is some evidence that a more secular culture ameliorates some of the shocking cruelty we are subject to. But there is always the specter of mindless allegiance to group-think. It is frustrating to see how brains shut down in defense of ideology. I am not optimistic that we can improve ourselves.

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