Sunday School 9th May 2021
May 14, 2021 at 9:52 pm #37670
I thought you would disagree Autumn.
I am glad to finally disagree with something you have said. I don’t see any path to responsibility under strict determinism. In fact it strikes me as another human conceit to posit responsibility. Call it reductionism but if we are helpless to alter the inalterable then it is impossible to place responsibility or give credit. All of which would make Shakespeare’s…it is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing…even more poignant.
We lack the understanding to know if strict determinism is in play. And regardless of our opinion we act as though we are agents capable of choices.May 14, 2021 at 10:04 pm #37671
I don’t see any path to responsibility under strict determinism. In fact it strikes me as another human conceit to posit responsibility. Call it reductionism but if we are helpless to alter the inalterable then it is impossible to place responsibility or give credit.
Helpless against what? It literally is us. The causal determinism is us. It is our actions. It is our nature. It is our thoughts, feelings, motives, decisions. If it is a question of whether or not we should be condemning people to the fires of Hell as a god might, certainly not. Punishment for the sake of retribution? What for?
But if it comes down to a simple recognition of what human experiences, where suffering is caused, how it is caused and our understanding of how our actions play into that, then our ability to comprehend, reflect and construct better paths forward is an acknowledgement of responsibility as well as the development of moral/ ethical systems. This framework is necessary for moving forward. Of course, by definition we will only ever do what we will do and will never do what we will not do. What of it? What we do still matters. How we interpret what we do, how we react to it, how we learn and improve matters. That we were never going to do it any other way is not particularly relevant. Ultimately, we still have to expend the effort and operate within that framework. So why not just call phenomena such as ‘responsibility’ and ‘morality’ what they are as they operate in this paradigm instead of acting like this weird little tautology we’ve become so fascinated with about the causal nature of the universe somehow renders these phenomena we’ve been experiencing for millennia as illusory?May 14, 2021 at 10:38 pm #37672
Autumn, remember it is a hypothetical.
You wrote…Helpless against what? It literally is us. The causal determinism is us. It is our actions. It is our nature. It is our thoughts, feelings, motives, decisions.
Disagree. You might as well say the same about a rock, fungus or a subatomic particle. That is why i wrote that it is another human conceit to fail to concede the absence of moral responsibility under the hypothetical. We aint blaming that rock that became dislodged and smashed Sol Rosenberg’s head in. If we are like rocks then we are not to blame either.
I more or less agree with your conclusion. I will always be opposed to or fight injustice, want to ease suffering. It is my nature. And it really does not make a difference in terms of our behavior what we believe about strict determinism or free will. Onward to dance…
On the other hand there is the daily prattle, live a day mundane world we occupy and then there is a philosophical platonic world in which our understanding may be in sharp contrast with our mundane live a day behavior. I despise the notion that utility is truth. If the two coincide great but if not we ought not make a construct. And if we ever do conclude that the hypothetical is the reality then we can change our behavior And perhaps we take our foot off the pedal of hero worship. Those two things would be for the better.May 14, 2021 at 10:40 pm #37673
I left out the part about about punishment for criminals.May 15, 2021 at 12:00 am #37674
Autumn, remember it is a hypothetical. You wrote…Helpless against what? It literally is us. The causal determinism is us. It is our actions. It is our nature. It is our thoughts, feelings, motives, decisions. Disagree. You might as well say the same about a rock, fungus or a subatomic particle. That is why i wrote that it is another human conceit to fail to concede the absence of moral responsibility under the hypothetical.
There are distinct processes by which a human can understand and assume responsibility that, to the best of our knowledge, rocks and fungi and subatomic particles cannot. This is why the reductionism is worth very little. It leads to a bizarre sort of false equivalence. It’s like saying an ostrich and an atom bomb are the same because they are both made of molecules, despite the fact that one of them is a disturbing entity that strikes terror in the hearts of rational humans and the other is an atom bomb.May 15, 2021 at 12:45 am #37675
I got the part about the atom bomb and the ostrich. Yet they’re not so far apart. Each one has a hell of a kick. And without the subatomic particles neither one would. So the little one is integral to the bigger ones and what separates em is a matter of degree.
So while our three actors on the stage have different properties and attributes it is also true that they arrived at their point in the play through a process of inexorable and necessary steps without which we would have a different play or none at all. We can not fault the subatomic particle for flitting in and out of existence. Nor can we fault the Ostrich for kicking the shit out of a nasty Aussie. Nor can we blame the pilot who flew the Enola Gay. Each participant in our play was simply carrying on as it MUST. Moral responsibility as a concept is built upon freedom. Without it there is none.May 15, 2021 at 1:15 am #37676
We can not fault the subatomic particle for flitting in and out of existence. Nor can we fault the Ostrich for kicking the shit out of a nasty Aussie.
Sure you can. It’s a simple recognition of relationships and consequences.
Nor can we blame the pilot who flew the Enola Gay. Each participant in our play was simply carrying on as it MUST. Moral responsibility as a concept is built upon freedom. Without it there is none.
Moral responsibility in no way needs to be contingent on ‘freedom’ in some bizarre, absolute and paradoxical definition of the word. Moral responsibility can, as an example, be a function of understanding harm and moderating behaviour to reduce it.
I understand the point you are making. But at the level of human experience, we can create moral and ethical frameworks. Yes, doing so, too, is part of a series of causal events which will only happen the way they will happen and will never happen the way they will not happen. But why does that matter? We are creatures subject to causal determination. Why wouldn’t our morality and ethics also simply exist in that same paradigm? The idea that there has to be some freedom to defy causal determination—an intrinsically paradoxical notion—in order to practice some true form of morality is arbitrary when you really try to examine it. Where does it even come from?May 15, 2021 at 4:16 am #37677
Autumn, as a reminder i am going with the hypothetical. The universe is fixed and given identical conditions of ten billion years earlier played out in ten billion universes-fixed results at all points.
You wrote…Moral responsibility can, as an example, be a function of understanding harm and moderating behaviour to reduce it. As a practical matter in our mundane lives that is apropos. However it does not mitigate the conundrum of laying responsibility where the actor is bound by the universe and can not choose to do otherwise.
We can’t see the fixed universe play because we are in it. If the play were to begin 10 billion years earlier in ten billion universes and produce ten billion differentiated universes then the conundrum would be avoided. In both the fixed result universes and the differentiated universes causation is a necessary condition. As to the former there is no moral distinction between a rock, subatomic particle and homo sapien. Each simply does what it does until it doesn’t. Presumably the rock lacks awareness. The homo is aware but without the freedom to utilize causation in an unexpected or unpredictable way it is trapped and the notion of moral responsibility has no place.
I have a feeling that we can’t do much more than restate our positions. BTW there is a small town in state of NY called Paradox. I think it got its name cuz residents thought that a brook in Paradox goes uphill-an optical illusion i should think. Sometimes when i am going up a mountain i imagine i am going down and it feels a little less painful.May 15, 2021 at 11:13 am #37678
Autumn, as a reminder i am going with the hypothetical. The universe is fixed and given identical conditions of ten billion years earlier played out in ten billion universes-fixed results at all points. You wrote…Moral responsibility can, as an example, be a function of understanding harm and moderating behaviour to reduce it. As a practical matter in our mundane lives that is apropos. However it does not mitigate the conundrum of laying responsibility where the actor is bound by the universe and can not choose to do otherwise.
It’s an artificial conundrum. The issue is not whether an individual can choose to do otherwise, but whether an individual can choose to do so.
This idea that we are ‘bound’ by the universe is a little silly. It’s a sort of relativism. We could describe the mechanics of the universe as being supremely restricting or as the very thing that allows us to act, react, and perceive in the first place. We are bound by what let’s us act in every way we can possibly be act?
But it gets sillier. We could describe humans entirely based on our smallest constituent components. We are, perhaps, nothing more than vacuums and subatomic particles. Or we could resort to the opposite level of extremism and define humans only as a part of the greater whole in which we are merely part of the universe (or whatever top level structure exists). Or we could describe humans at the discrete, macro level of humans. This issue isn’t about whether it is more true than the other methods of description. The point is that it is valid, useful, and meaningful.
My issue with your take is that we could apply the same thing to moral responsibility. All you’ve done is taken the most extreme end of description—the reductionist extreme—and used it to rationalize some bizarre quality or requirement that magically eliminates a phenomenon we actually observe and interact with all because it cannot behave in paradoxical ways.
What we call ‘moral responsibility’ is, just as we are, likely a byproduct of causal determinism. It’s some mixture of our instincts, individual psychology, sociological tendencies stirred up in our cognitive faculties to chart beliefs and behaviours that are, in some way beneficial. And this type of behaviour can be described by its properties and classified as distinct from other patterns of behaviour and belief. This isn’t any different than the tendency for most of us to prefer eating doughnuts over motor oil because, despite both merely being a collection of the same fundamental stuff at some subatomic level, at the macro level their chemical properties are really quite different.
And really, that comes down to my point of contention. The way we undo morality and freewill and responsibility with this reductionist rationalization only serves to reduce our ability to describe the universe and the phenomena within it because we’ve fabricated some conundrum out of an artifact of thinking predating our conceptualization of the universe as something causally determined. Either we can apply that same logic to undo our descriptions of nearly all observable phenomena in our universe, or we have to smush moral responsibility into some strange, special, possibly extra-natural category under some tortured logic that unless a thing is free to be what it is not or to behave as it does not, it cannot be what it is or do what it does.May 15, 2021 at 6:57 pm #37679
Autumn it is an artificial conundrum because i am utilizing a hypothetical. Assuming arguendo the 10 billion same conditions/fixed outcomes your distinction between choosing to do otherwise and choosing to do so is misplaced. There is no choice involved in fixed outcomes. There is only the appearance of choosing to the actors on the stage who are unaware.
Free will is a nonissue for me. Has been for some time. You nailed the coffin of free will with your observation of the autumnal paradox/contradiction in that what enables free will negates it. Free will can be tough to dismiss since it feels like we are free agents and there is a ton of religious baggage attached. Notwithstanding Sam Harris points out that if we simply pay attention to the river of our thoughts there isn’t even an illusion of free will.
I stand by my original assertion. It is ludicrous under the aforementioned assumption to either credit an individual with doing good shit or condemn an individual for doing bad shit. It strikes me as sadistic to punish the bad guy for doing shit that was bound to happen 10 billion years ago. It reminds me of original sin. Sin is predestined and somebody is gonna be sacrificed to atone for the sins of those not even born yet. Not only is the architect at fault for creating that kind of universe but can’t a guy be born first and fuck up before you assume he is a sinner? And if the universe is as my hypothetical posits (i haven’t a clue how the universe actually is) the notion of moral responsibility is silly.
Moral responsibility depends on the judgment of the actor borne of experience and at least potentially leading to the betterment of the actor. We are analogous to rocks, twigs and subatomic particles if the universe if like a rock-just matter in motion with a determined understanding and determined sentiment until the candle of our flitting existence is extinguished. Any other conclusion is in my estimation insupportable.
On the other hand the way you conceive of things makes sense to me. Based on our current understanding it is a sensible approach. I hope the free will debate will ultimately disappear.
Morality is i think a concept borne of evolution in social mammals. It is necessary for the group to have some sort of framework of rules on right and wrong. It continues to be the case in humans that explicit rules and principles are understood so that we can thrive. Woops, simon slippage, lets say function as a civilization albeit very poorly.May 16, 2021 at 5:04 pm #37689
@autumn Making something happen, having a place in the causal chain, is distinct from being responsible for it.[/quote]
Can’t say I agree. Our sense of responsibility is determined within that system, is accountable to that system and what happens within it…
Words can have different meanings. I’m talking about “responsibility” as the term is used in moral/ethical discourse.
I’m not talking about being responsible merely by being somewhere in the antecedent chain of causes and effects. I’m talking about responsibility in the sense of moral/ethical agency.
When I enter my small bathroom, my body heat may raise the temperature in there a degree or two. In one sense, I’m responsible for that change in temperature, but that sense is irrelevant to morals and/or ethics.
If I am shopping for jewelry for my (hypothetical) wife, and I knowingly buy a blood diamond, that kind responsibility does have a moral and/or ethical dimension.
May 16, 2021 at 9:15 pm #37696
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Unseen.
I’m talking about responsibility in the sense of moral/ethical agency.
I am not talking about responsibility in a different sense. I am saying that the moral/ ethical sense of the term ‘responsibility’ is a phenomenon that can be observed and defined within a paradigm where all of our actions are subject to causal determination.
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