Sunday School

Sunday School December 26th 2021

This topic contains 92 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Reg the Fronkey Farmer 3 weeks, 1 day ago.

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    Simon Paynton

    Fairness is also difficult to define in abstraction. The very concept of it isn’t that difficult to define, but what it actually means or what its particular value is is easier to define.

    I would define it as a distribution of benefit and harm on some kind of equal basis.  This can be material or social benefit and harm.  There are a number of criteria for distribution: equality, proportionality, charity (need), status or age (anyone with that status or age is eligible), etc.

    Social benefit means treating people well, which implies putting  favourable conditions in place for them to thrive.


    Simon Paynton

    and it is hard to imagine how they can considering we have evolved to be viciously violent, rapey, racist, controlling, indifferent and frequently very cruel on a mass scale

    On an individual level, evolutionary ethics has answers for the questions of why these exist.


    I suppose if it stops your “ordinary people” from committing crimes because they have no developed sense of morality, then it is better than nothing.

    I think the full range of moral repertoire is there for religious people to use, depending on their personality. Some people favour punishment and judgment; some people favour compassion.

    Can you have compassion for “law breakers” without some degree of judgement?


    To follow up on Eudaimonism;

    Firstly I would wholeheartedly accept the derivation that Autumn presented. Simon – It is one of the original ideas about human flourishing that you often mention so I assumed you would be familiar with it.

    Eudaimonia (u-da-moan-e-a) is a Greek word or better still, a concept in Greek moral thought mostly associated with Aristotle. The next two paragraphs are quoted from “The Quest for a Moral Compass”:

    The word is usually translated as ‘happiness’. But to the Greeks Eudaimonia meant much more. It was not a matter of the satisfaction of immediate desires, nor even a sense of well-being, but described more broadly a state of human flourishing, or a state of being that is worth seeking, that which Aristotle calls ‘living well and doing well’. It is at one and the same time an objective measure of human well-being and a value-laden concept of flourishing.

    Eudaimonia, Aristotle argues, cannot simply be pleasure, as some Sophists believed. One who possesses eudaimonia will necessarily find pleasure in his way of life. But finding pleasure is not the same as possessing eudaimonia. A torturer might take pleasure in his perverse and corrupt activities but we would not say of him that he lived a flourishing life.

    The rest is mostly my wording. Honor and virtue are not the same as eudaimonia. To really understand what it is we need to understand what, according to Aristotle makes humans distinctive. I will keep it as brief as I can. All “objects” and that includes acorns as well as human beings have a specific function or purpose. In becoming an oak tree, the acorn flourishes by fulfilling its purpose and confirming its nature. What distinguishes humans, according to Aristotle is the procession of reason. Therefore, the exercise of our reason is the proper function of a human being. Happiness consists in acting in accordance with reason and this is how we flourish and achieve eudaimonia. It was a much-discussed topic 300 years before the start of Christianity which trumpeted faith instead of reason and decided what was important was that we obeyed or disobeyed their god, irrespective of the motives behind our actions.


    Simon Paynton

    Can you have compassion for “law breakers” without some degree of judgement?

    Prisoners have human rights – if not autonomy and liberty, then at least, fairness as respect: the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them.  The practice may fall woefully short, but prisoners are in theory entitled to medical treatment and freedom from inhumane treatment.

    compassion … judgement

    This is the eternal balance that must be made.  Justice and mercy.  Fairness (deservingness) and compassion.  Sometimes they are at odds.  Michael Nugent, in his recent RTE radio discussion, mentioned how people asked to stone adulterers to death are also asked to suspend their compassion.  In the West we condemn cruel and unusual punishment.


    Simon Paynton

    Eudaimonia and hedonia:

    it’s an interesting question, what constitutes human flourishing.  It has to be long term in my opinion, although short term pleasure is necessary for long term flourishing.  Probably, repeated short term pleasure, and the prospect of more.

    Here’s an article which highlights how short term pleasure is felt by the body as a situation of danger (increased inflammation and immune respeonse) while eudaimonia does the opposite.


    Good article Simon.

    Pleasure in the sense Aristotle used it does not mean hedonistic pleasure where satisfaction is garnered solely from the pursuit of self-interests. Such pleasure is rewarded by dopamine which ultimately leads to dissatisfaction because of increasing costs to get a lesser sense of reward. It is pleasure derived from our basic instincts.

    Aristotle uses the word when talking of the satisfaction gained by using our developed sense of reason. It is an intellectually driven pursuit because, at our core, it is how we as individuals and as a species flourish. (Once again, teach Critical Thinking and Reasoning skills in schools instead of religion).

    As an aside this is an interesting article and there is an option to take an online ethics course!


    Simon Paynton

    For happiness I prefer the definition “a state of satisfaction with one’s life”.

    Pleasure is at the heart of my theories about evolutionary ethics.  The hypothesis is that fitness benefits are rewarded with pleasure, and the loss or lack of them produces pain.  Now, humans can achieve their fitness cooperatively: in concert with others.  It is documented that if someone else is in distress, this can produce empathic distress in myself, both sympathetically and because I currently cannot help them.  The empathic distress goes away if I start helping that person – there is pleasure because of a fitness benefit (a cooperative one).

    I agree with Aristotle that intellectuality is a pleasure: but he was a philosopher, so he would say that.  It’s also an executive function that can override other instincts, so it’s kind of king in some ways.  The sophistication of human reasoning makes us different from the animals, but only in degree.



    Underlying all of the issues aforementioned is free will. It is a nagging issue and a thorn that can not be displaced. Assumptions about how we ought to…are perhaps unfounded when our nature is so clearly tribal.

    I f’ing love the idea of abandoning the traditional education in favor of creating thinkers or attempting to do so. I am not sure the objective is achievable. Group think is just so powerful. My badgering of Enco is my frustration with humanity. So few people can maintain that same level of ratiocination directed at their religion, political points of view and shared tribal propaganda as they can in other spheres. Will that strong tendency be undone by twelve years of critical thinking in classrooms?

    Simon mentions how we have natural compassion. That compassion is often subordinated to the group’s love of cruelty against hated targets. In wartime there is mass rape, failure to take prisoners and instead kill, executions were often the great entertainment of the middle ages, lynchings of blacks saw entire towns of thousands of Whites come out to witness the ultimate humiliation, torture and murder. The list goes on and on.

    What i see as paramount is the drive to fit in, to be part of the tribe and that means conformity and conformity requires one to bury reason. Morality requires judgment and judgment requires reason. But reason runs a distant second to adopting the mores of the tribe. Were it otherwise slavery would have never been a thing. We see a few abolitionists in colonial america and a whole shit load of whites who either supported slavery or had no issue with it. Where were the thinkers to question the assumption that slavery is justified cuz they’re just low life niggers? Where were they? I fear the notions about morality and how to proceed in life are academic issues only.



    I’m not going to go back and read five pages of posts, some of them fairly lengthy just to find out if anyone has mentioned John Rawls as of yet.

    As to fairness, I think he recognized the inherent difficulties of adequately defining it in an applicable/practical way so he decided to discuss it procedurally.  Fairness is a fair procedure applied without discrimination, basically.

    Two different juries can reach diametrically opposite conclusions based on the same evidence and testimony due to personality dynamics in the Jury Room, but at least, whether you go free or off to prison, you got a fair trial because of the standardized procedure.

    Procedural fairness is about all we can hope for even if there’s little guarantee the results will conform to a philosophically rigorous standard.


    @jakelafortI f’ing love the idea of abandoning the traditional education in favor of creating thinkers or attempting to do so. I am not sure the objective is achievable.

    I am optimistic on this. I really do think that in a couple of generations it will be the case. Most of the younger people I have engaged with in discussing religion have no religion. Most are atheists without being wearing the t-shirt. I wear it because I am mostly an anti-theist but openly atheistic will no regard to how ‘offended” that makes anyone. As an example, I used to regularly man street tables around the country and spoke with several teenagers who have zero religion. They would not classify themselves as atheists because they have never known religion. Many opted out of religious education and it is a growing phenomenon here in Ireland though it has been a struggle to get to this point and the fight against religious discrimination is not over.

    At the moment there is not enough emphasis on teaching. Not teaching religion does not create a vacuum but rather it creates an opportunity to better use the time teaching Reasoning and Philosophy etc. At the moment there is not enough emphasis on this. The removal of the “mind forged manacle of religion”, to paraphrase Hitchens, frees up the mind to ponder better and more useful subjects.  For me this should happen sooner as there is too much pseudoscience out there and at the moment it is competing against Reason and Science. I am baffled at times by what so many non-religious people profess to believe. Shit like Astrology, Homeopathy, Tarot cards, Ancient fucking aliens and crystals for what I call “goopagers” and other crap from the world of Quackademia.

    But…overall I remain optimistic that we will ditch the religious indoctrination of children. You can’t herd cats but you can still trap them.



    Reg hope your optimism is founded.

    You bring up a good point about atheists who are wooed by woo. They aint thinking. Being an atheist is in and of itself not proof of much.

    Ya ever see the Breakfast Club? That kind of stratification is present in other ways too. It is ersatz reasoning when all one can do is parrot one’s group. So sure if we can continue to erode the grasp religion has on the human mind that is a great improvement. But until we as a species have a significant minority at a minimum who question shit in a reasonable manner, who are not slavishly beholden to their tribal viewpoint we are stuck in neutral.


    I am definitely not a member of any club that requires group participation as a norm unless there is a very clear end goal. I am very happy to do my own thing most of the time and am never bored or lonely when on my own.

    One New Year’s Eve when I was living in London in “Squat Land” I was invited to go to a small club with some Goths who lived next door. Killing Joke were playing there.  Turned out everyone except me was in full Goth makeup mode. I was in my jeans and t-shirt as usual. One of the girls from the group (the main reason I went there!) started telling me that I should start to try to be different from the “herd” and said she would help me change my image. She was only interested in people who were different. I had to point out the obvious to her and let her know “But I am the only one in this entire club tonight that is not dressed in black and wearing black eye liner”.

    30 or so years later I was in a gay bar in Dublin (Out on the Liffey) with some friends.  It was about December 29th.  Towards the end of the night the DJ played “Gay Bar” that got almost everyone up to dance.  Not me, as music only makes it to my head and never my feet. I was left at the bar on my own when a girl came over and asked me what I was doing later. I looked a bit surprised and she said “What? a man in a gay club wearing jeans and a t-shirt? Yes, I replied, “I must confess to being a fashion victim. Next week they will all be dressed like this.”

    Tonight, I am going to a “COVID Vaxxed and Boostered only” party in my neighbors house. It’s a warm night here so I will just wear jeans and a t-shirt as everyone else will be dressed up. Yes, I have seen the Breakfast Club a few times. Happy New Year everyone!



    Reg, good anecdotes and illustrative of precisely the point i had in mind yet left unstated except to reference Breakfast Club.


    Simon Paynton

    John Rawls

    As I understand it, Rawls’ formulation of fairness was a distribution that all concerned could be happy with.

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