• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



  • TWIM updates via email.

    Join 13 other followers

  • Feedback

    
    
    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Desirism, Doughnuts & Red Curbs

In discussions of morality, attempts to define good can get downright maddening once one applies themselves duly to the task. Yet, it seems so simple. We all know what good means, right? The problem is, my “good” might actually be your “bad,” so how might we deal with that?

For example, let’s say you own a doughnut shop. Not just any doughnut shop, but one in a strip mall with a decent-sized parking lot such that some curbs are painted red to reserve parking for emergency vehicles. Now, let’s say I like to ride my skateboard full speed into those red curbs, like this, and that this actually causes a minor amount of damage to them. My desire to do this ranks very high on my hierarchy of desires. You, of course, don’t want me to skate the curbs, and your desire ranks equally high on your hierarchy of desires. I am primarily concerned with two things: the intense feeling of satisfaction this gives me, and freedom of physical expression regarding my style of exercise. You are primarily concerned with two things: preventing a lawsuit should I injure myself, and promoting an encouraging atmosphere for potential doughnut consumers.

In this case, my “good” is clearly your “bad,” and there are seemingly endless variables as well as ways this dilemma can be resolved. Here are just a few possibilities:

1) I can say, “screw you and your desires,” and continue skating the curbs;

2) You can threaten to call the police;

3) I can oblige your concerns and stop skating the curbs;

4) You can relent of your concerns and stop worrying;

5) We can attempt to determine who has the legal right of way;

6) We can fist fight;

7) We can search for a way to satisfy my desire without thwarting yours.

In (2), why would you threaten to call the police? Is it not because you assume–as you could quite correctly in the vast majority of cases–that my desire to grind red curbs is not as strong as my aversion to being arrested? Here is a real-world example where desirist tenets can both predict and explain human behavior.

Note that my decision to continue skating the curbs may or may not be illegal depending on the municipality we’re in. If it is legal, you have no legal grounds for (2), and I could choose (1) with no fear of punishment, which would lead to the thwarting of your desires.

The desirist would presumably prescribe (7), and because I’m a nice guy, that would be my first choice, too. However, my fondness for (7) could quickly vaporize depending on your reason for wanting me to stop skating the curbs, and the demeanor in which you present your request. If you come out and get hostile, we might be well on our way to (6). If, on the other hand, you come out cool, calm and collected, I might just yield to your desire and choose (3). If you are simply a cranky old bat that “doesn’t like skateboards,” and that is why you want me to stop, I’m not going to be very sympathetic. After all, I like skateboards, and since we’re both presumably tax-paying citizens of the same community, why should I stop just because you don’t? To those leaning towards the argument from private property, how would the situation change if the setting was a public park?

I’ve seen each of these play out in real life.

Perhaps your reason is that you don’t like the scuffs on the red curbs. How is that any different than disliking a certain artist? Is this not a purely subjective aesthetic preference? Why should your desire to see red curbs without minor scuffs take precedence over my desire to skate them? What if I agree to periodically repaint them for you?

Perhaps your desire is preventing a lawsuit. As is the case with every skateboarder I’ve ever known, what if suing you would never even enter my mind as a viable option should I get hurt? After all, I’ve hurt myself in who-knows-how-many places, and never once have I thought to sue the owner of the property. If I get hurt skateboarding, more often than not, it’s my own fault. So, why should I have my desire thwarted simply because you worry about a situation that will never materialize in reality?

Questions like these lead me to question the appropriateness of using desire fulfillment as the sole criterion for good, and more importantly, questions like these lead me to remain skeptical of the claim made by Harris, Fyfe, Muehlhauser et al. that science should be the ultimate arbiter of morality.

How in the world is science going to help in a situation like this?

12 Responses

  1. Personally, I believe that most human beings share the same fundamental values, such as community, autonomy, self-respect, productivity, relaxation, privacy, love and affection, justice, mercy, forgiveness, vengeance, free speech, and so on. We differ in terms of the ORDER of these values, such that one individual may prioritize autonomy over community, whereas another may prioritize community over autonomy, and that could certainly lead to a conflict in need of resolution.

    I think that science can play a role in determining which orders of values lead to the maximal happiness for the maximum number of people. I do find Harris compelling on this point, and find it difficult to argue with him, except in a fallacious fashion that he explicitly addresses in his works. Similar to how one would study a number of risk factors for an illness, it seems possible to study a number of values and the degree to which they contribute to happiness in a scientific fashion.

    Would this result in a mathematical equation for happiness that is absolutely incorrigible? Of course not, but it would serve as a more useful guide than general ethical maxims, which ultimately contradict themselves, because each represents a different set of values, and our values inherently contradict themselves, because they are rooted in different needs that we have.

    Turning to your example, I think that science can help by studying similar instances and analyzes the consequences of the different set of options that you presented. Maybe (7) leads to mutual satisfaction more often than (6), for example. I mean, ultimately, we want to actualize as many of our values as possible, which I feel is the road to happiness, and you can analyze which of the possible options that you presented ultimately leads to a maximum actualization of each individual’s values, which would be a scientific endeavor.

  2. The fact that you actually read Harris as saying desire fulfillment is the basis for morality leads me to believe you haven’t actually read his work. That’s quite a far leap from what’s actually being suggested.

  3. dguller,

    …I believe that most human beings share the same fundamental values, such as community, autonomy, self-respect, productivity, relaxation, privacy, love and affection, justice, mercy, forgiveness, vengeance, free speech, and so on.

    As do I. I also believe Harris’ definition of “the good” is far more realistic and accurate than Fyfe’s. To me, “that which advances the well-being of sentient creatures” [to paraphrase Harris] is a much more useful criterion than, “desires that tend to fulfill other desires.” The former at least gives us a semi-reliable guideline, whereas the latter is circular and begs the question.

    Similar to how one would study a number of risk factors for an illness, it seems possible to study a number of values and the degree to which they contribute to happiness in a scientific fashion.

    I agree.

    I mean, ultimately, we want to actualize as many of our values as possible, which I feel is the road to happiness, and you can analyze which of the possible options that you presented ultimately leads to a maximum actualization of each individual’s values, which would be a scientific endeavor.

    Again, I agree. The problem–and the point I question whether or not I’ve successfully communicated here–is what to do when people have conflicting values. On what grounds can we enforce across-the-board prescriptions based on generalities, which inevitably vary from culture to culture and epoch to epoch?

    Matt,

    The fact that you actually read Harris as saying desire fulfillment is the basis for morality leads me to believe you haven’t actually read his work.

    No offense, but the fact that you left that comment leads me to believe you’ve leaped to your conclusion in haste. Note my sole mention of Harris as follows: “…questions like these lead me to remain skeptical of the claim made by Harris, Fyfe, Muehlhauser et al. that science should be the ultimate arbiter of morality.” Indeed, Harris does in fact argue that science should be the ultimate arbiter of morality. I do not read Harris as you imply. Unlike Fyfe and Muehlhauser, Harris does not defend the theory of desire utilitarianism. I hope this helps.

    On another note, do you live in North Beach? Or, is that just a visiting photo? I’ve got some buddies that live a stone’s throw from where you took that photo. If I had a dime for every good deli and restaurant in that neighborhood… :)

  4. cl:

    >> The problem–and the point I question whether or not I’ve successfully communicated here–is what to do when people have conflicting values. On what grounds can we enforce across-the-board prescriptions based on generalities, which inevitably vary from culture to culture and epoch to epoch?

    The same way that you would decide which risk factors to treat to prevent an illness from developing, I would imagine. Similarly, you can study what happens to individuals’ happiness or well-being when they choose to prioritize certain values over others, and compare their well-being to others who choose different priorities. Practically, this would be enormously difficult to perform, but theoretically, it appears to be sound, at least to me, especially if we agree that most human beings agree upon the set of values that make life worth living.

    I agree with Sam Harris in that it is highly unlikely that there is a single set of ordering for values that maximizes well-being, and that there are multiple peaks in the moral landscape, but the best way to determine this is to study large groups of individuals scientifically to determine which maximize well-being and which do not, and to relate that to the values that they prioritize.

  5. 7) We can search for a way to satisfy my desire without thwarting yours.

    The desirist would presumably prescribe (7)

    Actually, I think the desirist would be taking a more general approach: does riding skateboards into red curbs tend to fulfill or thwart desires overall? If it tends to fulfill desires, fine, it’s okay. If it tends to thwart desires overall then, as a desirist society, we should adjust our moral intuition of skateboard riding into red curbs to view it as immoral.

    To determine if that skateboard action tends to fulfill or thwart desires, in theory, we would have to examine all people who skateboard, all business owners close to red curbs, and how their desires are fulfilled or thwarted by prohibiting skateboarding, restricting it, permitting it etc.; a truly difficult task.

    However, in practice, I think desirism could proceed much like law proceeds today: by study of facts at hand, argument, case precedent. Desirist conclusions would have to be probabilistic, though, i.e.: we are 55% certain that skateboard riding into red curbs tends to thwart desires, therefore we will make it immoral with a penalty reflecting the degree of desire thwarting we estimate as well as the 55% uncertainty in the overall calculation.

    As technology progresses, I would expect desirist conclusions to converge to 100%, assuming there is no scientific barrier to desirism.

  6. Why do people waste their valuable time with desirism? It’s a fringe ethical theory held by two nobodies on the internet. Serious discussions in moral philosophy are more productive.

  7. woodchuck64,

    Actually, the desirist has no recourse here [forgive me I’m a bit out of the loop]. Recall that Alonzo said desirism, “has nothing to say to a moral agent at the time of decision.” [Short-List Theories of Morality, September 3, 2010]

    To determine if that skateboard action tends to fulfill or thwart desires, in theory, we would have to examine all people who skateboard, all business owners close to red curbs, and how their desires are fulfilled or thwarted by prohibiting skateboarding, restricting it, permitting it etc.; a truly difficult task.

    For all pragmatic purposes, I think it’s impossible. That’s just one reason why I’m suspect of this whole, “science should be the arbiter of morality” line of thinking.

    Desirist conclusions would have to be probabilistic, though, i.e.: we are 55% certain that skateboard riding into red curbs tends to thwart desires, therefore we will make it immoral with a penalty reflecting the degree of desire thwarting we estimate as well as the 55% uncertainty in the overall calculation.

    I can’t get down with that. This is basically enforcing an across-the-board rule when people’s liberty should be respected. If person A owns a shop and has no problem with skateboarding, why should I be penalized?

    Alemann,

    While I can only speak for myself, neither the fact that Luke and Alonzo are “nobodies” or that desirism is a “fringe theory” pose any real problem for me. After all, Einstein was once a “nobody” with a “fringe theory,” too. There was a time when critical thought and response to desirism fulfilled a purpose of mine, but that time has passed. I mean, one can only stay so enthused when Luke and Alonzo won’t even answer one’s questions and feel fit to attack one’s personal character instead. I also questioned desirism because–despite the kernel of truth I think it has–I honestly believe that Alonzo’s application of it is downright prejudiced and dangerous. With no math or science whatsoever, he goes around making unfounded claims such as, “Unless there is some sort of medical condition at work, the parent of an obese child is an abusive parent by that fact alone,” [Gluttony and Superlust, August 25, 2010], and, “…spectator sports is a waste of time, money, and real-estate. … We would be better off if people had no taste for such things.” [Trivial Hobbies, June 17, 2010]

    Personally, I’m a fan of freedom and liberty. I don’t need Alonzo Fyfe to prescribe anything for me, especially in the absence of the very “empirical science” he claims to be relying on.

  8. cl:

    >> For all pragmatic purposes, I think it’s impossible. That’s just one reason why I’m suspect of this whole, “science should be the arbiter of morality” line of thinking.

    Then what should “the arbiter of morality” be?

  9. cl,

    Actually, the desirist has no recourse here [forgive me I’m a bit out of the loop]. Recall that Alonzo said desirism, “has nothing to say to a moral agent at the time of decision.” [Short-List Theories of Morality, September 3, 2010]

    Yeah, I’m waiting to hear him clear that up, looks like it will take a few more podcasts on CSA. However, in this particular case, I’m avoiding that by taking the desirist-society point-of-view, rather than the individual.

    For all pragmatic purposes, I think it’s impossible. That’s just one reason why I’m suspect of this whole, “science should be the arbiter of morality” line of thinking.

    Impossible to do it perfectly, yes. But imperfectly I think is possible, and most of what humans do is imperfect anyway. The trick is doing it less imperfectly little by little over time, which is what I see science doing.

    Desirist conclusions would have to be probabilistic, though, i.e.: we are 55% certain that skateboard riding into red curbs tends to thwart desires, therefore we will make it immoral with a penalty reflecting the degree of desire thwarting we estimate as well as the 55% uncertainty in the overall calculation.

    I can’t get down with that. This is basically enforcing an across-the-board rule when people’s liberty should be respected. If person A owns a shop and has no problem with skateboarding, why should I be penalized?

    Okay, then the “desirist council” would reflect on your reasoning, deliberate,and finally agree that skateboarding in front of a shop is not immoral as long as the shop-owner permits it (75% confidence, say). Then it would pass this new law to media, teachers, parents, i.e those that do the most to shape social mores, and request that all no longer condemn skateboarding if a shop owner is okay with it. It’s always possible to break rules down further and add conditions, essentially creating brand new moral rules for new situations.

    In theory, this could go on forever until you have a rule for every conceivable situation, but I think we would need a lot of new technology to overcome the impracticality of teaching and enforcing that many rules.

  10. Here is a belated drive-by comment.

    According to the “The Basic Claims of Desirism, point 15” only 2 and 6 are moral actions at all. That is, an agent is using social tools(violence should qualify: do as I say or be punished) to alter some other agents desires to be more amenable to his own. And, well, if I beat you severely and you develop an aversion to skating on my curb, then that beating was a morally good act, because it was successful and efficient in altering your desires to be more in line with my own.

    This definition actually seems to make (successful) terrorism a morally good act, which is kind of ironic, I think.

  11. I should elaborate a bit now that I have more time.

    If you define morality as a practice, then a moral agent is someone who participates in that practice. A morally good agent is someone who is good at the practice of morality. And a morally good act is an act which is A) part of that practice and B) good at achieving the purpose(altering desires of other agents) of that practice. So morally good acts happen when someone does morality well. Burning down a random orphanage would not be morally good or bad, because burning down random orphanages is not a part of the practice of morality, UNLESS your purpose is to make people desire fire insurances, and then it would probably be a morally good act.

    Also, I agree with Cl:s actual point, but I believe it has been sufficiently discussed in this thread already.

  12. cl wrote:

    In discussions of morality, attempts to define good can get downright maddening once one applies themselves duly to the task… The problem is, my “good” might actually be your “bad,” so how might we deal with that?

    I’ve posted similarly at Luke’s blog now, but I thought I’d spread the word seeing that not too many people seem to discuss this point: surely this line of objection can be applied to any system of morality?

    Why should adhering to God’s will/nature be “good”?
    “God’s very nature is, by definition, the Moral Good”?

    How is that assertion in any way different from someone asserting that the Moral Good just is, by definition, alleviating suffering/Desire-Utilitarian’s definition/definition “x”?

    I don’t get why anyone takes the moral argument seriously – on either side of the fence – it’s blatantly self refuting. What a waste of time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: