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Quickest Cure for Intrinsic, Mystical, Morality

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Does anyone have any thoughts about how to break the indoctrination whereby people believe in an instinsic and/or mystical kind of "right" and "wrong", the mystical instrinsic sort of "ought" which actually has an infinite gap with the "IS" of reality?

 

Whenever the answer to a question asking "WHY is doing X in context Y right or moral?" ultimately ends up being "just because", or "because it IS right or moral" we know there is a problem.  But showing a mystic or instrinsicist this problem usually results in their denying ANY problem while accepting our premises except for one... the nonexistence of an intrinsic or mystical morality.

 

IF the universe in their minds does in fact have an INTRINSIC or MYSTICAL property of "right" and "wrong", somehow embedded in it like a standard of unquestionable absolutes, unreachable by reason and in fact simply being there independent of any reason, they can in their minds invoke such a thing AS IF IT WERE A FACT OF REALITY.  This of course is an arbitrary wish of untold magnitude... but they BELIEVE IT.

 

 

What to do?

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One thought that comes to mind is to dissect how this is currently propagated. One of the most successful means has been via fables, myths, and legends.

  • Aesop's fables. Short pieces, using animals, to convey various principles.
  • Biblical stories. Raised under this genre are the stories of Cain and Able, Joseph's coat of many colors, Lot's wife turning to a pillar of salt, Naomi and Boaz, Daniel in the Lion's Den, to name a few, again, concretizing more complex biblical ideology.
  • Greek and Roman mythology. Using the gods to dissipate ideas.

Objectivism has a complex concretization via Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We The Living, The Night of January the 16th, and Anthem.

Edited by dream_weaver

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I have found this to be a most perplexing problem, and I've come to the understand that it is best to simply leave people to their beliefs. This works as long as the other party or individual doesn't insist on a confrontation over the issue. On one occasion I spoke out of disrespect of someones reverence for the Bible, and it could have escalated until my job was at risk. Well before that occurred, I stated quite matter-of-factly that I should not have disparaged his Bible, but if he wished to discuss the contradictions of the Bible on our own time, I would welcome the challenge. He backed off, but never got over it.

It is not necessary to convert the irrational, but I do believe in re-enforcing the convictions of other rationalists, when possible.

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I'm not sure if there is a way to convince people who believe things on faith. I've never had any luck, and I've just stopped trying since it seems like a total waste of my time.

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The OP reminds me of discussions of mental health I read in a Psyc course some time back. There was a distinction drawn between two basically different types of mental illness. Neurosis on the one hand, defined as perceiving reality reasonably well, but reacting to those perceptions in inappropriate ways. While the other, Psychosis, was defined as failing to perceive reality with consistency or failing to perceive reality accurately yet responding reasonably rationally to that which is perceived.

 

The approach one takes with people who make these outlandish (to an O'ist) assertions depends on your best judgment of which of these two categories best fits them. That said I would refer you to JASKN's warning above, mental illness can be very intractable. However in the GROSSEST of oversimplifications, comfort the neurotic and protect them from the people who abused them into this behaviour, and gently confront the behaviours that are self destructive first. Then for the psychotic, cajole them into believing you are an ally, then carefully present bifurcating choices where both alternatives are more realistic than their default position, until they loose/forget their way back to the psychotic state. Good luck.  

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I think the gap for most people between is and ought stems not so much from "mysticism" as from "authority".  Most are taught from a young age that society, government, the courts, god, etc. determine what is moral and immoral - and that an individual is/ought decision will always be subjective.  If you can convince a man that he has no right to choose what is right or wrong, then he enslaves himself. 

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What to do?

 

In my opinion, most people accept intrisicist moral systems because they have been trained to believe that the only alternatives are that there is no morality or that morality is entirely subjective. These being repugnant, they believe in intrisicism. It is difficult to accept the possibility of the existence of an objective morality. Objective morality may not have even occurred to them. This must be approached with respect for the individual and slowly over time. It takes time to understand much less accept objective morality. What is more, that person should be encouraged to arrive at their own objective morality, even if you disagree. You can debate particulars later.

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The root malfunction is an inability to distinguish between the objects of introspection and extrospection (objectivity).  What one can do about it varies wildly.

 

Deontological codes of "X simply because X" are essentially, as you pointed out, a projection of their own values onto reality.  When this happens with matters of fact it's referred to as 'faith' or 'psychosis' depending on your premises; an intrinsic morality is based on the same type of mechanism.

So when someone says, for instance, that "homosexuality is intrinsically evil", they mean it literally; it's the attribution of an emotional response, not to some relation between themselves and reality, but to reality itself.

Fundamentally it's an inability to distinguish between the two; introspective and extrospective.  In order to solve the problem they have to learn that difference.

 

So what you can do varies by whom you're attempting to fix.

 

I had the same malfunction when I first looked into this forum; I was simply applying the proper moral code to reality, rather than an evil one.  In order to fix that I ultimately had to begin to relearn my own habits of processing and evaluating information (not quite done yet).

 

So if you're referring to someone who fails to clearly grasp that distinction, but whose beliefs are open to rational criticism (like I was several months ago), all you can do is to help them realize that there is actually a problem for them to solve.  You can illustrate that something is wrong with their reasoning but they have to be the ones to correct it.

If you're referring to fails to grasp the distinction, and who isn't open to reason (like a few of our best specimens), all you can do is ignore them.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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I think one of the hardest parts of integrating Objectivism is learning how to deal with chronic evaders, because there's ultimately nothing you can say or do for them.

 

Just remember that everything you say to people, especially on this forum, comes at a price; it requires space and energy from your own mind as well as time from your own finite lifespan.

It's one of the most difficult things I've ever attempted to learn, but you have to learn to weigh your mental resources against any given problem you tackle.  And with chronic evaders you could devote your entire life to attempting to prove a single obvious truth to them, with absolutely nothing to show for it; it's not rational or selfish to continue past a certain point.

 

So personally, I'm trying to get into the habit of marking that point of a discussion with "live long and prosper."

It sounds like a perfectly tactful parting to any casual observer, and it helps me to remind myself not to waste my effort on people who don't deserve it.  :thumbsup:

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Well, try using other words for it.  If "good" and "evil" have been abused beyond all recognition then simply phrase it all as "love of your own life".

And if the extent to which "love of life" contradicts their concept of morality should happen to dawn on them, then all you have to do is ask them which is more important.  If they choose life then the problem is solved; everything else is simply a matter of filling in the details. 

And if they choose altruism then that would be the point where I'd smile and tell them to "live long and prosper".

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Malum prohibitum / malum in se. Anytime I have an opportunity to have a sincere and distraction free discussion, I open with these Latin terms. Malum prohibitum, wrong, because the law prohibits it, and malum in se, wrong, because it is evil in itself. The fact that these are terms used in law helps to give them credibility. When a person considers deeply the fact that some things are assumed to be wrong or forbidden merely because governing authorities have decreed it, it puts doubt in their mind. They begin to think independent of notions or prejudices they've held all their lives. The Volstead Act is a perfect example of malum prohibitum. To be sure, I agree with those who've stated, as in my earlier statement, that many people should simply be left to their blissful ignorance. Many rarely think about ethics. In the lower-working class circles I've been a party to, many have rarely encountered the word, "ethics", couldn't define it, and therefore don't care. To them, the intrinsic or mystical values of morality are "good enough." Or, to some, life is a game, with primacy of the Eleventh Commandment: Don't Get Caught.

But for those one occasionally encounters, the one who finds a moment to question the madness that seems to erupt every week in the news, you have a choice. To shrug it off and say: who knows? Or do you ask him/her where morals come from? You'd be surprised at how some people begin to doubt the invincibility of traditional values, legal values, or even religious values. And then, sometimes they begin talking nutty, as if they are channeling God's consciousness, telling you what God's wishes are. Either way, it's interesting to hear people speak their thoughts, even when their beliefs are permanent. If there is a chance to explain morality as having a foundation in reality, I urge you to go for it. If for no other reason, people of faith should know that rationalists are not evil.

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On 2/21/2014 at 1:11 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Well, try using other words for it.  If "good" and "evil" have been abused beyond all recognition then simply phrase it all as "love of your own life".

And if the extent to which "love of life" contradicts their concept of morality should happen to dawn on them, then all you have to do is ask them which is more important.  If they choose life then the problem is solved; everything else is simply a matter of filling in the details. 

And if they choose altruism then that would be the point where I'd smile and tell them to "live long and prosper".

 

I notice that morality can be seen as the code that guides you vs. a the attribute of "right" vs. "wrong".

One can separate "right" vs. "wrong" from life. A missile can hit the target in many right ways and fail in many wrong ways.

When a person realizes that "I could die if I do life the wrong way", it can have a powerful emotional response in the listener. I have noticed that that the (life and death) argument is weak (unimpactful) when arguing the morality of rights. But it has a strong emotional impact when used in personal morality context.

Personal morality is what seems to be unfamiliar to people. I noticed it recently, having a discussion with a progressive, I said: "Do you realize that chopping your hand off is immoral?" He said, why would that mean immoral, morality is always about the other guy. It is only relevant is a social context".

Bottom line, I think that morality is usually not discussed in life an death terms and I think that is what is missing.
 

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