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Discussing Santa Claus with Fiancee

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But that wasn't my question. Does telling a child about evolution put a fracture between the child and reality? and encourage harmful trust in authority?

Oh, I see what you're asking. That would depend entirely on the process by which it is presented. If you explained it step by step within the particular childs knowledge set, allowing time for integration, it would not be harmful. If you were to tell him,

"Humans are derived from a nonhuman unicellular organism that is much, much smaller than a keyhole." then it would be harmhul as there are a few words the young child would be unfamiliar with, all of which require quite a bit of underlying knowledge. Consider Unicellular. First they would need to understand what a cell was. And that they could group in multicellular cluster's or operate alone. All probably a little too much for that age level. You must start with the things they can sense.

Which of the similarities prime the child's mind for belief without proof, if not the disprovable peripherals?

Well first and formost, that he exists, but you can not see him. Another, that he can fly to the homes of all the children of the world to single handedly deliver billions of toys. That reindeer can fly, just not when you are watching. That sort of thing.

But that wasn't my question. Santa gives gifts once a year, and this once-a-year action creates an incorrect basis of how happiness is achieved. So should I give gifts to children once a year?

The important difference which I mentioned earlier, was that it was not an act of some individual person you know, like a parent, giving you something because they love you, it is a mystical force of the universe who unerringly rewards you when you behave according to the dictates of(suspiciously :) ) your parents..

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I'm not asking you to prove that fun is beneficial; I'm asking you to prove that believing Santa is real is more fun than make-believing in the way that children do for things like Superman.
While I know other people have said that believing in Santa is more fun for the children, I've never said that. What I'm saying is that it is more fun for the parent who wishes to tell the children that Santa is real.

Was it fun to think Santa was real?
I liken it to an April Fools' joke; some people might think it fun, some might not. But I still don't understand how one objectively proves that X is more fun than Y.

The fun [of Christmas] is in the presents, stories, decorations, celebration, etc
By what standard would it even be possible to prove that?

If you were to tell him,

"Humans are derived from a nonhuman unicellular organism that is much, much smaller than a keyhole." then it would be harmful as there are a few words the young child would be unfamiliar with, all of which require quite a bit of underlying knowledge.

But why would even this be harmful? Children are constantly (and necessarily) introduced to unfamiliar words which require a bit of underlying understanding.

If I tell a child (without evidence) that photons exist but can't be seen, that photons travels 50x faster than Santa would have to travel, you're saying that this primes the child's mind for faith? How can that be, when children, as a matter of growing up in a unfamiliar and dynamic world, have to overhear things that aren't evidenced to be true?

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Okay let me jump back in here now that I have some time,

Kids would have as much fun with Santa-as-make-believe as they do with Santa-as-real.
Okay I kept asking that we define our terms, especially "real" and "make believe" and you guys don't seem to want to. So now that we have mired ourselves in this conundrum, I ask you to please define what you mean by "make believe", what you mean by "real" (in reference to Santa), and whether you draw a distinction between how mystical families teach that God is real, and how they teach that Santa is real.

As for the question of the reality of the lesson, Free Capitalist, you have your answer in the presents. Those are the way in which Santa is "actual in some sense."
The question then begs itself: why have Santa at all? If they know it's you, and you hint in no uncertain terms that Santa is just something they shouldn't really pay attention to any way, then what the heck is the point in the first place? Why not dispense with all cultural fairy tales completely (ones that you insist are mystical, but which I maintain are completely absent of mysticism)?

Also, how would you explain Dr. Peikoff's phrase of "secular religion" in relation to the Ancient Greeks, and would you come down with the same vehemence against teaching young Greeklings about Zeus as you do against teaching tiny little Americans about Santa Claus? Dr. Peikoff discusses the nature of Greco-Roman religion in his ARB lecture, "Why Greece Is My Favorite Civilization", and I strongly recommend you guys take a listen.

What's wrong here, the big picture, is that you are willing to deprive a person of benevolent values, in some hypothetical apprehension about mysticism. In no uncertain terms, you treat metaphysics as superior to ethics and values, rather than being merely hierarchically antecedent. And if you do, then there's a far deeper problem than merely what to do about Santa Claus.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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But why would even this be harmful? Children are constantly (and necessarily) introduced to unfamiliar words which require a bit of underlying understanding.

If I tell a child (without evidence) that photons exist but can't be seen, that photons travels 50x faster than Santa would have to travel, you're saying that this primes the child's mind for faith? How can that be, when children, as a matter of growing up in a unfamiliar and dynamic world, have to overhear things that aren't evidenced to be true?

I realize that I am viewing this fraom a largely pedagogical viewpoint, but I believe a parents purpose(qua parent) is to teach their child.

So if a child comes across something they don't understand, they will either disregard it if it's way above their head or ask. If they ask, then it is a parent or teachers responsibility to explain it a level that they will comprehend which will very based on age and the individual child.

I don't recommend bringing that up for the same reason you ought not teach calculus, symbolic logic, and biochemistry to a child. It would be unbeneficial to them because knowledge is hierchical in nature. Presented in a way disconnected from their knowledge base, they are just floating abstractions to the child whether they are true or not. A young child is primarily learning how to learn and how to think. The particular facts taught, are fairly incidental to this process, but whatever is taught to a child must be presented in the correct order. Santa has no correct order since is an arbitrary claim. He cannot be grounded in any way.

Edited by aequalsa

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The question then begs itself: why have Santa at all? If they know it's you, and you hint in no uncertain terms that Santa is just something they shouldn't really pay attention to any way, then what the heck is the point in the first place? Why not dispense with all cultural fairy tales completely (ones that you insist are mystical, but which I maintain are completely absent of mysticism)?

Also, how would you explain Dr. Peikoff's phrase of "secular religion" in relation to the Ancient Greeks, and would you come down with the same vehemence against teaching young Greeklings about Zeus as you do against teaching tiny little Americans about Santa Claus? Dr. Peikoff discusses the nature of Greco-Roman religion in his ARB lecture, "Why Greece Is My Favorite Civilization", and I strongly recommend you guys take a listen.

What's wrong here, the big picture, is that you are willing to deprive a person of benevolent values, in some hypothetical apprehension about mysticism. In no uncertain terms, you treat metaphysics as superior to ethics and values, rather than being merely hierarchically antecedent. And if you do, then there's a far deeper problem than merely what to do about Santa Claus.

First I don't think santa should be taught at all. If he is, then I would recommend using him in as unmystical a fashion as possible.

If greek god's were being taught to children as actualities, you bet, I would come down on them just as hard.(probably get hemlock for the favor, but oh well) The moral lesson of some particualr story might be more to my liking, but the mystical element would recieve the same treatment from me.

You haven't shown how santa consists of benevelent values. I denied that claim above for a number of reasons.

I don't understand the nature of the epistomological mistake you claim that I make. Would you explain what you mean by saying that we are treating metaphysics as superior and not just antecedent to ethics? Because to clarify, I think ethics are fairly useless without a correct metaphysical foundation. But that is relevent to it's antecedent nature. Not sure what you mean by superior in this instance.

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If greek god's were being taught to children as actualities, you bet, I would come down on them just as hard.(probably get hemlock for the favor, but oh well) The moral lesson of some particualr story might be more to my liking, but the mystical element would recieve the same treatment from me.
I asked you to consider Dr. Peikoff point, which you didn't. I asked you to show how any of this was mystical, and argued to the contrary. Yet you persist with the mystical monicker, in defiance of all :confused: That's like doing an ad hominem towards an idea, if such a thing was possible. I ask you to start from reality, from the actual facts of the case -- in this case, fine, Greek religion, and then proceeding with your judgment, rather than starting with a conclusion "religion is bad" and handing down judgments depending on how things pigeonhole this way or that. Sorry if this post seems a bit heated, I had (am still having) a very stressful day...

Please address the facts of the matter. Please define your terms ("mystical"). Please concretize your principles. I have a rather serious knowledge of Ancient Greek culture. If you can truly demonstrate to me that Greek religion was mystical, I will concede all arguments and... and cover my head in ash! But if you can't, if not all seriously believed fantasies are mystical as in your view, then there will be something rather profound for us to talk about (though I won't ask that you cover your head with ash in return :P ).

Edited by Free Capitalist

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I asked you to consider Dr. Peikoff point, which you didn't. I asked you to show how any of this was mystical, and argued to the contrary. Yet you persist with the mystical monicker, in defiance of all :( That's like doing an ad hominem towards an idea, if such a thing was possible. I ask you to start from reality, from the actual facts of the case -- in this case, fine, Greek religion, and then proceeding with your judgment, rather than starting with a conclusion "religion is bad" and handing down judgments depending on how things pigeonhole this way or that. Sorry if this post seems a bit heated, I had (am still having) a very stressful day...

Please address the facts of the matter. Please define your terms ("mystical"). Please concretize your principles. I have a rather serious knowledge of Ancient Greek culture. If you can truly demonstrate to me that Greek religion was mystical, I will concede all arguments and... and cover my head in ash! But if you can't, if not all seriously believed fantasies are mystical as in your view, then there will be something rather profound for us to talk about (though I won't ask that you cover your head with ash in return :P ).

I have not listened to the lecture that you reference by Dr. Peikoff, and do not currently have it available. I cannot very well comment on it, as a result. If there is a particular point that you have integrated from it which you would like me to comment on, I will be happy to if you explain it. I do not understand what you are asking about 'secular religion' since the phrase is out of context for me.

By mystical, I mean anything supernatural. I thought a guy giving birth to a gal during a rough headache or pulling the sun into the sky with a chariot or shooting lightening bolts were pretty obviously mystical beliefs if they were something that you actually believed. If it is presented as an entertaining story to explain a principle, I have no problem with it, depending on the age of the child it is presented to.

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... would you come down with the same vehemence against teaching young Greeklings about Zeus as you do against teaching tiny little Americans about Santa Claus?
I think vehemence against Santa would be fa bit over the top. On the other hand, are you saying there is an advantage to teaching Zeus as a "myth taught as real", as opposed to "myth taught as myth"?

Aside: Hindu mythology has a lot of Gods, just like the Greeks, and the stories illustrate virtues and vices. In India, one gets a popular comic-book series with these stories, that many kids enjoy.

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Okay I kept asking that we define our terms, especially "real" and "make believe" and you guys don't seem to want to.

That isn't fair. I have, several times, defined what I mean by those terms. You said that my definition was not the one you used or meant. We stopped. The only thing I "don't seem to want to" do is use your definition of "make-believe" and "santa-as-real."

For clarity:

1) "Make-believe" is a game that children play in which something is imagined to be real, for the purposes of the game. In "Cops and Robbers," for example, the children imagine that they are cops and robbers. This is what I have always taken the term "make-believe" to mean: the children in no sense actually believe that the fantasy is real; they are merely imagining it for the purposes of the game.

2) "Santa-as-real" is what I use to refer to the process by which parents tell their children that a real, actual elf delivers presents, by means of magic, to them on Christmas eve. Any presentation of Santa that does not explicitly tell the child that Santa is make-believe (see above) falls into this category.

The question then begs itself: why have Santa at all? If they know it's you, and you hint in no uncertain terms that Santa is just something they shouldn't really pay attention to any way, then what the heck is the point in the first place? Why not dispense with all cultural fairy tales completely (ones that you insist are mystical, but which I maintain are completely absent of mysticism)?
Why have Superman at all? Why have Harry Potter?

Also, how would you explain Dr. Peikoff's phrase of "secular religion" in relation to the Ancient Greeks,

Does it need explanation? Does Dr. Peikoff advocate teaching children a Greek style "secular religion?" If not, then why not, if it is so benevolent? Perhaps because he was speaking in context, and explaining that it wasn't so bad, rather than saying it was actually good.

and would you come down with the same vehemence against teaching young Greeklings about Zeus as you do against teaching tiny little Americans about Santa Claus?
First: Vehemence? Where have I displayed vehemence?

Second: No, I understand what historical context is, and how it applies to judging the actions of historical figures. I'm not one of those people who says that Jefferson was a horrible man because he owned slaves.

What's wrong here, the big picture, is that you are willing to deprive a person of benevolent values, in some hypothetical apprehension about mysticism. In no uncertain terms, you treat metaphysics as superior to ethics and values, rather than being merely hierarchically antecedent. And if you do, then there's a far deeper problem than merely what to do about Santa Claus.

I'm not sure how to respond here. First of all, I have challenged your premise that the presentation of Santa-as-real adds any value to the equation, and you have yet to prove your case. Second, do you mean to suggest that you can provide ethical values to a person by contradicting and undercutting proper metaphysics? Since when was there a dichotomy between those two things? Since when was good metaphysics at odds with good values?

Who is the one with the far deeper problem, here?

FC, that last part of my post was a reaction to how I percieve that you're really not being fair to me in this discussion. You're treating me as if I'm slow or something. If you're just having a bad day, then maybe you should ignore that last sentence.

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are you saying there is an advantage to teaching Zeus as a "myth taught as real", as opposed to "myth taught as myth"?
Yes, because I cannot fathom the point of "myth taught as myth", in this context. If Santa doesn't exist, then what purpose is there to teaching about him at all? Like I said earlier, if we use Santa to teach certain things, then everyone knowing he's not real will lose all efficacy for those lessons. Either he's real, so that we teach a child benevolence and morality at an age when he's too young to understand but grows out of Santa on his own, or Santa is not real, it's just something people "do" or kids "know" so it passes for little more than a spurious story to tell a child one day, and nothing more. I observe that when the Greeks used their gods to teach morality, they treated them as completely real. Today we just read those myths for fun, and they are powerless to impress any profound lessons for us.

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I have not listened to the lecture that you reference by Dr. Peikoff, and do not currently have it available. I cannot very well comment on it, as a result. If there is a particular point that you have integrated from it which you would like me to comment on, I will be happy to if you explain it.
Yes, more specifically he said that the Greek religion was not mystical, and that it was not supernatural. That's about all the context that there can be gleaned from the lecture, because the substance and foundation for what he said lies in the Greek religion itself.

By mystical, I mean anything supernatural. I thought a guy giving birth to a gal during a rough headache or pulling the sun into the sky with a chariot or shooting lightening bolts were pretty obviously mystical beliefs
Let's define our terms. Is mystical = supernatural? Fine. How do we define supernatural? Something that contradicts or violates the laws of reality, or exists in a reality different and separate from ours. Given this definition, in what way was Greek religion supernatural? Precisely what's so mystical about Helios flying through the sky with his chariot? In what sense is it more incomprehensible than a bird flying through the sky? Go back to before the discovery of lift, before aerodynamics, and tell me whether you don't think all things flying through the sky are the same. Did Helios teleport from one place to another? No. Did he travel at actual infinite speeds? No. Did he exist in more than one place at any one time? No. So what's so supernatural here? And the same can be said for any part of Greek religion, all of it is natural. There was a great temple of Artemis that ended up being burned down in the middle of the 4th century BC, and people at the time wondered why the goddess let this happen if she was so powerful. Many years later Alexander the Great came to prominence, and when people traced down his year of birth, they discovered that it was on the very night that the temple burned down; so, they reasoned, since she was aiding Alexander the Great's birth that night, she let it happen because she couldn't be in both places at one time. Consider that for a moment. Edited by Free Capitalist

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Does it need explanation? Does Dr. Peikoff advocate teaching children a Greek style "secular religion?" If not, then why not, if it is so benevolent? Perhaps because he was speaking in context, and explaining that it wasn't so bad, rather than saying it was actually good.
Well, I'm not going to speak for Dr. Peikoff and his intentions here. I recommend that you get the lecture and judge for yourself. What I will say in terms of recommendation is that he described Greek religion as qualitatively different from modern religion, not just in details but in fundamentals.

As for why not teach it now -- not because it's mystical, but simply because we know it is not true, and that while birds do fly through the sky on the one hand, Helios does not. It's a scientific discovery, not a philosophic one. And for teaching Greek religion to little kids, nothing in principle wrong with it (as long as they don't start sacrificing sheep to Zeus). The only problem is that it's too big and too complicated. BUt if you take a few things to emphasize, there's absolutely nothing wrong about telling a little kid about gods and giants, about heroic tales and heroic deeds, in full seriousness. Just as you can tell the child about Santa Claus, you can tell the two-year-old child about this hero called Prometheus, or about a very strong guy called Hercules, etc. What do they care whether such men exist or not? It's in no way a violation of reality that they exist, and them existing in the child's mind fully allows him to learn from them much more than if they were fake stories that everyone knew were not true.

That isn't fair. I have, several times, defined what I mean by those terms. You said that my definition was not the one you used or meant.
No I was looking for a side by side presentation of the two definitions, something like what you provided below.

1) "Make-believe" is a game that children play in which something is imagined to be real, for the purposes of the game. In "Cops and Robbers," for example, the children imagine that they are cops and robbers. This is what I have always taken the term "make-believe" to mean: the children in no sense actually believe that the fantasy is real; they are merely imagining it for the purposes of the game.

2) "Santa-as-real" is what I use to refer to the process by which parents tell their children that a real, actual elf delivers presents, by means of magic, to them on Christmas eve. Any presentation of Santa that does not explicitly tell the child that Santa is make-believe (see above) falls into this category.

Fine, you've satisfied my request but didn't talk about the most important part:

whether you draw a distinction between how mystical families teach that God is real, and how they teach that Santa is real.

Please address that. I am fine with your definitions, except that Santa-as-real is fundamentally differently from Jesus-as-real, and that's the part that you hadn't commented on yet.

Why have Superman at all? Why have Harry Potter?
Inspector, these are characters. Not only do they have relevance only as late as the latest movie or book, and not otherwise, but they are qualitatively different in their role in life. They can hardly help the parent inculcate morality, and even more importantly they are far too mature for a 2-year-old boy. They are fit for a 10-year old or a teenager. What are you going to do for the first 10 years of a child's life to make sure he has his manners, is honest, and all that?

Second, do you mean to suggest that you can provide ethical values to a person by contradicting and undercutting proper metaphysics? Since when was there a dichotomy between those two things? Since when was good metaphysics at odds with good values?
Inspector you're putting words in my mouth, I never said that values are provided by undercutting metaphysics. That's an important misunderstanding of my view. I have stressed to emphasize that Santa is not a metaphysically incomprehensible entity like a Christian God is; he's simply a benevolent ol' little grandpa-like figure, he moves around via a sleigh, he lives in an a physical place (the North Pole). If we as adults know he actually isn't there, that is merely a scientific question, not a metaphysical one.

But as for the bigger issue, I would never imply that undercutting metaphysics can serve proper values. Please don't attribute to me that view. What I did talk about was -- what should be of the first importance to us? the axiom A is A? Or some issue of values or principles? What is more important to our lives as human beings?

Edited by Free Capitalist

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If Santa doesn't exist, then what purpose is there to teaching about him at all? Like I said earlier, if we use Santa to teach certain things, then everyone knowing he's not real will lose all efficacy for those lessons.
I assume you mean this in the context of young children only. I assume that you'll grant that at some age it is different. For instance, an older child may read Anthem or Fountainhead and find knowledge and inspiration therein, even while knowing they're fiction.

In essence, then, at the base of your position is a certain understanding about how young children learn and what they find to be fun. In essence, you're saying that "myth as reality" furthers the goals of learning and fun in this context. Correct?

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Yes, more specifically he said that the Greek religion was not mystical, and that it was not supernatural. That's about all the context that there can be gleaned from the lecture, because the substance and foundation for what he said lies in the Greek religion itself.

Let's define our terms. Is mystical = supernatural? Fine. How do we define supernatural? Something that contradicts or violates the laws of reality, or exists in a reality different and separate from ours. Given this definition, in what way was Greek religion supernatural? Precisely what's so mystical about Helios flying through the sky with his chariot? In what sense is it more incomprehensible than a bird flying through the sky? Go back to before the discovery of lift, before aerodynamics, and tell me whether you don't think all things flying through the sky are the same. Did Helios teleport from one place to another? No. Did he travel at actual infinite speeds? No. Did he exist in more than one place at any one time? No. So what's so supernatural here? And the same can be said for any part of Greek religion, all of it is natural. There was a great temple of Artemis that ended up being burned down in the middle of the 4th century BC, and people at the time wondered why the goddess let this happen if she was so powerful. Many years later Alexander the Great came to prominence, and when people traced down his year of birth, they discovered that it was on the very night that the temple burned down; so, they reasoned, since she was aiding Alexander the Great's birth that night, she let it happen because she couldn't be in both places at one time. Consider that for a moment.

I am having a great deal of trouble understanding what you mean. I do not disagree with your defintions above, but fail to see how greek mythology does not fit into the category. By this standard, genesis would also be true. After all, snakes and women and apples exist therefore genesis does not contradict reality. There is no reason why snakes can't talk, right? I'm sorry but snakes don't talk and men dont birth babies out of their foreheads. These things do contradict reality. What I think you might be claiming is that things do not contradict reality so long as they are not logically impossible. Is that what you are getting at?

If logical impossibility is your basis of determining mysticism or supernaturality, then ghosts, unicorns, esp, are all valid beliefs to hold. Thinking in terms of logical impossibility rather then practical impossibility throws induction out the window. It is viewing the world from an entirely rationalistic perspective. This way of viewing the world is not good for adults and certainly not good for children.

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I assume you mean this in the context of young children only. I assume that you'll grant that at some age it is different. For instance, an older child may read Anthem or Fountainhead and find knowledge and inspiration therein, even while knowing they're fiction.

In essence, then, at the base of your position is a certain understanding about how young children learn and what they find to be fun. In essence, you're saying that "myth as reality" furthers the goals of learning and fun in this context. Correct?

Yes, entirely. Thank you for rephrasing it, as it makes even more sense now. It is absolutely true that what I've said applies only to very young children, and I've said it a number of times that older kids will necessarily grow out of it, become too sophisticated to accept it, and move on to more complicated material.

If logical impossibility is your basis of determining mysticism or supernaturality, then ghosts, unicorns, esp, are all valid beliefs to hold.

No.

ESP and ghosts are, by definition, outside of our reality, contradictory to reality, etc; they are nothing but supernatural, and nothing but mystical. Unicorns, however, are not in this category. Unicorns are not supernatural, they are fantasy. Do you see that there's a fundamental difference between the two concepts?

Edited by Free Capitalist

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Well, I'm not going to speak for Dr. Peikoff and his intentions here. I recommend that you get the lecture and judge for yourself. What I will say in terms of recommendation is that he described Greek religion as qualitatively different from modern religion, not just in details but in fundamentals.

I've read your commentary on it before, so I have the jist. I don't share aequelsa's confusion on the matter. I know what you mean by "natural religion."

As for why not teach it now -- not because it's mystical, but simply because we know it is not true, and that while birds do fly through the sky on the one hand, Helios does not. It's a scientific discovery, not a philosophic one.
But I don't agree. There is something more than scientific discovery at work. Do you mean to say that there aren't any philosophocal reasons for grown men to believe that Greek gods exist in the sky?

And for teaching Greek religion to little kids, nothing in principle wrong with it (as long as they don't start sacrificing sheep to Zeus).

If by "teaching," you mean presenting it to them as fact, then I disagree. You are lying to them. What about such a lie would make it fundamentally different from other lies, which are an initiation of force?

It's in no way a violation of reality that they exist, and them existing in the child's mind fully allows him to learn from them much more than if they were fake stories that everyone knew were not true.
I disagree. This is not the way to teach a child: lie to him about how things work. You can use the stories as allegory; as metaphor, because the child can only understand things through such stories. That's fine. But to present them as fact is not necessary, not helpful, and not moral.

Fine, you've satisfied my request but didn't talk about the most important part:

Please address that. I am fine with your definitions, except that Santa-as-real is fundamentally differently from Jesus-as-real, and that's the part that you hadn't commented on yet.

It would depend. First it is different in that Santa is benevolent and Jesus is self-sacrificing and thus malevolent. Second, teaching Jesus implies that one is teaching Christianity and all of the non-A and malevolent universe that goes with that. From there you have God, miracles, primacy of (supernatural) consciousness, etc. So that is fundamentally different from Santa.

Inspector, these are characters. Not only do they have relevance only as late as the latest movie or book, and not otherwise, but they are qualitatively different in their role in life. They can hardly help the parent inculcate morality, and even more importantly they are far too mature for a 2-year-old boy. They are fit for a 10-year old or a teenager. What are you going to do for the first 10 years of a child's life to make sure he has his manners, is honest, and all that?
First, are you honestly suggesting that manners and honesty cannot be taught to a child without defrauding him into thinking that a magical authority will reward and/or punish him?

But to answer your question, let me put it this way: There is a time in a child's life where they are too young to be properly taught why good behavior is good and bad behavior is bad. What, then, compells a child to the good at that stage? It ain't Santa, I'll tell you that much.

The fact is that very young children behave based on the authority of the parents and on actual rewards and punishments they get. The authority comes from the fact that the child's primary source of knowledge at that age is the parents. If the parents say something, then it may as well be the word of God. What approval and disapproval Reward and punishment provide the rest. If the child is old enough to think otherwise, then he is old enough to learn more of the why of ethics.

Inspector you're putting words in my mouth, I never said that values are provided by undercutting metaphysics. That's an important misunderstanding of my view. I have stressed to emphasize that Santa is not a metaphysically incomprehensible entity like a Christian God is; he's simply a benevolent ol' little grandpa-like figure, he moves around via a sleigh, he lives in an a physical place (the North Pole). If we as adults know he actually isn't there, that is merely a scientific question, not a metaphysical one.

I'm sorry if I misrepresented your position. That was what I understood your position to be; I wouldn't put words into your mouth if I didn't honestly think you had meant them.

But as for the bigger issue, I would never imply that undercutting metaphysics can serve proper values. Please don't attribute to me that view. What I did talk about was -- what should be of the first importance to us? the axiom A is A? Or some issue of values or principles? What is more important to our lives as human beings?

I'm confused. If you don't mean to undercut metaphysics, then why is there a need to order their importance?

But to answer your question, I think that honesty, integrity, and the unbreached recognition of reality are more important than the ease gained by putting the fear of Santa into a kid. Whether he is effective as a learning aid for morality is sort of undercut by the fact that you have to do something immoral, lie, in order to use him in the manner you describe.

Honestly, I never really gave too much thought to this subject. I didn't really consider it a big deal; I was just involved in this thread because I didn't see a reason to teach Santa. You've provided one: that supposedly kids will be more moral when made to believe that magical authorities exist. (correct me if that is somehow not what you are claiming) But not only am I not buying that, but I think it comes with a price that is too high.

So you've turned me into an anti-Santa advocate.

[Edit: corrected spelling of aequalsa]

Edited by Inspector

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ESP and ghosts are, by definition, outside of our reality, contradictory to reality, etc; they are nothing but supernatural, and nothing but mystical. Unicorns, however, are not in this category. Unicorns are not supernatural, they are fantasy. Do you see that there's a fundamental difference between the two concepts?

The difference that I see is that one is a tangible item and the other two are more, shall we say, incorperal? But all are things for which there is no evidence. Which is the salient point. So now, what I understand you to be advocating is, presenting an arbitrary claim as fact to encourage mindless compliance. Is that correct? I really don't believe that morality hinges on faking reality.

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The difference that I see is that one is a tangible item and the other two are more, shall we say, incorperal? But all are things for which there is no evidence. Which is the salient point. So now, what I understand you to be advocating is, presenting an arbitrary claim as fact to encourage mindless compliance. Is that correct? I really don't believe that morality hinges on faking reality.

Here's a lead for you: check out this thread

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...hl=greek+god+CG

Where I discuss the difference between a Greek god and a Christian God.

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But I don't agree. There is something more than scientific discovery at work. Do you mean to say that there aren't any philosophocal reasons for grown men to believe that Greek gods exist in the sky?
If you ask me whether there are any philosophical reasons to not believe in Greek gods, I will say: There aren't. And there are no reasons why there couldn't have been (any Greek gods). In the same way that the Greeks found huge enormous 18-ft bones, and said these were the bones of giants. There are no philosophical reasons why either giants or Greek gods couldn't have been. They violate no laws of reality.

If by "teaching," you mean presenting it to them as fact, then I disagree. You are lying to them. What about such a lie would make it fundamentally different from other lies, which are an initiation of force?

I disagree. This is not the way to teach a child: lie to him about how things work. You can use the stories as allegory; as metaphor, because the child can only understand things through such stories. That's fine. But to present them as fact is not necessary, not helpful, and not moral.

See, this is where we disagree. It is my belief (and belief of men teaching their kids about Santa for the last 1,600 years) that very young kids have no capacity to distinguish a very serious make-believe from a very lightly told "X is real" story. The world is still far too incomprehensible for them, they exist in a world where huge parents and unknown objects and rules regulate how things are. What do they care, at that point, whether there's actually an ultra-benevolent grandpa with a white beard who makes sure they are good little boys, or whether it was simply a device invented by their parents and that Dad actually dresses up with a white beard to make the ethical points more valuable?

In other words, if you don't tell or try to convince the children of any reality-violating entities -- such as God, or spirits -- you can teach them just about anything. A unicorn is a natural, fantasy creature. It could have been, but merely wasn't. That's the significance of fantasy that I will further address in my post to aequalsa.

It would depend. First it is different in that Santa is benevolent and Jesus is self-sacrificing and thus malevolent. Second, teaching Jesus implies that one is teaching Christianity and all of the non-A and malevolent universe that goes with that. From there you have God, miracles, primacy of (supernatural) consciousness, etc. So that is fundamentally different from Santa.
Okay, so you do concede that the metaphysics of Jesus-as-real are fundamentally different from metaphysics of Santa-as-real. But yet you apply "as-real" to both. Well which one is it? My whole point earlier was that no one teaches Santa in the same mystical way as Jesus, or tries to convince of his existence to the same extent, nor does Santa violate laws of reality in Jesus-like fashion. So that his existence presents no problem to a little 2-year old child.

First, are you honestly suggesting that manners and honesty cannot be taught to a child without defrauding him into thinking that a magical authority will reward and/or punish him?

But to answer your question, let me put it this way: There is a time in a child's life where they are too young to be properly taught why good behavior is good and bad behavior is bad. What, then, compells a child to the good at that stage? It ain't Santa, I'll tell you that much.

The fact is that very young children behave based on the authority of the parents and on actual rewards and punishments they get. The authority comes from the fact that the child's primary source of knowledge at that age is the parents.

Santa doesn't compel to good behavior, and actually neither do the parents. Santa helps influence and result in more good behavior. That's his purpose -- to make good behavior more rewarding (not just rewarding period), and to help inculcate more benevolence (not originate benevolence period). Parents do a lot of the same too, I agree. So why not have Santa join in, and support and reinforce the parents' decisions? Since he is unlike the parents in that he is purely benevolent and would never punish them, Santa is actually a more benevolent force than they are, and can carry a good deal of influence on a little child. That's why parents have been employing his services for all these thousands of years.

I'm confused. If you don't mean to undercut metaphysics, then why is there a need to order their importance?
Order of relevance doesn't serve to undercut the items lower in relevance, does it? The very fact that the items are present in the hierarchy means they are important, by definition. I grant you that, and would never want to imply otherwise. But now we need to order the items. Which one is higher, ethics or metaphysics? Values or existence?

But to answer your question, I think that honesty, integrity, and the unbreached recognition of reality
Well I'm sorry but "ethics AND metaphysics" doesn't quite answer my question. ;) Objectivist epistemology demands that all values be in a hierarchy. Edited by Free Capitalist

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If you ask me whether there are any philosophical reasons to not believe in Greek gods, I will say: There aren't. And there are no reasons why there couldn't have been (any Greek gods). In the same way that the Greeks found huge enormous 18-ft bones, and said these were the bones of giants. There are no philosophical reasons why either giants or Greek gods couldn't have been. They violate no laws of reality.

I know they violate no laws of reality, but they violate the epistemological law of the status of arbitrary assertions. To use the vernacular, you don't just make s**t up!

See, this is where we disagree. It is my belief (and belief of men teaching their kids about Santa for the last 1,600 years) that very young kids have no capacity to distinguish a very serious make-believe from a very lightly told "X is real" story.
Aye, there's the rub. So far we have, in this thread, two views of pedagogy for young children:

1) Yours, above.

2) The exact opposite: That what a child is taught about reality in his youngest years is critically important to how he thinks.

I think this comes down to the fact that neither of us is an expert in the subject.

Now, I think you've done a good job of showing that Santa, as a subject, doesn't undercut to the degree that he has been accused of here. But this still doesn't answer the fact that he is a lie, and that this is a bad moral lesson for the child: that it is okay to lie when the lie is "benevolent." How do you answer this?

Okay, so you do concede that the metaphysics of Jesus-as-real are fundamentally different from metaphysics of Santa-as-real. But yet you apply "as-real" to both. Well which one is it? My whole point earlier was that no one teaches Santa in the same mystical way as Jesus, or tries to convince of his existence to the same extent, nor does Santa violate laws of reality in Jesus-like fashion. So that his existence presents no problem to a little 2-year old child.

Because "as real" refers to the method of teaching that is done, not to the object that is being taught. There is nothing fundamentally different about the method of teaching that is done for Santa and Jesus. Honestly, my own experience is that they were both taught in roughly the same way.

Well I'm sorry but "ethics AND metaphysics" doesn't quite answer my question. ;) Objectivist epistemology demands that all values be in a hierarchy.

Even when one is utterly dependant on the other? When one cannot be pursued at the expense of the other?

Edited by Inspector

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The difference that I see is that one is a tangible item and the other two are more, shall we say, incorperal? But all are things for which there is no evidence.
No, I think you are missing the crucial part of what it means for something to be mystical. God is a bad concept not because we simply have no evidence for it. That's hardly the main importance here. The main importance is that we couldn't possibly ever have evidence for it, that his very existence and definition deny and negate the laws of reality and our means of epistemology that guide us through life. That to accept the notion of God to the fullest extent renders a person almost senseless, and certainly out of his mind. "God" is a denial not only of everything that is human, but of every human faculty that is used to live and succeed in the world. That's why it's vile, the concept of God. The actual fact of absence of proof is by contrast a mere secondary issue.

To put it succinctly, God and ghosts not only aren't, but couldn't have been. That is a crucial metaphysical identification.

Now, what is the nature of fantasy? Of dwarves and elves and unicorns? Not that they couldn't have been. Because they could, just as giants. They merely weren't. The accident of history, or evolution, produced creatures that we see today. It's like criticizing me telling you about gigantic fantastic ten-story animals. If I told you about them, would you blame me that we see none of them around us and thus my notion is mystical and anti-reality? What would you say when I showed you the first dinosaur bone?

The critical point that I'm trying to explain here is that fantasy is fundamentally different from mysticism and supernaturalism. As Fransisco said, words have a precise meaning; supernaturalism means exactly what it says -- going above reality, a violation and negation of it in a vile, incomprehensible sense. Fantasy is merely imagination, of what could have been.

Does that clarify what I am trying to distinguish between the two? To equate the two as saying that both we have no evidence for is to lose sight of their fundamental difference and incompatibility.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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Does that clarify what I am trying to distinguish between the two? To equate the two as saying that both we have no evidence for is to lose sight of their fundamental difference and incompatibility.

I understand the differentiation between the omnipotent judeo-christian god and fantasy. I am not certain that I agree that it also applies to ghosts. I have heard some interesting psuedo-scientific explanations for how ghosts could exist. But assuming they are in the same category, children are told that santa travels at faster then light speed and can squeeze through a keyhole without turning into a bloody mess. I am fairly certain that the existence of ghosts is no more juxtaposed to reality then santa's behaviour.

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