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Linkara

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  1. I wrote this a few months ago as I mentioned in another topic. Essentially, I got very tired of people in my college telling me that right and wrong don't exist and that ethics were merely subjective. I'm sure most Objectivists have this same reaction to that sort of reasoning: Since I'm a Christian, I believe that the ultimate source of good and evil are God and the Devil, but since religion can be broken down as a possible invention of man, trying to argue back that a divine source was responsible for ethics would be a flawed argument in that I couldn't give proof of its existence. As such, I took it upon myself to work out some sort of proof that there was such a thing as good and evil existing in the universe. Now, make note - I do not try to ascribe specific actions to either side of the spectrum, only that the two exist. Now, I come to you looking for: 1. Flaws in my arguments that I can correct 2. Other points I have not considered 3. Any other comments you may have. Enjoy! A Treatise on Natural Good and Evil Before I begin introducing the evidence that I perceive and rationalize for the natural existence of “good” and “evil,” it is probably prudent to make some points about these conclusions so that I do not by accident alienate any who read this paper and attack my findings with malicious or misguided intent. While I admit that I have beliefs and biases over what actions or beliefs are good and evil, I merely wish to show that ethics are not “subjective,” and by that I mean that concepts of right and wrong are not created entirely by human beings. While specific distinctions of what good and evil are can be made by individuals, the two states in their absolute form do exist in nature and are not just inventions of society to keep control over its citizens. “What would Jesus do?” is an often-used technique for Christians to gain their moral bearings when confronted with a situation. In this regard, Christians believe that their ethical bearings come from divine providence, in that God and Jesus are the ultimate expression of goodness whereas the Devil is the epitome of all that is evil on our world. While this viewpoint is one that I share, it sadly tends to get pushed aside by those who believe in subjective morality. This is because we now live in the age that has adopted the rationalism begun by René Descartes. This is, for lack of a better term, a good thing because it allows for people to question previously held ideas that we now look upon as illogical or, again for lack of a better term, immoral. Because we now question in this regard with the phrase “do we really know anything,” it has allowed for what can be considered positive change in humanity as a whole. Despite Descartes’ and other philosopher’s attempts, however, a reasoned proof for the existence of God cannot be given outside of circular logic. Now, while I intend to use several of Descartes’ methods of discovery for this analysis, I cannot adopt his original methodology of throwing out all prior knowledge accumulated up to this point and start fresh only with my reasoning, since my logic will depend on several things that are not acquired solely by reason. Religion as a source for ethics would be too simple and insufficient a proof for the subjective thinker, since it can be theorized that religion is an invention of man. Because of this, for the purposes of this analysis, we shall presume that there is no divine source of morality. Now, we are left with the universe, its sciences, and humanity as a whole. In the modern day and age, there are usually two forms of laws: malem in se and malem prohibitum. The latter, loosely translated from Latin, means actions that are wrong because society has deemed it wrong through legislation. This argument suggests that society already finds that there is, at least, the existence of right and wrong. However, the subjective thinker will then say that this proves their point, since these actions are only considered wrong because humans have made the choice that they are. However, we then get into the first legal term: malem in se, which means “wrong in itself.” This term means that there are actions that society deems so heinous that there is something ill-natured or inhuman about them. Again, the subjective thinker speaks up to say that they are only considered inhuman because subjective ethics are used to determine what is inhuman. However, the problem with this assessment is that humanity has certain natural tendencies that make it different from the other creatures that inhabit the earth. For starters, human beings are the only creatures on this planet that are sentient. This means that they are conscious of their own existence. In this regard, we have the ability to think, reason, and be deceived. Some would say that animals share these qualities, but it has been shown through scientific research and indeed in basic reasoning that while animals may be deceived and perhaps even think, they do not reason. Descartes went further in this argument for the fact that animals cannot learn language outside of their own species. While some would say this rings false, citing animals that can learn sign language or speak in other languages, most of the time this is either mimicry of that language, simply repeating what they have heard and using their own tongues to repeat it. As for the sign language argument, I have yet to see any animal that could do this outside of monkeys or apes, which are very closely associated with human beings in structure, and they are not truly communicating most of the time nor are they reasoning. You could not explain quantum physics to an ape and have it understand. In this regard, we can therefore be fairly certain that human beings are, for another lack of a better term applicable, special. As such, we have within us a natural humanity that is not applicable to other forms of life on this planet. That humanity is, in definition, basically the act of being human or humane. A significant portion of this humanity is also our conscience. Psychoanalysis says that we have, as part of the superego, a force that judges the ethical nature of actions and thoughts and then transmits those thoughts to the ego for consideration. This implies that a part of being human is, in fact, determinations of right and wrong. Even if those views of right and wrong are skewed by subjective standards and decisions, it shows that human beings, by design, have ethics or ethical determinism built into them. If right and wrong are concepts designed by man, then why do human beings have a natural ability to judge and determine what is right and wrong? There come further problems with trying to say that concepts of right and wrong either do not exist (ethical nihilism) or that they come only from the relative point of view (ethical relativism). In the words of William G. Merriman in his book Naturalistic Ethics, if there were no such thing as ethics outside of personal subjective ethics, then ethics are reduced to either “if it feels good, do it” or are formed by state agendas that say “do it or we’ll punish you.” Merriman goes on further to explain why ethical relativism is wrong by showing how criminals like Charlie Manson are then considered “moral beings” because from his point of view, he is a moral being. “Further, if ethics are merely ‘conventions of culture,’ then Nazi Germany would have been a morally valid culture.” Ethical relativism with culture brings up other issues involved in this debate, for if words are to have meaning as they do, right and wrong must be consistent and calling one thing wrong in one culture and then right in another culture would eliminate the meanings of the word, i.e. calling a window a hat eliminates the meaning of the word hat, since we have specific guidelines for what is a window and what is a hat. Communication cannot exist if we cannot agree on what words mean. Further expanding on the cultural argument, it should be noted that if we claim that the Germany today is a better state than it was during the Nazi’s reign, we must appeal to an ethical standard by which it is judged and if such standards do not exist, as the subjective thinker claims they do not, then criminal actions in any society are enfeebling to that society as a whole, since it shows that anyone can get away with anything they so desire. A subjective thinker, though, would say that they aren’t any better than the Nazi regime. To his mind, there is no such thing as better or worse. However, this is a flawed argument. To elucidate, if it is claimed that that nothing is necessarily “better” than anything else, than there is no basis for competition or comparison whatsoever. In the mind of the subjective thinker, then, an apple that has rotted through and covered with mold is no better for eating than one that has been freshly picked from a tree and contains no flaws beneath its surface. However, this does not outright prove the existence of natural good or evil, so while we have now removed the ideas of ethical relativism, let us now create a proof for the existence of natural good. Proposition one: human beings are imperfect creatures. Humans have the capacity to be deceived, make errors, and be ignorant of some knowledge or skill. Because human beings are capable of these things, it shows that there exists an opposite possibility of never being deceived, never making mistakes, and possessing all knowledge and capacity to use a skill. We attribute failure to the term ‘imperfect,’ suggesting that there exists a state of perfection that can be achieved or possessed. Proposition two: Being perfect, lacking any flaw or aspect that would be regarded as detracting from the essential idea behind it, is something that people generally tend to strive for. It can then be reasoned that perfection is something that people want or hope to gain since it will have some sort of positive impact on them. Since the idea, then, is that being perfect possesses some sort of positive consequences of being (since people will rarely seek something that will have negative consequences for themselves), it can then be deemed a good thing to seek perfection or achieve it (i.e. to ‘better’ oneself). Proposition three: Since seeking such perfection or achieving such perfection is then seen as a good thing, it is reasonable to assume that there exists a state of complete good to be achieved or strived for. Reasonably then, there indicates that there is a natural good that exists. One possible flaw in this logic, in that it suggests that anything less than this perfection is not good, but I pose that there exists a spectrum (as many subjective thinkers believe would be) where there is a gray area between absolute good and absolute evil (evil being an opposite end of good, since one cannot have absolute good without an opposite end for it to contrast with). While the subjective thinker would then believe that they have won the argument, it must be then said that since one action is closer to the good than it is to the evil side, it shows that there is something of that action that makes it far superior in goodness than another action that would be closer to the evil side, where people very few and far between would imply that their action is one of evil (provided that they were capable of properly perceiving the spectrum). I hope now that I have provided sufficient evidence and reasoning for those who would study this paper. If my reasoning is in any way flawed or with error, feel free to question and debate on it and point out any inconsistencies within it. Otherwise, please accept the reasoning for what it is: a confirmation on the natural existence of good and evil.
  2. Good question. ^_~ Considering my reality to me is the only one I can relate to as an individual, it's the product of the facts of my own reality. Admittedly, it does nothing for you, but that's the only answer I can give to that question. Considering I've already heard such arguments before (and discussed them in a religion class and wrote my opinions on the subject in my theodicy paper that I mentioned on the first page), odds are using the existence of evil as a proof to the nonexistence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God probably won't discourage me from my beliefs. But you wouldn't be an Objectivist if you gave up so easily, so go for it! Agreed. And as I said, I disagree with the idea of grace being the only path to God. Too many people can use God as an excuse to do evil things and, as such, I believe there's got to be more to it and, as such, don't necessarily believe that one must be Christian in order to reach heaven when they die. Please forgive me, but could you expand on this a bit? I'm not entirely certain what you're saying here. ^^;; An idea is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. One cannot destroy an idea nor truly suppress it, because once it is instilled it is forever imprinted on those who have been touched by it, for better or worse. Ideas should always be taken seriously... unless they're meant for comedic value. ^_~
  3. Linkara

    Superheroes

    I'm inclined to agree, then, that it's more accurate to say that he contained mental flaws while still talking about Objectivist principles. Here, since I'm not the authority on Rorshach and since you haven't read Watchmen, here's the Wiki info for him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_%28comics%29
  4. Let me put it into a context of my personal reasoning. Now, I assume from the start that God does exist. You may consider this a false premise since you don't believe God exists, but from where I'm standing it's a valid one. The question is addressed to me: "If God exists and he's all good and all powerful, why did he allow so many people to die on (for the sake of this discussion) 9/11?" This is, of course, one of the classic questions and criticisms of God: allowing evil things to happen or why bad things happen to good people. I use reasoning based on what I believe of God to come up with a conclusion. My answer to the initial question: God, according to my beliefs, imparted free choice upon the people of the world to make their own decisions and their own mistakes, ultimately would not directly get involved in causing harm to people or directly saving them, since his direct interference would cause a problem to free choice, like tainting the results of an experiment by having the test subject go to a preferred path instead of letting them choose the path they wish to take. However, since according to my beliefs, God is all-good, he does not want people to die before their time. As such, he has a group of angels who work on earth, not directly saving people (like catching them while they're falling from the top of the tower) but by guiding them to save themselves. Now, angels are not like God, according to my beliefs, since any being that is equal to God would be a contradiction of the idea that no two things are exactly the same and any other perfect being would negate God as being the ultimate source of good. Angels themselves cannot be everywhere at once and are still limited by the same non-direct intervention rules that God uses in order to keep humans free. As such, the angels can only help so many under the rules and they try their damndest to do it. I can't directly prove any of this, but it's how my reason answers the question. Subsequently, it's also not a good idea to try to explain all of this to someone in grief, but better left as something discussed, debated, refuted, and reestablished in discussions like this one. As for the question of why the Creator needs no creator, the idea of God being perfect (all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good) makes him exist outside the standard realm of causality and linear progression, therefore he is capable of existing without the need for something to happen before him. He is like how you see the universe - He simply is (by the by, as I said earlier, I can't necessarily ascribe either male or female to God due to existing outside the realm of human sciences, I say "he" because it's simpler for me and there's something... wrong for me if I were to try to refer to God as 'it' or the like). For me, the universe is linear and I believe there to be a start for it initiated by a creator.
  5. Aequalsa, you have made a total of three posts in this thread and each time you do so you manage to convey it better than I could have ever hoped for and also give me better insight into Objectivism. Bravo. Oh, and yes - tie myself to the tree and THEN pray. (Although knowing myself and my ability to panic, odds are be running and screaming in abject fear of the oncoming tsunami instead of doing either. ^^;; )
  6. Linkara

    Superheroes

    I'd say "parody" is too strong a word. Alan Moore wanted to use the original characters, but DC was already working them into their normal continuity, so he created the Watchmen universe. It could be suggested that Rorshach was a parody in that his extremist Objectivism caused him to live in squalor conditions and was, at time, rather paranoid or delusional, but that could just be that he himself contained mental flaws while still maintaining an Objectivist philosophy.
  7. Well, I don't believe omnipotence is impossible. Sadly it's one of those things that I can't prove but I believe it regardless of having never experienced it. I don't claim to KNOW anything about him, I believe based on how I see it under my personal reasoning. I'm comfortable in my belief that God and angels existed before the universe. I'm not comfortable with the universe always being. ^_~ As to why I'm not comfortable with it, my own curiosity demands satisfaction and I wish to know what caused it, why it happened, and etc. I am comfortable with believing that things existed before there was a universe, but I want to know why the universe started, then. ^_~ I have my own beliefs on the matter, but I know not if they are the true reality of it. If I may inquire, how do you believe the universe was created? Yeah, we seem to have gotten the resounding "no!" Just wanted to see if anyone else had any thoughts on the subject.
  8. No, I get it. ^^ In which case I will, as David suggested, break with my colleagues on this one to try to explain how he wouldn't necessarily BREAK "A is A" but be beyond it. If I define God as an all-knowing, all-powerful entity that existed before the universe, I have to imagine that his consciousness is beyond human consciousness and is capable of insights that no human being could imagine. We wouldn't necessarily be able to ascribe certain qualities to God, like trying to describe God as male or female would be impossible because he's a force beyond such qualities. Also, my personal beliefs suggest that God wasn't alone before the universe or before time, there were angels, as well. Since they existed outside of time and space, we could not apply such terms as "beginning" or "creation" to them, they simply were. Now that I think about it, I suppose that's really the problem Objectivism has with this stuff - concepts like God, angels, and existing before time are outside of reason and rational logic because by definition they'd have to occur outside of it. O_O;; In any case, we're still pulling away from the original question, as I mentioned above. ^_~
  9. @Inspector: Yes, that does make sense. I refer to the above post about the difference between "Objectivist" and "Student of Objectivism." @DavidOdden: Hold on a sec, how is God a logical contradiction to "A is A?"
  10. Linkara

    Superheroes

    Well, Rorshach's objectivism wasn't outright stated, it was implied through his journal writings and his complete rejection of the idea of "the greater good." His final statement of "Never compromise" (not going into why he says that for those who haven't read Watchmen but may wish to at some point) is the best example of his Objectivism. Also, Alan Moore, his writer and creator, based Rorshach off of the Charlton Comics character The Question, created by Objectivist Steve Ditko and completely reflected the Objectivist viewpoint of morality and individual rights.
  11. I should probably quit attaching "proof" to the end of "Deductive," since it seems to be creating a few problems. ^_~ Through my deduction and reasoning, I cannot PROVE God exists, I can only make speculative statements that would support the idea that God exists. It's not proof of anything about God, just that there is an existence to some entity that we would tend to identify as "God." Faith is where we take the leap and have to start believing certain things about him, who he is, where he is, how he works with earth, etc. In any case, I think we're straying away from the original question, which is - is it possible to be an Objectivist and a Religious Practicer? If no, then there need be no more discussion. If yes, how?
  12. Yeah, I should have included your statement 3 in my original proof there. ^^;; Sometimes when I write these things out I forget that I have to explain EVERYTHING even if, by definition, it's built into what one of the items in question is. And, as I said, the God proof isn't perfect and does contain more than a few flaws, but it is logical to me and I do believe it to be true through my own reason. I didn't originally write it, it was part of the book I stated, so maybe one should rewrite it to better match some of the fallacies you addressed. ^_~ Since, then, you have admitted that Objectivism does not know all the facts of reality, would you be willing to admit that it is possible that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing deity that COULD be the explanation for those sectors that we do not understand? ^_~ And thanks for explaining about Objectivism vs. Rationalism, I had been kind of foggy about the relationship between the two. ^^;;
  13. While I take no happiness in the death of anyone, I am happy that a major victory like this has been scored. As a vocal proponent of the war in Iraq, I get disheartened and depressed when the media is always depicting it as the evil imperialistic Americans in a country that doesn't want them fighting a losing battle. It's stuff like this that shows we are doing a good job and we're doing it right. ^^ Further, I love how in the Fox News link it states that Al-Qaeda released a statement about the "joyous martyrdom of Zarqawi." ^^ Only the crazy terrorist people could spin the death of their leader as something great to the press.
  14. I disagree that deductive proof = actual proof. Deductive proof is having a group of facts or statements and drawing a conclusion on them, like this: 1. The photograph is in color. 2. The photograph features the sky. 3. The color of the sky in the picture is blue. THEREFORE: The color of the sky is blue. Now, if I had never seen the sky before but I knew it existed, I'd deduce that this was accurate, but it wouldn't be actual proof until I saw the real sky to see whether my conclusion was correct or not. Until I die, I won't know with absolute proof whether or not there is a God. My deductive proof comes from a number of sources, but it's not actual proof since it's only a conclusion that I came to. Here is one such proof from the book "Sherlock's Logic" by William Neblett: First Assumption: The universe, though fragmented in myriads of parts and replete with an extraordinary variety, nevertheless exhibits a remarkable structural design. Second Assumption: A machine too is fragmented in parts, has variety, and yet reveals the imprint of a structural design. Third assumption: A Machine is made by an intelligent being. And finall the conclusion: The universe too was made by an intelligent being, and namely, that being we call 'God.'" Again, this is not actual proof and one could easily tear apart this argument if one wanted to, but it makes sense to me so I'm not going to disregard it just yet. As for the "not understanding" argument, isn't it part of rationalism that reason can explain everything, so there should be anything that "can't be understood?" ^_~ (*Hopes he doesn't start a flame war with that statement...*)
  15. Linkara

    Superheroes

    And then this brings in ethical situations related to the superheroes. In "Watchmen," the character of Rorshach is an Objectivist and he murders criminals. Is there something in Objectivist philosophy that would justify killing a criminal or does it extend only to apprehending them. My personal view would be that since each individual's life belongs to themself and no others, taking away that life through killing them, regardless of their crime, is taking something that did not belong to the killer to begin with, i.e. like stealing but on a larger scale.
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