Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Richard- guest blogger

Surprise Richard! You get to be my first guest blogger!

Telmeimwrong has asked Richard,

God said don't bear false witness.
I decide to pay my taxes
Is that wrong? (since it was formed for the wrong reason)

"But if both sides are honest (such as Johnny)" are you saying that I am not honest?

Richard said "You have no answers as to how to live morally, how to think through such moral issues as we are presently discussing, or moral conflicts in your own life with the people around you. You have no basis that says, “This makes sense and I must therefore act on it! By what standards will you judge yourself and your life on your deathbed? To formulate those standards of morality, a proper way of knowing Truth must be understood and performed intellectually, unwaveringly." Expound on this. To me, it flies in the face of reason. What is truth then? What is the proper WAY of knowing it?




Here is Richard's response.

Telmeimwrong you have raised three good points, the answers to both are related, and may be difficult for you to deal with. My response is not in any way intended to harm your sensibilities, any more than might be the case in pointing out that a map has been misread.

1. "Taxes" is easy. All of us, are under the considerable coercive power of the state initiating force against us. Pay them! You should not go to jail. However, without taxation you could buy the same services much more cheaply than at the price the state provides. (Even the police, courts and military could be paid for by means other than taxation, and still remain impartial means of dealing with transgressions by citizens and foreigners). Thus the right reason to pay taxes is not a matter of honesty, but of opening your wallet to state approved confiscation. The state’s job is to protect you from theft of your property, today it is the thief. See my discussion of the nature of a thief, next.

2. "Honesty" is not a matter of not lying, not stealing or not committing fraud. Those are the outward manifestations of a deeper intellectual form of dishonesty. Honesty is recognizing that unreal things truly are unreal! The liar wants to rewrite reality in order to sway someone else's judgment away from what is real. The thief or con artist is pretending that he has some sort of right to what he has taken. Usually they do it through some sort of rationalization, such as "they have lots of money and won't miss it", "they are only rich cause they got all the breaks, and no-one will give me a break" etc etc. Although their new possessions are not their own, they blank out of mind the fact that their ownership is unreal. Thus their dishonesty is fundamentally intellectual.

This is precisely the case, through phenomenal social and parental pressure, with religionists. At one level or another, usually before their minds have matured, their mentors teach them that the unreal is real. The same mentors embed their unrealities in all sorts of very real things, as authority figures, making themselves all the more believable. Rare indeed is the *child* who can resist that. (See the poem in my next comment by William Blake)

Nonetheless some children do resist at some level. Although I was an altar boy, I was always troubled by the ‘miracle’ stuff. As a teenager I had resigned myself that such things must happen, but just not in my experience, so I had best believe in God. By 18, reading "The Source" by Roland Michener, I began to seriously doubt. At 35 yrs of age I grasped (recognized) the unreality of gods and religion and with great joy, became an atheist. Joy, because I was no longer under the oppressive scrutiny and manipulations of this quixotic power called God. The World was just what it was, and wonderful!

So, I can now say, "yes" at that fundamental level, with all the deeper complications I mentioned earlier by which homosexuals became homosexual, you are being intellectually dishonest particular in the context of religion, as was I. The consequences of that dishonesty affect countless areas of your life (as they affected mine). Harder still, your peers accept them so that they feel normal and right to you and make you feel included socially. They are not honest... not any more than it is right for today's Muslims or yesterday's Christians to murder heretics/apostates.

3. I do not know what you mean when you say my comment "flies in the face of reason". I think the question is asked too soon. Reason and truth must be understood before it can be answered. I can only say Morality can and must be developed through secular reason (there is no other kind), not faith, and move to your next sub-questions.

Truth is obtained through one’s five senses, and by Reason. Reason is a major component of the branch of philosophy named Epistemology, a 'big' word (that is, "very abstract") that can be hard to get one's mind around (it was for me). Epistemology, in short, is the study of how Men can know the truth, what makes the truth so, and also what errors can be made in trying to get there. It is a very large and complicated field...

Truth is the recognition of Reality. Notice its meaning is closely related to the meaning of Honesty. The moment a mind allows unreality to occupy a space in its understandings, it will run into contradictions. Each contradiction will butt up against real, related issues, time and time again. (This you are experiencing, and are here responding to very well) E.g.Calling a witch doctor to deal with your child's diabetes, by chanting, burning herbs and waving talismans, will result in your child's death. So will a policy I have seen on store windows, outside homes and on church signs in the Caribbean that says "Let go and let God". (Think of Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions!) Nope, the child needs insulin (a transfusion); s/he needs adults who recognize reality if the child is to live: the child's pancreas is not producing insulin, and that is what must be addressed.

I cannot possibly explain epistemology to you in any significant way (this is already 800 words!). It is a field you would have to investigate yourself. The most I could do is recommend material that would require many months of reading. I have spent thousands of hours on it in the last 20 years, and am still no expert.

Understanding epistemology is highly rewarding because it provides one with protection from harm, whether in politics, ethics, science, economics or in social interaction. This is because reason is man's only tool of survival --man does not survive by sharp teeth or claws, by speed or strength, nor even by camouflage. Knowledge of epistemology ought to be the goal of any liberal education, and many of its elements should be taught before a child leaves grade school.

I often sign off e-mails with the following, and it seems appropriate here.

sincerely,
Richard

Reason and the philosophical principles upon which it depends are sought by rare minds, who grasp that day to day life is not a barrier to that study but the reason for it. @2001 by Richard @2001

17 comments:

Richard said...

Fiery honors me! Thank-you.

Please allow me to point out the context behind the longer quotation telmeimwrong uses. The quotation begins, "You have no answers as to how to live morally...

I was specifically referring to that fundamental approach to morality adopted by most of society... that without God there is no reason to live morally.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What I was addressing is that atheism itself provides no morality. It is only a negation of something unreal. What is needed is something positive to replace it.

All men need some sort of code of ethics, to which they can refer, when making moral decisions.

To work in Reality that code must be developed rationally, and can be, if one works systematically from first principles.

The thinking might go like this:

"All living things take automatic action according to their biologically given abilities to sustain their own lives. I am a living sentient being, but I have a conceptual faculty and I have volition. My actions are not automatic. I want to further my life and enjoy it. I know I cannot live without doing some kind of productive work, that will sustain me, both in body and in mind. It is naturally paramount that I use that starting point as my standard of right and wrong. What is my next step?"

Thus, in reality, one's life is the standard upon which all subsequent moral decisions must develop. Obviously, one must therefore take action to obtain such values as food, shelter, health and so forth, while avoiding poisons (recreational drugs), violence, damaging people, disease, injury, rotten political societies etc.

[This requires virtuous decisions. Virtues being the actions by which one obtains values.]

I must emphasize that because so many people think it, such selfishness does not mean one can abuse other people. In the long run that hurts you... in a number of ways. But I will leave that issue to another time.

The main point, to repeat, is that atheism offers nothing but a *negative*. Without a biblical morality, what morality should they choose, and how?

**** :-) For fun...

Tombstone Epitaph:

Here lies an Atheist.
Just like ev'ry Theist:
They both were nicely dressed,
Tho' just for one last show.
Now in the ground both rest,
They have no place to go!

Telmeimrong said...

I would first like to thank you. You are well read, and that is a trait that I highly admire. Your style of presentation is well thought out, including your introduction. I am not nearly on your level. I agree with many of your points. I am a bit disturbed that I was rather viciously attacked by Johnny and you, because of your atheism I must assume, were given a pass. That being said I have some comments and my attempt to disagree, which I am hope will be shot down rather politely.

1. "Thus the right reason to pay taxes is not a matter of honesty, but of opening your wallet to state approved confiscation" Where is the reason? Opening your wallet to state approved confiscation is not a reason. I pay mine for a Biblical reason, otherwise I probably wouldn't pay at all because of so many philosophical problems (funding abortion, public school nonsense, IRS, many others). I don't know if I would allow myself to go to jail, or find someway to cheat.

2. I don't see the point in arguing this. You said "you are being intellectually dishonest particular in the context of religion, as was I." And this is because You have already decided that God and religion are out the picture.


3. "Truth is the recognition of Reality"
I think Aistotle would argue that. Truth is correspondence to reality. Recognition plays no part in truth itself. If the truth bearor is the same as the truth maker, it is truth.

"Calling a witch doctor to deal with your child's diabetes, by chanting, burning herbs and waving talismans, will result in your child's death."
Let me equivelate that to another scenario.
What if the next child lived? Which was the truth? Unknowable..
(by the way, I would never advocate doing this)
You see, you have already decided that your five senses are the limit of reality. Therefore, the concept of anything beyond that is not worth further consideration.

Truth is a relationship between reality and a thought, saying, or whatever. To KNOW what saved the child and what killed the other seems to be out of the realm of the five senses.


This is my response. I hope that it was clear.

Telmeimrong said...

I have just developed a very large headache. I am hesitant to call it a migraine, because I have seen an actual migraine, and what most people try to pass off as a migraine is only a headache.

Why do men need some sort of code ethics? I think that is obvious, but you may have a better reason.

You say that code must be developed. I then ask, when is it complete? When do men possess THE code of ethics?

Again, I don't see how this works in light of your definition of truth. How can a code of ethics be "true or false", or I would say right or wrong. If a code of ethics is in reality, then no problem. But with reality limited to the five senses, how can we know the reality of any code of ethics?

Richard said...

Question 1 from Telmeimwrong.

Telmeimwrong suggests I have not provided a reason one should pay taxes.

No offense intended Telme, but the reason was the whole paragraph, and the essential issue was named in the first sentence and wrapped up in the second last sentence that you quoted.

That Telme did not recognize the reason in my explanation is remarkable evidence in support of my earlier comment about the need for the study of reason. An essential part of reason is understanding the full meaning of the concepts (labeled with words) one uses, and keeping their context, at least within the length of a single paragraph.

I opened the issue by saying, "All of us, are under the considerable coercive power of the state initiating force against us". The point is blindingly clear when I say we should pay our taxes to avoid going to jail. The penultimnate sentence in the paragraph says the reason is that we must "open our wallets to state approved confiscation. Telme somehow misses the point that confiscation is the seizure of things. The reason we pay taxes is because the wealth is being seized, we are under threat of coercion. The citizen who refuses to pay is under an even greater threat.

Telmeimrong said...

Richard missed my entire point. People lie on their taxes. My comment was directed at the honesty of your tax forms. I see the argument you made, but it did not answer the context of the original statement. The original context was that of my properly and fully paying my taxes because the Bible says not to lie, not general paying taxes because of government coersion. I will give you that, I don't need convincing that the gov't takes what they want and jail is the other optionn(although I don't know how many people actually go to jail). I want to hear from you HOW my paying them for Biblical reasons is wrong conclusion.

Richard said...

On Comment 2 from Telmeimwrong.

I don't see the point in arguing this. You said "you are being intellectually dishonest particular [sic] in the context of religion, as was I." And this is because You have already decided that God and religion are out the picture.

***
Telme has, in just two sentences demonstrated remarkable intellectual dishonesty.

He has ignored the fact that I was explaining how I was wrestling with the problem of God and religion. That I had not decided and had to think about it. He dismissed the whole process, simply saying I had "already decided that God... is out of the picture", as if my decision was arbitrary whim.

Clearly my point was that there were things to be examined, honestly. That is, one must ask themselves if that miracle could be real, or if a 'supernatural' being could in any possible way be real (there is no way).

It is necessary for him to presume my decision against God is arbitrary whim, because that in essence is how his mind operates. To him, other minds must surely work the same way. Of course many don't.

The only way to be dishonest is to purposefully blind oneself to contradictions when they present themselves. Here, 'supernatural' and the nature of biblical miracles, are obvious contradictions with reality. To refuse to question them is intellectual evasion, which is essential to intellectual dishonesty. It is the immoral functioning of a mind, whether made by lazy default or by choice.

Richard said...

On Comment 3 from Telmeimwrong.

"Truth is the recognition of Reality"
I think Aistotle [sic] would argue that. Truth is correspondence to reality. Recognition plays no part in truth itself. If the truth bearor is the same as the truth maker, it is truth.

***

Used another way, as described below, "correspondence" could be a fair description of the relation between facts and a mind's conceptual understanding of them. But can see little doubt that telmeimwrong is not using the term in that way.

Facts are what occurs 'out there' in the universe. The conceptual mind must determine if it understands those facts correctly, which is why clear concepts and careful reasoning are necessary. When that is done correctly one can properly grasp the facts, recognizing them for what they are. At that point, the mind can assign the status of Truth to the new, and/or new organization of, concepts it holds. A correspondence has been recognized.

Aristotle was a genius, but he did not understand concept formation. He held that horses possess some intrinsic thing the mind simply apprehends, that he would call "horseness". This Intrinsicism (the idea that concepts are 'in' the objects one is considering) is rampant in religious belief:
"God is 'in' everything.",
"It's true because it is." which is the correspondence approach telmeimwrong has evoked,
"The bible is God's word because it says so."
ad infinitum

Richard said...

This telmeimwrong comment deserves a separate treatment.

"Calling a witch doctor to deal with your child's diabetes, by chanting, burning herbs and waving talismans, will result in your child's death."
Let me equivelate that to another scenario.
What if the next child lived? Which was the truth?

***

In asking, "what if the next child lived?" telmeimwrong clearly means the child lived in spite of having the same kind and degree of diabetes.

This is a blatant attempt to make thing A also be thing B, where A does not equal B. Having invoked Aristotle in his previous comment about truth, it is interesting that telmeimwrong now rejects Aristotle's most famous law: A is A.

The 'what if' request, that the same two instances of diabetes have symptoms and not have symptoms, is so arbitrary that there can be no response to the actual question. However, the nature of the question can be addressed. It is a deliberate attempt at "having one's cake and eating it too". I want my reality, and I want my unreality.

From this arbitrary 'what if' telmeimwrong goes on: "To KNOW what saved the child and what killed the other seems to be out of the realm of the five senses."

He also wants to use his contradictory 'what if' to create an imaginary sixth sense, which he plainly intends as a justification for belief in supernatural intervention.

Any who fall for his initial premise run the risk of being trapped by his conclusion. That is why reason is such an important tool! It protects one from ideas that, if acted upon, destroy one's happiness and even life.

Like any tool, its use is not automatically understood. A baby has no clue how to use a simple garden trowel. More to the point, he has to learn to focus his eyes properly, not to mention learn to speak etc. Why would anyone act as if reasoning is not a tool that needs careful study for proper use?

In day to day conversation, Telmeimwrong would never argue that one person can be fatally struck by a car, and that the same person struck in exactly the same way could come away unscathed. Yet he pursues this discussion hoping we will accept such contradictions. Sadly, this is the intellectual bankruptcy of every single religionist that ever lived, that lives now and that will ever live.

Richard said...

Telmeimwrong asked,
"Why do men need some sort of code ethics?"

I already answered that explicitly... men are conceptual, volitional and their actions are not automatic. They must choose what actions are right and what actions are wrong.

He asks when one reaches the end of such a code. A code of ethics is not a list of answers to every choice everyone will ever have. It is a set of principles that can readily be referenced, so a thinking mind can consider a new situation rationally to make an appropriate decision on what is right or wrong. That requires a clear understanding of the abstract concepts that are used in forming the moral principles, and so forth. I cannot spend space on examples.

Notice how telmeimwrong displays the Intrinsicism I mentioned above, when he asks, "If a code of ethics is in reality, then no problem. But with reality limited to the five senses, how can we know the reality of any code of ethics?"

It is remarkable... the ethics are just 'out there', even though he clearly has read the paragraph where I explained how a thinking person might go through the process of grasping that his life must be the standard for his moral choices.

Telmeimwrong wonders how the right and wrongness of the decisions can be recognized. Morals to him are set by some method other than human thought. Yet I already suggested the process.

If your life is not the standard by which you judge right and wrong, then anything can take your life and you have no reason to care! There can be no moral issues to debate. But if life IS a value, then we can get somewhere!

Richard said...

Gosh this is just a two man debate, and I'm getting worn out on it. I hope what follows is readable, I must stop after this.

Telmeimwrong has said, he pays his "taxes because the Bible says not to lie, not general [sic] paying taxes because of government coersion [sic].

He then asks "HOW my paying them for Biblical reasons is wrong conclusion."

Easy, and I have already answered this, via my example of the murderer coming into someone's home. Telmeimwrong, you have to start thinking for yourself! This second example may help:

If a train robber is working his way down the aisle between the passenger seats demanding that everyone give up their watches and money, he is dishonest and coercive. He has already rejected the requirement for honest cooperation between men. You are under no obligation to be honest with him.

It is the proper and moral thing to act in a way that will protect your life and happiness, because that is the real standard for moral choices. So minimize the harm he does to you. Put your watch and most of your money under the seat cushion. I say most so you have some to give him to allay suspicion. Also, be sure your wrist doesn't have obvious tan lines and pressure marks.

Paying taxes because the bible says to be honest is absurd... if one can truly get away safely with not paying them, then don't. To reveal this safe money to the IRS is like telling the train robber your money is under the cushion, or telling the murderer where your child is hiding, just so you can be honest.

Honesty is recognizing that the unreal is unreal! Neither the train robber nor the murderer have any REAL right to your money or your child. To act as if they do is dishonest... in this case thanks to telmeimwrong's Bible!

The IRS are no different from the train robber. Complete disclosure on your tax forms when you are safe not to, IS the wrong conclusion. And that conclusion is acted on because the Bible provides the wrong reasons for honesty, which results in its misapplication.

Poodles said...

I am pretty sure my head is going to explode.

Richard said...

LOL Poodles!

I was starting to get "a migraine" too.

I hope future questions and comments aren't so numerous and darned involved.
....

In the beginning there was nothing. God said, "Let their be light!" And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could still see it a whole lot better Ellen DeGeneris

johngalt666 said...

So Richard,

When are you going to start charging Telmeimwrong for all the philosophical tutoring?

Seems to me he has already wracked up quite a bill! lol

Telmeimrong said...

"Easy, and I have already answered this, via my example of the murderer coming into someone's home."
But your argument doesn't hold up to scrutiny. You have indicated there is a difference between a murderer and killing. Which is so obvious it doesn't need to be explained. If someone is going to murder my child, I would kill him without a thought. Did I come to the wrong conclusion, no.
The right conclusion is the right conclusion, no matter how you get there because the right conclusion was established by God initially.

The government is coercing me to pay my taxes, given. The government can't possibly moniter whether everyone is honest on their own. So they rely on our own self government. I am honest on my taxes because the Bible say to be, others are honest because they are afraid they will be thrown in jail. Doesn't matter how we came to the conclusion.

"It is necessary for him to presume my decision against God is arbitrary whim, because that in essence is how his mind operates. To him, other minds must surely work the same way. Of course many don't." Just an FYI, I am here, reading.

Ok, I am not assuming that you decided by artibrary whim, anymore than you did the same for me in assuming my mind works like other believer you have encountered.
I guess you want me to argue from the assumption that God is not real. Well that is very convenient for you.

Crazyman Bob said...

Mr A: I assert that all my decisions are based on my belief in the gremlins on the other side of the moon.

Mr B: Assertions should be based on the facts of reality and logically built from there using concepts.

Mr A: The gremlins on the other side of the moon tell me I can kill someone who is going to murder my child. They also tell me to pay my taxes honestly. If my conclusions are the same as the ones you got by using reality and logic, what is the difference.

Mr B: We may have reached the same conclusions but my way I know I am right because I can trace my conclusions back through logic to the facts in reality that necessitate them. How do you know your conclusions are right?

Mr A: Because the gremlins on the other side of the moon told me in my head. And in the writings they have passed on to me.

Mr B: But that doesn't prove anything. You are just accepting arbitrary things on faith! There are no gremlins on the moon or anywhere else.

Mr A: Prove it.

Mr B: I don't have to prove something doesn't exist. There is no evidence that they do exist. Thats it! It is up to the person making the assertion to provide the proof of his claim. In other words, your claim, Mr A. Prove there are gremlins on the other side of the moon.

Mr A: Ummmm. Welll.... (checking his watch) I gotta go. I'll get back to you on that.

Mr B: *sigh*

Fiery said...

Love the summation Crazyman Bob, brilliant! Sorry it took me so long to notice my original comment didn't get posted. Don't know what happened, usually I double check to see that it shows up. Apparently not this time. :-/

Richard said...

I think we can see that there is good reason to think Telmeimwrong's argument, below, is knowingly dishonest, but let's assume not.

Referring to me, he wrote:
"You have indicated there is a difference between a murderer and killing. ... If someone is going to murder my child, I would kill him without a thought. Did I come to the wrong conclusion, no.
The right conclusion is the right conclusion, no matter how you get there because the right conclusion was established by God initially.


History has had many religious pacifists who would NOT kill the murderer. Telmeimwrong, if he is over 19 (he is) knows this, but narrows the context to only himself. Were we to agree to this implicit, context dissolving tactic we would have to take him to be the standard and basis for his argument. Wrong.

Telmeimwrong lives in a culture that, compared with any other past or present culture, strongly respects reason and life. It the influence of reason and love of this life that has weakened the insanity of Christianity.

[Today's Middle Eastern Muslims, by the tens of millions, are as unreasoning as Christians were during their Crusades and Inquisitions.]

If Telmeimwrong chooses to kill the murderer to protect his child, it is not because, as he asserts, his choice arose from his use of the biblical morality.

It is blindingly clear that his choice is in direct violation of the Commandment, "thou shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). Note, please, that it says "kill".

Telmimwrong might reference an argument from Jesus concerning a sheep trapped in a hole on the Sabbath (Sunday, when one should not work). Jesus says the sheep could be released on the Sabbath as an exception to the rule of obeying the Sabbath (Matthew 12).

I can tell you that as a child, that argument really opened my eyes. The biblical rules had exceptions that were actually logical!

However, that little example reinforces the point that one should act on conclusions based on reason, not through faith in biblical rules and myths. Reason does not accept contradictions, but contradictions are the stock in trade of the Bible.

***
Telmeimwrong wrote,

The government is coercing me to pay my taxes, given. The government can't possibly moniter [sic]whether everyone is honest on their own. So they rely on our own self government. I am honest on my taxes because the Bible say to be, others are honest because they are afraid they will be thrown in jail. Doesn't matter how we came to the conclusion.

That is so egregiously dishonest, or crushingly foolish, I am embarrassed for him...

Yep the train robbers, whom we have already discussed, cannot possibly monitor everyone on the train"So they rely on our own self government. Telmeimwrong wants to be 'honest', and make sure they can collect his watch and wallet, "because the Bible tells [him] to be."

"There's a sucker born every minute..." con-man Joseph ("Paper Collar Joe") Bessimer. And religious leaders work hard to make sure of it, so they can maintain their tyranny over the minds of grown men.