Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Chris Port Blog #275. Solving the problems of religion with an equation...

© Chris Port, June 2011

Any fool can quote from scripture. Any rogue can twist it to any purpose. Any madman can write down the words of God. It strikes me that all of the problems of religion could be solved at the stroke of a pen. If some wise philosopher wrote down the equation "God = Wisdom", this would not provide an answer. It would provide a question. "But what is wisdom?" the thoughtful would ask. "What indeed?" the philosopher might reply. "Answering that question should keep you busy for a lifetime."

2 comments:

  1. JOB OPPORTUNITY FOR STARVING PHILOSOPHERS
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1/

    Sam Harris (world famous neuroscientist philosopher) is offering his critics a chance to put up or shut up. He's offered a cash prize of $20,000 (about £12,800) to anyone who can convincingly refute his central argument for a scientific morality.

    Assuming no-one can refute him, there's a consolation prize of $2,000 (about £1,280) for the most interesting response.

    See FAQs in link for further details. Closing date for entries is 9 February 2014, so you've got time to buy his book and boost his royalties.

    INITIAL THOUGHTS

    Hmmm… Traditionally, science has been regarded as descriptive and morality as prescriptive. But science is also predictive. So, in Sam’s moral landscape, do good* predictions = good** prescriptions?

    * Falsifiable
    ** Beneficial

    Possibly. But if they’re truly equivalent, does it work vice versa? This leads out onto some very thin ice…

    The real question is always “Cui bono” (to whose benefit?). So I suspect that Sam’s thesis could only be refuted by reference to de facto cynicism rather than de jure principle (i.e. selectivity and performativity)

    Postscript

    I don’t actually want to refute Sam’s thesis (fortunately for me). I just want to qualify it (modesty is my only flaw). But, in order to qualify it, I’ll have to fail to refute it in a way that grabs his interest. So, all I’m really looking for is a fascinating aesthetic conundrum at the heart of his argument…

    See also:

    Can Science Answer Moral Questions?
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/chris-port-blog-250-can-science-answer.html

    First Draft PhD Proposal
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/first-draft-phd-proposal/397025593660968

    Woolwich Threads
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/woolwich-threads/620407134656145

    A Crash Course in Aesthetics
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/a-crash-course-in-aesthetics/510545425642317

    Metamodernist Case Notes on a Think Tank Thread: Why Us and Why Now?
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/metamodernist-case-notes-on-a-think-tank-thread-why-us-and-why-now/478080715555455

    Notes on Metamodernism: The Pit and the Pendulum...
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/notes-on-metamodernism-the-pit-and-the-pendulum/431728890190638

    The Name of the Ghost
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/the-name-of-the-ghost/431724480191079

    Teachers Talking Rot (1 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-1-of-2/606322266064632

    Teachers Talking Rot (2 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-2-of-2/606331422730383

    See also: "Perhaps description is the key?"

    Marty Solves One of the Problems of the Universe
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/chris-port-blog-114-marty-solves-one-of.html

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  2. WG: If morality evolved for the purpose of fostering community, can we deduce anything about what is moral/immoral without committing the naturalistic fallacy? If so, what?

    Naturalistic fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

    CP: Assuming evolution (and discounting intelligent design) we would be committing a teleological fallacy if we claimed that morality evolved for any purpose.

    See Teleological Argument
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument

    It would be less erroneous if we simply claimed that community evolved as a successful survival strategy. From this we can deduce that morality evolved from a natural hierarchical pecking order into etiquette.

    See Etiquette
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette

    The problem of the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' arises because of a manmade distinction between natural and manmade.

    This distinction seems to be an inverted form of the anthropomorphic/pathetic fallacy.

    See Pathetic Fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathetic_fallacy

    Man (i.e. homo sapiens) evolved IN the natural world. However, our intelligence evolved as another successful survival strategy. Eventually, this sapient differential resulted in misrecognition. We began to see ourselves as SEPARATE from the natural world.

    However, this separation is a fallacy. In (physical) reality, sentience is an emergent phenomenon. The artificial is still part of the natural world.

    From our initial premises, we can deduce that morality (i.e. evolved etiquette) can only exist in higher level consciousness. Therefore, we can deduce that morality is a complex emergent property.

    After that, we can only deduce that we are playing Wittgensteinian language games.

    See Language-game (philosophy)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language-game_%28philosophy%29

    In 'The Moral Landscape', Sam Harris proposes we should discard cultural relativism and quantify these language games in terms of 'the well-being of conscious creatures'. It's a logical deduction and a valid premise.

    See 'The Moral Landscape'
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape

    Whether his arguments are sound is still up for grabs though.

    Addendum.

    CP: If morality is ‘the well-being of conscious creatures’, then consciousness must precede well-being.

    This is a one-way logic gate. We can talk of consciousness without well-being, but it makes no sense to talk of well-being without consciousness.

    Ergo, existence must precede essence (sans Sartrean Free Will).

    Ergo, survival must precede morality.

    But survival of what? Individuals, communities, genes, or memes?

    These qualities are entangled and interdependent. But which is most important?

    Ironically, we cannot be equitable from first principle here. Unfortunately, we do not live in a deathless paradise. Therefore, in the physical universe, we can only talk of survival and morality in terms of priorities (e.g. dilemmas or conflicts of interest).

    The scientific method can quantify well-being. But can it qualify existential priorities? If not, then a scientific morality without aesthetic qualification has no system of prioritization.

    Ergo, does ‘scientific morality’ encounter similar inconsistencies to those identified in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?

    Raatikainen, Panu, "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

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