Tom Caylor wrote:
> Brent Meeker wrote:
>> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>> On 2/12/07, *Tom Caylor* <[EMAIL PROTECTED] 
>>> <mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>> wrote:
>>>> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>>>> Tom Caylor writes:
>>>>>>>> Brent Meeker "It does not matter now that in a million
>>>>>>>> years nothing
>>> we do now
>>>>> will matter."
>>>>>>>> --- Thomas Nagel
>>>>>>> We might like to believe Nagel, but it isn't true.
>>>>>>> Tom
>>>>>> That is, it isn't true that in a million years nothing we
>>>>>> do
>>> now will
>>>>>> matter.
>>>>> Why do you say "we might like to believe Nagel"? Why would
>>> anyone want
>>>>> it to be the case that nothing we do now will matter in a
>>> million years?
>>> In order to think in terms beyond a few generations, we need a
>>> basis for meaning that is more universal than explaining and
>>> controlling things in our immediate sphere of "care abouts", like
>>> our animal instincts.

I never said otherwise.  It is you who keep pretending that if we don't worship 
a sky god we're reduced to animal instincts.

You keep bringing up "meaning".  Do you not see that "meaning" is reference to 
something else.  Words have meaning because they refer to things that are not 
words.  In order to act you need purpose, an internal thing.  You don't need 
"meaning"; except by reference to your own purpose.  If you act to satisfy 
someone else's purpose, then you have to answer the question, "Why was it your 
decision, your purpose, to satisfy someone else?"

>> But what we care about right now, may include anything we think of
>> - including how things will be a million years from now, including
>> an abstract principle, even including a fine point of theology.
> Sorry that I don't have much time.  I agree with your statement 
> above.  However, see below.
>>> (Such a local basis does not support doing things like 
>>> sacrificing your life for others even a couple thousand years in
>>> the future.)

Depends on what you mean by "local basis".  You seem to mean "animal 
instincts".  But I, here and now, can care about whether democracy survives in 
the U.S. in 2100, whether global warming kills people in Bangladesh, whether 
AIDS spreads in Africa, whether a theory of quantum gravity will ever be 

>> For the very good reason that one cannot foresee the benefits of
>> such sacrifice so far in the future.   But people sacrifice for
>> others that they know all the time.
> This statement seems to be in conflict with your previous statement. 


> Theology (I'd rather say "being in communion with the personal God"
> in from whom we have our personhood, rather than an academic pursuit)
> is a way of enabling us to "see" things, expand our consciousness, 
> outside of the immediate sphere of "care abouts" that are defined by 
> animal instincts, the five senses, etc., and to see things such as
> the nobility of giving our life for a cause that is greater that this
>  local, supposedly (but not truly) autonomous, sphere.

You seem to assume that "non-local" = "good".  Tell it to the victims of 9/11.

>>> But if we reject the ultimate basis, then it feels good to say
>>> that it doesn't matter.
>>> Tom
>>> If we discovered some million year old civilization today I think
>>> wonder at its achievements, however paltry, would far outweigh
>>> dismay at its wickedness, however extreme. I'm not sure what the
>>> significance of this observation is.
>> I don't think it's true.  My exhibit A is the Aztecs.
> I think the significance of Stathis' observation is this.  Our local 
> sphere of "care abouts" mostly has to do with "what can I get out of 
> it".  It is more immediately obvious that we could possibly gain 
> something from someone else's achievements or ideas, rather than from
>  their wickedness.  In fact, it is probably true.  Studying goodness
> is more fruitful than studying wickedness.

You're assuming that you have somehow decided what is good and what is wicked.  
But that's the question isn't it.  I know what I value and I can build on that. 
 I don't see how I can build on somebody else's values; how could I let someone 
else decide for me what is valuable?

> (Rather lopsided isn't it? How could such a thing be generated from
> Everything (or Nothing)?) But whoever said that "what matters" is
> only about wickedness and not goodness?
>> Brent Meeker There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to
>> be burned for an opinion. -- Anatole France
> This is precisely my point.  If all that exists is internal meaning 
> (i.e. opinion), then there is no true basis (even in the literal
> sense of "true") for anything more than a dog-eat-dog world (unless
> the other dog provides 1st person subjective gratification).
> Tom

You keep assuming that all internal meaning is selfish, short-sighted opinion.  
This is false.  As I said above, it can include anything we think about.  Of 
course we are more likely to care about our children and neighbors than people 
in Dafur and it's easier to see what will promote our values next year than 
next century.  It is rational to pay more attention to the short term and 
local, because we can be more certain of the effects of our actions. But it's 
not all short-term or local. 

Brent Meeker 

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