Tom Caylor wrote:
> On Feb 13, 5:18 pm, Brent Meeker <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
>> 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?"
> 
> I'm talking about ultimate meaning, meaning which is ultimately based
> on truth.  Purpose would go along with that.  I think that this
> situation is similar (metaphysically isomorphic? :) to the "primary
> matter" situation.  I think you maintain that experience is enough.  I
> maintain that if all you have is relative references, you are having
> faith that there is ultimately something "there".  I'm not interested
> in any straw-man caricature god who decides what is valuable etc. on a
> whim.  I'm interested in the source of the wonderfully unexplainable
> good in us.
> 
>>>> 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 discovered.
> 
> But the wonderfully unexplainable good thing is that these cares of
> yours actually mean something that other people can appreciate, 

Nothing inexplicable about that at all.  Other people are products of the same 
evolutionary process, so inevitably they share a sense of what's good and what 
isn't; but this includes looking out for themselves and their kin first, so 
everybody appreciates altruism...in other people.

>and
> that what you see as being worthy to pursue or fight against,
> individually and collectively, can *actually be* worthy, independent
> of what we may think.

I don't even know what "actually" means here.  Is it like a scientific finding, 
that everybody can replicate and agree on?  Or is it like an unknowable really 
real reality?
 
>>>> 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.
>> How?
>>
> 
> I explained in the following sentences.
> 
>>> 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.
>>
> 
> I'm not assuming that.  This prompts me to bring up the Solzhenitsin
> quote again about the line between good and evil going down the center
> of every human.  This quote is saying something more than "I value
> certain things, and I don't value (or even I am horrified by) other
> things."  This by itself is meaningless unless there is some basis
> upon which it is good to value some things and be horrified by other
> things.  

Yes it is meaningless in the precise sense that it does not refer to something 
else.  It is me referring to myself and my values.  It doesn't need some 
external basis.

>Solzhenitsin believed in the personal God (who is love), and
> so he could believe in actual good and evil, and that we each have a
> choice between them.  

But can we choose what we deem good and bad?  Can you decide the holocaust was 
good by an act of will?

>Without that, we have no choice, we just like
> what we like and that's that.

You may not like that, but can you show it is false.

>>>>> But if we reject the ultimate basis, then it feels good to say
>>>>> that it doesn't matter.
>>>>> Tom

That what doesn't matter? 

>>>>> 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
> 
> The 9/11 attackers were simply "promoting their values" also.

Yes they were.  But they are contrary to my values, so I oppose them.  I assume 
you oppose them too, but then how do you know their values are not consistent 
with "the ultimate basis"?  They thought they were.  Do you really need to 
consult the ultimate basis to decide it was wrong to kill all those people?

Brent Meeker
Peter: What would you say if I told you there was Master of all we see, a 
Creator of the universe, who watches and judges everything we do.
Curls: I'd say you were about to take up a collection.
        --- Gary Hart, in B.C.


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