Thursday, June 30, 2011

Helping @dreamspeak with consistency

Here I'd like to review a tweetversation I've been having with @dreamspeak.
It all began when someone else referenced #atheisthotline about how evil a position I hold is, or something, and I said:
@Rhology also challenges #atheisthotline to demonstrate that ANYthing is objectively morally wrong.

@dreamspeak then jumped in and asked why anyone would need to do that. What emerged from what followed was that this individual believes that our morality should be based on empathy that people have for each other. I have of course dealt with this at length beforehand, and I linked him to that article, but surprise surprise, he doesn't appear to have read it.
I proceeded to perform a reductio ad absurdum on his assertion:

Rhology: @mysickbones Empathy-I prefer pain myself so figure others like pain too. @dreamspeak bases morality on empathy. Ergo infliction of pain=OK

dreamspeak: @Rhology You are a moron. You keep assuming that an individual is what defines morality. It is a collective bargain, agreement in society.

Rhology: @dreamspeak It is a collective bargain, agreement in society>>How do you know?

dreamspeak: @Rhology I read studies of human behavior. Professional scientific analysis of sociology, psychology, even animal behavior for comparison.

Now, let's stop for a moment to take stock.
He didn't answer the question, first of all.  Also, he conveniently forgets that societies are composed of individuals. And "studies of human behavior" are just that - compilations of studies of individuals. Also, as I pointed out to him, this is an is, not an ought. What ought follows from this is?

dreamspeak: Seems @Rhology's primary problem is that what he thinks is empathy, is actually called "projecting."

Rhology: @dreamspeak's primary problem is that what he thinks is empathy, is actually called "what I like". As if everyone is always like him.

Rhology: @dreamspeak How do you get from "X behaved thusly and thought thusly about it" to "X's behavior was morally unjustified"?

dreamspeak @Rhology I don't know how to explain it to you in a way that will breach your thick skull. You keep returning to this because you're stuck.

dreamspeak @Rhology Empathy will never be "what I like" no matter how many times you insist that it is, and I've never used it to mean that.

dreamspeak @Rhology If you could be less stupid for a moment and think about what "empathy" means you would see that it informs how we treat others.

dreamspeak @Rhology The majority of humanity does not enjoy suffering, and through empathy can "get" what it means to inflict it, & want to lessen it.

Note here how he just two tweets ago denied that empathy reduces to "what I like" and then here says that "the majority of humanity does not enjoy suffering".  So it sure seems to me that he has gone back on what he said earlier, seemingly without realising it.
If you don't enjoy suffering, and that's your argument for why one shouldn't do something, then no matter how many times you deny it, it does come down to what you like and what you dislike.
His lame point about "projecting" is precisely what he is guilty of. When one empathises with someone else, one is attempting to understand an experience. @dreamspeak is telling us to ask ourselves whether we enjoy pain. He assumes most will say, "No, I don't like pain." He'll then go on to say, "OK, so don't inflict pain."
But what if someone does enjoy pain? Then the answer would be, "Yes, I do like pain." If @dreamspeak is to be consistent, he should answer "OK, so inflict pain," b/c he wants us to act on our empathy.
This is what he has not grasped.

If he objects that most people don't like pain, he is moving the goalposts, b/c he was telling us that empathy is the basis, and now he wants us to listen to the majority. This is nothing more than might making right, morality by popularity. The obvious question is whether @dreamspeak is willing to say that about 1940s-era Jews in Germany, France, and Poland. The majority thought they were better off dead or in labor camps. Guess it was the right thing to do.
Thus he shows that he doesn't really think that empathy is the basis for morality. He thinks that thinking like he thinks is the basis.  But he hasn't scanned and uploaded his Pope of Morality ID badge yet.

dreamspeak: @Rhology If you can't even understand what it means to imagine someone else's suffering then you can't get past this part.

dreamspeak @Rhology So you can stop acting like you're making any kind of sensible point here. You're not. People are reasonable & empathetic creatures

Some people are reasonable, sometimes.  Most people are at least some of the time. Nobody is reasonable all the time. Further, he is living in a fantasy realm filled with unicorns and butterflies.  "People are empathetic creatures"?  Without qualification? 
There are sociopaths out there, @dreamspeak. Are they "empathetic" (by which he means, of course, "people who think like I think")? Murderers, p√¶dophiles, thieves, addicts, rapists... all of those are out there.  Do they consult their empathy before committing what some of us consider to be criminal acts?
And what if they grew to outnumber the "good, reasonable, empathetic" people?  Since might makes right, I suppose morality would change, wouldn't it?

As the ironically-named @PlzThinkHarder said to me: yesterday it was immoral for a woman to speak out of turn. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.

I just swap in different objects and my point is made.  
Yesterday it was immoral to commit genocide. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to rape little girls. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to hunt down and kill all atheists. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to enslave all non-Christians. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.

What answer does an atheistic outlook have to any of this?

Now, if this is your first time seeing this kind of argument, or if you need a reminder, please know that I do not actually hold any of these conclusions. They are consistent with an atheistic, naturalistic outlook, but I am not an atheistic naturalist.  I am a biblical Christian.
B/c God has spoken and has authority, I know that these things are objectively evil. But how can the atheist know any of that? There is no authority, no normative standard.  Who says that we must obey or consider our empathy when weighing moral options? Why should we?  Who is @dreamspeak to tell us to do that?  If we disobey, will he punish us? If he had the power, would he enforce such?  What authority does he have? 

Hopefully he'll stop by to let us all know who crowned him Pope.


Rhology said...

"Ur" full of shit. "U" just like to dismiss sound arguments when shown your fallacious arguments.

Rhology said...

The man can't make up his mind.
First, he says:
Your entire argument is a strawman. You set up this idea that morality can change at any time with no rhyme nor reason.

And then he says:
Humanity, society, is in flux, it evolves. It doesn't stay the same. That's why we've eliminated slavery and such wherever we can.

Haha, what a joke.

Rhology said...

Looks like @dreamspeak doesn't want to interact.

I know I haven't bowed down to his obvious moral authority, but darn it, I just prefer an argument.

dreamspeak said...

Perhaps here I could refute your asinine claims more thoroughly than on Twitter, where you seem unable to wait for a full explanation before launching into strawman arguments and other epic logical failures, not the least of which is your inability to understand a simple definition. You have a wonderfully massive ego as well that I find entertaining, but perhaps if you were truly interested in a discussion you would refrain from launching into a blog post where you can declare unilateral victory in your little echo chamber without the benefit of an actual back-and-forth debate as would certainly befit a topic of such magnitude. However, based on this massively flawed argument of yours the only thing I truly need do is point out that your concept of "empathy" is simply incorrect, distorted, and used to suit the rest of your strawman tantrum. So allow me to illustrate:

Empathy -noun: 1.
the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Projection -noun (psychology)
a. the belief, esp in children, that others share one's subjective mental life
b. See also defence mechanism the process of projecting one's own hidden desires and impulses

Imagining what someone else's experiences might be and realizing that pain inflicted on others is a negative is not the same thing as imagining that your desires are the same as everyone else's. It's the difference between seeing someone in pain and knowing what that feels like and wishing FOR THAT PERSON to feel no pain versus thinking everyone thinks the way you do and perceives the world the way you do.

FURTHER; it is important to note that on many levels MOST humans experience the world similarly but this is IRRELEVANT to the point that I can IDENTIFY in someone else a feeling that I MYSELF would not wish upon them. HOWEVER I have never suggested that NO HUMANS EVER have aberrant or abnormal inner lives which is why I said that it is a COLLECTIVE result of society. It is CLEAR that many humans do not feel or acknowledge the levels of empathy that are required for EVERY level of moral or ethical behavior but that does NOT mean we cannot or do not have consensus on a GREAT number of ideas. This is why we condemn the Columbine shooters rather than excuse them. We recognize their behavior as immoral because it causes pain in the victims and survivors that we wish on no one.

Neither I would ever suggest that we have a perfect solution. However, just because it's not perfect, does not mean that it is untrue, and it certainly does NOT follow that objective morality is necessarily true or possible.

So if that does not satisfy this idiotic blog post to you or your readers then feel free to reject it as you will.

Rhology said...

Thanks for the reply.
Here is mine.