Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't take away others' rights

My friend CH said on his Facebook page:
Don't like gay marriage? Don't get one.
Don't like abortions? Don't get one.
Don't like drugs. Don't do them.
Don't like sex? Don't have it.
Don't like your rights taken away?
Don't take away anybody else's.

Rhology:
I really don't think this logic works at all.

Don't like slavery? Don't own a slave.
Don't like murder? Don't kill anyone.
Don't like kiddie porn? Don't view it.
Don't like sex trafficking? Don't see prostitutes.
Don't like embezzlement? Don't embezzle.
Don't like genocide? Don't commit it.

Don't like your rights taken away?
Don't take away anybody else's.

(Obviously, the answer here is that these are not ONLY questions of "your rights". There's more to it, in my examples as well as in yours.)


NE:
I think the point of his questions were they don't infringe upon anyone else's rights. An argument could be made for an unborn child's rights, but the rest are personal choices. Drugs are walking a fine line, depending on the consequences (driving, robbing a bank etc). However, Rhology, yours clearly take away the victims choices and free will.

TB:
‎@Rhology, the logic is good. All of your examples are things that are harmful to others. CH's are only harmful to the one doing them.

NE:
I meant was not were. Haha that's embarrassing.

Rhology:
Hi NE,
Abortion most certainly takes away the most fundamental of rights - the right to life - from the dead child. So that's what I was illustrating.
And as for my own examples, it's easy to avoid your criticism about "yours clearly take way the victim's...free will" - we just define them out of humanity. The slave/Negro is not human. The murder victim - not human. How do I know? Oh, I know. You'll just have to trust me. I don't have an argument for it, but I know.
It's the same reasoning as you'll find for removing the child's humanity before he gets aborted (aka murdered).


NE:
I'm personally do not consider myself a proponent for abortion, but I also don't feel like I have the right to tell a woman who has been raped that she has no choice in what happens to her body after that choice has already been taken away brutally once. Slaves and murder victims aren't people? I'm sure that the people committing the crime try to tell themselves that, but I, for one, disagree. I'm a little unsure of the point you're trying to make when you say they're not.


Rhology
NE,
I don't think anyone wants to tell a woman what to do with her own body, especially after something so horrible as rape. Rapes account for less than 1% of abortions, FYI.
But the question is not about HER body only; the baby's body is the one that is torn to bits during an abortion. So his rights must be considered too, especially if he's the one facing execution w/o a trial for the crimes of his father.

You may disagree with what I said, but that is because you're being inconsistent. If you were consistent, you would not be able to make the statements CH made b/c you condemn the statements *I* made. They all go one with another. If you want to condemn an act, use a different argument than this one.


NE:
I'm sure that rapes do not constitute that large a percentage of total abortions, but you also have to consider the accuracy of your data. Rape and sexual assault are the number 1 unreported crimes in the United States, FYI. I am not saying the original post was without flaws, but I agree with the sentiment behind it, which I feel is basically: mind your own business and don't infringe upon others rights. Your statements do not, in fact, follow the same logic as the other statements (I am not going to argue abortion with you, seriously) as they take away the rights of others.


TB
The original post was a good argument minus the abortion part because of peoples differing opinions on the subject. Your original reply was an extreme exaggeration.


Rhology
NE,

We can only go by the evidence we have. Also, I don't consider that rape is a justifiable reason for murdering the baby for the crimes of his father without so much as a trial.

Don't infringe on others' rights? What about the baby's rights? When REMOVING the baby's rights is a mega-industry in the USA, shall not those of conscience speak up for the powerless? It's the same question as slavery.

If you want "mind your own business" to be your creed, and if you are willing to be consistent all the way through, you won't have a problem with the things I said. Oppose kiddie porn? Mind your own business!
Oppose murder? Mind your own business!

TB,
My own reply was an exaggeration only in the sense that it demonstrates the unacceptability of the original sentiment, if expressed consistently in other areas of life. If you really believe a principle like "mind your own business", then BELIEVE IT and don't depart from it the instant it gets inconvenient or unpleasant for you, like in questions of sex slavery or kiddie porn.

38 comments:

Chemist said...

Seems to me that the state does have an interest in propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry. Why else should it have the right to regulate speed limits, enforce mandatory seat belt wearing, outlaw kiddie porn, and regulate who marries whom?

You've got some colorful FB friends. I rarely get this type of stuff on my newsfeed.

Rhology said...

Yes, I agree about that. Libertarianism, the more I think about it, seems less and less plausible.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Seems to me that the state does have an interest in propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry. Why else should it have the right to...?

The State certainly has an interest in "propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry," for the simple reason that a healthy populace is able to work longer and harder, thus creating more wealth, and thus more taxable income. The question is not whether or not the State has an interest in promoting health and well-being, but whether it has the right to legislate health and well-being. The eugenics program of the early 20th century was an attempt to "propagate and promote a healthy citizenry." Those who were unhealthy and incompetent would not be allowed to reproduce, and as time progressed, a more "healthy citizenry" would be the result. If government has the right to legislate health and well-being because it has an interest in doing so, then there is no reason why the government should not have instituted eugenics laws, and why they should not still be in force today. To give a more modern example, we are facing an "obesity epidemic," according to the government. Therefore, if government has the right to legislate health and well-being because it has an interest in doing so, then there is no reason why Obama & Co. should not try to shut down McDonalds, Burger King, etc., out of a concern for "propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry."

Yes, I agree about that. Libertarianism, the more I think about it, seems less and less plausible.

Versions of Libertarianism that allow for abortion are self-defeating, since they allow for an unjustified violation of some human beings' rights to life and liberty. However, Christian Libertarianism is not self-defeating, and I would posit that it is the most Biblically-consistent political philosophy. The role of government is to enforce the Law and make sure that justice is served. The role of government is not economic planning, education, nannying the populace, etc.

chemist said...

So you advocate doing away with government enforced speed limits?

Matthew C. Martellus said...

So you advocate doing away with government enforced speed limits?

1. My personal views about speed limits have nothing to do with the original point, which concern the validity of the general principle that "having an interest in propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry" gives the government the right to legislate in that regard. Such a question does nothing to address the criticisms of that principle presented in my first comment.

2. Opposition to speed limits does not follow from rejecting the principle under dispute, as your question suggests. I might support speed limits for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with the general principle that "having an interest in propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry" gives the government the right to legislate in that regard.

3. A more relevant question might regard how libertarians how support speed limits would justify them, given their libertarianism. However, inasmuch as a libertarian who supports speed limits can justify them without reference to the principle under dispute (and here is one such example), then this question would also be (and is) irrelevant.

4. One should distinguish between what is proper, given a certain political philosophy, and whether or not certain preconditions obtain that allow that philosophy to be properly implemented. Thus, a libertarian might argue that in general, X should not be outlawed, while accepting that in the present state of affairs, the preconditions for implementing a libertarian form of government in which X could be properly legalized do not obtain. Thus, one could believe that speed limits ought not to exist, but accept that the current society is not ready for speed limit-less roads. The phrase "advocate doing away with X" is ambiguous as to which sense is meant - either advocating for abolition in general, or advocating for abolition immediately.

5. Constitutionally, under the 10th amendment, the States, counties, and individual communities should have the final word on what the speed limits are in their respective localities, free of federal influence (such as the National Maximum Speed Law). The phrase "government enforced speed limits" is ambiguous as to which level of government is intended.

6. Speed limits are ultimately about safety (though often abused as an additional form of revenue collection). However, there is no reason that laws regulating negligent injury and/or negligent homicide should not be applied to the use of motor vehicles. If such laws are enforced, and consistent standards of what constitutes negligent use of a motor vehicle are made publicly known, then speed limits become superfluous. If a person driving a motor vehicle is acutely aware of the fact that driving in a unsafe manner could result in a preventable injury or death for which he would be legally liable, then he would most likely choose not to drive in an unsafe manner. As it is, too many drivers today are more consciously focused on not letting their speedometer get above a certain mark than on preventing injury and/or death to others through the usage of their motor vehicles. As a case in point, fatal accidents doubled when Montana re-established speed limits in 1999. Speed limit laws are presumably enacted in the name of safety, yet the result is a conscious focus on one's speedometer as opposed to a conscious focus on safe driving. So, even if the principle under dispute holds, it is ironic that a number of laws passed (putatively) on the basis of this principle work against the goal principle itself, to "propagate and promote a healthy citizenry."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

People do not like "internal consistency" such as seeing their own logic turned on its head and seeing their arguments being reduced to absurdity.

People like traveling one-way streets where they have all the right-of-way.

Rho, you mess things up for these people.

chemist said...

Thank you for your remarks Matt. Apparently you are interested in some type of debate. Unfortunately, I don't share this desire. I am sorry that my question obviously misled you. I do appreciate your thorough response, but I will refrain from posting on this anymore because, frankly, I think I can use my time in better ways.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Hi Chemist,

I do not desire to debate the topic of speed limits (though for the record, I wasn't the one who originally brought the issue up). I have little interest in discussing the topic in and of itself, but inasmuch as anyone is under the impression that the issue of speed limits grounds some absurdity or inconsistency within libertarianism, I am very much interested in demonstrating that this is not the case. That was the motivation for my remarks on the matter, and I apologize if I misinterpreted your question in that regard.

Back to the main point, however, I am very much disconcerted by the idea that "having an interest in propagating and promoting a healthy citizenry" gives the government the right to legislate in that regard. Beyond being misguided, such an idea is dangerous, insofar as while it can be used to justify speed limits, it can also be used to justify gross acts of tyranny, such as shutting down lawfully owned and operated business (fast food restaurants), implementing eugenics programs, etc. Ideas have consequences, and given the preciousness of the gift of liberty we have been given, and the blood and hardship with which it has been purchased, we ought to examine our ideas, lest they be found to contain seeds of tyranny within.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I wish somebody -- anybody -- would provide a from-the-ground-up, evidence-based argument that rights, in the sense of something fundamental and natural and objectively real, actually exist.

I suspect rights, in that fundamental, natural, objectively real sense, are an illusion, and that only government-issued rights -- privileges, really -- truly exist.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

I wish somebody -- anybody -- would provide a from-the-ground-up, evidence-based argument that rights, in the sense of something fundamental and natural and objectively real, actually exist.

Since rights are endowed by God, and this knowledge is revealed, there is no foundation for rights in nature, and no empirical basis upon which the rights of human beings can be inferred. JN is framing the discussion a priori in a manner in which objective rights can neither exist nor be proven to exist. Thus, concluding from this starting point that objective rights do not exist is a vacuous conclusion.

I suspect rights, in that fundamental, natural, objectively real sense, are an illusion, and that only government-issued rights -- privileges, really -- truly exist.

Tell that to someone who has lost family and friends as a result of government-sanctioned genocide: "Because objective rights are simply an illusion, the Jews in Nazi Germany didn't have a right to live. In fact, since government-issued priveleges are the only real rights, and the government revoked their privelege of life, they deserved to die, in the only real and non-illusory sense."

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Since rights are endowed by God, and this knowledge is revealed, there is no foundation for rights in nature, and no empirical basis upon which the rights of human beings can be inferred. JN is framing the discussion a priori in a manner in which objective rights can neither exist nor be proven to exist. Thus, concluding from this starting point that objective rights do not exist is a vacuous conclusion.

I see no reason why metaphysical naturalism, per se, rules out the existence of objective rights; objective rights, theoretically, could be weaved into the fabric of the cosmos. Human life theoretically could be of factually greater value than gnat life is: a fact no different from the speed of light in vacuum. Going by your standards, though, and ruling out metaphysically natural rights, thereby leaving only god-given ones, we can conclude no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do.

Tell that to someone who has lost family and friends as a result of government-sanctioned genocide: "Because objective rights are simply an illusion, the Jews in Nazi Germany didn't have a right to live. In fact, since government-issued priveleges are the only real rights, and the government revoked their privelege of life, they deserved to die, in the only real and non-illusory sense."

Deserved according to whom? You are correct: The Jews in Nazi Germany did NOT have a factual right to life; nobody does (based upon currently available evidence). Whatever rights people do have, which would be those bestowed by government, are privileges inasmuch as they can be revoked, by dictate or statute or amendment. But to say the Jews "deserved" to die is to make a statement aspiring to be objective and factual. Factually speaking, nobody deserves anything, because "deserve" carries an implicit "ought."

Matthew C. Martellus said...

I see no reason why metaphysical naturalism, per se, rules out the existence of objective rights; objective rights, theoretically, could be weaved into the fabric of the cosmos. Human life theoretically could be of factually greater value than gnat life is: a fact no different from the speed of light in vacuum.

It seems very much absurd to claim that something immaterial, such as objective rights, can exist when the material cosmos is all that there is. If you want to convince us of the plausibility of your worldview, you need to demonstrate how the existence of immaterial entities is not absurd when the physical cosmos is all that there is.

Going by your standards, though, and ruling out metaphysically natural rights, thereby leaving only god-given ones, we can conclude no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do.

1. On Christianity, all rights come from God, so to attempt to find rights inherent in nature is a self-defeating task. Your original statement was addressed (at least in part) to Christians, and my response was predicated upon Christianity. This response, however, is predicated upon naturalism, which, as an external critique, gives me no reason to believe that my original response is defective in some regard.

2. Given the nature of rights on Christianity, rights are impossible given naturalism. Simply stating this fact does nothing to critique my worldview, since I have no reason to abandon Christianity and accept naturalism.

3. If you want to convince us, as Christians, that objective rights do not exist, given the Christian nature of rights, you need to demonstrate that God does not in fact exist - not simply that you lack evidence to your liking that God exists, but that God does not exist in fact.

Deserved according to whom? You are correct: The Jews in Nazi Germany did NOT have a factual right to life; nobody does (based upon currently available evidence). Whatever rights people do have, which would be those bestowed by government, are privileges inasmuch as they can be revoked, by dictate or statute or amendment. But to say the Jews "deserved" to die is to make a statement aspiring to be objective and factual. Factually speaking, nobody deserves anything, because "deserve" carries an implicit "ought."

You can't have it both ways: either rights are governmental privileges, or there is no such thing as rights at all. The reductio concerning the holocaust was predicated upon your definition of rights as "governmental privileges," and in that context, what people "deserve" follows from the "rights" that they possess. If "rights" come solely from the government, then people "deserve" whatever the government decides to give them. If the government gives life, then they have a "right" to life and "deserve" life. If the government kills them, then not only do they not "deserve" life (since the government took that "right" away), but they "deserve" death, since that is what the government gave them. It is rather self-defeating to put forth a notion of "rights," and then assert that there are no "rights" when someone else takes that notion to an absurd and unpleasant conclusion.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part One **

It seems very much absurd to claim that something immaterial, such as objective rights, can exist when the material cosmos is all that there is. If you want to convince us of the plausibility of your worldview, you need to demonstrate how the existence of immaterial entities is not absurd when the physical cosmos is all that there is.

Objective rights need not be “immaterial entities” in order, in principle, simply to exist (or, more precisely, to be judged evidentially to apply). One way to interpret rights is to tie them together with objective value: Objective value would confer rights, and lack thereof would lead to their non-application. There are numerous ways in which “value” could be evidentially discerned. Suppose, for instance, that, every time a human were murdered, the ground beneath the principals quaked -- or dark, ominous clouds filled the sky -- but this did not happen when animals or plants were murdered. One might interpret that as being evidence of the wrongness of human murder, and therefore indicative of human life's unique value, and thus conclude humans are highly valued: an adequate starting point for an evidential argument for humans' rights.


1. On Christianity, all rights come from God, so to attempt to find rights inherent in nature is a self-defeating task. Your original statement was addressed (at least in part) to Christians, and my response was predicated upon Christianity. This response, however, is predicated upon naturalism, which, as an external critique, gives me no reason to believe that my original response is defective in some regard.

Your response was defective insofar as it evinced a lack of imagination in your insistence that rights, apart from god, cannot theoretically exist.

If you are unpersuaded by my value-driven example above, wherein rights can be argued for by virtue of evidence of objective value, consider other possibilities. A certain group of people might claim they have a right not to be killed. This would gain experimental support if, when somebody tried to shoot one of them in the head, or blow one of them up, that person remained unkilled, both alive and well. If the actions that would kill most people would not kill those people, those people would have claim to say they have a right not to be killed.


2. Given the nature of rights on Christianity, rights are impossible given naturalism. Simply stating this fact does nothing to critique my worldview, since I have no reason to abandon Christianity and accept naturalism.

Nor do I have any reason to abandon nihilism – that which I espouse -- and embrace Christianity, principally because, first, there is no evidential support for Christianity that I find persuasive and, second, even if rights can only exist in a Christian framework, which I dispute, I do not believe rights exist anyway. I am merely arguing for their theoretical possibility in a world sans god, that is, a world like ours.


3. If you want to convince us, as Christians, that objective rights do not exist, given the Christian nature of rights, you need to demonstrate that God does not in fact exist - not simply that you lack evidence to your liking that God exists, but that God does not exist in fact.

Your contention of a Christian nature of rights, again, betrays a poverty of imagination. Either of my examples above would suffice to support a metaphysically natural claim of rights, although one that, of course, remains arguable. And, no, I have no burden to prove that god does not, in fact, exist: not any more than I have a burden to prove that the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish does not, in fact, exist. Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Two **

You can't have it both ways: either rights are governmental privileges, or there is no such thing as rights at all. The reductio concerning the holocaust was predicated upon your definition of rights as "governmental privileges," and in that context, what people "deserve" follows from the "rights" that they possess. If "rights" come solely from the government, then people "deserve" whatever the government decides to give them. If the government gives life, then they have a "right" to life and "deserve" life. If the government kills them, then not only do they not "deserve" life (since the government took that "right" away), but they "deserve" death, since that is what the government gave them. It is rather self-defeating to put forth a notion of "rights," and then assert that there are no "rights" when someone else takes that notion to an absurd and unpleasant conclusion.

Your conflation of government-given privileges and factually “to deserve” those privileges -- or factually “to deserve” their revocation -- is fundamentally wrong. You pretend that government has the ability to define what, in fact, ought to be, when it only has the ability to determine what actually is. Americans do not have the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights because we ought to have them or because we deserve them; we have them because that's what the founders gave us. Nobody ought to have, do or get anything: such implies factualness rather than arbitrariness. Rights are given and taken away arbitrarily; that is incompatible with deserving what we get. We merely get what we get.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Objective rights need not be “immaterial entities” in order, in principle, simply to exist (or, more precisely, to be judged evidentially to apply).

In which case a right could be a material entity. Please, do explain how a right could be material. Inasmuch as material objects are extended in space, please indicate a particular spatial location where I may go to observe and examine a right. Inasmuch as material entities can be sensed by the five senses, please explain how one could use one's senses to sense a right.

One way to interpret rights is to tie them together with objective value: Objective value would confer rights, and lack thereof would lead to their non-application.

Is "objective value" material, or immaterial? If immaterial, why are you constructing and contending for theories concerning entities that your worldview does not allow for? On the other hand, if value is material, please explain how one can sense a value using the five senses, and tell me of a place I can go to observe and examine a value.

Suppose, for instance, that, every time a human were murdered, the ground beneath the principals quaked -- or dark, ominous clouds filled the sky -- but this did not happen when animals or plants were murdered. One might interpret that as being evidence of the wrongness of human murder, and therefore indicative of human life's unique value, and thus conclude humans are highly valued: an adequate starting point for an evidential argument for humans' rights.

1. If the cosmos is all that there is, then there is no reason to regard "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" any differently than a clear sunny day. One is simply a different atmospheric configuration than the other. So what? For your inference to work, you need an a priori principle relating "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" to moral wrongness. There is no reason to grant such a principle, given naturalism. On the other hand, if you are suppressing your innate knowledge of God, as stated in Scripture (Rom. 1:18-21), that explains why you would interpret "dark , ominous clouds filling the sky" with wrongness, as such is associated in God's revelation (both Scriptural and innate) with His judgment upon men for their unrighteousness.

2. Saying that humans are "highly valued" is rather meaningless unless it is specified by whom they are valued. Are the valued by the universe? How is it coherent to assert that an impersonal cosmos can act in a personal manner (by valuing something)?

Your response was defective insofar as it evinced a lack of imagination in your insistence that rights, apart from god, cannot theoretically exist.

Your response is defective insofar as it evidences a lack of understanding of Christian theology and/or an inability to follow the argument. On Christianity, God is the Lawgiver and Judge of humanity. He determines those things for which He will hold us to account. Inasmuch as He is the ultimate moral standard, there is nothing else from which rights can come. Claiming that "Rights can only come from God given Christianity" evidences a "lack of imagination" is just as inane as claiming that "Aryans are superior to Jews given Nazism" evidences a "lack of imagination." Both are simply consequences of their respective ideologies. Now, once again, if you wish to convince me that I should not accept that God is the foundation of rights, you need to do more than simply raise these kinds of vapid objections.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

If you are unpersuaded by my value-driven example above, wherein rights can be argued for by virtue of evidence of objective value, consider other possibilities. A certain group of people might claim they have a right not to be killed. This would gain experimental support if, when somebody tried to shoot one of them in the head, or blow one of them up, that person remained unkilled, both alive and well. If the actions that would kill most people would not kill those people, those people would have claim to say they have a right not to be killed.

Once again, if the cosmos is all that there is, there is no reason to regard an imperviousness to attempted murder any differently than a vulnerability to attempted murder. For your inference to work, you need an a priori principle relating "imperviousness to attempted murder" to a "right not to be killed." There is no reason to grant such a principle, given naturalism, and I don't see a reason to grant such a principle, given any other worldview with which I am aware. Indeed, such people could simply have a heretofore undiscovered natural ability, like Darwin, that allows them to survive murder attempts. There is no reason to infer a right to life simply on the basis of imperviousness to death.

even if rights can only exist in a Christian framework, which I dispute, I do not believe rights exist anyway. I am merely arguing for their theoretical possibility in a world sans god, that is, a world like ours.

You may not believe in rights, but I doubt that you live consistently with such a belief. If someone brutalized and killed someone that you loved, on nihilism, your moral outrage would be essentially indistinguishable from an expression of the emotion "Boo, murder!" or "Humbug, brutalization of loved ones!" Yet, intuitively, we know that there is something more to moral outrage at injustice than simply a negative emotion. You purport to follow the evidence, but this is evidence against your nihilism, if you will be honest enough with yourself to accept it.

Your contention of a Christian nature of rights, again, betrays a poverty of imagination.

See above comments on this contention.

Either of my examples above would suffice to support a metaphysically natural claim of rights

Except for the inconvenient fact that those examples fail to support such a claim, as I have demonstrated above.

And, no, I have no burden to prove that god does not, in fact, exist: not any more than I have a burden to prove that the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish does not, in fact, exist.

Another response that evidences a failure to follow the argument. You stated that Going by your standards, though, and ruling out metaphysically natural rights, thereby leaving only god-given ones, we can conclude no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do.. Unfortunately, I cannot conclude that "no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do" for the simple reason that this fact has not been demonstrated. Inasmuch as you have stated that the non-existence of rights is something that I can conclude, the burden of proof is upon you to demonstrate that God does not in fact exist, so that I can in fact be able to conclude this as well.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

1. On what basis do you conclude that my assertion is extraordinary? What is your evidence for that?
2. What are the objective standards of "extraordinariness"? What is your evidence that those are indeed the right objective standards? If your standards of "extraordinariness" are merely subjective, what reason do I have to accept them?
3. If the standards of "extraordinariness" are not merely subjective, and by my standards, the assertion that "Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected" is extraordinary, then evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected. Given these kinds of considerations, why should I (or anyone else) accept this assertion of yours?
4. Given that every man knows God (Rom. 1:21), it is not extraordinary at all that God exists, but rather extraordinary that He does not. Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your negative assertion (that God does not, in fact, exist) is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.
5. If the cosmos is all that there is, it is extraordinary that anything "should be" anything, since everything just is. Therefore, evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.
6. Given naturalism, why "ought" (or "should") certain propositions be rejected or accepted? If the cosmos is all that there is, then what I accept is simply what I accept, and there is nothing that defines what I should or should not accept. Thus, your principle is incoherent on naturalism.
7. You yourself said: Nobody ought to have, do or get anything". Yet, you also said: Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected. If people should reject extraordinary claims due to lack of evidence, then that is something that people ought to do. But this contradicts your first statement, in which you assert that nobody ought to do anything. Given that these remarks concern important tenets of your worldview, why should I (or anyone else, or even you, for that matter), accept your worldview, given its contradictory nature and concomitant irrationality?

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Your conflation of government-given privileges and factually “to deserve” those privileges -- or factually “to deserve” their revocation -- is fundamentally wrong. You pretend that government has the ability to define what, in fact, ought to be, when it only has the ability to determine what actually is.

Once again, your response evidences a failure to follow the argument, specificallly that it is apagogic in character. Perhaps a syllogism would make things more clear:

1. What people "deserve" follows from the "rights" that they possess. (Self-evident, given the deontic semantic content of the term "right")
2. The only "rights" that exist come from what the government allows and denies. (From your previous statement. *NOTE* This is not a position I affirm.)
3. Therefore, what people "deserve" follows from what the government allows and denies. (From 1 and 2)

On the one hand, you said that only government-issued rights -- privileges, really -- truly exist and Whatever rights people do have, which would be those bestowed by government are privileges inasmuch as they can be revoked, by dictate or statute or amendment. On the other hand, you say that I do not believe rights exist. Which is it? Do rights exist, or not? You may equivocate between the terms "rights" and "privileges," but that doesn't suddenly empty the term "right" of its deontic semantic content, which is the basis for premise 1. For example: If I have a right to life, then I deserve to not be murdered. If I have a right to liberty, then I deserve not to be kidnapped, etc. This follows from the deontic qualities in the meaning of the term "right." Now, are you going to address my reductio of your position on its own terms, or are you going to content yourself with immolating straw men?

Americans do not have the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights because we ought to have them or because we deserve them; we have them because that's what the founders gave us.

Which is ironic, given that the Founders themselves stated that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Matthew C. Martellus said...

It looks like the spam filter ate the 2nd of the my 4-part post. Hopefully Rho can get it back. If not, I'll try to repost it.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part One **


In which case a right could be a material entity. Please, do explain how a right could be material. Inasmuch as material objects are extended in space, please indicate a particular spatial location where I may go to observe and examine a right. Inasmuch as material entities can be sensed by the five senses, please explain how one could use one's senses to sense a right.

Your standard is disingenuous, as are your requests. Rights can be said to exist in "concept space." As American citizens, where is our right to freedom of assembly? Not in the Bill of Rights, a mere collection of written words. Our right to freedom of assembly exists in concept space, just as other notions, fairness perhaps being among them, do.


Is "objective value" material, or immaterial? If immaterial, why are you constructing and contending for theories concerning entities that your worldview does not allow for? On the other hand, if value is material, please explain how one can sense a value using the five senses, and tell me of a place I can go to observe and examine a value.

The second is another disingenuous request, because I am merely arguing for objective value's theoretical possibility, not its actuality. And, when I speak of a theoretical natural objective value, I speak of something akin to the speed of light in vacuum, which is to say a description of the way the universe is. The universe could be made in such a way that salmon, as with slam-dunks in basketball, are worth two points, whereas humans, as with three-pointers, are worth three. The accessibility of these facts to humans is immaterial to their theoretical existence.


1. If the cosmos is all that there is, then there is no reason to regard "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" any differently than a clear sunny day. One is simply a different atmospheric configuration than the other. So what? For your inference to work, you need an a priori principle relating "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" to moral wrongness. There is no reason to grant such a principle, given naturalism. On the other hand, if you are suppressing your innate knowledge of God, as stated in Scripture (Rom. 1:18-21), that explains why you would interpret "dark , ominous clouds filling the sky" with wrongness, as such is associated in God's revelation (both Scriptural and innate) with His judgment upon men for their unrighteousness.

The ominous cloud example of what might happen when a human is murdered is an arbitrary one; what matters is that something qualitatively different happens in the case of human murder versus plant or animal murder. Those qualitatively different repercussions could lead one to surmise that there are qualitative differences between humans and plant and animal life, especially pertaining to the killing thereof.


2. Saying that humans are "highly valued" is rather meaningless unless it is specified by whom they are valued. Are the valued by the universe? How is it coherent to assert that an impersonal cosmos can act in a personal manner (by valuing something)?

It would be incoherent to say that the cosmos values human beings in the same way I value my mother or my friends; that, however is not what I am saying. It could be the case that nature is hierarchically organized such that some creatures have greater intrinsic value than others do, akin to how, given the way basketball is organized, three-pointers are worth more than slam-dunks are. (Did somebody, at some point, decide that? Sure, but it is irrelevant. Three-pointers are worth more than slam-dunks are because that is the way, as created, the game is.)

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Two **


Your response is defective insofar as it evidences a lack of understanding of Christian theology and/or an inability to follow the argument. On Christianity, God is the Lawgiver and Judge of humanity. He determines those things for which He will hold us to account. Inasmuch as He is the ultimate moral standard, there is nothing else from which rights can come. Claiming that "Rights can only come from God given Christianity" evidences a "lack of imagination" is just as inane as claiming that "Aryans are superior to Jews given Nazism" evidences a "lack of imagination." Both are simply consequences of their respective ideologies. Now, once again, if you wish to convince me that I should not accept that God is the foundation of rights, you need to do more than simply raise these kinds of vapid objections.

You seem to have misunderstood me inasmuch as, particularly in my original reply in this thread, I was neither asking nor inviting Christians to try to deliver a from-the-ground-up, evidence-based argument for rights from within their Christian framework. I know rights can only come from God given Christianity, but, since Christianity is not the case, I care not. I am merely saying there is no theoretical barrier to the existence of from-the-ground-up, evidence-based arguments for rights, even if none actually exists in the cosmos.


Once again, if the cosmos is all that there is, there is no reason to regard an imperviousness to attempted murder any differently than a vulnerability to attempted murder. For your inference to work, you need an a priori principle relating "imperviousness to attempted murder" to a "right not to be killed." There is no reason to grant such a principle, given naturalism, and I don't see a reason to grant such a principle, given any other worldview with which I am aware. Indeed, such people could simply have a heretofore undiscovered natural ability, like Darwin, that allows them to survive murder attempts. There is no reason to infer a right to life simply on the basis of imperviousness to death.

I should have said an inviolable right not to be killed. Demonstrated imperviousness to attempted murder would not be conclusive, but it would provide what I said it would: experimental support for the conclusion. This is how science works. A hypothesis is proffered, that hypothesis entails predictions, an experiment tests one or more of those predictions and the prediction either is confirmed or is disconfirmed. A right that can be abrogated is hardly worth considering. If a man declares he has a right to life, and then I walk up and shoot him dead, what is the point of the right existing? An inviolable right would be a right worth having, and a claim of such an inviolable right could be tested experimentally and, potentially, gain experimental support.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Three **


You may not believe in rights, but I doubt that you live consistently with such a belief. If someone brutalized and killed someone that you loved, on nihilism, your moral outrage would be essentially indistinguishable from an expression of the emotion "Boo, murder!" or "Humbug, brutalization of loved ones!" Yet, intuitively, we know that there is something more to moral outrage at injustice than simply a negative emotion. You purport to follow the evidence, but this is evidence against your nihilism, if you will be honest enough with yourself to accept it.

I am uncertain what the "something more" to which you refer supposedly is. I, of course, accept Darwinian evolution and, certainly, recognize that particular instincts have been inculcated into me in order that my own genes, and closely related genes, are propagated widely. I have been conditioned to love relatives because, ultimately, they share my genetic complement. I have been conditioned, biologically, to love friends because cooperation and reciprocity are in my survival interest, and because companionship makes a social animal happier, which likely increases reproductive fitness when compared to despondency. It's perfectly explicable why the brutal murder of a loved one would deeply upset me. So what?


Except for the inconvenient fact that those examples fail to support such a claim, as I have demonstrated above.

They would not be conclusive, and perhaps my language should have been a tad less definitive, but they would provide that for which I asked: a from-the-ground-up, evidence-based argument for rights. As with many arguments, its persuasiveness would remain disputable.


Another response that evidences a failure to follow the argument. You stated that Going by your standards, though, and ruling out metaphysically natural rights, thereby leaving only god-given ones, we can conclude no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do. Unfortunately, I cannot conclude that "no rights do, in fact, exist because no gods, in fact, do" for the simple reason that this fact has not been demonstrated. Inasmuch as you have stated that the non-existence of rights is something that I can conclude, the burden of proof is upon you to demonstrate that God does not in fact exist, so that I can in fact be able to conclude this as well.

The problem is clearly our mutually different First Principles, mine being that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. If there is no supporting evidence for a positive assertion of existence, it is eminently sensible to conclude nonexistence. The god to whom you prostrate yourself is no better evidenced than the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish is or invisible garden banshees are. I cannot prove the negative that none of these characters exists, but, given an evidential First Principle, and no persuasive evidence, the likelihood of any of their existence is close enough to zero to be effectively such.


1. On what basis do you conclude that my assertion is extraordinary? What is your evidence for that?

In your god character, you posit an immaterial, supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent super-being. You do not posit a notion existing in "concept space" but, rather, an actual, personal immaterial character, when no immaterial character has ever been confirmed to exist. Neither has any supernatural character ever been confirmed to exist. Neither have omniscience or omnipotence ever been discovered in the world, or anything approximating them. In short, you are positing something qualitatively different, in essentially every way, from everything we do know exists.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Four **


2. What are the objective standards of "extraordinariness"? What is your evidence that those are indeed the right objective standards? If your standards of "extraordinariness" are merely subjective, what reason do I have to accept them?

There is merely a definitional question: "Extraordinary" is the antonym of "ordinary" and, thus, a claim is extraordinary to the degree it departs from the ordinary course of events. If I claim to own a car, that is quite ordinary because people like me often own cars. If I claim to own a nuclear missile, however, it is extraordinary because people like me almost never own nuclear missiles, even though missiles exist. If I claim to own an intergalactic spacecraft, that is exceptionally extraordinary because people like me never own intergalactic spacecraft, and none has even been demonstrated to exist.


3. If the standards of "extraordinariness" are not merely subjective, and by my standards, the assertion that "Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected" is extraordinary, then evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected. Given these kinds of considerations, why should I (or anyone else) accept this assertion of yours?

As noted, "extraordinary" is merely the antonym of "ordinary," so it would be your duty to demonstrate how "Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected" is itself extraordinary in nature. I submit that you apply this principle every single day. You would be more skeptical of an acquaintance claiming to own an intergalactic spacecraft than you would be of his claiming to own a nuclear missile than you would be of his claiming to own a car.


4. Given that every man knows God (Rom. 1:21), it is not extraordinary at all that God exists, but rather extraordinary that He does not. Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your negative assertion (that God does not, in fact, exist) is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

Your appeal to biblical authority is wholly lacking foundation and, in fact, the Romans verse is wrong insofar as I am a man and I do not know god.


5. If the cosmos is all that there is, it is extraordinary that anything "should be" anything, since everything just is. Therefore, evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

The godless universe in which we find ourselves, indeed, seems entirely to lack categorical imperatives, but that does not preclude hypothetical imperatives. The "should be" in my sentence has the implicit hypothetical imperative of "If one wishes to approximate truth to one's best ability."


6. Given naturalism, why "ought" (or "should") certain propositions be rejected or accepted? If the cosmos is all that there is, then what I accept is simply what I accept, and there is nothing that defines what I should or should not accept. Thus, your principle is incoherent on naturalism.

My principle would be incoherent if I aspired to deliver a categorical imperative, which I do not. However, hypothetical imperatives are fully compatible with naturalism, as well as being compatible with the non-existence of categorical imperatives.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Five **


7. You yourself said: Nobody ought to have, do or get anything". Yet, you also said: Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected. If people should reject extraordinary claims due to lack of evidence, then that is something that people ought to do. But this contradicts your first statement, in which you assert that nobody ought to do anything. Given that these remarks concern important tenets of your worldview, why should I (or anyone else, or even you, for that matter), accept your worldview, given its contradictory nature and concomitant irrationality?

Because the irrationality to which you mistakenly refer is bound up with your conflation of categorical imperatives with hypothetical ones. Again, my implicit hypothetical imperative in that statement was "If one wishes to approximate truth to one's best ability." Yes, according to my worldview, nobody categorically ought to have, do or get anything; that, however, leaves plenty of room for hypothetical "oughts," such as, "If I wish to drive to work, I ought to get into my car" to exist.


Once again, your response evidences a failure to follow the argument, specifically that it is apagogic in character. Perhaps a syllogism would make things more clear:

1. What people "deserve" follows from the "rights" that they possess. (Self-evident, given the deontic semantic content of the term "right")
2. The only "rights" that exist come from what the government allows and denies. (From your previous statement. *NOTE* This is not a position I affirm.)
3. Therefore, what people "deserve" follows from what the government allows and denies. (From 1 and 2)


Your confusion lies in the fact that you are conflating government dictates with actual, factual reality. In our godless world, it could be said government is the only moral lawgiver...the only entity that can say, for instance, that murder is wrong and murderers ought to be punished. However, were I to claim factual morality exists and declare that murder is wrong precisely because government has proscribed it, would you agree that I had discovered an actual, factual moral code in the godless cosmos? Of course not! Murder would be wrong in the eyes of government and according to it. Similarly, Nazis might have thought the Jews deserved extermination, and that would be true according to them, but it would not be a fact of the universe.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Six **

On the one hand, you said that only government-issued rights -- privileges, really -- truly exist and Whatever rights people do have, which would be those bestowed by government, are privileges inasmuch as they can be revoked by dictate or statute or amendment. On the other hand, you say that I do not believe rights exist. Which is it? Do rights exist, or not? You may equivocate between the terms "rights" and "privileges," but that doesn't suddenly empty the term "right" of its deontic semantic content, which is the basis for premise 1. For example: If I have a right to life, then I deserve to not be murdered. If I have a right to liberty, then I deserve not to be kidnapped, etc. This follows from the deontic qualities in the meaning of the term "right." Now, are you going to address my reductio of your position on its own terms, or are you going to content yourself with immolating straw men?

We can never advance beyond this impasse until you recognize the valid, substantive distinction between the objective and the subjective. Government does not have the power to define cosmic truth: It cannot make Jews objectively deserve torturous death anymore than it can make murder objectively, factually immoral. Rights can exist to the extent that they mean, "In the eyes of my governing authority, I have these privileges and deserve them," but the "In the eyes of my governing authority" cannot be stripped out. It is, again, a matter of categorical versus hypothetical. If I look from the perspective of my governing authority, I have this complement of privileges and deserve this treatment. That, however, says nothing about objectively, factually deserving anything any more than murder's legal proscription makes it objectively immoral.


Which is ironic, given that the Founders themselves stated that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It is always useful to couch one's own opinions in divine garb and to plant them in some kind of timeless soil, such that they might appear not to be one's whims any longer. The Founders gave us the rights they thought -- for whatever reason -- that we deserved. They did not have access to universal, cosmic truth.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

THE JOLLY NIHILIST SAID:

Your standard is disingenuous, as are your requests. Rights can be said to exist in "concept space."

It is your response, rather that is disingenuous. What is a concept space, on naturalism? Is it material, or immaterial? If material, where is it located, how large is it, and how may I observe it with my five senses? If immaterial, how is that coherent on naturalism?

As American citizens, where is our right to freedom of assembly? Not in the Bill of Rights, a mere collection of written words. Our right to freedom of assembly exists in concept space, just as other notions, fairness perhaps being among them, do.

That freedom is immaterial poses no problem for my worldview. Once again, how is a "concept space" coherent on naturalism?

The second is another disingenuous request, because I am merely arguing for objective value's theoretical possibility, not its actuality.

And another disingenuous response. Possibility entails coherence. Arguing for the theoretical possibility of an absurdity is absurd in its own right.

And, when I speak of a theoretical natural objective value, I speak of something akin to the speed of light in vacuum, which is to say a description of the way the universe is.

Except that the speed of a particle is a function of its material extension in space, which once again raises the question of how value is materially defined.

The universe could be made in such a way that salmon, as with slam-dunks in basketball, are worth two points, whereas humans, as with three-pointers, are worth three.

This example is disanalogous, because humans have assigned value to those things. To make a convincing analogy to the possibility of impersonally-assigned value, you need to find an example of value that has not been assigned by a person.

The ominous cloud example of what might happen when a human is murdered is an arbitrary one; what matters is that something qualitatively different happens in the case of human murder versus plant or animal murder. Those qualitatively different repercussions could lead one to surmise that there are qualitative differences between humans and plant and animal life, especially pertaining to the killing thereof.

As these responses fail to address my previous points, I'm beginning to repeat myself. As I said before, for your inference to work, you need an a priori principle relating "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" to moral wrongness, else such an evidential inference is a non sequitur. Without such a principle, there would be no reason to see the correlation as anything other than a purely natural phenomenon with no moral dimension. Indeed, given naturalism, and Occam's razor, there is no reason to resort to the immaterial deontic, when everything is explainable in terms of the physical.

Simply saying that "one could surmise..." is terribly unconvincing. Please, state your principle by which you connect "dark, ominous clouds filling the sky" to moral wrongness, and your evidential inference from empirical observation to the existence of rights syllogistically, so that its cogency may be evaluated. Otherwise, you are simply making claims that no one has any reason to accept.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(Part 2)

It could be the case that nature is hierarchically organized such that some creatures have greater intrinsic value than others do, akin to how, given the way basketball is organized, three-pointers are worth more than slam-dunks are. (Did somebody, at some point, decide that? Sure, but it is irrelevant. Three-pointers are worth more than slam-dunks are because that is the way, as created, the game is.)

Once again, your examples are disanalogous, as they all involve things that have been created by a person, and values that have been assigned by a person. To make your analogy work, you need to supply an instance of value not assigned by a person to an entity that has not been created.

I am merely saying there is no theoretical barrier to the existence of from-the-ground-up, evidence-based arguments for rights, even if none actually exists in the cosmos.

And this has not been demonstrated, since there is no justified a priori principle, given naturalism, that connects the correlation of cosmic events to moral qualities.

Demonstrated imperviousness to attempted murder would not be conclusive, but it would provide what I said it would: experimental support for the conclusion.

Except for the inconvenient fact that there is no "experimental support" apart from an a priori principle relating the observed phenomena to the hypothesized model. Once again, what is this principle, and what is the explicit inference procedure by which it is cogently applied? Why should this not be interpreted as a purely natural phenomenon, with no moral dimension? After all, that would be the simpler answer, given Occam's Razor and naturalism.

I have been conditioned to love relatives because, ultimately, they share my genetic complement. I have been conditioned, biologically, to love friends because cooperation and reciprocity are in my survival interest, and because companionship makes a social animal happier, which likely increases reproductive fitness when compared to despondency. It's perfectly explicable why the brutal murder of a loved one would deeply upset me.

If you ever find yourself a victim of injustice, be sure to suppress your innate tendency to say "That was WRONG! The offender DESERVES to be punished!" Just keep telling yourself "This is only a biologically-conditioned response. I am merely expressing an emotion as a result of my evolutionary conditioning..."

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(Part 3)

The problem is clearly our mutually different First Principles, mine being that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience.

I agree that this is significant part of the disagreement. However, I am left to wonder, as you interrogated the world of experience, what evidence you used to approximate the truth that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. If there was no such evidence, then why accept this principle? After all, that would mean that you chose that principle that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as the result of a less-reliable method of approximating truth, which is self-defeating. On the other hand, if there is evidence, what is it? What is the explicit, cogent, inference by which you concluded this principle from that evidence?

Furthermore, if truth is only approximated in our knowledge, then the truth of your first principle is only approximate. But if this is the case, there is no way to tell how far away from reality it actually is, since any estimation of the difference would itself be approximate, and any estimation of that difference would be approximate, and so on. Given the uncertainty inherent in your first principle, how do you know it is actually a "reliable" and "the best" method of approximating truth?

If there is no supporting evidence for a positive assertion of existence, it is eminently sensible to conclude nonexistence

Actually, given the principle of indifference, it is most reasonable to suspend judgment in the absence of evidence and conclude that both existence and non-existence are equally probable. So, why are you an atheist, instead of an agnostic, which would be more rational?

The god to whom you prostrate yourself is no better evidenced than the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish is or invisible garden banshees are.

Except for the inconvenient fact that God has made himself evident to all (Rom. 1:18-21), while the others are simply figments of the imagination. Not to mention that neither the ECC nor IGBs are transcendent beings capable of creating and sustaining the cosmos and grounding the preconditions of intelligibility. Lumping these together with the God of the Bible evidences a lack of perspicuity concerning the categories involved.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(Part 4)

I cannot prove the negative that none of these characters exists, but, given an evidential First Principle, and no persuasive evidence, the likelihood of any of their existence is close enough to zero to be effectively such.

1. In context, this fails to address my previous contention that you have the burden of proof to demonstrate the non-existence of God, whether you are able to or not.
2. You said that God, in fact does not exist. That is a far cry from saying that the likelihood of their existence is extremely small.
3. The probabilities in question are epistemic, not ontic. There is no collection of universes that we can examine, and say "God exists in this one, but not in that" and so calculate a probability that He exists in this universe. All we have is this universe, so the probabilities are epistemic. But if the probabilities are epistemic, they are either subjective or objective. If they are objective, then what is the objective standard by which you calculate the probability of God's existence? Why should I accept such a standard? What is the evidence? Furthermore, given naturalism, it is incoherent to say that there are normative epistemic standards. If the standards are subjective, then why should I accept yours? Flat-earthers assign a high epistemic probability to the flatness of the earth, and a low probability to its roundness. You do not accept their likelihoods. Why should I accept yours?
4. The likelihood of the existence of God that you espouse is subjective, but that is categorically different than saying that God in fact does not exist? Whence the confusion of categories?

You do not posit a notion existing in "concept space" but, rather, an actual, personal immaterial character, when no immaterial character has ever been confirmed to exist. Neither has any supernatural character ever been confirmed to exist. Neither have omniscience or omnipotence ever been discovered in the world, or anything approximating them. In short, you are positing something qualitatively different, in essentially every way, from everything we do know exists.

1. That all depends on what is meant by "confirmed to exist." The Bible is full of people whose experiences of God's revelation (by words, visions, theophany, or the Incarnation) confirm His existence. If you refer to empirical confirmation via methodological naturalism, such a request commits a category error, for the immaterial cannot be demonstrated from the material, without an a priori principle connecting the material to the immaterial. Neither can the supernatural be demonstrated from the natural, without an a priori principle connecting the natural to the supernatural. But such naturalism rules such principles out. Hence, it is a rather vacuous conclusion that "no immaterial/supernatural character has ever been confirmed to exist" since such confirmation is ruled out by your presuppositions to begin with.

2. I'll repeat my original question: On what basis do you conclude that my assertion is extraordinary? What is your evidence for that? You haven't given me any empirical evidence for the extraordinariness of God's existence. Yet, you say that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth. Is your conclusion that God's existence is extraordinary gleaned from an unreliable method of approximating truth? Are you reasoning outside of your First Principle? If not, where is the evidence? I'm sure we would all like to see it and examine it for ourselves.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(Part 5)

There is merely a definitional question: "Extraordinary" is the antonym of "ordinary" and, thus, a claim is extraordinary to the degree it departs from the ordinary course of events.

The issue goes beyond the definition of the term, to how you know the term applies in a given situation. If the claim God's existence is extraordinary, and you know this truth (or have approximated it), then, by your first principle, there is some evidence by which you came to approximate this truth. What is the evidence? What is the explicit evidential inference used to reach this conclusion?

As noted, "extraordinary" is merely the antonym of "ordinary," so it would be your duty to demonstrate how "Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected" is itself extraordinary in nature

In context, the question is predicated upon a subjective standard of "extraordinariness." Having a "duty to demonstrate" presupposes an objective standard of "extraordinariness" to which one's subjective standards must be aligned. Not only does this not follow the argument, but it raises the question again: are standards of "extraordinariness" objective or subjective? Yes or no?

Your appeal to biblical authority is wholly lacking foundation and, in fact, the Romans verse is wrong insofar as I am a man and I do not know god.

Your appeal to evidential authority is wholly lacking foundation, and in fact, self-defeating, as you do not have evidence for the authority of evidence.

The godless universe in which we find ourselves, indeed, seems entirely to lack categorical imperatives, but that does not preclude hypothetical imperatives. The "should be" in my sentence has the implicit hypothetical imperative of "If one wishes to approximate truth to one's best ability."

You may claim to deal only in hypothetical imperatives, but I doubt that you are thoroughly consistent in this.

Your original statement: Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

Your original statement, appropriately modified: If you want to approximate truth to the best of your ability, reject this assertion, because evidence commensurate with its extraordinariness is needed to substantiate it.

1. The modified statement carries much less deontic force than the original. If you want to deal only in hypothetical imperatives, then be consistent about it, and make sure that the deontic force of your assertions is commensurate with the deontic force of your hypothetical imperatives. Otherwise, these kinds of assertions are disingenuous, given your worldview.

2. Would you say that "One should want to approximate truth to the best of one's ability?" If so, then why? What is the evidence? If not, then what force does the hypothetical imperative of your original assertion carry with respect to anyone else?

3. If evidence is the best way to approximate truth, then what is the evidence that you used to conclude that there are only hypothetical imperatives? What is the explicit evidential inference that you utilized to conclude this in a cogent manner?

4. What are your standards of "evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness" of an assertion? Why should I, or anyone else, accept them?

5. How does one know when one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability? What is the evidence that one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability? What is the the evidence that one has enough evidence to approximate the truth that "one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability" to the best of one's ability?

Matthew C. Martellus said...

(Part 6)

hypothetical imperatives are fully compatible with naturalism, as well as being compatible with the non-existence of categorical imperatives.

This doesn't solve your problem - it only moves it back a level. The force of a hypothetical imperative depends on the condition of the imperative. Inasmuch as the condition is something to the effect of "being rational" or "approximating truth," then there are objective standards of rationality or epistemology that are presumed. Yet, on materialism, such objective standards are incoherent, inasmuch as objective standards are immaterial.

that, however, leaves plenty of room for hypothetical "oughts," such as, "If I wish to drive to work, I ought to get into my car" to exist.

Your example is not a hypothetical imperative, but an ought inside of a conditional, which carries deontic force. To put this in proper hypothetical imperative form, you would need to say "If you want to drive to work, get into your car" or "If one wants to drive to work, let one get into one's car." Once again, if you're going to commit to only using hypothetical imperatives, then the deontic force of your assertions needs to be commensurate with the deontic force of the hypothetical imperatives themselves.

Your confusion lies in the fact that you are conflating government dictates with actual, factual reality...

And once again, your response fails to address my argument, immolating a poor, helpless straw man in quite a spectacular fashion. I'm not going to respond further on this matter until my argument is specifically dealt with. It's pretty simple: there are only 3 points, with the implicit understanding that the third point is an absurd consequence of the first two. If you reject one of the two premises, state which one and why. If you think the argument is formally invalid, please state why.

The Founders gave us the rights they thought -- for whatever reason -- that we deserved. They did not have access to universal, cosmic truth.

And you know this because...yes, you have evidence for this assertion, because you hold true to your first principle, that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. What is your evidence that the Founders did not "have access to universal, cosmic truth"? What is the explicit evidential inference by which you concluded this in a cogent manner?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part One **


I have concluded that arguing for the theoretical existence of naturally existing objective values, from which one might infer naturally existing objective rights, is a losing proposition, insofar as I have been convinced that “value” does, in fact, require an assessor of value. I concede that portion.


It is your response, rather that is disingenuous. What is a concept space, on naturalism? Is it material, or immaterial? If material, where is it located, how large is it, and how may I observe it with my five senses? If immaterial, how is that coherent on naturalism?

Although conceding the value/rights portion, this is manifestly ludicrous. Naturalism does not say that everything, in itself, is a physical, material, sensorially detectable thing; rather, it holds that everything that exists is part of the natural, rather than a supposed supernatural, world. Abstract concepts with which human beings come up, via physical, material brain processes, are fully compatible with there being no supernatural world.


That freedom is immaterial poses no problem for my worldview. Once again, how is a "concept space" coherent on naturalism?

You accuse me of ignorance of the Christian perspective, but, if you think naturalists and physicalists hold that everything existing is itself a physical, sensorially detectable thing, you are woefully mistaken. Physicalist ideas are varied, not monolithic, but the briefest possible summary is physicalists believe everything, ultimately, in the last analysis, is traceable to that which is physical. That abstract concepts, such as "freedom," "fairness" and "the rights of American citizens," exist is manifest; it is on its face ridiculous, though -- not to mention bordering on incomprehensible -- to say any of those things are predicated upon a supernatural world's existence.


If you ever find yourself a victim of injustice, be sure to suppress your innate tendency to say "That was WRONG! The offender DESERVES to be punished!" Just keep telling yourself "This is only a biologically-conditioned response. I am merely expressing an emotion as a result of my evolutionary conditioning..."

Just because one is acutely aware of the fact of universal common descent, one is not obligated to live one's life as though he were an empty shell stuffed with genes. I know, intellectually, that I love my family because I have undergone Darwinian conditioning. I know I value friendship, and my friends, because I am a social animal. I know that I wish to be intimate with women because I have a genetic imperative to propagate my genes widely. I know that my thoughts and, indeed, the “I” that I sense within are merely the results of my physically operating brain. But I, as with nearly all others, do subjectively enchant my existence; this is little different from striving to do things even while realizing you, personally, do not matter and none of your accomplishments will be enduring.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Two **


I agree that this is significant part of the disagreement. However, I am left to wonder, as you interrogated the world of experience, what evidence you used to approximate the truth that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience. If there was no such evidence, then why accept this principle? After all, that would mean that you chose that principle that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as the result of a less-reliable method of approximating truth, which is self-defeating. On the other hand, if there is evidence, what is it? What is the explicit, cogent, inference by which you concluded this principle from that evidence?

Since the world in which I find myself is, to me, the world of experience, I simply look around at what works in this world as a means of ascertaining truth. Criminal justice systems that are driven by evidence gathering and examination are clearly much more likely to zero-in on criminals than are systems in which evidence is shunted aside when trying to determine guilt. In the medical field, those doctors who ascertain what symptoms a patient manifests (gathers symptomatic evidence) before reaching conclusions about what afflicts the patient are clearly much more likely to diagnose the illness correctly than are doctors who gather no symptomatic evidence. And, inarguably, in nearly every person's everyday life, he or she gathers, and acts upon, evidence constantly: For example, when, upon seeing brake lights illuminate in front of us, we apply our own brakes, having realized that the evidence of the brake lights indicates the car in front of us is slowing.


Furthermore, if truth is only approximated in our knowledge, then the truth of your first principle is only approximate. But if this is the case, there is no way to tell how far away from reality it actually is, since any estimation of the difference would itself be approximate, and any estimation of that difference would be approximate, and so on. Given the uncertainty inherent in your first principle, how do you know it is actually a "reliable" and "the best" method of approximating truth?

When one speaks about a species that speciated from the ancestors of the chimpanzees only about 7 million years ago, one must retain one's humility and realize that our truths are provisional and that we do not have the luxury of absolute, unshakeable certainty. If one wishes to interrogate the world of experience, one must logically have an interrogatory starting point: mine is evidentialism. Given the discussion above about evidence's practical, ubiquitous utility, I am satisfied with this principle until I have sufficient cause to adopt a different one.


Actually, given the principle of indifference, it is most reasonable to suspend judgment in the absence of evidence and conclude that both existence and non-existence are equally probable. So, why are you an atheist, instead of an agnostic, which would be more rational?

Given that the human mind can create what seems to be an endless parade of characters, gods, monsters, etc., it would be bizarre indeed to say that, in the absence of evidence to disconfirm them, it is equally likely that Hargozinu, Aphtalax and Sebrepian -- three minor gods whom I have just conceived -- exist as not exist. When somebody presents one with the hypothesis of invisible garden banshees, but proffers no evidence, why would a thinking person assign 50/50 probability to their existence when the same person could then present 500 other potential beings in the “invisible [blank] banshee” mold (thus making the existence of some of the banshees a virtual statistical certainty)?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Three **


Except for the inconvenient fact that God has made himself evident to all (Rom. 1:18-21)...

I am part of “all,” and god has not made himself evident to me, which means the Romans passage is incorrect; therefore, the bible contains erroneous information.


while the others are simply figments of the imagination. Not to mention that neither the ECC nor IGBs are transcendent beings capable of creating and sustaining the cosmos and grounding the preconditions of intelligibility. Lumping these together with the God of the Bible evidences a lack of perspicuity concerning the categories involved.

Your rejection of the ECC and IGBs is seemingly driven by
* Their lack of transcendence
* Their lack of the ability to create and sustain the cosmos
* Their lack of ability to ground the preconditions of intelligibility

Therefore, it seems your apparent responsibility is to deliver a probabilistic argument pertaining to why entities possessing those qualities are more likely to exist than those lacking those qualities are; the qualities you have identified seem wholly arbitrary. Also, I could redefine Hargozinu, Aphtalax and Sebrepian to be major gods, each possessing every necessary characteristic (but sufficiently different in variables not to be Yahweh), and claim whichever one divinely revealed his truth to me. Finally, since your quality list is arbitrary, I also could confect such a list. For instance, I could say that Yahweh is far less likely to exist than Hargozinu is because only Hargozinu has sufficiently strong arms to hold the universe in his hand, thus preventing it from plummeting into the ethereal waters below.


1. In context, this fails to address my previous contention that you have the burden of proof to demonstrate the non-existence of God, whether you are able to or not.

You, not I, are the person making the positive assertion of existence, which means you, not I, must, according to my First Principle, deliver evidential support for your assertion. Without compelling evidential support, Yahweh is no different from Hargozinu, Aphtalax and Sebrepian, except that, in the cases of the latter, I invented those gods whereas, in the case of the former, primitive men of the ancient world did.


2. You said that God, in fact does not exist. That is a far cry from saying that the likelihood of their existence is extremely small.

I can be as confident that the god of the bible does not exist as I can be with respect to Hargozinu. The ease with which gods can be created, and the dearth of persuasive evidence, leads to a very large graveyard of gods, indeed.


3. The probabilities in question are epistemic, not ontic. There is no collection of universes that we can examine, and say "God exists in this one, but not in that" and so calculate a probability that He exists in this universe. All we have is this universe, so the probabilities are epistemic. But if the probabilities are epistemic, they are either subjective or objective. If they are objective, then what is the objective standard by which you calculate the probability of God's existence? Why should I accept such a standard? What is the evidence?

For me, the ultimate standard is always my First Principle, insofar as the only world in which I exist, and thus can interrogate, is the world of experience. I find recourse to evidence to be an extremely satisfactory interrogatory starting point because, as stated above, evidence is utilized ubiquitously and, far more reliably than any other method, yields the sought-after results. If it is suggested to me that a god operates in the world of experience, I would interrogate said world and look for god's fingerprints; should no compelling fingerprints be found, I would conclude no god exists, while remaining open to the possibility, vanishingly tiny though it might be, that such fingerprints might one day materialize.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Four **


Furthermore, given naturalism, it is incoherent to say that there are normative epistemic standards. If the standards are subjective, then why should I accept yours? Flat-earthers assign a high epistemic probability to the flatness of the earth, and a low probability to its roundness. You do not accept their likelihoods. Why should I accept yours?

If your First Principle is something other than evidentialism as I have defined it, there is no reason to embrace my assessment of god's probability. If, however, you identify yourself as an evidentialist, we share common ground.


4. The likelihood of the existence of God that you espouse is subjective, but that is categorically different than saying that God in fact does not exist? Whence the confusion of categories?

I embrace my evidential First Principle and, in so doing, reject all others. Thus, the likelihood of god's existence according to other worldviews that I find lacking is of little interest, or consequence, to me. My current provisional conclusion, reasoning as I do, in accordance with the principle I've set forth, is no gods exist. This is my conclusion irrespective of whether other people, with other foundational principles, reason differently.


1. That all depends on what is meant by "confirmed to exist." The Bible is full of people whose experiences of God's revelation (by words, visions, theophany, or the Incarnation) confirm His existence.

The bible is a collection of texts, many of them of unknown authorship, essentially all of them of questionable veracity, written at a time when the ignorance of men was matched only by their credulousness.


If you refer to empirical confirmation via methodological naturalism, such a request commits a category error, for the immaterial cannot be demonstrated from the material, without an a priori principle connecting the material to the immaterial. Neither can the supernatural be demonstrated from the natural, without an a priori principle connecting the natural to the supernatural. But such naturalism rules such principles out. Hence, it is a rather vacuous conclusion that "no immaterial/supernatural character has ever been confirmed to exist" since such confirmation is ruled out by your presuppositions to begin with.

I bring to bear no presuppositions that, in principle, rule out the supernatural or the immaterial. For instance, I would be compelled to believe that a god exists if, one day, every single human being alive on this planet -- all 6.8 billion of us -- received a personal revelation from the deity that happened, down to the person, to be identical. Rather than relying on a dusty book of the primitive writings of ignorant men, why does god not simply reveal himself, identically, to every single human being? Additionally, if every true Christian bible were unalterable, self-translating and indestructible, it would be difficult to reject Christianity out of hand, as it also would be if true Christian believers were endowed with the ability to resuscitate the deceased.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Five **


2. I'll repeat my original question: On what basis do you conclude that my assertion is extraordinary? What is your evidence for that? You haven't given me any empirical evidence for the extraordinariness of God's existence. Yet, you say that evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth. Is your conclusion that God's existence is extraordinary gleaned from an unreliable method of approximating truth? Are you reasoning outside of your First Principle? If not, where is the evidence? I'm sure we would all like to see it and examine it for ourselves.

You posit a god who is supernatural, when no general proposition establishing a supernatural realm has been established. You posit a god who is an immaterial being, when no general proposition establishing immaterial beings has been established. You posit a god who possesses infinite attributes (i.e., omniscience, omnipotence), when no general proposition establishing infinite attributes has been established. You posit a supernatural, immaterial god who paradoxically created a natural, material world, when no general proposition governing the interaction of supernatural/immaterial and natural/material has been established. You posit a god who rules over heaven and consigns entities to hell, when no general proposition enabling an immaterial being to rule over an immaterial place, or permitting a supernatural being to consign entities to a supernatural place, has been established. If “extraordinary” is to mean anything, it applies when the thing for which you advocate boasts essentially no established general propositions.


Your appeal to evidential authority is wholly lacking foundation, and in fact, self-defeating, as you do not have evidence for the authority of evidence.

I might not have evidence for evidence's prescriptive authority, which would be to say the evidential First Principle's objective superiority to another First Principle, but I have evidence of evidence's ubiquitous utilization in the world and its manifest ability to lead those who utilize it to practical success with respect to simple, and not so simple, daily functioning.


You may claim to deal only in hypothetical imperatives, but I doubt that you are thoroughly consistent in this.

Your original statement: Evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness of your positive assertion is needed to substantiate said assertion, otherwise it is, and should be, rejected.

Your original statement, appropriately modified: If you want to approximate truth to the best of your ability, reject this assertion, because evidence commensurate with its extraordinariness is needed to substantiate it.


I will phrase it this way: If one wishes to approximate truth to the best of one's ability, and one reasons in accordance with the evidential First Principle I have outlined, one ought to reject any extraordinary assertion until evidence commensurate with its extraordinariness is proffered to provide substantiation.


1. The modified statement carries much less deontic force than the original. If you want to deal only in hypothetical imperatives, then be consistent about it, and make sure that the deontic force of your assertions is commensurate with the deontic force of your hypothetical imperatives. Otherwise, these kinds of assertions are disingenuous, given your worldview.

The statement was from my perspective, which is to say the evidentialist one, while implicitly taking for granted that approximating truth to the best of one's ability was a mutual desire. But, yes, until you accept my First Principle, reasoning derived therefrom applies no force to you.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Six **


2. Would you say that "One should want to approximate truth to the best of one's ability?" If so, then why? What is the evidence? If not, then what force does the hypothetical imperative of your original assertion carry with respect to anyone else?

“One should want to approximate truth to the best of one's ability,” as written, is a categorical imperative and, thus, not something I recognize. It carries no force since, if somebody so chooses, he or she could simply desire not to approximate truth.


3. If evidence is the best way to approximate truth, then what is the evidence that you used to conclude that there are only hypothetical imperatives? What is the explicit evidential inference that you utilized to conclude this in a cogent manner?

Hypothetical imperatives manifestly exist, as in the form of, as restated by you, “If you want to drive to work, get into your car.” However, in interrogating the world of experience, and bearing in mind the utter insignificance of humankind, the Earth, our solar system, the Milky Way, etc., I have been able to discover no categorical imperatives and, to the extent some have been presented and argued for, I have found the arguments unpersuasive and, in essentially all cases, predicated upon foundational principles for which the evidence is unsatisfactory.


4. What are your standards of "evidence commensurate with the extraordinariness" of an assertion? Why should I, or anyone else, accept them?

This is a nebulous area, but it can be boiled down to this: The more an assertion departs from the ordinary course of events, the higher the evidential burden to substantiate the assertion. That is, assertion extraordinariness and substantiating evidence required have a direct relationship.


5. How does one know when one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability? What is the evidence that one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability? What is the the evidence that one has enough evidence to approximate the truth that "one has enough evidence to approximate truth to the best of one's ability" to the best of one's ability?

As always, given evidentialism, what is taken as truth is provisional, awaiting further confirmatory evidence to ground the truth more securely or disconfirmatory evidence to show the provisional truth not to be a truth at all. On evidentialism, absolute and unshakeable certitude is not sought: one is merely satisfied with mounting, compounding evidence, and the utilization thereof to make provisional truths less so or, in the case of disconfirmation, to displace them.


This doesn't solve your problem - it only moves it back a level. The force of a hypothetical imperative depends on the condition of the imperative. Inasmuch as the condition is something to the effect of "being rational" or "approximating truth," then there are objective standards of rationality or epistemology that are presumed. Yet, on materialism, such objective standards are incoherent, inasmuch as objective standards are immaterial.

Once again, if your contention is that, on naturalism (or materialism, or physicalism), every thing that can be said to be an actual thing is itself material in nature, which seemingly is to say sensorially detectable, you are mistaken. Once again, according to physicalists, everything, ultimately, in the last analysis, is traceable to that which is physical. If one categorizes “truth” as an abstract concept, in much the same way I have with “freedom” and “fairness,” it is viewed as a notion with which an advanced brain, such as a human one, came up.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

** Part Seven **


Your example is not a hypothetical imperative, but an ought inside of a conditional, which carries deontic force. To put this in proper hypothetical imperative form, you would need to say "If you want to drive to work, get into your car" or "If one wants to drive to work, let one get into one's car." Once again, if you're going to commit to only using hypothetical imperatives, then the deontic force of your assertions needs to be commensurate with the deontic force of the hypothetical imperatives themselves.

I agree with this: Yes, all of my reasoning is driven by my First Principle, which has been explicitly laid out, and, no, there is no categorical imperative compelling one to try to approximate truth (nor to accept my First Principle as opposed to the others that I reject), inasmuch as, having discerned no evidence for categorical imperatives, and being an evidentialist, I have concluded, provisionally but firmly for now, that no categorical imperatives do, in fact, exist.


1. What people "deserve" follows from the "rights" that they possess. (Self-evident, given the deontic semantic content of the term "right")
2. The only "rights" that exist come from what the government allows and denies. (From your previous statement. *NOTE* This is not a position I affirm.)
3. Therefore, what people "deserve" follows from what the government allows and denies. (From 1 and 2)


I will indulge you with another response, but it will be little different from my previous one, because the underlying issue remains the same. I do not find fault with the syllogism but, rather, with the implications with which you have tried to impregnate it. In much the same way that a government body, in a godless universe, cannot make murder objectively, cosmically wrong but merely illegal, a government body, too, cannot make its citizens objectively, cosmically deserve -- which is to say as a fact of the universe -- any particular treatment but merely deserve what the government has set forth in the terrestrial, impermanent, governmental context.

Apart from the weekend, responses will likely be less expeditious and shorter.