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Why You Should Stop Wasting Your Time ‘Doing Philosophy’

A debate in the comments between Jim Harrison and Dave Swindle about Good and Evil.

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April 25, 2013 - 9:45 am

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All Comments   (15)
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It pains me Swindle, but I will be philosophical. Alas, it belongs to my nature (and profession).

Who says A, must say B...and I add-- must say C, D, ad infinitum. This logical adage simply demands consistency in conclusions drawn from a principle or a principle derived from already held conclusions. The weight of this dictum derives the willinngness to connect one's arguments in an orderly manner and make the logically necessitated conclusions, wanted or not. O.K., let me turn to the debate at hand.

Fundamental moral principle: The ends do not justify the means, if the means are instrinsically (= eternally) evil. If there is no intrinsic evil, then NO means of any type is a priori, per se and eternally to be rejected (even the gasing millions of examples of "unwertes Leben", i.e., life whose intrinsic reality has no existential claim to existence and, hence, may morally be eliminated under certain circumstances). I will presume agreement.

1. Note: the terminology "unwertes Leben" is taken from the Nazies and it was the moral value justifying the elimination of, relative to the "superior" race, the "inferior" race, be that race innocent or not. (The Nazis also eliminated handy-capped children, many 100s of thousand--just like the ladies cited by Singer.) Because of the fundamental principle from argument 1. such killing is intrinsically immoral and necessarily and eternally so.

2. The allowed killing of children from any time during gestation to relatively post birth implies that the life forfeited possesses no intrinsic worth, i.e., it becomes, under certain circumstances, "unwertes Leben" or said life could not be consciously taken as an acceptable moral act. (This is a key thesis and the Harrison's of this world would do well to reflect here.) Certainly any child is "innocent" re the origins of its very being (that was a slip up of the parents). Agreed? If however infanticide or abortion is morally acceptable, naturally only in certain cases (sic), then the prohibition of infanticide cannot be derived from a principle eternally imperative. Just pragmatic reasons. Have I erred here?

This last line of thinking 2. puts me in contradiction with my argument 1. against eliminating "inferior" (= "unwertes Leben") life, viz., races as intrinsically wrong, and, hence, eternally evil. Why? The major principle rejected in argument 2. was the use of "unwertes Leben" as an unrestricted moral imperative. Now, the defenders of Singer allow, certainly only under certain conditions, the elimination of the innocent life of the newly born, not to say of the yet unborn. (In the case of the USA a year or two back, that meant 1,250,000+ pre-birth abortions and since 1973 more than 54,000,000 abortions. Not even Hitler in his most successful days reached such a high numerical elimination of innocent life.) If the taking of innocent life, albeit "merely" of newly born, is morally allowable, then it certainly follows that one cannot logically evaluate the moral imperative of "unwertes Leben" as an intrinsic evil, i.e., as unrestricted, viz., eternal valid. Hence, killing innocents is not intrinsically evil. Are there any objections here? Singer-women have their reasons to eliminate millions and millions of innocent human lives and the Nazies had theirs. There is, indeed, a material difference here, but no formal opposition.

Well, I have, provisionally following Harrison & Co, just said A, i.e., killing of innocent life is, under circumstances, allowable. But, alas, the combattants were too narrow in their range of "innocent" life considered. Sometime back I read in "Daily-online" that the British government euthanizes some 120,000 old people/year without informing said persons nor their next of kin. What a proud saving of money for health purposes--something that would tingle Sibelius's heart. Harrison, Singer & Co blab about babies (= A) and overlook the elimination of thousands of elderly people (= B). And they have no logical argument against it. None whatsoever. Agreed? Where, oh, where can one find a firm, eternal non-crossable line between groups of "innocents". Perhaps certain groups possess ain undesireable gene. Maybe eliimination is in order, under certain cercumstances. I was told by 3 doctors here in Germany (where I live) that PSA tests for cancer are not readily available for the elderly because the German government does not want so many elderly people. Welfare system is being stretched. (Oh woe, I am elderly and have had cancer-->making me a leak in the system.)

Conclusion: All argumentation must have conclusion and mine is that Harrison, Singer and the lot have NO, absolutely no, eternal principle against the massive, indeed, supermassive elimination of groups of innocent people, naturally UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS. Is my conclusion correct? --Just a philosophical thought or two and nothing more.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jim Harrison isn't an atheist. He hates G-d. It's not possible to hate something that you don't believe exists. His hatred of G-d is why he hates Jews and Israel. He has a juvenile misunderstanding of the concept of The Chosen People.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or maybe it's the other way around. He hates G-d because he hates Jews. Jews introduced the concept of G-d to the world at large and so he sees G-d as some evil Zionist construct.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
and I looked it up. Peter Singer claims to have a filing cabinet full of letters from parents of disabled children who wished they could snuff out that child's life. He's claiming the compassionate high road- he says that their suffering is so great, and their consciousness so small, that stomping a mouse would be less compassionate than killing off these children. And, I guess, to not go the route of the full Nazi doctors, he's not just targeting ill children- he wants the "no suffering" snuff clause to cover even healthy children.

There's a few Catholic theologians who are covering arguing with his 'category errors'- whatever those are- as their doctoral thesis. I'm thinking that's a good thing to support- I don't understand it, and I won't have to- smarter guys than me are making the world a better place to live for humans. I could follow one paper, more or less, but the others. yikes.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know, good luck and Godspeed on wrestling in public like this. I couldn't do it- for the sheer unpleasantness and tangledness of the wrestling. I'm glad you are up to it.

I just read Give and Take, by Adam Grant, and I am so flummoxed. The guy is getting "genius''! "greatest professor!" accolades all over the place that, as far as I can tell, mostly sort of quantify basic sunday school class lessons. But he's doing it while profiling atheists. So, their good work behavior is getting feted, and nobody, not one person, is noticing that they are re-inventing one little wheel from the wheel blueprint factory. It's kind of disconcerting, really.

I mean, do people on the East and West Coast ever wonder how people in the South went from benighted, country backwaters, to the economic engines that they are? Brazil, right now, is 20% pentecostal. The people who are the wealthy middle class started as people living in favelas in cardboard boxes. They lived out Bible verses in practically check-list fashion. They are now a stable, wealthy middle-class. Doesn't this make anybody curious about how they did it? How they continue to do this?

He's getting hopped up on meet and greets where people listen and help each other. Or, say, something sort of informally like a Rotary Club. Do people not know about these things? Or, are they things electricians do, but not computer engineers? So the person who acts like a plumber at the Knights of Columbus- he's now a super-genius?

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jim Harrison is my new intellectual hero for defining the asparagus fallacy.
But let me try to put his argument more succinctly:
Either I am a theist, or i am not.
If i am, you are preaching to the converted.
If i am not, then either i believe infanticide is wrong, or i don't.
If i don't believe infanticide is wrong, then you are wasting your time telling me that i should believe in God so i can stop believing in infanticide.
If i don't believe in God but still think that infanticide is wrong, then that proves that you are wrong: one does not need to be a theist to be opposed to infanticide.
That covers all possible cases, and in all of them Dave Swindle is either wrong or irrelevant.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure what any of this has to do with reality. The reality is, a lot of Christians and a lot of atheists believe abortion/infantcide is wrong. Does it matter why they believe that? The effect is the same - don't kill babies.

Attack unprincipled atheists, sure. But why attack a principled atheist who agrees with you - at least about this issue?

Is it reluctance to give the atheist some sort of moral or political capital he can use to further his larger objective - the abolition of God?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think that makes the argument more succinct. But I suppose if the objective is just to find reasons to label me wrong and irrelevant then you've succeeded. Congratulations.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I should apologize. The last paragraph should have been:
"That covers all possible cases, and in all of them Dave Swindle'S ARGUMENT is either wrong or irrelevant. "
Bloggers get a lot of abuse, and I did not mean to add to this abuse: I meant to attack your argument, not you.

However I do disagree with your over-simplification of Peter Kreeft's argument.

As you put it in the original post:
If God Does Not Exist Then There Is No Objective Definition of Good and Evil.

Peter Kreeft's argument is different:
If There Is an Objective Definition of Good and Evil Then God Exists.

Logically they are equivalent, but there is more to this than logic. From your way of putting it, you jump to the conclusion that if God does not exist, then there is no reason to oppose infanticide. Kreeft does not say that. In fact, Peter Singer does not say anything like that either **in the link that you yourself provided**. (He might have said it elsewhere afaik.)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Bloggers get a lot of abuse, and I did not mean to add to this abuse: I meant to attack your argument, not you."

But I'm not making just one argument in this post. And the argument you seem to be responding to isn't one that I make. You seem to be arguing more with your misinterpretation of me rather than with me.

" From your way of putting it, you jump to the conclusion that if God does not exist, then there is no reason to oppose infanticide."
It's not that there is no reason to oppose infanticide in a secular world, it's just that none of those reasons for opposing infanticide have any authority. (Why is opposing the murder of infants a more important cause than opposing the murder of baby seals and humpback whales?)

One person's subjective morality about why infanticide is good or bad has just as much legitimacy as Peter Singer's. All subjective moralities that emerge from the minds of men are at the same level.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is no point in your repeating claims that everybody here has heard before, probably dozens of times. If we did not believe them before, we ain't gonna believe them when you repeat them.

Your time would be better spent studying more carefully the logic of Peter Kreeft's video on Good & Evil. Unlike you, Kreeft does not chase his own tail: he does not repeat claims that everybody has heard before, and does not commit the asparagus fallacy.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm thinking that sneering at infants- that cannot be a normal reaction. If our humanity is any measure? I'm going anecdotally here, since I'm not exactly sure that graduate students who weren't out and about on Friday night in high school are exactly the most reliable of human observers.....

for my starting place- we lived in a crummy, low- cost apartment complex, after we had kids. A guy came knocking at 10:30 at night, hammering on everyone's door- " My wife had a baby! I have a son! I have a son!" Just- joyous! Loud! He knocked on, I think, every door in the 16- plex building. Every time someone opened the door, he'd say this- he was happy- over the moon- and everyone's first reaction was to give him something. It was past ten, so the old woman across the way gave him a can of creamed corn- the students gave him chili and a towel, I gave him some baby stuff. But that's the thing- even half asleep, to a complete stranger- the first reaction was to give him something to help him with his baby. That, to me, is the baseline human reaction- I didn't think that, before. But I saw it- he'd just moved in, nobody knew him- I still don't know his name- we saw him with his kid and his wife, a few days later- it was a real baby- nobody was trying to be friends- but nobody was saying "give me back my towel" or "icky baby, tsk tsk. " They saw it was a healthy baby, and that the family looked okay, and went on their way.

I think it takes a lot of not-being around humans, or babies, or something very wrong, to have a different reaction than that. I mean, we weren't stellar altruistic, communitarian types, or athletes of religious virtue. we weren't even "we." but every door opened and gave a gift. It's instinctive, as far as I could see.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
you know, mother nature wants the kid to survive. mother nature reboots a mother's body each step of the way- pregnancy sieves stem cells into the body- ones that can, and do integrate into the parent, nursing sloshes anti-cancer factors through the mother's and the infants body.

cruelty will have its due.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yikes. Wrestling sharks in deep water.

How does one end up so casual about a dead infant? I mean, I saw the photo of that poor child in the vegetable bin, and my entire first reaction was to want to pick him up, dry him off, get a diaper on him, and wrap him in a warm blanket. That's the human reaction. What other reaction is there?

as far as I know, that's everyone's reaction. There are charities where they ship off a diaper, a flannel wrap, and some cleaning supplies to benighted mothers in third world countries. they aren't shipping off vouchers to Harvard philosophy classes- they are shipping the tools to clean the child up, and diaper her, and dress her warmly.

I mean, isn't that pretty much the story about jesus? the first very well-documented baby? strangers came along and followed their first impulse- check on the mom, give the kid something useful- I mean, really- those shepherds showed up with blankets. They had to have- every stretchy knit or crochet anything ever is from that desert region.

is there are single woman in the world letting peter singer near her child? anyone?


51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
'What other reaction is there?"
Mother Nature's reaction. Cruelty's reaction.

"is there are single woman in the world letting peter singer near her child? anyone?"
Perhaps those mothers who get so much attention for declaring how much they regret having children.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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