The taint of God.

#21
Though I didn't find myself speaking wistfully of God (perhaps I did) that was not my point. My point (or rather, Nietzsches) is that the foundation for all of our lives is theistic (whether we admit it or not) and without this foundation we are and aim at naught.
So if you found yourself in an afterlife that didn't have a god as such, would you feel like that?

I think my point is that people have lived with a cruel caricature of God for centuries - and many still do in other parts of the world. I mean, it is easy to blame "Western nihilistic culture", and not see where it came from, or what the current mainstream alternatives are. If, in fact, Jesus was divine, we seem to have changed/dropped his teaching many centuries ago.

David
 
#22
So if you found yourself in an afterlife that didn't have a god as such, would you feel like that?

I think my point is that people have lived with a cruel caricature of God for centuries - and many still do in other parts of the world. I mean, it is easy to blame "Western nihilistic culture", and not see where it came from, or what the current mainstream alternatives are. If, in fact, Jesus was divine, we seem to have changed/dropped his teaching many centuries ago.

David
Sorry David, but you fail to understand the fundamental nature of Nietzsches insight.

Western culture is at heart theistic - no matter if it recognizes that point or not.

The use of the word Good is truly nothing more than the expression of an emotion such as the clapping of hands for your home team when it scores. It pleases you but it refers to nothing above and beyond itself.

Without a transcendent ground of being nothing is ever good or bad - and nothing is ever truly forbidden. The actions if Hitler are equally valued to the actions of Mandela. This is the horror of modernity.

This is not really an argument for theism nor do I seek to defend it. For me however, the need for a sollution to nihilism is a more pressing matter than any other - and, truly, Tillichs abstract god as a Ground Of being seem able to answer nihilism.
 
#23
Sorry David, but you fail to understand the fundamental nature of Nietzsches insight.

Western culture is at heart theistic - no matter if it recognizes that point or not.

The use of the word Good is truly nothing more than the expression of an emotion such as the clapping of hands for your home team when it scores. It pleases you but it refers to nothing above and beyond itself.
At the risk of sounding a bit like Paul(!!), the problem is that introducing God doesn't really solve your dilemma because then God had to decide that certain things were good and others bad. I agree the lack of rooting of moral judgement is unsatisfactory, but we can't necessarily know everything.

The curious thing is that in practice, I feel, a rather high percentage of modern evil is justified by an appeal to a deity. It is the non-believers who seem to be able to see what is moral by direct appeal to something inside them. For devout believers, that vision seems to be confused by their religion. Lots of extreme examples come to mind, but I don't think I need to spell them out.

Without a transcendent ground of being nothing is ever good or bad - and nothing is ever truly forbidden. The actions if Hitler are equally valued to the actions of Mandela. This is the horror of modernity.
I tend to think that the insights that people bring back from NDE's are mostly real, and one of those insights is that we see a vastly bigger picture when we are 'out there'. I think this may change our reasoning about a lot of issues.

Somewhat disturbingly, another insight seems to be that between lives we pick reincarnations a bit like we might pick university courses to complete our education. Some suggest that even Hitler's higher self may have picked that life to learn something! Given ideas of that sort, it is extremely hard to answer your nihilism other than to suggest that the bigger picture will change things.

I tend to look at the analogy of a computer game (of which I have almost no experience) where one is immersed in a role of killing an evil opponent. This seems to go on in a sort of vacuum - all other ideas of compassion, justice, peace treaties, love, etc. seem to get put aside for a while, but after the game is over, most people can laugh at the narrow focus of the game.

If nihilistic thoughts are troubling you, I would say that you should think about how little we really know. A child just accepts that there is a lot he/she doesn't know, and maybe it is best to think that way a bit more ourselves. I am quite sure there are answers to your question, but they may be hard to discover.

David
 
#24
I have no desire to introduce a God. No interest at all. I also happen to think that mans inability to behave nicely towards one another is not worsened by religion.
The problem for me is not that non-theists are better at moral intuition - they may be.

However - does it not seem to be a human constant that we add values to actions? If you think as I do, that a moral stance is a human constant, then you start to go from doubting moral intuitions through the diversity of moral views to questioning how a thing like morals can exist? In other words, it is not how it is but that it is which must fill us with wonder.

Like Kant said: "Two things fill me with constant wonder. The starry universe above me and the moral law within me."
 
#25
However - does it not seem to be a human constant that we add values to actions? If you think as I do, that a moral stance is a human constant, then you start to go from doubting moral intuitions through the diversity of moral views to questioning how a thing like morals can exist? In other words, it is not how it is but that it is which must fill us with wonder.

Like Kant said: "Two things fill me with constant wonder. The starry universe above me and the moral law within me."
However, as I said before, introducing God into the problem doesn't solve it - it just shifts the problem to a realm that by convention we don't usually question! Do you want to suggest that the moral laws are arbitrary inventions of God?

David
 
#26
However, as I said before, introducing God into the problem doesn't solve it - it just shifts the problem to a realm that by convention we don't usually question! Do you want to suggest that the moral laws are arbitrary inventions of God?

David
The standard answer to this, which I thinks make sense, is that Gods nature is the standard for all values. So, neither does he create nor is he subjected to moral laws. Rather, as Tillich says, he is the ground of all being - he is being itself. Both logical and moral.
 
#27
The standard answer to this, which I thinks make sense, is that Gods nature is the standard for all values. So, neither does he create nor is he subjected to moral laws. Rather, as Tillich says, he is the ground of all being - he is being itself. Both logical and moral.
But it doesn't make a lot of sense (more of a verbal slight of hand) - I mean it seems to introduce an arbitrary quality - which is exactly what you wanted to exclude. He could (I suppose) have decided that compulsive murderers get so much pleasure out of their acts that it would be immoral to thwart them and stop them!

You rather ignored my earlier comment about the evidence of some NDE's that suggests that people get to choose different sorts of lives between lives. That concept disturbs me, but it certainly makes me think that we may need a much bigger context to understand morality.

Do you not consider that this may be one of those questions that may only make sense after death (assuming that NDE's correctly predict what happens then).

I understand your objection to Western Culture in as much as you equate it with total materialism - then moral questions seem to become meaningless - evolved by survival of the fittest! However, I feel that Western Culture has also allowed many people to explore their own spiritual ideas (including Skeptiko!) possibly like never before! If you see Western Culture from that point of view, it doesn't seem so bad.

Theistic cultures don't ground moral ideas because they all come out with different sets of ideas - many of them quite immoral. Even if God exists, they can't ground moral concepts because they require humans to interpret the word of God. Often those interpretations simply vary over time. For example, I would say that condemning homosexuality can't possibly be moral - I find it hard even to imagine what it must be like to grow into ones teenage years as a gay and discover that all ones natural inclinations are condemned as evil!

David
 
#28
I'm glad I chanced across this fascinating thread: there have been a number of interesting contributions, but for a moment, I'd like to act as devil's advocate because of a thought that occasionally goes through my mind. Namely, that there's some kind of intrinsic purpose and rightness in what I agree comes across at first glance as a morally, spiritually, and aesthetically profoundly depressing state of affairs in (Western-influenced parts at any rate) of the world.

I could start by reflecting that for most people in past centuries, despite the emphasis on religion and morals, lives often were brutish and short. The development of modern thinking started in the Renaissance/Enlightenment periods, say what you will, has in practical terms increased the well-being of many millions. That to some extent things may have gone too far, I wouldn't deny. Obsessive consumerism, hedonism and narcissism are very noticeable these days, but these are things that have always been in existence, the difference now being that more people than ever can indulge in them, not just powerful elites.

However, on the flipside, I don't think I'm entirely imagining it that there's an emerging reaction against this. Now, some of that reaction is, I think, misplaced. Environmentalism comes to mind: whilst not denying that it's a good idea not to completely despoil the environment, I think that for many, it's become a substitute for religion, backed up not by scriptural authority, but what is often touted as scientific authority--but I believe to be heavily contaminated by scientistic authority with disguised or unrecognised political motivation. Structurally, environmentalism isn't unlike religion. It has its angels and demons, its threats and rewards, its tendency to marginalise and vilify heretics, and so on. It also has its fair share of hypocrites and cynics who are in it for kudos and even plain greed.

Political correctness is a similar phenomenon: the use of language to create new classes of infidels and heretics. Stick "-phobic" on the end of words used to describe people and you can then dismiss opinions out of hand that may in fact have some merit. I despise this, because it means that there are issues that should be discussed that aren't, simply because people are afraid to be labelled. In some cases, this can ruin careers and affect livelihoods. It's the modern incarnation of inquisitions, crusades and pogroms, the main difference being that we don't generally kill heretics and dissenters these days.

That said, some of the reaction is more benign. I think there's more overt interest in spirituality these days than ever I can remember (I was born in 1950). The first inklings of that started in the 60s, I suppose, and yes, some of it is New-Age claptrap, but not all of it is. I think that's evidence of an intuitive reaction against superficiality: but to have a reaction, it's necessary to have the thing reacted against, right? Good and Evil intertwine. The one leads to the other as they both ascend like the two strands in a DNA helix: a kind of three-dimensional and more dynamic version of the ying/yang symbol or of Ouroboros.

I wonder if it's right to be pessimistic: the phase Western society is going through at the moment may actually be entirely necessary: the only way that we can make the transition from domination by religion to domination by spirituality. I mean, in our own lives, some on this forum have walked a similar path to myself: brought up religious, followed by reactionary atheism, followed by a return not to religion, but the spiritual essence of religion. As for the individual, why not for societies at a higher level and on a somewhat longer timescale?

There's also been some opprobrium expressed about modern art and TV reality shows. Again, I don't think I'm as pessimistic as some. Sure, there's a lot of dross about, but when was that not the case in the past? I occasionally post a poem I've written at the web-based forum, Eratosphere, and I can tell you that there's a great deal of interest in perennial classical forms like sonnets and villanelles, and some terrific poems get posted. One often gets excellent technical criticism as well as insights one hadn't oneself been aware of.

As for "reality shows", that phrase is often thrown around as if talking about porn magazines; I think it's a pet hate of the chattering classes and I sometimes wonder if they actually watch them. I must admit, for a while I swallowed the agitprop and turned my nose up at them, but actually, many of them are very good. Yes, even the X Factor, the 2013 Brit version of which has just been won by an ordinary 36-year-old housewife who has sung for years at all sorts of venues--pubs and clubs, cruise ships, and so on. She isn't glamorous, but by gum, can she sing; when she says she's doing it for her family, whom she wants to be proud of her, well, I think that's perfectly true, and it's been heartwarming to follow her progress through the competition. So what's wrong with reality? Why are people so denigratory about it and why do they prefer much-lauded literary pieces like Ulysses or Moby Dick, which are unreal? The thing is, there's a place for good fiction and for good reality shows: they're not in opposition and one isn't necessarily inherently superior to the other.
 
#29
........................................
There's also been some opprobrium expressed about modern art and TV reality shows. Again, I don't think I'm as pessimistic as some. Sure, there's a lot of dross about, but when was that not the case in the past? I occasionally post a poem I've written at the web-based forum, Eratosphere, and I can tell you that there's a great deal of interest in perennial classical forms like sonnets and villanelles, and some terrific poems get posted. One often gets excellent technical criticism as well as insights one hadn't oneself been aware of.

As for "reality shows", that phrase is often thrown around as if talking about porn magazines; I think it's a pet hate of the chattering classes and I sometimes wonder if they actually watch them. I must admit, for a while I swallowed the agitprop and turned my nose up at them, but actually, many of them are very good. Yes, even the X Factor, the 2013 Brit version of which has just been won by an ordinary 36-year-old housewife who has sung for years at all sorts of venues--pubs and clubs, cruise ships, and so on. She isn't glamorous, but by gum, can she sing; when she says she's doing it for her family, whom she wants to be proud of her, well, I think that's perfectly true, and it's been heartwarming to follow her progress through the competition. So what's wrong with reality? Why are people so denigratory about it and why do they prefer much-lauded literary pieces like Ulysses or Moby Dick, which are unreal? The thing is, there's a place for good fiction and for good reality shows: they're not in opposition and one isn't necessarily inherently superior to the other.
You don't mention the prevalence of junk popular "music". Concerning TV, the situation has advanced to the point where there is an amazing decadence in much of the tv watched by countless millions. Dumbed-down lowest-common denominator reality show-like programming for a populace with poor or little education.

Typical example of History Channel, which a few years ago actually had something about history:

Cajun Pawn Stars - Gone with the Pawn
"Get ready for some down home cookin' when the Cajun Pawn Stars consider buying a massive 40 foot BBQ pit on wheels. Plus, a seller isn't horsin' around when he gallops into the shop to unload his miniature horse. And a customer looks to buy a prop gun from the movie classic Gone with the Wind. Will Jimmie give up one of his most prized possessions or will he frankly "not give a damn"?"

Typical example of The Learning Channel (TLC):

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
- Stress Poops
"All the anxiety and stress from the ceremony planning has Mama stuck in the bathroom! The girls have a meeting to go over the to-do list while Sugar Bear and June meet with who they hope will be their Redneck Preacher."

Typical example of Discovery Channel:

Street Outlaws: Full Throttle - Midwest Fireworks
"Remodeled with fan tweets and bonus scenes - Big Chief pushes Andrade to call out Derek after a big win. Varley makes some major upgrades to his ride, and calls out Chuck without checking with Tony first. Plus a few last minute challenges on race night."

Typical example of National Geographic Channel (NGC); better, but still reality-show format:

Ultimate Survival Alaska: the Extra Mile: No Trespassing
"Travel the unforgiving Nizina River, across bear and wolf territory, with the eight survivalists as they push through one of their biggest obstacles yet. After the gang splits up, Austin and the Seavey brothers are put in danger when slabs of rock threaten to crush them as they cross a slippery cliff. Choosing to take on the treacherous river, Brent and Tyler hope for a straight shot to the extraction point but after getting lost and risking hypothermia, they may not make it."
 
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#30
You don't mention the prevalence of junk popular "music". Concerning TV, the situation has advanced to the point where there is an amazing decadence in much of the tv watched by countless millions. Dumbed-down lowest-common denominator reality show-like programming for a populace with poor or little education...
I agree, and said, that there's a lot of dross out there. I could come up with as many and more examples as you have. As to reality shows, I was including things like programs about the lives and work of real people in ordinary occupations: refuse workers, nurses, pawnbrokers, plumbers and so on, which can be genuinely interesting and enlightening. Sure, there are things like Big Brother and I'm a celebrity, get me out of here, which are more to do with placing people in artificial situations than looking at them in their everyday lives. Like everything else, one needs to be selective. Same with popular music, really. It's by no means all bad. I also think standards in education have fallen (I live in the UK by the way) relative to when I was at school, at least for the more gifted pupils who at one time would have gone to what were then called Grammar schools: but on average, standards may have gone up: it's difficult to tell.

As I said, I was throwing in some thoughts as a devil's advocate, and pointing out that there may be some scope for optimism rather than pessimism. I wasn't suggesting that absolutely everything is right with the world: something that we've never been able to say at any time in human history. For most of that history, most people haven't even been able to read and write and were lucky if they lived past 40. We're living in post-WW2 society, a period still less than 70 years or three generations or so. The impact of modern technology and the demise of religion is working itself out in our time. I don't believe that it will equilibrate at a completely aspiritual and amoral state; I think that eventually it will equilibrate at some higher, better state, but at the moment, we're cracking the eggs and the omelette hasn't been made. We may be like teenagers who will nonetheless one day grow up.
 
#31
I think some people here are falling into the trap of assuming that everything that is wrong with society is due to one cause. IMHO the decay of the arts came from the obsession with novelty - nothing really to do with God!

The dumbing down of television programs is a strange phenomenon, because just about everyone agrees that TV isn't worth watching anymore. Nobody really likes modern TV! I think the problem has been excessive competition between hundreds of channels. This seems to have lead to a policy of producing programs that appeal weakly to almost everyone, rather than a range of programs that actually span people's interests, but which individually don't appeal to more than a segment of society.

I think Michael's "thoughts as a devil's advocate" were spot on. In one sense, right now may be one of the most spiritual eras there has been! People in the past were coerced into going to church by terrorizing them with Hell, or by using the law to attack non-believers. Now, those that wish, can explore these things without sanction.

CJ posed a theoretical question about grounding of moral ideas, but I think he did then slip in the suggestion that modern Western Culture is somehow uniquely bad. I'd say it has its problems, but my goodness the various modern faith based governments around the world don't look so great, do they?

However, I suspect that CJ is seriously troubled by the lack of moral grounding, and reading a lot of Nietzsche isn't probably the best antidote to that. My best advice is that the only way to approach questions like that - indeed the only way to approach all the issues raised by Skeptiko - is by accepting uncertainty, that may or may not be resolved after death!


David
 
#32
But it doesn't make a lot of sense (more of a verbal slight of hand) - I mean it seems to introduce an arbitrary quality - which is exactly what you wanted to exclude. He could (I suppose) have decided that compulsive murderers get so much pleasure out of their acts that it would be immoral to thwart them and stop them!

You rather ignored my earlier comment about the evidence of some NDE's that suggests that people get to choose different sorts of lives between lives. That concept disturbs me, but it certainly makes me think that we may need a much bigger context to understand morality.

Do you not consider that this may be one of those questions that may only make sense after death (assuming that NDE's correctly predict what happens then).

I understand your objection to Western Culture in as much as you equate it with total materialism - then moral questions seem to become meaningless - evolved by survival of the fittest! However, I feel that Western Culture has also allowed many people to explore their own spiritual ideas (including Skeptiko!) possibly like never before! If you see Western Culture from that point of view, it doesn't seem so bad.

Theistic cultures don't ground moral ideas because they all come out with different sets of ideas - many of them quite immoral. Even if God exists, they can't ground moral concepts because they require humans to interpret the word of God. Often those interpretations simply vary over time. For example, I would say that condemning homosexuality can't possibly be moral - I find it hard even to imagine what it must be like to grow into ones teenage years as a gay and discover that all ones natural inclinations are condemned as evil!

David
I have no real experience with NDE-literature and prefer not to answer questions about that.

We all know that there exists contingent things that rely upon other things to cause them. This leads us eventually to draw the conclusion that some thing (or things) must be necessary. By that I mean that there must exist a substratum for reality which is not destructible and is not made of parts.
It can't be made of parts because then it is changeable - and if it is subjected to change it can't be necessary - for surely, something that is necessary can't be changed to something else without risking necessity?

So it seems we must introduce something simple and necessary into our view of life. Now, that doesn't certainly have to be a god - but there must exist some thing or some being with necessity as a property. This would give us some sort of heading towards a transcendent foundation for existence itself. Whether we chose to call this God or Hof or Pinter, I find uninteresting.

In the same way I find that the arguments for moral realism lead me to hold the view, together with Wittgenstein for example, that all ethical values - if they exist, must exist outside of this world. The foundation for them - must indeed - be something alien to us.
  • "6.41 "The sense of the world must lie outside of the world. ... In it, there is no value, - and if there were, it would be of no value. ..."
So through the reading the theology of the ages, I find a deeper view of our existential plight - and I find that I don't perform "verbal sleight of hand" when I postulate this moral foundation.
 
#33
Theistic cultures don't ground moral ideas because they all come out with different sets of ideas - many of them quite immoral. Even if God exists, they can't ground moral concepts because they require humans to interpret the word of God. Often those interpretations simply vary over time. For example, I would say that condemning homosexuality can't possibly be moral - I find it hard even to imagine what it must be like to grow into ones teenage years as a gay and discover that all ones natural inclinations are condemned as evil!

David
What humans are capable of when they are convinced of the nature of their moral stance is sometimes quite awful. I don't doubt that for a second. I don't really find that says anything about what I've been talking about. The experience of certainity of a moral value (which all of us have experienced) is different from the view that there can't be moral values. What a value is is different from the question that it exists.

So all these objections about the nature of theistic cultures and the brutality of human lives in ancient times - and whatever else could be said, are just not interesting.

The question about what values are and the question of how there can be values are just not the same - and objections against certain given values have no power against the view that moral values exist.
 
#35
I also don't find one can say that we live in a spiritual age. Where on earth do you see that?
Phenomena like Skeptiko, and other spiritually oriented movements make me say that. I would say that this age is unique in that a large number of people feel free enough to explore more or less any spiritual search they wish, and they have the means to communicate with others with the same intention. We should not forget the advantages that we have. People in many other parts of the world today (e.g. Iran), and many of our forebears simply didn't have those freedoms, and in any case, could not communicate with others of the same mind.
[quote
We all know that there exists contingent things that rely upon other things to cause them. This leads us eventually to draw the conclusion that some thing (or things) must be necessary. By that I mean that there must exist a substratum for reality which is not destructible and is not made of parts.
[/quote]
I am very loath to argue from premises like that! Suppose, for example, that (as some NDE'ers say) out there is timeless. We can barely even imagine what a timeless realm would be like, or what causality would mean! I feel it is far too easy to argue oneself into knots simply because we see such a very incomplete picture.

If you haven't looked into NDE accounts, you really should!

David
 
#36
I don't think we live in a spiritual age in the West. However, I agree with David that we live in an age where more people than ever are openly interested in spirituality. It isn't all doom and gloom: there is at least some scope for optimism.
 
#37
I don't think we live in a spiritual age in the West.
At what data point does an age become spiritual? How do you quantify spirituality? Is it a percentage of non-agnostics? The proliferation of Buddhism in the West? The fall of participants in Catholicism and Episcopalianism?

How tell?
 
#38
I don't know, I live in a world where a god, if one exists, doesnt do anything. So I'd imagine it would be much like regular existence.
 
#39
David Bailey said:
Phenomena like Skeptiko, and other spiritually oriented movements make me say that. I would say that this age is unique in that a large number of people feel free enough to explore more or less any spiritual search they wish, and they have the means to communicate with others with the same intention. We should not forget the advantages that we have. People in many other parts of the world today (e.g. Iran), and many of our forebears simply didn't have those freedoms, and in any case, could not communicate with others of the same mind.
I think that it is much too simplistic to say that we have more freedom in spiritual matters these days. For avid students of history and especially the spiritual history of mystics in the west - the views expressed are as far-ranging and as critical of religious thought as you'd find today. The freedom given modernity in expressing spiritual thought is a freedom that is given at the cost of sincerity - since spiritual matters have moved far away from the absolute center of importance in our human discourse we feel free to express it as we wish. Because it is viewed as quaint silliness.

David Bailey said:
I am very loath to argue from premises like that! Suppose, for example, that (as some NDE'ers say) out there is timeless. We can barely even imagine what a timeless realm would be like, or what causality would mean! I feel it is far too easy to argue oneself into knots simply because we see such a very incomplete picture.

If you haven't looked into NDE accounts, you really should!

David
Yes, I know that western man is loath to argue from these kinds of premises - but, strangely enough, he feels free to argue from equally non-empirical premises to Behaviourism or for the Multi-verse. I simply don't see why these premises should be given another treatment - but of course, given a good reason, I might see it your way...
 
#40
On the same subject as the other thread I'm been posting on, I can't help but frame the whole idea of spirituality as something that, I suppose, comes into being the more we split from whatever it is we came from . . . In other words, even as more highly evolved animals a million years ago, it's difficult to think of the need for spirituality, assuming that that means something in the nature of a reconnection to the source we came from . . . because we were still basically connected to it.

It seems to me that the further we get from the earth, very paradoxically, (by which I mean living more and more indoors and unconnected to dirt and animals and wildlife, etc.) the greater the need for reconnection/spirituality.
It's kinda like Albert Hoffman's advice: go outdoors for better effect.
 
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