How To Find Out What Torture Is – The Contract

I hereby allow myself to become waterboarded, have my head smashed into a wall, deprived of sleep for over a week, and whatever other techniques are deemed necessary, for my torturers to get whatever information they are looking for. This will last indefinitely.

Signed

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I should probably put a bonus clause in the contract. The following information would need to be gathered before showing a potential … debater this form that they can defend their idea with.  Find out something that your opponent wouldn’t do for a million dollars (more if your opponent is rich), that way if the torturer can’t get the information – not from lack of trying, you’re both just really bad at 200 questions – then he’d be able to do that task instead, for free of course.

Anyone willing to sign it?

Objective Differences

When talking about the corruption of the government, there are a few metaphors that help illustrate its method of operation. The mafia, slavery, and “just another company, but with guns” come to mind. During a discussion, I’ll equate taxation with slavery, and someone will object at the idea. At this point, I need an objective difference between the two ideas to distinguish them, so that they aren’t comparable anymore. To this date, I’ve yet to hear an objective difference.

One of the most common objections – sometimes called commands – I get when talking to people of the statist persuasion, is that if I don’t like getting my money taken from me, then I’m free to move. So why is this not an objective difference? Because an objective difference would need distinguish why taxation is good and slavery is bad. Since “being able to move” is the criteria that makes taxation good, then we can apply that if slave owners allowed the slaves to move somewhere else, that makes slavery okay. This is nonsense.

There are two possibilities for the now “freed” people. They can either go to another slave owner, or they can live in the wilderness and away from the state’s reach. Scenario A is still slavery, and option B is the only option for freedom. So what do we do in scenario B if the slave owner finds us in the wilderness, just move again?

Another common argument is that we get to vote for who taxes us. I don’t think it takes a lot of explanation to see why this line of reasoning is wrong. “I get to vote for the guy who whips me” isn’t a statement that gives me a lot of confidence in your ability to distinguish what is moral from what is immoral.

Once I remember someone so desperate to win the “slave” argument that they forgot entirely on the taxation part. “Well, if everyone who didn’t want to be a slave got a restraining order on every slave owner, then you wouldn’t have to worry about it.” Honestly. Yes, if that’s the way slavery worked – if it was permission based, then it would be moral. Looking at his proposition, it’s clear that he was no longer comparing slavery to the way that government works in reality, because government isn’t permission based. If I could get functioning restraining orders against the government, then I’d agree that it’s a moral institution. Since it’s not an actual option, it’s not an objective difference.

What suprises me the most – when people give me more than two non-objective reasons, and continue to list even more differences without thinking them through. If you’ve just been disproven on your first two objections, then maybe you should stop and think about your third. Follow its implications on both sides of the comparison to see whether or not it’s objective.

Prioritizing Values – In Practise

So I’ve decided that this blog has changed from just a general rant blog into general philosophy blog, hence the name change. I’ll be talking lots about religion, because religion removes curiosity in people, and only through curiosity do we actually learn about what is real. I’ll probably be talking about how corrupt the government is. Hopefully, you’ll have questions, or it may inspire you to try to apply philosophy to your life.

It’s a scary process at times, because it is so foreign to what we normally do, it’s easy to see why most people don’t bother. I am just starting out, so mistakes are inevitable, but philosophy has a way of giving you clarity about situations. Constantly applying the principles of reason, evidence, logic to your life will lead you on the path to find out what is actually true and false. These principles help us find the truth about the world around us. I’ll share a few of my values with you, so that we can analyze a situation with these values.

In any relationship, I value honesty and truth over everything else. There’s nothing else that I can think of that I would place above honest. Not intelligence, not wit and humour, not beauty, not passion, and not creativity. The way we test this is by putting the two values side by side and determining which is better. Would I ever find it acceptable for someone to lie to me if they possessed such and such quality? No, there’s no value that I can see that I want above truth. The reason is simple, and spelling them out from the beginning is what gives you the clarity. Things are either true, or not true. Simple, right?

The effects of this are quite deep, much more than most people will ever come to know. This will be quite challenging in nearly every one of my relationships. It’s almost enough to make a person doubt trying to start. But if I’m to take philosophy seriously, then I have to apply and live my values. What’s the point of having values and not living them? They just become opinions. So the proposition “live your values” is probably something you want to live by, because if not, then literally, you’re not living your values. If I don’t live my values, then I can’t expect other people to do it, and I have no right to complain about people who allow other things to take place of living their values. I don’t place “inconvenience” above “live my values”.

So applying this to my life, what happens? I realize that when people argue in favour of anything else over honesty, they are doing it because they don’t value honesty over what they are defending. I’d recently brought up some issues that I was having with a relationship of mine, and this person was genuinely mad at me for two things; a lack of empathy and the fact that I sent it by email. She attacked me for my integrity, for which I’d never given her a reason to in the past. The lack of empathy was something I could agree with upon reading it without the inflection that I’d assumed was there. My letter was missing my value of empathy, and I completely agreed and apologized for that.

I didn’t quite know what to say about the second part, the fact that I emailed her. I knew that it didn’t make sense in some way, that somehow the fact that it was an email rather than a phone call or a conversation in person, that the information is less valuable. I was told that it was a spineless thing to do. I didn’t feel that it was spineless, seeing as I was attacked in my action. I asked her why she felt the need to call into question my integrity and call me a coward, and she responded that it was because what I said was hurtful to her, and she didn’t mean to lash out. This also didn’t sit with me, but I didn’t have an answer until a few nights ago.

She’s blaming me for her actions and feelings, at the same time she is mad at me for my actions and feelings. If she can blame her reaction on her hurt feelings, and that her hurt feelings were caused by my actions, then my writing of the letter was just a reaction of whatever my feelings were, and not caused by me. Either we are responsible for the way we react to our feelings, or we aren’t.

If at I’ve doubted honesty, this is how I’ll know it’s a good principle. If I’m honest with myself, and it guides me in the wrong path, then I may have to rethink my values. So, I’m scared of telling her. By letting myself acknowledge my fear, instead of crushing it with a non-answer, I let my curiosity do the work. Why am I afraid? Well, either she will agree with my conclusions, or she will not. If she agrees, then we can explore why she felt that she had to attack me. If she disagrees however, it will mean that our values are quite different. If she is disagreeing with me, then she’ll be putting x value above honesty. If I don’t value that reason more than I value honesty, then it’s obvious that we can’t have a meaningful relationship.

So why do I have a fear of her disagreeing with me? Generally, when faced with these types of questions, again you want to use the first non-answer that jumps into your head. But let’s use curiousity to see what happens. Why do I fear that she doesn’t value honesty as much as I think she does? It’s not so much her values not being aligned with mine that worries me, my worry stems from the fact that I believe that her values could be much different than what I’d believed them to be. If she does disagree with my assessment, then I will have been a terrible judge in character.

All this stems from a few simple ideas. We will be arguing from the beginning, just like in my last post. We’re starting with honesty as the greatest ideal in a relationship, because if we can’t agree on that, we’ll literally be arguing fiction with each other.

Philosophy gives us such insight when we put it into practice because arguing “honesty with loved ones > causing discomfort to loved ones” is not at all arguable to me. When we don’t actually assess our values, we lose sight of what they are, and we’ll be forever lost in the forest of inconsequential and make believe arguments.

Saving Time and Frustration – Assessing the Worthiness of Debating

I feel for us free-thinkers, I really do. We usually have the best arguments, and most of us are willing to admit that we’re wrong when we don’t. Then why is it that when arguing with believers, even when they’re faced with more than enough reason and evidence that they should at least start to question their beliefs, they don’t budge at all. Not only have we not convinced them of anything, they may in fact hold onto their beliefs with more certainty than before. It’s frustrating to engage in a debate, particularly online, for pages and pages, only to be met at the end of the conversation with the equivalent of “You have good arguments, but I still don’t believe you”. A typical and greatly simplified conversation may go something like this:

God-Believer (GB): I believe in God.
Free-Thinker (FT): I don’t see any evidence for God.
GB: You’re going to Hell!
FT: How do you know that?
GB: It says so in the Bible.
FT: Well, how do you know it’s true?
GB: It’s inspired by God.
FT: Well, how do you know that? Lots of other books claim to be inspired by God, they can’t all be true.
GB: Well, I know it in my heart to be true!
FT: People of other beliefs say the same thing, why should I listen to your claims of truth over anyone else’s?
GB: You can’t disprove them.
FT: I can’t disprove leprechauns either.
GB: Well, you just have to have faith

Sigh, another debate with no real progress being made. I’m guilty of the same thing , so instead of repeating the same things over and over and expecting different results, we have to change the method of conversation. Each tangent of the conversation can take massive amounts of time and effort to dissect and explain why each of the premises taken by GB are faulty. For what? Why do we go through this mental exercise over and over when we could be doing something better with our time? We could be playing video games, or vacuuming.

There’s a very strong question – some would say “magical”, but not us of course – that we can ask at the very beginning of a conversation or debate. If they answer the question with a “No”, then they won’t be able to use their main arguing points anymore, because they will have agreed in advance that their points aren’t valid. If they answer this question with a “Yes”, then we can give a quick, efficient, two minute maximum explanation of why they can’t answer the question with a yes while still being a true statement. If they disagree with our explanation, then we’ll know that they aren’t worth our time or effort to bother debating them. Ready?

“Will you be putting forth, as a statement of truth, that faith is greater than reason?”

If they say no, great! Now we can get into a conversation and get some work done. We can have a civil debate, and anytime our opponent mentions faith, remind them that they’ve already agreed that reason is greater than faith. If they answer that faith *is* greater than reason, we can explain to them how this must be false, with 100% conviction.

“Faith > Reason” is supposed to be a statement of truth, but we know that it can’t be. Imagine a friend coming up to you and saying out loud “I have no voice”. You ask what they mean by this, and they tell you about how their vocal cords aren’t working, and that they don’t have a voice because of that. No matter what your friend says, they’re clearly wrong, because you can’t talk without using vocal cords.

In the same way, if it’s impossible to defend the position “Faith > Reason” without using some sort of reasoning, the proposition must be false. The only answer someone can defend this proposition with is “just believe me”. That’s faith. Ask them how they know faith is better than reason, and if they don’t answer with “Faith”, you win! They don’t even believe themselves when they defend faith with reason. Of course, if they do answer with “faith”, then we’ll have saved ourselves a chunk of time to use more productively. Kudos to them for being consistent, at least.

This is the only debate that we should be having. A quick debate about the validity of faith, and if they can’t accept this very simple premise, then it’s not a debate worth getting into. It’s not even a debate, really, it’s just an exercise in fiction. This is also good because it allows us to sidestep all of the “Okay, even if we assume that there is a God…” debates. We don’t have to do it. It’s like arguing with the friend who says that their vocal cords aren’t working. Questions like “Well, how am I hearing you”, “Why is your mouth moving?”, “If it’s not your voice, than what voice am I hearing” will all have answers, which will make little no sense. It doesn’t matter how consistent their story is, it’s flawed at the beginning, so everything that follows must also be false.

Realize that pointing this out will probably make the people we’re debating quite angry. Imagine that you’re being told that you can’t use reason, logic or evidence (all of which are greater than faith) to back up your arguments, it’s the same frustration we generally feel when our logic and reason is dismissed, taking a backdoor to faith. But let’s stop humouring our opponents. It’s an argument that we will never win. We’re using logic and reason, and they’re just making things up. Don’t play that game. Let’s free up our minds for more useful conversations.

Is objective morality even possible if it is God’s will?

I’m always fascinated by people who know about Euthyphro’s dilemma, but still think that God can somehow choose what is moral without it being completely subjective. It’s very simple, if God needs to think about anything while creating a moral, then whatever he had to think about is an outside source. Let’s forgive the fact that he wouldn’t be omniscient if he had to think of anything. If it’s an outside source, then there’s something outside of God that God used to reason and decide, which means that there’s objectivity, but it’s not God’s choice that the moral was good. If it’s not something outside of God, meaning there was no outside reasoning or evidence, then morals are subjective and mere preferences by any definition. When there is a standard that we can judge God with, then objectivity can exist.

There have been a few criticisms that people have run across, but none of them fundamentally change the issue. If God is ingrained with goodness (and again, did God ingrain himself with this, or was this goodness external), then everything God does must be good. Otherwise, there would be no point of God being fused with goodness, if he can just ignore it. “We can’t know God’s reasoning because he is such a superior being”, is what many people say, but this is nothing more than an attempt to deflect further thought. Remember, if God is ingrained with goodness, then everything God does must be good. Any action that God takes is the most good. So when God punishes people for eternity for disobeying his rules, then this is a good thing.

Many people have a hard time with this, because the instant conclusion that most people jump to is that if it’s good to torture people when they disobey your rules, then why does it not apply to humans? Goodness becomes subjective. The common counter to overcome this issue, is that God trying to teach us morality, is like us trying to teach morality to an ant. Again, thinking about this with a few brain cells for more than a few seconds will help us spot a few important differences. We aren’t holding ants morally responsible for their actions, while God is holding us responsible. This is key, because there are only two possibilities. Either we as human beings are morally responsible, or we are not. If we are going to be accountable to morality, then we should have the capacity to learn morality. Otherwise, God is seen as nothing more than a person who punishes ants that have no comprehension of the criteria that they are being judged by. Do we think it’s just to jail and torture an emotionally and mentally retarded person for killing someone, even when we’ve given them the knife and didn’t bother to make sure they knew the consequences of their actions? Of course not, but then again, we’re not as smart as God, so what we consider morality in this situation may not be the case.

One further objection is that God gives us moral rules that are attainable as humans, but that runs into issues as well. Either we’ll be accountable to the morality that God applies to himself, or we’ll be accountable for a version of morality he thinks that we’re capable of handling. The first option doesn’t speak very highly of the goodness that’s fused with God, as mentioned above. But, if God is judging us by an alternate version of morality than ethics that is not universal, we have a few issues, the most important is that the rules are just made up and arbitrary, and again, subjective.

Thoughts?

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…

… without a dope blog to vent through. Okay, so anyone of the 6 people who read my blog will be pleased to learn that I’m writing in this anonymous space again.I can’t promise I’ll keep doing it, but who knows.

I find myself having more and more discussions about religion for some reason. I mean, it’s always been an interest of mine, but lately it’s at the forefront of many of my cyber-interactions. One of the topics that I’m commonly seeing is about either objective morality, or that without God, there can be no morality. Now, I’m sure this has been touched upon by more eloquent speakers (or typists, in this case) than myself,. Generally I come up with my reasonings when presented with arguments, and then later learn about the originator of the arguments that I use. That is to say, I’m not looking at other people’s reasons for not being a theist. If it were so, then I don’t think I’d be better off than someone who blindly believes.

In any case, I was reading a blog, and read the first comment was about objective morality. The argument is basically that without a God telling us about which things are moral and immoral, morals are subjective, and therefore differ from person to person. The argument, however, pretty much defeats itself. The argument states that we as humans, either on our own or through society, are incapable of knowing the difference between right or wrong. Our ideas of right and wrong come down to either personal preference, or societal preference at best.

But, if this is the case, then how are we able to discern whether or not God is good? I often hear a rebuttal saying that God is the ultimate good, or God is the measuring stick for goodness, but I contend that these reasonings are hog-wash. The only two options we have for determining God’s goodness would be:

  1. To trust God’s word that He is good
  2. To use some sort of reasoning to determine whether he is good.

If a, then what reasoning do we use to trust one being over another. If b, then we find that we in fact must determine morality without God.

This slightly resembles the Euthyphro dilemma in a way, as both arguments have the possible conclusion of bypassing God to get to morality, but the arguments themselves are for different purposes. If anyone can tell me the name of the argument I’ve brought up, please let me know via a comment.

MMA, and why it’s catching on.

MMA, or ultimate fighting as it’s sometimes called, is practically the only sport that I watch. I’ll watch football on occasion, and futbal as well, but for the most part, it’s all MMA. I was wondering why I don’t appreciate any other sports nearly much as MMA, and I came up with the following reasoning.

Sports are about domination. Anything that isn’t a fighting sport has arbitrary goals (put this ball in the net, don’t cross this line at this time, don’t stay here too long) that don’t really mean anything. Yes it’s a skill, but at the end of the day, when your friend beats you at a game of badminton, all you have to say is “Oh yeah, you might be better at badminton, but I can still kick your ass”.

Fighting needs little to no equipment, and the fundamental goal is to make your opponent unable to “play”, or make them admit they don’t want to “play” anymore. In another sport, it could go on forever, you could be down 5-3 at the end, but you’re still able to play if you wanted.

Sure, MMA has a few sporting and arbitrary things, like decisions and stand ups, but for the most parts it’s the most pure sporting competition there is. That’s why MMA will always be the best sport in my eyes.