Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Oh, God

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  • Rob Stowell, in reply to WH,

    The first is the ‘objective source of meaning’ problem.

    Not sure what you mean :) but .. 'meaning' is meaningful in the context of language: this word means that, that phrase means this. It's objective at least in the sense that language is objective (without getting into the 'private languages' argument.)
    But beyang language, eg in the sense of 'the meaning of life' - what does it all mean?! - it makes little sense, unless we translate the question into something like 'what is the value of life'.
    Maybe then it's clearer what we're arguing about. IMHO 'objective value' makes little sense. Because values are something consciousnesses have, that is, essentially subjective. Which is another way of saying: we put values on things; the universe doesn't come with price-tags.
    Which is far too much of a diversion from productive work for this time of the morning :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    My brain hurts. Lawyers are good at churning out buckets of spurious tosh, but that personam stuff is even more spurious than the usual sort. It's like those ads that talk about quantum fields energising water and so forth - it sounds like science but it's not.

    Expelliarmus.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 975 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    It’s a rather weird argument, because common law isn’t exactly a static beast, which is kinda sorta the entire point.

    Yes, common law isn't static, but it's not so fluid that it can disown its own source.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to WH,

    Heh, good old Euthyphro, still my favourite Platonic dialogue.

    Don’t worry, no-one’s accusing the magic poo monster space aliens of that.

    Nice one. I put my hand up for sure as not being the nicest of commentators. I'm more of a fan of robust debate, in which the opponents actually set on with as much intent as they can muster, within the basic rules. Anything less is patronizing to the opponent and boring to the crowd.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10598 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    My brain hurts. Lawyers are good at churning out buckets of spurious tosh, but that personam stuff is even more spurious than the usual sort.

    Yeah, it’s not the easiest topic to wrap your head around. One way of dealing with it is via the aphorism that the map is not the territory, where the map is the person and the territory is what the person actually represents. This treats a person as a representation, whether a physical representation, eg a man’s person, or an intangible representation, eg a legal person as a representation of a company.

    To further complicate the issue the civil state tends to treat people and and persons as being equivalent terms, while the difference between people and persons is very important at common law, especially when you’re looking at responsibility in the context of people, citizens, and the state.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It’s objective at least in the sense that language is objective (without getting into the ‘private languages’ argument.)

    But you can't avoid that argument. Language is objective when uttered, in the sense that multiple people can hear the sounds (although it's really very disputable whether everyone, even people with perfectly good hearing, can hear all the sounds), but the "meaning" of the utterance may or may not be objective. That is not at all clear. It's a great mystery, an ancient conundrum.

    Which is why practical policy is not dependent on it being true or false. Laws would be very unsound indeed if they required a highly contentious philosophical position to be true in order to work.

    Ultimately it doesn't matter if they're absolute or non-absolute in their source and meaning. All that matters is that there is a method by which decisions can be made using them that is practical and consistent and acceptable to its subjects. When that is present, the rule of law can prevail.

    It's a giant red-herring to seek in the long dead the sources of our current rectitude. It's been an endless excuse for shitty decisions. I'd say it's a form of stupidity that could even be hundreds of thousands of years old. I don't really care what Og said about the law, when it comes to my rights (although of course if anyone could find out what Og said, it would be extremely interesting). My rights don't derive from Og's opinion. They derive from the opinions of the living, because it is the living who will enforce them.

    It is true that the legal system must concern itself with precedent when making decisions, sometimes very old precedents. That is necessary because that is all they are empowered to do, to preserve the consistency of the law, and enforce it. But they are not given the power to make that consistency absolute, for all time. Otherwise law could never change, and Og's way would be the only way. We change the law continually, and old precedent gradually becomes irrelevant. We don't incarcerate gay people any more, because living people have decided that doing it is wrong, no matter what Og or Albert or Blackstone said. The wrongness of that could be absolute or relative, it doesn't matter. Judges have to follow the decision, or they will be the ones in trouble.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10598 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I'll feel comforted then, if the civil state chucks my person in jail, that it's only my person and not the rest of me, whatever that is.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 975 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to B Jones,

    I’ll feel comforted then, if the civil state chucks my person in jail, that it’s only my person and not the rest of me, whatever that is

    If I understand the Christian doctrine even remotely, and you are a Christian, then you can probably feel quite safe about that. It was built in right from the start that your immortal soul was safe from damage in the corporeal world. It was a great consolation to Christians as hungry lions munched on their entrails without even caring to give them a quick death - or so said a number of people who had not actually endured being eaten by lions.

    It might even be true. Or the poo-monster might get you. Certainly, in those circumstances, a fair amount of you would end up as lion poo.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10598 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Maybe then it's clearer what we're arguing about. IMHO 'objective value' makes little sense. Because values are something consciousnesses have, that is, essentially subjective. Which is another way of saying: we put values on things; the universe doesn't come with price-tags.

    I agree that consciousness creates subjective value and suppose the question is whether that's the whole story. I'm not trying to give an answer either way, but there are implications of each view.

    I'm more of a fan of robust debate, in which the opponents actually set on with as much intent as they can muster, within the basic rules.

    Fair enough. It's often what people think they know that gets them into trouble, and environments in which people are willing to challenge their own thinking because the costs of doing so are low are preferable to those in which people dig rhetorical trenches and feel unable to admit mistakes.

    Since Nov 2006 • 778 posts Report Reply

  • tussock, in reply to UglyTruth,

    My position is that at common law ethics and theism are inseparable

    Common law is much older than your religion and the invention of your gods. The first law codes were just a matter of someone having the skill to finally write them down and promote standardisation. The oldest trains of common law we have are built on codes that were built on older bodies of common law, going back thousands of years on the basic principle of "sure, but don't be a dick about it".

    The religious texts themselves are just a collection of common law from the times, which were really shitty times full of praise for genocide and slavery because the people who wrote them were genocidal conquerors and slavers (or occasionally civil servants, in that the actual warriors sometimes couldn't read and write).

    We've got much better stuff now. Have had for centuries.
    1789 is a fine year for that, especially through the lens of 1791 and the following century's abolitionism.

    More modern accumulated judgements built around privacy and due process and open government add to all that. Almost no law remains that was copied into the religious texts over a thousand years ago, those that do have been completely rewritten by statute, while millions of judgements on the massive bulk of newer laws stand firm.

    Our common law, today, it's completely separated from the ancient religious documents. Explicitly so in most cases, for centuries now. The few remaining rephrasals of those ancient prejudices are rapidly going extinct, in part because they can't stand under common law judgements where they conflict with our modern rights, like the freedom to call religion an ancient noose we're well rid of.

    Since Nov 2006 • 605 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to WH,

    It’s often what people think they know that gets them into trouble, and environments in which people are willing to challenge their own thinking because the costs of doing so are low are preferable to those in which people dig rhetorical trenches and feel unable to admit mistakes.

    If I could think of anything at all that's good to say about the idea of natural law and a theistic source of validity to laws, I would probably try a bit harder to make a constructive debate out of it. But I honestly can't think of one single thing. It's fucked from stem to stern. It's an idea built to fuck people over in favour of their religion and their existing prejudice, and power structures they want. It's no surprise that it was argued in a blinkered way using only very old sources, and the conclusion that it drew was the invalidation of the entire political system I live under, in favour of one drawn up by a dictionary writer of the 19th Century in a country that isn't even the one that NZ was colonized by, let alone by the people who actually live here.

    It's not a view I can agree to compromise on, because that compromise involves accepting a whole bunch of things I completely disagree with. It's not a new idea, so we don't need to waste a whole bunch of time on the preliminaries. I know what natural law means, and anyone who does a Google on the term will know pretty quickly. UT wasn't deviating from the usage in any original way. I already have an opinion on it formed when I studied Hobbes as young man decades ago. I might as well just tee off with it, with my number 1 wood and an almighty swing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10598 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    Common law is much older than your religion and the invention of your gods.

    I'm only interested in English common law, as it applies to NZ

    http://wiki.actsinjunction.info/CommonLaw

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to UglyTruth,

    I’m only interested in English common law, as it applies to NZ

    And English common law dictates that kids must attend Bible class? Sounds like rubbish to me.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    And English common law dictates that kids must attend Bible class?

    No, it definitely doesn't.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    I know what natural law means, and anyone who does a Google on the term will know pretty quickly. UT wasn’t deviating from the usage in any original way.

    I'm pretty sure that I haven't mentioned natural law - the law of nature isn't really the same thing. The law of nature I'm referring to is that which was described by Blackstone.

    http://wiki.actsinjunction.info/Blackstone/LawOfNature

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm pretty sure you did mention it when you quoted Blackstone:

    This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law.

    You also mentioned natural rights here, saying

    The natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be restated as life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice (or ethical behaviour)

    and here, with

    My focus here is natural rights as they exist within the common law.

    Which are an adjunct to natural law, relying on it even being true to exist. This post was the very start of our disagreement on natural law. I mentioned it immediately, having picked it from the post before.

    Furthermore, the discussion has gone on about them for 5 pages now without you once trying to backpedal on this, despite being actively involved continually. If you wanted to make this distinction, the time was when you first started even arguing the case.

    I don't even want to talk about the Law of Nature, if you wish to treat it as an entirely different topic, suddenly. It's foolishness that I've had enough of. Bullshit we weren't talking about natural law, and like Hell I'm going to talk about any more of this nonsense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10598 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Boring as hell.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19611 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to UglyTruth,

    The law of nature I’m referring to

    Oh I see, it's the law of nature that says kids must attend Bible class at school.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    So often, when one argues with "people of faith", bad faith is the only way they know...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2920 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to nzlemming,

    “people of faith”,

    In various guises, now we have "rational theists" ...yawn

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1782 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to andin,

    "rational theists" is surely an oxymoron

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    “rational theists” is surely an oxymoron

    Only if you are an atheist, which is a more irrational position given the number of witnesses who support the idea of theism, and the fundamental difficulty in proving that they are wrong.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • UglyTruth,

    I’m pretty sure you did mention it when you quoted Blackstone

    Yes. I avoid using the term “natural law” myself, but obviously I can’t change the fact that Blackstone did. The problem I see is that natural law is described in humanist terms, but the fundamental idea of the law of nature has nothing to do with humanism. Humanism originates with the civil state in the idea of homo humanus being distinguished from homo barbarus.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to UglyTruth,

    atheist, which is a more irrational position given the number of witnesses who support the idea of theism

    Interesting that your god is so democratic. Most of them are more "my way or the highway".

    Doesn't that cause problems since numerically more people disbelive in your god than believe in it, so by it's own measure it doesn't exist? It's only going to get worse, you know, the monotheists are growing in numbers and their god is most definitely not one for accepting will of the majority as having any validity in questions of faith.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to UglyTruth,

    “Only if you are an atheist, which is a more irrational position given the number of witnesses who support the idea of theism, and the fundamental difficulty in proving that they are wrong.”

    That argument can be reversed to demonstrate the opposite, leaving you with two positions that are “more irrational” than the other. I presume that what you mean is that both positions are irrational and you are an agnostic. Fair enough.

    ETA, Moz, I wasn't sure whether UT meant that the crucial point was that more people are theists than atheists, but if so then yeah, what you said.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

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