Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

I was listening this afternoon as I drove along to a broadcast on EWTN in which the presenter, Al Kresta, was talking to EWTN host and Catholic psychologist Ray Guarendi about the 3 years he suffered horribly from clinical depression in the early 80’s. His episode of acute depression – for which he was twice hospitalized – was triggered in him by an encounter with a book by an atheist, entitled The Illusion of Immortality. Reading it in preparation for writing a book of his own, Kresta was suddenly overtaken by profound despair. He reflected that the reason the text – which regurgitated arguments he had long before encountered and defeated to his own satisfaction – had such an impact upon him was that the author seemed like a good guy who was simply sincere about his atheism, in a way that most atheists are not.

As Kresta spoke, his offhand phrase “the horror of the atheist notion of reality” hit me really hard. I began almost to weep at the image of that notion, carried through (in the imagination only) to reality – treated, i.e., as if it were really true (as if that could even happen). This feeling, of horrified tears at being perched for the first time in my life at the edge of a precipice that verged upon an abyss of pain without bottom, persisted throughout the conversation between Kresta and Guarendi. I could feel a boundless ontological void opening beneath me, unlike any I had ever suspected.

It was the horrible vacuum in which nothing can have any meaning, purpose, or point, and nothing is therefore worth anything; in which, i.e., nothing can be about anything, or for anything; in which nothing is any good.

I suddenly realized that, on a visceral level, I could not ever have been atheist. I had rather been ever a theist trying to figure out theism; what theism meant, and what it must then mean to be theist. And I could not but conclude that almost everyone – even the most vocal of our atheist interlocutors – is in the same boat. This perhaps is why atheists seem to care so much about the question of theism. If they were confident in their atheism, then theism should seem to them to be as absurd, and as little worthy of their time and attention, as the notion that there are fairies in the bottom of the garden.

If atheists really believed that theism is false, they would never trouble themselves to argue against it.

I realized that life as we inherit it from our parents must of course be crammed full of hope, thus of confidence, and so of courage to essay life’s adventures. What is a baby, after all, but an entirely pure exercise – and, indeed, an exertion – of ontological hope? What is the energy and enthusiasm of youth, if there be no hope? But I saw that in the absence of God, there could be no such thing as hope.

Or, therefore (obviously) as innovation, effort, or natural selection. No hope → no will to live → no life.

No babies.

What could it be like to live as a thoroughgoing atheist under the firm conviction that life has no meaning or purpose or order whatsoever, so that everything that happens, or that one does, is pointless, stupid, useless, and a total waste? I saw for the first time what it would be like to believe such an absurd impossible notion, all the way down. It was a vision of Hell.

So I doubt that there are really very many atheists, properly so called – such as the apparently honest author who so appalled Al Kresta. There are rather, at most, theists who have decided to rebel against God, but who have not at all abandoned the nexus of notions upon which only the notion of rebellion might make some sense. I.e., they try to behave properly (by their own lights), and thereby admit in practice that God is real, so that it can make some sense to try to behave properly – when, in the absence of God, there could be no reason to behave in any way at all.

Can atheism be carried into practice? Can anyone honestly believe, all the way down, that nothing matters at all? I don’t see how.

How could you muster the juice to write a book in support of atheism if you believed honestly and all the way down that nothing you might do could possibly matter?

On the fundamental Pragmatic criterion of truth, then – that, i.e., what cannot possibly be carried into practice cannot possibly be true, or perhaps even coherent logically – atheism must be false. Show me an atheist who doesn’t care about anything, and I’ll begin to think otherwise.

But, why would any such person care to make himself evident to anyone else?

I’ll wait. I’m a theist, after all, and faithful; so, I can wait forever.

It will be interesting to see whether any atheist readers of this post care enough to respond. On their professed atheism, they could have no possible motivation to do so.

I’ll wait.

47 thoughts on “Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

  1. Can atheism be carried into practice? Can anyone honestly believe, all the way down, that nothing matters at all? I don’t see how.

    As a nihilist, for me it’s a consoling thought that there is a void beyond socialized human conventions that can’t ultimately be known, and that nature operates by laws that don’t care about human pretense. When you grow tired of human societies and drama – the woods are the best cure. Or perhaps contemplating a rock floating through space in darkness. The fact that life might be a complete accident, and that humans don’t matter in the greater scheme of things, makes life all the more precious. Because you only get one shot. The fact that nothing matters at all for the universe, makes it all matter even more as a human being. The relative meaning and joy I receive and perceive in nature and through other human beings, is enough. I don’t really care if they matter in an, ultimate, ontological sense. That’s up to God himself (in such a case). Existential angst comes only from thinking. Just accept that you can’t know it all and you will be free. If you don’t leave room for the unknown in your psyche, you will be blinded by false light.

    • Dear Raven, these tautologies — do they really represent part and parcel your state of mind on the subject? Nothing matters, so life matters more? A nihilist who experiences joy? A void that can be located?

      The existentialists — my extensive reading of them 30-40 years ago was entirely a waste of my time — saw nothing, comprehended nothing, reached no conclusions of any worth — the sum total of their contribution to humankind was nil. Reading any of them is akin to looking at a Jackson Pollock “painting.”

      But they all agreed in one respect: that man is the measure of man, and it was down to them, those with the supposed pre-eminence of vaunted ratiocinatory and rhetorical abilities. What egoists! Who could ever be taken in by those scam artists?

    • Thanks, Raven, for an honest comment. I appreciate the risk you took in posting it.

      It seems to me that your thoughts on this topic do not quite cohere without contradiction.

      Which is no surprise, for it is impossible to carry sheer nothing into practice.

      E.g.: “Nothing matters at all” simply cannot be squared with “it matters for a human being.” If nothing matters at all, then it *can’t* matter for a human being. To see this, substitute for “matters” any property you like:

      Nothing is at all massive, but some things are massive for a human being.
      Nothing is at all radioactive, but some things are radioactive for a human being.
      Nothing is at all sad, but some things are sad for a human being.
      Nothing is at all important, but some things are important for a human being.

      You see the problem, right? The nihilist stance you have taken, insofar as you have bravely explained it to us, simply can’t make sense. It won’t hang together. If nothing is *at all* x, then nothing can be x for any human being; because if something was x for some human being, then it would be false that nothing is at all x.

      So, there is a problem at the root of your nihilism. That means your nihilism is not a stable place of rest for you. And this is clearly to be seen in the fact that despite your nihilism you do value some things, like the woods, and like the thought that there is something that transcends the stupidities of quotidian life among foolish humans, which on the one hand consoles you, and on the other somehow makes the whole human project worth your continued efforts, once you return from the wilderness.

      You still love things. On a strict and thoroughgoing and consistent nihilism, it should not be possible for that to happen. On strict nihilism, you should not even be able to suffer the *illusion* of loving some things.

      Re the wilderness versus sordid human society: I speak as one who knows the contrast well, and who sympathizes with your experience on that score.

      Keep talking to us. You might some day find that it helps you arrive at a higher, deeper, and ultimately more satisfying – more peaceful – resolution of the predicaments that beset you, and us, and all men.

      May God bless you, and keep you, and make the light of his Face to shine upon you, and bring you peace.

      • To be honest, I wasn’t entirely honest, because my mind keeps oscillating between theism and nihilism. On the one hand I find arguments for classical theism sound, and agree with the notion that God is Being itself. I just don’t take the extra step and personalize it, because I don’t like anthropomorphizing the divine. And that’s where my nihilism comes from – because ultimately – God can’t be known (according to apophatic theology itself). That’s why the nihilist part of me doesn’t want to make ultimate metaphysical assertions, because a sound mind would accept its limits.

        “It seems to me that, as Richard has pointed out, your thoughts on this topic do not quite cohere without contradiction. Which is no surprise, for it is impossible to carry sheer nothing into practice.

        E.g.: “Nothing matters at all” simply cannot be squared with “it matters for a human being.” If nothing matters at all, then it *can’t* matter for a human being. To see this, substitute for “matters” any property you like:

        Nothing is at all massive, but some things are massive for a human being.
        Nothing is at all radioactive, but some things are radioactive for a human being.
        Nothing is at all sad, but some things are sad for a human being.
        Nothing is at all important, but some things are important for a human being.

        You see the problem, right?”

        I was trying to make a distincion between inherent ontological meaning, and subjective expertiental meaning. I am agnostic about the former but embrace the latter. Things matter for human beings, but I don’t find it relevant if they matter on the metaphysical scale. What do I know about that? Supernatural metaphysical axioms do not seem necessary to be able to construct a good life. You can care about human life still be metaphysically nihilistic.

        “You still love things. On a strict and thoroughgoing and consistent nihilism, it should not be possible for that to happen. On strict nihilism, you should not even be able to suffer the *illusion* of loving some things.”

        I do cherish things, but accept that love might be an illusion. For sure, I hate some things as much as I love other things. In fact, my hatred for some bad things stem from a love for the good, beautiful and true. I certainly think there has to be a place for hatred in society as an expression of love. So what do we even mean by love?

        I think that “love” (noun) refers to the condition in which one’s happiness depends on another’s.

        Therefore “to love” (verb) must mean to act in a manner consistent with this condition prevailing.

        So we can put “I love you” in operational terms and say that it means “I promise that if you test the hypothesis that my happiness depends on your own against my actions, you will not find it untrue”.

        That would be an emprically testifiable account of love. This would be a working definition, without metaphysical bagage.

        To sum up, I guess my position is that if God is unkowable, there is room for nihilism even in a theistic worldview (which rests on faith anyway). Since faith isn’t empirically verifiable, I don’t see any personal need for it either. It’s enough to strive for the good. because if God is goodness, if you do good, you must automatically do his work. So what’s the need for belief? I don’t want to put beliefs into my mind that I don’t need to carry in order to be a good person.

      • … ultimately, God can’t be known (according to apophatic theology itself). That’s why the nihilist part of me doesn’t want to make ultimate metaphysical assertions, because a sound mind would accept its limits.

        OK, but that’s not nihilism. It’s just philosophical caution. Nihilism is a metaphysical assertion far, far more sweeping than theism. If you want to accept the limits of your knowledge, you’ll want to avoid nihilism: the claim that nothing matters or means anything is empirically falsified, by every instance of thought. So, sticking to it is a tough row to hoe; it can’t actually be hoed, no matter how hard one tries.

        Apophatic theology is constituted entirely of cataphatic assertions of knowledge about God. *Any* proposition about God is cataphatic. That doesn’t mean apophatic theology is wrong, it just means that – like cataphatic theology, or any other system of propositions or doctrines – it has its limits.

        When apophatic theologians say (cataphatically) that God is unknowable, they mean, not that we cannot know him, period full stop, but rather that we cannot know him in his essence, and nor can we comprehend him in his immensity. This follows straightforwardly from his infinity and our finity. But from the obvious fact that we can’t know God perfectly it does not follow that we can’t know him *at all.* If that were true, human beings could have no notion of God in the first place. There would be then no such thing as religion, worship, or theology. In particular, we couldn’t and wouldn’t assert such things as that we can’t know him perfectly. None of that stuff would have occurred to us, and in that respect we’d be just like the other animals.

        Supernatural metaphysical axioms do not seem necessary to be able to construct a good life. You can care about human life still be metaphysically nihilistic.

        So saying, you have asserted a metaphysical proposition, and so taken a metaphysical position. It is not possible to abjure metaphysics altogether. It behooves us therefore – if we are going to be careful in our thinking, which is to say both thorough and consistent – to get metaphysics right. You are of course correct that it is possible to get on in life without thinking carefully.

        Since faith isn’t empirically verifiable …

        Have you verified the truth of this statement empirically, by examining all the occasions of cosmic history? Have you demonstrated that it follows logically from necessarily true premises? If not, then you have no basis for asserting it, right?

        I mean, sure, it might be *hard for you to see* how to verify faith empirically. But there are some empirical data you can examine. E.g., eucharistic miracles, the Shroud, miraculous healings, on and on. Not to mention conversion to holiness and health of formerly diseased minds.

        … if God is goodness, if you do good, you must automatically do his work. So what’s the need for belief?

        While it is fundamentally good, Nature – in particular its human department – is subject to error in the ascertainment and enactment of the good. Nobody pursues evil for its own sake. The pursuit of evil is founded upon a misprision about the nature of the good. The pursuit of power, e.g., is the pursuit of a good; but it can be pursued in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, to wrong ends, and inordinately. So for the pursuit of all goods. People intend to do good, but they fail. That’s why the road to Hell is paved with their mistaken and therefore vicious intentions.

        Spirituality (in all religions) is work aimed at improving the apprehension, ascertainment, and understanding of the Good. Ditto for classical philosophy. There’s no guarantee that the project will succeed; we are in the wrong universe for guarantees. But the likelihood of failure in seeing and doing the good is fantastically greater if we are not even trying to improve our understanding of it. And a failure to see and do the good is eo ipso a success in doing evil. So …

  2. I am no longer an atheist, but I went through a period in which I was. I’ve always felt that most atheists don’t really understand the implications of it. The way you phrased it, “nothing can be about anything”, is a good way to describe it. Mine was a private atheism because I didn’t care to talk about it, but I went down the abyss you’re describing here and it took a long time to come back up. During that time I saw everything as absurd, including the atheist evangelists. It never made sense to me why they should care what other people thought, and especially how they would get emotionally invested in it. The real implications of atheism are that absolutely everything is meaningless; every scientific achievement, all developments in society, anything that makes you happy, or sad, or anything that makes anyone else happy or sad. All I knew at that time was that I had some desires, but the goings on of the world were irrelevant, I just tried to get the few things I wanted out of the moving mass of matter and material around me. There wasn’t a point to living, and though I hate to admit this, I reached a point where I didn’t care if others suffered. Suffering under a truly materialist worldview is just a process, something that only matters to the person experiencing it, but not to anyone else.

    The only way I got out of it was through a persistent sense of curiosity, because I did like learning about things as a way to deal with boredom. Studying physics for fun led to another thought, and another question, and to many books which eventually led me back to belief (it’s a long story).

    While I don’t think most atheists have come to a recognition of what it really means, I do think in our consumerist society many have extracted the apathy that comes with atheism, but are caught up, in an almost Pavlovian sense, in seeking after cheap thrills and material gain. The atheist evangelists serve a function to swoop in whenever someone Googles atheism in order to give them a set of things to get emotionally invested in. This keeps them as functional in within a system, but also keeps them separated from their humanity in that they never truly confront the existential reality of their own existence.

  3. Atheism as a theology cannot be carried into practice–it goes against our nature, such that it is repulsive to our souls probably literally. It takes effort to comprehend (in the sense of hold and take into oneself) it, because our souls are repelling it with vigor. I think this also explains why many (so called) atheists seem stressed, because there’s a spiritual tension created by trying to hold onto the belief.

    This would explain why a long-term stable configuration is indifference to religion. There is no tension because unnatural beliefs are not being held, but neither is there any fruit because they have not sought nor accepted the easy yoke. Indifference is a barren field. We must freely choose God, or freely reject Him; the lukewarm get “vomited out”.

    The most honest Atheist I ever met was of the indifferent variety. His stance on baptism: “You can splash me with your water if it makes you feel better.” He was neither angry nor passionate, it just didn’t matter.

    That’s it for the theological angle.

    I think the atheism we mostly encounter today is ideological (read: political). It is concerned primarily with how other people govern their lives, which in previous posts and threads here and elsewhere we’ve established is the domain of politics. A common misconception is that religion is exclusively an institution and so atheism is a rejection of religious bureaucracy. That seems to me to be why most atheists are concerned with individual liberty and its restraint under a religious schema. It’s a recapitulation of the Enlightenment and the death of Monarchy in the west. Christ is the last King to overthrow and they can’t seem to find a way to do it. Nor will they be able to so long as they keep thinking the Church is merely a political entity; and if they ever acknowledge it’s more than a political entity they’ve ceased to be atheists.

    • What you’ve picked out here is the fact that the only way to be an atheist in practice – in other words, the only way that atheism can make the slightest practical difference in the way you live – is to be a cafeteria atheist. You have to pick and choose from the body of atheist doctrine, that hangs together (within its own terms) with unimpeachable logical coherence, the few doctrines that you like, while leaving the rest incoherently behind. E.g., you accept the notion that morals are entirely relative, without accepting that moral notions at variance with your own are no problem at all.

  4. As I was reading this I was reminded of a similar experience I had to that of you and Kresta. A few years ago in college I read a few books that were strongly advocating for a dismal pessimistic outlook which was inherently anti-theistic even if not explicitly so. It took about a year for the arguments, which, to my mind, were well presented, to solidify in my mind. When I saw what was being argued for more clearly, I began to recoil in despair. On and off and to varying degrees of intensity it seemed that a dark force, a malevolent spirit, was haunting me. Time has alleviated most of these spiritual battles, thanks be to God! If anything the trial has made me stronger spiritually. I pray for all of those who go through similar dark nights of the soul.

    • On and off and to varying degrees of intensity it seemed that a dark force, a malevolent spirit, was haunting me.

      As I listened to Kresta talking with Guarendi, that notion struck me forcibly. It seemed obvious to me that Kresta was at that time under demonic attack, precisely because he was then engaged in research supporting what might have been an enormously effective book on apologetics. And indeed, he sought help from his Christian fellows at the time, who insisted that he had to go through some sort of exorcism. But he found that whole notion incredible, and the process they put him through did him no good. So even yesterday, in talking with Guarendi, he was dismissive of the notion of demonic involvement in his crisis.

      To me, listening, and familiar as I am with the writings of several Catholic exorcists – one of whom I know personally – demonic involvement was the very first thing that came to my mind. Hell (literally), knowing what I know, it is obvious to me that demons are involved in exacerbating essentially all the evils that men suffer.

      Evil is their *job,* for crying out loud. How could they *not* be involved?

      Kresta was evangelical at that time. By no means would I want to discredit the power of any spirit – evangelical or Catholic or what have you – to contend with the demons. I feel quite sure that we must, all, have some such power, inhering in us as mere persons. So I feel quite sure that such projects of evangelical exorcism as Kresta encountered have badly damaged the forces of Hell. God bless them – no, us – all. Luke 9:50. Nevertheless, I wonder whether Kresta might not have enjoyed a better outcome, had he been fortunate enough to have fallen under the purview of a priest experienced in exorcism. Of which there were, in the early 80’s, admittedly very few. Exorcism is a much more ordinary thing among Catholics these days – and, indeed, among all the churches – than it was then.

      Still: there is – there must be – a reason that the central rite of the Satanists is – explicitly – an inversion of the Catholic Mass. What that reason is, I am not altogether sure. But I am sure that there is a reason that the Satanists do not invert instead, e.g., a Joel Osteen thing (would it be quite accurate to call a Joel Osteen thing a “service” or a “liturgy”?). The Satanists don’t seem to care much about Anglican masses either, for that matter. Interesting.

      I do not mean to suggest that Anglican or Lutheran masses – or perhaps even Osteen things – are without salvific effect; that, i.e., they are throughly false and profane. On the contrary. Luke 9:50. In the magic books of the first few centuries AD, the name of Jesus was more often invoked in spells than any other. It works!

      Still, and despite the fact that inasmuch as the Logos subsumes and integrates all terms, therefore *any* name truly and honestly invoked is an implicit invocation of the Name, nevertheless it is the consecrated host of Catholic masses that the Satanists try to obtain and then profane, by pissing on it or whatever. So stupid. But, indicative.

  5. God is, ergo to be God-like (via faith) is to be, ergo to be is to be God-like. Where there is no God, there is non-being. The only remaining ambiguity is to what thoroughness this non-being is consciously realised. It can be realised to a meagre degree in a life of petty sin and thoughtless selfishness, it can be realised thoroughly in the will-to-power of the Nietzschean whereby love disappears behind pure ego-will, or it can be realised totally in the suicide.

    Most atheists are alive only because they realise non-being in a meagre way; they have decided to live without taking their principles to their logical ends, stopping before things become too serious due to emotional sentiment (like the commenter above) or a lack of knowledge.

    • Yes. They get along by means of unprincipled exceptions. But this is just a way of saying that they don’t truly mean what they say they mean; for if they *did* truly mean it, they’d carry it into practice, and themselves into nonbeing. It is, i.e., a way of saying that they are not really atheists at all, when push comes to shove. There are no atheists in foxholes.

  6. An honest atheist could only admit that the only rational purpose of brief existence could be the pursuit of pleasure (as demonstrated with their apparent concern that pain and suffering must be alleviated at all costs). On that basis, morality, when stripped of the remnants of mere tradition, should amount to asking oneself ‘what can I get away with?’. Anything else can only be BS.

    • The cool thing is that reality is set up in such a way that if everyone operates on the singular moral principle that one ought to get away with as much as possible and damn all, the entirety of traditional morality cooks out of the resulting stew. Robert Axelrod was all over this with The Evolution of Cooperation.

      The moral of Axelrod’s experiments? It’s all game theory; i.e., it’s all math. Morality *really is a law.* So, you can’t get away from GNON. The most you can do is beat your head against that mountain.

      The mountain always wins. Crime really does not pay. Ever. All that stuff in Proverbs? True. Don’t even worry about it. Just go with it.

      The moral of *that* story? There really is a mountain out there. Atheism is false to mathematical fact.

  7. Your argument is based on the equation of atheism with a kind of absolute nihilism, as if to be an atheist required having no values at all. But that’s just stupid. That’s not what atheism is. Consider, if atheists were simply without any values at all, they would be inert lumps and (as you yourself point out) would not be making arguments against you.

    Your ironclad logic concludes that atheism is impossible to hold, so the fact that there are people who call themselves atheists requires explanation. Either they are confused about what they believe (that’s your position) or you are confused about what they believe. I’d bet on the latter.

    And as usual, you are begging the question. If all value, goodness, truth, whatever has to come from god, then yeah, pretty hard to operate without god. But atheists for the most part do not deny the reality of goodness etc, they deny that their nature is that of creations of some supreme transcendental agent.

    • Hi a.morphous. I am *so happy* to hear from such a reasonable, intelligent and suadable interlocutor as you. Man, oh man. Your reasonable sort lends atheism (&c.) a good repute. There are those of all parties who spew incoherent nonsense incorrigibly, of course. But such as Club Schadenfreude suggest almost that atheism is just simply insane.

      Maybe it is. But it is not so simple to tell that atheism is nuts as it would be if such crazed maniacs as Mr. Schadenfreude and his barbaric ilk were its only defenders. Sheesh.

      Once again, I laud you for your relative civility. And, again, as usual, for your courage in entering the lists here, where you are bound to find yourself outnumbered and, so, in all likelihood, somehow outmaneuvered.

      OK, on to the substance of your useful comment, for which I thank you. I.e., my old friend: on to the outmaneuvering! ; )

      Your argument is based on the equation of atheism with a kind of absolute nihilism, as if to be an atheist required having no values at all.

      Not quite, albeit quite close. If there is no God, then – taking “God” to denote (among other things, and as he has always been taken to denote) the Absolute – no values can be absolute. Rather, all values must be relative, and pertinent only to and within and for subjects of experience – and, outside them, quite moot (in just the same way that the insane delusions of a madman are moot to everyone else, except in respect to what they tell us about the character of the madman himself).

      I take it that you can see that this is obvious, right? An absolute good would be good no matter what any creature thought, whether in agreement or disagreement. This, in just the way that 2 + 2 = 4 no matter how Junior does his sums.

      In that atheist and so pervasively relativist case, we might value some things more or less than others, but our evaluations could not be anywise veridical, except in respect to what they revealed about us. They could not, i.e., have anything to do with any part of reality *other than us, ourselves.* Our evaluations would then all be hallucinations, strictly speaking.

      Atheism then does not entail that there are no values. It entails rather that, there being no absolute truth of any sort, so there can be no veridical value judgements; so that all value judgements – i.e., all apprehensions of value – are strictly *false.* They are as veridical as nightmares. Like nightmares, they do happen; but, like nightmares, they signify only the character of the dreamer, and nothing about the rest of reality.

      E.g.: Raven and I like the woods more than the city and its foolishnesses. But on atheism, we are in that liking neither right nor wrong. Our evaluations are substantively vacuous. No matter what we think about the woods or the city, we are thinking empty nonsense.

      … atheists for the most part do not deny the reality of goodness etc., they deny that their nature is that of creations of some supreme transcendental agent.

      In this they are at one with theists. I know, right? Amazing. But true. On theism, goodness etc. are not creations. On the contrary, they are aspects of the divine nature. They are necessary and eternal, like the truths of math.

      Necessary truth – of any sort, whether moral or mathematical – is one of the big problems for atheists. They can’t do without it if they want to propose that they are able to talk any sense whatever. But they can’t tolerate it either, because there is no way to get necessary truth except in virtue of a necessary Fact. Which, all men have always called God.

      Atheists want to keep the truth of math – and the possibility of correct moral judgement – but get rid of any standard of evaluation of truth. They are cafeteria atheists.

      • [reposting since the original seems to have not gotten through]

        no values can be absolute. Rather, all values must be relative, and pertinent only to and within and for subjects of experience – and, outside them, quite moot (in just the same way that the insane delusions of a madman are moot to everyone else, except in respect to what they tell us about the character of the madman himself)…In that atheist and so pervasively relativist case, we might value some things more or less than others, but our evaluations could not be anywise veridical, except in respect to what they revealed about us. They could not, i.e., have anything to do with any part of reality *other than us, ourselves.* Our evaluations would then all be hallucinations, strictly speaking.

        This is just another version of the same basic false dichotomy. According to you, values are either absolute (and thus public and universal) or they are private and pertain only to an individual. But in reality, we are social animals who share a great deal with each other, including values. We don’t share them because they descend from some absolute source, but simply because that is the part of the nature of social being. And of course we don’t share them perfectly, and frequently disagree.

        The point is: this is how real human values work. They are shared (partially) because lives are shared, not because they are “veridical” to anything. They vary across cultures and can come into conflict, but you need to to have at least local partial agreement in order to have a civil society. Values are neither handed down from a universal source of moral truth; nor are they private to individuals.

        E.g.: Raven and I like the woods more than the city and its foolishnesses. But on atheism, we are in that liking neither right nor wrong. Our evaluations are substantively vacuous. No matter what we think about the woods or the city, we are thinking empty nonsense.

        What a weird statement. If you like the woods, and I prefer the city, why do either of have to be right or wrong? Why should preferences be empty nonsense, just because they are preferences? Are you saying that theism requires that all personal preferences must be standardized to some central authority of value to avoid being nonsensical? That’s pretty crazy!

        Necessary truth – of any sort, whether moral or mathematical – is one of the big problems for atheists. They can’t do without it if they want to propose that they are able to talk any sense whatever. But they can’t tolerate it either, because there is no way to get necessary truth except in virtue of a necessary Fact. Which, all men have always called God.

        Atheists have no problem with necessity, they just disagree about its scope and nature. For them, it is the religious who avoid the acceptance of necessary truths. *So much* of Christianity is devoted to elaborate ways to dodge the acceptance of death and finitude, despite their necessity given the kind of beings we are.

        There are many ways to approach the ultimate ground of things, and many names to use for this inherently unnameable thing, the One Necessary Fact. Being or Tao sound to me like good names, if one has to give it a name. “God” does not, because it connotes a supernatural agent, its a projection of human attributes onto something incomprehensibly inhuman.

      • A.morphous: it did indeed not get through. The second try was the first we’ve seen of it. Thanks for the comment. I’ll respond as soon as I can.

      • *So much* of Christianity is devoted to elaborate ways to dodge the acceptance of death and finitude …

        Dude, you don’t know much about Christianity! Death is central to the whole thing. For Pete’s sake, we Christians put a statue of a man dying at the focal point of our churches; and our central rite is a participation of his death. Christianity shoves death in the face of the Christian at every moment. So far are we from dodging it, that death is something we look forward to, with glad anticipation; indeed, we seek it. We rehearse and prepare for it every week. And Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self.

        Sheesh. I thought this was all pretty obvious to even the most casual observer, but I guess not.

        According to you, values are either absolute (and thus public and universal) or they are private and pertain only to an individual. But in reality, we are social animals who share a great deal with each other, including values.

        If our evaluations of value are not veridical – if the values we apprehend in things are not really out there in reality prior to our evaluations, which is to say, absolutely, so as then to be ascertainable, more or less – then they have *nothing to do with reality.* They are illusory. We can share illusions, but that doesn’t make them veridical. It makes them shared madness.

        For example, we share the value of human life that convinces us both that murder is evil, so that the only thing we then natter on about in respect to murder is what, exactly, constitutes murder (versus manslaughter, inadvertent death, justified killing (as in just war and just prosecution of justice), and so forth). If murder is not evil in fact, no matter what we think, then our conviction of its evil is just … nuts. Fortunately, game theory demonstrates that murder, like all defection, is indeed evil: indeed, mathematically so. Notice then that the very notion of defection in a game – the very idea of cheating, the very notion indeed of games, of rules (so of policies and protocols and customs and positive laws) – presupposes that cheating and defection are evil. What does this tell us? It tells us that you can’t even have game theory unless there is absolute evil. You can’t have a game – you cannot, i.e., have a society – except under the presupposition that cheating is evil, and abhorrent, because it leads to suboptimality. Look then at that notion of optimality. It is a notion founded upon an evaluation, no?

        We share values then, more or less, and operate upon them coordinately so as to be able to effect society, on the presupposition that it is wrong – *absolutely* wrong – to cheat each other in respect to those values. The whole thing hangs upon that presupposition.

        So, yeah: the fact that values are intersubjective, even if only approximately congruent to each other, does not vitiate my position. On the contrary.

        We could not possibly feel that it is more or less right to do this or that – as we all of us, always do – if we honestly thought, all the way down, that in reality prior to our evaluations or acts there was no such thing as right or wrong. All value systems whatever presuppose the objective existence and pertinence of value. This, in just the way that all animal motions whatever presuppose the objective existence and pertinence of natural law.

        To put it another way: as our visual system presupposes that our apprehension of light is truly informative, so our system of moral and aesthetic evaluation presupposes that our valuations are truly informative: that they are, in short, more or less *true.* If they do not correspond to any prior reality, they can’t be either true or false: they can be rather only nonsense.

        If you like the woods, and I prefer the city, why do either of [us] have to be right or wrong? Why should preferences be empty nonsense, just because they are preferences?

        Preferences are not empty nonsense only on account of the fact that they are preferences, but rather on account of the fact that there is nothing in reality that makes them veridical. If there is absolutely nothing in the woods that merits Raven’s preference for them, then in his preference for the woods Raven is insane. He is responding to something that is not really out there. He is hallucinating.

        Are you saying that theism requires that all personal preferences must be standardized to some central authority of value to avoid being nonsensical? That’s pretty crazy!

        On the contrary; I’m saying that sanity requires that all personal preferences must be standardized – i.e., more or less congruent with – some central authority of value. Think about this. If preferences *don’t* need to be standardized to some central authority of value – to some reality that is real no matter what anyone thinks about it – then *of course* they are all just nonsense. How could they be anything else?

        The central authority you abhor is *reality.* If there is no such central authority, then everyone is just making shit up, all the time. Your problem then is not with theism. Your problem is with obdurate reality. Some have called that reality GNON. Others have called it the Lógos. The ancient Israelites called him Memra. The Chinese called him the Tao.

        … the One Necessary Fact. Being or Tao sound to me like good names, if one has to give it a name. “God” does not, because it connotes a supernatural agent, it’s a projection of human attributes onto something incomprehensibly inhuman.

        If Being or the Tao do not *do* anything – if they are nowise active, and thus nowise agents – then, well, they just can’t matter, at all, can they?

        They are not in that case factors of anything. So, no need to think about them, or worry about whether our acts agree with them. They are *utterly moot.* So we can proceed with effecting our Will to Power without the slightest worry about the evil or good we might do.

        Not.

      • Christianity is obsessed with death to be sure; I should have acknowledged that. But that obsession is based around a denial of its actual nature. In Christianity, the unimportant part of us dies, while the more important part is thought to be eternal. Everything is organized around this polarity; the elevated, sacred, eternal and pristine soul vs the finite, gross, dirty, mechanical, and eventually dead body.

        I’m not going to try to argue you out of this polarity, which is certainly a powerful metaphor, it would not be so persistent if it did not have something in it true and useful. However, I reject it; it does more harm than good. As you say “Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self” – that is exactly what is wrong with it, there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self, and it is in fact the only self we have. To be dedicated to killing that self is to be anti-life.

        If our evaluations of value are not veridical – if the values we apprehend in things are not really out there in reality prior to our evaluations

        So if I prefer fish and you prefer fowl, only one of us can be right, because there is some “verdical” absolute value in play? That’s just nonsensical. It’s not how values work.

        If values must be “out there” in “reality”, where is the value-haver? Is he not part of reality? How does he know about these values, how does he maintain contact with reality from his perch in not-reality, the not-out-there, the in-here? Your metaphors betray your confused dualism (a common affliction and not unique to you, of course).

        On the contrary. Think about this. If preferences *don’t* need to be standardized to some central authority of value – to some reality that is real no matter what anyone thinks about it – then *of course* they are all just nonsense. How could they be anything else?

        They are what they actually are, you know, the actual preferences of actual humans, which vary. You seem to be saying again, that in all matters of difference in preferences, at least one of the parties must be in error. Again, that’s just crazy. You are reductio-ing your own position. Which I guess saves me the trouble.

        The central authority you abhor is *reality.* If there is no such central authority, then everyone is just making shit up, all the time.

        I feel extremely well grounded in reality, while you appear to be completely deranged. My reality is not a central authority and doesn’t require one.

        People do indeed make shit up all the time; it’s how the mind works. That doesn’t mean they have 100% freedom to do or construe however they like, the mind’s inventions get tested and evolved by their utility in dealing with the world; but it means cognition and moral judgement are creative acts, not conformance to some external order.

        You, OTOH, think material reality is so woefully insufficient by itself that it requires an external central authority to function. You can tell by all those past statements about how you don’t see how minds can be composed of “dead billiard balls” or whatever bad metaphor you have for the actual material reality we inhabit. You have split reality into dead matter and an animating and supervisory spirit, which seems like an impoverished view to me, but I don’t expect to argue you out of it.

        If Being or the Tao do not *do* anything – if they are nowise active, and thus nowise agents – then, well, they just can’t matter, at all, can they?

        Surely you are familiar with the Taoist term wu-wei, which roughly means non-doing. The Tao is not only not an agent, Taoist writing are generally anti-agency and skeptical of purpose. If the Tao matters, it matters not as an agent, but as something else.

        Excuse me while i go celebrate Thanksgiving, an entirely made-up holiday for an entirely made-up country, centered around such finite and limited gifts as food, family, and friends.

      • Christianity is obsessed with death to be sure; I should have acknowledged that. But that obsession is based around a denial of its actual nature.

        That presupposes that Christianity is wrong about the nature of death. It begs the question. Only if Christianity really is wrong about death can the Christian approach to death be based upon a denial of its actual nature. If Christians are right about death, then everyone else is denying its actual nature.

        Thus if you want to be credible in saying that Christianity is based upon a denial of the actual nature of death, you are going to have to explicate and demonstrate that nature, and then (what I think is far less likely) show how Christianity disagrees with it. If you can’t, then all you are doing is saying, “I’m not Christian; but not for any reason I can adduce.” Or, no, even less: all you are then doing is saying is, “I disagree with you, but not for any reason I can adduce, other than I just don’t like what you say.”

        In Christianity, the unimportant part of us dies, while the more important part is thought to be eternal. Everything is organized around this polarity; the elevated, sacred, eternal and pristine soul vs the finite, gross, dirty, mechanical, and eventually dead body.

        Dude, you *really* don’t know much about Christianity! That’s the *opposite* of Christian doctrine about the afterlife! In fact, it is the Gnostic heresy. Haven’t you ever heard of the Resurrection of the Body? It’s right there in the Creeds. Christians believe that the dead will be raised to bodily life that is everlasting, and way *more* bodily than anything we’ve yet known here below.

        After all, our central assertion is that God *became a human body.* Think, man, think. How does that impugn the body?

        As you say, “Christian spirituality consists largely in killing the worldly self” …

        All spiritual disciplines, of all religions, are more or less ascetic. Their methods are intended to free us from what ails us, so that we may more fully live. To kill the worldly self is to let the true self come more to life.

        … there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self …

        You disagree here with all the spiritual traditions of our species, which agree unanimously that there is something dreadfully wrong with the quotidian worldly self, and do their best to recall us to our true selves.

        So if I prefer fish and you prefer fowl, only one of us can be right, because there is some “veridical” absolute value in play?

        If there is nothing absolutely good for either of us either in fish or fowl, then yes, obviously neither of our preferences for either one can have anything to do with anything that is real in fish or fowl. I’m perplexed that you are having such a hard time seeing that this is so.

        Take a different example. Say that I prefer fentanyl, while you prefer coffee. Do you really want to suggest that my assessment of the relative values of fentanyl and coffee is as accurate – which is to say, as veridical – as yours? Or are you willing to admit that, despite our preferences and regardless of them, fentanyl is lethal for humans, while coffee is roborative? That, i.e., fentanyl is, absolutely, much worse for humans – including for me, the one who prefers it – than coffee?

        Note that bothersome word in the preceding sentence: “worse.” Fentanyl is lethal, while coffee is roborative. To say that fentanyl is worse for us in fact (and not just in our private notions) than coffee – that it really is worse, rather than only “worse” – is implicitly to say that there is such a thing as worse, and so as better; as, that is to say, such a thing as the act of evaluation to begin with, that can be more or less correct.

        If there is nothing out there to evaluate, that really is either worse or better, then whence the act of evaluation? What in that case could an evaluation mean, or therefore indicate? What could it be about, other than itself? Nothing.

        If values must be “out there” in “reality,” where is the value-haver? Is he not part of reality?

        Well, of course he is. But if the values he apprehends in the world are not truly aspects of that world, then his apprehensions of value in that world are apprehensions of *things that do not truly exist.* He is in that case hallucinating. Again, I don’t see what’s so hard about this.

        Perhaps the source of your difficulty is indicated by your scare quotes around the term ‘reality.’ As if there is no such thing, really. As if the central authority you abhor is just obdurate reality.

        NB: To say that there is no such thing as reality is to say that the reality is that there is no such thing as reality. The statement is autophagous. If there is no reality, then everything everyone says is false. Including the preceding sentence.

        It’s reality or nothing. Choose. You must; you have no choice but to choose. But then, I suppose you have chosen; your nom de plume, and all that you have over these many years here written, suffice to indicate your choice. Reality is definite; you choose formlessness, and thus irreality: nothingness. OK; good luck with that. But I am sad at this realization. You seem like a nice guy, withal, and I have grown fond of you over the years, you rascal; I wish you would choose otherwise, and come with us.

        How does he know about these values, how does he maintain contact with reality from his perch in not-reality, the not-out-there, the in-here?

        This is a non-issue. If values are real, evaluations can proceed. If not, not. There is no special difficulty about this. Confer: if light is real, and there is someone who can see, then vision can proceed (and can differ or err); if not, not. Likewise, if sound is real, and there is someone who can hear, then audition can proceed (and can differ or err). Again, if nutritional value is real, and there is someone who can eat, then ingestion can occur (and can nourish, or not). Or again, if beauty is real, and there is some aesthete who can appreciate it, then edification can occur (and can soothe and salve, or not). &c.

        The problem of solipsism you here adduce arises only if we proceed on the basis of the notion that values are *not* real. In that case, the evaluator really does have a problem understanding how his evaluations make any contact with reality.

        Pro tip: it is an insoluble problem. They cannot. There is no way to contact what does not exist.

        … the mind’s inventions get tested and evolved by their utility in dealing with the world …

        Sure. And people differ and err in their evaluations, and generally learn from their mistakes, thanks to painful feedback from the world. But if their evaluations were in respect to values that *simply do not exist outside the mind,* there could be no such feedback, no? How do you obtain input from something that does not exist? If fentanyl were not worse for us than coffee – really, objectively, absolutely, factually worse for us – then nobody could be injured by fentanyl, and there could be no problem with it, and so no preference against it could possibly arise, other than by happenstance or madness or nightmare.

        The very notions of injury, disease, ill health, and so forth – all these presuppose the existence of absolute values, that are prior to our apprehensions and evaluations. This in just the same way that “no” presupposes “yes,” or that -1 presupposes 1.

        Natural selection, e.g., presupposes a principle of selection: the good of robust health and reproductive success vis-à-vis environmental conditions. Absent any principle of selection, it’s all just stuff happening for no reason, that nobody could possibly understand. I.e., the death of thought.

        Again, there is no special difficulty here. It is all just plain common sense.

        You have split reality into dead matter and an animating and supervisory spirit …

        On the contrary. Haven’t you been reading me all these years? I’m a Whiteheadian; and, so, an Aristotelian, and thus a Thomist. I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits who act so as to form themselves to be what they then are. It is the materialists who think matter is dead, and then twist themselves into pretzels trying and failing to explain how utterly dead matter can be alive.

        You seem to be stuck in the Cartesian split between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind. I’m not (nor, I doubt, was Descartes – shall have to revisit him re that (guys like him are not so stupid as their later acolytes and critics like to think – mea culpa on that score (I here now bet $1,000 that I can read Descartes as a Whiteheadian: anyone care to take me up? (Hm: might be hard to specify the winning conditions, either way, other than by proving out the project …)))).

        Go ahead and show us how to build a mind out of mindless stuff. Take your time; we can wait. But beware: minds trained for decades in the philosophy of mind have concluded that it is more likely that their own minds do not exist, than that they are constituted of mindlessness. “I think,” they say, “but I am not, and do not therefore think.” Make such sense of that as you can.

        Descartes was way smarter than those guys.

        Other philosophers of mind who are of a saner and more realist cast generally end up Christian, like Descartes, or at least Platonist.

        Surely you are familiar with the Taoist term wu-wei, which roughly means non-doing. The Tao is not only not an agent, Taoist writings are generally anti-agency and skeptical of purpose. If the Tao matters, it matters not as an agent, but as something else.

        Yes, I am fully aware of wu wei, having practiced it – consciously, and intentionally (contra the naïve and rather silly notion that it consists in non-doing, simpliciter (and *obviously,* since inaction is impossible to living creatures)) – as singer, whitewater boatman, martial artist, and woodsman. And, indeed, as writer. It is not inaction, nor is it purposelessness; for, these are not in fact possible to us, who are natural agents ordered to teloi – *by the Tao.* It is to act in congruence with the Tao, and in no way to disagree with him. Again, if the Tao is not in any way acting – if, i.e., there is in him no tendency, no flow toward this and away from that – then he’s nothing. He is not nothing. In no other way might our wu wei be possible.

        Excuse me while I go celebrate Thanksgiving, an entirely made-up holiday for an entirely made-up country, centered around such finite and limited gifts as food, family, and friends.

        Sorry, no. You can’t give thanks to what does not exist. If you are thankful for your life, with all its wonderful (and absolutely valuable) appurtenances – gifts, as you say (from whom?) – such as friends, family, food, and so forth, then you have to be thankful *to someone.* That’s how thanks *work.* They are *essentially* social. You cannot – you ontologically cannot – give thanks without actually giving them. And in order for you to give, someone must be out there to receive. Else, your “thanksgiving” celebration, wonderful as it surely is, is really nothing more than a party. Nothing wrong with a party. But let’s not call it by a name that signifies something different altogether; a party that is worshipful, and religious; which is to say, ordered toward the Ultimate: a familiar liturgy.

        The Greek for Thanksgiving is eucharist: literally, “good grace.”

        Happy Thanksgiving, a.morphous. I am grateful to God for you. Despite yourself, you do grace my world. Thanks.

      • Dude, you *really* don’t know much about Christianity! That’s the *opposite* of Christian doctrine about the afterlife! In fact, it is the Gnostic heresy. Haven’t you ever heard of the Resurrection of the Body? It’s right there in the Creeds. Christians believe that the dead will be raised to bodily life that is everlasting, and way *more* bodily than anything we’ve yet known here below.

        I confess to a very limited understanding the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, but from what I can gather the bodies thus resurrected are not actual, physical bodies, but something immortal or “glorified” that is nevertheless called “body”.

        That makes zero sense to me. That’s OK, religions don’t have to make sense. It doesn’t really contradict my main point, which is about the Christian attitudes to *actual* bodies here on earth, not imaginary immortal bodies that await us in the sweet hereafter.

        [ I am going to try to drop this point because I have no interest in arguing against your faith. It seems pointless, faith definitionally is not founded on logic or argument. This thread was originally about you misattributing certain attitudes to atheists; let’s stick to that. ]

        … there’s nothing wrong with the worldly self …

        You disagree here with all the spiritual traditions of our species, which agree unanimously that there is something dreadfully wrong with the quotidian worldly self, and do their best to recall us to our true selves.

        I’m drawn towards Dzogchen Buddhism these days, which says something a bit different: the problem is not with the self, which doesn’t even really exist, but in wrong attitudes towards the self (including believing that it is immortal and eternal). The worldly self is not to be fought against as you said, instead enlightenment consists in accepting its true nature as something insubstantial. We already know our own nature, so it’s mostly a process of dropping wrong ideas.

        If there is nothing absolutely good for either of us either in fish or fowl, then yes, obviously neither of our preferences for either one can have anything to do with anything that is real in fish or fowl. I’m perplexed that you are having such a hard time seeing that this is so.

        I can’t even parse that properly. And it seems like you are trying to sneak in preferences with the phrase “good for either of us”. The point was that my good is not necessarily your good.

        Fentanyl is lethal

        Fentanyl is lethal in high doses, but it’s also an approved and prescribed medical drug used for pain management. Not sure that matters for this argument, except maybe it shows that even fentanyl is not evil-in-itself, instead whatever moral valence it has depends on context, and preferring it to coffee is something people do when they need it, and are perfectly justified in doing so.

        If there is nothing out there to evaluate, that really is either worse or better, then whence the act of evaluation?

        I really don’t see why you are having such a hard time grasping my point, which is very simple and shouldn’t be controversial. You seem wedded to your misleading metaphor of “out there”, so let’s just stick with it. “Out there” is material facts, rocks, light, electrical vibrations. The molecules are “out there” and have no innate moral valence. When a person or other agent interacts with the world, they can apply value judgements to it, based on their personal wants, needs, and beliefs. Because these differ from person to person, so do their value judgements. But the values aren’t “out there”, and neither are they really “in here” (that is, entirely subjective) because they are a product of interactions between an agent and their environment.

        Complicating this story is the fact that agents do share much in common and are social beings who live in a world which needs some convergence on values.

        Reality is definite; you choose formlessness, and thus irreality: nothingness

        I thought you were an appreciator of the *Tao te Ching*:

        Imagine a nebulous thing
        here before Heaven and Earth
        silent and elusive
        it dwells apart and never varies…
        not knowing its name
        I call it the Tao
        — (ch 25, Red Pine tr.)

        So Taoists and others believe that indefiniteness (aka nebulosity) is an inherent, irreducible, and foundational quality of the world. I myself am not so sure about that, but given that we have no access to reality except through our very imperfect perceptual and cognitive machinery, even if reality *was* perfectly definite it would make no practical difference to us, since we can’t access that definiteness.

        So sorry, reality for us is definitely indefinite.

        I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits…

        If the material entities weren’t dead, they wouldn’t need to be animated by something external to them.

        It is the materialists who think matter is dead, and then twist themselves into pretzels trying and failing to explain how utterly dead matter can be alive.

        You seem to be stuck in the Cartesian split between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind. I’m not.

        Um, did you read what you just wrote? Sorry I can’t keep up with the contradictions; on this point we appear to be doomed to talk past each other.

        (I here now bet $1,000 that I can read Descartes as a Whiteheadian)

        You still owe me $500 from the last bet you made, so I’m not taking up any new ones. And that was over a much more decidable question.

        Go ahead and show us how to build a mind out of mindless stuff.

        I don’t know how to build one, but I am surrounded by them, every animal nervous system on the planet is built out of proteins and other machinery that are themselves mindless. The great mystery has been dissolved by cybernetics. Not that we know yet how to build a mind, but cybernetics, computation and neuroscience make it a matter of science and engineering, not an insoluble metaphysical mystery.

        You I’m sure won’t accept that. If you will, consider it part of my faith; if you get to believe in angels and glorified bodies and the miracle of the Resurrection, why can’t I believe in the miracle of producing mind from matter? That seems to require a much shorter leap of faith.

        You can’t give thanks to what does not exist.

        Sure you can, it’s the most common thing in the world.

        That’s how thanks *work.* They are *essentially* social. You cannot – you ontologically cannot – give thanks without actually giving them. And in order for you to give, someone must be out there to receive.

        This may be your strongest point yet, or at least the most thought provoking. It’s true, thanks are directed, from one agent to another. However – there is no requirement that the receiving agent be *real*; humans have powerful imaginations. So no, there doesn’t have to be anyone to receive. Gratitude is an attitude and it may be taken towards the existant and the imaginary. Certainly as an atheist I find myself taking attitudes towards God all the time, mostly without thinking, because doing so is part of received cultural baggage. That doesn’t mean I believe in his reality.

        I will grant that these imaginary agents like God are such powerful forces in human thought that they almost might as well be real. God may be no more than the idea of God in the human mind, but that alone gives it a certain agency. That’s about as theistic as I can manage.

      • … from what I can gather the bodies thus resurrected are not actual, physical bodies, but something immortal or “glorified” that is nevertheless called “body.”

        No, they are actual physical bodies. That’s why they are called bodies. The body of the risen Christ is the index of what they are like. He had wounds, hair, etc., walked, ate, took up space, and so forth; *and* he could tunnel through walls, appear and disappear, teleport, and so forth; also ascend.

        It doesn’t really contradict my main point, which is about the Christian attitudes to *actual* bodies here on earth, not imaginary immortal bodies that await us in the sweet hereafter.

        You are responding to a widespread and quite inaccurate caricature of the Christian approach to the body, and to matter more generally. Other religions generally understand the material world as such to be essentially defective. We understand it to be essentially good, but accidentally defective, and so corrigible. We think that the divine plan of salvation involves the resurrection and renewal *of the whole cosmos.* Our central rite is a meal; we understand marriage and reproduction as holy; the heavenly banquet anticipated and participated by our central rite is a wedding feast; and so forth.

        That Christian asceticism involves mortification of the Body of Death does not make it unlike other religions; for, *all* serious spiritual work, in all the serious religions, involves askesis. Askesis alone does not imply that Christian doctrine abhors the body. On the contrary, it involves healing the body: the spiritual food of our eucharist is *medicine.* Askesis is just purification: getting rid of spiritual error, disease, and wickedness, into which we so easily fall, and back into right relation to reality – to the order of being (including material being), properly construed, and purged of our misprisions.

        The worldly self is not to be fought against as you said, instead enlightenment consists in accepting its true nature as something insubstantial. We already know our own nature, so it’s mostly a process of dropping wrong ideas.

        That’s the basic idea. The true and original nature of the worldly self is not evil. God made it, after all. But the defective, diseased self – the self that is ordered improperly first to merely worldly goods, rather than properly first to the Ultimate Good, and so to reality – is beset by evil. It is corrupted by wrong ideas. It is that corruption which must be left behind. That’s the killing of the merely worldly self.

        It comes down to getting over attachment to the self, as if it were dispositive. Compared to reality, the self is indeed insubstantial. Our fundamental prayer asks God to give us supersubstantial food: the Bread of Heaven. Our true bodies – our resurrection bodies – are going to be supersubstantial: far *more* substantial than our present bodies or selves.

        Your objections to the Christian attitude toward the body are founded upon fundamentally pagan – which is to say, Gnostic – presuppositions. You object to doctrines that Christian orthodoxy rejects as heretical or simply incoherent, but which are ancient and still extremely influential.

        You are not alone in this, unfortunately. Many who call themselves Christians share in those Gnostic presuppositions. There are, and have always been, and I suppose always will be, many heretics in the Church.

        Fentanyl is lethal in high doses, but it’s also an approved and prescribed medical drug used for pain management. Not sure that matters for this argument …

        O for Pete’s sake. Of course it doesn’t matter. I cannot help but begin to think that you are missing the point willfully. OK, let’s try again. Joseph Rosenbaum thinks torturing boys is OK, while a.morphous thinks it is horribly evil. Are either of them *correct*? No; according to a.morphous, they just have different preferences. He thinks that when a person interacts with the world, he can apply value judgements to it, based on his personal wants, needs, and beliefs; and because these differ from person to person, so do their value judgements. He thinks then that there is nothing inherently wrong with child molestation; that torturing boys is just something people do when they need it, and they are perfectly justified in doing so. But because there is nothing inherently good or bad about torturing children, he and Rosenbaum arrive at their different preferences for no reason. A.morphous would object to the torture of his own son, but not because that torture was inherently wrong; indeed, not because of anything, but as a brute and unintelligible fact, that has no moral valence outside the skull of a.morphous.

        Can you bring yourself to miss the point again?

        Wait a minute though: what is this nonsense about “perfectly justified”? If there is nothing inherently good or bad, then justification is an empty category; so then is injustice. So much for the whole SJW Leftist commie project. After all, there is nothing inherently unjust about capitalist oppression. Rather, some people simply prefer it, while others do not.

        So sorry, reality for us is definitely indefinite.

        *For us* reality is indefinite. Such is temporality: it is incompletable, so temporal creatures are always in the process of becoming definite. But however inscrutable the fundamental reality and source of being must be to any finite intelligence, indefiniteness cannot be the foundation of all things, for in that case every being would be fundamentally indefinite – which is to say, that it would be throughly indefinite; i.e., that there would be no such thing as things. We find in fact that there are 10K things. So the foundation of all things must be definite.

        Nemo dat quod non habet: you can’t pull definite things out of absolute indefiniteness. This in just the way you can’t pull intelligence out of absolute mindlessness, or life out of absolute death, or order out of absolute chaos.

        There exists a Being undifferentiated and complete,
        Born before heaven and earth.
        Tranquil, boundless,
        Abiding alone and changing not,
        Encircling everything without exhaustion.
        Fathomless, it seems to be the source of all things.
        I do not know its name,
        But characterize it as the Tao.
        Arbitrarily forcing a name upon it,
        I call it Great …

        Tao Teh Ching, Chapters 25 & 4: translated by Gi-ming Shien & Eugene Rose
        aqi Christ the Eternal Tao, by Hieromonk Damascene

        “Undifferentiated” denotes what classical Christian theology calls divine simplicity. Christ the Eternal Tao is totally worth the time of anyone interested in either Taoism or Christianity. It is pretty obvious from its arguments that Taoism is a protoevangelion.

        I don’t think matter is dead. I think material entities are animated by spirits…

        If the material entities weren’t dead, they wouldn’t need to be animated by something external to them.

        I didn’t write that the animating spirits of things are external to them (that you read me that way indicates that you probably *are* stuck in a Cartesian split – or a Gnostic split – between inanimate mindless matter and lively mind). They are not. But nor are they internal, like a homunculus, a ghost in the machine. The soul is rather the form of the living body; the spirit is its life; the life is one thing, which is an integration of a material matrix with its formal specification. It’s all in Aristotle with his 4 sorts of cause: formal, final, material and efficient.

        … every animal nervous system on the planet is built out of proteins and other machinery that are themselves mindless.

        That they are mindless is your presupposition. Your Cartesian presupposition. What is it like to be extensive? Well, given the evidence of our own extensive existence – the only evidence we can have about what it is like – it would seem that extensive existence is like being aware.

        The great mystery has been dissolved by cybernetics. Not that we know yet how to build a mind, but cybernetics, computation and neuroscience make it a matter of science and engineering, not an insoluble metaphysical mystery.

        You do not seem to have read very much in the philosophy of mind. By no means has the Hard Problem of consciousness been solved. On the contrary. Read anything by David Chalmers.

        … if you get to believe in angels and glorified bodies and the miracle of the Resurrection, why can’t I believe in the miracle of producing mind from matter? That seems to require a much shorter leap of faith.

        It doesn’t. Angels, saints, and so forth are trivial inferences compared to your faith, and immensely more likely. Show how you can get something from nothing. That’s what you’ll have to do in order to believe in your faith without making a basic error of reasoning. I can say that on account of the fact that ex nihilo nihil fit is a sine qua non of reason.

        You can’t give thanks to what does not exist.

        Sure you can, it’s the most common thing in the world.

        No, sorry. It is impossible to operate on nothingness in any way whatever. This is a corollary of ex nihilo nihil fit. If you are giving thanks to what does not exist, you are engaging in crazy talk. If you feel grateful to what does not exist, you are suffering insane delusion.

      • No, they are actual physical bodies. That’s why they are called bodies. The body of the risen Christ is the index of what they are like. He had wounds, hair, etc., walked, ate, took up space, and so forth; *and* he could tunnel through walls, appear and disappear, teleport, and so forth; also ascend.

        So, not actual physical bodies, which can’t do those things.

        I think on this point we just have to agree to disagree. This doctrine seems similar to transubstantiation, another declarative miracle that is likewise meant to conflate the material and the supernatural. It surpasseth understanding, at least for a materialist dullard like myself.

        Other religions generally understand the material world as such to be essentially defective. We understand it to be essentially good, but accidentally defective, and so corrigible

        I don’t think this is accurate; the religions I am most familiar with (Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism) do not treat the material world as defective. Judaism just doesn’t roll that way; Buddhism treats all worlds as illusory, and Taoism also is not really about that. Nor do most forms of paganism or shamanism. As I understand them, at least, I could have a very distorted image; certainly there is plenty of asceticism to be found in these paths.

        So maybe you are right; religion definitionally posits a spiritual world which is inherently separate from the material world and yet related to it. They differ on the nature of the relationship, but in general, the spiritual is “higher” and the real world is thus in some sense debased, lowly.

        But debased is not quite the same thing as defective. To equate them does sound like gnosticism (as I understand it). At any rate, I don’t care about any of that. The idea that the physical world is defective just strikes me as a stupid sort of category error, even granting the reality of a spiritual realm.

        I think your point was that Christians don’t despise the body, because they believe in some imaginary (to me) spiritual body that corrects the defects of the actual physical body. As I said before, that makes zero sense to a nonbeliever, but you do you.

        the self that is ordered improperly first to merely worldly goods, rather than properly first to the Ultimate Good, and so to reality – is beset by evil. It is corrupted by wrong ideas.

        Here again you conflate the worldly with corruption and evil and wrongness. This seems spiritually unhealthy to me, whether or not it is an accurate representation of Christianity. I’m really not making an argument here; just an observation, from my point of view which seems to be quite different from your own. Take it or leave it.

        Re Fentanyl, recall that was your example, not mine, and if it better supports my position than yours, that’s not my fault. Your point was that all matters of judgement, including beverage choices, were based on objective moral absolutes. Torture may or may not be a moral absolute, but I’m not addressing that, I’m addressing the much easier question of whether personal preferences are based on objective external moral absolutes, which they clearly aren’t.

        indefiniteness cannot be the foundation of all things, for in that case every being would be fundamentally indefinite – which is to say, that it would be throughly indefinite; i.e., that there would be no such thing as things.

        You keep saying this like it’s an ironclad argument, and ignore the quotations I provided which say the opposite. I personally don’t have a strong opinion, but the more you argue, the stronger my feeling is that nebulosity is foundational, not merely inescapable. Chaos is the oldest goddess.

        You do not seem to have read very much in the philosophy of mind. By no means has the Hard Problem of consciousness been solved. On the contrary. Read anything by David Chalmers.

        Oh I have read plenty, but been extremely unimpressed with most of it. Not even wrong, for the most part. There are exceptions, Dennett and Andy Clarke are often good. A good heuristic is to ignore anything with the word “consciousness” in it, because it is very likely that the writer does not have a clue about what they are talking about. It’s like talking about phlogiston, it will be perplexing and obscure until someone discovers oxygen and the right way to talk about the phenomena.

        In my view, cybernetics and AI have not solved the problem of intelligence or consciousness and aren’t even that close (they haven’t discovered oxygen yet, though they often think they have) However, they are closer than philosophers; people who work with computational ideas are immeasurably better off than people still trapped in philosophical concepts that haven’t gotten anywhere in 2000 years of trying.

        Angels, saints, and so forth are trivial inferences compared to your faith, and immensely more likely.

        Perhaps my faith is stronger than yours then.

      • So, not actual physical bodies, which can’t do those things.

        So far as you yet know.

        *All* the religious traditions you say you know about recognize that certain human bodies can do all those things that the resurrection body of Jesus could do. Science as we yet understand how to do it cannot of course yet even cognize such rare events. This is an inescapable methodological lacuna of the scientific method: it cannot hope to record events that in its world system are rare or unreliably reproducible. All it can do is make room for them.

        This QM has done.

        I think on this point we just have to agree to disagree. This doctrine seems similar to transubstantiation, another declarative miracle that is likewise meant to conflate the material and the supernatural. It surpasseth understanding, at least for a materialist dullard like myself.

        Sure, OK. I would only note in closing that if there is in fact such a thing as the supernatural, then it cannot but perfuse the natural, as being its forecondition, foundation and environment. In that case, the conflation of supernatural with natural is entirely apposite – is entirely *natural* – and thus unobjectionable. If there is a supernature, then *every event of our world whatsoever* is an instance thereof; so that the transubstantiation of the eucharistic host and the restoration of our original nature in the resurrection body are unusual only inasmuch as they are relatively rare special cases of the general ontological situation of all entities.

        So maybe you are right; religion definitionally posits a spiritual world which is inherently separate from the material world and yet related to it.

        It’s not that, quite, although you are close. The spiritual world is different from the material world inasmuch as it is now transpiring, whereas the material world that is the artifact of past spiritual activity and thus forms the factual material of the present spiritual transpiration has already transpired. The material world is the artifact of past spiritual activity, and an input to present spiritual activity. But this difference is not a separation, for the spiritual present moment of life is its integration in and as itself of and with its material past: as the spirit transpires, it generates as its own completion and definite actuality (there is no such thing as indefinite actuality) and presents in itself its past material world as an initial material datum of its successors. Such is the relation of the spiritual world – the living world of this very moment, that is coming into actual being – with the material world – which is the work of previous moments of such spiritual transpiration.

        None of the foregoing is spooky extraordinary supernaturalism, by the way. It is only the way that each present moment arises from its past. If the present does have some real relation to the past, then something like this must be going on.

        … in general, the spiritual is “higher” and the real world is thus in some sense debased, lowly.

        But debased is not quite the same thing as defective. To equate them does sound like Gnosticism (as I understand it).

        Debased is just “not as good as might properly be” (it is, literally, “ignoble”). And, so, “debased” is just a way of saying “imperfect.” And imperfection is defective. What is debased then *just is* defective. There’s really no point in quibbling about this. But nor is there any reason so to quibble. To say that our world is defective is only to say that it is not as good as it could be. Everyone sees that. Surely you of all people, committed as you are to a project of social reform according to your notions of justice, could not disagree with that anodyne evaluation of our present circumstances.

        The idea that the physical world is defective just strikes me as a stupid sort of category error, even granting the reality of a spiritual realm.

        In this we entirely agree with the Church. Provided only that we enter the qualification that the idea that the physical world is *essentially* defective *solely on account of its physicality,* is just stupid. That is the Gnostic error. It is, rather, *accidentally* defective on account of errant creaturely acts.

        But to argue that the world is not perfectly good would be silly. I’m sure you are not that silly.

        I think your point was that Christians don’t despise the body, because they believe in some imaginary (to me) spiritual body that corrects the defects of the actual physical body. As I said before, that makes zero sense to a nonbeliever, but you do you.

        Not at all. The reason Christians don’t despise the body is that God made it, so it *must* be good. We wouldn’t despise the body even if we didn’t believe in its perfectibility in heaven. In this we are at one with the Jews, and with the Hebrews more generally. The Sadducees, e.g., didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body (whereas the Pharisees did), but they did not on that account despise the body, or the worldly life thereof. On the contrary.

        … the self that is ordered improperly first to merely worldly goods, rather than properly first to the Ultimate Good, and so to reality – is beset by evil. It is corrupted by wrong ideas.

        Here again you conflate the worldly with corruption and evil and wrongness. This seems spiritually unhealthy to me, whether or not it is an accurate representation of Christianity.

        I did not write that worldly things are corrupt per se. Not at all. I wrote that to mistake any merely worldly good for the ultimate good is (obviously) to err categorically, and so (obviously) to open oneself to error of all sorts, and thus to disease – to ontological corruption. If we remember that the ultimate good is the ultimate good, and that all lesser goods are subsumed thereunder, then may we proceed rightly in respect to those lesser goods. If not, not.

        There’s no other way to be healthy than to be healthy in fact: in ultimate fact.

        Torture may or may not be a moral absolute …

        Wait, wait: you are OK with torture, at least in principle (even if you yourself would never engage in it, in rather the same way you would never drink peach flavored beer (that abomination under the Most High))? Dude. Dude. I thought way, way better of you.

        Please, a.morphous: please tell me that you are not so formless as really to think that torture of boys is not absolutely evil.

        … but I’m not addressing that, I’m addressing the much easier question of whether personal preferences are based on objective external moral absolutes, which they clearly aren’t.

        Sorry, no: you managed to miss the point about Fentanyl versus coffee, so I made it somewhat harder for you to miss the point by moving to torture of boys. It is that point you would rather miss that you must deal with.

        So: according to you, Rosenbaum’s preference for torture is not evil in virtue of prior moral absolutes. In other words, torture of boys is not evil *in fact,* or so for Rosenbaum, but only in our own private deluded reckonings, which really have nothing to do with fact.

        OK. Go ahead with that. Suffice it to say, that I doubt you really feel that way in your heart of hearts. I bet that if it was your boy, your dear little son, who had been tortured by Rosenbaum, why then you would feel as though Rosenbaum was *absolutely* wrong to torture your little boy. I bet you would then probably want to dismember Rosenbaum, and feel strongly that his dismemberment was just and righteous altogether, *absolutely.*

        Tell me I’m right about you. Tell me I should not abandon you to Hell, along with Rosenbaum.

        … indefiniteness cannot be the foundation of all things, for in that case every being would be fundamentally indefinite – which is to say, that it would be throughly indefinite; i.e., that there would be no such thing as things.

        You keep saying this like it’s an ironclad argument, and ignore the quotations I provided which say the opposite. I personally don’t have a strong opinion, but the more you argue, the stronger my feeling is that nebulosity is foundational, not merely inescapable. Chaos is the oldest goddess.

        Quotations be damned. Never mind them. Show us how you can obtain order from chaos. Otherwise you are just blowing smoke. Bear in mind that in the state of pure chaos, there can be no such thing as you, nor any such act as obtaining.

        In my view, cybernetics and AI have not solved the problem of intelligence or consciousness and aren’t even that close … However, they are closer than philosophers; people who work with computational ideas are immeasurably better off than people still trapped in philosophical concepts that haven’t gotten anywhere in 2000 years of trying.

        Philosophers of mind have grappled, hard, with the arguments of cybernetics, AI, neuroscience, and so forth. These are their bread and butter. That you think them computationally obtuse shows that you have not read them – or what is perhaps more likely, have not understood them (or, what is perhaps even more likely, have not *wanted* to understand them).

        By the way: consciousness and intelligence *are not problems that need to be solved* except under a dualistic Cartesian metaphysical paradigm. The Hard Problem goes away when we give up the Cartesian notion that matter is devoid of mind. So for most of the 2,000 years you adduce, there was no such problem.

        Angels, saints, and so forth are trivial inferences compared to your faith, and immensely more likely.

        Perhaps my faith is stronger than yours then.

        Oh, no question. You believe that chaos → order; that, i.e., ¬ x → x. So, yeah: you believe stuff that cannot even be coherently conceived. Way stronger than my faith in stuff that can.

      • [I posted this earlier, but looks like it might have fallen through the cracks again]

        Kristor writes: Actually, it didn’t. I approved the original comment a couple days ago, and had not gotten round to replying until just now. I at least can still see it on the site.

      • I find it odd that someone who believes so firmly in the definiteness of everything would also promote quantum mechanics, which strongly suggests that reality is probabilistic (that is, indefinite) at its foundations.

        I probably wasn’t very clear when I was talking about my theory of religions and how they split the world into material and spiritual components. My implied point was that this division is a construct of the human mind and to some extent false or fictional. There’s only one universe, not a material one and a separate spiritual one. It’s the structure of our minds that imposes these dichotomies on a seamless and unified reality.

        By “debased”, I mean that in addition to *creating* this dualism, we tend to *value* one side of the dichotomy over the other. Thus, we tend to see the world as split between a valorized spirit and a denigrated matter. So when you say:

        Debased is just “not as good as might properly be” (it is, literally, “ignoble”). And, so, “debased” is just a way of saying “imperfect.” And imperfection is defective.

        That’s not what I mean at all. There’s nothing imperfect or defective about matter, or ignoble for that matter, except in our minds, which is where all value judgments happen.

        The view that I am espousing here might be labeled *radical nonduality* and is foundational to some schools of Buddhism and in cybernetics, eg in the works of Gregory Bateson.

        To say that our world is defective is only to say that it is not as good as it could be. Everyone sees that. Surely you of all people, committed as you are to a project of social reform according to your notions of justice, could not disagree with that anodyne evaluation of our present circumstances.

        This is backwards. The world can always be improved. That does not mean it is defective, as if there was some perfect but nonexistent state that it doesn’t measure up to.

        I see where you are coming from, I think. A theist must be a believer in some kind of foundational perfection, and the manifestly imperfect world is thus in need of both explanation and correction. Nondualists are adept at dissolving these kind of problems, or at least making them less burdensome.

        You keep bringing up torture, but I don’t think it’s as rock-solid an argument for your side as you think. You are begging the question at hand, which is whether there are moral absolutes and whether those are required for moral judgements. I don’t think they are; one can be fully moral without believing in moral absolutes, I do it all the time. I am opposed to the torture of my child, or anyone’s child, but not because it is wrong in some absolute sense. That’s not how my morality is grounded, and I would argue that it isn’t really how anyone’s morality is grounded.

        Torture is an interesting case in that regard. Forget about my morality for a moment and think about the general moral judgements of the society we live in. Torture is illegal and generally held to be pretty bad, but is it absolutely bad? Not so bad that it isn’t regularly employed by government agents, and made into official policy (in violation of the law) by the Bush administration, to the general approval of about half the country. So torture must not be all that bad, as far as the general opinion of society goes.

        Furthermore, it’s a cliche of popular drama to have a heroic protagonist (a cop or agent or somesuch) who is a better than decent guy but resorts to torture because there is some dire life-and-death consequences at stake (a kidnapped girl, a terrorist bomb about to go off). He remains a good guy, and thus it would seem that in the popular imagination, torture is not a moral absolute, but just one value among many, and drama can be created by playing these values off against each other.

        So, torture isn’t quite as bad as all that, to the average American.

        I’d say that despite my loose approach to morality, I am more opposed to torture than the median tv viewer. I’m not much of an activist, but it is one issue in which I have done some work and study (to no great effect, but that is the nature of political activism). For whatever reasons, I felt a need to take action against a government torturing in my name.

        This is how morality works in the real world. There’s not some standard of perfection that we approximate; there’s different actual human values that are in tension with each other, and the complex process of putting them into practice in the course of actual lives. Most people aren’t moral philosophers in the formal sense, and don’t need to be, because everyone is a practical moral philosopher out of the necessity of living a life and making choices.

        Show us how you can obtain order from chaos.

        Where else would it come from?

        Also see https://www.amazon.com/Order-Out-Chaos-Dialogue-Thinkers/dp/1786631008/ref=sr_1_1

        That you think them computationally obtuse shows that you have not read them – or what is perhaps more likely, have not understood them (or, what is perhaps even more likely, have not *wanted* to understand them).

        As I said, I have read them, and some of them are not obtuse, but most are. Many are obtuse in just the way you are (that is, they are confused about the relationships of their concepts and reality, a disease which seems endemic to philosophy).

        By the way: consciousness and intelligence *are not problems that need to be solved* except under a dualistic Cartesian metaphysical paradigm. The Hard Problem goes away when we give up the Cartesian notion that matter is devoid of mind. So for most of the 2,000 years you adduce, there was no such problem.

        I think you are wrong about that. Descartes certainly pushed mind/body dualism to a new level, but the idea of an immaterial soul goes back to classical times (see https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/6891/5019). And certainly everything you write reeks of dualism even as you deny you subscribe to it, eg, contrasting “the body of death” with the glorified eternal body awaiting us in heaven. It’s such a part and parcel of our culture that you can’t even see yourself doing it. Not your fault, almost everybody does this, it’s very hard *not* to do it.

        Nonduality allow one to treat such distinctions as the useful fictions they are, rather than absolute and implacable aspects of reality.

      • Thanks, a.morphous, for this thoughtful response, and for all your work here. I confess that I cannot imagine an interlocutor more apt to my rhetorical and evangelical purposes. Did Justin have to invent Trypho? Did Plato have to invent Gorgias? Did Anselm have to invent Gaunilo? If so, how much more work had they to do, than I? Truly, you are a blessing.

        In all seriousness, I do really appreciate your relatively sweet reasonableness here. Which is far less salty than of old! I find it rather fun to respond to your pokes, and always manage to learn something from so doing. Thanks, my old friend and adversary. I hope someday, God willing, to raise a beer with you in Valhalla; would that I might convince you to follow me there.

        I find it odd that someone who believes so firmly in the definiteness of everything would also promote quantum mechanics, which strongly suggests that reality is probabilistic (that is, indefinite) at its foundations.

        On QM, the past is quite perfectly definite (albeit impossible to ascertain completely and precisely under the Heisenberg Relation (it *is* this (position) but *wants* that (velocity), and of course ne’er could those twain e’er meet (this difficulty has been clear since Galileo, and indeed since Zeno: how do you locate something *that is moving*?)). This is the reason of the coherence, power (qua Law) and intelligibility of the Schrödinger Equation at any particular extensive locus. The future on the other hand, being nowise yet at all other than potentially, is of course also as yet quite indefinite (even though it be quite definitely constrained in respect to what it might become by the aforesaid Schrödinger Equation).

        So: the past is definite, which is only to say that it is something in particular. But the future is not yet, which is why it is the future. And what is not yet has no definite properties. This is not truly difficult, when put so plainly.

        Anyway: on QM, it is not impossible that Jesus should (e.g.) tunnel through the wall of the Cenacle. That he should do so is, rather, only quite improbable; but, as not strictly impossible, therefore in no way contrary to Natural Law.

        Ditto for all other miracles. They are extraordinary. They are not unlawful.

        There’s only one universe, not a material one and a separate spiritual one. It’s the structure of our minds that imposes these dichotomies on a seamless and unified reality.

        Hah! Total agreement! But with one clarification. It isn’t the structure of our minds that imposes such dichotomies, for in that case we could not conceive of any alternative. It is, rather, the structure of our metaphysical suppositions – which can of course err – that misleads us into thinking that reality is not an One.

        There’s nothing imperfect or defective about matter, or ignoble for that matter, except in our minds, which is where all value judgments happen.

        Agreed again. Matter is defective per se only on the Gnostic error – which is an error of judgement in the Gnostic mind. Apparently you reject that error. Good for you. You agree with the Christians, and with the Jews in all their sorts. Matter is basically good. It’s just that it can take bad forms.

        The view that I am espousing here might be labeled *radical nonduality,* and is foundational to some schools of Buddhism and in cybernetics, e.g., in the works of Gregory Bateson.

        Gosh, I was reading Bateson back in the early 70’s. He’s been a huge influence. Why, just yesterday I was walking the dog and thinking about his notion of the difference that makes a difference: a deep insight in the discourse of Pragmatic philosophy, of which I count myself an adherent.

        Here’s the basic problem: on radical nonduality (insofar as I understand it, which I grant may not be so much (is it not in its own terms after all the terminus of understanding at the zero thereof – which on nonduality is also the acme thereof?)), there is in reality no difference at all (this is what “nondual” *means*, no?), nor therefore any difference that could make a difference. This insight is the engine of the Mahayana liberation: of letting go of the idea of ontological success (of understanding, or of any other sort), or therefore of perfection. Thus in discerning any differences (as, e.g., between Mahayana liberation and its antipode, or between Mahayana and Hinayana) – which Bateson does, all over the place (like the rest of us, inevitably) in the very act of thinking, speaking, writing – we cannot but reject radical nonduality. Discernment – mentation as such – per se repudiates radical nonduality, by being a concrete instance of its contrary. To espouse nonduality, we must first implicitly refute it, by enacting its contradiction. If nonduality were simply true, it would not be possible to espouse it, or any other doctrine for that matter.

        The world can always be improved. That does not mean it is defective …

        To say that the world can be improved *just is* to say that it is not perfect; and to say that a thing is not perfect *just is* to say that it is defective; that it suffers from some defect.

        Note please that we do not really disagree about this. We both agree that the world is imperfect, and could be better than it is. We agree also that matter and material existence are not per se imperfect. So, there is not in truth much here for us to contend about. We disagree rather only as to whether the Church hates matter. She does not. On the contrary, she is among a very few champions of material being. Most other religions hate matter. Christianity – with Judaism and Taoism – does not. So, can we stop talking about that now?

        I see where you are coming from, I think. A theist must be a believer in some kind of foundational perfection, and the manifestly imperfect world is thus in need of both explanation and correction. Nondualists are adept at dissolving these kind of problems, or at least making them less burdensome.

        Or so they think. I do honestly think I get what you are saying. The difficulty you face is that if your notion of reality is correct, then you can have no basis for your argument that the torture of your little boy is wrong. On your notion of reality, his torture is not wrong in fact, but only in your tormented mind (and of course in his). All you then have is your own power to prevent his torture.

        Which of course makes you a big 2nd Amendment guy, amiright?

        If there is no absolute Justice, then all other “justice” is just “justice.” You see the problem. Your little son is the one who (in the horrible reduction of our cherished notions to the absurdity they entail, which we must all face) will have to pay the price of your moral “philosophy.” When the evil ones come for your son, you’ll have to satisfy yourself by saying something like, “Well; it isn’t “wrong,” after all; see you later, Isaac; or not.”

        You will not then be able to console yourself with the recollection that the sacrifice of your son was demanded of you by the very Principal of Being per se. You will see well that he was taken rather only by a mob of illegitimate fools and quislings. Among whom you shall perforce forever after number yourself.

        I am opposed to the torture of my child, or anyone’s child, but not because it is wrong in some absolute sense. That’s not how my morality is grounded, and I would argue that it isn’t really how anyone’s morality is grounded.

        OK; so I can rip your kid apart for fun, and that’s not wrong? If ripping your little boy apart for fun is not wrong, then neither is ripping you apart.

        Think of it as natural selection at work. That should console you as you feel your body ripped into little pieces, as the pagan Maenads used to do with their human sacrifices. Your maladaptive notions die with you: all good for those who survive, with more robust traditional notions! Bearing in mind that, on Darwinian natural selection, there is no “good,” but rather only what happens to happen.

        If morality is not grounded in some absolute sense, then it is not grounded, period full stop (for, to be grounded is, hello, to be *grounded,* *firmly established,* and so *not up for grabs*). In which case, it is not morality, properly so called, but just what a few people prefer for themselves and are able to enforce upon others.

        This is the Marxian view of history, so it is not surprising that you agree with its Party Line. What’s curious about dialectical materialism is that it takes most social orders to be defective. On what basis?

        So torture must not be all that bad, as far as the general opinion of society goes.

        The general opinion of society has nothing to do with it. Society is always mostly idiots. That’s why we have philosophers and theologians, and lawgivers, and governors. It is why we have, and must always have, aristoi. So to Hell with the idiots of society.

        But even if we did take society as what has survived for thousands of generations and thus proved its operational success by its congruence with reality – which is how social custom becomes traditional, and authoritative – the general opinion of society everywhere is that ripping apart little boys for fun is absolutely wrong. Even the servants of Moloch agreed: they killed little boys for what they deemed to be high and sacred purposes. Even Moloch agrees that the sacrifice of innocents for mere fun or convenience is absolutely evil!

        Why can’t you? Honestly, what prevents you from taking such an uncontroversial position? What is it that inclines you to the monstrous proposition that the dismemberment of little boys for mere fun is not absolutely evil?

        Only your commitment to moral nominalism. A weak reed, indeed. To us, it looks as though you’d give your son to the altar of … nothing in particular … for no particular reason. Just so you could keep thinking that there was no way under Heaven that you might be wrong.

        I will be interested to hear your defense of the notion that it is perfectly OK for your little son to be ripped apart.

        After all, any such defense cannot but rely upon moral arguments; which, to a strict and consistent moral nominalist such as a.morphous, are simply not an option. No absolute morality, no moral arguments.

        But then, as a moral nominalist, you are not morally committed to strict accuracy, adequacy, truth, or consistency in your thought. Because you are a moral nominalist, you can think anything you like, and there is nothing anyone might cogently say in controversion. Right?

        On moral nominalism, moral argument is a category error. There can be no such thing. So much for Marx, and all his heirs; including a.morphous.

        Anyway, here’s your choice: your little boy, or your precious moral nominalism. Which is it?

        I know you won’t agree that this is your choice, for on your moral nominalism there is no such thing as a moral choice. There is rather only what happens to happen. No fault; but, also, no agency. Don’t ask a.morphous; he is not really here, he did not act, he is not responsible, please o please do not blame him and rip him to shreds so as to save the City from its moral infection with his evil notions.

        Torture is illegal and generally held to be pretty bad, but is it absolutely bad? Not so bad that it isn’t regularly employed by government agents, and made into official policy (in violation of the law) by the Bush administration, to the general approval of about half the country. So torture must not be all that bad, as far as the general opinion of society goes.

        Dude: society is corrupt. It is evil. The whole Leftist SJW Commie project (like the Christian project it apes and perverts) is founded on the notion that our society is essentially corrupt. To Hell then with the general opinion of corrupt society. So don’t go adducing a corrupt social evaluation of torture as justification thereof. That it is conceivable under the terms of latter day social discourse to excuse torture of little boys – for *any “reason” whatever* – is an *absolute* indictment of latter day society.

        A.morphous, I’m making this as plain and as simple – and as brutal and unforgiving – as I can for you. Do you condemn the torture of little boys for fun *absolutely,* or do you think that it might be OK?

        So, torture isn’t quite as bad as all that, to the average American.

        Unless we are idiots, we don’t decide what’s true by means of polls. Average Americans also think that the Democrat Party is the party of the downtrodden. Idiots. To Hell with the average American. What about *you*? Do you think it is absolutely wrong to torture your little son, or not?

        I felt a need to take action against a government torturing in my name.

        Oh, good for you! How brave! Did you post something about it on FB? But it is OK if we take your little boy and rip him to shreds, right? No problem, so long as you do not yourself sign on the dotted line approving his dismemberment, no? No problem there in principle, right? No problem there in absolute moral fact? Overall, when you add it all up, you approve? Right? Right? You have no problem in principle with killing little boys like your son, right? Right? Or men like you, for that matter. Right? Right?

        Listen, just go this way now, toward the ovens … it’s for your own good, and the general welfare. Just go peacefully. Nothing inherently or essentially wrong with your Holocaust, after all. Correct?

        What’s your argument to the contrary? Quick: your survival depends upon it. Be ready: your time will come.

        This is how morality works in the real world. There’s not some standard of perfection that we approximate; there’s different actual human values that are in tension with each other, and the complex process of putting them into practice in the course of actual lives. Most people aren’t moral philosophers in the formal sense, and don’t need to be, because everyone is a practical moral philosopher out of the necessity of living a life and making choices.

        Sure. People muddle along, and make mistakes. But here’s the thing. If there is no absolute standard of value to which different human values in tension with one another might approximate, then there is no possibility of understanding morality at all, because it won’t be a real object of thought that it is possible to think about. We won’t then be able to think about whether what we want is truly good, or evil. All we’ll be able to think about is what we want. And that makes of all society nothing more than an amoral power struggle.

        It also makes it impossible to construe a decision as mistaken. On what basis might we adjudge error?

        Show us how you can obtain order from chaos.

        Where else would it come from?

        Oh, please; this is just pathetic feeble handwaving, to distract yourself from the incoherence of your position. Where would order come from, if not from chaos? Why, from a prior surfeit of order, of course! This is implicit in thermodynamics. On the laws of thermodynamics, there is no other way it might have come. You cannot, on the laws of thermodynamics, generate more order from less order.

        This is a special case of the more general proposition that x cannot come from the absolute absence of x. This is not difficult. It is obviously true. It takes an especially determined willful obstinacy to fail to see it.

        Can the computational sophistication of latter day cyberneticians wrangle 1 joule from 0 joules? Or no, no, wait, it’s even worse than that: can it wrangle 1 from the utter absence of math as such? That would be a bit easier than conjuring order out of the absolute absence of order.

        Also see [Prigogine & Stender in Order Out of Chaos].

        Order Out of Chaos is misnamed: it is a brilliant discussion of how order – the laws of thermodynamics – enables the development of orderly phenomena even from inputs not otherwise ordered. A system that behaves in accord with the laws of thermodynamics is obviously *not chaotic.* It is *lawful.* It is *ordered.*

        This is kid stuff. Surely you get it: *the Laws of Nature are not instances of chaos.* Duh. And also, 1 ≠ 0. And also, ¬ ( ¬ x → x). Sheesh.

        … the idea of an immaterial soul goes back to classical times. And certainly everything you write reeks of dualism even as you deny you subscribe to it, e.g., contrasting “the body of death” with the glorified eternal body awaiting us in heaven.

        Not “eternal,” but “everlasting.” Only God is eternal. Angels are aeviternal, and we are sempiternal. Meanwhile stones etc. are ternal. Must keep these distinctions clear.

        I didn’t say that souls are material. Souls – which is to say, forms, configurations – are immaterial. This is obvious, and noncontroversial. No particular material triangle is the same thing as the form of the triangle. Is the specification of a function the very same thing as its operation? Is a program coded in Hollerith cards the same thing as its execution? Is a recipe the same thing as the dish? Is a score the same thing as its performance? Is an idea the same thing as its enaction in practice?

        Honestly, this is not that difficult. To me, anyway.

        An animal body that has no soul – that has no form – is not alive, and will soon dissolve into its constituents. But the soul is not a different sort of stuff that is added to the body, or taken away. It is just the form of the living body; it is the way that the living body is configured.

        Obviously the living body can be configured so as to live more or less well, more or less ill.

        Distinguishing between the Body of Death and the Body of Life is distinguishing between a diseased body and a healthy body. It’s really not more complicated than that. You do the same thing yourself when you go to the doctor with some complaint.

        Nonduality allows one to treat such distinctions as the useful fictions they are, rather than absolute and implacable aspects of reality.

        OK, so evil of the torture of your little boy for fun is a useful fiction. Got it. To Hell with that.

        I think you do a massive injustice to nonduality. I think you misconstrue it massively. I cannot think of a nondual sage who would excuse the dismemberment of little boys for mere fun. On the contrary; most such sages I have read pour scorn on mere fun. More on that later, perhaps in other posts. But I’m working on it. For which I thank you, sir; you keep the topic at the front of my mind.

      • Thanks for the kind words. I too am grateful for you, I think of you as my evil twin https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/09/17/your-evil-twins-and-how-to-find-them/ .

        Re QM, it poses a stronger challenge to the concept of a fixed and objective reality than you think. See here eg: https://phys.org/news/2019-11-quantum-physics-reality-doesnt.html But I don’t understand this stuff well enough to make strong arguments about it, so maybe will let this thread drop.

        Hah! Total agreement! But with one clarification. It isn’t the structure of our minds that imposes such dichotomies, for in that case we could not conceive of any alternative. It is, rather, the structure of our metaphysical suppositions – which can of course err – that misleads us into thinking that reality is not an One.

        Nice to be in agreement. I’m not sure what your clarification is supposed to clarify; are not our metaphysical suppositions part of our minds?

        Re nondualism: I think you are mistaken to take it as the assertion that “there is in reality no difference at all”. That’s basic, entry-level nonduality, which is indistinguishable from nihilism. Radical nonduality cheerfully undermines itself; the result is that distinctions are neither real nor not-real. As is pretty much everything else. So when you say:

        If nonduality were simply true, it would not be possible to espouse it, or any other doctrine for that matter.

        It indicates that you are stuck at base level, although you show some signs of getting beyond that. The high-grade nonduality is not something that is either true or false, for rather obvious reasons.

        To say that the world can be improved *just is* to say that it is not perfect; and to say that a thing is not perfect *just is* to say that it is defective; that it suffers from some defect.

        Not really. Improvement requires only a fitness landscape; perfection implies that that landscape has a single greatest point. Not the same thing.

        We disagree rather only as to whether the Church hates matter. She does not. On the contrary, she is among a very few champions of material being. Most other religions hate matter. Christianity – with Judaism and Taoism – does not. So, can we stop talking about that now?

        Sure why not. I grant that the Christian attitude to matter and the body is complex, and to say it hates it is a drastic oversimplification. To say it “champions material being” seem laughable to me, but what do I know. Happy to stop talking about it except to note that I’m hardly the first to think of western institutional religion as the enemy of the body:

        And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
        And binding with briars my joys & desires.
        – Blake

        The discussion on torture seems to have entered what is by now a classic and tedious roundabout. You say “x must be absolute”, I say, no, it’s relative, it’s socially conditioned, it’s evolved, it’s complex, etc, and give some illustrations based on reality why this is so. You refuse to accept that, producing such gems as:

        Anyway, here’s your choice: your little boy, or your precious moral nominalism. Which is it?

        I already explained to you my views on torture, you refuse to accept them, so we are at an impasse.

        I know you won’t agree that this is your choice, for on your moral nominalism there is no such thing as a moral choice. There is rather only what happens to happen.

        I did not say that and don’t believe it. There are (of course) moral choices, they just don’t have the nature you are attributing to them.

        Dude: society is corrupt. It is evil…To Hell then with the general opinion of corrupt society. So don’t go adducing a corrupt social evaluation of torture as justification thereof.

        What a strange point of view. “Society” is what we are, it is in general as evil or non-evil as the people who comprise it, you and me included. And you entirely missed my point, which was not to justify torture, but to point out how people actually think about it.

        Do you condemn the torture of little boys for fun *absolutely,* or do you think that it might be OK?…Oh, good for you! How brave! Did you post something about it on FB? But it is OK if we take your little boy and rip him to shreds, right? No problem, so long as you do not yourself sign on the dotted line approving his dismemberment, no?

        This is making me angry, and make me think I should stop this conversation. If you think I am cool with the torture of little boys, then probably we have nothing to say to each other. I’m guessing you don’t actually think that, but since you have no interest in understanding how my moral reasoning works, you feel free to offensively mischaracterize it. Fuck that.

        If morality is not grounded in some absolute sense, then it is not grounded, period full stop (for, to be grounded is, hello, to be *grounded,* *firmly established,* and so *not up for grabs*). In which case, it is not morality, properly so called, but just what a few people prefer for themselves and are able to enforce upon other

        Oh well, I’ll try one more time: morality is grounded in what people (not “just a few”) prefer and can enforce. eg torture: there is no authority outside of humanity that says torture is wrong. If it’s wrong it’s because people take it to be wrong. That is to say, it is of course “up for grabs”, as is everything in this life. Its a moral and political issue where consensus does not yet exist. A lot of your precious kings and aristocrats have employed it as a tool of governance; a lot of Americans are fine with it as long as it is happening to brown people far away. If the moral status of torture will ever be settled it will be by politics and society, not by arbitration before the court of god, which is either nonexistent or inaccessible.

      • Re QM, it poses a stronger challenge to the concept of a fixed and objective reality than you think.

        I’ve been a Copenhagenist all along – the other interpretations seem to me amenable to subsumption under the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is the most epistemically parsimonious of the lot – so I’m not irked by Qbism or Quantum Bayesianism, both of which are elaborations & intensifications thereof. Contra the twentysomething editor who devised the title of the article you link – “Quantum Physics: Our Study Suggests Objective Reality Doesn’t Exist” – the study in question suggests no such thing. The finding that creaturely knowledge of fact is mediated by subjective measurements thereof and that different subjects have different experiences by no means implies that there is no such fact, nor does it imply that there is no object of subjective experience (which is what we denote by “objective reality”), nor does it imply that there is no extrasubjective reality, nor does it imply that there is no ultimately authoritative knowledge of reality (aka Divine Omniscience).

        It implies only that creatures know about the past by measuring it, and that different creatures have different experiences.

        Not so earth shattering, really.

        The interesting stuff in the article has to do with the notion – which is by no means novel – that subjects of experience such as physicists are themselves quantum objects, whose characters and measurements at any moment can themselves be ascertained only ex post (by yet other such quantal acts of measurement), and the blithe acceptance by the researchers of the reciprocal: that quantum objects such as photons are subjects of experience.

        QM seems to buttress the notion that there is no extrasubjective fact only to those who like to think that this is so, and who therefore skate as fast as possible over the incoherence at the root of their favored nominalist metaphysic. If that metaphysic is true, so that there is no extrasubjective fact, then the notion that there is no extrasubjective fact is not extrasubjectively factual. I.e., it is false.

        Because nominalism is logically autophagous, whenever we run into a finding which suggests to us at first that it might be true – not just in QM, but anywhere in human inquiry – we may be quite sure that we have misunderstood the finding.

        It isn’t the structure of our minds that imposes such dichotomies, for in that case we could not conceive of any alternative. It is, rather, the structure of our metaphysical suppositions – which can of course err – that misleads us into thinking that reality is not an One.

        … are not our metaphysical suppositions part of our minds?

        Yes, but our metaphysical suppositions are not essential to our minds per se (which is what I took you to mean by “the structure of our minds”). They are, rather, accidental. One and the same mind can operate on quite different metaphysical suppositions. E.g., you are now a nominalist, but it is possible that one day I might convince you that realism is true.

        Notwithstanding all that, whether the structure of our minds in question is essential or accidental is neither here nor there: if we think things are true only on account of the structure of our minds, we do so only on account of the structure of our minds, and not because they are in fact true.

        See, that’s the thing about any irrealist metaphysic or epistemic: it devours itself. To wit:

        Radical nonduality cheerfully undermines itself; the result is that distinctions are neither real nor not-real. As is pretty much everything else.

        So the distinction between realism and radical nondualism is not real and not unreal. So on the one hand there is no distinction between your perspective and mine, and on the other it is not true that there is no distinction between your perspective and mine. We are both of us neither right nor wrong!

        Look at what you are saying here. You are saying that x = ¬ x. You are saying that a contradiction is true. That’s the zero of thought, and of knowledge.

        Excursus: That, I grant, is of course what much nondualism aims to achieve, regarding it as the acme of being.

        So it can’t be quite what you meant (see, I think better of you than that). I feel quite sure that you didn’t *mean* to vouchsafe a plain contradiction. I feel pretty sure that what you would rather do is adduce some Scholastical distinction, such as, “distinctions are real in way x, but not in way y.” That statement is still autophagous, because it says that it is itself, qua distinction, unreal in way y. Still, there is in such Scholastical discretion some hope of coherence for the non-dual perspective.

        I have for several years admired dvaitadvaita, which seems to me the only nondualism that can avoid contradiction. But you might be interested to learn that I have recently turned to a consideration of the notion of nondualism on the truth of theism, and have concluded that sub specie aeternitatis, nondualism is strictly and simply – and necessarily – true. Nondualism may not be different from Western Divine Simplicity. I may write about that in a future post.

        The high-grade nonduality is not something that is either true or false, for rather obvious reasons.

        It is not then even meaningful; that’s the only way any proposition can be neither true nor false. Not only is it then not right, it isn’t even wrong.

        I appreciate that like many nondualists you are skating here as fast and skillfully as you can. But incoherence is awfully thin ice.

        Not really. Improvement requires only a fitness landscape; perfection implies that that landscape has a single greatest point. Not the same thing.

        Not really. Perfection does not imply that a landscape has a single greatest point, but only that it has at least one maximum. This is the case even with a perfectly (!) flat fitness landscape.

        Excursus: There is of course only one such perfectly flat fitness landscape: that of necessary perfection; of, i.e., God.

        Thus all fitness landscapes manifest perfection: on any fitness landscape of any x, it is possible to be perfect. On all fitness landscapes other than that of God, none of which are flat, it is also possible to be defective.

        I’m hardly the first to think of western institutional religion as the enemy of the body …

        Sure. But we must remember that there are always plenty of people without the Church and within who grotesquely misunderstand or misrepresent her doctrines. Many then go on to inveigh against those misprisions, that have nothing in fact to do with actual Christianity. And that’s *embarrassing.* If you are going to deplore the doctrines of the Church, it behooves you first to make sure that you understand what those doctrines actually teach. Otherwise you’ll be in the awkward position of, e.g., publicly mistaking Catharism – an institutional religion of the West that *did* hate the body – for Christianity.

        And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires.

        Asceticism does indeed tend to harsh a cool mellow. But of course it is de rigueur in all advanced spiritual disciplines. Virtue likewise. The project of mystical enlightenment cannot proceed except insofar as the student has gotten over himself and his peculiar joys and desires.

        Blake’s problem here (if in fact he had it, which I much doubt – he was not exactly a voluptuary, after all, nor was he a spiritual ignoramus) is not with Christianity per se, or the priests of the Church, but with the objective reality of the moral and spiritual life.

        We must remember also that there is ever a natural tension between mystical free lancers like Blake, Francis or Boehme on the one hand and the Church on the other. Like all Traditional societies, the Church is skeptical of religious innovators, and rightly so: most mutations are lethal. Religious innovators are by nature incipient heretics – haeresis is “taking or choosing for oneself” – and so are naturally potential schismatics: mysticism, the old saw goes, begins in mist and ends in schism. A Traditional society that hopes to survive cannot do without innovators, but must treat all innovations with some skepticism and caution. This is why there are monasteries, and monastic institutions such as the college and the university: one of their purposes is to corral the innovators in one place, where their innovations can fight it out intramurally before the survivors are exported to society at large. Even then they must be tested by the institutional hierarchy: even well domesticated monastic orders and institutions can run off the rails quite disastrously, and require correction.

        Like magic, mysticism is *dangerous* (in part because it can so easily devolve into magic). Thus as Traditionalist scholars such as Guénon have long noticed, all Traditional religions insist that it is crucial to the spiritual health of an aspiring saint to put himself under the supervision of a master in a school of a Traditional institutional cult. A cursory study of the lives of the saints reveals that almost all of them had throughout their careers both confessors and spiritual directors. So do the Popes.

        It is not surprising that a mystical genius like Blake should chafe at that sort of supervision by a less spiritually gifted mind.

        Do you condemn the torture of little boys for fun *absolutely,* or do you think that it might be OK? …

        This is making me angry, and makes me think I should stop this conversation. If you think I am cool with the torture of little boys, then probably we have nothing to say to each other. I’m guessing you don’t actually think that, but since you have no interest in understanding how my moral reasoning works, you feel free to offensively mischaracterize it.

        I do not of course think that you are cool with torture. That was a rhetorical device, to force the issue: a reductio – a stark choice between whether torture of boys for fun is OK in some circumstances (as when society mostly thinks it’s cool) or absolutely evil. Notice that the choice is not of my invention: these are the only options out there, so I’m just the messenger.

        Your response is in favor of the latter option – *and you find the suggestion that you would opt for it offensive.*

        It is interesting that you feel angry about being cornered into that choice. Allow me to suggest that your anger is a manifestation of something in you that objects to the moral nominalism to which you have committed yourself. For, on your moral nominalism, it really *is* OK to torture boys for fun, so long as enough nearby people agree that this is so. It’s a disgusting result, and you abhor it in your guts; the very notion of torturing little boys for fun rightly raises your horror and ire. But it’s right there in the logic of your account of “morality:” such torture is perfectly OK, provided it is popular. If you really believed that in your guts, I doubt your guts would churn with anger at the suggestion that you believe it in your guts.

        I actually understand your moral nominalism pretty well. I bought it myself for a little while, until I understood its incoherence. As incoherent, it *cannot* work. It is an explanation not of morality, but rather of happenstantial preponderant social preferences; indeed, it calls “moral” whatever it is that society mostly happens to approve. But in this it is analogous to neo-Darwinism, which “explains” biological order as merely happenstantial, and thus as a species of disorder. Likewise, nominalism “explains” morality as the system of values that – for no exogenous reasons – a society just happens to prefer, and thus as a species of amorality.

        … there is no authority outside of humanity that says torture is wrong.

        That begs the question at issue. It is as much as to say, “moral nominalism is true because it is true.”

        And it is furthermore a false proposition: game theory – which, NB, can run only in virtue of the presupposition that winning (however defined) is better than losing (i.e., in virtue only of an implicit moral evaluation that is prior to and presupposed by the nature of games per se) – demonstrates that defections such as torture are losing strategies. Defects – evils – are maladaptive (of course; how could it be otherwise?). They are not maladaptive because they generate bad outcomes, although they certainly do. It runs the other way: they generate bad outcomes because they are maladaptive: they are not ordered properly to reality. They are disordered.

        Excursus: Notice those two words: “properly” and “disordered.” Both employ a moral evaluation. On nominalism, you can’t do evolutionary biology or thermodynamics.

        Like the rest of reality, game theory is obviously exogenous and prior to humanity (albeit ergo also in it immanent); and like all maths, its truths obtain necessarily, eternally, and so in every conceivable state of affairs.

        If it’s wrong it’s because people take it to be wrong.

        This is like saying that salt is salty because people take it to be salty. But that is a dormitive virtue “explanation:” it is to say only that salt is salty on account of its saltiness. It rules out any answer to the question of how salt might be in itself such as to appear to be salty. It therefore rules out the reality of salt, vis-à-vis the human person. So you end up with the objective irreality of saltiness, and so of salt.

        You end up with irreality, period full stop. If there is no salt out there, and therefore no objective saltiness inherent thereto, why then any impression of saltiness that we might have must be delusory. So likewise then with *all our impressions whatever;* including our impression that our impressions are not altogether reliable, and our impression that they are private – “merely subjective.” When we call the saltiness inherent in salt into question, implicitly we call everything into question – including the whole procedure of calling things into question.

        We could not take torture to be wrong – the question could not even occur to us – if it was not to us somehow *actually* wrong ex ante, so that it might then possibly *seem* to us wrong; so that it might tickle our wrongness detectors the way photons tickle our retinae or sodium chloride tickles our tongues. It could not otherwise seem to us even possibly wrong. To suggest that it was wrong would strike us as odd and categoreally errant; like ascribing odor to sounds. It would seem to us rather to have the same utterly indifferent moral character as rocks or dirt, which are simply not a factor of human moral life, in and of themselves, but rather only a circumstance thereof.

        What is more, we ourselves had to be set up ab initio to be able to understand torture of boys for mere fun as inherently evil in order even to begin to entertain the question whether such torture is in fact evil. If we had by nature no way to understand that torture might be inherently evil, the question of whether it is in fact evil could signify nothing to us.

        Thus the entire question of whether moral nominalism is true cannot even get started – it is not even conceivable – unless we are by nature so made as to presuppose ab initio that moral nominalism is false and moral realism true. Moral nominalism cannot then be true unless it is first false. For, there’s no way even to express moral nominalism, except under the terms of moral realism.

        Excursus: Nominalism per se presupposes realism. It cannot even be expressed except in virtue of an implicit prior presupposition of realism, and in realist terms. So nominalism is just a species of realism: it is just a realistic account of how minds adjust themselves to reality. Gosh, this was all in Dewey, all those decades ago. Yikes. A new insight. Thanks for your argumentation, my old friend. I would not likely have seen this, had I not been responding here to your challenges.

        Challenges are good!

        We cannot get even a specious *seeming* of x out of a complete vacuity of simility to x (“seem” and “simil” – and “same” – stem from the same PIE root). This in just the way that we could not take light to be light if it was not actually somehow light (at least seemingly), or mass to be massive if it was not at all actually somehow massive (as being, i.e., inertial). Oh, sure, a few people do err from time to time about any such thing (viz., mirages); people are famously errant. But societies that as a whole and consistently erred about salt, light, mass, or torture of boys for fun would be maladaptive, and quickly rubbed out.

        Finally, even a specious seeming of wrongness or rightness is a moral evaluation, which qua instance thereof constitutes the exception that proves the rule that moral evaluation is usually veridical and reliable. The mirage looks like water; this it could not at all do if water did not reliably look like water.

        Excursus: Failure rides free on success. This it does at no proximal cost to itself, but only to its successful host.

        NB: the notions of error, accuracy, success, failure, winning, losing, adaptation and maladaptation all presuppose prior moral evaluations of different states of affairs. As for that matter do the notions of illness, life, death, health, order, and disorder. Indeed the very notion and fact of preference, and thus of choice – of mere optionality then, and thus of action – presupposes that evaluation is first salient to reality and second valuable in itself. Value per se then is itself a value. That’s interesting: our constant acts of valuation indicate that valuation is itself valuable. That tells us something about reality.

        Because it is the control of perception, behavior as such is tracking a target state value – i.e., a preferred state value – of this local system or that as the telos proper to its nature, setup, character, specification, or what have you. The nervous system is throughout a value realization system; were no such preferred target state values specified as prior teloi of its various subsystems, it could not track them. It would then be just thrashing about chaotically; i.e., dying.

        … [the morality of torture] is of course “up for grabs,” as is everything in this life. It’s a moral and political issue where consensus does not yet exist.

        Sure. Morality is tricky, and difficult, because mortal life is such that principles of all sorts must be parsed according to their relative salience to an incalculable number of different situations, some of which seem to put moral principles at odds with each other (as in the Trolley Problem). But if the morality of torture wasn’t out there ab initio as a moral feature of objective reality that had made itself felt in the human mind and conscience as both material and important, humans would never have noticed it so as to wonder about it in the first place. It wouldn’t then be up for grabs. No one would ever have cared about it; not even its victims. No one would ever have noticed the matter of the morality of torture. It just would not appear on the list of our human concerns.

        Torture would then be less controversial than breathing. You could not then possibly have found yourself angry at the notion that you thought it sometimes OK. Your anger at the suggestion would then have been deeply odd; as odd as anger at the suggestion that you thought rocks are mineral.

      • The Copenhagen is not really the most “epistemically parsimonious”, it requires postulating special observation events that are unexplained within the theory. The many-world interpretation avoid this, but it is ontologically the opposite of parsimonious. (Again, making no argument here, except maybe that the conceptually perplexing nature of the quantum world supports non-dualism, which is in part an acknowledgement of the inadequacy of our conceptual schemata).

        If that metaphysic is true, so that there is no extrasubjective fact, then the notion that there is no extrasubjective fact is not extrasubjectively factual. I.e., it is false.

        You never tire of this sort of argument, do you? Can’t say I feel the same.

        Look at what you are saying here. You are saying that x = ¬ x. You are saying that a contradiction is true. That’s the zero of thought, and of knowledge.

        That is, more or less, what nondualism is. It denies the reality of a particular dichotomy. This might not seem sensible for, say, mathematical propositions, but for things like “there must be extrasubjective facts” it is quite useful. In this case, every word of the proposition is suspect, and the first way to see that is to tell people who think it must be simply true or false, yes or no, definitely and positively – to just piss off. (See the torture discussion below).

        But you might be interested to learn that I have recently turned to a consideration of the notion of nondualism on the truth of theism, and have concluded that sub specie aeternitatis, nondualism is strictly and simply – and necessarily – true.

        Welcome brother to the congregation of the epistologically modest.

        Er, um, on second thought – if you go around saying things like “nondualism is true” you probably don’t really get it. Ah well, it’s not for everyone.

        Re fitness landscapes, “perfection” implies, if not requires, an end-point, whereas “incremental improvements” implies other things. The former also implies a somewhat static landscape, whereas incremental improvement is dealing with a constantly reconfigured space of possibilities.

        If you are going to deplore the doctrines of the Church, it behooves you first to make sure that you understand what those doctrines actually teach

        I don’t really care about the official doctrines of the Church, I care about what it does in reality, not its precepts. And to observe that it is kind of weird about the body is not original and not wrong. Eg, take the practice of self-flagellation – I suppose it may not be anti-body in official intent, maybe it’s just asceticism, or an extreme way of imitating Christ or something. But from the outside, it does not look like a very healthy relationship to physicality.

        And it isn’t really the Church per se that devalues the body, it’s everything in Western culture. Mostly due to the Greek influence.

        Re Blake, I am 100% on the outsider’s side when it comes to religious institutionalism. (Also, probably a mistake to call him a mystic – he was a visionary, which is not the same thing. He is quite explicitly anti-mystery in many passages).

        Blake’s problem here (if in fact he had it, which I much doubt – he was not exactly a voluptuary, after all, nor was he a spiritual ignoramus) is not with Christianity per se, or the priests of the Church, but with the objective reality of the moral and spiritual life.

        Blake is saying as clear as can be that the Church and what it represents is the enemy of the true spiritual life, of love, joy and desire, and life itself. There is not the slightest obscurity about this poem. He is not “chafing at spiritual supervision”, he is going to war against a spiritual enemy. I mean, feel free to be on the other side, but let us at least respect the clarity of Blake’s art.

        Re torture, obviously you are trying to back me into a corner, and I hope its just as obvious that I refuse to be so manipulated. I don’t feel cornered by your strategies a bit, I find them crude. You posit a stark choice between a crude moral realism and an equally simpleminded nominalism. Here’s where non-duality helps, because I feel not the slightest obligation to grab either end of your shit-covered stick.

        This is like saying that salt is salty because people take it to be salty.

        But that is exactly what “salty” means. Sodium chloride on its own is not salty, it’s just a bunch of atoms in a cubical lattice. The interaction of it with taste receptors and the rest of the nervous system is what makes “salty”.

        You have a real knack for picking examples that undermine your own arguments, I must say.

        Salty, like morality, is an interesting combination of the innate (and thus universal), and acquired (and variable) taste. Everyone has saltiness receptors on their tongue, and a lot of the basics of morality are also innate and universal, in that there are built-in biological mechanisms for things like aggression, care, and kin recognition that morality builds upon. Yet there are wide ranges of preference in saltiness and even wider ranges about what people take to be moral.

        Your last bad example, as I remember, put both of these kinds of preferences on the same footing. Not only must there be a single correct answer to moral questions, even matters of taste must be decided against objective and universal standards. If one person prefers more salt than another, one of them must be wrong, I seem to recall you saying (it was woods vs cities, but same idea). To me, that’s clear evidence of the absurdity of your position.

        But that is a dormitive virtue “explanation”

        No, it’s exactly the opposite, see above.

      • The Copenhagen is not really the most “epistemically parsimonious,” it requires postulating special observation events that are unexplained within the theory.

        I’m not too worried about that, given Gödel. On Gödel – on Euclid, for that matter – every theory must invoke something or other unexplained therein. The other interpretations are not exempt.

        By no means am I a scholar of QM interpretations, but my impression now as a rank amateur is that the main competitors to Copenhagenist interpretations are either Bohmian or MWI in character. The former sort are much more sensible, but it has long seemed to me that they can be subsumed in a Copenhagenist view. The Bohmian pilot wave looks to me like a telos in disguise. I’m not disturbed by teloi, which seem to me not different from stochastic probabilities, so …

        Plus I just like teloi, for without them, it’s nothing but the Democritean absolute chaos. Which is the zero of … well, of everything.

        Excursus: the Democritean clinamen is just a telos in disguise.

        The MWI avoids teloi, but ontologically it is infinitely profligate: Ockham would be appalled. If under the MWI everything that can happen does happen, then there is nothing to explain, for in that case nothing in particular happens in contravention to other happenings. That’s silly. It is a metaphysical rejection of science.

        If that metaphysic is true, so that there is no extrasubjective fact, then the notion that there is no extrasubjective fact is not extrasubjectively factual. I.e., it is false.

        You never tire of this sort of argument, do you? Can’t say I feel the same.

        I can appreciate that it must be tiresome for you to encounter over and over an argument that ruins your entire philosophy and that you find yourself powerless to controvert.

        Or am I wrong? Do you have some way to controvert it? Please enlighten us. Do tell.

        Look at what you are saying here. You are saying that x = ¬ x. You are saying that a contradiction is true. That’s the zero of thought, and of knowledge.

        That is, more or less, what nondualism is. It denies the reality of a particular dichotomy.

        A.morphous, my old friend and adversary: if you are going to commit yourself to a rejection of the Law of Noncontradiction, why then there is really no point in my talking to you, or in your talking to me. On your construction of nondualism, neither of us are either right or wrong, and it is both true and false that there is any difference between our positions. So I am right and wrong, and so likewise are you. What can be said about that, which is not simply insane? Nothing, right? In which case, the “best” option for the nondualist of your sort would seem to be silence and inaction. Not wu wei, but straight up immobility.

        This might not seem sensible for, say, mathematical propositions, but for things like “there must be extrasubjective facts” it is quite useful.

        The truth of true mathematical propositions is an extrasubjective fact. No? 2 + 2 = 4 is not true on account of the fact that the local social population thinks it true, right? It is true no matter what the local yokels think, right? Right?

        If by some wild goodchance you agree that the truths of math are true extrasubjectively, no matter what the local yokels anywhere might think, why then the question naturally arises: in what sense can it then be true that “there must be extrasubjective facts” is false?

        In this case, every word of the proposition is suspect …

        I’m not sure what proposition you are here talking about.

        … and the first way to see that is to tell people who think it must be simply true or false, yes or no, definitely and positively – to just piss off.

        You first! To say “piss off” is to quit the field and stalk off in high dudgeon at its implacable rules. It’s a boy’s move. The first to quit the field has ipso facto admitted his own incapacity and defeat; and has thereby implicitly agreed that his own position is (by his own poor lights) indefensible.

        The contest here engaged is to arrive by dialectic at a proposition that both sides can agree is true. In and by your nondualism, you reject the very notion of truth. So you reject the contest ab initio. You are not even on the lists, then. This is your out, by which you might salvage a morsel of self-respect as you stalk off indignant. But the trial of the lists is dispositive; who will not contest therein according to her rules is eo ipso a loser.

        If you cannot prove your positions, then by God you cannot prove them, and you ought as a man to admit as much, and then to admit of correction. Honestly, don’t you want to *learn*?

        If your philosophical system prevents you from proving my own wrong – which, on your account of your nondualism, it manifestly does – then *what can you possibly make of my arguments?* Or of yours, for that matter? If your system cannot know how to refute any contrary, then *in what, substantively, can it possibly subsist?*

        Think of it this way: on your “nondualist” notion that “nothing definite is true,” your “nondualist” notion is *definitely* untrue. It is *obviously* false. Right? Right? Consider, as a base case: “The nondualism of a.morphous, which insists that every definite proposition is neither true nor false, is true.” On the nondualism of a.morphous, that proposition is itself neither true nor false. So, among other things, it is false.

        Never mind your exhaustion with arguments of this sort. If you can’t surmount them, then ipso facto your notions are by them utterly refuted. Go on as much as you like with your rejection of such categories as true and false. Nobody else still here reading will be fooled for a moment.

        Dude, you are bankrupt. Everyone sees it. Your radical nondualism just does not cut the mustard. That you evidently cannot or will not see this is somewhat pathetic.

        I gotta think there is more to nondualism than a.morphous thinks. I kinda think I get nondualism better than he does. For, I see a way of getting it – rather than of abjuring that project ab initio, surely a motion of cowardice. Given all that he has said, a.morphous can have no such way of seeing. On his own metaphysic, he cannot say anything at all and truly mean it – nor can he not mean it. So, per his own nondualism, he cannot get – or even identify – his own nondualism.

        Er, um, on second thought – if you go around saying things like “nondualism is true” you probably don’t really get it. Ah well, it’s not for everyone.

        So nondualism is false? Or, it is both false and true? Dude, you must here understand that you are talking like a madman. Not good for your side! But then, of course, if your notion of nondualism is “true,” there is then no such thing as your side. So, WTF, whatever; on into the chaos, without any order or reason …

        Re fitness landscapes, “perfection” implies, if not requires, an end-point, whereas “incremental improvements” implies other things.

        There is no hill in a fitness landscape that has no crest. Even a crest at an infinite value is still a crest.

        … incremental improvement is dealing with a constantly reconfigured space of possibilities.

        Not relevant. It does not matter whether the fitness landscape evolves. At every moment of its evolution, it must have a maximum (or else, it is not a complete landscape, and therefore *does not exist in any way* (so that, as not existent in the first place in any way, the shape of the nonexistent fitness landscape cannot influence events).

        In passing: what on Earth is all this talk of “improvement” in fitness landscapes? Does it not amount to an implicit admission of absolute values? How exactly might one construct a fitness landscape, in the utter absence of any prior definition of fitness; i.e., of any telos of being, any value that being per se is intended to realize? How can you improve something if improvement is not extrasubjectively defined?

        If you are going to deplore the doctrines of the Church, it behooves you first to make sure that you understand what those doctrines actually teach.

        I don’t really care about the official doctrines of the Church …

        Well then, nothing you have said about the Church can be apposite. It must be just noise, and in all charity we should overlook everything you have offered on the topic, just as we overlook your farts, pimples, and malapropisms.

        There are ever to be sure all manner of divagations from Christian orthodoxy. That’s how it is with humans, at least as Fallen. But, obviously, qua divagations, they are not of the Faith proper. If you don’t know the Faith proper, you won’t be able to tell the differences between her covagations and her divagations; and in that case, you’ll be mired in a swamp of back and forth, this and that which has nothing at all to do with the target you mean to destroy, which of course is the Church herself. You’ll rather be spending your ammo on windmills and straw men. Go ahead and knock yourself out with that; it cannot matter, at all, or gain any traction elsewhere than in minds like yours misled.

        Just understand – know well, my old friend – that the character of your life everlasting depends upon your final decision about all these things. I hope you decide to come with me up to sempiternal glory, and to fellowship forever. But if you don’t, you don’t. Up to you.

        God grant I do gain access to his glory; God grant me the strength to accept it. No cheapness here, NB, all you who update the Book of Life! No presumption on my part! Still working on it, stay tuned!

        … to observe that [Christianity] is kind of weird about the body is not original and not wrong. E.g., take the practice of self-flagellation – I suppose it may not be anti-body in official intent, maybe it’s just asceticism, or an extreme way of imitating Christ or something. But from the outside, it does not look like a very healthy relationship to physicality.

        Do I really need to adduce here the mortifications of the flesh carried forth by religious traditions that are nowise Christian? Have you not seen those videos of guys sticking skewers through their tongues and cheeks for Allah? Have you really no notion of the fantastic askeses of the Hindu yogi and the Tibetan lama? Or to top all, what about the human sacrifices of the Phoenicians, Aztecs, and Druids?

        Give me a break. A few monks beating themselves on the Camino de Santiago are on par for the basic ascetic course. *All* askesis involves such voluntary supererogatory suffering. Without that, there is no progress in the spiritual life. *All* traditions agree about this.

        And it isn’t really the Church per se that devalues the body, it’s everything in Western culture. Mostly due to the Greek influence.

        Well then why the Hell have you been going on and on about *Christianity’s* putative hatred of the body?

        Wait, no, dumb question, answers itself: you despise Christianity. You don’t know much about it, but why should that stop you … ? That I suppose might not be so dumb a question. After all, on your nondualism, you *can’t* really know anything about Christianity … or anything else. So *all* your motions are ignorant, irrational, unmotivated, random, chaotic: *amorphous.* Ergo, nothing can stop you.

        Go ahead; go right on over the edge of the precipice, and into madness untrammeled. That’s where your doctrine leads; if it looks good to you, who am I to say you should not follow it?

        By the way, it isn’t so much the “Greek influence” per se as the Gnostic influence, which somewhat infects many cultures. It would be silly to deny that Gnosticism has crept into the Church and perverted her here and there, in every era (as she has done in every cult). Hell, Gnosticism seems to be in control of the Vatican at this very moment. But it would be even sillier to deny that Gnosticism is heretical and contrary to basic Christian doctrine. And stupid.

        Blake is saying as clear as can be that the Church and what it represents is the enemy of the true spiritual life, of love, joy and desire, and life itself.

        Yeah, that is an attitude not uncommon among religious free lancers. They feel themselves at war with what seems to them the dead hand of the ecclesiastical system – which after all is the remnant deposit of all those such as themselves who have come before them. Compared to their own coruscant and overflowing spirituality, most of what they see in Churchmen is wan, misled or even Pharisaical.

        That impression is not altogether wrong, to be sure: indeed, no Christian would suggest that he is himself more than a pallid weak instance of his proper species.

        Still – therefore – Blake here manifests a sort of spiritual pride. It is a dead end. My own experience of Church has revealed to me an astonishing depth in humble untutored people whom I would never have thought were profound spiritual adepts, but who on a deeper acquaintance revealed themselves my spiritual superiors. Blake is fantastically wrong to deplore the graves in the churchyard. He has no idea what saints might be buried there, whose wisdom far outpassed his own. Deploring their graves, he shows himself a stupid churl. A genius, but a churl, and so a fool; these come often in company.

        Blake is pissed that the gates of the sanctuary are closed to him. Well, if you are going to rule yourself an outsider, it is odd then to protest at being treated as such, and at finding yourself outside.

        Blake doesn’t like the 10 Commandments. What, does he think the Church would do better to say, “Go ahead and murder, no problem; steal, lie, screw your neighbour’s wife, knock yourself out”? Stupid.

        Blake was a spiritual genius, I have no doubt, but that doesn’t mean he was not an idiot. Free lancing is tantamount to literal idiocy in its original meaning, after all.

        Re torture, obviously you are trying to back me into a corner, and I hope it’s just as obvious that I refuse to be so manipulated. I don’t feel cornered by your strategies a bit, I find them crude. You posit a stark choice between a crude moral realism and an equally simpleminded nominalism. Here’s where non-duality helps, because I feel not the slightest obligation to grab either end of your shit-covered stick.

        OK: faced with a simple argument you cannot refute, you retreat into the fog of irrationality. So be it. Since you abandon the field of reasoned dialectic, consider your position defeated. Go on now and enjoy your tantrum. Despite it, the corner you didn’t want to be backed into is still out there, and you are backing into it whether you like it or not; for, it is moral reality; I am just a messenger.

        This is like saying that salt is salty because people take it to be salty.

        But that is exactly what “salty” means. Sodium chloride on its own is not salty, it’s just a bunch of atoms in a cubical lattice. The interaction of it with taste receptors and the rest of the nervous system is what makes “salty.”

        That is a pretty good explanation of the extrasubjective reality of saltiness. Thanks! You explain how saltiness is not something that people make up out of whole cloth; how it is not merely subjective; how it is not merely nominal, but derived from the shape of the salt molecule. You answer the question of how salt might be in itself such as to appear to us to be salty. Excellent work.

        Salty, like morality, is an interesting combination of the innate (and thus universal), and acquired (and variable) taste. Everyone has saltiness receptors on their tongue, and a lot of the basics of morality are also innate and universal, in that there are built-in biological mechanisms for things like aggression, care, and kin recognition that morality builds upon. Yet there are wide ranges of preference in saltiness and even wider ranges about what people take to be moral.

        Again, you make my argument. If the molecule is not a salt, or at least configured like a salt, it can’t taste salty. Likewise, what has no moral character at all – wind, say, or salt – cannot be taken to be more or less moral.

        [You say not only that there must] be a single correct answer to moral questions, even matters of taste must be decided against objective and universal standards. If one person prefers more salt than another, one of them must be wrong, I seem to recall you saying (it was woods versus cities, but same idea). To me, that’s clear evidence of the absurdity of your position.

        I never said those things. I said that our private evaluations must be measured against extrasubjective values inherent in the objects of our apprehensions. Indeed, our private evaluations *just are* such measurements. If there is nothing really good in either woods or city, then Raven’s preference for the woods and your preference for the City are feelings about things that are not real. Only if the woods and the city both have real properties that have moral or aesthetic valence for us can we prefer them, or not.

        If there is nothing absolutely good for either of us either in fish or fowl, then yes, obviously neither of our preferences for either one can have anything to do with anything that is real in fish or fowl. I’m perplexed that you are having such a hard time seeing that this is so.

        … if the values he apprehends in the world are not truly aspects of that world, then his apprehensions of value in that world are apprehensions of *things that do not truly exist.* He is in that case hallucinating. Again, I don’t see what’s so hard about this.

        … If there is absolutely nothing in the woods that merits Raven’s preference for them, then in his preference for the woods Raven is insane. He is responding to something that is not really out there. He is hallucinating.

        I truly don’t understand why you are having such a hard time seeing this. O wait, I know: you *don’t want to see it.* Its truth would discommode you. OK. Got it. That’s tendentious in you, of course. But then, on your nondualism, that can’t be a problem; indeed, on your nondualism, there can be no such things as problems, *and* there must be problems all over the place. What’s the problem? Nothing!

        In which case, the Holocaust is no problem, amiright?

        If it’s wrong it’s because people take it to be wrong.

        This is like saying that salt is salty because people take it to be salty. But that is a dormitive virtue “explanation:” it is to say only that salt is salty on account of its saltiness.

        No, it’s exactly the opposite [of a dormitive virtue explanation], see above.

        Your explanation of saltiness in your last comment was indeed not a dormitive virtue explanation. It was an explanation of how saltiness is not salty just because people take it to be salty, but because of the objective shape of salt molecules interacting with the objective shape of salt receptors on human tongues.

        “If it’s wrong it’s because people take it to be wrong” is however a dormitive virtue explanation. It says, “people think x is wrong because they think x is wrong.”

        Perhaps I should clarify how the values inherent in the objects of our apprehensions inhere in them. The saltiness of salt is not something added in to the salt molecule. It is one aspect among many of the form of the molecule. Ditto for its color, mass, size, and so forth.

        Consider carefully the competitive hypothesis: that there is *nothing whatever* in objective reality that might or might not correspond with our admittedly imperfect engines of evaluation thereof. In that case, *everything whatsoever* that we think about things must be simply and totally insane. Not false, for even a maniac might be right that the FBI are after him. But nor true either, per a.morphous. No; just insane. Maybe true, maybe false, probably both and also probably neither, no way to tell, no reason to tell: such is the world of a.morphous. Such, i.e., is a.morphous himself. As he insists. By his own account, a.morphous is not out there to be cognized.

        So much then for a.morphous, alas.

        I am indeed sorry about the man who presents himself as such. I wish he could be my friend. I wish that he might ascend to ever greater concreteness. But, by his own account, he just *is not,* at all; for, “he” is formless. How then might I befriend him? In no way. So I pray for him – even though, on his own account, he is not out there to pray for. That can’t be correct: ¬ (x → ¬ x). So, I pray.

      • Nonduality is obviously in tension with the principle of noncontradiction. The latter is dualist at its core, relying on and in some ways definitional of the duality of true and false. It’s a very useful tool when doing mathematics, where terms are precisely defined, but we aren’t doing mathematics here.

        Nonduality itself is not something that is either true or false (for obvious reasons). It’s more like a practice, something you can *do*. There are spiritual practices meant to induce “nondual awareness”, but as an *intellectual* practice it means learning to realize the conditionality, nebulosity, and fictionality of various dichotomies that normally seem very solid, real and definite. Note that this doesn’t mean discarding dichotomies completely, which would be stupid and impractical. it means learning to recognize their true natures and the scopes of their applicability.

        As I mentioned last go-round, you seem stuck on one of these: the dichotomy between objectivism and nominalism. But you seem to like being stuck there, so I’m not going to make any further efforts to unstick you.

        Again, you make my argument. If the molecule is not a salt, or at least configured like a salt, it can’t taste salty. Likewise, what has no moral character at all – wind, say, or salt – cannot be taken to be more or less moral.

        You are confused, and it’s easy to see why, you are stuck on a common but broken idea of the interface between mind and external reality. Because of this, you think properties like saltiness or morality must either be objectively in the world or completely made up in the mind. Neither of these are true; meaning is a product of the interaction of the mind and the world. This is pretty simple and obvious if you aren’t stuck on yet another duality.

        So when I say that the process of deciding if something is moral or salty is variable, culturally conditioned, etc, I don’t mean that it is completely arbitrary and not constrained by various factors. Obviously the form of the salt has something to do with it.

        Perhaps I should clarify how the values inherent in the objects of our apprehensions inhere in them. The saltiness of salt is not something added in to the salt molecule. It is one aspect among many of the form of the molecule. Ditto for its color, mass, size, and so forth.

        “Saltiness is an aspect of the form of the salt molecule” is precisely a dormitive virtue type of explanation that explains nothing.

        But we can do better than that. We know exactly what the form of the salt crystal is, an arrangement of of ions in a cubical lattice, but the machinery for turning that form into a perception of saltiness is not in the molecule but in the perceiver.

        This is not philosophy, it's the simply the way things are, it's dumb to argue about it. There are no mysteries here, we know exactly how saltiness works. The duality of saltiness-is-in-the-world and saltiness-is-in-the head is dissolved, through science rather than fancy meditation techniques. And we don't have to argue about the definition of saltiness or invoke mysterious and immaterial forms, essences, virtues, or qualities.

        Now, whether that kind of model can ever be applied to morality is another matter, but you were the one who introduced the metaphor, not me.

        Re Blake, I appreciate your honest depiction of your personal spiritual choices, but I think you have zero understanding of Blake, what he was trying to do, what he was saying. To think he's in some kind of holiness competition with Christian saints is just ignorant and somewhat philistine.

        Of course I was the one who employed him as a weapon this ongoing tedious argument, so maybe I'm the original philistine here. And it's easy to see why you would have no use for him. He obviously saw himself in a spiritual struggle and I seriously doubt that you and he would be on the same side, no more than you or I would. He did say:

        The Vision of Christ that thou dost see
        Is my vision’s greatest enemy.

        Blake was a spiritual genius, I have no doubt, but that doesn’t mean he was not an idiot. Free lancing is tantamount to literal idiocy in its original meaning, after all.

        Um dude, idiot means a private person who doesn’t participate in the public sphere. Blake, no matter if his ideas were wise or foolish, successfully turned his vision into art that’s going to be a part of the English canon as long as there is one. So don’t think he’s much of an “idiot in its original meaning”, no.

        Your devotion to reason, past the point in which it works, is reflected in Blake’s famous picture of Newton, focused on his little sphere of precise rationality and ignoring the colorful energetic turmoil surrounding him. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/blake-newton-n05058

        Note: it feels weird to be shilling for Buddha and Blake here; I’m not really a follower of either and am in no way qualified to teach their messages. But you bring something out of me.

      • Lo and behold, this discussion continues fruitful! For me, at least.

        Thanks, a.morphous. Your last manifests so much reasonability, that I know how much it must have cost you to remain in your response civil in your rhetoric – which is to say, not inimical (hail, old friend!). I hope our readers are still getting something out of our mutual fiskings. They are indeed laborious, but I myself do not find them tiresome; you provoke me, and that I find almost always ends in discoveries for me, as I hone and perfect my arguments, by responding to yours. I hope it is something like that for you, too.

        Not that I wish you rhetorical success, o no, not that. I hope you rather success in learning the error of your previous ways. That’s how all my discoveries seem to me. I hope that is the same for you.

        Nonduality is obviously in tension with the principle of noncontradiction. The latter is dualist at its core, relying on and in some ways definitional of the duality of true and false. It’s a very useful tool when doing mathematics, where terms are precisely defined, but we aren’t doing mathematics here.

        The Law of Noncontradiction does not pertain only to the discourse of maths. It pertains to discourse per se. This is boy’s stuff. Take *any proposition whatever,* P, in any language whatever (whether it be formal, or not). The Law of Noncontradiction says that ¬ (P & ¬ P). Controvert it and you wreck proposition per se. And that is to prevent language altogether.

        You must see this problem, no?

        But then, OK, take this whole discussion as a procedure of mathematical inquiry. Nondualism of your sort N can be formalized logically, ergo mathematically, as N = (x & ¬ x).

        So, we *are* doing math here. Or logic, anyway. Of which math is a department.

        What do we find in so doing? We find that your nondualism is incoherent logically. It cannot be expressed in such a way as to have truth value, or even meaning; so, it cannot possibly be true.

        Abjure from the pursuit of truth as hard as you like, the bottom line is that nondualism of your sort *cannot be logically coherent.* It cannot make sense, on any construction of “sense.” I feel pretty sure that you would actually agree that this is so, and indeed insist that the nonsense of your N is its very strength.

        “I am madness; accept me.” That is your notion. OK. Knock yourself out with that. Clothe it in high-falutin’ lingo about tat tvam asi and so forth. No such dodges and obfuscations can quite obscure the fact that your nondualism N still all amounts to madness.

        All it can do then is confuse and so ruin human life.

        You yourself might not feel so confused, to be sure. Indeed, you seem quite confident. And your life might be going along quite satisfactorily, withal. Good for you! But if that is so, it can be so only on account of unprincipled exceptions – i.e., *contradictions* – to N that you have smuggled in to your perspective without proper recognition or credit. After all, you are *confident.* I.e., you are a *true believer.* You believe that N is true (so that it is not true, either; so that you are totally off the hook, respecting your fundamental commitments; which, being incoherent, commit you, a.morphous, to nothing).

        But if N is true, then it is also not true. It is, i.e., also false. So, you have a problem. Obviously you want to evade it. But, no such luck. Reality is inexorable that way.

        The Law of Noncontradiction. Such a bitch, no?

        How hard it must be for a Leftist Modern to try to make sense all the time. Not so much here, or in other merely verbal venues like cocktail parties or social media; for, here and in them you may freely make no sense at all, and pay no very painful price, apart from the occasional embarrassment of being shown to be spouting nonsense credulously. No, the real work of making sense comes along with practical life. There, you must somehow square your utterly noncommittal N with hard objective facts – like the molecular structure of salt or the inherent evil of torturing boys – to which you have no alternative but to try to respond intelligently, which is to say, coherently; and which force you to make a *commitment,* by *acting dispositively.* The thought of the sheer mental and emotional labor that you must have to sink into managing the cognitive dissonance of your N with reality is horrible to contemplate. Practical life gives you no quarter for your assertions that you do not personally think you need to respond coherently, on account of your private, merely subjective thing about N. It *demands* that you behave as if your N is false.

        I feel for you; really, I do. What a torment, to think (or anyway, to pretend that you think, and then to say) that nothing is quite either true or otherwise, and have to get along nevertheless, all day, every day, in a land where 100 cents make a dollar, no matter what you say to the contrary, and the cash value of your philosophy is exactly zilch.

        Sucks to want to stay amorphous – so that all options remain forever open – when reality demands commitment to some shape or other, each of which rules out all the others, *every single moment of every single day.*

        Nonduality itself is not something that is either true or false (for obvious reasons). It’s more like a practice, something you can *do.* There are spiritual practices meant to induce “nondual awareness,” but as an *intellectual* practice it means learning to realize the conditionality, nebulosity, and fictionality of various dichotomies that normally seem very solid, real and definite. Note that this doesn’t mean discarding dichotomies completely, which would be stupid and impractical. It means learning to recognize their true natures and the scopes of their applicability.

        Well, that just sounds like proper intellectual humility and commonsensical due care. Good things, to be sure. I’m all in favor of them. But, very far from your proposition that no proposition is either true or false; which must be the most sweeping, proud, ambitious proposition ever. Absurd, too, in that it refutes itself.

        … you think properties like saltiness or morality must either be objectively in the world or completely made up in the mind.

        When did I say that? I think no such thing. All I have been insisting from the start is that if we are ever to begin to devise or then feel our (admittedly faulty) notions of saltiness or goodness, why then there must first have been in objective reality, prior to our apprehensions thereof, something that is in itself salty or good.

        If there is nothing objectively salty or good in reality, why then *of course* all our notions of saltiness and of goodness must be completely made up from whole cloth, and have nothing to do with reality. That seems to be your position, as a good modernist and relativist. But then, you sensibly and quite reasonably leaven the manifest absurdity of modern relativism with a few of the aforementioned unprincipled exceptions: namely, nods to the objective character of physical facts (such as the molecular structures of salts). That is to your credit, even though it is inconsistent.

        … meaning is a product of the interaction of the mind and the world. This is pretty simple and obvious if you aren’t stuck on yet another duality.

        Well of course. This is indeed obvious, and nothing I have said disagrees with it. But as must also be obvious to the meanest intellect, if there is nothing whatever out there in reality that corresponds with our valuations of our experiences of that reality, why then, there can be no such interactions of mind and world as you mention, and *all such evaluations must therefore be entirely specious.* If the world is not out there arguing with us, then we are only arguing with ourselves.

        In saying correctly that “meaning is a product of the interaction of the mind and the world,” you argue for the objectivity of meaning, and so support the arguments I’ve been making.

        So when I say that the process of deciding if something is moral or salty is variable, culturally conditioned, etc., I don’t mean that it is completely arbitrary and not constrained by various factors. Obviously the form of the salt has something to do with it.

        OK, great. You agree with me. Nuff said.

        “Saltiness is an aspect of the form of the salt molecule” is precisely a dormitive virtue type of explanation that explains nothing.

        Nah, that’s not quite a dormitive virtue explanation, although I can see how you got the impression that it is. A true dormitive virtue explanation would run something like, “Salt is salty because of its saltiness.”

        Explanatory recourse to the objective form of salt molecules in interaction with the objective forms of molecules in tongues is per contra not a dormitive virtue explanation. You invoke objective form in your very next passage:

        But we can do better than that. We know exactly what the form of the salt crystal is, an arrangement of ions in a cubical lattice …

        If the form of the salt molecule is objective, the molecule is objectively salty. It is a molecule of salt, and not of something else. That is what we mean by saying of a thing that it is salty. We mean that it has the objective form of salt, at least insofar as we can tell. All our indices of saltiness – whether mediated by the tongue or by procedures in the lab – likewise indicate that salt has the form of salt.

        … but the machinery for turning that form into a perception of saltiness is not in the molecule but in the perceiver.

        Obviously the salt molecule is not the entire reason of our experience of the salt molecule. That’s a silly idea. It is almost as silly as the suggestion that our experience of the salt molecule has nothing to do with the objective character of the salt molecule. The latter suggestion is what your nominalism proposes to us. You offer some qualifications thereto, but if your nominalism is simply true, there is nothing in the salt molecule that makes it seem salty to us.

        Your qualifications of your nominalism render it a sort of realism.

        Re Blake, I appreciate your honest depiction of your personal spiritual choices, but I think you have zero understanding of Blake, what he was trying to do, what he was saying. To think he’s in some kind of holiness competition with Christian saints is just ignorant and somewhat philistine.

        I have no stake in Blake, one way or the other. But for what it’s worth, I never suggested he was in a holiness competition with anyone. Don’t know where you got that. All I have suggested is that he was in controversy with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and that this is a normal condition for spiritual idiots. The ecclesiastical hierarchy disagrees with almost all idiots about where holiness lies. Why should this be surprising? There are a million ways to be idiotically wrong. Whom should we then trust: the idiots, howsoever glamorous, brilliant or talented, or the hierarchy schooled by two thousand years of idiotic challenges?

        One of the crucial foreconditions to becoming a churchman is the realization that one’s own idiocy is almost certainly less reliable than the Church, tested as she has been repeatedly over the centuries by just such idiots as oneself.

        Blake was a spiritual genius, I have no doubt, but that doesn’t mean he was not an idiot. Free lancing is tantamount to literal idiocy in its original meaning, after all.

        Um dude, idiot means a private person who doesn’t participate in the public sphere. Blake, no matter if his ideas were wise or foolish, successfully turned his vision into art that’s going to be a part of the English canon as long as there is one. So don’t think he’s much of an “idiot in its original meaning,” no.

        As the passage you quote makes clear, I understood perfectly well the etymology of ‘idiot.’

        All innovation begins as idiocy. Almost all idiocy is garbage. It is in all likelihood idiotic in the modern vernacular sense of that term. That’s why traditional societies like the Church, who want to survive, look upon innovations with jaundiced eye. It is why idiocy got a bad name to begin with.

        Lots of Blake is garbage. Almost everything is. This is math: there are infinitely many ways to err.

      • Thanks once again for the kind words. I thought of you the other day as I took a walk and admired the beautiful and varied order found in richly varied plant life that grows in California. I would guess that you would share this admiration; the difference between us is not a fondness for order vs disorder, but a disagreement about the sources and nature of order, and our representations of it, our stances towards it. I tried to put myself in your mind rather than my own so I could see this order as the product of a single agent, a single mind, the lord of everything. Not really that hard to do, I was raised as a monotheist after all. Still, not really my thing as an adult.

        Re noncontradiction, the point is that the principle applies only to systems of statements that have definite and unconditional truth values. Mathematics is such a system, but metaphysics is not and everyday discourse is not. Almost nothing is. That’s just not how things work.

        You accuse me of failing to grasp “boy’s stuff”; well, I feel the same way honestly. Your theory of truth and of language is laughably simpleminded. You say ” We find that your nondualism is incoherent logically.” Buddy, it’s not my nondualism. I didn’t invent it. It’s just as much yours as it is mine. Of course it is “incoherent logically”, are you really so clueless as to not get the idea even a little bit? No, I don’t think so.

        I feel for you; really, I do. What a torment, to think (or anyway, to pretend that you think, and then to say) that nothing is quite either true or otherwise, and have to get along nevertheless, all day, every day, in a land where 100 cents make a dollar, no matter what you say to the contrary,

        I’m not sure why it should be a torment. Uncertainty is a fact of life. this is not some deep epistemological insight, just common sense. Only the mad are are absolutely certain of everything. And while the inherent uncertainty and unknowable nature of life can be difficult and painful, it’s weird to call it “torment” like it’s something optional and not an inherent part of the human condition.

        Or maybe not that weird from a Buddhist perspective, where excessive mental graspingness is recognized as one of the main drivers of dukkha. But to be clear, the source of torment there is not the uncertainty, it’s the unwillingness to acknowledge it, to grasp at an unavailable certainty. So, I should feel compassion for you.

        Your tin ear for example strikes again, the example of 100 cents make a dollar is really a poor one, because that’s a neatly defined, formal, and socially constructed fact; which doesn’t bother me but should bother you. It’s great that we can rely on that being Absolutely True, but we can only do that because it’s a carefully cultivated artificial layer of civilization. Reality remains untamed and not so easy to capture in formalisms.

        If you want an example of facticity, how about “an earth year is approximately 365.25 days”? That’s pretty solid and unconditioned, any human culture or any other intelligent species that found itself on earth would conclude the same, although even this solid fact has to be marred by a touch of vagueness (“approximately”) to be true.

        I forgot what the point of this was. Oh yeah, you think I don’t believe in reality or something. Sigh.

        Re Blake, you call him both a genius and an idiot, which to be fair is in line with his general reputation. I think it’s a mistake to see him in competition for anything with the Catholic church. For one thing, he was English and didn’t have anything to do with Rome. His quarrel was with organized religion as such, not any specific institution.

        You don’t think much of Blake’s originality and prefer the authority of an established church. De gustibus non disputandum and all, but my choice is different based on different values.

        Your argument for your religion is basically one of safety, as if choosing a faith was rather like choosing a bank, or a brand of tomato sauce – you should trust the established brands, the mere fact of their establishment is a testament to their truthfulness. This is clearly a variant of or at least related to the argument from authority (equated to longevity). To my mind, that doesn’t make it invalid, you are quite correct that an institution that persists must be doing something right in some sense.

        However, lasting a long time is no guarantee of lasting forever, nor is it a gurantor of truth. The religion of Pharonic egypt persisted for around 3000 years, Hinduism is even older.

        Also that kind of argument strikes me as VERY postmodern, Nietzschean, whatever, in its recognition that truth and earthly power are deeply interrelated. That’s at odds with the simpleminded view of truth you were espousing earlier. You may be one of us after all.

        Back to Blake: I like him because he was a true radical, in ways that I confess I barely grasp myself, so certainly I’m not going to try to sell you on Blakeism, which isn’t a thing anyway. I really do have to thank you for helping me clarify my conception of Blake, by incarnating its opposite. You are the thing, or one of the things, he was fighting against. This is not surprising; Blake’s work is positively satanic – not in the cartoon evil sense, but in that it advocates, describes, and exemplifies the creative power of the individual mind, against the idea that there is only one creator. Luciferian maybe.

        I see that you are, on principal, against innovation. And I understand your reasoning, most new things fail, most old things can at least be relied upon to function at a minimal level, having gone through the filter of time. But on an elemental level, I don’t get it. I don’t even believe it. You are arguing with a stranger on the internet, which puts you on the frontier of human innovation even if you wish you were living under a 12-century theocracy.

        Re saltiness, the conversation has become exceedingly repetitive, dumb, and boring. eg:

        That’s a silly idea. It is almost as silly as the suggestion that our experience of the salt molecule has nothing to do with the objective character of the salt molecule. The latter suggestion is what your nominalism proposes to us

        I clearly said the exact opposite of this, so I’m done with this topic; there is no point in a further round of mutual misunderstandings.

        And I’m done with this general argument pattern:
        – K: there are only two options, a or b, you must choose!
        – A: those aren’t the only two options, it’s a false duality and I choose neither, here is exactly what I believe phrased in as precise a way as I can manage.
        – K: you refused to pick a so you must believe b, here is why b is silly, childish, only a moron would believe b, why do you believe b?
        – [repeat ad infinitum]

        To return to the original subject of this post, theism and atheism strike me as one of these dualities, or perhaps the ur-duality that all the others are images of. I am not a theist like you, but I’m also not your kind of imaginary atheist, who apparently can’t have any meanings or purposes at all.

      • Sorry for my delay in responding, a.morphous. A bout of covid intervened. We three – my son, my wife, and I – got quite sick, starting the Sunday before Christmas. We are all OK now. Still, while we managed to enjoy ourselves on Christmas Day – we were all ambulatory by then, albeit shuffling about like TB patients – it was pretty somber in the house. And it has been a truly odd 2 weeks; as if we had all been on some other planet, and our skulls crammed with oatmeal instead of brains.

        I tried to put myself in your mind rather than my own so I could see this order as the product of a single agent, a single mind, the lord of everything.

        But that’s the exact *opposite* of the Christian – and Jewish – revelation about creation. From Genesis on, it tells the story of a plural universe, in which diverse free and powerful beings originate new things, act and interact, so that there is a true history of real events effected by and affecting real agents. If it were not for those free agents, there would be no meaning to Torah, or to Salvation.

        All things do come of God, yes, and so in their natures reflect that of their Origin; but only God is God, and nothing else but God is God, or therefore worthy of worship. This is a doctrine at radical variance with advaita Vedanta, and with the other forms of Eastern ontological monism to which you have so often expressed your attraction. It is not Israel in her various dispensations who ascribes all worldly phenomena to but one actor, but, rather, some of the monisms of the East and West, naïvely construed..

        Re noncontradiction, the point is that the principle applies only to systems of statements that have definite and unconditional truth values. Mathematics is such a system, but metaphysics is not and everyday discourse is not. Almost nothing is. That’s just not how things work.

        Sorry, but no. I mean, sure, reality is hard to understand, and so are our thoughts and statements. But there is really and truly a definite and unconditional truth value to well defined statements about everyday life. Either I went to the store yesterday, or I did not. Either I am in California, or I am not. Either I’m writing English, or not.

        I don’t know about you, but in my world, there is no confusion about such statements. They are clear, and there is no question of their truth value. If you are confused about such things, then, woe, I sure am sorry for you. Maybe you should seek meds.

        You are not of course in fact the least bit confused about such things. That’s a pose. You are LARPing online as a sophistical Buddhist or something, to look cool or extra smart or something. In reality, you wipe your butt and put your pants on one leg at a time like everyone else, with no jot of confusion or hesitation, and so with effectual complete quotidian commitment to metaphysical realism – to, i.e., a practical repudiation of your airy fairy nondualism, which *cannot be practiced.* For, there is that stubborn mountain over there, which cannot be gainsayed.

        Your pants are like the mountain.

        A really committed and successful nondualist would put his pants on both legs at once, *and also* go out into the street without pants, butt unwiped. His butt would also be wiped, of course, and his pants aptly on, frontward … *and* backward. So … freaking … cool. So … amorphous. Pants backward a.morphous. So cool. Man, I wish I could be as cool as you, with your pants backward … when they are frontward!

        Ditto then for metaphysical propositions: either there is a Many, or there is not; either there is a God, or not; either we are, or we are not. Metaphysical novices can find such propositions confusing, certes. It’s the same with geometry; no big surprise, then. But once they have got some education in the discourse, the newbies can see that the propositions are quite clear, *and that they cannot be both or neither true and false.*

        Now, to be sure, the devil is in the details, and when you start trying to define terms – of daily life or of metaphysics – you are bound to discover all sorts of juicy thorny difficulties. Reality is fathomless, in each of her particulars. But it’s no different for terms and propositions in math and logic; that’s why there are mathematicians and logicians, who discourse upon their topics, and end up actually learning truths. The difficulties of discourse and of understanding are *opportunities.*

        If in the face of such difficulties you throw up your hands and avow total epistemological defeat, well then, so much for you. You thereby effectually assert that nobody serious should pay attention to you or your vacuous amorphous musings. What’s worse, your admission of epistemological defeat then turns and rends itself: if you are epistemologically defeated, you can’t *know* that you are. So, if you honestly believe that you, a.morphous, can’t know anything, then, well … you are totally screwed, and have declared yourself the loser of any and all argument.

        Sucks to be you, then. Why not choose a different path? What’s stopping you? Honestly, why not come up with us into the high sunlit lands? We’d all welcome you there. It would be grand.

        You know damn well what I’m asking here. Everyone does, in his guts.

        You accuse me of failing to grasp “boy’s stuff;” well, I feel the same way honestly. Your theory of truth and of language is laughably simpleminded.

        Whereas by your own account, yours is incoherent. What is more, it refutes itself. I’ll take mine.

        You say “We find that your nondualism is incoherent logically.” Buddy, it’s not my nondualism. I didn’t invent it. It’s just as much yours as it is mine. Of course it is “incoherent logically,” are you really so clueless as to not get the idea even a little bit? No, I don’t think so.

        When I write “your nondualism,” I mean to indicate nondualism as you construe it. Some other constructions of nondualism are not incoherent.

        Uncertainty is a fact of life. … Only the mad are absolutely certain of everything. And while the inherent uncertainty and unknowable nature of life can be difficult and painful, it’s weird to call it “torment” like it’s something optional and not an inherent part of the human condition.

        Well of course uncertainty is a fact of life. I never suggested it wasn’t. On realism, it is possible to be certain about some things, but not all things. But on your nondualism, in which there are no certain truths or untruths either, of any sort, outside mathematics, there is no way to be certain about *anything,* or know anything, or believe anything – including, obviously, your nondualism, which is an extramathematical notion.

        Only the mad are absolutely uncertain of everything.

        You are not mad. You are certain of many extramathematical things. That’s the only way you can get on in life from one day to the next. You are, e.g., certain that you are where you now are, doing what you are now doing. I.e., you don’t really *practice* your nondualism. You can’t. It is not possible to carry a logical contradiction into action. And the fact that you do not practice your nondualism – we can see that you don’t, because you are writing here about it – shows that you do not really believe it.

        Your tin ear for example strikes again, the example of 100 cents make a dollar is really a poor one, because that’s a neatly defined, formal, and socially constructed fact …

        Your tin ear mistook the metaphor of philosophical cash value. Obviously one cannot go to the bank and cash out a proposition for money. That figure of speech is employed by philosophers to capture the Pragmatic notion that a proposition that cannot inform practice (whether because it is incoherent, or because it cannot possibly work in life as we actually encounter it) cannot be true. In the foregoing, “practice” includes the practice of thought. If you can carry a notion into practice, you can “cash it out,” and it has “cash value.” But if you can’t, then it is worthless.

        The proposition that there is no truth has zero cash value.

        I think it’s a mistake to see [Blake] in competition for anything with the Catholic church. For one thing, he was English and didn’t have anything to do with Rome. His quarrel was with organized religion as such, not any specific institution.

        I never said he was in competition with the Catholic Church. If he had been at war with a particular ecclesiastical hierarchy, it would have been that of the Church of England.

        You don’t think much of Blake’s originality …

        On the contrary, I’ve always admired him.

        … and prefer the authority of an established church.

        It’s not so much that I prefer the authority of an established church, as that a longstanding institution is likelier than any free lancer to have eliminated doctrines that are incompatible with each other and with reality. Free lancers are great, and we couldn’t do without them. Jesus Christ was a free lancer. But most mutations are lethal. That’s all.

        Also that kind of argument strikes me as VERY postmodern, Nietzschean, whatever, in its recognition that truth and earthly power are deeply interrelated.

        Read the book of Proverbs to see how ancient the idea is. And of course it goes all the way back to the most primitive brains. It is silly to suppose that earthly success can be founded upon error.

        Blake’s work is positively satanic – not in the cartoon evil sense, but in that it advocates, describes, and exemplifies the creative power of the individual mind, against the idea that there is only one creator. Luciferian maybe.

        To think that there is no Ultimate, or that there could be more than one Ultimate, or that one might be oneself an Ultimate, is to think like Satan. It follows from the definition of “ultimate” that there can be only one. Sane introspection understands that it cannot be itself the Ultimate.

        From the fact that there is only one Ultimate it does not follow that there cannot be other minds, or that such minds cannot be creative. That’s a foolish notion. Only some Eastern monisms propose it.

        I see that you are, on principle, against innovation.

        Nope. I’m against error. Innovation is crucial. Lethal innovation is a problem. Fortunately, it corrects itself.

        That’s a silly idea. It is almost as silly as the suggestion that our experience of the salt molecule has nothing to do with the objective character of the salt molecule. The latter suggestion is what your nominalism proposes to us.

        I clearly said the exact opposite of this, so I’m done with this topic; there is no point in a further round of mutual misunderstandings.

        Your difficulty is that you want to have your cake and eat it, too; you want to be nominalist, and you also want to be realist – or, at least, realistic. You wrote:

        … morality is grounded in what people (not “just a few”) prefer and can enforce. E.g., torture: there is no authority outside of humanity that says torture is wrong. If it’s wrong it’s because people take it to be wrong.

        And then a bit later you wrote:

        … [morality] is an interesting combination of the innate (and thus universal), and acquired (and variable) taste.

        The former is nominalist, the latter realist. I’m totally with you on the latter; we agree about it. So, we both disagree with the former. But, you also *agree* with the former.

        The mutual misunderstanding is within you. You are trying to believe contradictories.

        And I’m done with this general argument pattern:
        – K: there are only two options, a or b, you must choose!
        – A: those aren’t the only two options, it’s a false duality and I choose neither, here is exactly what I believe phrased in as precise a way as I can manage.
        – K: you refused to pick a so you must believe b, here is why b is silly, childish, only a moron would believe b, why do you believe b?
        – [repeat ad infinitum]

        Well, I can certainly understand why you might be tired of losing your arguments against the Law of Noncontradiction, and want to stop all the losing. I wish I could help you. But, no way. You may be done with the Law of Noncontradiction, but it isn’t ever going to be done with you. There is no possible escape from it. There is only the insane delusion of such an escape.

        To return to the original subject of this post, theism and atheism strike me as one of these dualities, or perhaps the ur-duality that all the others are images of. I am not a theist like you, but I’m also not your kind of imaginary atheist, who apparently can’t have any meanings or purposes at all.

        I very well know that you do have meanings and purposes, and I am furthermore quite sure that in your heart of hearts you do not really think that torture of little boys for fun is not absolutely evil. All of that shows you are not a consistent atheist. Such inconsistency would trouble you, if you were worried about avoiding contradiction. But you are not worried about that; not ostensibly, anyway.

        I think that in reality, just as you have meanings and purposes and think some things are evil (rather than merely temporarily inconvenient for the local yokels), so you are also troubled by inconsistency. That trouble in you is the motivation for you to go to the trouble of arguing with me here. If you really didn’t care about inconsistency – if you honestly believed that the Law of Noncontradiction is false – you couldn’t be bothered by what I say here, and would not feel any urge to write to me about it.

        A consistent atheist would never worry that he might be wrong about God.

      • Sorry to hear you were unwell…I’m not in great shape myself right now to be honest. And this may have to be my last comment in this very long chain, just because I have other things I need to attend to.

        But that’s the exact *opposite* of the Christian – and Jewish – revelation about creation. From Genesis on, it tells the story of a plural universe, in which diverse free and powerful beings originate new things

        Pretty sure I remember you saying the opposite, but maybe I misremember. Ah here we go: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/the-god-of-the-naturalist-philosophers/#comment-73480 Back then, you were claiming that all forms pre-existed and innovation was impossible, or at least, that was what I was interpreting as the consequences of your stance. Seven years ago!

        Either I went to the store yesterday, or I did not. Either I am in California, or I am not. Either I’m writing English, or not.

        These sturdy, everyday facts are great for everyday use. We’ve constructed our world in such a way that they are easy to evaluate. We have well defined borders for California and GPS satellites to give us our exact position.

        However, “people in California” like any category, has fuzzy and ill-defined borders. Was somebody on your land 200 years ago “in California”? How about a resident of an Indian reservation, which is geographically but not legally part of California? Or someone near the border after an earthquake shifts the ground a few feet to the east? Or an astronaut on the ISS who may occupy California’s airspace for a moment?

        The point is, very few real-world categories have exactly defined boundaries. And while not all categories may be social constructions, “California” quite obviously is.

        In reality, you wipe your butt and put your pants on one leg at a time like everyone else, with no jot of confusion or hesitation, and so with effectual complete quotidian commitment to metaphysical realism – to, i.e., a practical repudiation of your airy fairy nondualism, which *cannot be practiced.*

        Well, I think this thread opened with you claiming that atheists couldn’t have values, and me patiently explaining that, yes, they can. Now you are taking your equally cartoonish view of nondualism and making conclusions about it. Tiresome really, why should I care about what you think I can or can’t believe?

        IOW: nondualism isn’t something I invented, it’s an idea found in many spiritual traditions, and whatever its implications it doesn’t prevent me or anyone else from wiping their ass.

        Your difficulty is that you want to have your cake and eat it, too; you want to be nominalist, and you also want to be realist – or, at least, realistic.

        I don’t want to be either of those things; I want to apprehend reality accurately. “Nominalism” and “realism” (at least in the simplified forms you are discussing) are just two bad theories of reality, just another shitty duality, and I’m not obligated to hold fast to either of them, and certainly not obligated to want to be them.

        There is no possible escape from it. There is only the insane delusion of such an escape.

        Perhaps! Buddhists talk a lot about liberation; from suffering and the causes of suffering. False dualisms seems to me to be one of the main tools of maya, but one where liberating yourself isn’t even that hard, it just requires disciplined systemic negation. This is what nondual practice is about. Negation is the core of Zen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative), but Zen is also commonly held to be kind of crazy, so maybe you are right.

        I am not trying to argue you into any particular view of nonduality, which would be stupid. But you are the one who suggested that longevity of a belief or practice implies it’s truthfulness, and nonduality is a very old idea.

      • But that’s the exact *opposite* of the Christian – and Jewish – revelation about creation. From Genesis on, it tells the story of a plural universe, in which diverse free and powerful beings originate new things

        Pretty sure I remember you saying the opposite, but maybe I misremember. Ah here we go. Back then, you were claiming that all forms pre-existed and innovation was impossible …

        In the comment you link from 7 years ago, you wrote:

        Sliminess of fish heads, disgust and delectation thereat, and the presence of these properties in actualities such as you, your neighbour and the fish head he is now devouring with great relish, are indeed all values that are baked into the structure of things ab initio – i.e., from before all worlds.

        Really, what an odd notion. I honestly cannot imagine what it is like to believe something like that. It means there is no such thing as novelty, innovation, or creativity, for one thing.

        I responded:

        The idea that there are possibilities may be an odd notion to you, but it has seemed obvious to most philosophers for thousands of years. For a thing to happen – anything at all, sliminess, sublimity, iron, iPads, Othello, the St. John Passion, you name it – it had to be first possible for that thing to happen. Do you not see this, as plain as the nose on your face? You’ll get nowhere until you do. It is *basic.*

        Does the fact that it is possible to carve the Pietà before it has been carved mean that it is impossible to carve the Pietà? Of course it doesn’t. Does it mean that the Pietà has always been around, so that when Michelangelo carved it, it was not new? No: that’s just silly.

        Did Michelangelo create the possibility of the Pietà? No; as he said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” And as he also said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” And, “Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.” Michelangelo did not create the possibility of the Pietà; but he did provide the occasion of her actualization, of her revelation in the world.

        Forms are eternal. But their mundane actualizations are not. It is actualizations that can be novel in a given world.

        However, “people in California,” like any category, has fuzzy and ill-defined borders. Was somebody on your land 200 years ago “in California”? How about a resident of an Indian reservation, which is geographically but not legally part of California? Or someone near the border after an earthquake shifts the ground a few feet to the east? Or an astronaut on the ISS who may occupy California’s airspace for a moment?

        The point is, very few real-world categories have exactly defined boundaries.

        It is easy to see that the answers are clearly no, no, no, and no. But, so what? Liminal cases help us make our extramathematical terms more precise. By no means do they show that extramathematical reasoning to truth is categoreally impossible – itself just such an extramathematical proposition as it states cannot be demonstrated logically; so that if it is true, it is false, entailing that it is false in all possible cases; which is to say, that it is necessarily false; which is to say that its contradiction is necessarily true: we can reason logically to extramathematical truths.

        And while not all categories may be social constructions, “California” quite obviously is.

        So what? What difference does it make to the question under consideration – whether or not terms other than those of mathematics can have precise meanings, so that we can reason from the relations of their definitions to extramathematical truths – that categories are often social constructions? Does the fact that we refine our definitions of categories via social procedures mean that our categories and terms denote nothing real? No, obviously it does not.

        Well, I think this thread opened with you claiming that atheists couldn’t have values, and me patiently explaining that, yes, they can.

        Not quite. I proposed that atheism can’t be consistently carried into practice. A man can call himself an atheist – he can be a nominal atheist – but because living life involves making decisions in respect to values that he cannot but take to be really pertinent and thus consequential, ergo themselves real extrasubjectively – were it otherwise, there would be nothing to decide – he cannot *behave* as if there is no extrasubjective value, no matter what he might say to the contrary.

        On atheism, there is no transcendent, extrasubjective value, for on atheism things all happen for no ultimate reason, and so for no proximal reason either, in the final analysis. But it is impossible to behave reasonably in respect to phenomena that are without reason. One can’t be intelligent about what is unintelligible in principle. To live however is to act as if acts can be reasonably ordered to reality; is to act as if reality is itself reasonable, and thus intelligible.

        So while a man can *call* himself an atheist, he cannot *behave* as if there is no God; not consistently, anyway. He can be a nominal atheist, but he cannot be a real atheist.

        Being as such presupposes God. All the cosmological arguments boil down to that.

        Now you are taking your equally cartoonish view of nondualism and making conclusions about it.

        Dude. I’ve been discussing *your* view of nondualism, the one that you have repeatedly explained in this very thread; you know, the one that repudiates the Law of Noncontradiction. Not all nondualism is incoherent, but yours is.

        … you are the one who suggested that longevity of a belief or practice implies its truthfulness, and nonduality is a very old idea.

        No; I didn’t say that the longevity of a doctrine *implies* its truth. I said that old and durable doctrines are more likely to be reliably true than the recent innovations of spiritual free lancers. I also said that the innovations of such free lancers are crucial, pointing out that my Lord is himself just such an one. It should also be noted that some very old and durable doctrines are obviously false. Gnosticism, e.g., and all the great heresies. Like the flu, they keep cropping up in new variants, and the magisterial immune system [of the ecclesial hierarchy of the Body of Christ] must knock them down again and again. *All* the old heresies are still floating around in the population, memetically infecting minds and hearts, confusing and sickening them, and not unusually killing them.

        Nonduality is indeed a very old idea, and I do think that it is true, when interpreted properly so as to avoid entailment of contradiction or incoherence. Like all good ideas, it can be ruined – reduced to arrant incoherent impossible nonsense – when misinterpreted.

        All error takes its point of departure from truth, and is founded upon some truth. That’s why error seems to us so often credible, prima facie.

  8. John Cleese will title his latest routine “There Is No Hope” yet wonder why his familiar Britain is in a suicidal free fall and a demonic mob cacophony.

    • On strictly worldly terms, and calling only upon worldly resources, there is and never has been and never could be any hope. This is the reason of the ultimate despair of all pagans, that has its noblest instances in Stoicism, Advaita and Buddhism. The most that paganism can do is to bear the world as virtuously as may be, so as eventually to be rid of it honorably – which is to say, without having surrendered and given up to sin and evil.

      Cleese is a formidable guy, but so far as I know he is not a believer. So, under the terms of his own merely worldly perspective, he is correct: there is no hope. How could there be, when by his lights it is all up to such weak reeds as he?

      It is that secular, merely worldly perspective that has infected and diseased the West these last 500 years. It is the reason of our present turpitude, lassitude, vicissitude, desuetude.

  9. Read a couple of my posts if you will. Here’s something: This will be short and to the point. I’ve referenced Pinocchio before. There’s a very important message there, and I wonder how much Walt Disney knew how hard he hit the nail on the head.
    In the movie, Pinocchio, in not following the words of his “maker,” the clock maker, and his conscience (Jiminey Cricket), who wanted the best for him, he found himself with a lot of other kids/teens that were rebelling against what they also knew was right. And as they listened to the wrong voices, the wrong “influences”, it became more difficult to do what was right. They were “becoming” part of a different life. A wrong life.
    In the movie, something I didn’t catch in my youth (I wished I had.), these kids/teens were turning into donkeys. The more lost they became, the less they could talk, and probably, understand. There’s another term, and it starts with Jack…, but I don’t want to distract. But that was the point. They were travelling the road of destruction. And that, I believe, was the message Walt Disney shared.
    It’s kind of like this, as I understand. It’s where your heart is. It’s a daily walk. What choice do you make, daily? Is having a nice car more important than honesty with your family? Is having more, even top quality health insurance, more important than telling the truth? It’s a choice. All of life is. Daily. And with most, perhaps all, prayer. I believe, prayer is part of the road. But that is for each person to discover. I am just one person.

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