Terry Lewis and Luke on Morality, Concepts, Matter and Goblins

A very long but though provoking discussion on objective morality and existence of concepts between Terry Lewis and Luke here

Terry Lewis
Above, you said this, in response to Mack’s claim that “Without G-d there is no right or wrong just billions of individual opinions.”:

The golden rule is an objective standard that exists. It is what it is and can’t be changed, and it’s certainly not a matter of opinion.

How, on atheism, is this not a matter of opinion?

Whether people accept it as their standard is another matter,…

Objective standards don’t work like this. It doesn’t matter whether anyone accepts it. As you said, “it is what it is.”

If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”

but I just don’t see how one could say that the standard itself doesn’t exist.

Why/how/where does it exist?

 

Luke
Luke said:“The golden rule is an objective standard that exists. It is what it is and can’t be changed, and it’s certainly not a matter of opinion.”

Terry said:“How, on atheism, is this not a matter of opinion?”

How does is it not a matter of opinion that this concept exists? I’m not sure I understand the question. Whether something exists cannot really be a matter of opinion. It can be a matter of knowledge (whether correct or incorrect), but opinion would have no bearing on the fact of the matter of existence. Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts? I think you may be trying to ask what sort of ontology that’s compatible with atheism allows for a concept to exist, to which I can only say, many of them. Think about a law. Where does the law exist? In the atoms of the ink of the words in the law books? In the minds of those who believe in the law? It’s not really a simple question and people argue about things like this for a living. If you wish to advance the argument that “concepts cannot exist on atheism” you are free to do so, I suppose. (I just don’t think such a stance will buy you much credibility, to be honest.)

Luke said:“Whether people accept it as their standard is another matter,…”

Terry said:“Objective standards don’t work like this. It doesn’t matter whether anyone accepts it. As you said, “it is what it is.”

I said it exists. A standard for recording audio at 44.1 khz exists, as does a standard for recording at 48khz. We can white balance at 3600K or 3800K. We can record movies at 24 or 29.7 fps. It is a matter of opinion whether 24 or 29.7 is the right way to go.

Whether people accept the metric system has no bearing on its objectivity, or its existence. Same case here.

Are you saying that since people clearly reject the standard of G-d (hey ISIS guys!), that the standard is not objective. Surely you jest!

Terry said:“If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”

But you could… Nothing is stopping you. If you did, it’s not like the concept of the 55 kmh speed limit would cease to exist if you did so.

When you are in Rhode Island, do you follow the speed laws of Maine? If no, does that mean that the speed laws of Maine are not objective? Does it mean they don’t exist?

I think you’re trying to say that “no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!”. (Yes?) That can be an interesting argument and an interesting point. It has no bearing on objectivity or existence of other standards though. (Sorry to attempt to make your arguments for you, I’d just like to skip ahead to the interesting part, and you may not be surprised to learn I have far more practice making apologetic arguments then cross examining them; it’s just that When in Rome…)

Luke said:“but I just don’t see how one could say that the standard itself doesn’t exist.”

Terry said:“Why/how/where does it exist?”

Are you denying that it does?

“Why?” It just does. I don’t know why dogs do that weird turnaround thing they do before laying down. That doesn’t mean they don’t. The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.

“How?” That’s an ontological question. There are many ways/theories in which it could exist. No matter which way one can prove, or just chooses to accept, the concept exists.

“Where?” This is an ontological question again. Where does The Patriot Act exist? (<= Not a rhetorical question.)

I hope I’ve gotten all of your questions. I have a list of 37 unanswered questions from you from the previous thread. It would be nice to return to those one day, but there’s probably better stuff to do. For now, I’ll take the answers above: most are yes/no, I think.

 

Terry Lewis
You Said,

Whether something exists cannot really be a matter of opinion. It can be a matter of knowledge (whether correct or incorrect)…

I’m not denying its existence. You claimed that it was an objective standard, as opposed to a subjective one. Are you trying to say that by “objective”, you meant only that the concept exists? Do you deny the existence of any subjective standard?

Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?

Only on a purely materialistic worldview. As I deny that this worldview is the correct one, I have no problem with the existence of concepts.

But there’s a difference between the existence of a concept and the concept existing in reality. Vampires, hobgoblins and unicorns exist as concepts, but that doesn’t mean that they exist in reality. And without any ontological basis, I see little reason to alter my behavior because of those concepts.

The thrust of your response seems to be, “Well, The Golden Rule does exist, as a concept” with no other evidence or basis for its ontology.

But your statement was that it existed as a “standard”, not as a “concept”. In my mind, (and maybe it’s a semantic thing), there’s a world of difference between the two. To claim it is a standard (something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality–merriam-webster.com) implies that all will be measured by it. Otherwise, what do you mean by the word “standard”? And if it has no more ontological basis than a vampire or hobgoblin, then explain how that can possiblity meet the definition of a standard.

Given your defense here, I can say anything I want, and it becomes an objective standard. If I can express it, then it certainly exists as a concept. So is there a difference between the “concept”/”standard” of the Golden Rule, and the “concept”/”standard” of “Beat all men named Luke with a flyswatter for an hour on Thursdays”?

A ridiculous notion, perhaps, but that only serves to highlight the issue. If there is no ontological difference between the two statements, then does the second carry the same “oughtness” as the first? Why, or why not?

I said it exists. A standard for recording audio at 44.1 khz exists, as does a standard for recording at 48khz. We can white balance at 3600K or 3800K. We can record movies at 24 or 29.7 fps. It is a matter of opinion whether 24 or 29.7 is the right way to go.

Terry said:“If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”
But you could… Nothing is stopping you. If you did, it’s not like the concept of the 55 kmh speed limit would cease to exist if you did so.

True. These highlight the difference between descriptive standards, and prescriptive standards. Prescriptive standards state how things ought to be. The very fact of their existence implies that it is possible for things not to be as they ought–for if all were as it should be, then there would be no need for a prescriptive rule. In the case of the speed limit example, my refusal to acknowledge the existence of the speed limit will not keep me from breaking myself against that law. I will still be held accountable for violating that rule by the proper authorities (or perhaps my own stupidity, if I wreck my car) regardless of whether I recognize it or not.

The standard for creating compact discs is a prescriptive standard. You can record at any non-standard frequency you wish (your preference), but if you’re going to create a usable CD, you have to convert that to a redbook standard. I often prefer to record using 24 bit samples, but I have to reduce that to the prescribed 16 when actually creating a CD.

Can you create a CD using different values? Most likely… but don’t expect it to work out in most CD players. They’re not designed to interact with such an anomoly. When something fails to meet the standard to which it was designed, it becomes unusable and worthless… just like humans when we violate our design.

Would you say the Golden Rule is descriptive, stating what is, or prescriptive, stating what should be?

If it states what should be, then simply stating that the concept exists seems an insufficient answer to my question. The concept, “good men should burn down abortion clinics” exists, and is also a prescriptive concept. Should I follow one and not the other? If so, then what justification do you provide for your answer?

I think you’re trying to say that “no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!”.

Not me! You correctly pointed out my error some time ago when I neglected one rendering of Christ’s words on how to treat others. While I still hold that the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself is a stricter formulation of the rule, you are correct that Jesus did use the weaker form also. This would make the words you would have me say self-contradictory. I’ve already recanted my earlier mistake; I have no desire to make the same one again. 🙂

Luke
So under materialism, you believe that things can both exist and not exist? You say that there is no “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Can you elaborate on what you mean?

You seem to accept that differences can be perceived without objective criteria. You seem to admit that objective standards exist, even if we don’t abide by them.

Frankly, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.

You do seem to complain that I didn’t name an ontological view that allows for the existence of concepts. As I said, this was because there are many valid theories as to such an existence. Again, unless you disagree that the concept exists, I don’t really see the problem or interest in discussing it. (Some people think ideas just exist, and we access them; others see them as existing in our neurons and their interactions, and on and on.)

I asked you a pretty simple question about whether you think tall and short people exist. You didn’t give a straightforward answer saying: “In what context?” You then give one “context” in which you seem to say yes. You then go on to talk about a different “context” which says nothing about whether tall and short people exist. I’ll just take it as a ‘yes’ I suppose. (Your first “context” also uses the second “context”. I guess I just have no idea what you mean. Sorry. It seemed a pretty plain and easy question to me.)

As far as the golden rule applying universally to everyone — i.e. to everyone being under it’s jurisdiction — I’m really confused by your complaint. Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule? I hope you’re not just trying to be difficult and clever by pointing out that if everyone is drinking lemonade, it’s totally correct to say that everyone is drinking water. I don’t want to come of as a cantankerous old man, but if you spend hours and hours writing to us that “there is one and only one right standard, and we are all bound to it”, then go around saying “oh, there’s totally more than one standard to which we are bound” your views become too lacking in coherence to allow for a response.

You talk about the existence of the concept of hobgoblins and actual hobgoblins, but that seems to miss the point. We’re not talking about the concept of the concept. The thing we need in this case is the concept itself. We need to have the concept of a hobgoblin to judge whether something is a hobgoblin (or the concept that something being ‘x’ means it is not a ‘hobgoblin’ — though even that seems to require the hobgoblin concept). We don’t need the actual hobgoblin.

You never told me where the patriot act exists, by the way.

You also say something really interesting here: “The standard that discriminates between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

How does a standard discriminate? I can see how one uses a standard to discriminate, but I can’t really see how a standard itself does so. Can you please elaborate?

Anyway, as I said, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.

Terry
You said, “Frankly, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.”

Probably because I don’t disagree with the idea, and never tried to refute the point. I’m asking you to clarify what you said. You made an assertion that the Golden Rule was an “objective” standard, yet failed to establish any objective basis for the existence of said standard.

As it stands, your claim that the Golden Rule is an objective standard is an assertion without evidence, and as Christopher Hitchens said, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

You further said, “We’re not talking about the concept of the concept. The thing we need in this case is the concept itself.”

You’re the one who said, “The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.” (Emphasis mine.) We can also talk about hobgoblins and vampires, but the question is, are we talking about something real? If the Golden Rule exists only in the same way that a vampire exists, if it’s only a man-made fiction, then we’re wasting our time even talking about it in a serious manner.

As I understand it, we have these: The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

It’s important because of this: you said, “We need to have the concept of a hobgoblin to judge whether something is a hobgoblin (or the concept that something being ‘x’ means it is not a ‘hobgoblin’ — though even that seems to require the hobgoblin concept). We don’t need the actual hobgoblin.”.

I do disagree with you here. We need more than the concept of a hobgoblin to prove that object A is a hobgoblin; namely, we need for hobgoblins to be an entity that exists in reality. You don’t necessarily (in this case) need a specific hobgoblin, but if hobgoblins do not exist, then the concept will never make A be a hobgoblin.

Similarly, if right and wrong , good and evil do not exist in reality, then the Golden Rule can never make an action right or wrong. Furthermore, it takes more than the concept of right and wrong. If evil does not exist as a real category, then the mere concept of evil will never make an action evil any more than the concept of a hobgoblin makes an ugly man a hobgoblin.

Now you asked a “pretty simple question” about whether tall or short people exist. I disagree with your characterization of this as a “pretty simple question”, because it leaves out critical information. As phrased, there is no standard of what “tall” means and what “short” means. If I say no, then you can easily say that I’m being absurd. Obviously, tall and short people exist! If I say yes, then you can say, “what standard are you using to determine that?”

And I did answer that question. As you’ve phrased it, it’s a relative question, so everyone uses their own opinions to determine whether someone is tall or short. My high-school friend and Shaq could have a healthy debate about whether I’m “tall” or “short”, and each would be right, based on their own relative opinion. But that’s because they’re using different standards to measure my “tallness” or “shortness”.

However, I also pointed out that there are contexts in which one’s opinion is not relevant. In those situations, there is a fixed standard of what “too short” or “too tall” means. Everyone, regardless of their opinion, and regardless of whether they agree with, acknowledge, or deny the existence of that standard must obey the standard or pay the price for violating it. If you sneak your “too-short” child through the line and onto a rollercoaster, then if you’re caught, you may well be forced out of the amusement park. Your opinion of the rule doesn’t matter one bit!

I’m not certain where you’re going with this… do you mean to imply by this thread that good and evil are like the relative view of tallness and shortness?

If so, then I’ll just point out that if the rollercoaster rules worked that way, then it would be the same as having no rule at all. Someone could simply say, “my two-year-old is tall enough to ride”, and there’s no standard there to refute them.

You asked, ”Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule?”

Certainly not! And I’m also not certain what your confusion is in this paragraph. I’ve never said that there’s more than one standard… unless God does not exist. Then every man has his own standard, and all of them are equally valid… or more accurately, equally meaningless!

Which leads, in a way, back to your first question. You asked:

So under materialism, you believe that things can both exist and not exist? You say that there is no “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Can you elaborate on what you mean?

To be clear, I did not deny a “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Your question was, “Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?”

Materialism, by definition, only admits material entities. There is no room in a materialistic universe for the transcendent. If anything in reality transcends matter, then by definition, the universe cannot be a materialistic universe.

In a purely material universe, it is possible for a dog to exist. This would be a configuration of a collection of matter arranged so that the collection had the properties we associate with a dog. But how does this apply to concepts?

Let’s continue with our friendly hobgoblins. In a purely material universe, there is no “concept” of a hobgoblin. There is, at best, a configuration of atoms in a brain which represents a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity that exists in reality.

Note that I’ve been very careful not to say that this configuration represents the idea of a hobgoblin. An “idea” transcends matter, and strictly speaking, cannot exist on pure materialism. Ideas only have existence relative to a mind. Computers hold data, but never hold ideas. Ideas are generated when a human mind views or hears the data stored in the computer.

To your specific questions/comments:

You seem to accept that differences can be perceived without objective criteria.

No. You misunderstand. There is definitely an objective criteria for differences; namely, non-correspondance. When you see one part of one entity that does not correspond to a part of another entity, then you recognize that they are different.

I do agree that differences may be recognized without assigning a value judgement to those differences. (Hexagons and pentagons with no standard by which to categorize them are simply different.)

You seem to admit that objective standards exist, even if we don’t abide by them.

Obviously and trivially true.

You also say something really interesting here: “The standard that discriminates between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

How does a standard discriminate? I can see how one uses a standard to discriminate, but I can’t really see how a standard itself does so. Can you please elaborate?

You really seem to be being a little uncharitable here. Keep in mind that I do a lot of my writing here on my lunch hour and/or breaks; it’s amazing that such posts are even partially coherent given the limited time I have to compose them!

Of course, the discriminator is the mind that evaluates the object/objects against the standard. However, it should be immediately obvious that at least three things are required in this action; namely, 1. the object, 2. the judge, and 3. the standard. My sentence should have been: “the standard that is used to discriminate between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

A judge cannot make a valid judgement without an applicable standard. A standard is useless without a judge. And both are redundant without something to judge.

Not quite as obvious, but equally required, I think, is the benefit of meeting and/or the consequences of failing to meet the requirements of the standard.

You never told me where the patriot act exists, by the way.

As data, it exists on paper, and in various computer systems across the country. As information/ideas/knowledge, it exists in the minds of those who created and/or have read the law. The Act itself is a collection of ideas, so ultimately it exists in a mind.

So if no one is thinking about it, does it cease to exist? Not at all, in a theistic universe. God knows all things, and the Act exists in his mind at all times, as “all things” includes the currently-active laws of the United States.

Luke
I am really trying to keep what you are saying straight. Sorry! I can reply to your larger post, but I just wanted to focus on one piece to hopefully illustrate to you why I’m having so much trouble. I’ll sort of divide this into sections for clarity.

Part 1:

I said:“I think you’re trying to say that ‘no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!’.”

You replied: “Not me!”

So I made two claims here:

a. No one is under jurisdiction of the Golden Rule
b. Everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standards

I put these forth as what I thought were your beliefs.

You responded to that by saying: “Not me!”

So, you must see one of these as not true. You went on to say what I can think is only fairly understood as saying that we are under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule. (I certainly would be more surprised to hear you reject b.) So it’s fair to conclude you reject a. We are obligated to the Golden Rule.

Part 2:

I then asked: “Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule?”

To which you responded: “Certainly not!”

So you believe that the golden rule is not the only standard we must follow. But as we saw in Part 1, you do see it as a standard, and one we are obligated to follow (we are under its jurisdiction).

Part 3

Yet you go on to say: “I’ve never said that there’s more than one standard… unless G-d does not exist.”

So this can be interpreted as saying, ‘if G-d exists, there is only one standard’. If this is true, and what we learned from you in parts 1 and 2 (the Golden Rule obligates us, but is not the only standard which does), then your statements are contradictory!

I hope this lays that out clearly:

Part 1: People are under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, we are obligated to it.
Part 2: The Golden Rule is not the only standard to which we are obligated
Part 3: If G-d exists there is only one standard to which we are obligated

This works really well as a proof that G-d does not exist (if we accept your ideas expressed in Parts 1 and 2), but somehow I don’t think this is what you are trying to do.

On a wholly separate note: You asked this and I didn’t answer, but I also wanted to ask you a question about it:

Terry said: “If I can express it, then it certainly exists as a concept. So is there a difference between the “concept”/”standard” of the Golden Rule, and the “concept”/”standard” of “Beat all men named Luke with a flyswatter for an hour on Thursdays”? A ridiculous notion, perhaps, but that only serves to highlight the issue. If there is no ontological difference between the two statements, then does the second carry the same “oughtness” as the first? Why, or why not?

Why do you see this as a ridiculous notion?

Depending on how you look at it, there could certainly be an ontological difference between the two. Just because two things have a certain factor in common, doesn’t mean they have all factors in common. A property and an apple both exists objectively in some way (according to pretty much all philosophers), yet no one would argue they exist in the same way and do the same thing. I’m not really saying that they are different, but questioning your assumption and assertion that they are. Why do you think this?

You also seem to put forth an argument that objectivity leads to oughtness (otherwise, why would even have idea that existence as an objective concept have an impact on oughtness at all?). I’m not really convinced by that argument (nor am I convinced it’s wrong). Why do you believe in this argument (if indeed you do)?

(You may ask, well in what ways are they different? You mentioned that the patriot act exists in the minds of men. I can inquire more about how you mean this, but the Golden Rule certainly exists in many more minds than your ‘beat Luke’ concept. I have no idea whether this matters, but the largeness and multitude of the existence is potentially a huge ontological difference. Like I said, maybe that’s unimportant, but I just don’t get the assumption of ontological equality. Unlike your ‘beat Luke’ concept, the Golden rule has a very strong physical existence (like the one you mentioned for the patriot act), in literally millions and millions of books. Maybe that’s not important, but we can’t say the existence is not different. We can also analyze them empirically and look at outcomes. Is there a difference between outcomes for those acting on the golden rule vs. the beat luke rule? If there is, maybe it’s not important, but it still seems to show a difference between the two.)

I’m also not sure if you’re asking me personally,or asking me about a hypothetical argument. Assuming the latter, I would say there is certainly a difference in that we can form a coherent sentence behind “we should all follow the Golden Rule because…” where it would be hard to form a coherent sentence behind “we should all follow the beat luke rule because…” That seems to be a big difference.

Ultimately, you can ask, well, what if I don’t care about those reasons, do I still need to follow it?

And the ultimate answer is no, I think.

Unfortunately, the ultimate answer is the same with G-d, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell, after decades of thinking about it.

I know you’ve tried to answer this before, but maybe it will be more productive now. Why should I do what G-d says?

I’ll reply to your larger post shortly.

Okay, let’s start looking at your post…

Terry said:“You made an assertion that the Golden Rule was an ‘objective’ standard, yet failed to establish any objective basis for the existence of said standard. As it stands, your claim that the Golden Rule is an objective standard is an assertion without evidence”

Let me back up a bit and clarify what my assertion was (it seems you’ve misunderstood). I said something like this.

1. The golden rule exists (uncontroversial assertion)
2. If it exists, the golden rule is an objective, not subjective, moral standard

In other words, I sort of assumed that we both agreed that the thing existed, that’s why we can talk about it. Now that we agree on that (I assumed), what I wanted to do was look and analyze whether this standard is objective or subjective. I then gave plenty of arguments to conclude it is an objective standard. People can not change, people don’t need to believe in it for it to be a functioning standard, it exists independently of any one person or group of people. You haven’t really pushed back on this, at all. In fact, you seem to say pretty clearly that you agree.

Yet, you don’t seem to want to push back on the idea that it exists either. You haven’t said “I disagree; it does not exist.” Now, first of all, I looked up the concept of an ‘objective basis for existence’ in three encyclopedias of philosophy and I’m not sure what you mean exactly (you may be referring to an idea I know by another name).

Now, I honestly don’t wish to argue existence or ontology. To me it is plain and obvious the concept exists, if you wish to deny that, this is fine. I don’t know if you’re read the Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, but one thing I learned from it is that even though I’m certain that apples exist, and that they have objective features, if someone wishes to deny that, there is really little I can do to prove to these exists. All I will say is that you’ve already told us that it is an objective standard by which we are all bound. If you wish to say that that is true, yet that it also doesn’t exist, I’m fine with that. I just don’t think that “I’m Terry and I think that x is both objective and non-existent” is going to buy you many followers.

You still seem to misunderstand the distinction between concept of a physical object, and the physical object itself.

Terry said:“[Luke is] the one who said, “The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.” (Emphasis [Terry’s].) We can also talk about hobgoblins and vampires, but the question is, are we talking about something real.”

It proves that the concept of hobgoblins is real. Do you disagree?

You said:The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

(This is confused a bit. A vampire is not a concept itself; it’s a vampire.)
Since the golden rule is only an idea, not a tangible object, there is no, nor could there be a second level of existence for the Golden Rule the way there is with a hobgoblin. All it is is a concept and that’s all I’ve ever claimed it to be. If you want to try to convince us that we can’t touch the golden rule, I’m happy to concede.

I think we can agree that we can describe what an actual vampire would be like. I have no clue what the analog of the golden rule would look or be like. All it is and all it ever was is an idea. Therefore if the idea exists, we’re sort of done. Do you not see the difference. Can you give the analog of the actual vampire for the golden rule? What I mean is… if it did exist in this way, what would that look like?

Let me tackle the distinction this way: The idea of a hobgoblin is a concept, a concept which can be used as a standard we can use to evaluate whether a certain physical object is a hobgoblin. Right?

Here is the analog to the golden rule: The golden rule is a concept, a concept which can be used as a standard we can use to evaluate whether a certain behavior is moral.

In other words, a hobgoblin concept is to an actual hobgoblin, as the golden rule is to a moral behavior.

I really hope that makes sense. I don’t think I can put it more clearly.

Now onto…

Terry said:“To be clear, I did not deny a “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism.”

I had asked: “Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?” to which Terry answered: “Only on a purely materialistic worldview.”

So here you say there is no “fact of the matter” to concepts on materialism. Yet, in your argument back to me, you seem to make a seemingly convincing case that there is a fact of the matter, and concepts do not exist on materialism.

Which is it? You seem to argue for two contradictory things!

You go on to say: “Let’s continue with our friendly hobgoblins. In a purely material universe, there is no “concept” of a hobgoblin.”

But you told us that there is no fact of the matter to the existence of concepts in a purely material universe. How can you state a fact of the matter, while arguing no fact of the matter exists? Do you see why I am confused?

On concepts in materialism:

I have to say that I am not a materialist, but I would also say that every materialism philosopher working today would disagree with your contention that ideas cannot exist on materialism. At that point, I think it’s fair to wonder if you know more about materialism than the people who espouse it and research it professionally, or if you just simply misunderstand it. I get that this is an appeal to authority, but I’d urge you to just think about it a bit. You seem to agree that ‘ideas’ are mental phenomena (“ideas are generated when a human mind views or hears the data stored in the computer”). Materialists or physicalists would simply say that these mental phenomena can be explained physically. Yet no materialist thinks that these phenomena are not real and have no real consequences.

(Think of it this way, if you agree, as you clearly seem to, that ideas are mental phenomena, what can an immaterial mind do to grant them existence that an material mind cannot? I would understand your position if you were putting yourself forth as an idealist, but you’re clearly a dualist.)

You said: “[On materialism] [t]here is, at best, a configuration of atoms in a brain which represents a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity that exists in reality.”

In short you’re saying: there is a physical entity that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity. Do you see why this makes no sense?

Think of it this way. The materialist would say “if you take this cast aluminium case, and rod, and cylinder head, and 32 bolts, and body panel, and relay, and wire, and spark plug, and hose, and… what you get is a car. You can use this car to go from point a to point b.”

You answer by saying “you don’t have a car; you just have this collection of parts. On materialism, there is no singular object that is a car. It’s just a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that can be driven and take people from point a to point b.”

All I can say is that you are absolutely right, but also, well, that’s exactly of what a car is.

If you want to argue the proper linguistics, you’re free to do so. The bottom line is, no physicalist denies that cars exist (but argue they are the result of physical phenomana) and no physicalist denies that mental phenomena such as ideas exist (but argue that they are the result of physical phenomena).

Let’s look at what you said about the patriot act (thanks for the answer, by the way). It exists in different ways and there is no one singular existence assigned by you to to a singular entity. Confusing, right? You said it exists in the minds of those who have created it or read it. So does the same thing exist in the minds of two different people? Do they share the one patriot act?

You ask and answer: So if no one is thinking about it, does it cease to exist? Not at all, in a theistic universe. God knows all things, and the Act exists in his mind at all times, as “all things” includes the currently-active laws of the United States.

I find this self-refuting. I’d specify and say just becuase I am not thinking about the Patriot Act, doesn’t mean it ceases to exist in my mind. It just exists in my memory. I’d argue that even if I’m not thinking of it, it’s I can then recall it. Here is the self-refuting part: You could write your argument more specifically by saying “under theism, if an idea exists in no mind, it still exists because it exists in G-d’s mind.” See the problem?

I actually agree with your idea that “if an idea exists in no mind, it doesn’t exist” which I think is your underlying argument. You’re just saying that G-d and His mind always exist, so it’s not a worry. (I hope I understand correctly.)

I think if we eliminate any sense of special pleading and treat all minds as alike in this argument, what you’re saying is in perfect agreement with what the materialist/physicalist would say.

You also said I was being uncharitable in part of my response. I apologize if it came off that way. I was geniunely confused. I thought you were trying to make a point because I would agree that the Golden Rule is incapable of itself discriminating. I misunderstood that as a point you were trying to make and build on later. ‘My bad’, as the kids would say.

Terry
Luke:

I said:“I think you’re trying to say that ‘no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!’.”

You replied: “Not me!”

So I made two claims here:

No you didn’t. You made one claim with two subclaims joined by a “while”, which implies exclusivity. If the Golden Rule is part of God’s standard, then they cannot be mutually exclusive. I reject the idea that God’s standard applying to all men implies that the Golden Rule cannot apply to all men.

So you believe that the golden rule is not the only standard we must follow.

You have fallaciously equated a part of the moral standard with a separate and distinct separate standard. The Golden Rule is a part of the standard, but it is not the entirety of the standard.

For instance, while the moral standard certainly includes treating others with love (stronger form of the Golden Rule), the Golden Rule says nothing about our moral obligations toward God himself.

Why do you see this as a ridiculous notion?

You think it’s not ridiculous notion to beat all men named Luke with flyswatters for an hour every Thursday?

A property and an apple both exists objectively in some way (according to pretty much all philosophers), yet no one would argue they exist in the same way and do the same thing. I’m not really saying that they are different, but questioning your assumption and assertion that they are. Why do you think this?

Why do you believe I think this? Was this related to another part of the discussion? The Golden Rule, and the “Beat Lukes on Thursday” concepts are both prescriptive notions that imply an action that should be taken. I don’t see the analogy between those two concepts and an apple and a property.

You also seem to put forth an argument that objectivity leads to oughtness (otherwise, why would even have idea that existence as an objective concept have an impact on oughtness at all?). I’m not really convinced by that argument (nor am I convinced it’s wrong). Why do you believe in this argument (if indeed you do)?

That’s not exactly the point. My point is that subjectivity can only lead to obligation imposed by oneself. If the speed limit on a road is 55, but I subjectively believe it should be 35, no one but me is going to care if I drive 45 on it. I’ve only broken my subjective law that I created and imposed on myself. If I drive 75 on it, then I’ve broken the objective law, and have violated my obligation to obey the law.

Furthermore, unless I tell them of my subjective belief, no one would ever know, nor would they care, that I’ve broken that law by driving 45. They only care when I break the objective law.

You could even write your belief down, perhaps in a note to your child\grandchild telling them to only drive 45 in that area. Because of your familial relationship, that might obligate them to adhere to your standard. Your limited, delegated authority as a parent/grandparent gives you the right to set boundaries on them that are more strict than the standards set by the law. However, if I were to read your note, I can see no reason to consider it binding on me. You lack the authority that would grant you the ability to place restrictions on my behavior.

[T]he Golden Rule certainly exists in many more minds than your ‘beat Luke’ concept. I have no idea whether this matters, but the largeness and multitude of the existence is potentially a huge ontological difference.

Say E.A. Poe wrote a short story that he wrote down, but did not show to anyone. Should this story be found, the written words will not provide an ontological explanation for the story. The laws of pen, ink, and paper cannot explain how the story came to be. To explain the ontology of the story, you have to get back to the author. The written account provides the story’s epistemological basis; we know the story because Poe wrote it down. So the existence of the Golden Rule in many minds does not provide an ontological difference, but an epistemological difference.

This is the crux of my question to you: I don’t deny that the Golden Rule exists in many minds. That would be foolish. However, none of the human minds that now hold the rule can account for its origin. What then is the objective origin of the rule, and does that origin have the proper authority to place such a restriction on the behavior of all men?

Why should I do what G-d says?

Let me ask a few questions:

What is your concept of “authority”? Where does it come from? What are its responsibilities and rights?

Do you believe that mankind has purpose? If so, what is it?

Do you believe that man has value? If so, why?

Would you agree that one should always do good and refrain from evil? (I’m not asking about what men do, but about what they should do?) If you answer anything but “Yes”, then is there reason you would give for what men should do?

Second post:

I then gave plenty of arguments to conclude [the Golden Rule] is an objective standard. People can not change [it?],

What do you mean, “people cannot change it”? If it exists only in the minds of men, then they’ve already “changed” it from non-existence to existence. Why would it now be fixed?

I say as well that people cannot change the definition of marriage, but they’re certainly trying to do so. Do you believe this is possible? If so, what makes the concept of marriage different from the concept of the Golden Rule?

people don’t need to believe in it for it to be a functioning standard

Northerners didn’t believe in chattel slavery, yet it functioned in the south for years. While it’s true that the south’s economy would have eventually collapsed had it continued as it was, that doesn’t mean that some innovation could not have saved it (and slavery with it). Is slavery then an objective functioning moral standard?

it exists independently of any one person or group of people.

If every human on the planet dies, will it still exist? If so, then how? If not, then this statement is untrue and the standard is subjective.

You haven’t really pushed back on this, at all. In fact, you seem to say pretty clearly that you agree.

I agree with your conclusions. I don’t yet know if I agree with how you arrived at your conclusions.

Now, I honestly don’t wish to argue existence or ontology.

Forgive me, but that’s kind of a cop-out. You are notorious for asking very tough questions of others.

I just don’t think that “I’m Terry and I think that x is both objective and non-existent” is going to buy you many followers.

I’m not looking for followers; I’m looking for truth.

I’ve explained to you several times why I believe that moral principles are objective, and in what object I think they are grounded. All I’m asking is that you do the same. That’s why I’m asking these questions, just like you do with me and others on this site. You often say little about your own views, except in the questions you ask those who do put their ideas on the table for discussion. And while I appreciate that role (you’ve helped me clarify many ideas in my own mind), it’s only fair that you defend your assertions as well.

It proves that the concept of hobgoblins is real. Do you disagree?

No disagreements here.

You said:The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

I’m trying to determine how many levels of indirection your using. If you mean by “concept” what I mean by “concept of the concept”, or vice-versa, then we’re not going to be able to communicate clearly.

(This is confused a bit. A vampire is not a concept itself; it’s a vampire.)

It’s a vampire? I would argue that while the concept of vampires certainly exists; vampires do not. The existence of the concept neither means that the concept is objective nor that it exists in reality.

Since the golden rule is only an idea, not a tangible object, there is no, nor could there be a second level of existence for the Golden Rule the way there is with a hobgoblin. All it is is a concept and that’s all I’ve ever claimed it to be.

I’m fine with this. You’ll never find the Golden Rule made out of matter (not including the person of Jesus). Now we’ve established that we’re not materialists! I’m assuming that you agree with me then that ideas and concepts must exist in minds. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Therefore if the idea exists, we’re sort of done.

Not so fast… If you agree that the idea would continue to exist even if all humans disappeared from the planet, then it obviously must exist in something other than humanity. If it would cease to exist, then it is an ephemeral, subjective idea.

An idea grounded in something other than humanity (the mind of God perhaps) would have at least the potential of being something authoritative over all men. However, I fail to see how any idea that exists only in the minds of men could have such potential.

In other words, a hobgoblin concept is to an actual hobgoblin, as the golden rule is to a moral behavior.

I don’t think this analogy is quite accurate, but let’s go with it for now.

As the hobgoblin is not (to my knowledge) an entity that actually exists, then how can we know that our concept of a hobgoblin is correct? My concept of hobgoblin may be completely different from yours. Additionally, you may be able to articulate your definition quite eloquently, such that I understand perfectly what you mean. However, I still disagree that your definiton is the actual definition of a hobgoblin. You got the skin color completely wrong, they’re actually quite tall rather than short, and they have no ears, rather than pointy ears.

As the hobgoblin has no ontological basis in reality, the question of which definition of “hobgoblin” is correct is meaningless.

If we apply the same analysis to the Golden Rule, you may claim that the Golden Rule is your concept of moral behavior. Someone else claims that the Silver rule is. Another says, “Get all you can while you can”.

Unless moral behavior has an ontological basis in reality, discusion of which one is correct is meaningless!

How can you state a fact of the matter, while arguing no fact of the matter exists?

I don’t claim that we live in a materialistic universe. My statements about such a universe only apply to that universe.

On concepts in materialism:

Which came first? Mind or Matter?

I claim that Mind came first. God is immaterial, and is a person with a mind. The mind created the material, not the other way around.

In short you’re saying: there is a physical entity that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity. Do you see why this makes no sense?

Of course I do! It’s an absurdity. But it’s not a position I claim.

‘My bad’, as the kids would say.

No worries!

I have to run, but I’d like to address a little more of the latter part of this post later if I get a chance.”

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