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Dworkin and Einstein
Posted: 25 September 2013 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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People here occasionally mention Einstein’s religious (or ‘religious’) belief.

Here is a review of Dworkin’s argument for religious (or ‘religious’) freedom. Linked in Arts and Letters Daily, an internet rag of the Chronicle of Higher Education:

http://rationalist.org.uk/articles/4313/wrong-in-the-right-way

Thoughtful, but with some real clunkers:

Dworkin is enormously impressed by the philosophical ruminations of Albert Einstein, whom he quotes rhapsodising about “what is impenetrable to us”, and how it “really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in the most primitive forms.” Einstein described himself as “devoutly religious”, even though he was a declared atheist, and Dworkin wants to follow suit. He offers some striking speculations about the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and its essential role in the growth of science and mathematics, before reverting to his longstanding commitment to the “reality” of the ultimate principles of morals and politics. “Logic requires,” he declares, that values be “fully independent” of facts – a remark that might have been uncontroversial in the first half of the 20th century, but will raise a few philosophical eyebrows nowadays.

For ‘fully independent of *facts*’ add *facts of science and mathematics*. For Dworkin, values are a kind of fact (as in ‘it’s a fact that murder is wrong’). The reviewer has trouble even understanding when someone is asserting non-natural facts, moral values in this case.

The reviewer is most ‘bemused’ by Dworkin’s argument for religious freedom for atheists:

. . . [S]trange as it may sound, religion should not be defined in terms of belief in God, and that secular atheism of the kind he espouses should be treated by the law as a form of religion.

Dworkin’s first argument needn’t detain us: it’s merely the way US law has handled the rights of people with unconventionally religious affiliations, beliefs and practices in the past, and Dworkin is big for legal precedence. The reviewer criticizes the *grounding* argument: what *really* obligates us to have religious freedom?

Dworkin . . . finds that [such legal precedents] involve a further principle, about the nature of religious belief as such. . . .But instead he gives his argument a metaphysical turn which will, I suspect, leave his readers rather bemused.

He then expatiates on the evils of “naturalism”, or the kind of scientific materialism that treats value judgements as mere illusions, or subjective by-products of “people’s thoughts and reactions”. The only alternative to this corrosive reductionism, he believes, lies in a robust commitment to “transcendental and objective value”, or in what he calls a “religious attitude”, meaning the reverence for objective values that, he thinks, is displayed not only by old-fashioned aficionados of god but also by all right-thinking atheists.

Unfortunately the reviewer misunderstands what Dworkin’s argument is *for*:

The idea of extending the legal protection of religious belief to Einsteinian atheists may sound liberal, generous and inclusive, and that is certainly how Dworkin presents it. But its implications look thoroughly divisive to me. There are plenty of theists who would hesitate to claim transcendent objective reality for their beliefs, and they will resent Dworkin’s implicit charge that they lack the “religious attitude”, and the consequent threat to withdraw their legal protection. They can probably take care of themselves, but what about those atheists who do not feel able to follow Einstein, or to share Dworkin’s confidence in “transcendental and objective value”? Exuberant Nietzschean immoralists may not be bothered, but what about the rest of us – the bewildered don’t knows, and the pragmatists, existentialists, historicists and ironists who have come to the conclusion that, whether we like it or not, absolute truth is simply not on the menu? If others have a right to be certain, do we not have a right to be unsure?

Dworkin wasn’t providing an argument *palatable* to every kind of atheist, nor was he only protecting the rights of uh, Einsteinian atheists. Dworkin was arguing for why *everyone* has freedom of religion.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 25 September 2013 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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inthegobi - 25 September 2013 08:21 AM

Dworkin…
... then expatiates on the evils of “naturalism”, or the kind of scientific materialism that treats value judgements as mere illusions, or subjective by-products of “people’s thoughts and reactions”. The only alternative to this corrosive reductionism, he believes, lies in a robust commitment to “transcendental and objective value”, or in what he calls a “religious attitude”, meaning the reverence for objective values that, he thinks, is displayed not only by old-fashioned aficionados of god but also by all right-thinking atheists.

 

I have some problems with this quote.


1) It assumes that anyone who has a naturalistic view of the universe “treats value judgements as mere illusions, or subjective by-products of people’s thoughts and reactions”.  That is not the case.

2) e.g., One can have a reductionist view of values, such as recognizing that they are respondent and operantly conditioned verbal antecedents for rule-governed behavior.

3) The quote can be taken to imply that any reductionist perspective of values is “corrosive”. That is erroneous.

4) Why must reverence for objective values, be called a religious attitude?  Secular humanists revere their core beliefs and principles.  PETA members revere their values re: the treatment of animals. Physicians presumably revere the values embodied in the Hippocratic Oath, etc.  Religions don’t have a monopoly on revering values.

[ Edited: 25 September 2013 11:24 AM by TimB ]
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Posted: 26 September 2013 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Tim,

I have some problems with this quote.

And you should! The reviewer interlaces individual bits from Dworkin with his own explication of them. Not quite kosher if you’re disagreeing with the person you’re quoting from.
If you’re interested in Dworkin’s arguments, try these for starters:

A Wikipedia entry on Ronald Dworkin;
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Dworkin’s Religion without God;
An entry on the nature of law article in the Stanford Encyclopedia (which touches on the nature of morals).

1) It assumes that anyone who has a naturalistic view of the universe “treats value judgements as mere illusions, or subjective by-products of people’s thoughts and reactions”.  That is not the case.
2) e.g., One can have a reductionist view of values, such as recognizing that they are respondent and operantly conditioned verbal antecedents for rule-governed behavior.
3) The quote can be taken to imply that any reductionist perspective of values is “corrosive”. That is erroneous.
4) Why must reverence for objective values, be called a religious attitude?  Secular humanists revere their core beliefs and principles.  PETA members revere their values re: the treatment of animals. Physicians presumably revere the values embodied in the Hippocratic Oath, etc.  Religions don’t have a monopoly on revering values.

Reply1 -Since the reviewer is kind enough to narrow Dworkin’s use of naturalism, let’s give him a pass.
Dworkin’s claim is that legal and ethical theory works best by assuming there are non-natural facts called value-facts, or moral facts, or whatever term we choose. Ethical theories that deny this have severe problems of their own - which I urge you to review in the relevant articles. Even if it were true that naturalism and reductionism seem to work very well in natural science, as evidence for an independent field like ethics it is only circumstantial. You have to prove or argue that we should subsume ethics under natural science. (If your plan is to take Vienna, you have to be *able* to take Vienna.)

R2 - You may have a theory of ethics that can be reduced to something else, but the point to Dworkin is that it doesn’t work as an ethical or legal theory. Or as historical reality. For example, your theory would fail to explain the actual history of the anti-slavery movement in Europe and America. It fails to mesh with the legal rationale. It cannot explain why we *ought* to have abolished slavery, because operant conditioning just *is not* about shoulds and oughts. It doesn’t explain why we ought to abolish sexism now. So be careful of easy fixes to the philosophy of ethics and law.

R3 - No implication. The reviewer slightly obscures things: Dworkin straightforwardly opposes reduction or naturalization of morals.

R4 - ‘Religion’ is a handy word to use for a more general phenomenon than you or I would typically use ‘religion’ for. But that’s okay, so long as the re-used word’s definition is stipulated (as Dworkin does) and so long as the re-use isn’t too tendentious. You’ll notice that the reviewer, an atheist, doesn’t oppose this re-use of ‘religion’. Dworkin is saying just what you end with: there is a sense of religious - Einstein’s awe at certain things, for example - broader than our typical meaning, and the worth of people is one of those things that fall under that broader sense. As a legal scholar Dworkin naturally uses ‘religion’ because that category is how freedom of belief and practice has been handled by American courts, secularist freedoms included. It’s hard to see what other category in law would be better suited.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 26 September 2013 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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inthegobi - 26 September 2013 08:58 AM

Tim,

I have some problems with this quote.

And you should! The reviewer interlaces individual bits from Dworkin with his own explication of them. Not quite kosher if you’re disagreeing with the person you’re quoting from.
If you’re interested in Dworkin’s arguments, try these for starters:

A Wikipedia entry on Ronald Dworkin;
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Dworkin’s Religion without God;
An entry on the nature of law article in the Stanford Encyclopedia (which touches on the nature of morals).

1) It assumes that anyone who has a naturalistic view of the universe “treats value judgements as mere illusions, or subjective by-products of people’s thoughts and reactions”.  That is not the case.
2) e.g., One can have a reductionist view of values, such as recognizing that they are respondent and operantly conditioned verbal antecedents for rule-governed behavior.
3) The quote can be taken to imply that any reductionist perspective of values is “corrosive”. That is erroneous.
4) Why must reverence for objective values, be called a religious attitude?  Secular humanists revere their core beliefs and principles.  PETA members revere their values re: the treatment of animals. Physicians presumably revere the values embodied in the Hippocratic Oath, etc.  Religions don’t have a monopoly on revering values.

Reply1 -Since the reviewer is kind enough to narrow Dworkin’s use of naturalism, let’s give him a pass.
Dworkin’s claim is that legal and ethical theory works best by assuming there are non-natural facts called value-facts, or moral facts, or whatever term we choose. Ethical theories that deny this have severe problems of their own - which I urge you to review in the relevant articles. Even if it were true that naturalism and reductionism seem to work very well in natural science, as evidence for an independent field like ethics it is only circumstantial. You have to prove or argue that we should subsume ethics under natural science. (If your plan is to take Vienna, you have to be *able* to take Vienna.)

R2 - You may have a theory of ethics that can be reduced to something else, but the point to Dworkin is that it doesn’t work as an ethical or legal theory. Or as historical reality. For example, your theory would fail to explain the actual history of the anti-slavery movement in Europe and America. It fails to mesh with the legal rationale. It cannot explain why we *ought* to have abolished slavery, because operant conditioning just *is not* about shoulds and oughts. It doesn’t explain why we ought to abolish sexism now. So be careful of easy fixes to the philosophy of ethics and law.

R3 - No implication. The reviewer slightly obscures things: Dworkin straightforwardly opposes reduction or naturalization of morals.

R4 - ‘Religion’ is a handy word to use for a more general phenomenon than you or I would typically use ‘religion’ for. But that’s okay, so long as the re-used word’s definition is stipulated (as Dworkin does) and so long as the re-use isn’t too tendentious. You’ll notice that the reviewer, an atheist, doesn’t oppose this re-use of ‘religion’. Dworkin is saying just what you end with: there is a sense of religious - Einstein’s awe at certain things, for example - broader than our typical meaning, and the worth of people is one of those things that fall under that broader sense. As a legal scholar Dworkin naturally uses ‘religion’ because that category is how freedom of belief and practice has been handled by American courts, secularist freedoms included. It’s hard to see what other category in law would be better suited.

Chris Kirk

R1 - I suggest that “moral-facts and value facts or whatever term we choose” can be more accurately explained for what they are, by a correct reductionist perspective. Assuming, that non-natural facts exist, may have practical value in some contexts, but it is ultimately an erroneous assumption.  Thus it seems to me that Dworkin is saying that legal and ethical theories exist best on this foundation of false assumptions.

R2 - My impromptu 12 word “theory of ethics”, as you put it, may not be prepared to “take Vienna”. But note that I was not referring solely to operant conditioning.  Respondent behavior is a primary product of innate biology and underlies operant theory.  Our morals and ethics are a product of both. (As is all behavior, some more operant, some more respondent, some a product of both). It may not be sufficient, currently, to explain why we “ought” to do something, but it can provide a reasonable explanation of how we come to think that we ought to do something. 

R3 -  In retrospect, perhaps Dworkin, is correct that our society functions better by just assuming that non-natural “moral and ethical facts” exist. (Ironically, it seems unethical to me to accept faulty assumptions just because they supposedly work better than facing reality.)

R4 - IMO, it would be more accurate and to the point, to use the term “a sense of reverence”, rather than a religious attitude, since as I said, religions do not have a monopoly on reverence of values.  But, then again, if we are reduced to believing in the existence of supernatural moral and ethical “facts”, then religious attitude, is probably the correct term.

Too bad that we must be reduced because our ethical theories can’t be.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Tim,

I want to concentrate on your understanding of Dworkin - not exactly have a debate on moral realism, tho’ that would be interesting also.

Just to be clear, Dworkin’s views are about more than moral facts - he thinks there is a whole realm of non-natural facts of value, perhaps even small ones like ‘a full-grown and healthy tree is beautiful’. Just so we don’t lose the forest for the trees. Heh.

Dworkin is not saying that morals rest firmly when we use *false* assumptions. That’s what you’re stuck with by claiming there are no moral facts; it’s not his claim.

The cartoonist at http://www.xkcd has a panel that reads ‘Science: It Works, Bitches.’ Well, as you yourself suggest, ethics seems to work best by assuming moral facts underlie it. Your argument that it works but must be false entails an absurdity called ‘error theory’. (Although absurdities aren’t *illogicalities*.)

Dworkin is an atheist who believes in moral facts. I’m not sure if he’s a naturalist, and maybe he was never very interested in that twist. Ethics is far enough from the reviewer’s ‘science and mathematics’ to hardly need a glance from an ethicist or legal theorist. That should give any *reductionista* pause. You hardly need to care about naturalism, or operant conditioning, or biology, to have a very advanced ethics. You could be a flat-earther and still be a subtle and wise judge of people.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 26 September 2013 10:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I have no idea what Dworkin is up to, but I do know this is a valid quote from Albert Einstein:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”


Loi

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Posted: 26 September 2013 11:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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inthegobi - 26 September 2013 09:05 PM

Tim,

I want to concentrate on your understanding of Dworkin - not exactly have a debate on moral realism, tho’ that would be interesting also.

Just to be clear, Dworkin’s views are about more than moral facts - he thinks there is a whole realm of non-natural facts of value, perhaps even small ones like ‘a full-grown and healthy tree is beautiful’. Just so we don’t lose the forest for the trees. Heh.

Dworkin is not saying that morals rest firmly when we use *false* assumptions. That’s what you’re stuck with by claiming there are no moral facts; it’s not his claim.

The cartoonist at http://www.xkcd has a panel that reads ‘Science: It Works, Bitches.’ Well, as you yourself suggest, ethics seems to work best by assuming moral facts underlie it. Your argument that it works but must be false entails an absurdity called ‘error theory’. (Although absurdities aren’t *illogicalities*.)

Dworkin is an atheist who believes in moral facts. I’m not sure if he’s a naturalist, and maybe he was never very interested in that twist….
Chris Kirk

I have no understanding of Dworkin other than the bits I have been able to glean from your posts in this thread. 

How is “a full-grown and healthy tree is beautiful” non-natural?

I did not claim that there are no moral facts.  I suggested that there is no such thing as non-natural (aka supernatural) moral facts. Saying that societies may function better when they rely on false assumptions is not an absurdity.  It happens, and has happened a lot in the course of human civilization.

inthegobi - 26 September 2013 09:05 PM

Ethics is far enough from the reviewer’s ‘science and mathematics’ to hardly need a glance from an ethicist or legal theorist. That should give any *reductionista* pause. You hardly need to care about naturalism, or operant conditioning, or biology, to have a very advanced ethics.

Having advanced ethics and being an “expert” in the field of ethics are two different things. I can be a really great driver and know nothing about auto mechanics. However, if I wished to be an expert on automobiles and contribute to the development of better cars, I should know something about auto mechanics. Perhaps those wishing to be experts in ethics, should take pause, and consider what they’re actually talking about.

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Posted: 27 September 2013 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Lois,

I have no idea what Dworkin is up to

Really.

but I do know this is a valid quote from Albert Einstein:

Which is specifically about a ‘personal God’, not the more generalized claim, which claim he did make. It’s hard to see why you’re bringing up the quote.

In any case, ‘admiration’ is a strange emotion if there is nothing but particles in motion, even if arranged in a complicated structure. It’s strange that one machine should admire the larger machinery around it. It’s stranger that other machines like the first might be praised or censured *properly* for failing to admire the Universe. Thus the possibility that there is something called ‘value’ that is real, and not merely one meat-machine’s peculiar makeup. No gods need be involved (or at least it would take some proving).

See the several links I provided, especially the original review. Or would you prefer to retain no idea what half the thread is about?

Chris

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Posted: 27 September 2013 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Tim,

How is “a full-grown and healthy tree is beautiful” non-natural?

Its beauty is non-natural. Lois gave us Einstein being filled with ‘admiration’ at the structure of the Universe. Admirableness is non-natural. Now, is it *fact*? If you say Yes, you are a realist about at least one class of values, beauty.

I did not claim that there are no moral facts.  I suggested that there is no such thing as non-natural (aka supernatural) moral facts.

Then you do not understand the issue. How much do morals weigh? What is the force exerted by a tree’s beauty? Is admiration the result of dark energy? What are the mathematical equations unique to altruism? These questions are absurd. Values are not physical. If you claim they are facts in themselves, *then* you have non-natural facts. AFAIK no-one in the literature disagrees with this, naturalists included. I urge you to read up on this. Otherwise, you will be lost and not even know it.

I have no understanding of Dworkin other than the bits I have been able to glean from your posts in this thread.

 

And *therefore* you feel confident in posting in a thread entitled ‘Dworkin and Einstein’?
I don’t know much about Dworkin either - honest - but I found the review interesting and irritating, and I’d like to dialogue with people who want to explore Dworkin further. And Einstein: I feel he gets used by people, atheists and theists both, and that Dworkin uses him as a source is interesting in itself.

Chris

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Posted: 27 September 2013 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Chris, If my ignorance of Dworkin disqualified me from responding to the points you present, it doesn’t look like you would have much conversation in this thread. 

A sense of something being beautiful is generally innate (thus a product of natural evolution).  Language (aka verbal behavior) is also a product of natural processes, i.e., the evolutionary processes that constructed us to be able to communicate and to learn to communicate with greater complexity. 

Our emotions are innate (thus a product of natural evolutionary processes).  Our verbal behavior is partially a product of innate processes and of operant processes.  (Operant processes are also innate.)  Our ability to conceptualize is also a product of natural processes. 

Concepts only have a physical manifestation to the extent that they are thought of or communicated. (Emotions exist as a physical manifestation inside our bodies.)  Thus emotions, concepts (including morals and values) do indeed exist in our natural universe and as a product of natural processes. 

Admiration, is what we name a particular emotion that we feel in certain contexts.  Altruism is the name we give to the behavior of those who manifestly go out of their way to help others.  Naming things is one subset of our verbal behavior. 

Honestly, if experts in whatever field and in whatever set of literature, think that facts exist that are not a product of natural processes, then I think they are wrong and that they may be “lost” as you say “and not even know it”.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 03:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Chris,

As a starter: I also know nothing more about Dworkin than I read in this article. And so it might be difficult to distinguish where the reviewer correctly describes Dworkin’s views, and where he brings in his own views.

The reviewer clearly states:

The US Supreme Court has repeatedly decided that the constitutional right to religious freedom should not be restricted to individuals and organisations that recognise some kind of god. In 1961, for instance, it ruled that systems of belief such as “Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others” should be counted as “religions” from the point of view of the law, even though they “do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God”, and in 1965 it found that the right to be excused military service on grounds of conscience applies to atheists as well as believers.

Dworkin accepts these rulings without qualification, but finds that they involve a further principle, about the nature of religious belief as such.

Until the the sentence I italicized it is clear that Dworkin pleads for freedom of religion, and not just ‘beliefs in some God’, but for any world view that formulates some form of ethics.

It is funny that Dworkin refers to Einstein in this respect. As far as I understand Einstein, no ethical values follow directly from his ‘cosmic religiousness’. For Einstein it is at most a source of awe, beauty, personal strength, and comfort. Concerning the contents of an ethical Einstein makes a funny kind of move here, in my eyes:

The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. If one were to take that goal out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. There is no room in this for the divinization of a nation, of a class, let alone of an individual. Are we not all children of one father, as it is said in religious language? Indeed, even the divinization of humanity, as an abstract totality, would not be in the spirit of that ideal. It is only to the individual that a soul is given. And the high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule, or to impose himself in any other way.

From Science and religion. That has not much to do with his cosmological religiousness.

So maybe I am wondering too why Dworkin calls on Einstein as a ‘wittness’ for making his point. I also do not understand why this talk about atheism. From atheism in itself do not follow any ethical rules. Ethical rules can only follow from some positive statements, as Einstein does in the quote above.

So I think there is a gap in Einstein’s ideas from ‘cosmological religion’ to his ethics (it just seems the famous ‘is-ought gap’ to me), and for the same reason Einstein’s ideas seem useless as support for Dworkin’s position.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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inthegobi - 27 September 2013 10:02 AM

In any case, ‘admiration’ is a strange emotion if there is nothing but particles in motion, even if arranged in a complicated structure. It’s strange that one machine should admire the larger machinery around it.

Calling the universe a machine just shows you do not have the same understanding of the universe as Einstein had. It is also hardly what I feel when I get some new deep insights in physics or astronomy, or looking at the planets, stars and the Andromeda nebula, including the understanding I have of what I see. The understanding increases the beauty.

‘Admiration’ might be the wrong word, in that I agree: ‘awe’ might be a better word.

inthegobi - 27 September 2013 10:02 AM

Or would you prefer to retain no idea what half the thread is about?

Many of Lois’ posts are just Pavlovian reactions on some words or concepts in others’ postings. The quality of her postings are often comparable with the output of ELIZA.

I hope I did better in my posting above…

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Posted: 28 September 2013 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I congratulate Chris, Tim and “GdB” for an interesting, albeit dense, discussion on Ree’s review of Dworkin. Doing justice to this discussion would require some hours of sorting out its various comings and goings; still, I have a suspicion that by the time I had packed and unpacked these verbal and philosophical suitcases several times over, I would still be left wondering where my shorts were.

For my money, Rée’s understanding of Dworkin appears to be - shall I say diplomatically - incomplete. It’s bad enough that we’re trying to figure out what Einstein thought, without trying to figure out what Rée thinks about Dworkin thought about what Einstein thought.

Dworkin looks like a good read. I hope to have the time to get to it.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Tim,

If my ignorance of Dworkin disqualified me from responding . . .

Don’t be passive aggressive. You admitted you hadn’t read any of the links, or anything else but the little I wrote, but forged right ahead. Now go, read, and come back soon!

Now, on to some interesting things you mentioned:

a sense of a thing being beautiful is generally innate (thus a product of natural evolution).  Language (aka verbal behavior) is also a product of natural processes, i.e., the evolutionary processes that constructed us to be able to communicate and to learn to communicate with greater complexity.

Maybe, but our *sense* of beauty or morals is not relevant to morals as facts. Is *beauty* real: or *being* admirable, or being awe-some, or morally right? Further, note that many of the things we think of as beautiful aren’t themselves the result of evolution, like the structure of the Universe, or the Grand Canyon. Note also that we can speak intelligently of a beautiful environment, and the immorality of destroying it. (At least, it’s arguable - it’s not obviously false.) But it would naturally (heh) be advantageous for a species if they evolved to recognize value-facts, if that’s how a moral sense or sense of beauty must be had. And anyway, if you speak of a *sense*, you entail subjects of that sense. If there are no value facts, there cannot be an innate sense for them except in a hinky, illusory meaning.

Dworkin to me is an example of the broadness of atheism and secular humanism. His realism about values also shows that secular humanism is not logically scientific naturalism. And he’s not arguing against evolutionary theory, just to be clear, and moral realism doesn’t really deny evolution - at least it would be very arguable.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 28 September 2013 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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GdB,

As a starter: I also know nothing more about Dworkin than I read in this article. And so it might be difficult to distinguish where the reviewer correctly describes Dworkin’s views, and where he brings in his own views.

No worries; there are three links in my second post to discover more. Since I’m for moral facts, and values as facts generally, I’ll wear Dworkin’s mask, to paraphrase Galileo. Let’s let ‘value facts’ stand in for moral facts, facts about beauty, or awesomeness (sorry for the ‘hey duude’ sound of that), or admirableness, etc. We could summarise the latter under ‘beauty’. Some philosophers talk about ‘axiology’ to cover it all, but it is an ugly word IMO, and a little misleading (we’re not talking about mathematical axioms).

The reviewer clearly states: No ethical values follow directly from Einstein’s views:

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. . . . which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. If one were to . . . look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. . . Are we not all children of one father, as it is said in religious language? Indeed, even the divinization of humanity, as an abstract totality, would not be in the spirit of that ideal. It is only to the individual that a soul is given. And the high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule, or to impose himself in any other way.”

The connection is evident to me: ‘responsible development’, ‘in the service of mankind [sc. the collection of individual human beings]’, ‘destiny of the individual is to serve’. All this is thoroughgoing altruism, pretty high and difficult altruism, and altruism presupposed all the private virtues.

What’s begun to bug me, now that you’ve brought up this slab of obvious moralizing from Einstein, is that the review of Dworkin’s book latches onto the *rapsodic* Einstein, about awe in the Universe, not his moral stance. Maybe (I’m looking) Dworkin tries to derive morals *from considerations of beauty first*. You know, you’re the only person around and no prospect of ever having another person step foot in your neck of the woods, yet you refuse to stomp on the flowers or destroy a Van Gogh, and would be horrified to hear of someone doing those things even if you will never go to that place yourself, or it’s long in the past, etc. That would make beauty (or awe, or admiration - that cluster of features) primary, and moral obligations dependent on them. Sort of like saying ‘Human beings are the premier valuable things in the Universe, therefore etc.’

I also do not understand why this talk about atheism. From atheism in itself do not follow any ethical rules. Ethical rules can only follow from some positive statements, as Einstein does in the quote above.

They are distinct in Dworkin. His claim for moral facts does differ from *naturalist* atheists. Dworkin is not deriving atheism from moral realism or vice versa. On a tangential note I’ve been told that there is a combination of atheism with moral realism among Jewish intellectuals, tho’ I’ve never looked into it.

Chris

[ Edited: 28 September 2013 01:02 PM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 28 September 2013 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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GdB,

Calling the universe a machine just shows you do not have the same understanding of the universe as Einstein had.

I think you’re taking my conversation with Tim out of context. Machinery is awesome, and understanding it increases my awe of it, and even if the Universe is not essentially machinery, even thinking of it that way shows its wonder. Maybe we’re even adapted by evolution to have a sense of awe. But awe and understanding are doubtfully natural features of things. (If this helps, the ‘big three’ non-natural categories of debate are minds and their features, propositions and knowledge, and morals and values.)

I hope I did better in my posting above…

Now now. I’m not grading anyone. But you didn’t march into this without knowledge thinking that you get a pass by *telling* me you lack knowledge. OM arguably-nonexistent G.

Chris

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