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A thought on Human nature
Posted: 11 March 2011 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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George, as a retired scientist I’m not sure one can derive morality or ethics from scientific principles or research unless it’s all entirely genetic.  And I doubt that from the wide variations we see among not only different people, but also different members of the same ethnicity or even family, and the generational changes that occur that it’s even genetic in the main.

Out of curiosity I took a few philosophy courses at the local university when I was about fifty.  That led to taking a senior level ethics course.  I learned a great deal there.  I agree that some of the philosophers were a bit nutty (usually because they started out with freaky premises, not because they used incorrect logic), however, most contributed a great deal to our understanding of the vectors and variatlions in people’s reasoning that led to their behavior.  Even more important were their insights into how groups could be focused such that they would be more, less or differently ethical.   

Occam

[Sorry, George caught that I had left the last clause off of the sentence I have now modified (in red).]

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 05:22 PM by Occam. ]
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Posted: 11 March 2011 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Gnostikosis - 11 March 2011 04:19 PM

Not saying there’s anything specifically wrong with emotions, I just hated being unreasonably controlled by them.

I’m pretty sure you used the word “hated” here as a play on words.  However, if you substituted the word “dislike” would that be an accurate description of how you used to feel?  You hated being unreasonably controlled by your emotions so you learned how to be more rational and you moderated them.  Sounds like a constructive use of hate to me.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Occam. - 11 March 2011 05:15 PM

George, as a retired scientist I’m not sure one can derive morality or ethics from scientific principles or research unless it’s all entirely genetic.

Occam, what do you think of Sam Harris’s argument that while science cannot directly tell us what is moral and what is ethical, it can tell us what promotes well-being and what promotes suffering and that can be used to decide on morals and ethics if morals and ethics are based on well being and minimizing suffering?  Sorry if this is off track from human nature.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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brightfut - 11 March 2011 05:33 PM

I’m pretty sure you used the word “hated” here as a play on words.  However, if you substituted the word “dislike” would that be an accurate description of how you used to feel?  You hated being unreasonably controlled by your emotions so you learned how to be more rational and you moderated them.  Sounds like a constructive use of hate to me.

Yes, I know. I won’t argue with you. IDK, I like to poke fun of my own idealism sometimes. It helps me maintain a certain level of humility I think is necessary.  tongue rolleye

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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You know, we all have more awareness in terms of or expertise of those things around us.  For example, after I brush my teeth I rinse with dilute hydrogen peroxide, and I throw in a pinch of sodium bicarbonate because I know that raising the pH activates the H2O2 making it a bit more effective.  Everything  can be examined within the framework of science, that doesn’t mean that we have to burden every action with a scientific explanation.  I don’t give a damn that the ptyalin enzyme in my saliva is breaking down the cooked starch in the cookie I eat.  Similarly, trying to force ethics and morals into having a scientific explanation seems problematic to me.  We can explain love in terms of homrones, pheromones and sexual desires, and I see many attractive women whenever I go out, but I don’t fall in love with them or even consider sexual connection in general. 

In other words, ethics and morality are still too closely related to complex human emotions and desires to be reduced to scientific information.

Occam

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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You’re worried about reductionism.  The fallacies of division and composition have taken me longer to grasp than the other fallacies.  It is just so counter-intuitive to me that all the parts could have a characteristic and yet that still doesn’t mean that the whole has that characteristic.  Just because a person understands how the parts work does not mean that the person understands how the whole works.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Reason should always be the slave of the emotions.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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Really?  You don’t think a balance between the two would be best?

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Posted: 11 March 2011 07:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Occam. - 11 March 2011 05:15 PM

And I doubt that from the wide variations we see among not only different people, but also different members of the same ethnicity or even family, and the generational changes that occur.

Is there something missing in that sentence, Occam? I think it sounds interesting but I can’t make sense of this.

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Posted: 12 March 2011 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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George - 11 March 2011 01:46 PM
The_Au_Mean - 11 March 2011 01:26 PM

I just can’t believe that the rational, scientific thinkers in this group would want to exclude Nietzsche from discussions of morality, ethics, and human nature.

I wouldn’t exclude him from the topics of morality and ethics—that’s probably because I don’t really care—but he (nor any other philosopher as far as I know) has added nothing to our knowledge of human nature.

Wow…Nietzsche has added nothing to our understanding of human nature. I am not even sure I know how to respond to that. I have to think that is more a function of lack of exposure on your part than it is a reflection of reality. The Nietzsche title I listed is a little bit obscure, and I’m not sure if you’ve read it or not, but I humbly suggest you do so before you repeat the above sentence. Beyond that, you might be interested in Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking? which deals with linguistic development and heuristics in the neo-platonic context of the modern age. Then there’s Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding where he examines rationalism, irrationalism and skepticism as they relate to human behavior. Freud, Hegel, Mary Doria Russell, Alan Segal…the list goes on and on of scientists and philosophers who contributed to our understanding of not just the functional questions of “human nature” and behavior, but also the teleological questions (which strict mathematical science is incapable of speculating on).

I don’t know; I don’t mean to be rude, but your statements just sound kind of silly and ignorant.

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Posted: 12 March 2011 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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This is not a book club, The_Au_Mean. If you want to discuss (instead of linking to Nietzsche’s text) how he helped to expend our knowledge of human nature I’ll listen. Show me how ignorant I am.

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Posted: 12 March 2011 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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George - 11 March 2011 07:05 PM

Is there something missing in that sentence, Occam? I think it sounds interesting but I can’t make sense of this.

  Yes, George, I screwed up and left off the final clause.  Thanks for catching it.  I’ve put it in in red.  Sorry.

Occam

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Posted: 14 March 2011 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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George - 12 March 2011 07:49 AM

This is not a book club, The_Au_Mean. If you want to discuss (instead of linking to Nietzsche’s text) how he helped to expend our knowledge of human nature I’ll listen. Show me how ignorant I am.

It may not be a book club, but as a community of intelligent people looking to expand and challenge their perspective, I had imagined that the occasional mention of an apropos text in relation to a specific topic would not be unwelcome.

Nietzsche, like Hume, was one of the first major philosophers to really criticize Aristotilian dualism as a fundamental philosophical assumption. For millennia the assumption in the West had been that there was a dualistic construct of humanity: a body/soul dichotomy. Hume and Nietzsche were skeptical of this, and instead viewed humanism through the lens of observation. This yielded a more direct, naturalistic view of humanity: the human animal. In the referenced text Nietzsche specifically makes the case that morals, the good/bad paradigm, and values are socially constructed (essentially a byproduct of evolution) and should be viewed not as Truths imposed by a higher being, but as features of anthropology.

One of the most important things that non-scientific philosophy can do is examine teleology. This is outside of the capacity of empirical, mathematical science. So Nietzsche can ask what morality or “the ascetic ideal” means in the context of different personal or social backdrops, while affirming subsequently that these meanings are mostly implied by the backdrop and not inherent to the ideal itself. If you don’t follow then it is probably better to actually read this section rather than let me continue to approximate and oversimplify it.

So anyway, thinkers like Hume and Nietzsche have added quite a bit to the conversation regarding human nature; not simply in proposing hypotheses, but in fundamentally altering the epistemological underpinnings of our examination of the topic.

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Posted: 14 March 2011 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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The_Au_Mean - 14 March 2011 08:41 AM

This yielded a more direct, naturalistic view of humanity: the human animal. In the referenced text Nietzsche specifically makes the case that morals, the good/bad paradigm, and values are socially constructed (essentially a byproduct of evolution) and should be viewed not as Truths imposed by a higher being, but as features of anthropology.

Maybe Nietzsche just read Darwin’s The Descent Of Man where Darwin takes a shot at explaining the roots of morality and decided to complicate the whole thing as most philosophers often like to do. I am not impressed.

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Posted: 14 March 2011 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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George - 14 March 2011 09:26 AM
The_Au_Mean - 14 March 2011 08:41 AM

This yielded a more direct, naturalistic view of humanity: the human animal. In the referenced text Nietzsche specifically makes the case that morals, the good/bad paradigm, and values are socially constructed (essentially a byproduct of evolution) and should be viewed not as Truths imposed by a higher being, but as features of anthropology.

Maybe Nietzsche just read Darwin’s The Descent Of Man where Darwin takes a shot at explaining the roots of morality and decided to complicate the whole thing as most philosophers often like to do. I am not impressed.

Darwin was a natural philosopher.

Further, your impression or lack thereof does not constitute a rational contest or response to what Nietzsche lines out. It also does not change the massive influence he and other philosophers have had on our ways of thinking. But I can see that you’re not interested in discussion or development of this topic, only in insisting that I impress you. I probably won’t be able to, so I’ll duck out and you can stick by your “philosophers are worthless” guns.

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