Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Revolver- Look Closer Edition by David from Raptitude

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/07/the-revolver-look-closer-edition/

At the beginning of American Beauty, just as Lester Burnham is beginning is spectacular breakdown, the movie’s tagline can be seen behind him, pinned to the wall of his cubicle. A little white sticker reads, “Look closer.”

Photo by: Senscience
http://www.raptitude.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/roundabout.jpg

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Another GREAT Post from David @ Raptitude…

Another GREAT Post from David @ Raptitude…

I can’t say this enough times, Raptitude is an amazing website full of well thought out and elegantly written posts that, if you give yourself the time to read, has the potential to a enhance your quality of time spent on this watery rock called Earth.

I will be sharing a link to his posts often but i encourage anyone who reads this to bookmark Raptitude and subscribe to the rss feed.


photo by: David Cain and the Raptitude website

The link:

The internet allows us to share a brain, sort of. You have an idea, or an understanding, and now it can be anyone’s, with no need to get a  publisher to agree that it’s worth sharing. If that idea changes the way someone lives, that change can change the way someone else lives, and that’s all culture is. Twenty years ago this medium wasn’t a part of our lives, and now we’re influencing each other at an astonishing rate. This is evolution.

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/07/the-revolver/

Nobody said it was easy. But no one ever said it would be this hard.

I’m going back to the start

What you did is not okay! And I am staying depressed to prove it! | Psychology Today

“What you did is not okay! And I am going to be depressed to prove it!”Nobody wants to be depressed! Or do they? If you have suffered depression, you might be aware of the irrational part of you that objects to letting go of depressed feelings. In depression people are more inclined to feel the unfairness of life.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/depression-management-techniques/201105/what-you-did-is-not-okay-and-i-am-staying-depressed-pro

Repost: What is Rape Culture? (via Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago)

Repost: What is Rape Culture? Today I am sharing another post from the archives.  I think you will see why this one is important to revisit during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In order to get involved, we need to understand the cultural context in which sexual violence occurs. What is Rape Culture? Given that it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I think it is important to place sexual violence within a context. Understanding that sexual violence is more than isolated acts … Read More

via Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago

Or read the full article below. But please visit Dr. Kathleen Young’s blog. She has a multitude of wonderful and insightful articles and links.

Today I am sharing another post from the archives.  I think you will see why this one is important to revisit during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In order to get involved, we need to understand the cultural context in which sexual violence occurs.

What is Rape Culture?

Given that it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I think it is important to place sexual violence within a context. Understanding that sexual violence is more than isolated acts by individuals is needed if we truly want to effect lasting change. I have written before, in my response to a commenter on How to Prevent Rape:

Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle… It means looking at the larger cultural issues that create (mostly) men who become rapists/abusers.

The responsibility does not only belong to the individual perpetrator. As  a psychologist well versed in an anti-oppression model,  I understand sexual violence not just as random, individual acts, but also as existing within a broader cultural context. This context is a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women but also those who do not conform to expected gender norms) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence. This is Rape Culture.

Melissa McEwan of the blog Shakesville has a comprehensive and impactful post about Rape Culture. She details the stuff, both obvious and subtle, that keeps violence against women going. You can read her Rape Culture 101 post in its entirety here. I am sharing much of it here below as well:

(Trigger Warning: Please keep in mind that reading about sexual violence may be very triggering for survivors, so check in with yourself before and after).

Rape Culture 101 by Melissa McEwan

Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, makingirresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-fucking in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey violent urges are inextricably linked with (straight) sexuality.

Rape culture is treating straight sexuality as the norm. Rape culture is lumping queer sexuality into nonconsensual sexual practices like pedophilia and bestiality. Rape culture is privileging heterosexuality because ubiquitous imagery of two adults of the same-sex engaging in egalitarian partnerships without gender-based dominance and submission undermines (erroneous) biological rationales for the rape culture’s existence.

Rape culture is rape being used as a weapon, a tool of war andgenocide and oppression. Rape culture is rape being used as acorrective to “cure” queer women. Rape culture is a militarized culture and “the natural product of all wars, everywhere, at all times, in all forms.”

Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another (“I’ll make you my bitch”). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part ofmale-exclusive bonding. Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men’s prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality thatmany women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying beingheld hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for hir own rape.

Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featuredin the Odd News.

Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.

Rape culture is “nothing” being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.

Rape culture is boys under 10 years old knowing how to rape.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

Rape culture is the narrative that sex workers can’t be raped. Rape culture is the assertion that wives can’t be raped. Rape culture is the contention that only nice girls can be raped.

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist. Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don’t announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

Rape culture is people meant to protect you raping you instead—like parentsteachersdoctorsministerscopssoldiersself-defense instructors.

Rape culture is a serial rapist being appointed to a federal panel that makes decisions regarding women’s health.

Rape culture is a ruling that says women cannot withdraw consent once sex commences.

Rape culture is a collective understanding about classifications of rapists: The “normal” rapist (whose crime is most likely to be dismissed with a “boys will be boys” sort of jocular apologia) is the man who forces himself on attractive women, women his age in fine health and form, whose crime is disturbinglyunderstandable to his male defenders. The “real sickos” are the men who go after children, old ladies, the disabled, accident victims languishing in comas—the sort of people who can’t fight back, whose rape is difficult to imagine as titillating, unlike the rape of “pretty girls,” so easily cast in a fight-fuck fantasy of squealing and squirming and eventual relenting to the “flattery” of being raped.

Rape culture is the insistence on trying to distinguish between different kinds of rape via the use of terms like “gray rape” or “date rape.”

Rape culture is pervasive narratives about rape that exist despite evidence to the contrary. Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though women are three times more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger, and nine times more likely to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street, making what is commonly referred to as “date rape” by far the most prevalent type of rape. Rape culture is pervasive insistence that false reports are common, although they are less common (1.6%) than false reports of auto theft (2.6%). Rape culture is pervasive claims that women make rape accusations willy-nilly, when 61% of rapes remain unreported.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don’t; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports hir rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it’s a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

Rape culture is hospitals that won’t do rape kits, disbelieving law enforcement, unmotivated prosecutors, hostile judges, victim-blaming juries, and paltry sentencing.

Rape culture is the fact that higher incidents of rape tend tocorrelate with lower conviction rates.

Rape culture is silence around rape in the national discourse, and in rape victims’ homes. Rape culture is treating surviving rape as something of which to be ashamed. Rape culture is families torn apart because of rape allegations that are disbelieved or ignored or sunk to the bottom of a deep, dark sea in an iron vault of secrecy and silence.

Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant. Rape culture is treating women’s bodies like public property. Rape culture is street harassment and groping on public transportation and equating raped women’s bodies to a manwalking around with valuables hanging out of his pockets. Rape culture is most men being so far removed from the threat of rape that invoking property theft is evidently the closest thing many of them can imagine to being forcibly subjected to a sexual assault.

Rape culture is treating 13-year-old girls like trophies for men regarded as great artists.

Rape culture is ignoring the way in which professional environments that treat sexual access to female subordinates as entitlements of successful men can be coercive and compromise enthusiastic consent.

Rape culture is a convicted rapist getting a standing ovation at Cannes, a cameo in a hit movie, and a career resurgence in which he can joke about how he hates seeing people get hurt.

Rape culture is when running dogfights is said to elicit more outrage than raping a woman would.

Rape culture is blurred lines between persistence and coercion. Rape culture is treating diminished capacity to consent as the natural path to sexual activity.

Rape culture is pretending that non-physical sexual assaults, like peeping tomming, is totally unrelated to brutal and physical sexual assaults, rather than viewing them on a continuum of sexual assault.

Rape culture is diminishing the gravity of any sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, or culture of actual or potential coercion in any way.

Rape culture is using the word “rape” to describe something that has been done to you other than a forced or coerced sex act. Rape culture is saying things like “That ATM raped me with a huge fee” or “The IRS raped me on my taxes.”

Rape culture is rape being used as entertainment, in movies and television shows and books and in video games.

Rape culture is television shows and movies leaving rape out of situations where it would be a present and significant threat in real life.

Rape culture is Amazon offering to locate “rape” products for you.

Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers’ home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes inpromotions for children’s movies, rape jokes on Page Six (andagain!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famous people, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions

Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitiveenough.

Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.

That’s hardly everything. It’s merely the tip of an unfathomable iceberg.

I know there is a lot to take in here. I’d love to hear your reactions and thoughts.

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

Effing the Ineffable

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Effing the Ineffable

How do we express what cannot be said?

photo: Richard Legner/Getty

By ROGER SCRUTON Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thomas Aquinas, who devoted some two million words to spelling out, in the Summa Theologica, the nature of the world, God’s purpose in creating it and our fate in traversing it, ended his short life (short by our standards, at least) in a state of ecstasy, declaring that all that he had written was of no significance beside the beatific vision that he had been granted, and in the face of which words fail. His was perhaps the most striking example of a philosopher who comes to believe that the real meaning of the world is ineffable. Having got to this point, Aquinas obeyed the injunction of Wittgenstein, whose Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus concludes with the proposition: “that whereof we cannot speak we must consign to silence.”

But Aquinas was exceptional. The history of philosophy abounds in thinkers who, having concluded that the truth is ineffable, have gone on to write page upon page about it. One of the worst offenders is Kierkegaard, who argues in a hundred ways that the ultimate is inexpressible, that truth is “subjectivity,” that the meaning of life can be given by no formula, no proposition, no abstraction, but only by the concrete experience of surrender whose content can never be given in words.

The same idea occurs in Schopenhauer, for whom the truth of the world is Will, which cannot be represented in concepts. Schopenhauer devoted roughly 500,000 words to this thing that no words can capture. And he set a fashion that continues to this day.

I am currently reading a mercifully short book by Vladimir Jankélévitch, Music and the Ineffable, in which the argument is stated on the first page —namely, that since music works through melodies, rhythms and harmonies and not through concepts, it contains no messages that can be translated into words. There follows 50,000 words devoted to the messages of music —often suggestive, poetic and atmospheric words, but words nevertheless, devoted to a subject that no words can capture.

The temptation to take refuge in the ineffable is not confined to philosophers. Every inquiry into first principles, original causes and fundamental laws, will at some stage come up against an unanswerable question: what makes those first principles true or those fundamental laws valid? What explains those original causes or initial conditions? And the answer is that there is no answer —or no answer that can be expressed in terms of the science for which those laws, principles and causes are bedrock. And yet we want an answer. So how should we proceed?

There is nothing wrong with referring at this point to the ineffable. The mistake is to describe it. Jankélévitch is right about music. He is right that something can be meaningful, even though its meaning eludes all attempts to put it into words. Fauré’s F sharp Ballade is an example: so is the smile on the face of the Mona Lisa; so is the evening sunlight on the hill behind my house. Wordsworth would describe such experiences as “intimations,” which is fair enough, provided you don’t add (as he did) further and better particulars. Anybody who goes through life with open mind and open heart will encounter these moments of revelation, moments that are saturated with meaning, but whose meaning cannot be put into words. These moments are precious to us. When they occur it is as though, on the winding ill-lit stairway of our life, we suddenly come across a window, through which we catch sight of another and brighter world —a world to which we belong but which we cannot enter.

I too am tempted to eff the ineffable. Like my philosophical predecessors, I want to describe that world beyond the window, even though I know that it cannot be described but only revealed. I am not alone in thinking that world to be real and important. But there are many who dismiss it as an unscientific fiction. And people of this scientistic cast of mind are disagreeable to me. Their nerdish conviction that facts alone can signify, and that the “transcendental” and the eternal are nothing but words, mark them out as incomplete. There is an aspect of the human condition that is denied to them.

Moreover, this aspect is of the first importance. Our loves and hopes in some way hinge on it. We love each other as angels love, reaching for the unknowable “I.” We hope as angels hope: with our thoughts fixed on the moment when the things of this world fall away and we are enfolded in “the peace which passes understanding.” Putting the point that way I have already said too much. For my words make it look as though the world beyond the window is actually here, like a picture on the stairs. But it is not here; it is there, beyond the window that can never be opened.

But a question troubles me as I am sure it troubles you. What do our moments of revelation have to do with the ultimate questions? When science comes to a halt, at those principles and conditions from which explanation begins, does the view from that window supply what science lacks? Do our moments of revelation point to the cause of the world?

When I don’t think about it, the answer seems clear. Yes, there is more to the world than the system of causes, for the world has a meaning and that meaning is revealed. But no, there is no path, not even this one, to the cause of the world: for that whereof we cannot speak, we must consign to silence —as Aquinas did.

Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher living in England. His many books include Beauty and The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope. Learn more about him at www.roger-scruton.com.

http://www.bigquestionsonline.com/columns/roger-scruton/effing-the-ineffable

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...

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  • 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

    Avoid cognitive distortions that may skew your perception.

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

1. Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them, while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. A single detail may be picked out, and the whole event becomes colored by this detail. When you pull negative things out of context, isolated from all the good experiences around you, you make them larger and more awful than they really are.

2. Polarized Thinking: The hallmark of this distortion is an insistence on dichotomous choices. Things are black or white, good or bad. You tend to perceive everything at the extremes, with very little room for a middle ground. The greatest danger in polarized thinking is its impact on how you judge yourself. For example-You have to be perfect or you’re a failure.
3. Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again. ‘Always’ and ‘never’ are cues that this style of thinking is being utilized. This distortion can lead to a restricted life, as you avoid future failures based on the single incident or event.
4. Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you. Mind reading depends on a process called projection. You imagine that people feel the same way you do and react to things the same way you do. Therefore, you don’t watch or listen carefully enough to notice that they are actually different. Mind readers jump to conclusions that are true for them, without checking whether they are true for the other person.
5. Catastrophizing: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start “what if’s.” What if that happens to me? What if tragedy strikes? There are no limits to a really fertile catastrophic imagination. An underlying catalyst for this style of thinking is that you do not trust in yourself and your capacity to adapt to change.
6. Personalization: This is the tendency to relate everything around you to yourself. For example, thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc. The underlying assumption is that your worth is in question. You are therefore continually forced to test your value as a person by measuring yourself against others. If you come out better, you get a moment’s relief. If you come up short, you feel diminished. The basic thinking error is that you interpret each experience, each conversation, each look as a clue to your worth and value.
7. Control Fallacies: There are two ways you can distort your sense of power and control. If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you. Feeling externally controlled keeps you stuck. You don’t believe you can really affect the basic shape of your life, let alone make any difference in the world. The truth of the matter is that we are constantly making decisions, and that every decision affects our lives. On the other hand, the fallacy of internal control leaves you exhausted as you attempt to fill the needs of everyone around you, and feel responsible in doing so (and guilty when you cannot).
8. Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair, but other people won’t agree with you. Fairness is so conveniently defined, so temptingly self-serving, that each person gets locked into his or her own point of view. It is tempting to make assumptions about how things would change if people were only fair or really valued you. But the other person hardly ever sees it that way, and you end up causing yourself a lot of pain and an ever-growing resentment.
9. Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other tack and blame yourself for every problem. Blaming often involves making someone else responsible for choices and decisions that are actually our own responsibility. In blame systems, you deny your right (and responsibility) to assert your needs, say no, or go elsewhere for what you want.
10. Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty if you violate the rules. The rules are right and indisputable and, as a result, you are often in the position of judging and finding fault (in yourself and in others). Cue words indicating the presence of this distortion are should, ought, and must.
11. Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true-automatically. If you feel stupid or boring, then you must be stupid and boring. If you feel guilty, then you must have done something wrong. The problem with emotional reasoning is that our emotions interact and correlate with our thinking process. Therefore, if you have distorted thoughts and beliefs, your emotions will reflect these distortions.
12. Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them. The truth is the only person you can really control or have much hope of changing is yourself. The underlying assumption of this thinking style is that your happiness depends on the actions of others. Your happiness actually depends on the thousands of large and small choices you make in your life.
13. Global Labeling: You generalize one or two qualities (in yourself or others) into a negative global judgment. Global labeling ignores all contrary evidence, creating a view of the world that can be stereotyped and one-dimensional. Labeling yourself can have a negative and insidious impact upon your self-esteem; while labeling others can lead to snap-judgments, relationship problems, and prejudice.
14. Being Right: You feel continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness. Having to be ‘right’ often makes you hard of hearing. You aren’t interested in the possible veracity of a differing opinion, only in defending your own. Being right becomes more important than an honest and caring relationship.
15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You fell bitter when the reward doesn’t come as expected. The problem is that while you are always doing the ‘right thing,’ if your heart really isn’t in it, you are physically and emotionally depleting yourself.

 

http://access.ewu.edu/CAPS/SelfHelp/StressManage/DistortThink.xml*FromThoughts & Feelingsby McKay, Davis, & Fanning. New Harbinger, 1981. These styles of thinking (or cognitive distortions) were gleaned from the work of several authors, including Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, and David Burns, among others.

 


Philosophy since the Enlightenment, by Roger Jones

http://su.pr/2NK908

Can science determine human values?

Moral Compass

Image by psd via Flickr

 

Can science determine human values? By EDWIN CARTLIDGE Tuesday, October 5, 2010

http://www.bigquestionsonline.com/features/morality-without-transcendence

Edwin Cartlidge, formerly the news editor for Physics World, is a freelance science journalist based in Rome. In his article published on bigquestionsonline and review of Sam Harris‘ new book “The Moral Landscape” he says: The Moral Landscape is a thought-provoking book and certainly worth a read, but it is ultimately unconvincing. Harris’s failing is his over-fondness for theoretical neatness.

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I’ve included some excerpts from the article:

In his new book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, author  Sam Harris, who is also a philosopher and neuroscientist sets out why he believes values are not, as is widely held, subjective and culture-dependent. Instead, he says, values are a certain kind of fact —facts about the well-being of conscious creatures —and that they can therefore, at least in principle, be objectively evaluated.

While Darwinian evolution was invoked in support of causes now widely regarded as morally just, such as the abolition of the slave trade, it was also used to justify those now considered abhorrent, such as eugenics.

Few people would disagree that the short, widowed life of a girl who has known nothing but hunger, fear and loneliness amid a brutal civil war is a better existence than that of a woman who lives a long, happily married, intellectually satisfying, financially comfortable and emotionally satisfying life. It’s far more ambiguous to compare two women who have similar levels of material comfort but who live in differently organized societies, such as free-market America and more welfare-oriented Sweden.

While many would agree that lying is the right thing to do in certain extreme instances, such as the case of the hidden Jews, it is likely to be widely regarded as the wrong thing to do in other cases where it would nevertheless maximize human well-being. Giving evidence that imprisons a murderer may, in some cases, reduce the sum total of human well-being —perhaps the victim was a wife-beater, and the killer’s children will be left orphans if she’s jailed —but it may still be justifiably regarded as the morally correct action.

As you can see, how individual societies determine rules of whats considered Morally correct is and always will be a multi faceted and culturally modifiable question. This question won’t soon be answered and distributed in a pretty little box with a bow on top. However, I did enjoy reading Mr. Cartlidge’s review.