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Noam Chompsky calls Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens Frauds!

 
After_The_Jump
 
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After_The_Jump
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04 February 2016 10:04
 

Niclynn:

the thing is, these things are subjective

Hypothetically, sure. In the most nebulous sense, everything is subjective, especially if we’re speaking in terms of what we can ‘prove’ not to exist. For example, how do we know 2+2 actually equals “4”? After all, who decides what “2” means? Who decides what “+” means, etc etc. Or how do we know Elvis is actually dead? After all, he’s only ‘dead’ if we apply our ‘subjective’ definition of death to him. And even then, we can’t prove that ‘Elvis’ didn’t reincarnate himself after burial, or that the Elvis we think we buried was the ‘real’ Elvis.

But, clearly, that kind of hypothetical world is not the kind of world humans interact in. Rather, if we believe there are indeed ‘facts’ to be known about our world, then we must operationalize the nebulous subjectivity of the world into some semblance of objective functionality. This objective functionality is how we’ve come to agree, generally, that a person who’s heart stops beating for a certain period of time is ‘dead’, or that 2+2=4, or that gravity is real, etc. To the degree that we can “know” anything, we ought to be able to have conversation like the one we’re having without defaulting to the nebulous subjectivity premise. Simple example: Are the claims that (a) Elvis is dead and (b) Elvis isn’t dead, on equal ‘subjective’ grounds? To the extent that we can know anything, we know those two statements don’t constitute being of equal subjectivity.

So, to the Harris quote you’ve chosen to highlight: to the extent that we can ‘know’ anything, we know Harris was speaking about empathy as it related to how he took Jihadists at their word when they stated their motivation for their actions versus someone who doesn’t take said Jihadist at their word. Specifically, he said the former approach was a ‘more’ empathetic approach than the latter approach. To the extent that we know anything, we know such a statement isn’t “subjective”. Rather, to the extent that we know anything, such a statement is an objective fact - it’s a fact that this is what Harris said, and it’s a fact that his judgment on what was ‘more empathetic’ is verified by a plain text reading of the definition of the word ‘empathy’ (i.e. - the ability to understand the feelings of another).

Otherwise, no substantive conversation can really be had about anything, because there’s really nothing that we have the capacity to ‘know’ about anything. And if that’s the approach you take, then it begs the question of why you’re conversing here (or anywhere) at all.

[ Edited: 04 February 2016 10:07 by After_The_Jump]
 
sojourner
 
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04 February 2016 10:38
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 10:04 AM

Specifically, he said the former approach was a ‘more’ empathetic approach than the latter approach.


Yup. And I disagree (I think he cherry picks quotes and events from long and complex life stories in that regard). I think we’ve established that. We can say it 200 more times if you want, but it is what it is. Opinion. Unless Sam Harris owns the rights to the word “empathy”, in which case, crap, I haven’t been paying him royalties all these years!

 
 
June
 
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04 February 2016 10:55
 

Welcome to the forum,  After-The-Jump.

It is a pleasure following your posts on this thread.  The first time I watched the “Monkey Business Illusion” by Daniel J. Simons, I did not notice the gorilla, the curtain changing color or the player wearing black leaving the game.  I doubt these details would have gone unnoticed by you.

Irrelevant to the conversation, I’ve received my ipod this morning so I can catch up on some of those missed interviews and conversations from Sam Harris’s blog.  Thanks for linking.

 
 
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04 February 2016 11:43
 

@ Niclynn

Yup. And I disagree (I think he cherry picks quotes and events from long and complex life stories in that regard).

You’re still letting assumption cloud the objective part. There are, as has been well documented, myriad Jihadists who regularly tell us - explicitly - they do what they do because of their faith in Islam. That is an objective fact. Taking someone at their word when they say this is, objectively, ‘more empathetic’ than not taking someone at their word. Again, that too is an objective fact.

As it relates to what I just typed, a person’s “long, complex life story” is irrelevant when that person isn’t citing their ‘long, complex story’ as their motivation; rather, they are citing their religion. Harris has never argued that other factors can’t play a role, nor has he argued against the notion that sometimes other factors play the primary role. What he’s said is that, when a Jihadist tells us religion is the primary thing motivating his behavior, Harris takes them at their word. And, doing so is - by the very definition of the word - more ‘empathetic’ than not doing so.

Unless Sam Harris owns the rights to the word “empathy”, in which case, crap, I haven’t been paying him royalties all these years!

As I already mentioned, defaulting to the nebulous subjectivity argument is a functional non-starter in that it can be arbitrarily used in any situation, as a response to anything. As a tool of discourse, it has no value.

 

[ Edited: 04 February 2016 13:58 by After_The_Jump]
 
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04 February 2016 11:53
 

@ June

The first time I watched the “Monkey Business Illusion” by Daniel J. Simons, I did not notice the gorilla, the curtain changing color or the player wearing black leaving the game.

Thank you for the kind words. And yes, the Monkey Business Illusion is such a fantastic video - such a short and succinct way to make the point!

 
sojourner
 
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04 February 2016 12:00
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 11:43 AM

And, doing so is - by the very definition of the word - more ‘empathetic’ than not doing so.


I disagree. I think instead of using statements (that are often from generic, faceless stereotypes) stripped of any context, it would actually be more empathetic for him to say “This is not something I really understand or know much about.”


But again, you’re welcome to your opinion. Opinions are subjective. I respect your right to have yours.

 
 
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04 February 2016 13:36
 

@ Niclynn

I disagree. I think instead of using statements (that are often from generic, faceless stereotypes) stripped of any context, it would actually be more empathetic for him to say “This is not something I really understand or know much about.

Please note: you’re not disagreeing with anyone in particular at this point. As has been shown several times now, the Harris quote you cited compared (a) taking Jihadists at their word when they tell us what motivates them, to (b) not taking them at their word. In that equation, (a) is clearly ‘more empathetic’ than the (b). What you’ve said here is essentially (c) - saying “this is not something I really don’t understand or know much about” - Is more empathetic than (a). Okay, but that has nothing to do with the quote you cited because Harris didn’t say what he was doing was ‘the most’ empathetic thing he could do, he said it was ‘more empathetic’ than a specifically identified alternative.

So, are there any other tangents you’d like to introduce?

[ Edited: 04 February 2016 13:54 by After_The_Jump]
 
sojourner
 
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04 February 2016 14:04
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 01:36 PM

Harris didn’t say what he was doing was ‘the most’ empathetic thing he could do, he said it was ‘more empathetic’ than a specifically identified alternative.


And as I said, I disagree, but I respect your right to have a different opinion.

 
 
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04 February 2016 14:06
 

And as I said, I disagree, but I respect your right to have a different opinion.

And I respect your right to have an opinion not supported by facts. Harris clearly did not say what he was doing was ‘the most empathetic’ thing he could do, no matter how much - or how often - you disagree.

 
sojourner
 
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04 February 2016 14:11
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 02:06 PM

Harris clearly did not say what he was doing was ‘the most empathetic’ thing he could do, no matter how much - or how often - you disagree.


I never said he did. As I said, I still disagree. Still respect your right to have a different opinion.

 
 
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04 February 2016 14:33
 

@ Niclynn

Still respect your right to have a different opinion.

Thanks!

 
Sailwa
 
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07 February 2016 12:58
 
SkepticX - 03 June 2010 05:25 PM
nimbus - 03 June 2010 08:31 PM

I wonder if Chomsky didn’t like what Sam Harris wrote about him in The End of Faith?


Chomsky’s often pretty much the most brilliant possible idiot. He’s obviously extremely intelligent, but he also seems to lack intellectual self-discipline—way too prone toward allowing his passions to hijack his most formidable intellect, unfortunately.

Yes. Chomsky also referred to Harris as “hysterical”, which might be as clear an example of projection you could come across.

 
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07 February 2016 23:29
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 11:43 AM

...

There are, as has been well documented, myriad Jihadists who regularly tell us - explicitly - they do what they do because of their faith in Islam. That is an objective fact. Taking someone at their word when they say this is, objectively, ‘more empathetic’ than not taking someone at their word. Again, that too is an objective fact.

As it relates to what I just typed, a person’s “long, complex life story” is irrelevant when that person isn’t citing their ‘long, complex story’ as their motivation; rather, they are citing their religion. Harris has never argued that other factors can’t play a role, nor has he argued against the notion that sometimes other factors play the primary role. What he’s said is that, when a Jihadist tells us religion is the primary thing motivating his behavior, Harris takes them at their word. And, doing so is - by the very definition of the word - more ‘empathetic’ than not doing so.
...

By the same argument, the Oregon wildlife refuge demonstrators said their motivation was patriotism, therefore we should believe that their reason was indeed patriotism. Does this make patriotism, or the United States Constitution (to which they claimed to be patriotic) guilty as an accomplice to their illegal actions? Is there no possibility that something in their individual backgrounds may have contributed to their motivations and individual conceptions of the notion of patriotism to the U.S. Constitution? Is it more or less empathic to take their backgrounds into consideration when weighing possible motivations? Is their patriotism bad simply because they claimed it as their motivation, when there exist many others who claim the same patriotism without engaging in illegal acts?

 
 
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08 February 2016 06:03
 

@ Poldano

By the same argument, the Oregon wildlife refuge demonstrators said their motivation was patriotism, therefore we should believe that their reason was indeed patriotism

Yes, I think it seems quite clear they were and are motivated by what they think ‘Patriotism’ is.

Does this make patriotism, or the United States Constitution (to which they claimed to be patriotic) guilty as an accomplice to their illegal actions?

First, it should be noted that the Constitution doesn’t purport itself to be of divine origin. In fact, the Constitution builds directly into it an objective, viewable process by which to update and evaluate its contents (If only we had such an objective process for the Bible). So, the kind of “Patriotism” the Oregon militia claimed they believed in can’t logically be tied back to the Constitution. Both the Bundys and the Hammonds (the Hammonds being the case the militia in Oregon rallied around) went through the constitutional process to have their interpretation of “Patriotism” vetted, and they lost in court (Cliven Bundy lost his case, and the Hammonds lost their case).

At that point, the Oregon militia is no longer representing the Constitution; rather, they’re representing their own brand of Patriotism which stands in opposition to the Constitution. So, to your original question: yes, the militia’s interpretation of patriotism could be an ‘accomplice’ (in a metaphoric sense obviously), but the Constitution can’t logically be seen as an accomplice (this is clearly different than in the Holy Book based beliefs being discussed on this thread, where the kinds of things Jihadists do can quite clearly be tied back to the contents of the Quran and/or the Hadith).

Is there no possibility that something in their individual backgrounds may have contributed to their motivations and individual conceptions of the notion of patriotism to the U.S. Constitution?

Of course there’s a possibility of this; in fact, it’s a virtual guarantee that this is the case. Taking it back to Harris; he talks all the time about religious belief often times being planted into a child’s psyche over mother’s knee during childhood. As far as the Bundy’s go, it seems highly likely their dad was doing same thing with them regarding their dogmatic beliefs about “Patriotism”.

So where does that leave us? People have beliefs, and those beliefs matter because they influence people’s behavior. We can’t rightly change the Bundy’s past life experiences. They can however simply not choose to believe destructive things about Patriotism. Unfortunately, they are very open about their unwillingness to change their view (losing in a court system set up by the document they claim to be defending clearly wasn’t enough to change their beliefs). This isn’t an issue of a lack of information; it’s an issue of cognitive dissonance.

Is it more or less empathic to take their backgrounds into consideration when weighing possible motivations?

Perhaps you could clarify? Are you implying that’s it’s more empathetic to consider a person background as it relates to their possible motivations to then call them liars in regard to what they say motivates them? No, I don’t see that as ‘more empathetic’ than acknowledging what they say they’re motivations are.

Put your implication into practice for a second: Imagine the Bundy’s giving their stated motivations for their actions, and someone responding by saying “Yeah, you may think that, but you’re actually doing what you’re doing because you’re dad told you a bunch of stupid things about Patriotism when you were little”. Not only does that not appear empathetic, it doesn’t fundamentally change anything about the discussion that’s been had here. Ultimately, the Bundy’s have a set of beliefs that they are actively choosing to maintain, and those beliefs constitute destructive thoughts about ‘Patriotism’.

Is their patriotism bad simply because they claimed it as their motivation, when there exist many others who claim the same patriotism without engaging in illegal acts?

Yes, their brand of “Patriotism” is indeed bad when viewed through the lens of objective human well-being. Others who interpret patriotism differently should not be implicated in that brand of bad patriotism in so far as their interpretation of ‘patriotism’ leads to different (and less destructive) behaviors.

On the religious side, this is rather easy to see. Harris regularly cites Jainism as a prime example. Jainism is a religion dedicated to non-violence; to become a ‘radical’ Jain, one would hypothetically become so non-violent as to try to dodge stepping on ants as they walk down the sidewalk. ‘Radical’ Jains then should not be pooled in with ‘radical’ Islamists and Jihadists, because their beliefs clearly don’t motivate the same kind of destructive behaviors as radical Islamists and Jihadists.

That’s an example of two different religions, but the same basic idea could be applied within the same religion too. That’s why - as it relates to Muslims - Harris and others have spent a lot of time outlining what percentage of the group appears to hold the kinds of beliefs that, when acted upon, are destructive as it relates to objective human well-being.

 

 

 

 

[ Edited: 08 February 2016 06:09 by After_The_Jump]
 
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08 February 2016 07:03
 
After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 11:43 AM

You’re still letting assumption cloud the objective part. There are, as has been well documented, myriad Jihadists who regularly tell us - explicitly - they do what they do because of their faith in Islam. That is an objective fact. Taking someone at their word when they say this is, objectively, ‘more empathetic’ than not taking someone at their word. Again, that too is an objective fact.

Empathy is much more about setting accuracy aside for the sake (or the perceived sake anyway) of the person than understanding the actual issues and mechanisms in play though.

 

After_The_Jump - 04 February 2016 11:43 AM

As it relates to what I just typed, a person’s “long, complex life story” is irrelevant when that person isn’t citing their ‘long, complex story’ as their motivation; rather, they are citing their religion. Harris has never argued that other factors can’t play a role, nor has he argued against the notion that sometimes other factors play the primary role. What he’s said is that, when a Jihadist tells us religion is the primary thing motivating his behavior, Harris takes them at their word. And, doing so is - by the very definition of the word - more ‘empathetic’ than not doing so.

This seems to reify religion. Religion isn’t a Thing Unto Itself that exists outside of the mind, it’s a category of human nature, ideation and behavior, and it’s very individualistic in a meta- or perceptual qualia kind of way, if I’m using the right terms. It’s an individual experience in terms of how believers transpose these aspects of their religious nature with their own internal concept of the outside world. The host culture has a great deal of influence in how any given individual works out this transposition and the end result, but it’s a socio-psychological thing. In this sense there is no religion involved—the religion is one of the products of the same social structures and mechanisms as well.

 
 
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