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27 year-old David Hume: 1, Sam Harris who should know better: 0

 
After_The_Jump
 
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After_The_Jump
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01 February 2017 11:54
 

@ d0rkyd00d

Why should they be the driving force?  Because Harris says so?

The answer to this question is quite simple: which approach is more likely to lead to better results - availing ourselves of all the tools and knowledge we know today to make decisions OR relying on stone age texts written by men who had access to virtually no knowledge about the world we live in?

You’re free to categorize that as ‘because Harris said so’ if you’d like to but there’s a clear difference between positions based in evidence and positions based either falsified and/or unfalsifiable ideology.

Harris is just replacing one set of dogmatic principles with his own.

An adherence to evidence is not the same thing as a ‘dogmatic’ adherence to a lack of evidence. Harris’s approach is the exact opposite of dogma; that is, being open to existing evidence and new evidence in the determination of one’s position. Try as you might to conflate the two, they simply aren’t the same.

So it is kind of like Peterson’s definition of truth: defined however we like it.

Not at all. Peterson’s definition is entirely in retrospect; it relies specifically upon what we may not know as a justification for dismissing the notion of ‘truth’ in real time. In that way, Peterson’s definition is no definition at all; it’s a borderless concept both now and in the future - we can’t know what’s ‘true’ until everyone ceases to have survived, and then nothing’s true because no one survived. Harris’s definition is *precisely the opposite*; that is, it’s based on the best evidence of the world that we have in the here and now to make determinations here and now.

 

[ Edited: 01 February 2017 12:51 by After_The_Jump]
 
d0rkyd00d
 
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01 February 2017 13:10
 
After_The_Jump - 01 February 2017 11:54 AM

......those observable, testable components of our world should be the driving force in our determination of ‘morals’.......which approach is more likely to lead to better results - availing ourselves of all the tools and knowledge we know today to make decisions OR relying on stone age texts written by men who had access to virtually no knowledge about the world we live in?

I don’t know.  We were able to reduce suffering and increase well-being without really furthering our knowledge and understanding of human psychology or neurology over the past few millenia, so this claim seems tenuous.

An adherence to evidence is not the same thing as a ‘dogmatic’ adherence to a lack of evidence. Harris’s approach is the exact opposite of dogma; that is, being open to existing evidence and new evidence in the determination of one’s position. Try as you might to conflate the two, they simply aren’t the same.

Huh?  I still don’t think being open to existing and new evidence to form an opinion constitutes science.

And I was only mentioning Peterson as a reference to the confusion that can occur when one leaves a word so ill-defined: Peterson’s “truth” is Harris’ “well-being.”

 

 
generationofvipers
 
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01 February 2017 13:35
 
After_The_Jump - 30 January 2017 09:44 AM

@ d0rkyd00d

So then, how do we go about determining what we should do? In the real world, trying to determine what we ‘ought’ to do breaks onto some form of two paths (1) trying to interpret what we think ‘the universe’ wants and/or (2) analyzing the current landscape of ‘is’s’ to project what the best decision to make is (including decisions like what we should value).

Thus, I see Sam Harris’s point as a rather simple one: option (2) is much more viable than option (1). Because option (1) may be one giant fallacy anyway, and even if it isn’t it’s still currently unknowable and likely will remain unknowable.

 


Not sure what you mean by option (2) being “more viable”? Both options seem DOA to me. Option (2) is like proposing we analyze the current crop of oranges to make the best Wednesday.

 
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01 February 2017 14:42
 

@ d0rkyd00d

We were able to reduce suffering and increase well-being without really furthering our knowledge and understanding of human psychology or neurology over the past few millenia, so this claim seems tenuous.

I think you may be misinterpreting the claim. Nothing about what I said suggests no progress can be made if one doesn’t grant primacy to evidence. Rather, the claim was that granting primary to evidence stands to put us in a better place than not doing so.

Huh?  I still don’t think being open to existing and new evidence to form an opinion constitutes science.

Again, the basic point is that being open to existing and new evidence is better than not being so; reliably, it puts us in a better position to make good decisions.

 

 

 
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01 February 2017 14:47
 

@ generationofvipers

Both options seem DOA to me. Option (2) is like proposing we analyze the current crop of oranges to make the best Wednesday.

The point is this: being as informed about the current landscape of facts as possible before making a decision is better than not being informed in such a way.

If you disagree with that statement, I’d be interested in hearing why.

 
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01 February 2017 14:52
 
After_The_Jump - 01 February 2017 02:42 PM

I think you may be misinterpreting the claim. Nothing about what I said suggests no progress can be made if one doesn’t grant primacy to evidence. Rather, the claim was that granting primary to evidence stands to put us in a better place than not doing so.

This is an intuition, not a fact supported by evidence.

 
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01 February 2017 15:09
 

@ d0rkyd00d

This is an intuition, not a fact supported by evidence.

As I’ve said multiple times in multiple discussions, once we’ve reached this level of reasoning, *all* discourse is pointless because *everything* can be reduced to ‘intuition not supported by fact’. After all, if we pan out far enough, one could claim the force of gravity is only an intuition. Because, actually, our bodies *could* be resting in a zero gravity space and what we believe is reality is actually just a dream.

If we come down below that level of the nebulous unknown though, then you don’t have much of a leg to stand on when trying to claim it’s not a ‘fact’ that knowing the available evidence on a given topic reliably puts us in a place of making ‘better’ decisions about that topic. You can test this in a lab a virtually infinite number of ways. One simple way: present people with an MRI that displays some kind of brain lesion. Who’s going to reliably make a better decision on how to treat the ailment - someone who’s aware of and considers the available evidence about brain functioning, how to read brain MRIs, and treatment of brain ailments OR someone who doesn’t?

In any functional world where words mean anything at all, the answer to that question isn’t a stalemate.

 

 

 

[ Edited: 01 February 2017 15:29 by After_The_Jump]
 
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01 February 2017 15:30
 
After_The_Jump - 01 February 2017 03:09 PM

@ d0rkyd00d

This is an intuition, not a fact supported by evidence.

As I’ve said multiple times in multiple discussions, once we’ve reached this level of reasoning, *all* discourse is pointless because *everything* can be reduced to ‘intuition not supported by fact’. After all, if we pan out far enough, one could claim the force of gravity is only an intuition. Because, actually, our bodies *could* be resting in a zero gravity space and what we believe is reality is actually just a dream.

If we come down below that level of the nebulous unknown though, then you don’t have much of a leg to stand on when trying to claim it’s not a ‘fact’ that knowing all of the available evidence on a given topic reliably puts us in a place of making ‘better’ decisions about that topic. You can test this in a lab a virtually infinite number of ways. One simple way: present people with an MRI that displays some kind of brain lesion. Who’s going to reliably make a better decision on how to treat the ailment - someone who possesses the available knowledge about brain ailments, how to read brain MRIs, and treatment of brain ailments or someone who doesn’t?

In any functional world where words mean anything at all, the answer to that question isn’t a stalemate.

 

 

 

Given that the execution of Harris’ proposal would rely on a much deeper understanding of the human brain and would inevitably take place at some future time, I don’t see how my point is even refutable.  It’s not possible to have evidence of an outcome from an experiment that hasn’t taken place yet.

 
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01 February 2017 15:34
 

@ d0rkyd00d

I think you’re confusing Peterson and Harris’s positions; Harris wasn’t the one arguing for retroactive distinctions for truth… Peterson was.

I’m genuinely confused by why you seem to be working so hard to claim knowing the available evidence on any giving topic isn’t better than not knowing it? In your view, does knowing anything matter? When you make decisions, do you just flip a coin for everything? 

It’s not possible to have evidence of an outcome from an experiment that hasn’t taken place yet.

The ‘experiment’ I referenced has happened over and over again. Specifically,  there’s a reason you now have to be licensed to be a doctor, surgeon, rheumatologist, etc. The reason is because, reliably, people who didn’t have to demonstrate that they were aware of and considered the evidence about those fields reliably made bad decisions in practice. Same goes with pilots, attorneys, real estate agents, etc etc.

To act as if there’s no evidence that being aware of the available evidence leads to better decisions than not being aware of the evidence is to live in a world of fantasy.

[ Edited: 01 February 2017 15:54 by After_The_Jump]
 
generationofvipers
 
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01 February 2017 16:32
 
After_The_Jump - 01 February 2017 02:47 PM

@ generationofvipers

Both options seem DOA to me. Option (2) is like proposing we analyze the current crop of oranges to make the best Wednesday.

The point is this: being as informed about the current landscape of facts as possible before making a decision is better than not being informed in such a way.

If you disagree with that statement, I’d be interested in hearing why.

It’s hard to disagree with that statement because it is trivially true if we accept certain assumptions, and wholly without meaning if we do not.  It is not, however, what you presented as option (2). 

My problem with this entire discussion is that I am not at all convinced from your responses that you understand the distinction between normative and factual claims, between value judgments and measurement of physical parameters, etc.  There is so much jumping back and forth in each of your replies that I can’t really begin to parse out what you are proposing.

This is essentially the same lack of hygiene that I see in Harris, and it baffles me to no end.  It is as if he is color blind, but instead of listening to people that clearly see colors he asserts defiantly and confidently that no such qualities exist.  And then he recruits others who are color blind to back up his opinion.

This farrago is not only not convincing, it is actually embarrassing. I am begging Sam to give up the whole “science can give us our values” absurdity because it not only makes his moral philosophy ludicrous, it constitutes a refutation of his pretensions as a serious thinker.

I am not exaggerating. It is that bad.

 
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01 February 2017 18:35
 

@ generationofvipers

It’s hard to disagree with that statement because it is trivially true if we accept certain assumptions, and wholly without meaning if we do not.  It is not, however, what you presented as option (2).

Option 2 was this:

- (2) analyzing the current landscape of ‘is’s’ to project what the best decision to make is (including decisions like what we should value).

What I just said that you said was different than option 2 was this:

- being as informed about the current landscape of facts as possible before making a decision is better than not being informed in such a way.

Feel free to explain the difference. Are all “is’s” not “facts”?

My problem with this entire discussion is that I am not at all convinced from your responses that you understand the distinction between normative and factual claims, between value judgments and measurement of physical parameters, etc

My problem with this discussion, and many others like it, is the re-occurring idea that any statement which claims one thing is ‘better’ than another thing must be a ‘normative’ claim. Again, such a premise relies upon a dismissal of the definitions of words and the dismissal of observable evidence the likes of which renders conversation in general useless.

There is so much jumping back and forth in each of your replies that I can’t really begin to parse out what you are proposing.

This is a conversational cop out; it’s an attempt - intentional or not - to make your argument without ever having to make your argument.

 

 

[ Edited: 02 February 2017 04:21 by After_The_Jump]
 
d0rkyd00d
 
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02 February 2017 06:23
 

Jump, i understand the frustration as it seems we keep circling the issue without seemingly making progress.  Here’s the rub: when you give examples to support your ideas for what has made the world “better,” you are doing so within the moral framework you have defined.  I can agree that what you say makes sense if we grant the initial assumptions for what is good and bad, and from there argue what is better or worse.

But if one doesn’t grant those initial assumptions (and there is no logical reason to do so, nor is there a scientific reason to), then your arguments for what has made things better or worse falls flat.

 
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02 February 2017 06:51
 

@ d0rkyd00d

But if one doesn’t grant those initial assumptions (and there is no logical reason to do so, nor is there a scientific reason to), then your arguments for what has made things better or worse falls flat.

Sure. The point that I think is clear though is that - at bottom - *everything* requires granting assumptions; literally everything we label as a ‘factual claim’ requires axiomatic assumptions to get out of the grate. I used the example of gravity earlier - one can easily articulate a ‘what if’ where gravity is actually just a false intuition.

This is a primary point in Harris’s Moral Landscape thesis; that we don’t get hung up by axiomatic assumptions when it comes to something like health, but we do when it comes to something like morality. And we don’t just get hung up by axiomatic assumptions on the most complex, toughest issues to parse out as it relates to morality. Rather, we regularly get hung up on the lowest hanging fruit (Harris’s example of the Bioethicist who felt plucking the eyeballs from children wouldn’t be ‘wrong’ if a culture was doing it for religious reasons comes to mind). Could you imagine an ER doctor sitting by while a patient choked on his own vomit and justified the decision by saying ‘well, what if the patient just wanted to choke on their own vomit’? You could change that scenario to ‘before blacking out, the patient told me he wanted to choke on his own vomit’.

Of course there are no doubt such things as normative claims. But what seems quite clear is that a statement like “Picasso’s paintings were better than Monet’s” (normative) is not the same kind of claim as “Refraining from smoking while pregnant is better than not refraining from smoking while pregnant” or “forcing women to wear clothe bags is not good for them”.

 

 

 
generationofvipers
 
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02 February 2017 07:13
 
After_The_Jump - 01 February 2017 06:35 PM

@ generationofvipers

    Option 2 was this:

      - (2) analyzing the current landscape of ‘is’s’ to project what the best decision to make is (including decisions like what we should value).

          What I just said that you said was different than option 2 was this:

      - being as informed about the current landscape of facts as possible before making a decision is better than not being informed in such a way.

          Feel free to explain the difference. Are all “is’s” not “facts”?

For one thing, as I read them, option (2) is descriptive of a process for arriving at value judgments, and your second formulation is a value judgment of the merits of that process. Both appear indefensible without at least one additional premise. I can’t help but feel that both are an attempt to dilute Sam’s ethics down to something so uncontroversial as to be trivial, but even this modest formulation doesn’t work. You can not get “values” from a survey of facts or is’s,

          My problem with this discussion, and many others like it, is the re-occurring idea that any statement which claims one thing is ‘better’ than another thing must      
          be a ‘normative’ claim. Again, such a premise relies upon a dismissal of the definitions of words and the dismissal of observable evidence the likes of which
          renders conversation in general useless.

If I made this claim I did not do so intentionally, and I can’t see where I did. It appears to me, though, that this is an example of the lack of hygiene that I lamented. Are statements of relative value and ‘normative claims the same things’? I am not sure if this is what you are saying, but if so I am not sure you are right. It is not my attempt to redefine words, I hold that words have actual, identifiable meanings.

There is so much jumping back and forth in each of your replies that I can’t really begin to parse out what you are proposing.

          This is a conversational cop out; it’s an attempt - intentional or not - to make your argument without ever having to make your argument.

 

Agreed. It is a cop out, because this eel is too slippery to grab. But for two examples of what I refer to see above.

It is simple enough in theory to prove me wrong, and I will be the first to acknowledge my error. Simply construct a sound argument with purely descriptive premises that yields a prescriptive conclusion.  Give me a string of pure “is’s” and mine for me the “ought” contained in them.  And please do not employ the Sam Harris ‘hide the premise’ sleight of hand.  That is so transparent that I am nearly convinced that he actually does see the fallacy of his position and is trying to deceive us into missing it.

 
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02 February 2017 07:13
 

But there are other assumptions one can grant from the beginning that aren’t outlandish, that also lead to beneficial outcomes.  Utilitarian consequentialism isn’t the only game in town, but you wouldn’t know that listening to Harris.

I will begin another thread that will encompasses the most glaring flaws in harris’ argument in one place so we can attack this entire thing all at once.

 
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