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Slammin’ Sam

 
burt
 
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21 May 2018 09:36
 
 
EN
 
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21 May 2018 11:20
 

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

 
hannahtoo
 
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21 May 2018 14:34
 

Another article claiming things are so much worse now because of our communication technologies. 

When a society is healthy, it is saved from all this by robust communication. Individual people still embrace or reject evidence too hastily, still apportion blame tribally, but civil contact with people of different perspectives can keep the resulting distortions within bounds. There is enough constructive cross-tribal communication—and enough agreement on what the credible sources of information are—to preserve some overlap of, and some fruitful interaction between, world views.

Now, of course, we’re in a technological environment that makes it easy for tribes to not talk to each other and seems to incentivize the ridiculing of one another.

I’d say that the “good old days” before the internet were not any better than “now” in regards to tribalism.  Cities in the past commonly had distinguishable neighborhoods for different ethnic groups—the Jewish neighborhood, the Italian neighborhood, the Chinatown.  These segregations have broken down, at least to a degree.  People inter-marry more than ever.  Remember back when blacks were banned from restaurants, schools, and even drinking fountains?  I’d say people in more areas of our country interact with more different sorts of people than ever before in our history.  And we work in more integrated teams, go to school with more variety of students, and watch diversity daily on TV. 

This is heartening to many people, but shocking and disorienting to others.  When they go online to vent, they look for others who feel like they do.  So maybe our tribes are now online instead of whole neighborhoods or towns.

And yes, Sam Harris has his biases.  When we are confronted with some of our own biases, we may learn not to get so huffy about those of other people.  Just shake our heads and sigh.

[ Edited: 22 May 2018 12:17 by hannahtoo]
 
burt
 
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21 May 2018 21:15
 
EN - 21 May 2018 11:20 AM

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

Yes and no. People who specialize in one branch of math may act as though people in another area are “inferior.” And pure mathematicians look down on applied mathematicians.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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22 May 2018 05:54
 

Harris, of course, never claims he’s a perfectly rational thinker, but Wright is correct that he claims to be free from the identifications and appeals that inflict others who attempt rational thought.  Specifically, Harris claims to be free of tribalism, and he claims not to base his positions on intuition, but rather on rational argument based on apprehension of principles.  Additionally, Wright suggests that Harris’ irrational deviations from “perfectly rational thought” are on display where Harris is wrong on issues because of logical errors, errors born of irrational bias.  But one need not judge Harris wrong because of bias and logical errors to see his “irrational deviations” at work.  Instead, a better demonstration of the “myth of perfectly rational thought” is Harris’ own inconsistencies where ‘perfectly rational thought’ is at stake.  In two public conversations, Harris doesn’t live up to his own claims to be free from tribal identification and appeals to intuition, and this failure despite an insistence otherwise illustrates quite well the seductive power of the myth. 

First, tribalism.  Wright calls Harris out on tribalism for making a logical error about the causes of terrorism, but a better example of Harris’ tribal identification occurs in his ‘debate’ with Noam Chomsky, a debate that centered on “collateral damage.” 

At the center of that debate was America’s culpability for “collateral damage” in the war on terror.  For Chomsky, the acts causing “collateral damage” must be judged by their consequences.  Innocent people are being killed, so no matter what the intentions, the acts are immoral.  For Harris, the acts causing “collateral damage” must be judged by their intentions.  Innocent people are being killed, but since the intentions behind the act are just, these killings are unfortunate but not immoral consequences.  The problem here:  in The Moral Landscape, Harris is a devoted consequentialist, not an “intentionalist.” For him, rightness or wrongness depends on the consequences for the well-being of conscious creatures, not on intentions.  In fact, for Harris, these consequences are the only thing right and wrong can depend on, for he is “unaware of any interesting exception to this rule.”  Yet for some reason, while arguing with Chomsky over “collateral damage,” this reverses.  In that debate, “where ethics are concerned, intentions are everything.”  Harris even gives an example of an act with horrific consequences for which the moral culpability is absolved by the intentions.  What gives?  How can a devoted consequentialist suddenly become an intentionalist?  Well, just look to the issue: collateral damage.  Harris identifies as an American, and as an American, Harris is mad as hell about 9-11—so mad he apparently sees the ‘war on terror’ as morally justified.  To preserve this identity and moral justification, he’ll apparently argue just about anything to make “collateral damage” morally justified, even if it means arguing against his own principles when someone else uses them to threaten that identification.  Maybe Harris just forgot his own position, or maybe this inconsistency demonstrates how tribalism biases thinking when “tribal identification” is at stake.  Since Harris is presumably bright enough to remember his own arguments, deploying inconsistent ones like this shows just how irrational people can get when their identifications are threatened (and for sure, a chap like Chomsky threatens any identification as a moral American justified in the war on terror, if anyone does).

Next, intuition.  Wright doesn’t address this, but it’s one of the points Harris specifically stresses.  For him, his positons—especially his positions on moral issues—are based on the apprehension of principles and deduced by rational argument, not based on intuitions.  But Harris himself demonstrates that he relies on intuition as a basis for his positions just as much as anyone else.

As a guest on the Very Bad Wizards podcast, Harris pushed Tamler Sommers pretty hard on an intuition about moral culpability that Sommers just wouldn’t give up.  When faced with rational arguments he couldn’t contest, Sommers said that the issue boils down to intuition; that this intuition is inscrutable to rational argument; that it guides rational argument, not depends on it.  Harris would have none of it.  He pressed Sommers harder and said that intuition is not a valid basis for a positon; rational principle and rational argument must be the basis. Elsewhere he even stressed that he, contra Haidt, bases his own moral judgements on principles, not defends intuitions using principles (he even says his changed views on the death penalty demonstrate this).  The problem here: in his live event with Sean Carroll, when pressed to the point where he had no rational argument left about how to derive “an ought” from “an is”, Harris declared: “at some level all you can appeal to are your intuitions about the meanings of words…or what it means to embrace an axiom.”  Harris is not wrong here; virtually all rational arguments boil down, in the end, to defending an intuition.  But he is being inconsistent.  When unable to defend his own view any longer against good arguments, Harris appeals to intuition—the very basis he denies others in their own defense.  Again, Harris is clearly bright enough to know there is an inconsistency here, but just like the rest of us he is irrational enough not to see it.

The point here is not that Harris is particularly irrational because of his identifications or appeals to intuition; he’s not.  It’s only that he’s just as “irrational” as everyone else, and in the same ways; that his tendency to self-align with “perfect rationality” is a tendency to embrace a myth (it would be even better to point out that no one should be rational in the way specified by the myth, but that’s another story).  In any case, Wright is on point in expressing exasperation at those who profess some higher form of rationality; it’s a defect of the “New Rationalistas” (e.g. Pinker, deGrasse Tyson, Krauss, and Harris).  But his point is perhaps better made by showing how Harris is inconsistent in his own principles derived from embracing the myth, rather than that he is wrong on certain issues because of bias.  For inconsistent he is, apparently just like the anyone else who claims some “higher order” of rationality than identification and intuition.  For who doesn’t identify, intuit and reason in ways that the first two sometimes distort the latter?  Perhaps in the end rationality involves finding ways to live with that rather than embracing the myth of overcoming it.

[ Edited: 22 May 2018 08:02 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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22 May 2018 09:59
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 22 May 2018 05:54 AM

... Well, just look to the issue: collateral damage.  Harris identifies as an American, and as an American, Harris is mad as hell about 9-11—so mad he apparently sees the ‘war on terror’ as morally justified.  To preserve this identity and moral justification, he’ll apparently argue just about anything to make “collateral damage” morally justified, even if it means arguing against his own principles when someone else uses them to threaten that identification.  Maybe Harris just forgot his own position, or maybe this inconsistency demonstrates how tribalism biases thinking when “tribal identification” is at stake.  Since Harris is presumably bright enough to remember his own arguments, deploying inconsistent ones like this shows just how irrational people can get when their identifications are threatened (and for sure, a chap like Chomsky threatens any identification as a moral American justified in the war on terror, if anyone does).

... For inconsistent he is, apparently just like the anyone else who claims some “higher order” of rationality than identification and intuition.  For who doesn’t identify, intuit and reason in ways that the first two sometimes distort the latter?  Perhaps in the end rationality involves finding ways to live with that rather than embracing the myth of overcoming it.

+1 with above.

I agree with Wright, who in the OP-cited article concludes:  “Meanwhile, the closest thing to a cure may be for all of us to try to remember that natural selection has saddled us with these biases—and also to remember that, however hard we try, we’re probably not entirely escaping them.  In this view, the biggest threat to America and to the world may be a simple lack of intellectual humility.

In my opinion, Harris’ views on collateral damage are particularly troublesome, with motivations rooted from anger and revenge.  After all, the acceptance of the concept of collateral damage can also be used by terrorists themselves.  If the goal is a more peaceful world, critical thinking will need to incorporate compassion.

An argument for a better example of rationality and critical thinking would be the members of ‘Peaceful Tomorrows’, who despite their grief, have the following mission:

“Our Mission:  Peaceful Tomorrows is an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace.  By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism.  Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.”

September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
http://peacefultomorrows.org/

[ Edited: 22 May 2018 10:53 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
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22 May 2018 11:00
 
EN - 21 May 2018 11:20 AM

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

I agree but I do think its less toxic when it’s acknowledged and consciously adjusted for. Tribes that lack this disclosure are worse, in my submission that those that offer it. I feel like the point of this article is that we should all own our part in this.

 

 
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22 May 2018 11:02
 

Oh, and to echo sentiments already expressed many points in this article are either straw men or direct contradictions of their subject. Sam has explicitly disclaimed a lot of this already. Repeating a position on the part of someone who has repeatedly denied it is the very essence of arguing in bad faith.

 
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22 May 2018 11:06
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 22 May 2018 05:54 AM

. . .

The point here is not that Harris is particularly irrational because of his identifications or appeals to intuition; he’s not.  It’s only that he’s just as “irrational” as everyone else, and in the same ways; that his tendency to self-align with “perfect rationality” is a tendency to embrace a myth (it would be even better to point out that no one should be rational in the way specified by the myth, but that’s another story).  In any case, Wright is on point in expressing exasperation at those who profess some higher form of rationality; it’s a defect of the “New Rationalistas” (e.g. Pinker, deGrasse Tyson, Krauss, and Harris).  But his point is perhaps better made by showing how Harris is inconsistent in his own principles derived from embracing the myth, rather than that he is wrong on certain issues because of bias.  For inconsistent he is, apparently just like the anyone else who claims some “higher order” of rationality than identification and intuition.  For who doesn’t identify, intuit and reason in ways that the first two sometimes distort the latter?  Perhaps in the end rationality involves finding ways to live with that rather than embracing the myth of overcoming it.

It all makes me wish Harris had majored in psychology as well as philosophy.

 
 
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22 May 2018 13:40
 
Brick Bungalow - 22 May 2018 11:00 AM
EN - 21 May 2018 11:20 AM

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

I agree but I do think its less toxic when it’s acknowledged and consciously adjusted for. Tribes that lack this disclosure are worse, in my submission that those that offer it. I feel like the point of this article is that we should all own our part in this.

 

Yes, just admit that you have biases and move on.  If you admit it, at least you sort of commit yourself to watching for it and adjusting for it.

 
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22 May 2018 14:40
 
EN - 22 May 2018 01:40 PM
Brick Bungalow - 22 May 2018 11:00 AM
EN - 21 May 2018 11:20 AM

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

I agree but I do think its less toxic when it’s acknowledged and consciously adjusted for. Tribes that lack this disclosure are worse, in my submission that those that offer it. I feel like the point of this article is that we should all own our part in this.

 

Yes, just admit that you have biases and move on.  If you admit it, at least you sort of commit yourself to watching for it and adjusting for it.

I guess it’s especially important to recognize if you’re SH, and you engage in public philosophical debates for a living.

Personal story; bringing it all down to a small scale.  (Skip if you dislike soap operas.):  My husband’s brother and sister both went through messy divorces.  In his brother’s case, the wife was unhappy and had an affair.  I’ve held it against her all these years and was miffed when she showed up recently at a family funeral for a relative she had always criticized.  This woman had cheated on my husband’s brother, whom I love.  Other case, my husband’s sister was unhappy, had an affair, and triggered her divorce.  I thought her behavior was wrong at the time, but I stayed friendly with her, since my hub did.  We eventually grew even closer to her and her paramour, who became her spouse.

So, I forgave the bad behavior of my husband’s sister, but not his sister-in-law.  Now that I think of it, it is very inconsistent, except that I appear more loyal to my hub’s blood relatives.

 
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22 May 2018 18:00
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 22 May 2018 05:54 AM

Harris, of course, never claims he’s a perfectly rational thinker, but Wright is correct that he claims to be free from the identifications and appeals that inflict others who attempt rational thought.  Specifically, Harris claims to be free of tribalism, and he claims not to base his positions on intuition, but rather on rational argument based on apprehension of principles.  Additionally, Wright suggests that Harris’ irrational deviations from “perfectly rational thought” are on display where Harris is wrong on issues because of logical errors, errors born of irrational bias.  But one need not judge Harris wrong because of bias and logical errors to see his “irrational deviations” at work.  Instead, a better demonstration of the “myth of perfectly rational thought” is Harris’ own inconsistencies where ‘perfectly rational thought’ is at stake.  In two public conversations, Harris doesn’t live up to his own claims to be free from tribal identification and appeals to intuition, and this failure despite an insistence otherwise illustrates quite well the seductive power of the myth. 

First, tribalism.  Wright calls Harris out on tribalism for making a logical error about the causes of terrorism, but a better example of Harris’ tribal identification occurs in his ‘debate’ with Noam Chomsky, a debate that centered on “collateral damage.” 

At the center of that debate was America’s culpability for “collateral damage” in the war on terror.  For Chomsky, the acts causing “collateral damage” must be judged by their consequences.  Innocent people are being killed, so no matter what the intentions, the acts are immoral.  For Harris, the acts causing “collateral damage” must be judged by their intentions.  Innocent people are being killed, but since the intentions behind the act are just, these killings are unfortunate but not immoral consequences.  The problem here:  in The Moral Landscape, Harris is a devoted consequentialist, not an “intentionalist.” For him, rightness or wrongness depends on the consequences for the well-being of conscious creatures, not on intentions.  In fact, for Harris, these consequences are the only thing right and wrong can depend on, for he is “unaware of any interesting exception to this rule.”  Yet for some reason, while arguing with Chomsky over “collateral damage,” this reverses.  In that debate, “where ethics are concerned, intentions are everything.”  Harris even gives an example of an act with horrific consequences for which the moral culpability is absolved by the intentions.  What gives?  How can a devoted consequentialist suddenly become an intentionalist?  Well, just look to the issue: collateral damage.  Harris identifies as an American, and as an American, Harris is mad as hell about 9-11—so mad he apparently sees the ‘war on terror’ as morally justified.  To preserve this identity and moral justification, he’ll apparently argue just about anything to make “collateral damage” morally justified, even if it means arguing against his own principles when someone else uses them to threaten that identification.  Maybe Harris just forgot his own position, or maybe this inconsistency demonstrates how tribalism biases thinking when “tribal identification” is at stake.  Since Harris is presumably bright enough to remember his own arguments, deploying inconsistent ones like this shows just how irrational people can get when their identifications are threatened (and for sure, a chap like Chomsky threatens any identification as a moral American justified in the war on terror, if anyone does).

Next, intuition.  Wright doesn’t address this, but it’s one of the points Harris specifically stresses.  For him, his positons—especially his positions on moral issues—are based on the apprehension of principles and deduced by rational argument, not based on intuitions.  But Harris himself demonstrates that he relies on intuition as a basis for his positions just as much as anyone else.

As a guest on the Very Bad Wizards podcast, Harris pushed Tamler Sommers pretty hard on an intuition about moral culpability that Sommers just wouldn’t give up.  When faced with rational arguments he couldn’t contest, Sommers said that the issue boils down to intuition; that this intuition is inscrutable to rational argument; that it guides rational argument, not depends on it.  Harris would have none of it.  He pressed Sommers harder and said that intuition is not a valid basis for a positon; rational principle and rational argument must be the basis. Elsewhere he even stressed that he, contra Haidt, bases his own moral judgements on principles, not defends intuitions using principles (he even says his changed views on the death penalty demonstrate this).  The problem here: in his live event with Sean Carroll, when pressed to the point where he had no rational argument left about how to derive “an ought” from “an is”, Harris declared: “at some level all you can appeal to are your intuitions about the meanings of words…or what it means to embrace an axiom.”  Harris is not wrong here; virtually all rational arguments boil down, in the end, to defending an intuition.  But he is being inconsistent.  When unable to defend his own view any longer against good arguments, Harris appeals to intuition—the very basis he denies others in their own defense.  Again, Harris is clearly bright enough to know there is an inconsistency here, but just like the rest of us he is irrational enough not to see it.

The point here is not that Harris is particularly irrational because of his identifications or appeals to intuition; he’s not.  It’s only that he’s just as “irrational” as everyone else, and in the same ways; that his tendency to self-align with “perfect rationality” is a tendency to embrace a myth (it would be even better to point out that no one should be rational in the way specified by the myth, but that’s another story).  In any case, Wright is on point in expressing exasperation at those who profess some higher form of rationality; it’s a defect of the “New Rationalistas” (e.g. Pinker, deGrasse Tyson, Krauss, and Harris).  But his point is perhaps better made by showing how Harris is inconsistent in his own principles derived from embracing the myth, rather than that he is wrong on certain issues because of bias.  For inconsistent he is, apparently just like the anyone else who claims some “higher order” of rationality than identification and intuition.  For who doesn’t identify, intuit and reason in ways that the first two sometimes distort the latter?  Perhaps in the end rationality involves finding ways to live with that rather than embracing the myth of overcoming it.

Consequences and intentions are both behavior motivators. I’d argue that intentions + circumstances + consequences + mitigating circumstances = the most comprehensive assessment on culpable behavior. IMO you can’t factor one without the other.

Someone acting with purpose and/or prior deliberation makes their behavior more than just typical human auto drive, and therefore morally better or worse based on how humans emotionally reason. Nevertheless, if nothing bad happens, even if nothing bad happened by accident or mistake, then still nothing bad happened. (And as a side bar, exceptions exist whether we like them or not)

This article very trickily uses “circumstances” as the catalyst for breaking down Sam’s argument against Ezra, but it glossed over common sense, or for that matter even the primary circumstances.

Let’s say that Sam’s issue can be framed as: Is it fair to widespreadingly publicize that Sam Harris is a racist for diologuing with Charles Murray in the manner that he had? My answer = No. Then what made it newsworthy? Because Murray might himself be easily perceivable as a racist based on assumption. Admittedly, I glossed over an entire analysis and was purely conclusiory. But assuming I’m right, then the attribution error that the author wrote about was actually a projection on his part that came after he mis-categorized the issue. Which was a pretty straight forward character attack.

The myth IMO is that tribalism is inherent. Language is by definition tribal. But that doesn’t mean that our minds follow suit. 

 

[ Edited: 22 May 2018 18:08 by Jb8989]
 
 
sojourner
 
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22 May 2018 18:54
 

I think the topics in the article were muddied somewhat by the fact that ‘tribalism’ was used more or less as a synonym for ‘biases’, when those are, at least in colloquial usage, pretty distinct things. I may disagree vehemently on certain topics with my family and find their biases absolutely bizarre, and yet unapologetically put them first at a personal level because they’re my family, and no further justification should be required, to my mind. Alternately, I may share more biases than not with a person philosophically but feel no special loyalty to them above and beyond the loyalty I feel towards any member of the human race in day-to-day matters.


Regarding tribal loyalty - I feel there is certainly a healthy version of this. Unless you are an enlightened sage, you would be a horrible parent if you worried about famine across the globe more than your child’s broken arm, to the point of not taking your child to a doctor because you decided to earn money nonstop for overseas charities, with no time for doctor’s visits, as starvation is a greater ill than a broken arm. If only for logistical reasons, care has to go from proximal to distal in many instances. The same is true of rule of law - if you are a citizen of the US, you can’t wake up one day and randomly go “You know, I think today I will follow the laws of Portugal, because I am a citizen of the world and all humans are equal.” Codes of conduct and group norms are the necessary part of tribalism, to my mind, otherwise we’d have chaotic anarchy.


Where I do think Harris’s position is unclear is when it comes to biases. On the one hand he says that no society ever suffered from being too reasonable or rational (which, quite frankly, may or may not be true, to my mind - ancient hunter gather intellectuals could all have been clubbed to death by their neighbors, for all we know); and on the other he seems quite peeved at the idea of moral relativism and explicitly appeals (as AP noted upthread) to ‘the moral high ground’ in saying that the same action can be acceptable or unacceptable depending on how high the moral high ground of the actor is. Those are very clear appeals to values, which are based on, well, values, emotions, subjective experience - most decidedly not pure logic. To my mind this is like saying that only the mathematics of architecture should matter when creating buildings, and then a moment later proclaiming that clearly the best towns are the ones with the most beautiful architecture, which seem like mutually incompatible statements, at least unless you bridge them with a proposed principle like “the most math-y is always the most beautiful, sacred fractals and geometry and all that.”


The thing is, to say that humans all ultimately share the same values is to say that humans all ultimately share the same nature, and I lean towards the idea that Harris does in fact believe this but doesn’t officially state it for fear of coming off as too ‘woo’. But realistically, that is the logical link that is missing in his argument, to my mind. If all consciousness and sentience is ultimately equivalent, then we can make universal statements about what is good and bad for it. If it is a pell-mell array of mutually incompatible psyches, then no amount of reason crosses the bridge from facts to values.

[ Edited: 22 May 2018 18:57 by sojourner]
 
 
burt
 
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22 May 2018 21:55
 
NL. - 22 May 2018 06:54 PM

The thing is, to say that humans all ultimately share the same values is to say that humans all ultimately share the same nature, and I lean towards the idea that Harris does in fact believe this but doesn’t officially state it for fear of coming off as too ‘woo’. But realistically, that is the logical link that is missing in his argument, to my mind. If all consciousness and sentience is ultimately equivalent, then we can make universal statements about what is good and bad for it. If it is a pell-mell array of mutually incompatible psyches, then no amount of reason crosses the bridge from facts to values.

The crux of things. I think that all humans are ultimately alike in at least two ways (outside of being genetically human). 1. (The metaphysical argument) Identity of consciousness. If you take consciousness not as individual self-consciousness but as the awareness that allows a self to be self-conscious then it follows that consciousness is simple (i.e., unitary, with no internal distinctions). So at that level, there is no difference between different individuals consciousness. Then, by the identity of indiscernibles, all consciousnesses are the same although the self-consciousnesses differ. 2. (The psychological argument) I think that every human mind and self is determined and maintained by the same underlying dynamical processes so although individual selves differ the underlying processes that support those selves are the same.

 
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23 May 2018 03:43
 

jan_CAN

+1 with above

I don’t know that phrase.  Does it mean “agree”?

Thought you might be interested in this.  It’s a passage from The End of Faith highlighted on my Kindle copy, followed by my note at the time:

“All pretentions to theological knowledge should now be seen from the perspective of a man who was just beginning his day on the one hundredth floor of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, only to find his meandering thoughts—of family, and friends, of errands run and unrun, of coffee in need of sweetener—inexplicably usurped by a choice of terrible starkness and simplicity: being burned alive by jet fuel or leaping one thousand feet to the concrete below. In fact, we should take the perspective of thousands of such men, women and children who were robbed of life, far sooner than they imagined possible, in absolute terror and confusion.”

The motivational and emotional gravamen at last.  At the end of the day his “rational” rejection of religion is as emotional as the attachment to religion by its most devoted adherents.  Perhaps this is why the arguments are so weak and strained.  They amount to outrage deploying a defunct and unworkable epistemology to insure religion is intrinsically worthless and always in the wrong, particularly Islam..

Harris more or less admits his reasons for writing The End of Faith.  I forget where, but I think he said he started writing it the the day after September 11.  The thing is, I saw the TV coverage too.  I wept when that guy jumped.  I was outraged because I identified with the victims as Americans.  In time, this passed.  I came to see 9-11 as just another horror in the parade of horrors that is human violence.  I came to realize that roughly 1500 innocent people died in Central Africa from a regional war over Congo’s resources the day before 9-11, the day of 9-11, and the day after 9-11, just as they had every day for years before and everyday for years after.  Those lives came to mean as much to me as the victims of 9-11, as under any de-tribalized “rational compassion” (a la Bloom) they would.  In any case, I thought I’d share this in light of your link.  Not everyone is so tribal to think that killing innocent people to achieve a justified end is thus justified, for some of us have figured out the connection between why we think we’re justified in the first place and the consequent killing of innocent people in something like “collateral damage”—to wit, what sense does it make to trade in innocent lives for the sake of ‘self-preservation’ and call oneself moral while doing it?  I don’t have the answer to the problem of terrorism or the question of “collateral damage,” but I prefer Peaceful Tomorrow’s response to 9-11 to Sam’s apparent insouciance over killing innocent people just to preserve his own tribally outraged a**.


nonverbal

It all makes me wish Harris had majored in psychology as well as philosophy

My brother saw a Tweet once we’ve been unable to find again.  One person Tweeted that in debate Harris is like Spock.  Another Tweeted back something like ‘that’s true, but at least Spock had moments of self-awareness.’ 

What worries me about the type Harris often represents is their apparent belief that they have achieved something approaching the myth of perfect rationality; that their arguments aren’t justifications for intuitions; that the conclusions they want don’t direct the reasoning they use to get them; that despite all appearances otherwise, they are the ones deploying true scientific reasoning, not just using scientific findings to justify conclusions they already believe.  The worry is rather mild because despite the problems I have with self-alignment with the myth, it’s usually better than the alternatives.  In any case, I often wish they were a lot more reasonable and a lot less stuck on this self-anointed hobby-horse of (near?) “perfect rationality”...
 

 

[ Edited: 23 May 2018 05:01 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 May 2018 04:17
 
burt - 21 May 2018 09:15 PM
EN - 21 May 2018 11:20 AM

Like I said, tribalism is here to stay until we evolve out of it.  We won’t think ourselves out of it.  We might as well think ourselves out of arms or legs.  It’s part of who we are. 

But, can’t you have pure rational thought in math?  Is that one area immune from tribalism?

Yes and no. People who specialize in one branch of math may act as though people in another area are “inferior.” And pure mathematicians look down on applied mathematicians.

OK, but if you just take a mathematical formula for which there is one right answer, every tribe that has knowledge of math will come to the same conclusion, irrespective of culture or other tribal biases.  I’m sure there is tribalism with the mathematical profession, but some things are just right or wrong, and based on pure rational thought.  I guess that is the “yes” part of your answer.

Pure Mathematicians v. Applied Mathematicians - yes, I can see tribalism waiting to erupt.  The Lions v. the Tigers.  Whites v Browns.  Let the games begin.

 
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