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Moral Nihilism

Started by xSilverPhinx, January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM

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Inertialmass

'Case ya ain't noticed I been wholly indifferent to membership in this embarrassing club for near on a decade.

Listen Tank bud, so long as I'm a Member here I'm gonna call a fibber a fibber, I'm gonna call you out when you ignorantly label a planet-sized asteroid a planet then giggle. 

Or when you chortle emoticons following a rape joke, you little friggin' troglodyte.




hermes2015

Quote from: Magdalena on February 21, 2020, 03:56:54 PM
Quote from: Inertialmass on February 21, 2020, 03:32:40 PM
^^^^  Now that's drama.  All I offered were a couple very terse suggestions.  Which you were obviously totally free to ignore.  Speaking of which, is pleading the Fifth, thus ignoring one's interlocutor, more often symptomatic of innocence or guilt?  Openness or secrecy???

Now, were I a contemporary woman posting regularly on this sort of Forum I'd seriously have reserved my energy and my wrath for the rape jokes and the "he, he, he" emoticons to follow.

:thumbsup:
"Who is to say that pleasure is useless?"
― Charles Eames

Magdalena

Quote from: hermes2015 on February 21, 2020, 04:29:36 PM
Quote from: Magdalena on February 21, 2020, 03:56:54 PM
Quote from: Inertialmass on February 21, 2020, 03:32:40 PM
^^^^  Now that's drama.  All I offered were a couple very terse suggestions.  Which you were obviously totally free to ignore.  Speaking of which, is pleading the Fifth, thus ignoring one's interlocutor, more often symptomatic of innocence or guilt?  Openness or secrecy???

Now, were I a contemporary woman posting regularly on this sort of Forum I'd seriously have reserved my energy and my wrath for the rape jokes and the "he, he, he" emoticons to follow.

:thumbsup:

:lol:

:hug:

Learned that one from you, my friend.

"I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe." ~Recusant

xSilverPhinx

Inertialmass has been banned for repeated trolling and inflammatory remarks. Just a "keyboard warrior" trying to get a rise out of people.
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


Davin

He had a lot to say, he had a lot of nothing to say.
Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Magdalena

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on February 21, 2020, 04:47:33 PM
Inertialmass has been banned for repeated trolling and inflammatory remarks. Just a "keyboard warrior" trying to get a rise out of people.

"I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe." ~Recusant

Icarus

I have never understood the motivations of people whose main thrust is to create controversy.  If I was a psych major perhaps I would know more about the role of protagonist in fruitless, meaningless battle sessions.

Sure enough I have met and conversed with a few of those marginally (or severely)  disturbed individuals. I have not learned much of substance from those experiences.

billy rubin

i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.



more people have been to berlin than i have

billy rubin

#128
Quote from: recusantWhat is it about tandem running that you believe distinguishes it from other teaching and learning behavior displayed by insects which is considered instinctive? It doesn't appear to me to be an exception.

Some species of birds build amazingly engineered nests. They weren't taught how to do it, but they do learn to improve their technique in successive years. The first sentence of the definition you cited is clear: "Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior." Perhaps you have some insight into this that I do not. I really do not understand why you think tandem running in insects is not instinctive.

as i understand instinct, behviourists generally use it to refer to (mostly un-learned) complex behavior. absence of specific learning is often a key distinction. so a sea turtle hatchling running into the surf is clearly instinctive. passerines that fly towards and away from the equator with the seasons do so insticnctively, even following geographic landmarks and stellar patterns that are selected instinctively. organisms defend their territories, their mates, their offspring, using fixed action patterns, or instinctive drives.

learning does exist in the expression of instinct. but it seems to  be as a direct modifier of the instinctive behaviour. birds that build a nest instinctively can learn to build them better. animals that fight instinctively can learn to fight more effectively. a bullfinch with an instinctive drive for singing can learn human melodies instead:

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/bullfinch-pyrrhula-pyrrhula

all these learning exampls are modifications in the expression of an instinct. but the intentional transmission of abstract information, which does occur in tandem running, seems to me to present a higher level of behaviour. when a teacher ant leads a student ant to a food source, it is certainly exercising an instinctive drive, as is th estudent ant which learns the route. but there is complex information being passed between the two, the route itself, which is not instinctive at all, and might be different every day. the drive to learn and to teach is instinctive, but recognizing highly specific information that corresponds to a mental map to a food source and transferring that route to a naive user appears to me to be cognition, not instinct.

its not tbe same as dancing in bees, which can be argued is entirely mechaniztic, although i have doubts. tandem running in ants iz like teaching a bus driver a new route-- sure he knows how to drive already, but the route itsekf is a complex mix  of specificand temporary knowedge, not an insinctive behavior to improve.

cog·ni·tion
/ˌkäɡˈniSH(ə)n/

noun
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.


i also consider tandem running to be an example of non-human culture.

this stuff isn't limited to ants. you ve mentioned dogs having a more complex apprehension of the world, and i'm sure we could come up with lots more examples. my point isn't to say that instinct doesn't exist,  but to propose the argument that what passes for cognition in humans should sometimes pass for cognition in other animals, even those as different from us as ants.

regarding nihilism, the defintion that i would use to express my use is only the first half of the one you quoted:

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

i do not believe in absolute values, but local (relative?) values exist anywhere someone say they do, and cease to exist in the same place as soon as someone asserts them differently. meaning is what falls from my personal bag of values when i dump it out, and goes away when i pack it back up and leave. then a different set of values is dumped out of the next visitor's bag, equally valid, and equally temporary.

on the exclusion of  "knowing," i think lots of things can be known, but perhaps eventually they might all boil down to knowing our own existence. if i have to doubt my awareness of being aware, then there isn't anything of substance to be aware of anymore. or at least nothing can be held to be genuine. i think we are pretty much in agreement on these poinst:

Quote from: recusantLocal usage is all we have. There is no universal usage; that's an appeal to the realm of gods, or Plato's Ideals. What is significant to thinking sentient beings is significant, full stop. There is no other source of significance of which we are aware.

on significance, especially of species when you wrote this, you asserted that several things were significant but i didn't understand your system of values, hence my question:

QuoteConsidering the question of existence, I think that we exist most significantly as a species, just as any other organism does. By that I mean, individual members of the species are evanescent manifestations. They can affect the course of the species' existence, but the existence of the species as a whole doesn't depend on any individual. Rather, the individual's existence depends on that of the species.

why is the "course of a species exiztence" in any way "significant?"  youve cited influence, but there are many different usages for that word.

"numbers" is possibly correct only for one understanding of "species," which would be the set of currently living breeding populations all grouped together under the same name. the chorus frogs that will soon call near my house are individuals, but they do belong to the same species, in several senses. but i don't understand why a group of living organisms is more significant that a single living individual, or more than millions of fossilized ones. why do you think so? i can come up with all sorts of examples of individuals that have more influence than the groups they belong to-- the king of england versus his subjects, the instagram celebity who affects the behavior of many other people, or the single bullet that kills you, versus the thousands of other bullets in the crate it came from. it all depends on what exactly we consider "significant," which varies. i know what "significant" means, but not which ruler you measure it with, and i don t think one answer will satisfy all usagez.

a second and equally pertinent defintion of "species" depends absolutely on an individual, one which is more important for this purpose than every other member of the species together. this single individual is the type specimen, without which the species cannot be identified. no matter how many gray tree frogs are collected and studied, there is one and only one specimen in a jar somewhere that has the defining firzt use of the name Hyla chrysocelis on the label. that single individual is the only one to which the identity of that species surely belongs, by definition. losing that one specimen influences the "course of the entire species" more surely than any group of millions of them elsewhere can possibly do, because the entire species-- the taxon-- can no longer be identified with certainty. in addition to the holotype,we have syntypes, lectotypes, neotypes, and so on. all are more important than the rest of the species.

so which is the most significant "species?" one iz the groups of breeding populations all considered to be sufficiently similar, a morphological species. another is all of  those groups sufficiently closely related to interbrees, a biological species. a third is thse groups supposedly sharing a sufficent number of ancestors, a clade. a fourth would be the single individual that defines the entire species by name? as i zaid, i can hold an individual in my hand. if you then ask what a speciez iz, i have to ask whether you are a cladist, a morphological biologist, a palaeontologist, or a population ecologist. "species" is different for each.

QuoteThe Christian claims to have access to the only genuine view of reality: "God is our Lord. Lord Jesus died for our sins." The nihilist also claims to have access to the only genuine view of reality: "Human beings are incapable of a genuine understanding of reality." Both display a marked bias. One toward religious faith, the other toward a negation of rationality in the name of rationality.

for my part, i wouldn't say that nhilists  are incapable of a genuine understanding of reality, because i concern myself less with that part of the definition. i would say that whether we understand reality or not, it doesn't matter. so i dont negate rationality, i negate the concept of relative value. especially of "species."

this is interesting, and i need to think some more about it:

QuoteYou're willing to propose that the existence of individuals is a sound concept, given the evidence, yet appear unwilling to accept that the concept of the existence of species is equally sound, given the evidence. The epistomological nihilst would tell us that neither concept is sound. Regardless of evidence, no human concepts regarding the universe have any real validity. We observe the evidence for the existence of species (by any modern scientific definition you care to adopt for the moment), just as we observe the evidence for the existence of individuals. The fluidity of the concept does not detract from its usefulness. Nor does its fluidity detract from its validity. Both concepts are human constructs, based on evidence observed by humans. In the half-nihilist view, we can know for sure that individuals exist, but we can't know for sure that species exist. In the epistomological nihilist view, all explanations differentiating the concept of species from that of individual run aground.

^^i do recognize speciez, once we agree on the subject within which tbey are to be discussed. but i dont see significance except in a converzational and transient level.


more people have been to berlin than i have

TallRed

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:34:19 PM
i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.
Attention-craving takes on many forms.

Magdalena

Quote from: TallRed on February 23, 2020, 10:05:07 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:34:19 PM
i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.
Attention-craving takes on many forms.

Been there.
Done that.
:grin:


Now you see what you did?
You two made me open another bottle of wine!
Chingado!

:grin:

I'm not lying.
It's a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ironically called, Predator.
:yum:

"I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe." ~Recusant

TallRed

Quote from: Magdalena on February 24, 2020, 12:15:36 AM
Quote from: TallRed on February 23, 2020, 10:05:07 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:34:19 PM
i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.
Attention-craving takes on many forms.

Been there.
Done that.
:grin:


Now you see what you did?
You two made me open another bottle of wine!
Chingado!

:grin:

I'm not lying.
It's a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ironically called, Predator.
:yum:
The irony is not delicious but I'll bet the wine is.

Magdalena

Quote from: TallRed on February 24, 2020, 12:22:47 AM
Quote from: Magdalena on February 24, 2020, 12:15:36 AM
Quote from: TallRed on February 23, 2020, 10:05:07 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:34:19 PM
i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.
Attention-craving takes on many forms.

Been there.
Done that.
:grin:


Now you see what you did?
You two made me open another bottle of wine!
Chingado!

:grin:

I'm not lying.
It's a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ironically called, Predator.
:yum:
The irony is not delicious but I'll bet the wine is.
:lol:
You like wine, TallRed?

"I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe." ~Recusant

TallRed

Quote from: Magdalena on February 24, 2020, 12:26:45 AM
Quote from: TallRed on February 24, 2020, 12:22:47 AM
Quote from: Magdalena on February 24, 2020, 12:15:36 AM
Quote from: TallRed on February 23, 2020, 10:05:07 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:34:19 PM
i think some people simply feed on attention, of any kind. the more intense, the greater the gratification and the desire for more.
Attention-craving takes on many forms.

Been there.
Done that.
:grin:


Now you see what you did?
You two made me open another bottle of wine!
Chingado!

:grin:

I'm not lying.
It's a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ironically called, Predator.
:yum:
The irony is not delicious but I'll bet the wine is.
:lol:
You like wine, TallRed?
Sometimes. It depends on the meal.

Recusant

#134
Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PM
Quote from: recusant[spoiler]What is it about tandem running that you believe distinguishes it from other teaching and learning behavior displayed by insects which is considered instinctive? It doesn't appear to me to be an exception.

Some species of birds build amazingly engineered nests. They weren't taught how to do it, but they do learn to improve their technique in successive years. The first sentence of the definition you cited is clear: "Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior." Perhaps you have some insight into this that I do not. I really do not understand why you think tandem running in insects is not instinctive.[/spoiler]

as i understand instinct, behviourists generally use it to refer to (mostly un-learned) complex behavior. absence of specific learning is often a key distinction. so a sea turtle hatchling running into the surf is clearly instinctive. passerines that fly towards and away from the equator with the seasons do so insticnctively, even following geographic landmarks and stellar patterns that are selected instinctively. organisms defend their territories, their mates, their offspring, using fixed action patterns, or instinctive drives.

learning does exist in the expression of instinct. but it seems to  be as a modifier of the expression of the instinctive behaviour. birds that build a nest instinctively can learn to build them better. animals that fight instinctively can learn to fight more effectively. a bullfinch with an instinctive drive for singing can learn human melodies instead:

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/bullfinch-pyrrhula-pyrrhula

all these learning exampls are modifications in the expression of an instinct. but they don't involve the intentional transmission of abstract information, which does occur in tandem running. when a teacher ant leads a student ant to a food source, it is certainly exercising an instinctive drive, as is th estudent ant which learns the route. but there is complex information being passed between the two, the route itself, which is not instinctive at all, and might be different every day. the drive to learn and to teach is instinctive, but recognizing highly specific information that corresponds to a mental map to a food source and transferring that route to a naive user appears to me to be cognition, not instinct:

its not tbe same as dancing in bees, which can be argued is entirely mechaniztic, although i have doubts. tandem running in ants iz like teaching a buz driver a new route-- sure he knows how to drive already, but the route itsekf is a complex mix  of specificand temporary knowedge, not an insinctive behavior to improve.

You may argue that the bees' dance is "entirely mechanical," but I don't think such an argument would be useful for supporting the claim that tandem running is not an instinctive behavior. If the bees' dance behavior is entirely mechanical, then so is tandem running.

The bees are communicating a "mental map" to a food source in a more abstract form than one ant following another. It could be argued that a bee who learns the directions to a food source from another's dance is if anything performing a more complex instinctive task than an ant that follows another to learn a route. Yet your own source specifically describes the dance of the bees as instinctive. Given this, it seems apparent that both behaviors, though they involve teaching and learning, are instinctive.

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PMcog·ni·tion
/ˌkäɡˈniSH(ə)n/

noun
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.


i consider tandem running to be an example of non-human culture.

this stuff isn't limited to ants. you ve mentioned dogs having a more complex apprehension of the world, and i'm sure we could come up with lots more examples. my point isn't to try to divide the world up into animals-driven-by-instinct versus animals-not-so-driven, or to say that instinct doesn't exist,  but to propose the position that what passes for cognition in humans should sometimes pass for cognition in other animals, even those as different from us as ants.

I think that there are non-human cultures, but I don't see it in ants. I see it in things like songs of animals (birds, wolves, whales) and the differentiation in orcas between "transient" and "resident" lineages.

I don't question the fact that we are still subject to instinctive drives. How we act on those drives is rather often done in a non-instinctive mode though. For instance, I'd say that we instinctively seek comfort--a safe, sheltered place to relax. That's an instinctive drive, but building a house is not an instinctive act.

Nor do I dispute that our morality is to some extent a manifestation of our instincts as an intelligent social species. I advocated that position here years ago and still subscribe to it. It also clearly goes beyond instinctive motivations, for better or worse, and often bears on non-instinctive behavior.

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PMregarding nihilism, the defintion that i would use to express my use is only the first half of the one you quoted:

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

i do not believe in absolute meaning, but local (relative?) meaning exists anywhere someone says it does, and ceases to exist in the same place as soon as someone asserts it differently. meaning is what falls from my personal bag of values when i dump it out, and goes away when i pack it back up and leave. then a different meaning is dumped out of the next visitor's bag, equally valid, and equally temporary.

I agree. Generally, meaning that is understood collectively has more staying power than an individual perception, but even that is temporary.

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PMon "knowing," i think lots of things can be known, but perhaps eventually they might all boil down to knowing our own existence. if i have to doubt my awareness of being aware, then there isn't anything of substance to be aware of anymore. or at least nothing can be held to be genuine. i think we are pretty much in agreement on this:

Quote from: recusantLocal usage is all we have. There is no universal usage; that's an appeal to the realm of gods, or Plato's Ideals. What is significant to thinking sentient beings is significant, full stop. There is no other source of significance of which we are aware.

on significance, especially of species when you wrote this, you asserted that several things were significant but i didn't understand your system of values, hence my question:

QuoteConsidering the question of existence, I think that we exist most significantly as a species, just as any other organism does. By that I mean, individual members of the species are evanescent manifestations. They can affect the course of the species' existence, but the existence of the species as a whole doesn't depend on any individual. Rather, the individual's existence depends on that of the species.

why is the "course of a zpecies exiztence" in any way "significan?"  youve cited influence, but there are many different meaningz for that word.

Is it your contention that as a general principle a hair of an organism is equally significant as the organism as a whole? I think that isn't a particularly useful approach, though it may be justified on occasion to find an individual hair on a cat equally significant as the cat as a whole. For significance here, I find the Oxford English Dictionary sufficient: "The quality of being worthy of attention; importance, consequence."

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PM"numbers" is possibly correct only for one understanding of "species," which would be the set of currently living breeding populations all grouped together under the same name. the chorus frogs that will soon call near my house are individuals, but they do belong to the same species. but i don't understand why a group of living organisms is more significant that a single living individual, or millions of fossilized ones. why do you think so? i can come up with all sorts of examples of individuals that have more influence than the groups they belong to-- the king of england versus his subjects, the instagram influencer who affects the behavior of many other people, or the single bullet that kills you, versus the thousands of other bullets in the crate it came from. it all depends on what exactly we consider "significant," which varies. i know what "significant" means, but not which ruler you measure it with, and i don t think one answer will satisfy all usagez.

It's possible to find exceptions to a general principle, but that doesn't negate the principle. However, nor is there any requirement that the proposal of a general principle be accepted. I perceive significance in this instance while it seems you don't, and that's an acceptable place to leave the issue as far as I'm concerned.

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PMa second and equally pertinent defintion of "species" depends absolutely on an individual, which is more important for this purpose than every other member of the species together. this single individual is the type specimen, without which the species cannot be identified. no matter how many gray tree frogs are collected and studied, there is one and only one specimen in a jar somewhere that has the defining firzt use of the name Hyla chrysocelis on the label. that single individual is the only one to which the identity of that species surely belongs, by definition. losing that one specimen influences the "course of the entire species" more surely than any group of millions of them elsewhere can possibly do, because the entire species-- the taxon-- can no longer be identified with certainty. in addition to the holotype,we have syntypes, lectotypes, neotypes, and so on. all are more important than the rest of the species.

I think I've been clear that I'm not using the term in that way.

Quote from: billy rubin on February 23, 2020, 09:45:23 PMso which is the most significant "species?" one iz the groups of breeding populations all considered to be sufficiently similar. another is all of  those groups sufficiently closely related. a third is thse groups supposedly sharing a sufficent number of ancestors,. a fourth would be the single individual that defines the entire species by name? as i zaid, i can hold an individual in my hand. if you then ask what a speciez iz, i have to ask whether you are a population ecologist, a morphological biologist, a palaeontologist, or a physical taxonomist. "species" is different for each.

Yes, we could dissect the various ways that the word is understood in technical specialities. Or we could satisfy ourselves, for the sake of discussion, with the understanding that a reasonably scientifically literate person has of the meaning of the word. Something like the entire population of organisms sharing an identifiable genetic heritage (usually capable of interbreeding in instances of sexual reproduction), often distinguishable by a characteristic morphology. It appears that you'd rather carry on with the former, so again, as far as I'm concerned we can leave it at that.

The well-being of the species is unimportant from an imaginary impassive "objective" god-like perspective, as if the universe were watching. That perspective has no practical application, if we discard the god hypothesis. There is no objective perspective; it's essentially the same oxymoron as objective meaning. Discarding the notion of objective perspective, perspective itself remains.

We are animals well endowed with imagination, theory of mind, and the ability to use an evidence-based approach to understanding our environment and other vital topics. Our perspective isn't limited to our individual lives. We can for instance, justifiably take the perspective of life as a generalized entity. Each of us is representative of life in general. We are living things, and in examining evidence, we inescapably view it from a perspective of living things. We cannot realistically do otherwise. Life strives, it endeavors to reproduce successfully and continue through time. In this view, "maintain life" is simply and objectively what life does.

We can justifiably take the perspective of our species as well. Our species does what life in general does. If we understand that human morality is an integral aspect of our species, and that it serves to regulate not only individual actions but our collective behavior, then I think it's reasonable to draw at least one conclusion. Human morality is part of how we as a species endeavor to reproduce successfully and continue through time. With this as a reference, we can also reasonably evaluate the various ideas of morality: Are they fit for purpose?

I'm just repeating myself, though. I think there's little to be gained from that and to me it's a strong indication that carrying on is unlikely to be productive. Thank you for a diverting discussion. 

ETA:  :lol: Literally striking through half of an offered definition of "nihilism" when responding to a post in which the term "half-nihilist" is used.   
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken