Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I don't feel any guilt.................. because in this case...
February 5, 2012 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Another honor killing that isn't about honor, and even less about Nietzsche. By MeFi's own resident psychiatrist.
posted by Taft (85 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
..the "don't ever take sides against the family" Godfather video game ad is probably the single worst banner that could have appeared on that link.
posted by griphus at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have this suspicion that he picks the gaudiest ad servers for his site specifically so people see them after reading his diatribes on narcissism.
posted by Taft at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The post-modern twist is that we didn't kill God after all: we enslaved him. Instead of completely abandoning God or taking a leap of faith back to the "mystery" of God; instead of those opposite choices, God has been kept around as a manservant to the Id.  We accept a "morality" exists but secretly retain the right of exception: "yes, but in this case..." 

Brilliant insight. Good piece, thanks for sharing.
posted by the cydonian at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would say that I disagree with the conclusion of the piece except that I don't understand the conclusion of the piece. We don't have God but we have "God" who is the same as God and because of that people do bad things and...what?
posted by Legomancer at 2:01 PM on February 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


The piece was an interesting comment on 'honour' killings, but this...

Atheists do this just as much but pretend they also don't believe in "God".

Wait, what?
posted by b33j at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


This is a strange way to approach a case that had garnered a huge amount of attention in Canada. First of all, it was an honour killing. The relatives of the mothere who murdered her children openly endorse honour killings. The story of the muders is fascinating and horrifying. The murderers convicted themselves with their own words: "May the Devil shit on their graves," etc.

The author of this piece also uses some spectacularly bad logic:

The daughters had been dressing western, dating, using the internet and disrespecting their old man [and brother] for a very long time-- across three Western countries-- without ever being murdered, not even once.

So, if you don't murder your daughter the first time she offends your notion of honour, it's not an honour killing when you eventually murder her for doing so? Sorry, no, that's not right.
posted by Dasein at 2:10 PM on February 5, 2012 [35 favorites]


Brilliant insight.

I'm not sure I understand it then, because when I read the thing it all sounded like bullshit.
posted by Hoopo at 2:11 PM on February 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Sorry, this article is a trainwreck. I'm not even a fan of atheism, but the argument that atheists appeals to God when they find it convenient and then elevating this to some kind of bullshit Freudian commentary on an "enslaved God of the id" is just lazy. There are some wonderful post-modernist philosophers who have written at length about morality without transcendental legitimation, you don't have to look past Rorty.

I read this twice and have no idea what the author is trying to say and who the target audience is. Am I a Molson-swilling hockey enforcer? Am I making the same mistake as the prosecution in misunderstanding this as an honor killing? Do I share in the faulty logic of the father? Woof. No offense, but GYOB.
posted by phaedon at 2:12 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I call BS. This guy can not possibly see as far into the perpetrators as he claims to.
posted by jcworth at 2:12 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This guy thinks he has a way with words but instead is kind of full of himself and does not prove his point - to me, at least.
posted by Hobgoblin at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Dasein, the author never rejects the idea that the father saw what he did as an honor killing. The point is that it had little to do with religious conviction and had everything to do with narcissist motivation and a post-hoc rationalization that followed.
posted by Taft at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I call BS. This guy can not possibly see as far into the perpetrators as he claims to.
That's kind of The Last Psychiatrist's shtick, right there.
posted by planet at 2:21 PM on February 5, 2012


I read The Last Psychiatrist's blog for quite a while, but began to notice that when he spoke of issues I had more than passing knowledge of his analysis was just awful. It's mostly profoundly spoken banalities.
posted by Jehan at 2:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's mostly profoundly spoken banalities

That's an occupational hazard. No, wait, that's his occupation.
posted by thelonius at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"People use religion as a cover for their psychological weaknesses!"

Well fuck me Sherlock.
posted by Jehan at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Apparently MeFi needs to read The Gay Science one more time.

I think there probably would have been better ways to address the God issue, as Nietzsche illustrates it. It's a bit shoe-horned in there, beyond the main thesis of "The acts that fall under the phenomenon of Islamic honor killings are not completely determined by actual practices of honor within Islamic people."

The following is predicated on the idea that I understand the article accurately. This may not be the case:

As to whether one can truly see into the perpetrator's motivations is somewhat irrelevant to the exercise. The purpose of the article, as far as I can tell, is not whether it is appropriate to adjudicate the accused. The purpose is to call attention to the dangers of inflammatory and/or lazy language within journalism and whether or not the acts of the presumed accused actually fit the particular designation of "honor killing," as it is popularly known. But the fact that this thesis itself needs explication means that the piece is in need of revision.

I'm not sure that one can appropriately adjudicate without complete access to the case, confessions or not. This cuts both to MeFi and to the author.

Overall, a good attempt, though more explication of the connection between the "God is dead" thesis and the primary "Honor killings are not what they seem" thesis was definitely needed. You'll have to do more than this article to convince us of your thesis.
posted by donquixote at 2:30 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


the author never rejects the idea that the father saw what he did as an honor killing. The point is that it had little to do with religious conviction

I don't think anyone has said that honour killings are prescribed in the Koran. They are a cultural practice prevalent mostly in Muslim countries, so there's an interplay of religion and established cultural practice. They happen regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the importation of those cultural pathologies is what was at work here. There are controlling, abusive, narcissitic fathers across Canada, yet this kind of violence is exceedingly rare.
posted by Dasein at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the link. It's not everyday you get to read a ironic take on the emerging field of criminal studies meets psychology meets theology meets mind reading.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: It's mostly profoundly spoken banalities.
posted by localroger at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's important to consider that religion doesn't invade individual lives so much as it invades cultures, which determines the scope of individualism. Most of us have the luxury of modernly regarding religion as being separate from culture, as it may be in many Western instances, but this is rare in the theocratic mindset in regards to law and justice. The choice just isn't there.
posted by Brian B. at 2:39 PM on February 5, 2012


As to whether one can truly see into the perpetrator's motivations is somewhat irrelevant to the exercise. The purpose of the article, as far as I can tell, is not whether it is appropriate to adjudicate the accused. The purpose is to call attention to the dangers of inflammatory and/or lazy language within journalism and whether or not the acts of the presumed accused actually fit the particular designation of "honor killing," as it is popularly known. But the fact that this thesis itself needs explication means that the piece is in need of revision.

He begins by talking about the media, and ends by talking about narcissists using God as justification. He doesn't really return to the media angle after the first section, leading us to take it as more of an introduction to his explanation for "honor killings" rather than the problem he's actually tackling. Even then, a complaint about how the media fails to represent stories accurately and use inflammatory language? Well.
posted by Jehan at 2:52 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


He begins by talking about the media, and ends by talking about narcissists using God as justification. He doesn't really return to the media angle after the first section, leading us to take it as more of an introduction to his explanation for "honor killings" rather than the problem he's actually tackling. Even then, a complaint about how the media fails to represent stories accurately and use inflammatory language? Well.

Agreed, the thesis needs to be substantially clarified, expanded, and revised. I think there might be an interesting article in here somewhere, as conceptions of honor within culture and certain parts of Nietzsche (say, portions of The Gay Science or Beyond Good and Evil) might have an interesting philosophical connection that could be argued about. But that hypothetical article is exactly that, hypothetical. I figured some encouragement for refinement might inspire better articles in the future? I'm probably too optimistic.
posted by donquixote at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone has said that honour killings are prescribed in the Koran. They are a cultural practice prevalent mostly in Muslim countries, so there's an interplay of religion and established cultural practice. They happen regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the importation of those cultural pathologies is what was at work here. There are controlling, abusive, narcissitic fathers across Canada, yet this kind of violence is exceedingly rare.

The Wikipedia article on honour killings also details the practice in India, in non-Muslim-majority areas. (See also this article from Time.) If you scroll down to immediately below the discussion on India, you'll find this bit from a UN report:
The Special Rapporteur indicated that there had been contradictory decisions with regard to the honour defense in Brazil, and that legislative provisions allowing for partial or complete defense in that context could be found in the penal codes of Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Peru, Syria, Venezuela and the Palestinian National Authority.
Honour killings are certainly not a uniquely 'Muslim' problem. If all Muslims in Canada magically disappeared, you wouldn't guarantee Canada would never see another honour killing.
posted by hoyland at 3:01 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gibberish. Terrible gibberish.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:02 PM on February 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Dasein, the author never rejects the idea that the father saw what he did as an honor killing. The point is that it had little to do with religious conviction and had everything to do with narcissist motivation and a post-hoc rationalization that followed.

But why would that be different here than in a culture that supports this crap? Honor killings are done because the egos of those who feel "offended" by "their" women's "betrayal" can't deal with the "shame" they feel because they can't control their women. Just because some cultures have created elaborate supports for patriarchal narcissism of this type doesn't mean that they are any less narcissistic in cultures that support them. The distinction that he's making doesn't seem to be one that matters.
posted by Maias at 3:03 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Yes, the phrase 'non-Muslim-majority areas' is awkward, but Punjab has a Sikh majority, so you can't say 'Hindu-majority', even though that Time article I linked implies everyone in India who's not a Muslim is a Hindu.)
posted by hoyland at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2012


Good stuff apart from this faffy nonsense at the end:

"We accept a "morality" exists but secretly retain the right of exception: "yes, but in this case..." Atheists do this just as much but pretend they also don't believe in "God". It's still god, it's a God behind the "God", something bigger, something that preserves the individual's ability to appeal to the symbolic."

This is a fallacious argument. Atheism is simply an evidence-based position, and atheist morality is morality without divine instruction (that is, the threat of horrible punishment), but what is being said here is that morality is god and god is morality. No, god is god and morality is morality, they are two totally separate things and one does not depend on the other any more than a telephone depends on a jar of coffee creamer. Just because somebody invents a telephone shaped like a jar of coffee creamer doesn't suddenly make them inextricable.

I'm also honestly trying but I can't think of anybody within my immediate or extended circle of associates who has ever said "Yes, but in this case...", atheist or not. Anyway, even if somebody did say "Yes, but in this case..." that would not be consistent with any given moral system, it's simply a personal position. It's consistent and logical to keep all one's books on a bookshelf but sometimes you just toss The Meaning Of Liff on the floor of the toilet when you're done shitting.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:07 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The purpose is to call attention to the dangers of inflammatory and/or lazy language within journalism and whether or not the acts of the presumed accused actually fit the particular designation of "honor killing," as it is popularly known.

Mr. Shafia: "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows...nothing is more dear to me than my honour.”
Mr. Shafia: “I say to myself, ‘You did well. Would that they come back to life a hundred times for you to do the same again.’ That's how hurt I am. Tooba, they betrayed us immensely. They violated us immensely. There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this.”
Mr. Shafia: “I am telling you now and I was telling you before that whoever play with my honour, my words are the same...There is no value of life without honour.”

I didn't follow the case, in part because I was assuming that the media was being inflammatory in describing it as "honour killings". If a murder case based on a series of recorded conversations wherein the main perpetrator says that he had to kill people to preserve his honour isn't an honour killing, then what is?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was with him until he tried to convince me that I do actually believe in God.
He can have his foxhole and stuff it.
posted by GoingToShopping at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2012


This Nietzschean spin on the tragedy ends up sounding kinda jumbled. It almost makes sense until you just say "What?"

'Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief' by Jordan Peterson discusses the authoritarian hunger for control taken to an extreme, which turns into Cronus devouring his children.
posted by ovvl at 3:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mr. Shafia: "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows...nothing is more dear to me than my honour.”
Mr. Shafia: “I say to myself, ‘You did well. Would that they come back to life a hundred times for you to do the same again.’ That's how hurt I am. Tooba, they betrayed us immensely. They violated us immensely. There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this.”
Mr. Shafia: “I am telling you now and I was telling you before that whoever play with my honour, my words are the same...There is no value of life without honour.”

I didn't follow the case, in part because I was assuming that the media was being inflammatory in describing it as "honour killings". If a murder case based on a series of recorded conversations wherein the main perpetrator says that he had to kill people to preserve his honour isn't an honour killing, then what is?


There might be some confusion here. A statement about what I believe the author is trying to communicate and my own particular position on the article (which is pretty detailed in a post after that particular critique, but can be summed up by "There's an interesting article in here somewhere, but expansive revision is needed") are different things.

Those two things are also completely different from what I believe about the actual content of what he is referring to, mainly, was this murder primarily motivated by honor or was it primarily motivated by something else. In reference to the cited confession, it seems very clear that it seems motivated by a desire to regain honor.

However, I would maintain that the question does not stop there. I would ask, first of all, what an honor killing schema actually is. Having ascertained that, I would ask how culpability of action works within this system. Does it increase moral responsibility? Does it decrease? Does it rely upon a pluralistic or a non-pluralistic conception of honor? (And so on...) Having looked at that, I would then look at the sociological determinants of honor killings, and see if an explanation for this phenomenon could be ascertained. Basically, I would need to do my research, gather data, and analyze as best I could before I could come up with an informed decision beyond the intuitive "Murder is bad" reflex.
posted by donquixote at 3:30 PM on February 5, 2012


I read the God="God"=morality="morality" stuff as a further gloss on Nietzsche, though as usual Nietzsche said it better and more complexly, e.g.:

They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency [. . .] In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.

We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth — it stands and falls with faith in God.

When the English actually believe that they know "intuitively" what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem.

- Twilight of the Idols
posted by DaDaDaDave at 3:31 PM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't why we persist in having a special name for domestic violence when Muslims do it. There's no dearth of Christian (or otherwise) men that have hurt their wives because their wives embarrassed them.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


Regardless of the original post, there is a debate going on in Canada about whether the Shafia murders were honor killings, or domestic violence. Since this gets at the (original, not post-hoc) motivation behind the murders, it's difficult to find enough evidence to draw firm conclusions. However, I think one useful thing to take from the Last Psychologist's piece is that the murders occurred when one of the daughters was going to leave, and that this fits in to the pattern of domestic violence, where women (usually) are most in danger of being killed by an abusive spouse when they leave or threaten to leave.

In some sense, the women are dead, so who cares what the motive was? But in this case, it matters for a couple of reasons.

First, it reinforces some people's fears around intersecting cultures in a multicultural country. Some Muslim groups in Canada are particularly wary of calling the Shafia murders an honor killing in part because racist groups have over the past couple years been promoting racism by raising the spectre of sharia law being used in Canada, making claims that stuff like honor killings might end up under-prosecuted or under-punished.

Second, different resources might be needed to combat domestic violence versus combating honor killings. Both are in some degree culturally related. It's been argued, by feminist theorists for example, that domestic violence against women happens with significantly greater frequency than other instances of domestic abuse and violence in part due to an overall patriarchal cultural context; and by feminists and others that violence happens more when violence is in some way deemed acceptable or lauded, at least in certain contexts, in the broader culture (the problem being that not everyone is able to make the distinctions between culturally accepted violence and culturally less-accepted violence). But with honor killings, given that there isn't so much of a recent history of violence against women in Canada in that particular context, resources to combat and prevent further incidents may need to be culturally relevant to the affected communities or focused in a different way than resources to combat domestic violence. (Combating domestic violence in immigrant communities may still require a culturally relevant or sensitive component, but the goal wouldn't involve changing a cultural practice in quite the same way.)
posted by eviemath at 3:41 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


whether the Shafia murders were honor killings, or domestic violence.

It seems self-evident to me that honour killings are domestic violence. However, eviemath's second point about different resources potentially being needed to combat honour killings is a good one. It seems like there's a strong presumption that domestic violence is partner violence, rather than broader familial violence (that doesn't need to include a partner and can have both partners as victims) and that matters, regardless of whether the impulse behind them is fundamentally the same on an abstract level.

This sort of goes back to the thread the other day about (straight) men as victims of domestic violence--resources don't exist because the presumption is (straight) women as victims. (Resources for queer victims of domestic violence exist because the queer community noted they were left out of the framework for combating domestic violence.)
posted by hoyland at 3:58 PM on February 5, 2012


Regardless of the original post, there is a debate going on in Canada about whether the Shafia murders were honor killings, or domestic violence. Since this gets at the (original, not post-hoc) motivation behind the murders, it's difficult to find enough evidence to draw firm conclusions. However, I think one useful thing to take from the Last Psychologist's piece is that the murders occurred when one of the daughters was going to leave, and that this fits in to the pattern of domestic violence, where women (usually) are most in danger of being killed by an abusive spouse when they leave or threaten to leave.
Why is it an 'either or' thing? Can't be both? Certainly, it would seem like a case of "domestic violence" whenever parents/husbands kill their daughters/wives. The "Honor killing" thing comes into play when, I guess it's socially required by the rest of society that someone kill their family members. Since that can never happen in a western country, then by definition an "honor killing" could never happen.

If an "honor killing" is just when someone kills because they feel that their honor had been violated, then lots of stuff would qualify, including lots of normal domestic violence.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't why we persist in having a special name for domestic violence when Muslims do it.

That's what I thought the article was saying. The father is a narcissistic misogynist who murdered his daughters because he thought they would leave. Domestic abusers killing their victims when they try to leave is the oldest one in the book and it's not extra-special if a Muslim man did it. He didn't do it for religion as he wasn't very religious (he'd kill for religion but not bother to pray? it doesn't work like that). He didn't do it for honor like an ancient Samurai commiting seppuku or something. He did it because his daughter was trying to marry someone and he wouldn't be able to control her. This is one of the big reasons it can be so dangerous for victims of domestic abuse to leave. Leaving is often a trigger for extreme violence.
posted by Danila at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


What I find heartbreaking is that even in all of this discussion of honor killing vs. domestic violence, religious vs. cultural, god vs. no-god, Rona Amir Mohammad is invisible. She was the father's first wife, in Canada under false pretenses, abused and despised in her home and invisible to the outside world, without any hope for escape. Even in death she is ignored. It is no surprise that the murder of women is acceptable within a culture that allows women to be made invisible within their own families.
posted by headnsouth at 4:24 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I figured some encouragement for refinement might inspire better articles in the future? I'm probably too optimistic.

I think it's fair to encourage improvement. Although I feel The Last Psychiatrist is very much a "marmite" blogger.
posted by Jehan at 4:27 PM on February 5, 2012


I don't why we persist in having a special name for domestic violence when Muslims do it. There's no dearth of Christian (or otherwise) men that have hurt their wives because their wives embarrassed them.

Good point, Philosopher Dirtbike.
posted by etherist at 4:48 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I find heartbreaking is that even in all of this discussion of honor killing vs. domestic violence, religious vs. cultural, god vs. no-god, Rona Amir Mohammad is invisible. She was the father's first wife, in Canada under false pretenses, abused and despised in her home and invisible to the outside world, without any hope for escape. Even in death she is ignored.

Really? From what I followed of the trial, she was mentioned -- by name -- every single time they talked about the murders, and her photograph was always there with the daughters.

Atheists do this just as much but pretend they also don't believe in "God".

Atheists really do believe in God! Or something. They're just lying about it. The article is absurd.
posted by jeather at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't why we persist in having a special name for domestic violence when Muslims do it.

That's really dumb. The whole point is that this isn't just regular domestic violence. It's carefully premeditated (not an angry outburst), and several members of the family often participate, and it's motivated by particular cultural notions of honour, and particularly that a woman's sexual activity brings dishonour on the rest of the family. Dismissing the phenomenon as the same as any other kind of domestic violence does a huge disservice to the women who suffer and die as a result of it.
posted by Dasein at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems pretty obvious to me that TLP is using "God" here to mean, more or less, "myth," much like Nietzsche did. You can read Nietzsche as only speaking to Christians, but that's an uncritical (and wrong) reading. And yes, atheists believe in myths as much as anyone else, like the myth that morality is rational and consistent, or that human beings are or ought to be equal, or that we have free will, or that depression is a "chemical imbalance" and not a result of choices, or that the woman you love is as great as you think she is. The point is, we all need to believe at least some of these things to make sense of our lives. TLP's point, I think, is that when you no longer have absolute God-given moral rules, you have a morality supported by "reason." And reason is very good at finding exceptions or drawing distinctions when it needs to.
posted by smorange at 7:39 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see what the criticism of the article is all about. This was obviously not an honor killing. You don't save your family's honor by exterminating them. The guy, like every abuser I know of, committed violence because his victims would not do what he ordered them to do.

If an "honor killing" is just when someone kills because they feel that their honor had been violated, then lots of stuff would qualify, including lots of normal domestic violence.

This afternoon, there was a knock on my door. It was my ex-girlfriend, drunk, crying, bruised and with an obviously broken nose. Her boyfriend beat her up. I took one look and said holy shit, I am taking you to the ER. She's trying to kick her abusive boyfriend out of her apartment, and he's blackmailing her to let him stay. Her lease only permits one resident, he is threatening to get her kicked out by turning her in, and saying she has an unauthorized sublease to him. What an asshole.

And she keeps picking the same sort of abusive asshole, this is the third one I know of. I have lost track of all the times I have taken her to the ER. She has become a serious alcoholic, so the police don't take her domestic violence complaints seriously. I try to get her to take this seriously, I show her photos I took of her bruised face from previous incidents. And she admits that she has to do something. And then she goes back to her abuser.

I tried to get the social worker at the hospital to help her. I explained how she's being extorted, and how even if she screwed up by letting the guy into her home, she shouldn't have to risk eviction when she's trying to get out from under his extortion. And the social worker said there wasn't much she could do, she's drunk right now so she's not making good choices. So I had to take her back home. Her abusive boyfriend was gone at the time, but now he's back. And she doesn't seem to understand she's in more danger now than before. And I'm afraid to do anything more to help. She came to my door before asking for help, and when she returned, he accused her of sleeping with me and beat her more.

So I am sick of these narcissistic assholes who beat women when they don't get their way. And I am even sicker of the social system that can do nothing to stop them. It makes me sick that I can't find a way to help her, even at the times when she wants help.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:40 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got called in for jury duty as they were gearing up for jury selection for this trial. I was relieved when I saw they wanted me in Belleville, not Kingston. Belleville was no walk in the park, mind you. It, too, was a murder trial; and I had to stand in front of the court and explain why, because of a murder in my own immediate family, I was ineligible to be a juror for the man on trial. Nearly fifteen years have passed since my father was murdered, but still I was barely able to blubber out the most basic details of the case. Mercifully, the judge excused me from the trial. I am not looking forward to the next time I get called in.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:44 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read the blog post first, then came to this thread and read the first few comments. My immediate reaction was "thank god I am not the only one confused by what he wrote!". Which is funny because I've been an atheist twenty years but I still say bless you after sneezes and thank god and other religious cultural baggage I don't believe in. Which is how I interpret the religious oaths of the Shafia family, hardly proof they were religious.

I think the story of Hamed Shafia is very interesting; I thought the last psychiatrist was going to go in the same direction at one point but he focused on the father just like all the other major media outlets. What role did the fact that Hamed was becoming a man, was old enough and physically strong enough to participate in the murder his mother and father had been talking about for years? He also made a bizarre statement at the conviction of the murder of his mother and sisters but I can't seem to find a copy of it. He is also the one most likely to get out of prision either through parole when he is in his thirties (faint hope) or forties or by the appeal he has already filed. As the only one who did not take the stand he seems the smartest and most cunning, and thus the most dangerous.
posted by saucysault at 7:52 PM on February 5, 2012


I'm also honestly trying but I can't think of anybody within my immediate or extended circle of associates who has ever said "Yes, but in this case...", atheist or not.

Then either you're not trying hard enough or you don't know enough people. This is precisely how people justify things to themselves: "I had to lie to him because..." "I believe in saving the environment and I hate consumerism, but Apple products are different..." "I wouldn't dream of dating my best friend's girlfriend, but they don't love each other anyway, and we do." "Divorcing because of ill health is bad, and I promised not to, but no one could be expected to go through what I'm going through." "I need sex, and if my wife isn't going to give it to me, then can she blame me if I look elsewhere?"

Anyway, even if somebody did say "Yes, but in this case..." that would not be consistent with any given moral system, it's simply a personal position.

What is a "moral system," and how many people actually hew to their dictates?
posted by smorange at 7:52 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


... this isn't just regular domestic violence. It's carefully premeditated (not an angry outburst)

Your opinion of so called "regular" "domestic violence" gives far too little 'credit' to the variations in presentment (while conveniently creating a separate class of criminal -- for precisely the same crimes [negating a principle of what most people think about as 'rule of law', or rather, equality under the law]).

"regular" "domestic violence" isn't only committed by "stupid drunks with no self control" or something (I am honestly not sure what you think is going on in homes where the pervasive domestic violence is happening).

There is cold, calculating, emotionally manipulative domestic violence in ALL THE KINDS OF HOMES.

Dismissing this does a huge disservice to those who suffer and die as a result of it.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:53 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


TLP's point, I think, is that when you no longer have absolute God-given moral rules, you have a morality supported by "reason." And reason is very good at finding exceptions or drawing distinctions when it needs to.

That's a good thing, right?
posted by Hoopo at 8:04 PM on February 5, 2012


This was obviously not an honor killing. You don't save your family's honor by exterminating them.

Are you saying that it wasn't an honour killing because it wasn't rational enough?

There is cold, calculating, emotionally manipulative domestic violence in ALL THE KINDS OF HOMES.

Yes, and it mostly has nothing to do with cultural notions of honour.
posted by Dasein at 8:17 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


IANYD unless it's MOFB. In which case I know you better than you know yourself.
posted by liketitanic at 8:18 PM on February 5, 2012


He is also the one most likely to get out of prision either through parole when he is in his thirties (faint hope) or forties or by the appeal he has already filed.

Given the horrific nature of this crime and the fact that it was a mass murder (4 victims, including a little girl), it wouldn't surprise me (and would please me greatly) if he never sees freedom again. He certainly wouldn't make it in a faint hope application (it's called faint hope for a reason).
posted by Dasein at 8:21 PM on February 5, 2012


That's a good thing, right?

Not if it's doing so simply to justify the id. Unless you assume that there is such a thing as "moral truth" that exists independently of human beings--which may or may not be true, but believing it's true definitely qualifies as a myth--that's the conclusion you're left with. If that's true, moral reasoning might be a good thing or it might not be. It depends on what people use it for, and that depends on what people are, which in turn depends on which myths/ideologies prevail in a particular culture. I take TLP to be saying that narcissism is endemic to ours; because of this, our moral reasoning is more likely to provide us with justifications of that narcissism. The culture of narcissism, then, is what's deeply problematic.
posted by smorange at 8:23 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's why I think this honor killing wasn't really about honor.

If you do something for honor, would you lie about it afterwards to save your own skin? Shafia was caught on tape talking about his "honor" but in court he said he didn't do it. If he was an honorable man, the honorable thing would have been to admit it and even defend it. Standing on principle, that's what honor means. (It'd be a horrific principle in this case, that's for sure).

But instead of standing on principle, he lied through his teeth. "Honor" was just an excuse for a violent, control-freak sociopath.
posted by storybored at 8:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


NeeChee talked of Amour Fati; a love of fate, as the 90's liked to say; "what will be will be, can't fight change, man"... but what does that learned helplessness mean in the context of multiple actors?

TLP says this, but I think he restricts our options severely, if only simply in that his language is set in a context, or, more succinctly, no, we have plenty of knowledge of "values", but little in the way of education and training towards knowledge of the virtues:
When Nietzsche said "God is dead" he meant that God is not necessary for our morality anymore. When he says we killed God, he means that our science, skepticism, education, have pushed us past the point where believing in miracles is possible; but as a consequence of this loss we are lost, have no goals, no aspirations, no values. God was made up, but he gave us a reason to progress.

The resulting nihilism requires us to either despair, return back to medieval religion, or look deeper within us and find a new source of human values.

And I think this quote from Grant makes clearer what TLP is pointing to; Religious, atheist and anti-theist alike will fall down, the failures of our modern society will repeat and repeat, overcoming this will only be achieved by those who overcome and elevate above revenge, "so that what what they accomplish comes forth from a positive love of the earth, and not simply from hatred of what presently is. Dynamic willing that has not overcome revenge will always have the marks of hysteria and hatred within it. It can only produce the technical frenzy of the nihilists or the shallow goals of the last men. It cannot come to terms with the questions 'what for, whither and what then?'"
Everybody uses the word 'values' to describe our making of the world: capitalists and socialists, atheists and avowed believers, scientists and politicians. The word comes to us so platitudinously that we take it to belong to the way things are. It is forgotten that before Nietzsche and his immediate predecessors, men did not think about their actions in that language. They did not think they made the world valuable but that they participated in its goodness.

What is comic about the present use of 'values', and the distinction of them from 'facts', is not that it is employed by modern men who know what is entailed in so doing; but that it is used also by 'religious' believers who are unaware that in its employment they are contradicting the very possibility of the reverence they believe they are espousing in its use. The reading of Nietzsche would make that clear to them.

To repeat: the thought of great thinkers is not a matter for the chit chat of television and cocktail parties; nor for providing jobs for academics in the culture industry. In it the fate of our whole living is expressed. In this sense, the thought of Nietzsche is a fate for modern men. In partaking in it, we can come to make judgements about the modern project - that enormous enterprise that came out of Western Europe in the last centuries and has now become worldwide.
....
To illustrate: Nietzsche clearly uses the same language as the tradition in its eternal truth, when he says that the height for human beings is amor fati. Yet the love of fate which he would call redemption, is not in any sense a call to the passivity that some moderns falsely identify with words such as 'fate', or 'destiny'.

In him the love of fate is at one with his call to dynamic willing. The love of fate is the guarantee that dynamic willing shall be carried on by lovers of the earth, and not by those twisted by hatred and hysteria against the existing (however buried that hysteria may be in the recesses of our instincts).

(George Grant, Time As History 1969)
posted by infinite intimation at 8:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note that TLP isn't the only one who has argued that atheists need "God" (myth). Since a lot of people on MeFi apparently think that they have no need of myth, that reason is all they need to live their lives, I suppose they wouldn't agree with William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience:
This sadness lies at the heart of every merely positivistic, agnostic, or naturalistic scheme of philosophy. Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes with which it stands related. Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value. Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and gilding vanish. The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it; and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions. They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.

The lustre of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in;—and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place round them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.

For naturalism, fed on recent cosmological speculations, mankind is in a position similar to that of a set of people living on a frozen lake, surrounded by cliffs over which there is no escape, yet knowing that little by little the ice is melting, and the inevitable day drawing near when the last film of it will disappear, and to be drowned ignominiously will be the human creature's portion. The merrier the skating, the warmer and more sparkling the sun by day, and the ruddier the bonfires at night, the more poignant the sadness with which one must take in the meaning of the total situation.
Our old mythic ways of understanding the world are the ice melting underneath us. The ice need not be supported by God, but something must support it, otherwise we face the cold, icy abyss beneath. Reason alone cannot protect us.
posted by smorange at 8:57 PM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


OK, so yeah, it's a good thing. And no, I wouldn't agree with William James. In fact I'd suggest that even "myths" and "gods" were created through reason, and it's all we have ever had--and will ever have--to rely on for better or worse.
posted by Hoopo at 9:14 PM on February 5, 2012


Our old mythic ways of understanding the world are the ice melting underneath us. The ice need not be supported by God, but something must support it, otherwise we face the cold, icy abyss beneath. Reason alone cannot protect us.

I think Nietzsche's overall message was that we don't need anything to "protect" us from the truth... and that nothing will ever be truly sufficient for the job, anyway, whether reason or myth or God himself. The "sadness with which one must take in the meaning of the total situation" only makes sense in a certain context, and that context turned out to be a lie; without it, why is drowning necessarily any sadder than skating? Why should either of these things be sad -- why should we live in fear of the "cold, icy abyss beneath the ice", when everything that lives must both drown and skate?

Skate well, drown well, and get on with it!
posted by vorfeed at 9:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Nietzsche's overall message was that we don't need anything to "protect" us from the truth.

Well, it remains to be seen whether Nietzsche's ubermench is psychologically possible. It certainly wasn't for Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a miserable person. The ideas he had didn't liberate him from his psychology. James' point about the "sadness of the situation" is that naturalism doesn't give us any values that we can really believe in--that we can, as it were, accept from the internal point of view. Nietzsche couldn't do it with his philosophy. If as seems plausible human beings need ideology, and if science increasingly erodes its last refuges (the beginnings of a deterministic theory of human behaviour might be doing that already) then where do we go for value? Where do we find meaning for our lives? And if you think there's somewhere we can find them, maybe in the id itself, are you so sure that those values are going to lead us to be better people? They might not.
posted by smorange at 9:42 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


little to do with religious conviction and had everything to do with narcissist motivation and a post-hoc rationalization that followed.

false dichotomy.
posted by telstar at 9:49 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What doesn't sit right is this attempt to so precisely identify the "cause" of the crime in some indivisible entity, be it 'Islam', 'tribalism' or, as TLP suggests, some pseudo-transcendental "God of the id." Further, I'd suggest that whatever "myth" this man may have told himself to provide "symbolic justification" of his alleged crimes -- should not simply be accepted, uncritically, at face value. We could try to play the "whodunnit" game and try to isolate which of the many competing "stories" is the real perpetrator -- but whatever conclusion is reached is not the truth. (Now I understand why the racist Western media want to play this game but I don't think it makes sense for honest people to follow along.) From Nietzsche's perspective this entire mechanistic view of human behavior, this childish notion that something as complicated as the destruction of a dysfunctional family could have a single "cause" -- well, it's just not the case. Free will is itself an abyss.

And this is where TLP really does completely miss the point: the "God of morality" was never needed to legitimize the will of the individual so much as it was intended to completely displace it. It is simply not important whether God somehow participates in an action's motivations. What matters is whether God approves after the fact. Motivations are forever private and murky and truly unknown -- but judgement is public, final, undeniable. This was always the real goal of Christians who wished to say God "approved" or "disapproved" of this or that particular action, food, or style of dress. When Nietzsche imagined that God had been murdered he was not suggesting, in fact, that within the confines of individual hearts something had changed. It was very much a we -- it was European civilization as a systemic enterprise -- that no longer wished God to have final say in the public affairs and public judgments.
posted by nixerman at 10:06 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our old mythic ways of understanding the world are the ice melting underneath us. The ice need not be supported by God, but something must support it, otherwise we face the cold, icy abyss beneath. Reason alone cannot protect us.

Um...why not?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:07 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, it remains to be seen whether Nietzsche's ubermench is psychologically possible. It certainly wasn't for Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a miserable person. The ideas he had didn't liberate him from his psychology.

I'm not particularly bothered by this, especially since part of Nietzsche's point was a love of "misery" and all the other things which come with living. Besides, there are plenty of miserable religious people, too... and how many people are "liberated from their psychology" by religion? It remains to be seen whether literal transcendence and/or enlightenment are psychologically possible, but nobody brings that up as a reason why Buddhism or Christianity are inherent failures.

What's that old saw: "it's the journey, not the destination"?

If as seems plausible human beings need ideology, and if science increasingly erodes its last refuges (the beginnings of a deterministic theory of human behaviour might be doing that already) then where do we go for value? Where do we find meaning for our lives? And if you think there's somewhere we can find them, maybe in the id itself, are you so sure that those values are going to lead us to be better people? They might not.

I'd say that human beings create our own value and meaning, and that we always have; we simply don't like to admit it. As for whether those values are going to lead us to be better people, I'd say the first thing we need to do is define "better", and then to chase after it... and that the process of doing so is certain to make us better people, by definition.
posted by vorfeed at 10:15 PM on February 5, 2012


And if you think there's somewhere we can find them, maybe in the id itself, are you so sure that those values are going to lead us to be better people? They might not.

"better" is an evolving concept, contemporary values are always going to try and lead us to a contemporary view of what "better" is. It's arrived at by different paths by different cultures and moves toward different destinations. I'm not sure there's much to suggest the course of human history has been an evolutionary course towards a positive moral end, but it always seems that way until we're convinced or forced otherwise. I'm not willing to write off anything as merely "justifying the id" other than this one asshole's rationalization of his own actions. Maybe not even that. He killed people because he felt insulted and disrespected, basically. I cannot conceive of any scenario where that's acceptable. I don't need any absolutes, myths, and/or gods to reach the conclusion that it is a terrible justification to take lives and neither does the Canadian justice system. We have tested common values and precedent, and we can continue to test and challenge with reason when necessary, giving us a humility and flexibility that rigid myths and gods cannot. This is not falling into the abyss, it's building a bridge over it.

It's a very roundabout way of saying this guy is a contemptible selfish prick with fucked up values.
posted by Hoopo at 10:17 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, so yeah, it's a good thing. And no, I wouldn't agree with William James. In fact I'd suggest that even "myths" and "gods" were created through reason, and it's all we have ever had--and will ever have--to rely on for better or worse.

Well, no, not exactly. If I'm picking up correctly on what smorange and TLP are saying, is that reasoning and morality are not the same in this context. And if you are using just reasoning to work your way through things then it is a hollowed out false morality. Falling back onto Freudian terms here, that would mean there is an underdeveloped superego and you're relying simply on the ego to use it's "pragmatism" to move you through situations. Which in turn means that the id has a larger share of how that reasoning is constructed and used. So having the base desires as the main impetus for action would constantly undermine any reasoning that is deployed. In this we can see how God is often a stand in for whatever idyllic values (superego) a person upholds. From TLP's perspective those values, or "God", are also often subverted and utilized in the "wrong" way.

Another hair that should probably be split in this reading is that reasoning is different from rationalization:
"the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action the motive of which is not recognized"

Which I believe is what TLP is specifically referencing.

I don't necessarily agree with the potshot at atheists, but the aritcle is good food for thought.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If as seems plausible human beings need ideology, and if science increasingly erodes its last refuges (the beginnings of a deterministic theory of human behaviour might be doing that already) then where do we go for value?

It doesn't seem plausible to me at all. What does seem possible is that human societies need ideology -- this might even be a basic truism -- but it's not clear at all that individuals need ideology. This might seem a silly point but it does highlight that this notion that ideologies create value is not at all as simple as you might think. This interplay between public ideologies and private psychologies is complicated. It's not like shopping at the convenience store.

TLP is providing a service by offering an alternative psychological history of the crime but, let's be clear, it's not any more valid than any other of the competing histories. And the error of psychologizing the crime is precisely that the criminal never commits the crime alone.
posted by nixerman at 10:31 PM on February 5, 2012


Our old mythic ways of understanding the world are the ice melting underneath us. The ice need not be supported by God, but something must support it, otherwise we face the cold, icy abyss beneath. Reason alone cannot protect us.

You don't get it. In post-James pragmatism, epistemology as we often talk about it is dead. There is no distinction between myth and reason - at least not in so far as they map on to this "so-called reality" you refer to as an icy abyss. We simply don't have that ability.

James would have said we have a need for thoughts and beliefs that we do not have evidence for, but he was lazy when he talked about evidence. What is evidence of a moral truth, anyway? Later American philosophers challenge the epistemological construct in and of itself:

"...observation [of moral truths? of reality?] is itself a creature of language: your map determines how you see the landscape. So, they conclude, there is nothing but maps, maps all the way down, and there is no independent access to anything mapped."

I'm sorry but if you're going to attack atheism via James I should at least point out that hardcore pragmatism does not anchor our well-being or our interaction with the world in some kind of bedrock metaphysics, simply because James thinks that that happens to lead to a good life. In fact, it is a perversion of pragmatism to think that some idea is objectively true because it really serves us well; we can only say that it serves us well and that's it. We build a consensus and that's it. The notion of objectivity is abandoned; not implied. Therefore your point that on some deep level atheism depends (even pragmatically) on some conception of a higher power is wrong.
posted by phaedon at 10:41 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, let's not forget that Jesus died on the cross, and shouted about being forsaken. If a philosopher cannot be "miserable" in order for his philosophy to have merit -- not to mention needing "values that we can accept from the internal point of view"! -- then I'm not sure why anyone's taking Christianity seriously.

Suffering must be faced by every philosopher (and every human being). "The ideas he had didn't liberate him from his psychology" is so far beside the point that I'm not sure why it matters, save as an easy way to avoid engaging with those ideas.
posted by vorfeed at 10:43 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


... if science increasingly erodes its last refuges (the beginnings of a deterministic theory of human behaviour might be doing that already) then where do we go for value?

Ironically, the great horror of science will not be a deterministic theory. It will be revealing, yet again, that the emperor really has no clothes. My own suspicion is that science will ultimately demonstrate that the human brain is a truly little, silly, even dumb thing. And much of complexity and wonder we ascribe to the brain is, in fact, not happening inside the brain at all. At that point questions like this will be revealed to be nonsense. There's nothing to erode because 'you' never really 'valued' much of anything at all. (Except, say, bacon. All intelligences, human or otherwise, will, I maintain, love greasy, fatty bacon.)
posted by nixerman at 10:46 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


vorfeed, if TLP's thesis is right--and I don't know whether it is!--then the values we'll increasingly create are narcissistic values because that is what is increasingly distinctive about our culture. From his other posts, that seems to be the "thesis" of his blog. I don't know if his thesis is correct, but it's at least worth thinking about. Some of the early comments in this thread didn't evince much thinking.

He killed people because he felt insulted and disrespected, basically. I cannot conceive of any scenario where that's acceptable. I don't need any absolutes, myths, and/or gods to reach the conclusion that it is a terrible justification to take lives...

I think you do because I don't think you can reason about values without an ideology/myth/religion. The idea that "people" ought to be treated equally, implicit in your statement, is itself ideological (and only true in certain societies). But even if you don't agree with me, you and I can conceive of a society where his justification is acceptable. The question is whether ours is more or less like that kind of society than it used to be.

I'm sorry but if you're going to attack atheism via James...

I am not attacking atheism. I'm an atheist. I'm merely arguing that we need values (telos) to live our lives, and we don't get them from atheism/naturalism. Maybe we get them from utilitarianism. Maybe something else. Whatever. But I'm saying that atheism and naturalism aren't sufficient.

nixerman, yours is a good argument, and I think you're mostly right, but I am not as confident as you appear to be that it'll work out fine for us. I still think it's plausible that individuals need ideologies/myths.
posted by smorange at 11:00 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


oops. Forgot to close the tag. Sorry!
posted by smorange at 11:02 PM on February 5, 2012


I think you do because I don't think you can reason about values without an ideology/myth/religion

This is getting a bit chicken and egg. You can't have the values that comprise ideology/myth/god without reason. Ideology and myth and god don't spontaneously spring forth from nothing independent of human thought and reason, and they don't change and evolve without reason. Ideology/myth/god is a flawed product of reason.

The question is whether ours is more or less like that kind of society than it used to be.

I don't think that's the question at all. It's not an evolution--we're not coming from a place where that society might be at now. It's simply a different society.
posted by Hoopo at 11:33 PM on February 5, 2012


vorfeed, if TLP's thesis is right--and I don't know whether it is!--then the values we'll increasingly create are narcissistic values because that is what is increasingly distinctive about our culture. From his other posts, that seems to be the "thesis" of his blog. I don't know if his thesis is correct, but it's at least worth thinking about.

No trend lasts forever. Whether or not "narcissistic" values are harmful -- and I don't personally believe this question to have been settled by our society, or even discussed in much of a non-question-begging manner -- they will pass, and something else will take their place. Or we'll die out, which is sure to happen eventually no matter what our values are.

I am much more interested in taking an honest shot at creating new values than I am in fretting over whether they'll be the best of all possible values. Almost certainly not, actually, but that's still better than clutching at God's rotting corpse forever because we're too afraid to try. I think that is what causes unexamined values: it's hard to look beyond the simple and comforting, and even more so when you've been told that doing so will make you crash through the ice of reality. As a culture we are almost desperate to preserve the idea that human beings need (some of) the old ways to survive. We are equally obsessed with the idea that we, standing at the End of History, know the only safe way into the future... and it looks just like today, only more so. Is it any surprise that most people take "morality" for granted, and look no further?

I am not attacking atheism. I'm an atheist. I'm merely arguing that we need values (telos) to live our lives, and we don't get them from atheism/naturalism. Maybe we get them from utilitarianism. Maybe something else. Whatever. But I'm saying that atheism and naturalism aren't sufficient.

Atheism is just a lack of belief in god(s), so of course it isn't "sufficient". Likewise naturalism. But belief in god(s) is also not "sufficient", not in and of itself. So?
posted by vorfeed at 12:04 AM on February 6, 2012


Atheism is just a lack of belief in god(s), so of course it isn't "sufficient". Likewise naturalism. But belief in god(s) is also not "sufficient", not in and of itself. So?

So...that's what I think TLP was saying! It wasn't an attack on atheism so much as an attack on (some!) atheists. I happen to agree with his analysis on that. By the way, the rest of your post is, I think, interesting and worth thinking about and maybe disagreeing over.
posted by smorange at 12:14 AM on February 6, 2012


Then he returned to Kingston, where he and his parents walked into the police station to say the four women had vanished.

While there, the Shafias were told their missing Nissan had been discovered at the lock and that there appeared to be a dead body inside.

“Only one?” Ms. Yahya responded.


So help me God, I laughed out loud.
posted by dhartung at 12:30 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know if his thesis is correct, but it's at least worth thinking about. Some of the early comments in this thread didn't evince much thinking.

That may well be the case, but one can hardly blame the commenters here; that piece was so shockingly poorly constructed that my neurons blacked out in protest, and are dragging their heels in coming back online. Either that, or I really must be thicker than I had feared. The half-hour I just spent engaging with a pro-Santorum fundie over in the HotAir comments seemed an exhibition of elevated discourse in comparison. I am upset with myself that I read the whole thing. What a pretentious wanker, at least shake a lamb's tail in the direction of clarity if you want others to read your output.
posted by amorphatist at 12:34 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Instead of completely abandoning God or taking a leap of faith back to the "mystery" of God; instead of those opposite choices, God has been kept around as a manservant to the Id.

Only now he gets to serve your Id, as opposed to the Id of some other male authority figure.
posted by clarknova at 1:03 AM on February 6, 2012


... if science increasingly erodes its last refuges (the beginnings of a deterministic theory of human behaviour might be doing that already) then where do we go for value?

The deterministic theory of human behavior is itself a value. If you spend a lot of time around scientists (which I do, as it happens) you quickly realize that while research is often broadly useful, it certainly isn't a rational enterprise clearing away the irrational to get to the essential "truth" of human nature. It's the nexus of people-with-preexisting-values, corporate money, university money, anxieties over prestige, the pressures of already-existing social desires, and a list of other stuff. As a result, the questions you ask and the way you frame them mean that your results are always only sorta useful, sorta meaningful, and they always leave out quite a lot of important stuff.

Determinism is an ideology, and one that has not, historically, been all that great. It's the equivalent of "but how can I know if I'm just a brain in a vat and the world is a really, really sophisticated simulation"?

Behavioral determinism, I expect, will be used to justify a lot of really grotesque, inhumane stuff on the grounds that "that's how people act"...a sort of tautological morality. We can't give medical care to the poor because insurance is a moral hazard and people are incapable of appropriate use of medical care; we can't stop bullying because humans are born to bully; we can't ask people to make conscious appropriate moral choices because science shows that our inaccessible, unchangeable unconscious has already made every choice before the conscious mind gets involved (and of course, we'll narrate that as though the unconscious is at the same time in total control of the human and totally impervious to change.) Oh, there will be goddamn singing telegrams about behavioral determinism and the wonderful ways in which it lets us off the hook for human suffering....

Nobody ever, as the poet said, talks about "human nature" unless they want to do something that they're afraid will look inhumane.
posted by Frowner at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Belief in God has always so often been blatantly "narcissistic" in its own right that I really don't get the bigger point of this whole line of analysis.

I mean, let's face it: most believers' conception of God is nothing more than of a giant, all powerful idealized version of themselves that confirms all their existing biases and offers the implied promise that, one day, anyone who's ever crossed them or disagreed with them will get the comeuppance they "deserve."

That's why so many believers are so certain of their moral beliefs and values and seldom ever consider the possibility that God might not agree with them, personally, on a matter of moral judgment.

For most, God is just a way of passing the buck for their own moral responsibility and for adding a great big supernatural imprimatur to their own human moral judgments to give themselves an excuse for holding fast to those views even in the face of contradictory evidence (while also conveniently dismissing any actual, immediate harm those beliefs cause others).

Odds are, if you are convinced beyond any doubt that you are on the right side of God and "understand" God's design enough to act as a proxy for God in the world, then your conception of God is really just a great big honking, super-powered projection of your own identity and nothing more.

The Last Psychiatrist seems to want to hold that it was not always thus--that belief in God, in some idealized past, offered some inherent alternative to narcissism. But look at the Crusades (did all those Knights who quested for the grail really seek God's glorification or their own? What was manifest destiny if not ultimately a narcissistic belief in the superiority of one's own culture?). Look at the history of belief in God: In many cases (including the Abrahamic traditions), faiths literally begin with the idea that the believers belong to a special class of people that God has chosen to rule over all others; it's narcissism all the way down, and probably always has been for most people, in a more honest accounting of the thing.

I guess what I'm saying is The Last Psychiatrist is wrong to think we've just now begun "enslaving God" to our IDs. God has always functioned as a projection of the ID--whether collectively or individually--for most people. That's not unique to contemporary belief.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


My eyes glazed over at the repeated use of Freudian Id, Ego, and Superego.

And the argument from Nietzsche. The moral argument for god is unconvincing for me because 1) that a transcendental god makes philosophical problems easier doesn't say much about its existence, and 2) a transcendental god underlying morality actually doesn't make those problems much easier.

It doesn't strike me as any more absurd to say that certain principles are axiomatic, than it is to say that certain principles are axiomatic because god exists. I'll certainly cop to the fact that my deontology requires a small leap of faith, but not that large of one. After all, the fact that the foundational truth of mathematics is a matter for debate doesn't change the way I calculate my tax returns.

It strikes me that the people most likely to use Nietzsche in support of an argument for atheistic anomie themselves reject Nietzsche's conclusions regarding the viability of traditional belief systems. So there's a definite "do as I say, but not as I do" dynamic going on there. I'm not convinced that Nietzsche gets the last word here.

I suspect that moral doubt isn't a bad thing if it encourages people to think, "wait a minute, I could be wrong in doing this." A surfeit of moral certainty is also a factor in many forms of violent crime.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are many excuses given to male violence.
It affects all women, in all religions; in all cultures.
The media loves to glorify and romanticize it.
Take away all the excuses – all you have is a man and the choices he has made.
posted by what's her name at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2012


I did not understand the need for Roman numerals. I clicked to a review of the movie The Descendents and then, because of the Three Act Structure, was confused by why The Last Psychiatrist saw it as predictable in its "Act Four."
posted by steinsaltz at 9:19 AM on February 6, 2012


The author of this piece also uses some spectacularly bad logic:

No offense, but that is usually par for the course.

This guy thinks he has a way with words but instead is kind of full of himself and does not prove his point - to me, at least.

...

I began to notice that when he spoke of issues I had more than passing knowledge of his analysis was just awful. It's mostly profoundly spoken banalities.


Ah, I've always been amazed that this site has so many fans, but perhaps that worm has turned.

Belief in God has always so often been blatantly "narcissistic" in its own right that I really don't get the bigger point of this whole line of analysis.

Well put.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2012


I think it's a bit simplistic to say that belief in god makes no difference to one's moral views. Strictly speaking, and from a logical point of view, that's perfectly correct. But the reality is that belief in god usually comes as part of a "package" of beliefs that together provide a "system" of morality and purpose, which as a whole breathes meaning into individual lives. This, I think, is why religious faith is so important to many people. It provides clarity and order to their moral universe, for better and worse.
posted by smorange at 5:35 PM on February 6, 2012


Moral argument? This thread needs some Euthyphro.
posted by simen at 6:45 PM on February 6, 2012


« Older Tarquin Blake photographs...  |  Two years before The Name of t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments