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Do little people go to heaven?
November 10, 2004 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Do little people go to heaven? ...The scientists who have come up with these new Floresians do not count them among the ancestors of man, but among the collateral branches which died out, like the Neanderthals, only later. The suggestion is that the Floresians are, like us, rational animals. Now Christians believe that man (I mean homo, of course, not vir) is a special creation of God. Would these Floresians be in the image and likeness of God too, with immortal souls to be saved or lost, capable of praying to God and going to heaven? asks Christopher Howse.
posted by y2karl (89 comments total)

 
Of course they don't go to heaven, they are Hobbits and will follow Gandalf and the elves over the seas one day.
posted by sebas at 11:00 AM on November 10, 2004


Their bones were placed there by Satan to make the devout ask this question.
posted by xammerboy at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2004


Why the hell shouldn't these homunculi have immortal souls to be saved or lost? Why should the discovery of Florians present any special challenge to Christian theology? It's not dissimilar to the 15th century discovery of America, when Old World theologians had to decide whether the native savages had immortal souls, and quickly determined that, indeed, they did. Why shouldn't God have had a plan for these little buggers? We're not talking about some Marvel Comics hero with strictly delimited powers. We're talking about God, who can (it says in the Bible), make chosen people out of the stones underfoot, if he wants.
posted by Faze at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2004


Ugh, this debate was held many a year ago. Remember the New World?

Basically as soon as they came over, more or less, the Spanish said "Oh good slave labor!" and the Catholic Church said "Nope, you can't enslave people like that." Then there are various theological debates on whether these natives were really people -- if not they could be property like livestock. I don't have the actual theological discussions in front of me, but it basically came down to that they possessed self-awareness, had a civilization, of course they're human.

But we all know there existed a loophole, that you could enslave a population you're at war with (I believe this dates back to the Spaniards and Moors). So they enslaved the Africans (not the natives of America) who were technically citizens/residents of Portugal along the Ivory Coast. It was cheap and the Church ended up condemning it.

But that's not the entire point. The point is that this debate was held with Native Americans ("savages") eons ago. It's been awhile since I learned this so please correct me if my facts are wrong.
posted by geoff. at 11:09 AM on November 10, 2004


Yeah. As a Christian, I can't think of any reason why these Floresians wouldn't have the same spiritual status as everybody else.
posted by unreason at 11:13 AM on November 10, 2004


Christ almighty dude, you don't need to excerpt the thing in the TITLE tag and fuck up the whole look of the site with some browsers. If we want to read it, we'll click on the link.
posted by xmutex at 11:26 AM on November 10, 2004


Would these Floresians be in the image and likeness of God too, with immortal souls to be saved or lost, capable of praying to God and going to heaven?

I'm gonna have to say no, simply because I'm an atheist.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2004


God cannot speak any language or have a penis. Both incredibly fallible... made in his image my ass. YAWN. wake up world.
posted by Satapher at 11:34 AM on November 10, 2004


does god take dumps?
posted by Satapher at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2004


They'll only go to heaven if we start praying for their little souls now. So, please - tonight, light a candle and deliver them unto our lord.
posted by seanyboy at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2004


Since God created everything only 6,000 years ago this story/find is obviously false and a creation of the reality-based community to help Satan plant doubts about my faith.

Things have changed here in JeebusLand and this will no longer be tolerated.

Get thee behind me!
posted by nofundy at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2004


This is just elegantly written fluff, which struck my fancy. If there is a God and there are immortal souls--both concepts still open questions to me--I would think the little people would have immortal souls, too. In any case, I just am not so sure about human beings.

I must admit, too, that I am a little troubled by the implication in the article that my cat may not.
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2004


I thought all non-Christians were stuck in Limbo or Pergatory or something. Or was it just the outer circle of Hell?
posted by me3dia at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2004


y2karl -- Cats do not have souls. They have something almost as good. They are cats.
posted by Faze at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2004


Funny, it wasn't religion I first thought of when I heard about the little fellahs. But that it would bring a wondrously difficult problem to the animal ethics debate.
posted by ed\26h at 12:11 PM on November 10, 2004


I have to agree with nofundy. These people could not have existed as the world is only a few thousand years old according to bible believers. The bones must have been made by elaborate hoxers in order to make Christians question their faith. Faux people can't go to heaven, of course.
posted by terrapin at 12:12 PM on November 10, 2004


Fossil evidence, please? Bones? Until scientists adequately explain the massive fossil gaps, and go beyond merely making grand conjectures off of scarce evidences, I'm not sold on all this macroevolution jabber. Especially because I find the Bible trustworthy.

As a side note, I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.
posted by aaronshaf at 12:13 PM on November 10, 2004


Just how many angels was it again that could dance on the head of a pin?
posted by caddis at 12:26 PM on November 10, 2004


Listen, aaronshaf, get your thinking right, or I'll eat the moon again, like I did couple of weeks ago! Boooga!
posted by majcher at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2004


I don't think this situation is quite analagous to the New World situation described above. Let's see if we can formulate a better picture of the argument.

1. God has a special relationship with man. See Genesis, Chapter 2.

2. Floresians are not men.

3. Floresians have character traits that the Bible claims are unique to men.

4. If Floresians have traits God claims are unique to men, then the nature of God's relationship with man, as portrayed in the Bible, is false.

Conclusion: The nature of God's relationship to man, as portrayed in the Bible, is false.

Thoughts?
posted by cohappy at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2004


I think this is really something of a mountain out of a molehill. The only people who would be theologically challenged by this are the fundies, who never listen to the facts anyway. I don't think any mainline Christians are going to be at all disturbed by this.
posted by unreason at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2004


does god take dumps?

Hoy shit, how can you doubt such a thing?
posted by Ayn Marx at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2004



Just how many angels was it again that could dance on the head of a pin?


usually it's around 1,000,000, but far fewer if they're break dancing.
posted by Ayn Marx at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2004


As a side note, I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.

Wait, what?
posted by cmonkey at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2004


Now, I'm assuming that most Christians will have problems with (3), by counter-arguing something to the extent of "There are no beings that have character traits that the bible claims are unique to men".

Think about how strong a claim that is...
posted by cohappy at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2004


2. Floresians are not men.

This is a questionable point. This logic only hold if our definition and God's definition of humanity are the same. By our modern day definitions, they are not men. That may not be the case spiritually speaking. If Christianity recognizes them as men, then there is no inherent contradiction. A Christian definition of humanity is elusive, but personally I'd say it has to do with whether the Floresians were capable of making real moral decisions, which is something we don't really know. It'd be interesting if we could find out somehow.
posted by unreason at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2004


I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.

[blinks]

What a non-sequitor.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:48 PM on November 10, 2004


I think that bit of aaronshaf's post ("I find it absolutely amazing...") is vital to understanding his mindset.

In A's mind, ethics/morality and Christianity are one and the same. You can not have a moral or ethical code if you are not of his faith. Because you believe the theory of evolution explains how Man came to be, you literally can not hold ethical opinions in aaron's eyes.

That's how I'm reading it, anyway. I'm hoping he comes back into the thread and adequately explains his statement, which I find absolutely surreal when read at face value.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2004


> By our modern day definitions, they are not men.

I think that's loose talk. They aren't Homo sapiens sapiens, but generally anything in the genus Homo, that is anything from Homo habilis onward, is considered "man" by physical anthropologists.
posted by jfuller at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2004


but generally anything in the genus Homo, that is anything from Homo habilis onward, is considered "man" by physical anthropologists.

Now I see it. You people are so against God that your "scientists" are saying something worse than we are descended from monkeys: Y'all are saying that man evolved from homos! Y'all are disgusting and I will continue to homeschool my sons Rusty Wallace Curley and The Rock Curley. Vonda Mae Curley will not be taught to read because she will never marry if she becomes too smart.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:13 PM on November 10, 2004


Fossil evidence, please? Bones? Until scientists adequately explain the massive fossil gaps, and go beyond merely making grand conjectures off of scarce evidences.

Or, instead of using scare evidence, you could keep using a 2000 year old book.
posted by Cyrano at 1:14 PM on November 10, 2004


> Because you believe the theory of evolution explains how Man came to be,
> you literally can not hold ethical opinions in aaron's eyes.

I'd like a piece of that. If ethical assertions aren't based on commands received from an infallible supreme being then the only other thing they can be based on is personal intuitions (or cultural tradition, which ultimately traces back to personal intuitions) and I can't see how one person's intuition (e.g. "The Golden Rule is best.") can claim to be privileged over another's ("What's best is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women.") In which case ethics reduces to your being able to shout louder than me or having a bigger stick, which is not what people generally mean by "ethics."

If ethical statements don't derive from divine command then are they, in the last analysis, arbitrary and baseless? In that case aaronshaf is right (assuming he's picked the right Supreme Being.) But if they're not arbitrary and baseless, yet they aren't of divine origin, what supports them? Where does their authority come from?
posted by jfuller at 1:23 PM on November 10, 2004


cohappy, what traits does the bible claim are unique to men, and which of these traits did Floresians share with us?
posted by Doug at 1:30 PM on November 10, 2004


I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.

What a non-sequitor.

Not at all. It reminds me of the textbook on evolution that was at the root of the Scopes trial. It said things like this:

"At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure... highest type of all, the caucasians [are] represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.

When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand.... The science of being well born is called eugenics.... If such people [the immoral and inferior] were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.
"

This is what the scopes trial was about. The desire to keep this sort of teaching material in our schools.

In A's mind, ethics/morality and Christianity are one and the same. You can not have a moral or ethical code if you are not of his faith. Because you believe the theory of evolution explains how Man came to be, you literally can not hold ethical opinions in aaron's eyes.

On preview: jfuller said this better than I did. But perhaps another perspective will make the issue more clear.

I don't want to speak for aaronshaf, but I can guess at his point. People transitioning from the background Christian faith of their culture to modern religious skepticism generally have a problem with Christian faith, because it cannot be "proved". But liberalism's belief in human equality cannot be "proved", either. It's an article of faith. So if you've already thrown off one article of faith (Christianity) in favor of materialistic evolution, it's fairly natural to throw off the other article of faith (equality) at the same time.

Now, when a mechanic sees a broken lawnmower, does he respect the dignity of the lawnmower? Or does he try to fix it? For a mechanist, who does not make the leap of faith to blind belief in the axiom of equality, humanity is broken. The good of the whole (this is another article of faith, but one less easily thrown off, for vaious reasons) can be best served by "pruning the garden". Thus, for historical and somewhat logical reasons, eugenics is the bastard child of materialism.
posted by gd779 at 1:31 PM on November 10, 2004


jfuller - You are right - it is turtles all the way down.

Anyway, isn't aaronshaf just being sarcastic?
posted by caddis at 1:38 PM on November 10, 2004


Yeah, I thought aaronshaf was making a joke. A very funny one, in fact.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:50 PM on November 10, 2004


Just about the first thing I thought of when I first heard of this discovery was religion (well not the first thing, because the first thing was "if this is real, this is great", and so far it looks like it is).

Not so much the souls issue. But their place in the archaelogical record. I can't even imagine how creationists could begin to explain.

I didn't mention it, because i have no wish to be involved in an argument with the intransigent.
posted by devon at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2004


As a side note, I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.


And I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of this so-called "theory of gravity" aren't putting it into action by pushing people out of windows of skyscrapers. Or that proponents of "Ohm's Law" aren't causing current to flow through all objects by applying voltage to them. After all, these scientific so-called "principles" tell them that falling to earth and flow of electrical current are the natural order of things, and so they must impose this order on everything they see!
posted by CrunchyFrog at 1:52 PM on November 10, 2004


Putting aside the controversial aspect of religion, imagine how awesome it would be if we could find out more about them. I don't know if there's any truth to it, but some were saying that there are legends of "little people" in this part of the world. Wouldn't it be incredible if we could meet them? Maybe we'd find that they're not as different from us as we'd think.
posted by unreason at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2004


Well said, CrunchyFrog! You got to the heart of the misunderstanding, there. The sort of things that gd779 references in his quote above are dead relics of Victorian thinking. The twentieth century pretty effectively killed any claims for a moral system based on "the natural order".

Aside from that, there's plenty of moral philosophy, from Kant onwards, that addresses the establishment of a moral order in the absence of divine dictate. I'm not particularly well versed in moral philosophy, and am therefore in no position to argue the finer points, but those of you in this thread who are suggesting that the only option to religious morality is relativistic nihilism are being a bit disingenuous, don't you think?

One more point: I would argue that systems of religious morality are just as arbitrary and subjective as any other moral systems. After all, religious law is governed not merely by ancient sacred texts, but by modern authorities interpreting those texts and by revelation as experienced by individuals. jfuller says "I can't see how one person's intuition...can claim to be privileged over another's". Similarly, I can't see how one person's divine revelation can claim to be privileged over another's. Even if we accept the existence of divine law, we live in a world of mortal men, and the law can operate in this world only through their interpretation, intuition, and revelation. We can see this in practice: on no controversial moral question today are all Christian religious authorities universally united. If we accept the existence of an absolute, objective, divine law, either some of these authorities are intentionally deceiving their followers or their relationship to the divine is flawed. Either way, we have no tools but human logic and our own best judgement with which to distinguish them. Which is just how it works in the secular humanist world.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:18 PM on November 10, 2004


Wait, what year is this again? For reasons which are as yet apparently inconcievable to many of our primitive brains, the people of the future will look as us and laugh their tits off.
posted by chrid at 2:24 PM on November 10, 2004


Or to give it more weight than the comment diserves:

Evidence from molecular genetics suggests that there is more variance within ethnic populations than between them. Therefore, from an evolutionary point of view, American divisions of race are more political than biological.

And to expand on CrunchyFrog's statement, quite a few theories in science have little or no relevance to deciding ethical questions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2004


?

So if you've already thrown off one article of faith (Christianity) in favor of materialistic evolution, it's fairly natural to throw off the other article of faith (equality) at the same time.

I have come to the conclusion that evolution provides the best explanation for the existence of human beings. I find that evolutionary theory makes sense on a simple mathematical basis, and I find that mathematics seems to provide an excellent foundation for a lot of scientific (logical) thought.

I've come to the conclusion that equality serves the best interests of the human race because it takes us a step toward global peace and a reduction in suffering. Again, I find this makes sense on a mathematical basis: less suffering equals a greater ability to propagate the species. I can't see us surviving as a species if we don't all pull together.

I fail to see any need for faith or religion to come to these conclusions. Evolution is right. Equality is right.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:32 PM on November 10, 2004


You're going to be told that accepting empirical materialism is an act of faith, now.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2004


Does God take dumps?

Well, you're here...

/here all week
posted by emelenjr at 3:05 PM on November 10, 2004


I have come to the conclusion that evolution provides the best explanation for the existence of human beings.

As have I, if it makes any difference.

I find that mathematics seems to provide an excellent foundation for a lot of scientific (logical) thought.

What, precisely, do you mean by "makes sense"?

How do you determine which thoughts are true and which are false?

And what, precisely, do you mean by "excellent foundation"?

I've come to the conclusion that equality serves the best interests of the human race because it takes us a step toward global peace and a reduction in suffering.

And why is that good? Seriously. Oh, because...

less suffering equals a greater ability to propagate the species. I can't see us surviving as a species if we don't all pull together.

And why is that a "good" thing?

there's plenty of moral philosophy, from Kant onwards, that addresses the establishment of a moral order in the absence of divine dictate.

Yeah, but from what I can see, none of it stands up to close scrutiny.

Evidence from molecular genetics suggests that there is more variance within ethnic populations than between them. Therefore, from an evolutionary point of view, American divisions of race are more political than biological.

Right. So in light of modern science, we won't kill the blacks or the Jews after all; We'll only kill the crippled, the stupid, the chronically infirm, and the mentally ill.
posted by gd779 at 3:07 PM on November 10, 2004


all of aaronshafs posts here are pre-written. he is a bot, at best.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:10 PM on November 10, 2004


those of you in this thread who are suggesting that the only option to religious morality is relativistic nihilism are being a bit disingenuous, don't you think?

Is there an alternative that can withstand critical scrutiny? If so, I don't see it. Please, show me what I'm missing. If you can prove me wrong, I'll be very happy.
posted by gd779 at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2004


ohh, this one should be fun.

Their bones were placed there by Satan to make the devout ask this question.

Life is suffering to the Buddhist. Life is Jihad to the Muslim. Life is a Battle Against Satan for the Baptist.

The question must be asked if one wishes for an answer. If the answer comes before the question, how can one know what it means?

42.

Hence, questioning is good. Satan is a wiley foe, but can be used as a tool for learning. The Devil's Advocate [Accused's Lawyer] is needed for judgement. Not everyone can win all the time.
-----
The twentieth century pretty effectively killed any claims for a moral system based on "the natural order".

The 21st might not. But I do have to ask what you mean by 'natural'. The CrunchyFrog said what was natural, and this seems like a good natural order on which to build a moral system. All else that is needed is the duct tape of metaphor.

I'm not particularly well versed in moral philosophy, and am therefore in no position to argue the finer points, but those of you in this thread who are suggesting that the only option to religious morality is relativistic nihilism are being a bit disingenuous, don't you think?

There is a balanced middle path that can appreciate both extremes, I would hope.

One more point: I would argue that systems of religious morality are just as arbitrary and subjective as any other moral systems.

I would disagree.

After all, religious law is governed not merely by ancient sacred texts, but by modern authorities interpreting those texts and by revelation as experienced by individuals.

This is why I would disagree. The whole point of the 'revival', and even of Strauss' philosophy, is torewrite the sacred texts with something that works better. Such is where they have gained their power. Derrida showed how to tear them into parts. Intuition knows how to put them back together for today's world. Hence it is more based on the experience of individuals than you may realize, IMHO.

Even if we accept the existence of divine law, we live in a world of mortal men, and the law can operate in this world only through their interpretation, intuition, and revelation.

What do you mean by 'divine'? I read about math and I read of words of divinity. I see ratios and proportions defined as such. Transcendental things beyond imagining, but useful for day to day tasks.

And what do you mean by 'law'? Are the law built upon the way we act? Or are they built upon the way we would like to think we act?

We can see this in practice: on no controversial moral question today are all Christian religious authorities universally united. If we accept the existence of an absolute, objective, divine law, either some of these authorities are intentionally deceiving their followers or their relationship to the divine is flawed.

Or maybe they just mean different things by 'divine' at different times?

Either way, we have no tools but human logic and our own best judgement with which to distinguish them. Which is just how it works in the secular humanist world.

hehe. Words are so simple: Them::(interpretation, intuition, and revelation) == You:: (perception, logic, judgement).
posted by wah at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2004


Also, as to 'do little people go to heaven'...

It is the large and massive that are slow to accelerate. It is the fat and complacent that are in danger. They are the ones that get left behind.

Light always passes at light speed.
posted by wah at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2004


Yeah, but from what I can see, none of it stands up to close scrutiny.

Yeah, but neither does theological moral philosophy. So here we are.

We'll only kill the crippled, the stupid, the chronically infirm, and the mentally ill.

Will you please stop arguing against the eugenics strawman? No one has seriously advocated that stuff for over 80 years. Even Richard Fucking Dawkins advocates a morality that transcends the limits of biological reality, rather than being ruled by them.

Is there an alternative that can withstand critical scrutiny? If so, I don't see it. Please, show me what I'm missing. If you can prove me wrong, I'll be very happy.

OK; This is rare: you're about to see someone admit to an intellectual weakness in the midst of an online argument. Unlike you, I have not mastered the moral philosophy of the past 300 years. I'm sure if I had, I would be able to make a sweeping, summary dismissal of it all.

But religious moral philosophy gets dismissed right along with it, as it doesn't withstand critical scrutiny.

Words are so simple: Them::(interpretation, intuition, and revelation) == You:: (perception, logic, judgement).

Well, yeah. That was my point.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:22 PM on November 10, 2004


Please, show me what I'm missing. If you can prove me wrong, I'll be very happy.

You are missing the proof. How can it be shown to you if you must assume it, and choose not to?

Yes, it would make you happy.

Such is its awesome power.

---
[Well, yeah. That was my point.]

either some of these authorities are intentionally deceiving their followers or their relationship to the divine is flawed.

There is a third possibility that it is merely your relationship to them which is at the root of the creation of chaos.
posted by wah at 3:37 PM on November 10, 2004


gd779: Right. So in light of modern science, we won't kill the blacks or the Jews after all; We'll only kill the crippled, the stupid, the chronically infirm, and the mentally ill.

Another non-sequetor since we were not talking about killing anyone, just who gets to ride at the front of the bus.

But you are correct in that evolution really does not really answer the question of how society should treat people with disabilities. That is left up to ethics. Feynman had an interesting observation that while the sciences can describe how to deliver safe drinking water to poor neighborhoods in Brazil, it can't provide the political will to actually lay down a pipeline.

Is there an alternative that can withstand critical scrutiny? If so, I don't see it. Please, show me what I'm missing. If you can prove me wrong, I'll be very happy.

The problem is, religious law falls apart under the most flimsy of scrutiny. To go back to the earlier question of who rides in the back of the bus, Christianity can be read, and was read as supporting both sides of the issue. Then you run into the problem of why Chistianity and not Buddhism, Islam, Paganism, or Confucism?

By all means, I agree that pretty much all moral philosophy is built on at least one axiom that we call good without being able to prove it good. That does not mean that all such axioms are created equal. For example, "god exists," seems to be a lot more problematic than "samsara exists." Samsara at least does not have to deal with the problem of evil that plagues omnipotent and omniscient lawgiving deities.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2004


* "samsara" is the core principle of Buddhist thought and really does not translate well. Sometimes I see it as "suffering" but given that extreme fortune and pleasure is also samsara, that's not a good translation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:56 PM on November 10, 2004


By all means, I agree that pretty much all moral philosophy is built on at least one axiom that we call good without being able to prove it good.

Yes, and most of it also includes an evil we must assume to prove the good. Neither axiom can be assumed without the other.

It is a divine 'relationship of two' that can be safely assumed.
posted by wah at 3:59 PM on November 10, 2004


Then you run into the problem of why Chistianity and not Buddhism, Islam, Paganism, or Confucism?

Which brings us back to relativistic nihilism, doesn't it?

Contrary to what you and mr_roboto seem to be assuming, I'm not advocating Christian faith. I'm advocating relativistic nihilism. And I'm advocating a recognition of the fact that an axiom is an axiom: you cannot possibly have a way of "judging" an axiom because, if you did, it wouldn't be an axiom.

As far as I can rationally see, all moral systems (from "let's kill all the jews" to "let's give food to the hungry") are indistinguishable. Similarly, all worldviews (from atheistic materialism to Christian fundamentalism) are rationally indistinguishable. You can no more "prove" one right and the other wrong than you can "prove" Euclidian geometry right and non-Euclidian geometry wrong.
posted by gd779 at 4:02 PM on November 10, 2004


I am, however, still looking for a way forward; a reason to believe knowledge is attainable through some means other than faith. But I don't see it.
posted by gd779 at 4:04 PM on November 10, 2004


You can no more "prove" one right and the other wrong than you can "prove" Euclidian geometry right and non-Euclidian geometry wrong.

True, but you can, quite easily, prove which is more effective in any given situation.

Evolution and all that.
posted by wah at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2004


True, but you can, quite easily, prove which is more effective in any given situation.

That's pragmatism, which is completely intellectually defensible primarily because it makes almost no claims. Which would be fine, actually, except that it provides no real guidance when you're trying to make a difficult choice. The result is that most people (including me) find it completely unfulfilling and unworkable, which means that it fails it's own test for truth.
posted by gd779 at 4:10 PM on November 10, 2004


I think the intuition that it's bad to murder someone is based on something stronger than the intuition that blue is a prettier color than red. All intuition is not equal.

I look at things in terms of survivability - is ethical position X one that is going to contribute to, or detract from, the survival of the group practicing it?

Keep in mind, taking the ethical position that it's okay to stomp on other people (kill them | make them sit at the back of the bus) opens you up to some furious attacks from the downtrodden.
posted by beth at 4:15 PM on November 10, 2004


There's always aesthetics...


And isn't faith itself sort of an ouroboros? It becomes a reasonable means to attain knowledge only if you have faith that it is a reasonable means to attain knowledge. That's self-consistent, I suppose, but ultimately unsatisfying.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:17 PM on November 10, 2004


language and logic; malleable and misleading.
posted by Satapher at 4:23 PM on November 10, 2004


isn't faith itself sort of an ouroboros? It becomes a reasonable means to attain knowledge only if you have faith that it is a reasonable means to attain knowledge. That's self-consistent, I suppose, but ultimately unsatisfying.

The advantage of accepting faith is that it allows reason to get started. Given an axiom, reason can churn out the conclusions. Without an axiom, reason can't say anything at all about the world. So if you're doing any reasoning at all, you necessarily have an article of irrational faith down at the bottom. You may not be looking at it, is all.
posted by gd779 at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2004


I look at things in terms of survivability - is ethical position X one that is going to contribute to, or detract from, the survival of the group practicing it?

Doesn't that imply that it's okay to kill someone and take their money as long as you can get away with it? Is that really all that makes murder "wrong"?
posted by gd779 at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2004


Which would be fine, actually, except that it provides no real guidance when you're trying to make a difficult choice.

There is no real guidance only if you doubt the reality of the guidance of others. Each and everything that has happened most likely happened to someone else first. They figured out "better" ways to deal with it. Over time. Practice and Memory.

That's self-consistent, I suppose, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Yes, the donkey is steady, but solid. It is merely a matter of keeping our burro's pointing in the same direction, despite the inevitable spinning of life.
posted by wah at 4:28 PM on November 10, 2004


As far as I can rationally see, all moral systems (from "let's kill all the jews" to "let's give food to the hungry") are indistinguishable. Similarly, all worldviews (from atheistic materialism to Christian fundamentalism) are rationally indistinguishable

If you really believe you can kill someone and it would make no difference, why dont you do so?

Its not just rhetorical. I'll answer it. You, just by virtue of being alive, are the descendant of a long, long line of survivors. You've inherited their instincts.

Lets be honest and admit that most people don't consider moral propositions and complex axioms unless they happen to be caught in a state of indecision. For most people, instinct is our guide. Having formed our instincts and prejudices we then look to rationalize them but thats post-facto. I'm good because it feels good to be good, it feels right and beautiful and true, including helping others. Thats it. All the rest is philosophical games.

My mothers church is full of people I consider everything from scoundrels to true saints. A uniform doctrine, which their pastor preaches to them every Sunday, does very little to ensure any kind of consistency of action.
posted by vacapinta at 4:33 PM on November 10, 2004


The advantage of accepting faith is that it allows reason to get started. Given an axiom, reason can churn out the conclusions.

But now you've defined faith down to meaninglessness. If it's merely an act of logical judo that allows us to accept a fundamental axiom, then we're no further along than we were when we had nothing but these indistinguishable axioms laid out dumbly before us.

Without an axiom, reason can't say anything at all about the world.

Yes, of course. But that's already inherent in the concept of an "axiom": an axiom is that which is taken without proof. You're using "faith" here as a word to describe, shall we say, the process of axiomization. Which is fine, but I don't see how it provides any direction.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:34 PM on November 10, 2004


Is that really all that makes murder "wrong"?

Have you ever felt a knife that didn't cut you? A cold you didn't get? A bomb that didn't blow you up? A moat that wasn't wet?

Have you ever not been a bat? What did it feel like...to NOT be here? To not know of pain and death?

Did they matter to us then? Do they matter to us....mow?
posted by wah at 4:34 PM on November 10, 2004


Doesn't that imply that it's okay to kill someone and take their money as long as you can get away with it? Is that really all that makes murder "wrong"?

Er, no. People who use too much violence usually (sometimes? often enough, anyway) get some kind of severe negative consequence that results in passing on their genes less often than those who don't.

There's more to it though, but I'll just stop here and say vacapinta nailed what I was thinking and said it much better than I could have.
posted by beth at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2004


People have had some interesting things to say here. For me, what comes to mind now is James Blish's A Case of Conscience

...The story concerns Father Ruiz-Sanchez, a Jesuit priest and life scientist, whose mission to the planet Lithia reveals a reptilian culture which follows the dictates of reason so precisely as to seem to duplicate Christian ethics. This would seem at first glance to be something marvelous and much to be desired. However, the "morality" of the Lithians raises troubling questions. First, how did they arrive at a perfect moral system without God to establish the Natural Law? Second, if their understanding of the correct course of action in all cases is determined by mechanical resort to reason, do they have Free Will? As the Father notes, the Lithians resemble nothing so much as Man before the Fall, prior to our eating of the Tree of Knowledge and learning of Good and Evil, prior to Satan intervening in Creation.

and the science fiction story about the Second Coming--by Arthur C. Clarke as I dimly remember--where He appears among an alien race on another planet and makes His covenant with them, having given up on the human race. If we ever encounter other intelligent beings, how will we know who are God's favorite people ? If His eye is on the sparrow, then how do we know the Floresians were not more favored than us ? Especially if they predate the Fall...
posted by y2karl at 4:41 PM on November 10, 2004


That's pragmatism, which is completely intellectually defensible primarily because it makes almost no claims. Which would be fine, actually, except that it provides no real guidance when you're trying to make a difficult choice

Wouldn't adhering to a pragmatist viewpoint then require you to define as a "difficult choice" only a situation that had not previously arisen? If the choice has been made before (for a result that's better or worse), any further iterations of the same choice would be easy.
posted by LionIndex at 4:48 PM on November 10, 2004


It is turtles, and it is turtles all the way down. jfuller got right all the way up near the top of this thing. Whatever moral system we may believe in is based either upon divine providence or on personal intuitions or the teachings of those who have gone before us, and these are based upon . . . and so it goes all the way down, one turtle balanced upon the back of another. Divine providence may break this chain, but then the question becomes whose driven providence. Is yours better than mine, or if we agree, how did we get there - either way its on the backs of turtles I say.

[I have to make the caveat that personally I have made that leap of faith and believe in God and Jesus, but I refuse to enter the debates such as the above about whether little people go to heaven or how many angels can dance upon the head of a pin.]

Regardless of how you feel about religion, either in general or about one religion or another, most religions have much to teach about how to negotiate the complications of life. Even if you are, as I, wedded to one of the religions or belief system, the rest still have something to teach. Nevertheless, dogmatic adherence to a particular belief, such as which leads to the angels and pins debate, sucks the life from such teachings and instead focuses energy upon the trappings of a religion rather than upon its core values.
posted by caddis at 5:40 PM on November 10, 2004


MetaFilter: where the underinformed disagree about things they don't understand.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on November 10, 2004


Yes fff, that is the first lesson of philosophy (and religion) "we do not understand yet we seek understanding."
posted by caddis at 6:00 PM on November 10, 2004


metafilter : where fivefreshfish knows more than you could ever comprehend, you fucking simpleton.
posted by Satapher at 9:06 PM on November 10, 2004


Yahweh was cooler when he was still a trickster God.
posted by thecaddy at 10:20 PM on November 10, 2004


Whatever moral system we may believe in is based either upon divine providence or on personal intuitions or the teachings of those who have gone before us....

"Divine providence?"

Pray, please do inform us of the "divine providence" that is based upon anything other than "personal intuitions" or "the teachings of those who have gone before us...."

Experience suffering. Vow to minimize suffering.

There lies enough morality to fill anyone's life, if not the universe -- and without need of the silly hypothesis of "divinity". Nor is our simple personal experience of pain based on "intuition" or kneeling at the feet of "teachers."
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:50 PM on November 10, 2004


Is there an alternative that can withstand critical scrutiny? If so, I don't see it. Please, show me what I'm missing. If you can prove me wrong, I'll be very happy.

While I’m not all that clear on what you mean by “withstand critical scrutiny”, yes, most moral theories have some sort of consistency or “logic versus intuition” related problems with them; but none more than religious ones.

Then you run into the problem of why Chistianity and not Buddhism, Islam, Paganism, or Confucism? / Which brings us back to relativistic nihilism, doesn't it?

It might if were accept that the only alternative to religious morality is nihilism, which is precisely the point at issue.

As far as I can rationally see, all moral systems (from "let's kill all the jews" to "let's give food to the hungry") are indistinguishable.

Well those two examples are not moral theories – they are just assertions. To say that all moral theories are indistinguishable seems really peculiar and needs some elucidation.

So if you're doing any reasoning at all, you necessarily have an article of irrational faith down at the bottom.

Well that is philosophically, highly questionable but even we are to accept it; dismissing everything we can know through reason because our most foundational knowledge may or may not be based on inferences to the best explanation (and even this is not “irrational faith”) looks like a bit of a perfectionism fallacy. Also, it seems ironic that you should try and “reason” as to why nihilism is the only alternative to a moral theory; failing one’s own truth test indeed.
posted by ed\26h at 2:04 AM on November 11, 2004


KirkJobSluder: "samsara" is the core principle of Buddhist thought and really does not translate well

Not really - 'samsara' is the great cycle of life, often shown as a wheel. The core principle of Buddhism is dukkha, which is usually translated as suffering (really it is the emotion(s) that is brought about by ignorant attachment to impermanent objects)
posted by daveg at 4:55 AM on November 11, 2004


Holy shit I want to email aaronshaf a picture of my taint.
posted by jon_kill at 6:50 AM on November 11, 2004


I find it absolutely amazing that proponents of evolution think its unethical for a society to force a minority to sit at the back of a bus.

That's because you mistake evolution for a moral theory. It's not -- not any more than a unified field theory would be a moral theory.
posted by lodurr at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2004


Experience suffering. Vow to minimize suffering.

There lies enough morality to fill anyone's life, if not the universe -- and without need of the silly hypothesis of "divinity".


Really? Okay.

Your existence annoys me; it is causing me suffering. Dead people don't exist, therefore they can't suffer, therefore killing you results in a decrease in suffering. Can I kill you?

No, you might reply, because it hurts to die.

Okay, then, I'll do it humanely. You won't feel a thing; you'll be unconscious; it'll be just like going to sleep. Now can I kill you?

I'm guessing you'll still have some objection. So, assuming for a moment that painless death causes some unspecified type of suffering:

Say you've got a man on trial for murder. You have determined that he is innocent. But the people believe he's guilty, and setting him free will spark a riot that will likely kill a dozen people or so. Do you set him free? Surely one life ended (or spent in prison) creates less suffering than dozens of lives ended by the riot? Isn't there some moral consideration in addition to suffering here?

Here's another question: what, precisely, do you mean by "suffering"? If I don't get to eat steak and lobster for dinner every day, am I suffering? Probably not, I'd guess you'd say, because I'm healthy and I have other foods I can eat.

What if my lover leaves me? Now am I suffering? Probably. But why? Nothing is physically, externally wrong with me.

What if not getting to eat steak and lobster every day leaves me miserable, just as miserable as I would be if my lover left me? Are those two types of suffering now equivalent to you? In other words, is it the internal perception of suffering that counts, or the external measure? Or is there some additional moral consideration that must be considered when weighing suffering?

You're a long, long way from having anything resembling a rationally defensible morality, fold_and_mutilate.

That's because you mistake evolution for a moral theory. It's not -- not any more than a unified field theory would be a moral theory.

In theory, you're quite right, but in practice (especially in the historical context), the point you're missing is that scientific theories frequently have moral implications, because they tend to increase or decrease support for one worldview vis-a-vis another.
posted by gd779 at 9:39 AM on November 11, 2004


Wouldn't adhering to a pragmatist viewpoint then require you to define as a "difficult choice" only a situation that had not previously arisen? If the choice has been made before (for a result that's better or worse), any further iterations of the same choice would be easy.

You're right, but only if you assume you know what a "good" outcome is. If my family is having financial trouble, can I steal from my employer? Well, to answer that question, you need to know whether it's "better" to leave your family unprovided for or to take money from someone else's family. How do you make that decision? Pragmatism provides no guidance. I don't see how doing it once and then facing the same situation again would change that, unless your only measure for a "good" outcome is how you are likely to feel after its over. In which case, pragmatism justifies serial killers.

Pragmatism answers all of the easy questions in life, but none of the really hard questions. As a moral philosophy, it fails precisely when you need it's guidance the most.

You're using "faith" here as a word to describe, shall we say, the process of axiomization. Which is fine, but I don't see how it provides any direction.

Neither do I.

Vacapinta, by the way, gets a gold star for the best comment in the thread.
posted by gd779 at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2004


I think I've seen the light now.

I'm off to murder a bunch of people, and then sit down to a steak and lobster dinner.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2004


gd779: I think I could deal with your last two posts without too much of a problem but you don’t seem eager to address me.

Let me know if you want to engage though – I’m keen.
posted by ed\26h at 1:30 AM on November 12, 2004


Let me know if you want to engage though – I’m keen.

Sure. Let's see what we've got here...

So if you're doing any reasoning at all, you necessarily have an article of irrational faith down at the bottom.

Well that is philosophically, highly questionable


How, exactly? Reason takes premises and churns out conclusions that are as reliable as the premises. If you ask why you rationally believe proposition X, you get proposition X-1. If you ask why you rationally believe that, you get proposition X-2. And down and down. Where do you get your first premise from? Not from reason, because then you would be reasoning from other premises to get to what you thought was your "first" premise. In which case, you have to ask: where did I get that premise from? And on and on, until you either accept something on faith or give up reasoning entirely.

If a proposition can't be rationally justified, then it must be an article of faith. Faith is "belief without rational proof"; an axiom is a proposition that is taken as true without proof; therefore I sometimes call these "faith commitments" axioms. The point is, they are absolutely necessary. There is no way to build a rational argument without them. Or am I missing something?

dismissing everything we can know through reason because our most foundational knowledge may or may not be based on inferences to the best explanation (and even this is not “irrational faith”) looks like a bit of a perfectionism fallacy.

As I said, reason takes premises and churns out conclusions that are as reliable as the initial premises. A conclusion is only as good as your premise. If your premise is wrong, even a little, then building extended chains of reasoning on top of it will leave you with conclusions that are wildly wrong. Reason gets you into insanity if you've got the wrong premises.

If there were a very small degree of variation between the "first premises" we could choose to take on faith, then refusal to accept conclusions drawn from one of those premises might be overly perfectionist. But that's not the case here. There is wild, unbelievable variation between rational premise and rational premise, with the expected level of variation between resulting conclusion and resulting conclusion. Either everything is an illusion, or nothing is, or some things are and others aren't. Either God exists and sends us to Heaven or Hell when we die, or God doesn't exist and we cease to exist at death, or many Gods exist. Either idealistic reason is the key source of knowledge, or subjective experience is, or objective experience is, or spiritual revelation is, or faith is, or nothing is. These conclusions aren't even remotely close to one another, and they all flow with equal logic or illogic from a different choice of first premises. Since none of the premises can be rationally distinguished (if they could be rationally distinguished, they wouldn't be premises), how can you call me a "perfectionist" when I say that certain knowledge is denied to us?

Perhaps this will make the point more clear. Many people here on MetaFilter are strongly opposed to the Intelligent Design and Creationist movements that oppose evolution. The "inference to the best explanation" is their key tool for defeating evolution and establishing Intelligent Design. The "inference to the best explanation" is only helpful if you have some criteria for what the "best" explanation is. If you get to establish that criteria, you can make anything you want the "best" explanation. And presumably what makes an explanation "best" is that it's most likely to be true, and how do you determine truth? You need a "first premise" for that. It's the same old battleground, just hidden a bit out of sight.

As far as I can rationally see, all moral systems (from "let's kill all the jews" to "let's give food to the hungry") are indistinguishable.

Well those two examples are not moral theories – they are just assertions.


A moral system is a series of moral assertions, right? An assertion is just another word for an unproven proposition. When an unproven proposition is believed on faith, it is called an axiom or a first premise. All moral systems, as far as I can see, are ultimately based on a series of unproved and unprovable assertions.

It might if were accept that the only alternative to religious morality is nihilism, which is precisely the point at issue.

I sense that you're drawing some distinction between "religious" and "non-religious" moral and philosophical systems. Why? And how? As I think I've shown, they are both ultimately based on faith. It's inescapable. And faith cannot be judged or rationally evaluated, because in order to evaluate a proposition you need to compare it to another proposition, and that just means you've substituted one "first premise" for another. At the end of the day, it's got to be faith. Non-religious morality is no better off on that count than religious morality; in fact, non-religious systems frequently require many more "faith committments" than equivalent religious systems, because they lack any belief in the transcendent.

So: what am I missing?
posted by gd779 at 7:05 AM on November 12, 2004


Well that is philosophically, highly questionable How, exactly?

What I mean is that within philosophy the issue is one that is still relatively disputed; not something that has been settled to any predominant degree either way.

If you ask why you rationally believe proposition X, you get proposition X-1. If you ask why you rationally believe that, you get proposition X-2. And down and down. Where do you get your first premise from?

Well, presumably you could start with a tautological analytic. A truth that does not require philosophical reflection or reasoned argument as it can be known a priori and due to its epistemic nature, cannot be false. To accept the truth of such a proposition without proving it through reasoned argument would certainly not be a simple leap of faith.

How can you call me a "perfectionist" when I say that certain knowledge is denied to us?

I don’t see how the fact that you propose such an idea would be problematic for my accusing you of having committed the perfectionism fallacy as the two are not mutually exclusive – in fact, I was suggesting that they are necessarily inclusive.

Even if I were to agree that philosophical optimism is unconditionally futile and concede that absolute knowledge cannot be obtained through reason alone, this does not mean that since we would have to rely on at least some indeterminate inference (I would not say “faith” as this seems to imply something that has been assumed with no evidence what so ever) in order to found our reasoning process that were are then no more rational than those who accept absolutely arbitrary faith-based beliefs. Obviously it is more rational to believe that water is comprised of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule than it is to believe it is comprised of cake or guts. To suggest that if we are not equipped with the luxury of absolute epistemic foundational certainty then any belief that we hold is just as dogmatic as any other is fairly clear exemplification of the perfectionist fallacy.

Many people here on MetaFilter are strongly opposed to the Intelligent Design and Creationist movements that oppose evolution. The "inference to the best explanation" is their key tool for defeating evolution and establishing Intelligent Design. The "inference to the best explanation" is only helpful if you have some criteria for what the "best" explanation is […]

I am under the impression that we do have criteria as to what the best explanation is. Obviously if we define it arbitrarily, let alone with different criteria for each specific case, then such a principle would indeed be of little worth in offering guidance as to the credibility and/or validity of that inference. But this is not the case. The “best explanation” is quite objectively the one that is least likely to be wrong as it relies on the fewest assumptions or other unreliable factors that are possibly erroneous.

[...] And presumably what makes an explanation "best" is that it's most likely to be true, and how do you determine truth?

I’m not precisely sure what you are asking here – presumably not the actual nature of truth – nor the actual, certain truth of the problem to which we have just inferred to the best explanation. If such a process was needed in order to try and solve the problem, it is then possible that we will be wrong; such is the nature of inductive knowledge. But if our explanation was genuinely the best (as per the above definition) of all those possible then we are less likely to be wrong than we would be by accepting any one of those others.

A moral system is a series of moral assertions, right?

Well obviously, when asking me to concede your very conclusion to begin with you would be able to convince me of that same conclusion – but this is not a valid argument.

An assertion is just another word for an unproven proposition. When an unproven proposition is believed on faith, it is called an axiom or a first premise. All moral systems, as far as I can see, are ultimately based on a series of unproved and unprovable assertions.

Again, if I were to accept that “first premise” actually means “unproven proposition” which consequentially means “assertion” then you would be able to show, quite easily, that you are right and all moral theories are simply collections of assertions. But you cannot ask me to accept your ultimate conclusion and then use that conclusion as a premise within its own argument. Besides, by stating that a first premise must exclusively be one that is “unproven” you seem to be trying to conjoin two propositions. Firstly than they have not been arrived at through reasoned argument and secondly that because of this, they are absolutely arbitrary; while it may be strictly true that an assertion that is analytic in nature has not been proven, it does not follow that it is in any way arbitrary or dogmatic. In the same way as it does not follow from the fact that an assertion has been arrived at through an inference to the best explanation that it is arbitrary. The former case does not require such a process in order to be known to be true with certainty and the latter, while possibly false, is the most likely to be true.

I sense that you're drawing some distinction between "religious" and "non-religious" moral and philosophical systems. Why? And how? As I think I've shown, they are both ultimately based on faith. It's inescapable. And faith cannot be judged or rationally evaluated, because in order to evaluate a proposition you need to compare it to another proposition, and that just means you've substituted one "first premise" for another. At the end of the day, it's got to be faith. Non-religious morality is no better off on that count than religious morality; in fact, non-religious systems frequently require many more "faith committments" than equivalent religious systems, because they lack any belief in the transcendent.

Unfortunately I’m not really sure what you mean with a lot of your final paragraph. It seems however, much of what it might be saying has been dealt with in the previously within this post. Also, it looks like you’re begging the question a third time by again relying on the idea that you are correct about there being no possible, non-dogmatic foundation to a reasoning process from which to begin, and since there isn’t, no line of reasoning which includes some element of indeterminate inference being rationally superior to any other; something that, however, is precisely the point at issue.
posted by ed\26h at 4:04 AM on November 15, 2004


ed, the distinction between analytic and synthetic cannot be upheld. See Qunie's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism". Efforts since Quine to restore the distinction have been hugely unsatisfactory. This seems to be one root of disagreement between us.

A second root of disagreement seems to be the validity of the "inference to the best explanation". You seem to hold some kind of Cartesian notion that if you can conceive of something clearly and distinctly, then it must be true, even if you can't explain why it's true. I say this because you have not and probably cannot lay out precise and justifiable criteria from which to judge which explanation is "best".

These two disgreements, combined, are why you think it's perfectly rational to either: 1) make an analytical statement your "first premise" or 2) make an inference to the best explanation based on observation. Am I right?

The “best explanation” is quite objectively the one that is least likely to be wrong as it relies on the fewest assumptions or other unreliable factors that are possibly erroneous.

This sounds like an empiricist talking, am I right? If so, first read Quine, above. Second, what justifies your faith that empirical observations are more likely to reflect the truth than, say, personal spiritual revelation or personal spiritual experience?

presumably you could start with a tautological analytic. A truth that does not require philosophical reflection or reasoned argument as it can be known a priori and due to its epistemic nature, cannot be false.

Can you give me an example of such an argument, that begins in something known to be true and ends in a statement about the real world?
posted by gd779 at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2004


I happened to be reading an exchange between Bertrand Russell and F.C. Copleston which I think makes clear my argument that analytic propositions, even if they exist, cannot possible be used as a "first premise".

Russell points out that only analytic propositions can be "necessary" propositions, and "analytic propositions are always complex and logically somewhat late. 'Irrational animals are animals' is an analytic proposition; but a proposition such as 'This is an animal' can never be analytic. In fact, all the propositions that can be analytic are somewhat late in the build-up of propositions."

I think this point is correct. Even if you can successfully uphold the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions, the only way to connect an analytic statement with the real world is by abstracting synthetic statements. You can't go the other way around, and use analytic propositions as the foundation of an argument that ends in a synthetic conclusion.

Hmm, maybe you're not an empiricist after all? On reflection, I'm not sure anymore.
posted by gd779 at 6:40 PM on November 15, 2004


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