Arguing with an Islamic Apologist
#13
Madhav,

Quote:However, all such cultures are the products of historical evolution.

By that I presume you mean all cultures evolve. This is a trivial observation. The idea of a cultural meme requires this as one of the premises.
Quote:The culture of the enlightenment in the West is a product of the historical circumstances surrounding it.
Of course!
Quote:The notion of "free speech" is a development from that culture.
Partly. All cultures contribute to such ideas over time, and the West has no monopoly over the marketplace of ideas today, even if it still has unduly large influence. The point of view that you are espousing comes form postcolonial theory which I am somewhat aware of. But the application of post-colonial theory here is wrong. This is why I saw a bit of post-modernist flavor in your arguments (but I agree that you are not a postmodernist).

Quote:In other words, you are saying certain things can have their existence just because we choose to give it meaning?
I am saying that there is such a thing as subjectivity that is an integral part of who we are. This is a fundamental idea in science and philosophy. There are things that exist in subjective terms, not in objective terms, although they can be studied objectively using science. There are many things that you are constantly giving meaning to, and many of those things could be studied and analyzed using science and reason.

These things that are subjective need not be about morals or cognitive values such as logic, but can also be about percepts that are experienced in a common inter-subjective way. The colour blue is a subjective idea, but the wavelength of light that corresponds to what the majority of humans perceive of as blue is objectively true. We cannot deny that 'blue' is something. All we can say is that it is not an objective fact proposition, but a subjective sensory perception.

Quote:This is a fundamental flaw of putting consciousness as having a primacy over reality.
There is a fundamental flaw in your leap in logic. Consciousness has no primacy over reality. Stop making things up.
Quote:I have to disagree with you if you believe in consciousness-primacy.

And I have to disagree with you if you believe in gremlins.
Quote:As a materialist, I believe that it is reality that has primacy over our consciousness and material reality gives rise to our consciousness
.
So do I. Have you read what I have written about consciousness?
http://nirmukta.com/2009/12/14/biocentri...-universe/ (read section 8 and the comments)
http://www.culturalnaturalism.org/search/label/dualism
I am a strict materialist when it comes to objective facts about the natural world.
But materialism applies only to objective reality. As I have been taking pains to point out, human living involves both subjective as well as objective reality. This is a demarcation introduced by philosophers of science. The object is to disallow our subjective biases from affecting our conclusions about objective reality (but we must use objective reality to inform our subjectivity).
I highly recommend that you read some basic epistemology.
Quote:This basically can lead down to the nurture-vs-nature debate.

I guess it could, but it would be a digression.
Quote:Actually, when it comes to morals, I am again a bit iffy as I do not go by any "morals" as defined by society.

Ethical philosophers and scientists have been debating this problem for centuries. There is a lot of literature on the subject. There is no need to speculate, but there is certainly a need for thoughtful engagement.
Quote:The notion of morality is itself a totally socially constructed notion and cannot be held to have any "absolute" existence apart from socially agreed upon norms.

That is the exact point I have been making. There is no objective morality.
Quote:Your confusion between fact vs value propositions arises from the fact that most of your value propositions are mainly propositions that are agreed upon socially as such can be said to be based on the subjective consciousness of a society as a whole.
There is no confusion on my part. I am talking about 400 year old idea that has its foundation in scientific philosophy, started by the Humean tradition. I used the word "inter-subjective" before. It is pretty much what you mean by "the subjective consciousness of a society as a whole". You are not informing me about my "confusion". You are reiterating in different terms what I have already said in more concrete terms.
Quote:On the other hand, scientific facts have an objective existence and stands apart from the socially acceptable or agreeable propositions.
I have been writing and arguing about this for a few years now. You are not informing me of anything. What you are saying is the most basic understanding in philosophy. An undergraduate philosophy 101 student will tell you this. There is a difference between objective and subjective reality, and understanding this difference is key to the success of science.
Quote:So both fact and value propositions are propositions. However, facts have objective existence and values have only subjective existence and come about due to social agreement and acceptance.
That is exactly what I have been saying. Subjective ideas require reason-based analysis and intersubjective agreement. You are simply repeating what I have already said. More importantly, you are ignorant that this is a basic understanding in philosophy.
Quote:See above. Also, BTW, you are committing the fallacy of tu qoque by appealing to my posts in another thread.
No, a tu qoque argument only becomes a fallacy when one makes a personal attack that does not inform the argument being made. That is, if it is about inconsistency in behavior of the person. If the reason for pointing out the inconsistency is to show that one is being logically inconsistent, it is a valid argument. The positions presented by you in this thread are inconsistent with what you said in the other thread. This is a direct criticism of your arguments, not an attack on your person.
So, why are you avoiding the argument? You clearly think that socio-political equality is a real thing in the other thread. I am pointing out that socio-political equality is as subjective an idea as "free-speech". You are simply refusing to lend reason to it. Analyze your own logical inconsistencies.
Quote:Not so. As you have said yourself, value propositions are different from fact propositions. What you are missing is that value propositions do not have any kind of "absolute" or independent existence of their own.

Madhav, I am not missing that. I have been writing about that for the past decade. It is a fundamental idea in philosophy that value propositions are not absolute, even if people like Sam Harris have recently been trying to prove that they are. Value-propositions are definitely constructs.
Quote:They come about as socially constructed propositions that are accepted by a society as a whole.
They are accepted, but my values dictate that they be subject to reason, science and compassion.
Quote:See above again. Value propositions are socially constructed propositions that are the product of the historical evolution of a society. They do not have independent existence of their own
.
I know I must sound like a broken record too, BUT YOU ARE SAYING NOTHING NEW. This feels like you have not been paying attention to anything I have said. BY DEFINITION, VALUE-PROPOSITIONS ARE SUBJECTIVE. You have simply been repeating the most fundamental premise of this conversation.
Quote:In that case, why should anyone accept the currently held set of value propositions as something that has always been in existence?

Who is doing this? Did you not read that I said that change is a constant and that it must be taken into consideration when discussing such ideas? Do you think that if something has not always been in existence it is not a valid concept to discuss? Did you not read my point about how even science is not just about things that have "always been in existence"? Culturally held ideas are definitely constantly changing, as culture evolves. Again, this is a trivial fact, and I am puzzled that you would think I am suggesting otherwise.
Quote:I am not accusing you of directly committing this fallacy, but your posts seem to indicate a general trend towards such a tendency
.
What fallacy? You seem to think you've made some important argument, but this is not the case. I am well aware of what your concerns are, and I even know the reasons for your troubles. So, let me explain.
Your basic mistake in reasoning is something that many positivists do. This mistake is actually a form of the naturalistic fallacy (which is not really a formal logical fallacy but a mistaken form of inference).
Essentially, you are ignoring the fact that there are always value-propositions involved in any human endeavor. Even in the practice of science, there are value propositions involved before any actual science can begin, after which the science itself can be about objective truth free from subjective bias.

One type of value-premise is about "ought" questions, as opposed to "is" questions. Science is concerned with the "is". Science can influence the "ought" by telling us about the "is". But there will always be value-premises that go into determining the "ought".

A main reason why people make these errors in thinking is because they desire objective answers to all questions, including moral ones. The problem is that there is no objective reason for why we ought to do anything, unless you involve value-premises. The concept of "ought" is necessitated by our intelligent perception of human existential reality. If you are analyzing fact-propositions using science, you have already asked yourself a bunch of questions that deal with value-propositions in order to reach the determination to use the methods of science in such a way. Value-propositions precede fact-propositions, and fact-propositions create and inform new value-propositions.
There is no such thing as objective morality. All moral ideas are value-propositions that have ideally been discussed using reason and compassion. Science must be used to make determinations about objective reality, but the practice of science is also always subject to subjective moral conditions to be determined by compassion and reason.


Second post


Quote:Of course they were racist. However we can easily separate the racist things they said from the scientific discoveries they made.
You can do the same thing about ideas such as freedom and equality as well. As stated before, your argument is a fallacy called argument by association. I am not the one who said that we cannot separate the the racist things they said from the science. You were the one who made the slander by association attack, not actually addressing the ideas that were under discussion.

Quote:As a corollary of their having been racist, we need to view any of their political positions with the utmost suspicion as politics is not science and is based on the subjective beliefs held by those individuals.
You are still not understanding what value-propositions mean. All politics always involves subjective value-propositions. Your observation is not profound, but elementary, and the premise of this entire discussion!!

The point is to involve in a process of reason-based discussion, in order to achieve inter-subjective agreement. This process involves presenting and discussing value propositions. I never said that Mill's ideas are the absolute truth about freedom of speech. That would be stupid. What I am saying is that we must be able to discuss and come to agreement about these ideas, and that process involves reason and science. Simply refusing to discuss these ideas is what leads to hiding the moral premises under the false impression that do not exist and therefore are not relevant.

Quote:What is your evidence for natural selection specifically being used for these things?
I said all of evolution by natural selection, not just the process of natural selection. I'm surprised that you're unaware of the commonly known idea that evolution by natural selection, and indeed much of biological science including the entire field of anthropology, was at one point thought by westerners to be in full support of the most racist and vile ideas of the colonialists. Instead of going over specific instances with you, I'll just point you to wiki on scientific racism in general:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism

But there's more. John Stuart Mill, by the standards of his day, was extremely progressive. He fought for women's rights and argued for a much more benign form of imperialism than his peers did during his time. Of course, today we can look at things in black and white, completely ignoring the actual arguments made by Mill and those like him, which, even if were racist in part, set the stage for a conversation on free-speech. We can say he was racist, so there. But a more reasonable approach is to see what he was saying in relation to free-speech. The tradition that Mill was part of, utilitarianism, is a major ethical philosophy even today. My favorite ethicist, Peter Singer, is a utilitarian philosopher. Just like science, utilitarian philosophy today has made its way from those racist times to the modern era. Through it all, people have discussed ideas of free-speech in great detail. This tradition still continues, and it still continues to provide avenues for inter-subjective agreement on a vast many social and ethical issues. It will continue to do so into the future, when issues of politics, bioethics, gender-relations, cultural rights and race-relations become more and more complicated by human migration and the exponential growth in communication technology.
Quote:Here you are taking the development of Nazism in an casual idealistic offhand manner. The rise of Nazism has to be seen in its historical context.
I was not talking about the "development of Nazism". I was talking about how the Nazis used evolutionary theory and based their supposedly objective interpretations on regressive value-premises to provide support for their racist genocide.
But pause for a second and see what you are saying. Did Mill's ideas start the "development of" or the "rise of" imperialism or colonial racism? In any case, this is just a pointless exercise. We need to discuss ideas for their merit, not slander them for how they have been evoked towards immoral ends.
Quote:Nazis appealed to all kinds of stupid notions ranging from Catholicism, Aryan paganism to Social Darwinism.
Colonialism had a great range of factors that were involved (have you read Guns Germs and Steel?), and in any case, Mill was born over a century after colonialism began. The point is that I brought up the comparison only because you did. Of course I do not say that Darwinism gave rise to Nazism. That would be ludicrous, so please stop implying that I am. But neither can you say that freedom of speech gave rise to colonialism. The ideas are what must stand up to scrutiny to estimate their validity. If someone used the idea of freedom of speech in a way that we today recognize as hypocritical, the fact of this recognition is a success that can be attributed to reason, not faith. Only a discussion of value-propositions, together with a better objective understanding of the facts, can help us reach such a place of moral and scientific inter-subjective understanding of value-propositions.
Quote:Firstly, modern democracy was not "invented" by slave-owners.

Actually, yes it was.
Quote:Democracy, as we know it today including universal suffrage, women's rights, civil rights and so on, came about as a result of a long historical struggle by the poor and working classes.
I am well aware of the struggles for human rights, including suffrage and civil rights, but you are making a false equivocation. These people did not invent democracy. They helped realize the concepts idealized by those who invented the ideas of democracy. By extending the rights enshrined in the constitutions of the democracies of the world to all citizens, the value-propositions inherent in the idea of democracy have been developed to their modern form. Modern democracy was indeed invented by slave owners. But we are the stewards of this boat. A future generation will look at our ideas and find them lacking, but they will be able to do that because they keep trying to develop value-propositions that are more consistent with science, reason and compassion, not because they prevent discussion of the value-premises by suggesting that they are faith-based and inconsequential.
Quote:See 'A People's History of the United States' by Howard Zinn for more details.
I read A People's History when I was an undergrad. I have met and shaken hands with Howard Zinn. Zinn was a major ethical thinker, and has himself lent to the discussion on value-propositions. In fact, the entire idea that history must be studied from the perspective of the common person involves a highly politicized discussion on value-propositions. You are actually engaged in such a discussion.
Quote:If the modern concepts and experiences of democracy are vastly different from those envisioned by the so-called "founders", why should we not question their spurious visions of "democracy" or "freedom"?
Who says we should "we not question their spurious visions of "democracy" or "freedom"?" This is a straw-man. I have been taking pains to say the exact opposite. We must question these ideas and constantly submit them to reason and evidence. Value propositions are always evolving. Attempts to seek unchanging set-in-stone answers to value-propositions are flawed because they ignore the inter-subjective nature of value-propositions and the fact that they are dependent on fact-propositions that are also often changing as our scientific understanding of the world changes.
Quote:I do not believe that freedom of speech exists today. I am not saying it should not exist, but it does not exist.
 
I am saying that freedom of speech can and does and always will exist as a concept only. In practice it is messy and involves inter-subjective agreement, but it exists as a concept. If you think that I'm saying there must be some objective thing called freedom of speech that is perfect and unchanging, that is a flawed understanding of what value-propositions (subjective propositions) are about.
Quote:As my example of JS Mill's proves, there was such a thing as colonialism during his day which automatically negates anyone who comes about claiming that free speech existed during JS Mill's time.

The concept of free-speech existed during Mill's time. At this level of discourse, we are always referring to subjective ideas of free speech when we talk about it as a reality and not as a concept. MY subjective idea of free-speech would agree with you that there was no free-speech during Mill's time, but the ideas that he wrote did exist objectively. That is what we are concerned about, and that is what is relevant to the discussion.
The point is not that Mill's ideas on freedom of speech defined what freedom of speech is objectively. If you think that, then you are thinking simplistically. Mill is part of a long tradition of discussion of these ideas. Today we have even Indian philosophers who are part of that discussion. This is the key thing to remember. The concept of freedom-of-speech has evolved over time, just has science itself.
I have said many times that although the founding fathers of America were the inventors of modern democracy, and they wrote elegantly about equality, there was no equality in America because they did not extend to the Black slaves and the women that declaration of rights. But since then society has progressed because of evidence-based and compassionate discussion of value-premises.
Quote:My stance that historically evolved notions of contemporary societies cannot be applied retroactively to societies that were formed to entirely different circumstances is something that most historians would agree with.
But this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. You are talking about facts about historically evolved notions of contemporary societies in general, not discussing value-propositions, which are concepts in and off themselves that can and must be discussed using reason. The importance of historical/scientific evidence is primary, as I have already been factored into my argument, because I clearly stated that scientific facts must inform and be informed by value-propositions. You are simply ignoring this in order to push for a sort of scientific objectivism that is ill-informed when it comes to basic philosophy.
Quote:I do not accept that value propositions exist independently of the societies that created them as opposed to fact propositions which exist objectively independent of any society's historical circumstances.
Of course value propositions do not exist independently of the societies that created them. This is basic philosophy. No one is arguing that they do. That was the entire point that I was making when I wrote about inter-subjective agreement. Please read what I have written and stop making me repeat myself.
Secondly, you are wrong about the second part where you say "as opposed to fact propositions which exist objectively independent of any society's historical circumstances". What you mean is "as opposed to facts which exist objectively independent of any society's historical circumstances". Fact-propositions are simply claims about factual reality. Propositions are simply declarative statements. "God" is a fact-proposition. Of course, it is a false proposition, but it is a fact proposition nevertheless. All fact propositions also do not exist independently of the societies that created them. Facts, however, do.

One basic problem you are having is in thinking that materialist science does not involve any value propositions. This is not true. The other basic problem is in thinking that simply because value-propositions involve subjective values, they are beyond scientific and rational analysis. This is also not true.
Navigating value-propositions are an inherent part of the human condition. When moral issues are involved, it is essential that we not ignore them, and that we seek consensus, including from the oppressed parts of society, in order to give full validity to them. When factual claims are is involved, it is important that the tools of science itself, evidence and reason, are used to judge the value-propositions.
Many thinkers have tried to seek objective answers to the problem of value-propositions, and this has always involved hiding the moral premises involved and presenting the arguments as grounded on facts alone. This has resulted in much damage to society. The Nazis and Eugenicists did this based on their ideas about social Darwinism. The Stalinists did this based on misunderstanding historical materialism. The objectivists did this based on their misunderstanding of evolution, competition and altruism. Today, people who spread neo-liberal positivist economics, such as Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman, resort to hiding their own moral premises under the guise of presenting values-free economic policies based on science. These are highly immoral applications of applied science, in my opinion, and the reason for this is that the moral premises are being hidden and the economic theory being presented as values-free.
It is important to have the discussion about moral premises and value-propositions when dealing with issues that are inter-subjective. It is important that we question, at every step, the moral reasons for all our actions, and the theories that our actions are based on. Failing this, we will indeed fall into the trap that Zinn warned us about, ending in a society where we hold ideas about moral values very different from what is actually practiced.
Quote:“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.”
~
Howard-Zinn
Lastly, I was wrong to call your arguments postmodernist. You are actually the exact opposite. Post modernists subscribe to the idea that there are no values-free facts. Not just values-free fact-propositions, but no values-free facts! I'm sure we can both agree that is absurd. But on the other extreme, it is wrong to suggest that because values are subjective, they are faith-based and not worth talking about.

There are objective facts, and there are subjective values. Human existence necessarily involves both. Subjective values are subject to reason, and they in turn influence reason. It is vital that we discuss value-propositions using reason and science considering that they the provide moral basis for all our actions. There are no objective morals. Let's get over it. If you insist that propositions about subjective morals cannot be discussed, debated and agreed upon using science, reason and compassion because it is a faith-based concept, then that is an argument that takes scientific materialism to incoherent ends.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#14
(02-Nov-2010, 02:51 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
Quote:The notion of "free speech" is a development from that culture.
Partly. All cultures contribute to such ideas over time, and the West has no monopoly over the marketplace of ideas today, even if it still has unduly large influence. The point of view that you are espousing comes form postcolonial theory which I am somewhat aware of. But the application of post-colonial theory here is wrong. This is why I saw a bit of post-modernist flavor in your arguments (but I agree that you are not a postmodernist).
I am also not fully aware of what postcolonialism entails. But my idea is that the concept of free speech is not only a development from the culture of enlightenment but also, more importantly, a product of the ideology of the rising dominant class of the 18th and 19th centuries onwards. To extend my previous argument further, it is more than a social construct, it is an ideological construct of the dominant and propertied classes of our societies since the 19th century. As a concept, I agree that it is a very great one and is a vast improvement over any concepts that came out of the Dark Ages (if any). As an ideal that should be achieved in human society, it is indeed a great achievement to have been thought of. However, the reality is that in spite of all claims to the contrary, the concept of freedom of speech has never been brought into practice in any existing or historical society. This has been due to various historical circumstances, including colonialism, neocolonialism, national oppression and the like. Civil liberties organisations have performed yeoman service by helping to propagate this ideal. However it has always remained an ideological construct and something that has to be fought for, not something that naturally exists even in today's democracies.

Quote: Consciousness has no primacy over reality.
[...SNIP..]
So do I. Have you read what I have written about consciousness?
http://nirmukta.com/2009/12/14/biocentri...-universe/ (read section 8 and the comments)
http://www.culturalnaturalism.org/search/label/dualism
I am a strict materialist when it comes to objective facts about the natural world.
Then I apologize for misunderstanding what you were trying to say.

Quote:[..SNIP..]
So, why are you avoiding the argument? You clearly think that socio-political equality is a real thing in the other thread. I am pointing out that socio-political equality is as subjective an idea as "free-speech". You are simply refusing to lend reason to it. Analyze your own logical inconsistencies.
Ok. So far I agree with your points. It looks like I just repeated your arguments on fact vs value propositions in different words. So far so good. However, when it comes to what we are arguing about free speech and socio-political equality, we seem to be going in tangential directions. Whenever I say anything about the concepts of free speech or equality, my first consideration is mainly that of history. What gave rise to such a concept? Who gave rise to such a concept? Yours and Mill's main concerns seem to be saying that such concepts should be applied to our society. I of course agree with you but that seems to me to be a trivial argument to me. We can also agree that every human being should have a decent standard of living, a decent wage and general peace and happiness. But more important than such trivialities is whether such things are even possible in a world such as the one in which we live in. More importantly, do the dominant ideologies allow such things to come into the mainstream discussion?

Quote:
Quote:Of course they were racist. However we can easily separate the racist things they said from the scientific discoveries they made.
You can do the same thing about ideas such as freedom and equality as well.
Not so. Science is objective, while notions such as freedom and inequality are subjective political and ideological stances which form part of a whole of the political philosophy that the person espouses. I can't stress this enough as it is a most important concept when it comes to studying politics. When it comes to studying the personal ideology of anyone, one cannot know where racism ends and where freedom begins.

Quote:But there's more. John Stuart Mill, by the standards of his day, was extremely progressive. He fought for women's rights and argued for a much more benign form of imperialism than his peers did during his time.
However, the fact remains that there were those who during Mill's time were entirely against colonialism, like the colonised people for instance (the rebellion of 1857 was hardly the first revolt against colonialism in India, a few tribal revolts preceded it by some time), most of whom would rather had freedom than any "benign imperialism" (if such a thing even existed). So you cannot say that Mill was progressive by any standards: today's or those of the 19th century.

Quote: Of course, today we can look at things in black and white, completely ignoring the actual arguments made by Mill and those like him, which, even if were racist in part, set the stage for a conversation on free-speech. We can say he was racist, so there. But a more reasonable approach is to see what he was saying in relation to free-speech.
You are missing my main point here again. We cannot look at things like free speech or equality or any other political concept in the abstract. They have to be seen in the context of the ideologies that propagate it and the kind of socio-economic systems that it seeks to justify. Otherwise, we would be no better than scholastics or theologians who discuss such abstract dogmas without any context or reference to the real world.

Quote:Only a discussion of value-propositions, together with a better objective understanding of the facts, can help us reach such a place of moral and scientific inter-subjective understanding of value-propositions.
See above. Any discussion of such value-propositions has to take place within the ideological contexts. Otherwise they are as useful as discussing about God or theology.

Quote:
Quote:Firstly, modern democracy was not "invented" by slave-owners.

Actually, yes it was.
Actually, the slave-owning founding fathers did not wish for any sort of democracy as such at all. Their vision was for that of an enlightened empire. This does not represent any kind of vision of democracy which we talk of today. See, for example, James Madison, who said that state power should be used "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." All consequent struggles for democracy have been to go against this kind of founding vision to gain more popular control of government than previously existed.

Quote:Modern democracy was indeed invented by slave owners. But we are the stewards of this boat. A future generation will look at our ideas and find them lacking, but they will be able to do that because they keep trying to develop value-propositions that are more consistent with science, reason and compassion, not because they prevent discussion of the value-premises by suggesting that they are faith-based and inconsequential.
Note that I do not dismiss all value-based premises offhand as faith based. That would be a misrepresentation of my argument. My position is that value-based premises should not and cannot be seen as abstract notions existing in a vacuum. They must be seen as part of a social and ideological context.

Quote:Lastly, I was wrong to call your arguments postmodernist. You are actually the exact opposite. Post modernists subscribe to the idea that there are no values-free facts. Not just values-free fact-propositions, but no values-free facts! I'm sure we can both agree that is absurd. But on the other extreme, it is wrong to suggest that because values are subjective, they are faith-based and not worth talking about.
I probably was too hasty in my first post to dismiss all values such as free speech as faith based. I have since clarified and extended my argument to discuss notions such as free speech and equality only within the ideological contexts in which they arise and the kind of socio-economic systems that such ideologies propagate. Outside of such a context, such concepts are as good as faith. Sorry if I sound repetitive.
#15
(03-Nov-2010, 09:12 AM)madhav Wrote: Ok. So far I agree with your points. It looks like I just repeated your arguments on fact vs value propositions in different words. So far so good. However, when it comes to what we are arguing about free speech and socio-political equality, we seem to be going in tangential directions.

As far as the disagreement we had is concerned, it is not important that we have not reached 100% consensus on what free-speech actually entails, because that just means that we have to work harder on applying science and reason to free-speech. What is important is that we are having a discussion on what free-speech entails. You argued that there is no meaning in ideas such as free-speech because they are "faith-based".

Quote:Yours and Mill's main concerns seem to be saying that such concepts should be applied to our society.

No. Just forget about Mill. You are focusing on an irrelevant point. The argument was about the fact that you claimed we cannot discuss free-speech because it is a faith-based concept. You very clearly dismissed any talk about free-speech. That was the point that I was challenging. Mill was brought up as an example to make the general point.

Quote:Not so. Science is objective, while notions such as freedom and inequality are subjective political and ideological stances which form part of a whole of the political philosophy that the person espouses.

This distinction is very important, but it is irrelevant here. By the way, what you mean is that science is about the pursuit of objective truth.

Quote:You are missing my main point here again. We cannot look at things like free speech or equality or any other political concept in the abstract.

The ability to think in abstract is an essential part of human intelligence, and we use abstract concepts in science and in daily life all the time. You must really stop thinking in extremes. Abstraction is key to our epistemological understanding of reality, but the inbter-subjective ideas that we can talk about in abstract must be verified using science and reason. I have been constantly saying that we must use science and reason to evaluate our ideas about value-premises. You keep missing the point because you are thinking in extremes. As I stated before, your point about history and science is simply redundant. It is central to the idea that value-propositions must be analyzed. You are the one who has been denying that free-speech can be studied at all.

Quote:Actually, the slave-owning founding fathers did not wish for any sort of democracy as such at all. Their vision was for that of an enlightened empire.

This is another diversion from you. Of course the type of democracy we have now is not the same as the ones that founding fathers of America wrote down. I HAVE BEEN ARGUING THAT WE MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT CHANGE. Please stop ignoring my arguments and making me repeat myself. This is a distraction. Modern democracy was indeed invented by slave owners. Why are you finding it so difficult to accept that sometimes people are hypocrites? It is possible for a man to write eloquently about freedom, like Jefferson, Franklin and Adams did, while being slave owners. It is an indisputable fact that these men invented modern democracy.

But please stop using these distractions and avoiding the general point. Ideas such as democracy and free-speech are intersubjective. Of course I am not claiming that a few people decided objectively what free-speech or democracy means. That is ridiculous. My point about the founding fathers was to show that the idea of democracy as a concept exists. I am saying that these inter-subjective concepts do exist in an inter-subjective form. Such inter-subjective ideas are intricately tied to our basic perception of reality itself. Of course the ideas have evolved a lot iver the years. Why would anyone expect them not to?

Quote:They have to be seen in the context of the ideologies that propagate it and the kind of socio-economic systems that it seeks to justify.

I urge you to stop shifting the goal posts to territory that I have already covered, pretending that you are saying something new. Of course the fact-propositions associated with free-speech must be studied, as I have been repeating in every single reply to you in this thread. You realize that your initial argument was hastily made and fundamentally flawed, so now you are attacking me for things that I have clearly accounted for in my arguments. A little intellectual honesty would be appreciated.

In the last post you stated the obvious fact that values are subjective. After I made clear that that is exactly what I was saying, and that subjective value-propositions must be studied and debated using science and reason, you must see that you are wrong about not addressing ideas such as free-speech at all under the pretext that they are faith-based. As I have pointed out, any attempt to pretend that there are no value-premises informing one's actions or policies becomes an attempt to surreptitiously pass on hidden values under the cover of values-free policy. Only objective reality is values-free. Anything that we humans do involves value-premises. We must analyze these value premises using reason, science and compassion. That is the core of the argument towards a naturalistic social philosophy. This argument clearly places the focus on using science and reason to analyze the value-premises that go into all our actions and socio-political ideas.

In simple terms, what I have been arguing for is a complete approach. You were seeing one side of the picture, and were about to bury the discussion on value-premises and their philosophical and scientific analysis, and in the context of ideas that are only meaningful in subjective terms. I have shown that when dealing with subjective issues we must be able to apply objective science, reason and compassion to reach inter-subjective agreement. I don't see this conversation going anywhere, unless you want to talk further about free-speech itself and about how inter-subjective agreement can be achieved. The basic assertions that you brought up in your initial post were simply false. But they were false because you were not aware of the long tradition in philosophy that involves categorizing different types of propositions and studying their characteristics. I have explained why they were false. Now perhaps we can move on to a constructive place where we can actually discuss ideas such as free-speech, and subject them to science and reason. I welcome you to propose specific historic approaches and to criticize specific ideas of free-speech. That is a conversation worth having. This one we've been having is simply redundant.

One general point I wish to make about this is that you are not seeing how fundamental it is to human existence for us to create abstract concepts in our heads. In fact, it is a basic requirement of the type of intelligence that we possess. Without belief in abstract and completely subjective concepts one cannot indulge in the most colorful of linguistic tools, metaphor. As I stated in a comment above, what is important is to identify false fact propositions. Value propositions, while they cannot be objectively true or false, must informed by fact propositions that we can demonstrate (using science and reason) to be objectively true. When dismissing ideas as faith-based and superstitious, it is only coherent to do so if they are false fact propositions, not simply because they are inter-subjective political value-propositions. Value propositions may be said to be false if the fact propositions they are associated with are false, but just the fact that value propositions are subjective does not make them meaningless. These value-propositions are an integral part of the cognitive process, and the freethought stance is that they must be subjected to reason and science, just as all other factors that affect our ideas and policies. This is completely a pro-science and pro-freethought point of view.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
#16
Not allowing me to make it one long reply. Ohmy

AK Wrote:
Quote:They have to be seen in the context of the ideologies that propagate it and the kind of socio-economic systems that it seeks to justify.

I urge you to stop shifting the goal posts to territory that I have already covered, pretending that you are saying something new. Of course the fact-propositions associated with free-speech must be studied, as I have been repeating in every single reply to you in this thread. You realize that your initial argument was hastily made and fundamentally flawed, so now you are attacking me for things that I have clearly accounted for in my arguments. A little intellectual honesty would be appreciated.

In the last post you stated the obvious fact that values are subjective. After I made clear that that is exactly what I was saying, and that subjective value-propositions must be studied and debated using science and reason, you must see that you are wrong about not addressing ideas such as free-speech at all under the pretext that they are faith-based. As I have pointed out, any attempt to pretend that there are no value-premises informing one's actions or policies becomes an attempt to surreptitiously pass on hidden values under the cover of values-free policy. Only objective reality is values-free. Anything that we humans do involves value-premises. We must analyze these value premises using reason, science and compassion. That is the core of the argument towards a naturalistic social philosophy. This argument clearly places the focus on using science and reason to analyze the value-premises that go into all our actions and socio-political ideas.

In simple terms, what I have been arguing for is a complete approach. You were seeing one side of the picture, and were about to bury the discussion on value-premises and their philosophical and scientific analysis, and in the context of ideas that are only meaningful in subjective terms. I have shown that when dealing with subjective issues we must be able to apply objective science, reason and compassion to reach inter-subjective agreement. I don't see this conversation going anywhere, unless you want to talk further about free-speech itself and about how inter-subjective agreement can be achieved. The basic assertions that you brought up in your initial post were simply false. But they were false because you were not aware of the long tradition in philosophy that involves categorizing different types of propositions and studying their characteristics. I have explained why they were false. Now perhaps we can move on to a constructive place where we can actually discuss ideas such as free-speech, and subject them to science and reason. I welcome you to propose specific historic approaches and to criticize specific ideas of free-speech. That is a conversation worth having. This one we've been having is simply redundant.

One general point I wish to make about this is that you are not seeing how fundamental it is to human existence for us to create abstract concepts in our heads. In fact, it is a basic requirement of the type of intelligence that we possess. Without belief in abstract and completely subjective concepts one cannot indulge in the most colorful of linguistic tools, metaphor. As I stated in a comment above, what is important is to identify false fact propositions. Value propositions, while they cannot be objectively true or false, must informed by fact propositions that we can demonstrate (using science and reason) to be objectively true. When dismissing ideas as faith-based and superstitious, it is only coherent to do so if they are false fact propositions, not simply because they are inter-subjective political value-propositions. Value propositions may be said to be false if the fact propositions they are associated with are false, but just the fact that value propositions are subjective does not make them meaningless. These value-propositions are an integral part of the cognitive process, and the freethought stance is that they must be subjected to reason and science, just as all other factors that affect our ideas and policies. This is completely a pro-science and pro-freethought point of view.
Fine. I agree that free speech is a vital component of the argument for free thought and atheism (for where would free thought and atheism be without free speech). My point is simply that of a historical and ideological standpoint, which you seem to missing out on.

"Religion does not allow free speech" is not really an argument unless free speech and religion are discussed in the context of the historical and ideological premises which gave rise to religion. My point is simply this: the idea of free speech was formulated by theorists of the rising bourgeois class in capitalist society in the 19th century onwards. In that case, why should we accept that ideology as any kind of logical argument against religion? When we know the historical context of the argument that is made against religion by certain naive people, why should we, as materialists, persist in continuing that very same argument? As a materialist informed by Marxism, I have to profoundly disagree with your fundamental tenet of disagreeing with religion in an idealist sense (one that forgoes the material context). I disagree with religion insofar as religion is an emanation of the material conditions surrounding the masses. Therefore, according to me, to demolish religion and to make it a thing of the past, we have to fundamentally change the material circumstances that gave rise to it in the first place. I vehemently disagree that merely arguing logic with religious people will make them give it up, although it is a good first step, as it is material conditions that give rise to religion, not merely "ideas". For the mass of society to give up on religion, the material conditions that give rise to religion have to dismantled from their core.
#17
(07-Nov-2010, 07:40 AM)madhav Wrote: Fine. I agree that free speech is a vital component of the argument for free thought and atheism (for where would free thought and atheism be without free speech). My point is simply that of a historical and ideological standpoint, which you seem to missing out on.

No, I have repeated multiple times that I am NOT missing out on the historical and ideological standpoint. Did you even read my last comment? The argument we were having is simply that you refused to factor in any conceptual notions that might have a subjective basis built on value-propositions. Of course there are historical factors involved. I am intent on subjecting these conceptual notions to historical and scientific analysis, as I have repeated multiple times. Please stop misrepresenting me.

Quote:"Religion does not allow free speech" is not really an argument unless free speech and religion are discussed in the context of the historical and ideological premises which gave rise to religion.


I must ask you to read through the conversation between myself and the Islamic apologist. If you do, you will see why your lack of nuance is exactly what I was criticizing the Islamic apologist for. I do not say "Religion does not allow free speech".

In any case, your argument is again a case of moving the goal posts. Of course ideas such as "free-speech" and "religion" must be " discussed in the context of the historical and ideological premises which gave rise to religion", but that is not a topic under contention here. You are simply claiming to represent a well-understood idea in sociology, even though it is me who has been claiming since the beginning of this thread, and in almost every comment on this thread, that we must subject these ideas to analysis.

All subjects and ideologies are discussed using words that can be deconstructed and viewed from various perspectives, and science offers ways for us to avoid infinite regression of the semantics involved. These ideas have been written by philosophers for many centuries. Philosophers from Bertrand Russell to Ludwig Wittgenstein have enriched this area of thought. I suggest that you stop moving the goal posts and making the argument about the historical factors governing ideas such as free-speech. The reason I am arguing with you is because you simply dismissed "free-speech" as "faith-based". You were clearly wrong. That is it.

Quote:As a materialist informed by Marxism, I have to profoundly disagree with your fundamental tenet of disagreeing with religion in an idealist sense (one that forgoes the material context).

You have repeated your misrepresentation of my position so many times now, that I can only conclude that you are deliberately lying. For the last fucking time, MY. POINT. OF. VIEW. DOES. NOT. FORGO. THE. MATERIAL. CONTEXT. What my point of view does is that it calls for our value-propositions to be subjected to reason and science, while yours makes the naturalistic fallacy (which, as I said before, is actually an error in logical inference and not a formal fallacy). Your interpretaion of Marxist readings has forced blinders on you. You see what you want to see, and fail to register all what others are saying. One needs to read a bit more than one school of philosophical thought if one doesn't want to make the mistakes in assumption and misrepresentation you have been making.

Quote:I vehemently disagree that merely arguing logic with religious people will make them give it up, although it is a good first step, as it is material conditions that give rise to religion, not merely "ideas".

You are vehemently disagreeing with a straw-man. Of course "merely arguing logic with religious people" is insufficient when it comes to generating actual change. Do you think I am a child? Do you know what I have been doing over the past few years to promote science and reason? In fact, I don't usually personally engage with believers as I say in this article, because I think there are many others doing that and that there are other important things I could be doing that few others are. The reason I entered into that conversation with that apologist is because my friend on whose wall this went down had previously requested that I respond to the guy. But the fact that I personally choose not to debate religious folks does not mean that there is no point in doing so. There are multiple factors involved in such movements, and having ideological debate is vitally important. In the case in question, in discussion of free-speech, it is essential that the idea of free-speech be analyzed by laying bare the value-propositions and by scrutinizing all the associated fact-propositions that are involved. This is how ideas are informed. There is nothing "faith-based" about this, no more than there would be in subscribing to any of the vast many social constructs that you subscribe to everyday.

I am engaged in collaborative projects with both the activists on the ground and the academics in the universities, trying to bridge the gaps and find political solutions to the problems in society. I am well aware of how social factors are intricately tied to cultural factors. I am also well aware of how important ideas are, and how the debate on ideas is how human societies coalesce iaround political and social movements. I have worked on grassroots political campaigns and written ideological essays. As I said before, I have shaken hands with Howard Zinn and you may also be interested to know that I have spoken at length with Noam Chomsky. I am well aware of the importance of education and quality of life as the most important markers for religiosity, and the power of political movements founded on, yes, those pesky things we call ideas. I do not expect you to know any of these things about me, but I certainly will not have you constantly accusing me of missing the point about facts that are not even the subject of the conversation. Moreover, in order to do this you are simply imagining me as having said something and then pretending to refute my position on the subject. Stop making things up about me. You have wasted enough of our time.

If anyone wants to start another discussion on free-speech, please create a thread in the Social Sciences, Community Discussions, Secular Humanism or Politics section, or on some other more appropriate section. Thanks!
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.


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