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Peter Auditor | joined 13 May 2004 | 89 posts

Moenghus = Mallahet? posted 13 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeMoenghus = Mallahet? by Peter, Auditor

Norsiri, you say that Moenghus must be controlling the Crusade and that the Consult are only involved in it in order to counter him... Whilst I haven't made my mind up yet and whilst your theory has a number of strengths the presence of the Consult in the Crusade can prove nothing. If the Crusade were not the result of Moenghus, the Consult would still have a vested interest in it. This is because with him there is no reason for the Consult's treachery and manipulations to be discovered and so no reason for them to be incovered. In that case the Crusade benefits the Consult by damaging the fighting capacities of its enemies without really threatening them... Of course I could be totally wrong in this and as I said before your argument does seem to have other strengths. view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 18 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Apologies, that was me again (I will remember to log in one of these days) view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 18 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

I would like to label myself a Kantian, indeed I try and follow his thoery of ethics, but given how difficult he is it is probably more accurate to say that I am a Kantian as far as I can understand him (next year I am definitely going to be taking courses on him). Anyway, I don't really mind nihilists, one of my best friends is one, indeed I agree entirely with Mr Bakker you have the high ground in the argument so as to speak. I do however believe that whilst Kantian ethics cannot prove you wrong it can protect me from nihilism. Is that clear, sorry I have a feeling that I'm not explaining myself very well... view post

Fantasy and Philosophy posted 18 May 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmmmm, interesting thought... I fear things may be a little more complicated than that however (although I admit that I am really only extrapolating from my own experiences which aren't the be all or end all).
Beginning with a little intrspection I would say that my interest in fantasy began before anything remotely philosophical entered my mind. I read Lord of the Rings when I was about ten and began reading fantasy regularly from about the age of twelve. I can say that my interest in fantasy did directly lead to me getting into RPGs.
My initial interest in philosophy began really around the age of 15ish and matured once I actually started studying it in school.
On the other hand, my elder brother reads vast amounts of fantasy (he introduced me to Erikson) is reading a science subject at uni and finds just about the whole area of philosophy to be a complete waste of time.
Perhaps I am basing myself too much only upon two cases but I would suggest that fantasy literature is broad enough for people to take what they want from it. As Mr Bakker said, fantasy literature gives the world meaning beyond the real one and this is something which can appeal to both the philosophical and the non-philosophical... view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 18 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

I was hoping this wouldn't be asked cos there is at least one person here who will be able to point out why I have totally misinterpretated it, namely the resident philosophy graduate Mr Bakker... Damn

I won't go into the argumentation for it except very briefly because I am a little rusty on this (been nearly a year since I last had to study it for exams).

Basically Kantian ethics was developed by Emmanual Kant, a german philosopher of the late 18th century. It is a deontological theory, that is to say that morality is based upon following certain rules or duties rather than aiming for some supposedly desirable goal (as with utilitarianism).

Essentially, Kant uses a type of argument called the Transcendental Argument through which one can determine a priori what are pre-conditions of certain things (I am not sure of this, the actual argument is more complex I am sure and this may actually be wrong... perhaps Myself could intervene here, he/she mentioned that he/she was interestred in Kant). through this argument Kant claimed he had found that if there is to be such a thing as morality then it must be universalisable. Universalisability essentially encompasses the idea that morality must be consistent, a rule cannot apply to one person in one situation but not to another in another situation with the same relevant criterion.

That was the main argument bit which I am going to talk about, now on to what the theory claims we should or should not do. Kant, through more argumentation develops what he calls the Categorical Imperative which states that one should only act upon such maxims as one may at the same time will to be universal laws. This may seem a little weird, but he then clarifies what he means with an example. Imagine a person wished to universalise the maxim "always make lying promises" (i.e. promises which you have no intention of keeping). The problem is that if this maxim were made into a universal law (universalised) then all no one would ever intend to keep their promises and the institution of promising would cease to exist. The problem does not lie with the fact that no one could ever make any promises any more, that would be consequentialist, instead the problem is that when someone used the word "promise" post universalisation it would not mean anything and therefore the statement "always make lying promises" would cease to have meaning. Universalisation of this maxim destroys the meaning of the maxim and therefore the maxim cannot be universalised. As I understand the Categorical Imperative I think the same system can be applied to lying and theft, and possibly more things beyond this...

Kant argues that the Categorical Imperative may be reformulated into what he calls the Practical Imperative which states always treat rational human nature not simply as a means, but also always as an end in itself. I have to admit I cannot remember how he does this and at the moment I do not have access to my book with this in because it has been lent out to a friend... <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: -->

One final point, how I defend myself against a nihilist... The Transcendental Argument does not require that I make a judgement about the nature of morality before agreeing that it exists (if it exists then it is like this) and from there on in I believe it follows a logically sound path. Someone who denies the existence of morality does so at the same time as I affirm its existence and as such there is no argument between us, merely faith. You have faith that there is no such thing and I that there is.

Sorry if this is rather long and probably not all that interesting to most people... view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 19 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Oh dear, should have just kept quiet... <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
Right, I hope you don't mind if I answer in two separate replies, that way I can keep answers to each separate in my head.
I would like to start with Sovin Nai's because it is shorter and therefore easier to keep all in mind.

All right, examples whcih support a lack of morality, I am not entirely sure what you mean here. If you mean can I provide empirical evidence for the existence of morality I would have to say I think that is missing the point. A system of ethics is not descriptive, it is not trying to describe how the world is, it is prescriptive, i.e. telling us how it should be. Therefore if I claim that X is immoral and someone points out that so and so has committed over 100 Xs in his life that does not disprove my claim, it merely shows that the world is not perfect. By this same point producing examples of moral actions will not prove the theory.

Next, I think it was Dostoyevsky who said "without God anything is permitted". I am pretty sure Kant would have rejected this, but my answer is in no way claiming to be his because I don't claim to know what he thought about morality without God. Nonetheless, when we take his theory what we get is a whole structure built piece by logical piece (I would say that at least, there are certainly parts of the argument which may be problematic, but that isn't the topic here) upon the transcendental deduction. If you accept the transcedental deduction then by extension you accept the rest of the argument and you accept Kantian Ethics. The transcendental argument does not rely upon the notion of God, nor does it rely upon the existence of God, therefore our acceptence or rejection of the argument is separate from God. Kantian Ethics does not need God to make things Right and Wrong, human rationality fills that role. The fact that we are rational and that our moral value stems from this is central to the theory (who can spot the moral dilemma that leaves us with). Now if you do not consider that morality is possible without a God then you reject the transcendental argument and that is fine, but I still hold on to it and I think I am not being inconsistent... back to the nihilist vs Kantian stance again.

I don't quite follow your comments about the size and type of universe which makes me think I have missed a central point of your argument and that all of the above is arguing towards the wrong bit... do you think you mught explain this a little further? view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 19 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Right, second reply, the one to Tattooed Hand...

I agree with you when you say that we are not dealing with black and white moralities, but only if we take the general intuitive ethics approach. Some ethical systems would be able to make quite quick and complete judgements over all the actions of all the characters in the book (ok maybe not quick, book is long enough to warrant that).

I am not sure I understand what you mean by the problems of making universalisable claims applicable... is this linked to your idea of viewing philosophy historically? Or is it more like Sartre's claim that Kantian ethics cannot encompass the essentially subjective nature of ethics (at least I think that is what Sartre said)?

I am also a little confused by your example of the Crusades, the Pope was I would say inconsistent. Now he might have thought himself consistent and to some extent within his own set of beliefs he may have been so, but in reality his belief that infidels are not agents worhty of moral consideration is wrong (they are rational therefore we should treat them rationally). I am not sure what you mean by "This is a well honed mechanism in the application of universalist Enlightnment thought, an inherent problem". If they make a universal rule and then break it they are simply being inconsistent and immoral. Someone could at least try and defend slavery ("look it brought them all to America where their descendedts are much happier" one of the reasons I am not a utlitarian) on utilitarian grounds, but never on Kantian and a person who claims to be a Kantian but also to support slavery is being inconsistent.

Oh yes, in the heat of debate I kind of forgot that this was all linked to Kellhus, thank you for bringing us back to him. I would both agree and disagree with you on your view of Kellhus, he does not consider himself in a good/evil context, but I would also claim that that does not stop us form placing him somewhere along a moral spectrum. The fact that he does everything with a single goal in mind may allow him to say the end justifies the means (although I doubt he actually thinks of needing justification), but surely we can still judge him...

You mention that you think Kellhus has a kind of moral stirring when confronted with Serwe's rape, but I have to admit that is not how I read it. Consider when Cnaiur first finds Kellhus, around him were the dead bodies of about 20 men (something like that) who had followed Kellhus as some kind of messiah figure from Atrithau and we hear later from Kellhus that he had simply converted them with his words. I think that the way Kellhus treats Serwe is merely the same thing except here we get to see her side of things. Serwe becomes convinced that Kellhus is a god and that he loves her. That sounds like the kind of devotion he got from those men from Arithau. The fact that we never hear about Kellhus's view of her at any of the times that he narrates (at least that I can remember, I've only read the book once to my eternal shame... well eternal until I read it again) I think is meant to help us see Kellhus not as he sees himself, but as others see him.

Hmmmm going to stop myself now before I fill up too much more space... Bad me, stop writing and do work instead! view post

Fantasy and Philosophy posted 19 May 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I partially agree with you on this one Mr. Bakker, what I find in fantasy is what I suspect many people find in relgion. However I think fantasy is different from religion because it does not contain faith. I may have no faith in God, but I certainly do not have faith in fantasy either, rather I take from it a few hours in which the world and things have proper meaning before returning to the real world. In religion the meaningful world is this one, in fantasy it is another. Perhaps this is the weakness those critics so abhor, but I wonder if they really are so much better themselves.

There are times when I would almost like to believe, when the idea of a Godless world seems to horrific to contemplate. I think this would be a sort of escape from the world. It would make all the pain and misery mean something, people wouldn'r die on vain. As it is science takes away from us that crutch.

On the other hand I believe that all too often people reject other things and make science their new faith. I can imagine those people who believe religion is for the weak saying "science will make us strong as people", but that is attributing a meaningful end to science as opposed to what it really is, models of reality with explanatory power. There is nothing human or strong within that, there is only the straight and narrow. view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 21 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

When I use the word rationality, I mean man's abiulity to use reason and reason when given a logical argument can only come out with one answer. The fact that we can work out the argument "Socrates is a man. All men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal" is what shows us to be rational so there need be no averaging out.

Also, even if rationality were a more nebulous (I like that word) thing, it is not our rationality which determines the content of Kantian ethics, but the fact that we are rational. Nazi values (I won't term it ethics) could not ever fit the Kantian ethics because their racial theories break the practical imperative of treating people as ends in themselves, basically it says we should respect people's humanity and the mere fact that they are rational.

Kantian ethics lays down a set of specific rules and at least some of them should be followed in whatever circumstances (like the lying promises one), so there is no danger of it being merely a social construct, it applies as much to me as a Westerner as it does to a Hindu, an animist or a Musilim. Now having said that, I recognise that I may be wrong about Kantian ethics so I do not try and lay it down as the law for other people, especially if they have their own moral system which is relatively consistent internally (a utilitarian for instance) and does not differ too far from Kantian ethics (I might feel constrained to make my views known forcefully if someone honestly believed some moral or value system which claimed Africans were inferior human beings etc. view post

kellhus == good guy?? posted 21 May 2004 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

This is the point where I have to retreat and say faith in the existence of morality. The strength of the transcedental deduction (as I have understood it, which I cannot stress enough may be wrong) is that it begins in a vacuum, you have no more reason to reject the existence of morality than I do to accept it because we have given it no content as yet. You say no it does not exist and I say yes it does, you end up believing in no such thing as right and wrong and I end up with Kantian ethics. What is more you cannot attack my stance (well you can but not by denying the existence of morality, you would have to find fault with the argument) and conversely (and I would say unfortunately) I cannot attack your stance although I may try and convince you of the existence of morality (but not through arguments about its nature etc.), because the choice is made in the vacuum. view post

Just bought my beautiful hardcover posted 06 June 2004 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeJust bought my beautiful hardcover by Peter, Auditor

As a proud owner of the UK version of TDTCB I can't help thinking that the Canadian/US version looks so much better. I dunno, it caught my eye when I was looking for something to buy, but I actually put it back first time I picked it up (I have to admit I felt the blurb on the back didn't sound all that good initially, having read the book and knowing what it refers to I think better of it). I think the Canadian/US cover would really have caught my imagination more... view post

First Word that Comes to Mind posted 09 June 2004 in Off-Topic DiscussionFirst Word that Comes to Mind by Peter, Auditor

Shine (sorry very dull) view post

Bakka-Phoenix this June 12th posted 09 June 2004 in Tour and Signing InformationBakka-Phoenix this June 12th by Peter, Auditor

I suppose visits to the Uk would only be acceptable in conjunction with the words "wishing upon a star", or more likely "fat chance"... view post

First Word that Comes to Mind posted 12 June 2004 in Off-Topic DiscussionFirst Word that Comes to Mind by Peter, Auditor

Ball (as in "... of the") view post

Now Reading... posted 16 June 2004 in Off-Topic DiscussionNow Reading... by Peter, Auditor

The Farseer trilogy is in my mind Hobb's best work (as either Hobb or Lindholm). I particularly enjoyed engaging with Fitz's character, indeed I have never found one like him, and Regal is an extremely good villain (if that is the right word).
I would actually say that it is almost better not to pick up the Tawny Man Trilogy afterwards, Hobb leaves the final book of the Farseer trilogy on such a sublime note that anything after it fails to work and evens mars the reading of the first few books. Then again, I think elsewhere on this forum people have claimed that the Tawny Man trilogy is really good, so the above view comes with the disclaimer "Only my two cents, nothing more" <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->. view post

Fantasy and Philosophy posted 16 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I dunno that I agree with Replay on this one (at least not with some of your points).

I will try to begin at the beginning, but there is quite a lot to read and the talk about so please forgive any collapses into incoherence .

First of all, on a rather pedantic point it may be the case that some things are not always either "is or is not". I am thinking of quantum mechanics where it is apparently true that a particle both is in a position x and at the same time it is in a different position y. This leads to the famous thought experiment which has spawned the title name thingy of one of the people on the board, namely "Schrodinger's cat" in which a the cat will be both alive and dead at the same time. Now I am no physicist so I may have got this wrong or misinterpretated things but assuming for the sake of argument that it is right, then nothing either is or is not.

As I said however that is more pedantry than anything else because of course what is true on the micro level (quantum mechanics) is not regularly true on the macro level (the much more sensible world of Einsteinian physics ). So cats very rarely are in fact both alive and dead at the same time (if ever) or found in two places at once and so we can ignore that problem. This still leads to a problem with your is/isn't conception of the world where assumptions and faith are not needed, for we must assume that the effects of quantum mechanics are so incredibly unlikely to translate themselves onto the macro scale that they can be more or less ignored.

Perhaps you will claim that I am assuming that physics is true either at the macro or the micro level, in which case I would agree with you. I would also however suggest that somewhere deep down you do too, if only because when you typed your last message you assumed that we would understand what you were saying. If you did not assume that we had not all suddenly lost the ability to understand English, or that in hitting the "submit" button the message would have been submitted would you have written the reply?

When you say that "When you don't know, you act in a way which you feel is most right. There is no need for faith." isn't there implicitly the assumption that the way one should act is the way one feels such things are right. If there were no assumption surely there would be no reason to act either way (hmmmm this is sounding half existential).

I agree with you on the certainty part, it is not necessary (and perhaps not even or ever possible), but I am not sure that we should not strive for it. The certain world you describe is quite barren I agree, but I am not sure a world in which I was certain of the truth of causality, or certain of the truth of the existence of other minds would be more barren. Certainty does not need to be the whole hog as it were, to some extent, if I am certain of the truth of maths then I can apply still apply it to a such as economics and find that I am uncertain within this secondary area and be pleasantly surprised etc. Having said this, I would agree with your points on the benefits of uncertainty, but a more limited form than you would preach. I do not claim to be certain of holding the truth in any one area, perhaps none of my beliefs are true, but it would not do to stop believing them. Uncertainty should breed flexibility, not a complete rewriting of our life.

When you mention the Zen Don't Know Mind state of mind (if I may call it that), isn't there a certain normative content implicit in such a doctrine. What I mean is, you mention the richness it gives life, would followers of Zen attempt to achieve such a state unless there was the belief that attaining the Don't Know Mind gave them such an a perspective on life etc. People try to enter the Don't Know Mind state to attain this way of life, so the state is not really empty, or at least the run up to and the run down from such a state is not. I may well have misunderstood what it was you were saying, so please forgive me if I have missed your point there.

Finally (yes, it is getting late here and I have spent far too much time on this already), there are one or two more things I would like to say, as well as some questions, but for the time being I will leave them to one side. I would say that if there really were no assumptions then there could be no knowledge and (by definition) no beliefs. We could form no views and learn nothing. Some assumptions do get in the way of learning, the assumption that a scientific theory is right despite the direct empirical data to the contrary, the assumption that one knows more than one's tutor etc. Others however are fundamental to our having any knowledge at all. The assumption that the past will resemble the future is fundamental to understanding the world (otherwise we could never be sure that the carrots we are about to eat haven't suddenly become incredibly poisonous to humankind etc). I can't think of any more good examples (and actually I am not very happy with the above one either), so I will stop there. Faith is necesarry to humans because, as Mr Bakker says, all humans will at some point act on assumptions and this is the same as saying that we act on some form of belief or faith. view post

Fantasy and Philosophy posted 17 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I am sorry, I won't be able to respond for about a week as exams begin in three days and I have given my power cable to a friend so I am now surviving on battery power for my laptop until after exams. This I won't be able to reply properly until I finish exams and get my cable back. And yes having to give a friend my cable does show that I have no will power <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> view post

Descartes posted 23 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionDescartes by Peter, Auditor

I think it might be useful to think about the context of Descartes' Cogito. The Cogito appears in at least two of his works (maybe more, I'm not sure), his "Discourse" (actual name is quite a bit longer) and his "Meditations on First Philosophy".

In Meditations, which is his main work, he is seeking to introduce certainty in his beliefs. So first he analyses all his previous beliefs (such as there being an external world, that he can know mathematical truths etc.) and finds that actually he can be certain of none of these things. The first thing he hits upon is the Cogito (although in Meditations he never actually says "I think therefore I am"). There is no way for this statement to be false when uttered. It is not a necessary truth, but a contingent one, and we can only be certain of our own existence (at least initially) when thinking about the Cogito.

The point I want to make is that Sovin Nai is right in identifying that the Cogito doesn't prove the existence of non-thinking things (indeed initially it can't even prove that there are other thinking things, because thought is entirely a subjective experience and so I can't know other people are thinking things and not just automotons). However, when Descartes utters the Cogito he cannot actually be certain of anything existing outside himself as a thinking thing (perhaps not even a bodily one), that comes later.

Sorry, I had intended this to be a short message, but what I will say is that in modern philosophy, it seems to me that most people accept the Cogito to some extent. It is generally agreed however that Descartes fails later on in his work, most people concentrating on his proofs of God as the weakest links (indeed many would claim non-existent links). view post

Chapters? posted 05 July 2004 in Tour and Signing InformationChapters? by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmm, when you say Oxford Books, is this some bookshop in London or actually somewhere in Oxford? view post

RPG? posted 03 February 2006 in Author Q &amp; ARPG? by Peter, Auditor

On the one hand, because the D20 system is the most widespread game system there is it would be best to publish in it, but on the other the vast majority of translations from literature to D20 seem to be an exercise in getting rid of any background and replacing that with *cool* feats... There are so many other systems out there which I think would fit the world so much better.

But yes, I would DEFINITELY buy an RPG of Earwa... view post

What philosopher suits you most? posted 03 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat philosopher suits you most? by Peter, Auditor

I would say that Machiavelli doesn't count as a philosopher, much more of a political theorist really. Also whilst I don't know Lao-Tze's thinking, I suspect it doesn't really fit into the Western Definition of philosophy, which is not to say that he is less intelligent/interesting, but rather that he most likely can't be compared to the list of philosophers on the poll.

I also think the list is a little weird, you include Plotinus and Plato (the former principally interpreted the latter), but not Hume. Oh well doesn't really matter, after all everyone knows Kant is the greatest philosopher ever... view post

Free Speech and Tact posted 05 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

A speaker at a rally in London outside the Danish Embassy on Friday I think...

He called on "the governments of the Muslim world to completely sever all contact with European governments" until they had "controlled the media".

I find this shocking. Really, really, really shocking. And yet I would find it even worse if this sort of call were stopped.

We need to distinguish between our judgements of what was actually said and someone's right to say it. We can condemn when something is said, we can say that someone ought not to have said something, but all these claims that freedom of speech ought to be limited by responsibility is either a totally vacuous statement or an attack on the notion of freedom of speech. So peaceful protests attempting to inform the Danish and other European newspapers that people were offended by these cartoons and that they think it was wrong to publish them are perfectly acceptable.

Most of the protests seem to go beyond this claim (which is not to tar all the protesters with the same brush, some/many may well only be claiming the above). Attacking buildings, marching through London calling on terrorist organisations to target Europe, waving placards saying "Freedom go to Hell" and "Europe, you will pay. Your 3/11 is on its way!!!" seem to be disputing the actual right to freedom of speech rather than whether it ought to have been said.

Now back to why I think that the claim that freedom of speech ought to be limited by responsibility is either unacceptable or vacuous.

It is vacuous if it just means that people be held responsible for what they said. This will have to be a very minor claim, just saying that the person you agree or disagree with, the person you direct your arguments against is the person who said "X", and the people who support "X". So, freedom of speech requires that someone acknowledge what they say as being their own. Of course when saqying things which may well end up with death threats etc. this responsibility may be mitigated and actual identity hidden say. So the authors of the cartoons cannot simply pretend that they didn't do them, but nor do they need to proclaim authorship openly either. This claim is empty of restrictions on how one may use freedom of speech, and so is vacuous, at least within the context of this debate.

If responsible is used in a different manner, meaning rather that people ought not to speak "irresponsibly", then we get into difficult territory. Who defines irresponsibility? In the case of most of the current claims, it would seem to be a claim that doing something that is seen as offensive to "Muslims", and therefore that this is irresponsible (I put it in inverted commas because I find the notion of referring to such a large group of people in one term and pretending that somehow it means something very suspect). But what is seen as irresponsible by one person is seen as perfectly reasonable by another and the whole point about freedom of speech is that it provides a forum in which such disputes can be resolved. So to claim that freedom of speech must be limited by this interpretation of responsibility is already to disagree with a fundamental part of the doctrine of the freedom of speech.

I began by saying that we need to distinguish between "ought not to publish/say X" and "ought not to have the right to publish/say X" and I think that the latter is unacceptable, but now I want to argue that the case for saying that "ought not to publish the cartoons" is wrong, and rather that it is perfectly reasonable to publish them (not of course that one ought to, just that there is no "ought not to").

First of all, let us begin with the weakest argument, that the Koran forbids the depiction of Muhammed in picture. We will not even deal with the argument that their ethics ought to be imposed upon us because it does not even form a part of our moral spectrum of thought. Rather, a better argument for this would be to claim that because of this prohibition in the Koran it is especially offensive to Muslims to have such cartoons at all.

I think that to answer this we need simply consider the problem of offense. What is it to be offended? It involves hurt and the impression of having been wronged (I would say), but the problem with this is that one is arguing that the offense caused is the wrong. This is obviously problematic and surely it is reasonable to think that we should only take offense really seriously if we think that they have good reason to be offended (i.e. they have been wronged), but then the wronging must come before the offense and so the offense cannot be the source of the wrong which makes us think that "ought not to publish X". Of course if someone has not actually been wronged, but still feels hurt we do have other moral duties, but these relate only to the hurt and not to the wrong.

So, what other arguments can be made to make us think that the action was wrong in itself and therefore that it was reasonable for people to feel offended? We have already rejected the idea that it was wrong because non-Muslims broke a law created for Muslims (well perhaps for everyone, but that claim in itself we say is limited to Muslims). So there must be some other reason to think that the cartoons were wrong.

The best claim is that there was an intention behind the cartoons and their publishing to cause trouble, to incite problems and to hurt people (and because it is wrong to intend to hurt people then this would be to cause them an offence...). But is this really what we think they were doing? Some people seem to assume that this was their intention, but what really matters is the fact of whether the cartoonists intended to cause hurt or intended to try and open up a debate about Islam in the modern world, knowing that people would be hurt by it inadvertantly.

The latter is acceptable so long as the hurt isn't too great, or isn't unreasonably too great. So if I say that I think that "X" is overweight with the intention of getting them to do more exercise, the fact that they might be hurt by what I say is probably not great enough to make my act morally wrong. If they do actually take massive offense at this, so much so that it might otherwise make the act wrong, then generally we will think they are overreacting and so will still not think that what we said was wrong.

Is it therefore acceptable to do something which is intended to do one thing, but will also offend a number of people from a certain religious group. I have to lay my cards out on the table here and say that whilst the level of hurt might be very large, I think it is unreasonable that it be so large. What does someone else's opinion really matter, especially if you think they have got it so wrong. They are merely foolish, or misguided and being hurt by such things is unreasonable.

So, if the intention of the Danish cartoonists and editors was to cause hurt then we can say that they ought not to have published the cartoons, but if it was to do something else, say to open up public debate then we cannot say that it ought not to have been published. I believe the latter and not the former and so think that no criticism is due.

Rigth this is a long post for me and I am sure there will be inconsistencies and assumptions which I have not specified. Please feel free to blow me out of the water on this. view post

Books that have induced a mindfuck posted 05 February 2006 in Literature DiscussionBooks that have induced a mindfuck by Peter, Auditor

I would second and third House of Leaves. I based an Unknown Armies game on it (for those who don't know, very very good rpg) and actually managed to scare one of my players to the extent that he didn't want to sleep... and that was second hand from the book. view post

Free Speech and Tact posted 05 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

The quote is Evelyn Beatrice Hall's in "The Friends of Voltaire" where she paraphrases Voltaire's stance and references can be found here

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although he comes very close to saying it when he says

Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.
Voltaire, letter to M. le Riche, February 6, 1770
French author, humanist, rationalist, &amp; satirist (1694 - 1778)
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Free Speech and Tact posted 10 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

What if FEAR forms your opinions and chooses your beliefs, and you rationalize them later? What if PRIDE or VANITY controls you? What if the MEDIA influences you? Or your upbringing? Or your FINANCIAL situation? What about ENVIRONMENT, or FAITH, or CHEMICAL IMBALANCE? How could you deny the influence of your DIET? The NEED to PROTECT your children? You must LUST? Surely, sometimes, because you are smart, or charitable, or neighbourly, you feel you deserve a little MORE than certain other people, don't you?

What if fear forms our opinions and stops us from realising it? What if our evolutionary upbringing makes us think we have good reasons for something, but in fact all there is behind that opinion is evolutionary necessity?

This last may sound sarcastic, but it really isn't meant that way, it is a serious point. Essentially, there are a great number of things, possibly an infinite number, which can claim that the reasons we think we act are not the reasons for why do in fact act the way we do. BUT, in the end, the only faculty we have which can hope to tell us that we are not acting for the reasons we think we are, the only faculty that can spot this, is reason. Therefore, the best faculty we can use to try (note try, not succeed) to avoid being determined by fear etc. etc., is a self-critical reason. So, when someone is being reasonable (not just thinks they are) then they have a better chance of knowing the reasons behind their actions (namely practical reason).

Of course you can claim that my resoning here begs the question, after all I am using reason to prove the reasonableness of... you guessed it, reason. Actually I don't think I am, I think reason is a lens through which we view the world, not a tool we find in it and then bring to bear, but maybe I am fooling myself over this. Well, maybe, but if I am then I can only say that surely NOTHING is secure (aaaah the problem of radical scepticism).

Basically my point is that if we are genuinely self-critical then I think we have a better chance of discovering something approximating to truth and this is what I took Rellion to be saying.

What if your neighbours--hated or not--were invaded and occupied for control of their only valuable resource? One in which your country was also rich?

Whilst that adequately sums up what seems to be an attitude amongst some people (and not only in the Middle East) I have to say I think it is not particularly fair. To say one country invades another for reason X is to make that country a unitary object which wills etc. as one thing. "America" is surely an entity made up of a vast number of people, all with their own agendas, desires, theories of ethics etc. and to claim that "it" invaded a country for a single reason is to ignore this.

Show one culture to the other through a biased media, THEN what is true?
THEN what questions remain?

Again, the question itself is biased, in claiming the Western media is biased you assume that it does not portray the truth, implying that you know the truth (or at least you know what is not the truth) and you assume that rational adults straining with all their mental faculties to make reasonable judgements cannot discern the truth even with imperfect materials (i.e. supposedly biased media etc.).

Why do you think that EVERYONE who comes out against other cultures mentions some co-worker or acquaintance who is a member of said culture and is different? Nice? Relatable? It is because being around someone reminds us of our human bond, comforts us through real feelings of brotherhood.

On the one hand, so depressingly true, but on the other proximity is not always decisive. In terms of proximity the Jews in Poland lived cheek by jowl with the non-Jewish Poles and yet there was found some of the most rabid anti-semitism this world has seen. Proximity helps, but community is more of a glue and far better at excluding people and creating "the enemy" and "the other". Consider how most Britons view Austrailia vs how they view France. I think Freud said something about no difference being so small we cannot use it to discriminate against people based on it.

This is why I find myself becoming more and more negative with regards to the notion of community in general. Wouldn't the world be so much better if we stopped regarding ourselves as &lt;insert nationality/race/religion etc.&gt; and regarding others as &lt;insert nationality/race/religion etc.&gt; and instead just saw each other as people (which the theory of ethics I follow values as an end in itself and worthy of absolute respect). Sigh, forward cosmopolitanism (which is why I like the EU and the UN, the closest we have ever got to these sentiments). view post

Free Speech and Tact posted 10 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

While I believe that humans are influenced, and sometimes controlled, by myriad forces (fear being primary among them), I also believe that reason can counter this to some degree. I do not think that this affects the point I was trying to make. Even if we accept the unlikely position that Reason is an absolute and incorruptable way to determine Truth, it does not necessarily follow that we would be capable of using it to this end.

I think reason is not the only way to determine truth, but it is the only coherent way where we think truth (if it is there) will follow from our actions. If our reasoning is correct, if we are not basing our thinking on false or biased premises and if we are careful not to draw too much from our conclusions then we will begin to approach something resembling truth.

On an aside I include empirical reasoning in our use of reason, not merely logical.

Otherwise, I think I am probably a little more optimistic about reason being able to determine truth than you seem to be, but that is hardly a substantive point of disagreement (at least I don't think it is).

If you mean that reason is really a part of some sort of deep intuition in all humans, I might just agree with you...

I am very wary of the notion of "intuition". It is used in far too many contexts to justify far too much for its use here to be unproblematic (I think at least). Reason is basic, and it is not justified in the same way that we justify say our belief that water is H2O, but this does not mean that we intuit reason and that therefore reasonable discourse is fundamentally no different from conversations which begin "Well, my gut feeling tells me that...". If this isn't what you mean by intuition (and I can certainly see why it wouldn't be) then ignore the above.

I would argue that reason is more the minimum presupposition we have to make in order to be able to make the claim that we understand something about the world. If we assert that we do understand something about the world (and I think we can make this claim) then we have to assert reason. That is as good a justification as we can get for our use of reason, but I would also want to assert that at least logic, like maths, holds whether or not we ever think it (i.e. 2+2=4 is true independently of our study of maths, just like the law of logic that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time).

I would not ever try to deny this. I simply feel that Rellion's questions were inadequate. I was asserting my belief that his 'either or' questions are not, in my opinion, sufficient to cover the complex and important possible influences on these Muslim protests against the West. I hope, as always, that it is understood that my reply was meant to challenge, not to insult

First off, I at least, viewed your reply as a challenge rather than an insult, hence why I replied (not on Rellion's behalf, as if Rellion could not do so himself, but because there were points I wanted to make). I think that whilst there are a great many complexities in the issue, this does not mean that we cannot say that we think the reactions we are seeing from certain people are unreasonable.

The theory of ethics I follow would not allow for the complexities of regional and cultural history to undo the unreasonableness of the reactions of some people, for reason stands above (or perhaps underneath) all culture (I know I haven't specifically argued this, but I find it difficult to see how one could make logic and empirical reasoning relative to culture etc.). What it would allow is that we recognise that this history, this sense of being under attack, all allow us to reduce any blame we might be willing to apportion out. This might sound highly patronising, but I don't think it is. All it says is that sometimes people do wrong, but that they should not really be held responsible for this, because their situation was so hard. For instance, in the novel Sophie's Choice, Sophie is sent to Auschwitz and has to choose which of her two children is to be gassed and which is to be saved. In this case we may well think that there is a moral choice, but there is no way we will hold Sophie responsible for failing to make the right decision when we consider the psychological and moral stress she will be under.

You do not need to know the Truth to determine the existence of a bias--you simply need conflicting reports of a given event. I sometimes like to read and view a number of media reports, in different publications, in different English-speaking countries, relating to a single event. It is a fascinating, if frightening experience, to try to track the truth through such a muddle of different perspectives. I can only imagine (or trust second-hand) what non-English speaking countries might have to report... I did not claim (by implication or otherwise) that I know the Truth, and that no one else does or could. Again, I had hoped that I was making it clear by my tone how difficult it is for anyone to determine the Truth amidst all these various influences.

Ok, I take you point. Nonetheless, the mere fact that you

Yeah, I wish you weren't right (well I think you are right, maybe I am wrong though...). Hey let's all get depressed at the state of the world, Yay.
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Free Speech and Tact posted 12 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

You know I am absolutely convinced that I replied to the above message. It is really weird. I can remember writing things in response to what you said. Seriously. I think I must be going insane. Did I dream replying or did I write out most of one then not have time to finish it and leave thinking I would re-write it? But then that is the sort of thing I would remember normally. Ok, here is something very similar to something else I am convinced I wrote...

The main thing I think about Sophie's Choice is that the difficulty of the situation is enough to reduce her responisbility for failing to do the right thing (if there is a right thing to do, I have heard one philosopher say that perhaps more important than getting the right decision is coming to that decision in the right way).

I refuse to believe (for the sake of my own sanity) that people are completely out of control and helpless.

A very reasonable view really. At the very least I think it is possible to say that we MUST view ourselves and others as acting freely and under our own/their own control.

Not read the Levi book Survival in Auschwitz, but I feel now that I ought to. Not sure I agree with you though in thinking that the betrayal of the Jewish collaborator's is the same as the petty betrayals we find now. Context is very important in ethics (or at least I think so) and whether betrayal is a small thing which will only cause small hurt, or whether it involves turning your back on your very humanity is surely significantly different.

I have to say I am still with the worst of humanity being found in petty tribalism. Nationality, religious group, race, ethnicity, class, status group whatever takes one group of people and says "us" and considers all others as "not us". Can't get worse than that I say (unfortunately whilst I can make sense of this point of view to myself I find I can never express myself well in my thinking, perhaps I am too radical when I say I dislike the very notion of community. All I can say is that I am still working this view out).

P.S. Is it really the case that I haven't posted something like this already... it is so weird that I can remember doing it. view post

Free Speech and Tact posted 16 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

This connection then caused me to wonder at the powerful influence of self-preservation and what anyone might be capable of doing in such horrifying conditions.

Then again likely those who acted best, who represented the best that people can aspire to were probably the first to die (at least the first if they survived the initial triage). I remember reading something on an online magazine called the Ethical Spectical (something like that anyway) where someone said that being a saint in the death camps definitely did not help you survive, indeed it may well have been prejudicial to your survival. That said I still think that responsibility is diminished (not extinguished) given the circumstances people were put in there. view post

Kant and the Dunyain posted 18 February 2006 in Author Q &amp; AKant and the Dunyain by Peter, Auditor

Right, this is the thrid time I have tried to post this (or something similar) so hopefully my computer won't srew up this time. Basically I finished TTT last night and what struck me very strongly with it was how many points of reference and similarity between the Dunyain way of thinking and Kant's thought, both in his Transcendental Idealism (not so much with the Transcendental Deductions though) and his notions of autonomy and heteronomy. I could try going into some more detail, but given that the last two times I tried something went wrong, I woon't tempt faith. I can explain myself more fully at a later point if you want however. Am I reading this Kantian element in, or did you write Kellhus and the Dunyain with some Kantian inspiration in mind? view post

Kant and the Dunyain posted 21 February 2006 in Author Q &amp; AKant and the Dunyain by Peter, Auditor

Yeah, my original attempt at posting included a more thorough account of the simialrities, then somehow before I managed to post it the window shut down and I lost it. Then the second time I tried it failed again, so the third time I thought I would keep it short and write more later if anyone showed any interest.

Basically the whole Dunyain philosophy seems to revolve around a duality. On the one hand there is the world which is determined by what comes before (the Empirical Priority Principle) and on the other there is reason which is meant formally, but not ontologically, to lie outside the circle of the world (the Rationality Priority Principle). The Dunyain believe that in developing their Logos to a great enough extent they can overcome the Empirical Priority Principle and become self-moving objects.

This sounds very much Like Kant's account of Freedom. When we move through the phenomenal world only, listen only to those phenomenal urges we have then we are acting heteronomously (i.e. acting for reasons given to us from outside ourselves). Rather Kant thinks that we must view our actions as being free (try thinking about a choice you must make such that you think that what you end up doing is not causally linked to what you choose, if you can't then you must at least see yourself as acting freely), but that free action must be governed by some law (after all if we are to see our choices as related to our actions there must be at least some apparent lawlike relation between the two). When we act according to this law, for Kant it is the Moral Law, we act autonomously and are therefore free.

The similarity here is that both Kant and the Dunyain recognise the world as being determined, but both also have an account of freedom which can be attained through rationality. They differ in that Kant thinks that this use of reason is inherently moral, whilst the Dunyain think it is merely instrumental. The other similarity here is that both place freedom apart from this world. In recognising reason as formally outside this world, the Dunyain seem to be calling upon a notion very similar to Kant's noumenal world, which is most cogently understood as the world viewed from a different point of view (a point of view which humans can never occupy however).

Finally it might be thought that the Empirical Priority principle might play a regulative role in the Dunyain philosophy. It may be that it is the lens through which they claim to understand the world, which would be similar to Kant's claim that space, time, number, causality etc. are features of our point of view on the world, not of the world itself. This last point I admit is a little stretched.

So to recap the similarities to me seem to be that both allow for freedom through reason and both seem to have this dualistic view of the world and possibly the notion of regulative principles as well. Hmmmm, there was more in the original lost posts, when TTT was fresher in my mind... dammit. Well this may not seem as much as I had hoped for, but reading the book I was repeatedly struck by what seemed to me to be Kantian elements and I can't get it out of my mind. view post


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