Peter wrote: "What is clear here, CV, is that you have forgotten the purpose of my post."
I don't think so, Peter. I think it's been very clear what you've been trying to do. You want to link the concept of individual rights to your god-belief. When your suggestion that this concept could be supported by appealing to the Old Testament proved to be an empty, untenable claim, you then chose to cite carefully selected quotations from personalities and contemporaries of the founding of America. I simply pointed out that such an exercise is just as fruitless since a bunch of quotes does not prove what it is you've been wanting to prove, namely that the concept of individual rights has a biblical basis. All my comments in the portion which you quoted from my post #60 in this thread were given in context to your aim in this regard. If you can show that this was not your purpose here, then I would admit to chasing another tangent.
Peter wrote: "This has nothing to do with me trying to 'prove' God's existence by bringing forth quotes from the Found Fathers"
Agreed. This is not what I suspected you were trying to prove. I think you gave up on trying to prove the existence of a god long ago when your arguments were exposed to be drenched in fallacy (namely stolen concepts, package-deals, frozen abstractions, context-dropping, etc.). I'm with you so far.
Peter wrote: "--it is absurd that you should even think so!"
Yes, it would be absurd if that is what I thought. What were you thinking?
Peter wrote: "You claimed that religion had nothing to do whatsoever with the reasoning that the Founding Fathers had to develope our Capitalistic system of government."
Actually, that is not what I claimed. I simply pointed out that the Bible is no basis for a rational conception of individual rights (see my post #44 in this thread). You introduced the discussion about the Founding Fathers when you alluded to the Declaration of Independence in your post #48 in this thread and when you brought out the list of quotes you published in this forum in your post # 59 of the same thread. I simply followed your lead, in order to correct your misunderstanding.
Peter wrote: "Indeed, you claimed that Deism was just a step away from atheism."
I think it is. As the Peikoff quote I gave stated, "Deism is a stage in the atrophy of religion." I happen to agree with this description. To be sure, I think any form of monotheism is, in one sense, only one step away from atheism. Atheism is the absence of god-belief. Monotheists, out of a selection of literally hundreds of thousands of gods, believe only in one. The one step between their position and atheism is the rejection of just one more god.
Peter wrote: "These quotes, from the very men who framed our government and gave us this philosophy of individual rights, shows that they certainly thought that they were doing it based on religious principles!"
And when we look to the Bible to see where these principles were indicated, we do not find them. In the Bible, we find no freedom of religious belief, no freedom of speech, no right to property, no right to use one's mind as he chooses, no right to the pursuit of one's own happiness, in short, no right to exist for one's own sake (see my analysis in post #53 of this thread). Thus, I think anyone who links the concept of individual rights to a biblical basis, as do some of the quotes which Peter published in his post #59, is gravely misguided, for reasons given. In fact, it is the very linkage which those quotes assume that Peter is charged with proving, and nowhere has he done this. He himself admitted that the concept of individual rights is not identified or developed in the Bible, and his claim that this concept is implicit in the laws given in the Pentateuch has been proven to be untenable.
So, while it may be the case that the quotes which Peter kindly presented in his post #59 "show that they certainly thought that they were doing it based on religious principles" (emphasis added), as Peter here suggests, it certainly is not the case that those principles are biblical in nature, regardless of what anyone otherwise thought. Peter has had the opportunity to rebut the analysis which I published in my posts ##53-56, but he has not opted to do so to date. Instead, he chose a more superficial route which essentially boils down to an appeal to authority, and one which has some ironic oversights on Peter's part.
For instance, Peter had attributed the following quote to Thomas Jefferson:
"Resistence to tyrants is obedience to God" [sic]
Here we can be certain that Jefferson did not have the Christian god in mind when he used the term 'God' here. The New Testament is explicit in two key areas of relevance here:
1. Jesus taught his believers to "resist not evil" (Matthew 5:39)
2. Other New Testament authors explicitly taught believers to obey civil powers, magistrates and the laws of men, since those powers, magistrates and laws, according to Paul "are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1). "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well" (I Peter 2:13-14). Clearly, Jefferson's maxim here is in clear defiance of New Testament principles and cannot be integrated with them. Yet Peter quotes it as a point for his side of the debate. Does he not spend any time or effort integrating what he says?
Obviously, on the Christian view, the very ethos of the Declaration of Independence, which was an open rejection of a governing body by a group of rebels. The "rebellious spirit" is condemned throughout the Bible as an expression of defiance against God (cf. Deut. 21:18-20; Ps. 66:7; Is. 30:1, 9; et al.). Yet it was precisely this spirit, the spirit of open rebellion, founded on reason (cf. "men's wisdom" which is condemned by Paul in I Cor. chap. 2), which made possible the Declaration of Independence and the new nation founded on a radically new concept, the rights of man (where priests have only concerned themselves with the "rights" of god).
Peter wrote: "These quotes were given not to prove my position accurate en toto,"
Peter, I know that.
Peter wrote: "…but to prove that you had no reason to assert that religion had no role to play in the formation of individual rights."
Again, that was not exactly my point of contention. As I clarified above, my point of contention was that a rational conception of individual rights cannot be established on the basis of the Bible. I think I have met the burden of proving this position well beyond any reasonable doubt. If you feel otherwise, then you might want to take some time to review my analysis in my posts ##53-56.
Peter wrote: "The Founders understood that without an objective standard there would be no reason to assert any rights at all."
Really? What did the Founders understand the concept 'objective' to refer to? How did they use this term, and how did they define it in its use? Please cite references. Can you tell us?
Peter wrote: "What they understood (which you obviously do not) is that the only way there can be any objective standard is if there is a transcendent being that governs all things."
You've been called to prove this claim, but so far all you've done is reassert it in various forms. This does not prove what you are called to prove, it merely repeats what you are called to prove. Essentially, you beg the question. Furthermore, we already know that a rational conception of individual rights cannot be asserted on the basis of the Bible, so I don't know what points you hope to gain here.
Peter wrote: "You say that existence exists, that consciousness exists, that identity exists. Fine--what does that have to do with morality? What does the fact that existence exists have to do with asserting that action A is morally justified but action B is not?"
Don't worry, Peter, since you reject reason, I wouldn't expect you to know the answer to this question.
Peter wrote: "They are completely unreleated…"
It does not follow from your inability to answer the two prior questions that "they are completely [unrelated]." This is a non sequitur.
Peter wrote: "…and rather than you demonstrating a proper objective standard to gain morals, you just merely assert them."
If that were the case, then we're even, because that's all you've done. Indeed, when we start examining what you've asserted to provide the basis for individual rights, for instance, (you had claimed "the image of God" if you recall), it turns out that even you do not know what it refers to! Nice.
As for "a proper objective standard" for man's morality, I point to man's existence qua man. I hold that man's nature is the objective standard of his morality. In the past I pointed readers in this forum to an essay which explains this, and I will provide that link again here: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/CMO/CMO1.htm.
I wrote: <<< The cause of America's wealth is precisely what Peter's religion condemns most vehemently: Man's selfishness. It is the profit motive which has lead to America's unprecedented wealth and success as a nation of free individuals, and this virtue can in no way be justified on the basis of Christianity, which endorses the ethics of self-sacrifice, not self-interest, self-promotion, and self-pleasure.>>>
Peter asked: "A) Why are we suddenly shifting topics and talking about America's wealth?"
I don't think I was shifting topics. Rather, I was broadening the topic at hand in order to show where it will go in order to give a broader picture. I would hope that you would be receptive to this effort, given that you have such an open mind.
Peter asked: "B) Did Hitler act selfishly?"
I would say that Hitler did not act rationally, and therefore he did not act in his own best self-interest (i.e., he did not act selfishly). According to Objectivism, morality is rational self-interest, i.e., selfishness on the basis of reason. This in no way describes what Hitler did. Hitler acted on completely mystical (i.e., irrational) premises. He believed that he was doing God's work, and he said so in his many speeches and in his writings. He advocated faith in the supernatural (e.g., God, the occult, Aryan supremacy, etc.), and he did so in his many speeches and in his writings. Along with his ideological brother in thought Martin Luther, Hitler hated Jews (Luther was a staunch anti-Semite, as evidenced in his writings). Along with religious personalities like Jesus, St. Paul, Augustine et al., Hitler advocated the ethics of self-sacrifice, which is anti-selfish in nature. And along with virtually every serious religious philosopher, Hitler advocated the politics of collectivism, that the individual does not have the right to exist for his own sake, but has a duty to sacrifice himself to the state "for the glory of God." Do I think Hitler acted selfishly? No, not as I understand the concept. Hitler acted to spite himself entirely.
Peter asked: "Did the Pope of old act selfishly?"
I think the differences between the Popes of old (and even contemporary popes) and a Hitler do not lie in terms of fundamentals (for each affirm essentially the same irrational principles, at least in terms of fundamentals). Rather, their differences lie in terms of degree, ambition and seizure of opportunity. This is, granted, a very general assessment, so I would allow room for some exceptions if I think they could be fortified by qualifying evidence. But in general, this is my judgment on these men, given the details which I do know.
Peter wrote: "Indeed, in your eyes, did John Calvin act selfishly in regards to Miguel Servetus?"
Given what I've written in response to the above two questions, what do you think my answer to this question would be? No, I do not think that John Calvin acted in his own best interest. I do not think that any mystic does. The irrational never serves one's own best interests. Perhaps you feel otherwise?
Peter wrote: "Why are you espousing a standard that you do not actually hold to?"
Which standard is that? Rational self-interest? Indeed, I not only espouse this as a standard, I hold to it as one of my overall guiding moral principles.
Peter wrote: "I'm not going to let you off the hook, CV."
I appreciate your tenacity, Peter. Indeed, I think it is one of your most admirable character traits. If only more would follow your example in this regard! This is intended to be a compliment, by the way, and I do mean this sincerely.
Peter wrote: "Selfishness in and of itself is neither a virtue nor a vice."
I disagree (for I hold that selfishness, as Objectivism conceives of it, is a virtue), and I think the authors of the Bible would also disagree (for they hold that man's selfishness is an abomination before God).
Peter wrote: "It is the object of that selfishness that determines the morality of it."
What do you mean by 'selfishness' then? Perhaps you can elaborate on what you mean here. (Though this might be a good start of a new thread.)
Peter wrote: " Unjustified selfishness is immoral--that is it."
Here read for "unjustified" the term "unapproved."
Peter wrote: "You have not yet answered my questions about sadism."
Peter, I wouldn't doubt that there are many questions which have been launched in this forum which I have not answered, most probably due simply to time constraints on my part. But I will say this: I think I've made far better effort than you have in addressing the points of my critics. If I were to list every question which I have posed to you but which you have not addressed, I suppose that it would take up volumes. I understand, both of us are busy people. You are busy, and I am busy. If you do not get around to a question, I can pretty much tell when it's simply because you are too busy, or because you recognize that your position is untenable. If I do not answer a question which you've posed, and you really want me to address it, ask it again. If I think it can be answered briefly, I will do my best. If I think the contexts involved are too broad for my allotted time to make possible, I will most likely opt to pass on it, or give as substantial a response as I am capable. I think this is reasonable. Would you agree?
Remember, as a man of reason, I do not claim infallibility or omniscience on my side. I address all questions posed to me by the power of my own reason, and nothing more. I do not claim to possess a pipeline to an omnipotent being which can be swayed by wishes and incantations. If you do not like my philosophy, then discard it as you choose. I am not trying to "deconvert" you from your religious commitments or "convert" you to Objectivism. But I would like to correct some misunderstandings about Objectivism, and I would like to expose you to some of its points in the meantime. So far, I think you're more interested than you'd like to admit to yourself. It's okay to be interested.
Peter wrote: "Suppose that I am a selfish being who wants to harm you. What reason do you have to deny me my self-interest, self-promotion, and self-pleasure at your expense? Answer: none"
Wrong. My answer is: my own self-interest. You might not like it, but that is a reason.
Peter wrote: "(I can only assume you agree since I have asked several times and you have never responded with anything more substantial than, "Is this what you want to do?" as if that answered the question!)."
Well, this is a hasty conclusion on your part, and it's more probable that you have settled on this presumption since you would probably prefer, in your mind, that I cannot answer your questions.
Peter wrote: "Indeed, you cannot assert the rights of man because if I am selfish enough, then there is nothing wrong with me taking your rights away from you."
Peter, tell me (since I don't think you have done so in any post so far): What do you mean when you use the term "rights of man"? How are you defining the concept "rights" when you use it?
Peter wrote: "Your assertion of selfishness as supreme kills your position more effectively than anything else possibly could."
It would, I agree, if I were prone to dropping context as habitually as you do. But, since I do not have this habit, I couldn't disagree more.
Peter wrote: "Many things must be taken into account when judging an action."
Peter, I am right with you on this point. Here we agree.
Peter wrote: "Is the end a morally justifiable end? Are the means justifiable to suit that end?"
These are good questions, and they should be in the forefront of our minds as thinkers, if we want our thoughts to count for anything in terms of rational moral judgment. Objectivism affirms and develops the Aristotelian principle of final causation (cf. Rand, Ayn, Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 99f). You may have heard the claim that "the end justifies the means." The principle of final causation is a little different. It essentially states "the end determines the means." But this is not sufficient to determine whether the action in question (i.e., the means or the end) is properly moral, since, as you rightly state, "many things must be taken into account when judging an action." What are those things? They vary from situation to situation, from context to context. When one identifies a goal which he wants to achieve (a selfish action, mind you, as all personal goal-achievement is), he will naturally need to identify the means by which he can reach that goal. In so doing, he must learn how to project causality, to see what consequences his actions will have if he enacts them. This can be a very complicated process, but most people by their early adulthood have learned how to do this (perhaps only by rote) with some proficiency. Is the end a legitimate (i.e., rational) value to the individual? If so, will he violate the rights of others by pursuing this value? Will he violate the rights of others by the actions which he must take in order to achieve this value? Etc. Questions like these are important to the assessment of questions such as those which you ask above. Objectivism holds that they are properly answered by employing reason.
Peter wrote: "Man's selfishness determines nothing in the long run--nothing."
In a sense, I agree, since I hold that it is man's reason in the context of his selfishness which identifies his legitimate values and the actions proper to achieving them. But reason without reference to one's self-interest is useless in morality, since this would result in stolen concepts.
Peter wrote: "If I am selfishly devoted to my family, and not to yours, then I am willing to sacrifice for my family, but not yours."
I cannot make this determination for you. But Objectivism would say that if you do love your family (i.e., if you hold that your family is one of your values), then you would not sacrifice for them. Sacrifice is the surrender of a higher value for the sake of a lesser value. For instance, I love my family, but I will not sacrifice them (i.e., I will not surrender them for something I value less than them). Furthermore, since I hold them to be a value, surrendering something which I value less than I value them would not constitute a sacrifice, since I am still acting in the interest of that which I value more than what I am surrendering. It all has to do with the hierarchy of one's values. Few individuals take the time to identify the hierarchy of their values. Objectivism teaches that it is vital to understand the nature of one's values-hierarchy.
Peter wrote: "I will give my life for my loved ones in order to protect them--so I act selflessly because of a selfish desire that they be spared (is such an action moral?)."
This all depends on your hierarchy of values, Peter, the details of which I do not know (only you do). If you value your family more than you value yourself (is that the case?), then giving up your life for them would actually be a selfish action, since you would be acting on behalf of what you value most (i.e., you would be acting selfishly). As you state, you have "a selfish desire that they be spared." Such an action is moral, since it is taken in the interest of your values. Again, morality (according to Objectivism) is a code of values which guides man's choices and actions. What is the relationship between the values which you hold? Only you can answer this question.
Peter wrote: "I do not feel the same towards you, and so I do not act that way towards you."
And I don't think you should feel the same way towards me. Again, I am not one who affirms with Jesus that one should love others as he loves himself (cf. Mark 12:31 et al.). Rather, I hold that you should choose your own values, regardless of who does not approve. Nor do I hold (with Jesus) that one should hate his mother, father, brother, sister, or spouse (cf. Luke 14:26). I do not hold that either love or hate can be commanded.
Peter wrote: "Indeed, in my zeal to provide for my family, I see no reason why you should keep any material goods whatsoever when I could take them and give them to my family instead."
Selfishness is essentially acting on behalf of what you value. If you value your family, then you are rightly selfish for acting on their behalf, by definition.
Peter wrote: "In my selfishness, I will steal from you and provide for my family (is such an action moral?)."
If you guide your selfishness by your reason, as Objectivism teaches, you would not do this, because stealing from others would not be in your best interest in the long run (or arguably in the short run).
Peter wrote: "Under your system of morality, there is equal morality: I act from selfishness to protect my family; and I act in selfishness to destroy your family."
If you think this is what Objectivism teaches, then you do not know Objectivism, Peter. Objectivism does not teach this. If you do not believe me, then please, I implore you, investigate it for yourself before you parade these kinds of misrepresentations.
Peter wrote: "If selfishness determines the morality, then in both instances, the same morality is asserted…"
Peter, Objectivism does not teach that selfishness apart from reason determines what is properly moral. I think that is what is missing in your understanding here (if not more).