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Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’

Posted on Dec 4, 2009

By Troy Jollimore

“We are talking far too much about God these days,” writes Karen Armstrong, author of “The Battle for God,” “Visions of God,” “The Changing Face of God” and “A History of God,” at the outset of her new book, “The Case for God.” Funny, I was just thinking the same thing.

Still, I think I understand: If the rest of us are suffering from a touch of God Fatigue, surely Armstrong, whose readable, literate books on particular religions and religion in general have earned her a respectable reputation, might well be sick to death of the topic.

But there is no avoiding the topic of God: It’s all the rage these days. God is under attack, and God’s attackers under counterattack, everywhere you look. Anyway, Armstrong’s real complaint is not that we are talking too much about God, but that there is too much talk of the wrong sort. We have misunderstood the very concept of God, and as a result “what we say [about God] is often facile.” She isn’t referring only to the so-called new atheists here—well, primarily she is referring to the new atheists, because they are the ones that really get her goat, but she is careful to assure us that the central modern misunderstanding of religion, which is to see it primarily as a matter of belief, is one shared by most religious adherents, and isn’t just a creation of their critics.

The complaint that the new atheists (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc.) are theologically incompetent, and that a subtler appreciation for the finer points of theology would expose the shallowness of their attacks, is by now a common one. But few defenders of religion attempt actually to spell out the theological details; and the results of those attempts that have been made are, in my experience, deeply unsatisfying.


book cover


The Case for God


By Karen Armstrong


Knopf, 432 pages


Buy the book

Can Armstrong’s ambitious survey of the history of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious thought do better? She is entirely correct that atheistic critiques aimed at naive strict literalist readings of holy texts can take us only so far. Mocking the angry, cruel, unjust deity of the Old Testament, or reminding literalists that the world is considerably more than 4,000 years old, has little force against the moderate, nonfundamentalist faithful. More powerful skeptical critiques, though, do not presuppose Scriptural literalism. They rely on the Darwinian view of how complex life evolved on this planet, or the existence of serious evil and injustice—things that are well-established and pretty much impossible reasonably to deny and, at the same time, extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with any view of God-as-designer/caretaker, or with any other traditional form of theistic belief.

Pointing out that sacred texts are not meant to be read literally, then, is not enough. Armstrong’s more radical strategy is to de-emphasize the role of belief in religious life altogether: Practice, she writes, is more important than belief, and we misunderstand references to “belief” in the Bible, the Quran and elsewhere if we interpret them in accordance with our modern understanding of belief. (The correct sense, she writes, has more to do with “ ‘trust,’ ‘loyalty,’ ‘engagement,’ and ‘commitment.’ ”) Critics who focus on the absurdity or implausibility of so many religious beliefs, then, or on the fact that religion encourages people to accept these beliefs uncritically and to hold them in the face of any countervailing evidence, are missing the point: It isn’t believing certain things but rather living a certain sort of life that makes a person religious.

To see long excerpts from “The Case for God,” click here.

One might well worry, though, that it is not as easy as Armstrong assumes to separate belief from action or practice. Indeed all intentional voluntary action presupposes some set of beliefs. Armstrong may perhaps make a plausible claim in asserting that faith, as understood by mainstream religious traditions before the advent of modernity, involved more than “mere” belief in the modern sense; but if the problem with religious life is that it encourages false, absurd, unjustified beliefs, showing that it does other things as well is not sufficient. What must be shown is that religion does not involve belief, and not merely that it involves other things in addition to belief. So long as religious worldviews differ in certain important ways from that held by the nonreligious, one can still complain that that worldview is poorly founded and, to a large degree, implausible. (Of course, it is open to the faithful to attempt to formulate a worldview that is both plausible and recognizably religious in a meaningful sense. Again, though, reassurances that such a picture can be articulated are far more often encountered than are actual and convincing attempts at doing so.)

Throughout the book Armstrong frequently indicates an attraction to apophaticism, which she sees as promising a response to this worry. Apophaticism, as she understands it, claims that God is ineffable and that talk about God literally has no content at all. Since God transcends all human attempts at understanding, humans cannot think or say anything meaningful about God:

The idea of God is merely a symbol of indescribable transcendence and has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries. The modern God—conceived as a powerful creator, first cause, supernatural personality realistically understood and rationally demonstrable—is a recent phenomenon. It was born in a more optimistic time than our own and reflects the firm expectation that scientific rationality could bring the apparently inexplicable aspects of life under the control of reason. […] We have seen too much evil in recent years to indulge in a facile theology that says—as some have tried to say—that God knows what he is doing, that he has a secret plan that we cannot fathom, or that suffering gives men and women the opportunity to practice heroic virtue. A modern theology must look unflinchingly into the heart of a great darkness and be prepared, perhaps, to enter the cloud of unknowing.

This rejection of the theistic God, and acknowledgment that the problem of evil cannot be swept away through theodicy, might sound like music to atheists’ ears. And what could any skeptic find objectionable about revelation once we accept Maximus’ view that “[p]aradoxical as it might sound, the purpose of revelation was to tell us that we knew nothing about God”? Surely if this view were widely accepted the most serious problems with religion would simply dissipate. Would people who admitted that they “knew nothing about” God’s will support laws to prevent “unholy” same-sex marriages? Would people who saw God as “that mystery, which defies description” be moved to reject Darwinian views of evolution, contra all the available evidence?

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Clash's avatar

By Clash, March 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm Link to this comment


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By Tom Edgar, March 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm Link to this comment


Republicans? With the Trilobites in evolution.
Not that they didn’t evolve further but their thinking seems to have been fossilised.

Our thinking is but the sum of our experiences.
I like the electrical identity.  I was shocking in my youth.  Like to think I was a magnetic personality when I was in my teens, and electrifying attractive at a later date, Now the dynamo needs rewiring, and the commutators new brushes. Leaving me feeling more akin to a lead acid battery in need of a charge.

I would debate your last sentence.  I suggest that it should be “Not justifying marijuana as a vehicle for religion.” Marijuana may heighten all sorts of experiences, religion included, but eventually the damned stuff only short circuits the system.  Alcohol and other drugs have similar effects in some areas, and the opposite in others e.g. aggression. May I facetiously ask, if this could be a positive or negative charge?

Dave you poor misguided and unenlightened person.

As so many before you when shown proofs either negative or positive you ignore them and still persist in pushing your wheel less barrow.
If prayers are answered it shows prayers work If they aren’t it still shows they work but God didn’t say yes. You ignored it before and I say it again. “God gets all the acclaim but none of the blame.”
Guess that should prove he was only a damned Politician in the first instance.

You ignore it when specific instances in my own life are recounted, you have no answer at all for the many thousands of believers, babies, and children killed all over the world according to you and your kind “By God’s good grace.” If this is true I would want no part of such a miserable sadistic bastard.  Mio Anteporre via con Diabolo

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By Shenonymous, March 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

Okay, here goes. Austin Cline, atheist wrote it “isn’t
enough to dismiss Persinger’s work entirely, in particular because
his experiments with the magnetic-field apparatus aren’t his only
bit of evidence. For example, he predicted that natural changes in
the earth’s magnetic field would lead to religious visions and, in
fact, reports of such experiences increase in an area before and
after seismic events (earthquakes, volcanos). Perhaps the “after”
experiences can be attributed to suggestibility, but it seems
implausible that spikes in religious experiences before an event
are entirely due to suggestibility.

Persinger long admitted the impact of suggestion in his experiments.
People exposed to “eastern” music and props were more likely to report
experiences consistent with eastern religions (like a feeling of unity with
the universe); people exposed to Catholic imagery were more likely to
report experiences consistent with western religion (like the feeling of a
powerful presence).

Reported problems with Persinger’s primary experiments are strong
enough that people shouldn’t rely on them too heavily when arguing
that religious experiences are biological rather than supernatural. The
apparent relevance of suggestibility means that a biological origin of
such experiences is still the most reasonable and rational conclusion,
but not necessarily for the reasons previously thought.”

Others involved in the same approach of research as Persinger include
Mario Beauregard (University of Montreal) who has shown religious and
spiritual experiences include several brain regions besides the
neurological regions that Persinger studied. 
However, Dr. Beauregard’s work, unlike that of Dr. Persinger, does not
include inducing religious experiences, and is confined to neural
imaging Carmelite nuns while in prayer. The correlation drawn between
temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experience, as discussed by
Persinger, has been questioned.  The auditory and visual hallucinations
as well as emotional states experienced by Temporal Lobe epilepsy
(TLE) patients during the seizure state typically induce sensations of
malcontent, rather than ecstatic or pleasant sensations that are integral
to spiritual experience, as noted by neurologist John R Hughes. 
Feelings of heightened mystical awarenesses is equally experienced with
the use of substances such as marijuana.  That does not mean
marijuana is a vehicle for the justification of religion. 

Other work that gives Persinger’s experiments debatable worth can be
found at

The end of the article reports the experiments of Christopher French, a
psychologist, and Persinger commended “French’s team on its “splendid
experiment,” even if it didn’t validate his ideas. He still contended EMFs
do affect the body in many ways—from the brain to individual cells, to
enzymes, and even DNA. The key to testing their effects on brain
activity, he says, is to make sure that the fields are neither too strong
nor too weak, and that they come in the right pattern.  So he is not
willing to give up on finding a way to prove scientifically that EMFs are
behind at least some ghost sightings. “I’m a scientist,” Persinger says. “I
don’t believe in anything.””

Since the brain works mainly on electrical impulses, neurons firing and
leaping data across synapses, it stands to reason that thoughts can be
affected.  The human body is essentially an electrochemical system, and
devices that disrupt the electrical impulses of the nervous system can
affect behavior and body functions.  It is not a stretch to theorize that
the cause of dreams is a function of this electrochemical system.  For a
report on REM sleep and dreams you might also check out

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By Leefeller, March 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm Link to this comment

Evolutionary plans do not exist in the 3000 year old goat herders scheme of things, but what I want to know is where does this place Republicans on the evolutionary level?

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By Tom Edgar, March 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

Does the forgoing imply atheists are further advanced in the evolutionary process?  Figures

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By Night-Gaunt, March 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment

IN Matthew Alper‘s “The God Part of the Brain” spoke of Dr. Ramachandra‘s work finding that many spiritual leaders of all faiths had temporal lobe epilepsy.At UCLA Jeffory Saver and John Rabin in the Neurological Research Center found independently of many exhibiting symptoms of it. They even listed as possible candidates Joan of Arc, Mohammad and the Christian apostle Paul.

Adding more tangible physiological data, Canadian psychologist Michael Presienger found when using a trans-cranial magnetic stimulator (a helmet that shoots a concentrated beam of EM radiation into a specific part of the brain) in this case his own temporal lobes. He said he experienced for the first time a feeling of union with god.

Studies of twins showed a 50% influence of genetics in their religious belief systems. There is also a class of hallucinogens called ethnogens that can induce the feeling god is one with them or in their presence.(Page 110.)

However I expect that DaveZx3 pass it off as less important than the fact that humans can sense it under natural means. That we are designed to do so. I would say yes and no. Yes designed but no no proof of a god or gods, but of evolution. I would like to try it to see if I get any affect from the TMS. If I don’t then it will go toward proving my hypothosis that Atheists do not have that capacity. IN evolution it always has just enough outlying traits in any population to guard against homogeny. Which is the death knell for any species when the environment can change at any time.

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By Shenonymous, March 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Magnets, huh? Okay, but what is the standard of proof? I wouldn’t
try this test though, as all the ferrous metal in my brain (a lot)
would navigate to the point of contact with the magnets possibly
distorting the hallucination.  I wouldn’t want to do that!  Besides to
have no sensory input one cannot be aware there are magnets on
the head, nor be aware of being conscious either, no smells, no
sounds, no haptic feelings, no visuals, and no taste.  It would all be
thought based on memory not current cognition, so would that be
akin to sensory input?  Since an organism can only be aware it is in
an environment is through sense perception, we could be in big trouble.

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By Clash, March 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

Sit in a room with magnets strapped to your head, turn up to 11, make sure there are no sensory inputs and y0u can have your proof of gods, angels and some times space aliens, its a lot safer than hallucinogenic, or psychotropic drugs.

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By Shenonymous, March 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

Please provide a link for your Oxford Journal article, DaveZx3.  You
said, “Do you need me to provide a list of the most memorable?” 
My answer:  Yes

Since you know so much about God, does God say no?  Or does
God just not answer at all?  And if the latter how does one know
God even heard the prayer at all?  So Paul was in communication
with God?  Hmmmm that is specious.  Actually Paul wrote most of
the New Testament so I would think he was most imaginative.  Out of
27 he is usually attributed to have written 17, and others think even
more.  I am not belittling anyone’s experience. I am simply asking for
verification.  Which none is ever forthwithcoming!

The Antilegomena is always interesting as to the scholarship of the
Bible, which I have explored to some fair extent. The authorship of the
Bible both Old Testament and New is still a raging debate as to who
wrote what or why certain books or other writings were included and
others not.  Without certainty, I find it difficult to believe anything that
is claimed to be historical truth to be actual truth regardless of what is
written.  Words are very tricky units of language, either spoken or
written.  2500 years ago Plato warned about the persuasive rhetoricians
and sophists in several dialogues but most poignantly in the very short
one called the Ion. 

DaveZx3, you do not answer my questions, nor Night-Gaunt’s so
m’thinks it is you who is disingenuous.

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By DaveZx3, March 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm Link to this comment

Here is one case of thousands which is completely unexplained. 

“Oxford Journals, Medicine Annals of Oncology, Volume 8, Issue 10 Pp. 1031-1039”

It is not good enough to say everything is explainable in nature, when there is so much which science cannot explain or has gotten seriously wrong over the years.  Do you need me to provide a list of the most memorable? 

If you need to know when prayers are answered and when they are not, first of all understand that even a “no” is an answer.  The apostle Paul asked to be relieved of a specific affliction, and the answer was, “No, my grace is good enough”.  But if you do a word search on the word “prayer” in the bible, it will answer every question you may have about the why’s and when’s.  I can’t add anything to what is written there.  It is all very clear. 

My original point was that there were plenty of experiences out there, of all kinds, to justify the faith of millions.  Faith is based on experience, not superstition.  If there were no experiences, faith would die out in a generation.  That is the point I am making. 

You can belittle experiences which you have never had, and which you cannot explain, but that is extremely disingenous IMO.

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By Tom Edgar, March 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment

13 years ago my wife lay dying around her, night and day. members of her Quaker Community praying.
Seven years ago my friend lay deteriorating with Parkinson’s until he died, taking seven years to do it with constant prayer vigils for this Church Pastor.
This atheist is still around causing problems in my community for every damned believer, in spite of many of them praying for my demise.

Praying is like homeopathy.  The same results as a placebo.  That is what praying is, a placebo, giving false hope with the inevitable claim of a cure when a positive outcome prevails but deathly silence when, in the vast majority of cases, the results are negative.

I rest my case.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

Another question DaveZx3 can answer (or who he reads can) as to why these individuals were chosen over others who didn’t get that benefit? Just out of curiosity. What is the pattern?

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By Shenonymous, March 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt is correct when he says, “There is no evidence any
supernatural act was involved in spontaneous remissions, none.
It happens, its random since so far no connexion has been found
between those who experience it. Sometimes the remissions fail
later and they succumb to the disease anyway.”

Since you won’t provide any evidence for your claims, DaveZx3, I’ll
provide some for the claim that there is no evidence for your claim. at least from the Cancer Society. Unless
you are excluding cancer from your miraculous cures, the Cancer
Society ought to be authority enough.

It is all explainable, and no superhuman was or is involved, mainly
because there is no evidence that a superhuman is, was involved in any
thing at all, whether from prayer to it, or without prayer.  And it is true
there are spontaneous remissions and no one is saying that they are
identical so that is not a valid counter argument, it is fallacious to
attribute to an argument what is not there. 

Your explanation is actually an ad hoc rationalization.  Just give one
example of a “significant” case written up in medical journals.  Just one
even.  Doctor’s notes do not count since they are not verifiable. 
Doctors are not exempt from hyperbole and mistaken observations. 
There are plenty of medical lawsuits that is evidence that they do make
mistakes and the amount of insurance premiums doctors pay to cover
their asses.  Ah yes, faith.  Those who claim to have done something
superhuman would have to give some account of the experience, not
just claim it happened.  Giving an account is not asking for proof of the
truth of the experience, only the facts of the experience.  Claiming such
things happen is theatrical and spurious at best.  Inauthenticated claims
do not command belief of anyone except those who want to believe in
superstitious events.  Things do just happen in nature, it is all
scientifically explainable.  One has to understand chemistry, physics,
biology, and probability theory at the least. 

What are your credentials, Dave Zx3, that gives you authority to pass
inspection over accounts of supernatural events or phenomena?  What
are your criteria for authentication?  There is not any legitimate basis
for faith except that there are those who will believe without
authentication.  Here we are taking faith as applicable to allegedly
unexplained phenomenon.  Perhaps it gets mixed up with the concept
of hope?  Faith, by definition, is blind and while it is a species of
thinking it is not thinking with any expectation of authentication. Unlike
science, there is no methodology nor verification process involved.  To
explain how “everything” works would take the Library of Congress and
I suggest you get started right away.  But if you have specific questions
how particular things work, you will get a verifiable answer. 

Do explain the connection between prayer and things that are claimed
to have worked or were made better on account of prayer.  How does it
actually work, what does one do to pray for something?  Is there any
proper way to insure the god hears it given the level of sincerity is
extraordinarily high?  There are many of us who do not know the
convention or etiquette.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment

Tell me do those medical journals list all those that weren’t answered? The millions where everything worked as predicted or expected? No. That the prayers failed? No. So it is hardly adequate to develop any kind of pattern. Yes they are listed as I would expect but to extrapolate anything significant from them is specious.

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By DaveZx3, March 25, 2011 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

To say spontaneous remissions “just happen” in nature is as simplistic as saying that the matter that inhabits the universe was always here.  These are cop-out statements which show a lack of ability or willingness to address experiences which do not fit into your paradigm.

Your statement that some spontaneous remissions are sometimes reversed is also simplistic, because it goes without saying that all cases are not identical, and many are faked.  I am talking about the significant cases which do not reverse and end up in medical journals and doctors office notes as truly unexplained.

Faith is reinforced by legitimate, honest experiences of common individuals and those around them.  And when the phenomenon is unexplainable and the individuals attribute the phenomenon to faith or prayer or meditation, who is to argue with them? 

It is intellectually dishonest and unscientific to state, “things just happen in nature”, just because you have no idea how it happens.  Among the thousands of cases I have examined, many have included professionals who stated there is no conceivable natural explanation to explain the phenomenon.

My point is just that there is a legitimate basis for faith.  It is not blind and unthinking. 

Now if you could legitimatelly explain exactly how things work, you could destroy the faith of billions.  Otherwise, you have not much to say.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

It seems to be awesome all around now.

There is no evidence any supernatural act was involved in spontaneous remissions, none. It happens, its random since so far no connexion has been found between those who experience it. Sometimes the remissions fail later and they succumb to the disease anyway.

Yes Dave such followers would lose interest if they didn’t see or interpret things in Nature as “miracles” and continue to believe. Science be damned for them to continue. It wouldn’t bother me so much if some of them wanted us to be under a theocratic rule and be forced to follow whatever commandments there are. Live and let live is the best way of that.

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By Shenonymous, March 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment

“There is no one good, not a one,” says DaveZx3.  So you believe
in original sin and that all is born into sin?  So tiny babies are
sinful and evil?

But if everyone would simply use the small text box provided at
the bottom, I think that would solve the problem.  Is it too much
to ask?

Faith, belief without supportive evidence, is always foolish and
leads to many of the evils that show up in society. The argument
that science and reason are also based in faith is deceptive and
fallacious.  Science is belief in the presence of copious supportive
evidence.  Reason is the procedure by which we ensure that our
conclusions are consistent with any theory that produced them
along with the data that tests any conclusions that are the outcome
of observation. 

To test the efficacy of prayer just convince a thousand Christians to
pray for a single amputee to regenerate the missing limb. I’ve read that
salamanders do this regularly and I don’t think they engage in prayer. 
But if you know that they do, please post proof of it. So if these
amphibians can regenerate their body parts, surely it is within the
capacity of God. Several have proposed this test, I will not claim to be
its inventor.

But it is the height of arrogance to believe that a god will change the
laws of nature just to suit a believer’s prayerful wishes. I clearly
remember the idiot governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue who prayed for
rain. It rains when the elements of nature indicate there is enough
moisture in the air and the prevalent winds and temperature indicate it
should rain. Why pray for rain anyway, doesn’t an omniscient god
already know that you need rain? Prayer is for idiots.  Prayer has never
stopped a tornado, a bullet, or cured a virulent cancer. Nothing fails
like prayer.  Published by the Associated Atheist Press - Mon Nov 19,
2007, Atlanta, GA - “It’s completely obvious that the damage caused by
rainstorms in drought-stricken Georgia was caused by their blatant
blasphemous beseeching of Yahweh—another one of those false
ancient deities—for rain. Witnesses at Governor Sonny Perdue’s prayer
service reported that he seemed completely unaware that if Yahweh did
exist, his Bible specifically calls those who pray in public hypocrites.
(Mat 6:5-9).  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for
they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners
to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward
in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray
to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done
in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling
like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many
words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need
before you ask him.”

But the Flying Spaghetti Monster was riled up by such blatant disregard
for his supreme sovereignty sent rain to assert his power over all of
creation. The wrath of FSM poured down upon Atlanta like Holy
Marinara from the heavens. Damaging a Baptist church, an ambulance
service, and even a city hall building, FSM is tearing down the temples
in the high places—All praise His Noodly Appendages. He also
completely demolished a home and injured three children.

A recent study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center on 700
patients, found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery
patients had no effect on their recovery. There have been other studies.
All failed to show effective improvement. You only have to do a google
search on the ‘Net to find them.

I can’t afford a whole new computer with a different platform just to
solve one problem of Truthdig forum width that is not a printer
problem but a screen display problem. My iMac is awesome in every
other way.  It is the latest and the bestest.  Besides it is just this one
forum that is so odd.

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By Tom Edgar, March 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment

Man or Nature’s indiscriminate faults are to blame for adversity..  God’s and faith for the cures.

Same old same old.  All the acclaim but none of the blame.

I like your last bit.“Denying is empty if not backed up by scientific proof.” To which I add “Claiming without scientific proof is worthless.”

That you say “There is no one good”.  Well I am sorry that you move in such destitute circles.  If you had known Pastor John White (remember I am an atheist)or my own late wife, you would have known you are wrong. I know they are not isolated examples.
Within my wife’s own Quaker community I knew several others.

If your companions are not good, then I respectfully suggest you either move away, or change your ways.
In most instances people move in communities that reflect their own characteristics.

I’ll not claim perfection for myself, far from it, but I learned a lot from my friend, and wife,along with the Quakers. I’m still working on it. Tough when the material supplied doesn’t fit.

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By Leefeller, March 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm Link to this comment

Prayer reminds me those messages I get on the computer all the time, they usually have a stupid story or a cute cuddly story and at the end of the message it says something like this,  “pass this story on to 10 of your bestist friends so your day will be completed and graced with all kinds of goodness and your stars may twinkle brightly! 

So to make sure these annoying stories never die out, I always pass the 10 of them on to Dave x numbers!

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By DaveZx3, March 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

By Tom Edgar, March 23 at 3:46 am

Tom, I am sorry your friend suffered, and I am sorry for all those who suffer on this earth. 

But let’s get one thing straight.  Man has free will.  Man apparently likes to use that free will to hate, lie, cheat, steal and murder, among other things. 

We all pretend we are O.K. and not part of all that evil.  But no one is fooled.  There is no one good, not a one.   

Yes, there is suffering in the world, but it is a result of the behavior of men, if not the randomness of nature.  Christ said, “love your enemy”, but man would rather bomb them, believers and unbelievers both.

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By DaveZx3, March 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment

The purpose of my previous post was not to propose prayer as a cure for all medical and end of life condtitions.  It was merely to show that there are some very good reasons for the faith that people have, contrary to what is normally described as “blind faith” mostly in an effort to discredit and belittle faith itself. 

If there were never, ever any results from faith, it would die out.  But there are results, and I use medical results only because I have become most familiar with this area, but that is not to say there are not many other areas where results are seen.

Quoting from the Journal of Science and Healing, “Approximately 3,500 medically documented cases of seeming miracles—based on reports from doctors in America and around the world dating to 1967—have appeared in 800 peer-reviewed medical journals and cover all major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.”

It indicated elsewhere that about 68% of spontaneous remission cases known to doctors are considered by the recipient of the remission to be the result of prayer or spiritual practices. 

This is why faith persists.  It is like the lottery.  Only one person in the whole country needs to win for millions to run out and buy tickets.  They have faith that they can win, even though most never ever do. 

If faith has nothing to do with these spontaneous remissions, and remember, there are ten times the amount estimated which are never reported to doctors, then science needs to do a better job of explaining how someone with two lungs full of aggressive cancer goes home to die, and within days their lungs are documented to be completely clear with no therapy given.  These types of cases exist in most doctors files, whether they admit it or not. 

To the recipient and their family, it is a miracle, plain and simple, and no talking will convince them otherwise.

And that is one of many, many reasons why faith persists.  It is based on experiences.  You can deny this all you want, but like everything else, denying is empty if not backed up with the scientific proof of why things happen.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

I believe the earliest recorded experiment to show whether prayer, sincere or not, happened in 1843, I believe and failed to show any enhanced efficacy. There have been many since. Some have been done with people who would visualize the person and or the affected area and think good thoughts etc also. Whatever outcomes it was too haphazard and still not as affective as allotropic medicine and surgery.

I have yet to see a functioning hospital of Christian healing in operation and have at least a better record that probability or present medical standards of getting well or recovering. Expect law suits from the survivors.

I love Mac, but I only use PCs and that is probably why I don’t have trouble with my dimensions being printed properly. Some of them just interfere with each other. I would recommend testing first to see what you can and can’t do.

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By Tom Edgar, March 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm Link to this comment

What a load of cods wallop.  Are you actually an adult of normal intelligence.??

My close friend, none closer, died painfully over a period of seven years whilst his Church congregation and family prayed night and day for him.  John was their Pastor in the Church of the Nazarene.  A gentler kinder man never trod this earth.

Tell your idiotic prayer pushers that it works for those in Japan and Christchurch,the combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Tunisia, not for those who died, but the ones who are now living a lifetime of pain from mental and physical trauma.  All from events, according to believers, caused by God. Go ahead and pray for those little limbless children, and adults, from all these events.  All I can say is. It’s Vicious Bastard.

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By Shenonymous, March 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment

Since you say there is plenty of evidence to justify and grow one’s
faith in the book DaveZx3, please give a complete example from the
book that pretends to proof. That way I don ‘t have to buy it unless
there is evidence and justification that I should.  Among others (Yuri
Geller) Carl Jung also talked about the powers of the mind.  And
neither Jung’s conjectures nor Dossey’s via your voice shows that
mind spreads infinitely throughout space and time. Granted it sounds
ecclesiastical, as most mystifications do.  One loves what one looks
to love. And one believes what one wants to believe.  Such is the
basis of faith.  The three tomato experiment cannot provide proof
or evidence of anything except that seeds will grow if they are viable
seeds, are planted in good soil, the soil is precisely the same for each
seed, they are all watered exactly the same, and one has years
and years to devote to watching three tomato seeds grow.  What if
after three years the one fertilized with Miracle Grow does the best
in any spot planted (as that is exactly what Miracle Grow promises)
regardless of how much you pray?  Shall you give up your faith?  For
just as you theorize that the one where prayer is said over would grow
the best, it is just as likely it will not. 

Well perhaps the line width should self correct, Night-Gaunt, but
unexplainably it doesn’t.  This seems to be the only forum where it still
happens.  Others have done that in the past and after it changes to a
new page, sometimes it corrects also for some unexplainable reason.
Do you suppose if I said a special prayer it will self-correct?  Or is it
some incompatibility between The Great God Macintosh with its default
browser disciple, Safari, and the other Great God Truthdig?

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By DaveZx3, March 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment

Faith without reinforcement dies quickly.  But like a muscle that gets stronger with exercise, faith grows when it is reinforced regularly.  And there is plenty of evidence to justify and grow your faith if one does a little looking around.
One of my favorite books is “Healing Words” by Larry Dossey, M.D.  This book, and thousands like it, document the growing acknowledgement among medical professionals regarding the power of prayer to affect medical outcomes.  It is easy enough to pooh-pooh the subject, I suppose, but the proof of the numerous scientific experiments was significant enough that now nearly 100 medical schools have instituted courses devoted to exploring the role of prayer in health. 

Dossey talked about the powers of the mind.  Mind spread infinitely throughout space and time.  Now science studies the concept of “collective mind”  or “cosmic consciousness”, and many scientists now acknowledge that “mind” is non-corporeal in nature, which provides a reason for faith in the spiritual component of man.   

There are plenty of reasons, even scientific reasons, for those of faith to be reinforced.  For as I mentioned, faith not reinforced would die out quickly.  I seek out, and I love to hear about others faith reinforcement stories, and I have a few real good ones of my own.  But do not make the mistake of thinking that faith is totally blind and without basis.  For if it were, it would die out in a generation.  Mankind is not as stupid as you lefties make them out to be. 

Interestingly, prayer works even when the entity prayed for does not know about the prayer, and the entity does not have to be a human being.  Even works on plants. 

Do your own experiment:  if you can muster up the power to pray sincerely, perform this experiment:  Plant tomato seeds in three separate plots in good sun.  Water all three identically.  To one plot, apply Miracle Grow according to instructions, the second do nothing at all, and the third, pray daily and sincerely for them to grow healthy.  Change the plots in succeeding years without changing the routine.  The ones prayed for daily always grow the quickest and biggest.  I read about this study a number of years ago, I think in the book “Secret Life of Plants”.

Anyway, saves me buying fertilizer each year.  But hey, everyone to his own methods.  Buying fertilizer works second best.

Faith has been called the evidence of things unseeen.  And there are a lot of very powerful things you cannot see, like gravity.  You only see the effects of gravity, reinforced daily, which gives you the faith that when you go to sleep at night, you and your bed will not float off the earth into outer space.  Yes, you have faith in gravity without even knowing the exact source of it.  Hopefully it will never let you down.

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By Leefeller, March 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

Something very funny is going on with this thread, last time I checked it out is was narrow, now it is wide and narrow. Seems She and Clash are narrow and the rest are wide? 

I believe it may have something to do with those Apple faithful….. or even worse those bracket clowns!

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By Night-Gaunt, March 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

The site should automatically give the proper width.

Faith in a person or persons is not the same as religious faith in an invisible “all knowing, all seeing, immortal” deity is quite different. Since it isn’t treated as a hypothetical but as a certainty.

For me it is a useless exercise. For most of humanity it is almost if not completely biological. An evolutionary out come that has, for some time, been conducive to survival. But that could change in a moment if it should suddenly prove to be a great liability. Until then it will be dominant in our world. Just would like it to be of a more personal variety instead of a fundamentalist theocratic type that a few are pushing all over the world including in this country. Christian, Muslim, Hindu are the main ones we have growing in ferocity. Our better natures need to prevail.

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By Shenonymous, March 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm Link to this comment

Faith is as it has been defined by a few here. But it seems if one is
an utter skeptic, it is miraculous that one can go to sleep then wake
up, get up out of a bed one believes one slept in, then plant one’s
feet on a floor with all the confidence that the floor actually is there
with only faith, or belief without proof, that one would not fall into
oblivion.  There is a place, it seems, for faith, for at the end of any
investigation, one would find only probability and not absolute truth
or knowledge, which hang together like fraternal twins that are born
at the same time but have a different look.  But without truth you
cannot have knowledge and without knowledge you cannot have any

Funny thing about how faith is used.  The scientist uses it after
accumulating as much empirical evidence and comes to some probable
conclusion but all the while keeping the door open for new discoveries.
But the theist falls into unquestioning and merely justifies the will to

Pascal was a French philosopher who argued that reason and intellect
cannot decide the question of whether God exists or not;  therefore, he
reasoned (ironically), it makes sense to choose the option that would
benefit us most should we be right.  Accordingly, the options would be
1. you may live a religious and moral life (although morality is not
limited to the religious, I might add), and be rewarded by eternal
happiness. 2. you could live a pleasure-seeking life and be denied
eternal happiness. 3. you might live a holy life but there is actually no
God or eternal life, and 4. you may live a pleasure-seeking life but it
make no difference because there is no God.  Pascal theorized that the
first of the options is the one to choose because it represents the
maximum gain over loss.  For even if it turns out that there is no God,
the outright risk of choosing such a possibility deserves that option 1
be selected.  The religious imperative says one must believe without
question, there is no option but a command to follow dogma.  I call it
the Black or White Theory, the live or die option. 

So the question is does not believing in God impose the greatest risk? 
It seems like the question of faith and how beliefs are formed are
subjects that deserves more discussion?

Engineering is a precise and honorable profession.  I was married to an
engineer for a long time.  There are small tolerances allowed for errors
and measurement becomes very important. 

Clash, for the life of me I cannot see to what you are referring.  But it is
nice you are safely back from your trip.

By the way everybody, would you please confine your comments to the
width of the small box provided by Truthdig.  My computer is 20” wide
and for some of your posts, the text appears even wider than that!  I
limit lines to about 66 characters wide.  It would be most appreciated.

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By Clash, March 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

First I would like to apologize for anything I might have written in my last post that would have caused the other poster to attack with such angst, if I was to familiar or ? This medium of public letter writing is not always familiar ground for me. I think that not only is the dominant industrialized culture and even the civilization it is a part of, is predisposed to using and treating women as property, with all the misery that goes along with slavery.

Yet when confronted by the venom and anger that the poster used to belittle our conversation, I find it some what confusing. Was this person’s anger caused by their understanding or not understanding the conversation?  Yet how could they, if they had not participated much earlier in the communication? Or was it just an emotional response? I probably should ask.

Again your aim is that of a sharpshooter, we do choose to be moral, but I would submit if the habits of the dominant culture are depraved then virtue may become vice in the the perception of the mind that is not controlled by the culture. This is the dilemma that produced my first questions in regards to this subject. If the culture appears to be depraved in its actions, why should one hold that its assumptions of morality or justice be true?  Is moderation in this case quantifiable?

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By Tom Edgar, March 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

Don’t knock “Reliigious Faith” completely, it has some benefits. 

I had a very dear friend, a Pastor of the Church of the Nazarene,  long since dead, and he died slowly of Parkinson’s.  Praying did him not one ounce of good.
But he still had what I once said to him. “You believers have a powerful crutch in adverse times.  I have only me.  Well I too have had adverse times, so far, I have been able to cope.  Still it would be nice to have somebody else to blame when things go wrong, Oh!...I forgot, when things go wrong it isn’t God’s fault.  All the acclaim but none of the blame.

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By Leefeller, March 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

Faith as belief provides the prop for those blind dogmas. Faith is used by religions and faith is used by many things, for instance Fox news has its faithful many waving tea bags in religious ceremony!

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By Judy Weismonger, March 21, 2011 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Faith: Means to accept something as true with no proof. Or, in the case of religion: Faith means to accept something as true, even if there are facts, evidence, and proof, that it is NOT true.

For example: One has “faith” that prayer works. Well, no it does not. Faith in prayer, or religion does not cure illness. Faith in god or some divine thingy does not interrupt the laws of physics and stop wars, Christian children being murdered in their beds, or good people dying unnecessarily because they put their faith in a god…that does not perform.

Faith…is a delusion, and often functions as a mental illness, if one perseverates to the point of ignoring reality. The word “faith” can be slung around and intellectualized to the point of absurdity, but in reality…faith means to state something is true in the face of reality where there is often proof to the contrary.

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By Shenonymous, March 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

Clash, that is precisely why faith cannot compare to experience.
Because the truth is derived from a few virtues: honesty, sincerity,
and what might ever be construed as good faith, and extends to
the general agreement that truth refers to fact or reality in some
particular incidence where such an evaluation is required. The banal
notion that revealed truth exists to me is a fiction of the occult
wherever it is found, in accepted religions or unorthodox pop
organizations, such as Wiccanism.

Faith is belief that a hypothesis need not be substantiated by fact.
Plato was steeped in metaphysics, he would not require empirical
evidence. But against the mouth of his immortalized mentor, Plato
held contrary ideas between facticity and faith as seen in what
Socrates theorizes in the Theaetetus; speculation is secondary to
evidential material that neither Protagoras nor Gorgias are able to
provide. I prefer the modern notion of truth as found in Karl Popper’s
Philosophy of Science.

Faith is belief not based on proof nor in the certainty of an idea.
Formal usage of the word “faith” is most usually reserved for concepts
of religion, in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting
belief in a transcendent reality, or in a Supreme Deity and that Deity’s
role in the order of higher spiritual things. But informal usage of the
word “faith” can be very broad, and may be used as a general rule in
place of either ” trust,” “belief,” or “hope.” As with “trust,” faith involves
a concept of future events or outcomes.  Prediction becomes a central

If Plato wants to present his soul to some unsubstantiated higher being,
unsubstantiation fits in with Popper’s and a few others’ view of the
impossibility of truth. I even hold that, though I would not claim to be
among their lofty company. But like Popper, I would say that all we can
do is to corroborate as best we can what we suspect to be the truth and
leave open the door for modifications if and when better data is found.

As to being good after death, I am quite skeptical, as there is not
one shred of evidence that anything can happen after death akin to
what happens in life. I do agree, however, that to be as good as one
can in one’s life, where the definition of good is clear and generally
understood, might be the most healthful way to go. It would seem
that a lot of complications would be avoided, complications that cause
stress. Stress causes a morbid effect on the body and mind. 

Gorgias was one of the famous Sophists who would say anything for
dramatic effect. In his dialogue, the Gorgias, Plato made a distinction
between philosophy and rhetoric, and characterized Gorgias as one of
the tribe of sophist orators who entertains his audience with eloquent
words and who believes that it is not necessary to learn the truth about
actual matters when one has discovered the art of persuasion. Taking
that attitude there is no seeking the truth, there’s only the motive to
entertain. Plato takes a rhetorician, Ion to task similarly in a dialogue,
the Ion.

Independent thought is had by everyone who thinks, and all who
have functioning brains do think. Whether those thoughts cogently
consider matters of morality depends on what the habit was from
childhood onward to mature adulthood. It is culture that decides within
its closed system what is or is not moral or ethical.  Such rules, codes,
or valuations, are manmade, not granted by any other metaphysical
realm. You say that to be immoral, even a little bit, reflects only one’s
own perception of one’s self. Maybe that is the essence of morality but
I would submit that there is a perception of a self that is moral, for no
one would choose to be immoral since that would be wretched and
miserable in their humanity. Just as all men think they pursue the good,
even when, according to their culture, they are depraved. Don’t you

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By Clash, March 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm Link to this comment

Plato( Socrates) to Callicles, from the myths of Socrates; “Personally I put faith in the unsubstantiated existence of higher beings of the culture’s myths, and make it my aim to present my soul to its judge in the soundest possible state. That is why,dismissing from consideration the honors which stimulate most people’s ambition, and pursuing the truth, I shall try to be as good as possible, both in life and when my time comes to die, in death. To this way of life and to this struggle, in which the prize, I assure you, out weighs all the prizes of this world.”

So we find at the end of Gorgias, only another zealot in the long line of death cult zealot’s, weighing all acts and thoughts attempting to secure that place in that mythical heaven of the emotions.

As to morallity, one either has the power of idependent thought or not. It is this independence that we are all personaly responcible for in the here and now. Without this indepedence one must then asume that this mind and its’s morrality will be controlled by the culture it exsists in. To be immoral even a little bit reflects only in ones own perception of ones self.

As to dogs and wolves and philosopher kings, dogs kept chained become mad, let loose they they become viscous but eventually they revert to wolf like creatures and in the end become indistinguishable from the wolf. To kings, philosophers or not watch your back. All ways more questions, than answers.

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By Leefeller, May 7, 2010 at 7:22 am Link to this comment

Sorry, correction… I actually used “sam-harris/a-science-of-morality”.

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By Leefeller, May 7, 2010 at 7:19 am Link to this comment


Another link that worked for me, could not get Shes to work.

I was able to get here by typing in “sam harris science of morality”; a whole passle of choices popped up.

Always enjoy Sam Harris!

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By Shenonymous, May 7, 2010 at 5:28 am Link to this comment

Timely for our project, and I will write to Harris about it maybe
this weekend, it seems like morality is becoming fashionable to
talk about?  Let us hope it is not simply metamorality, meaning
just talk about talking about morality.  I cannot dwell this a.m.
here as I have many miles to go, but I received this in my email
and thought I’d pass it along.  See what you think.

I’ve put the address for the print version because it filters out all the
advertisements and can be read more easily.  If that does not work for
your computer, I’ll list the article address as found on The Huffington
Post. copy/paste into browser

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By Shenonymous, May 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm Link to this comment

For myself, I’d prefer to keep this, our current dialogue, limited
to the question about morality that we had come to and let such
notions about the alleged Dominionists (which a faction of the
“Religious Right” probably deserves to be called but needs to be
discussed) be reserved to another forum, the Noam Chomsky article
that has been ongoing too now for some time.  It is my hope we can
be more free about out topic without bringing in current politics.  So,
if you don’t mind Night-Gaunt, I will pass on your comment here
and take it up over there.  However, I am wiped out and will not be
able to elaborate there or here on anything this evening.  I’ve had too
many things push themselves into my non-electronic life. Tomorrow is
another day!  And a week-end that looks so delicious at the moment. 
Just also wanted to say hi to Leefeller who has tiptoed in from a
long hiatus and hope he will contribute to our talk.  I recall several
times over the various forums that he brought up a few favorite
authors as visionaries of moral behavior.  I did want to say that your
personal search, garth, is most laudable and the best thing you
could do.  I look forward to more of your astute observations and
intuitions. Tom, I think one never grows out of learning, and it is
my plan to keep at it until my last breath.  Well, maybe second to the
last breath.  I might want to save my finale to recall the best of what I
learned.  My brain cannot think and I have to bid adieu. So to
Clash, there is a bit more to add about the Critias quote from
Plato but I am unable to make my fingers work any further except to
say to you and our other new accomplice in The Pursuit,
AntiChrist, hello and bye.  What a great crew.  Oars up! Lids

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By Clash, May 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment


I think it was Plato who compared the hills and mountains of Greece to the bones of a wasted body: “The richer and and softer parts have fallen away and only a skeleton of the land remains”. It seems there might have been some kind of problem with the use of resources at the time, maybe they just couldn’t do anything about it quite like the present?

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By Night-Gaunt, May 6, 2010 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

Also look at that goes into more detail and the hidden history of that movement.
Though it was published in 2004, called “Dominionism, the Despoiling of America.”

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By Leefeller, May 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment

Having posted a while back when this Article was started,
I had pulled the plug some time ago. Just happened to
stumbled on it again and I see some very interesting
comments and enlightening discussion.

For now, I am placing this post just for the update
notices and myself as an observer. May I jump in if
inclined, only if and when I obtain and feel up to speed,
hope this is not to presumptuous of me.

I find the civility in this tread most refreshing!

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By garth, May 5, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

She and Tom,

I’ve got to run to pick up Tigs, a one year old spayed female, and return her to her friend.  Females are always good to get because they can have two litters a year.

Tom said it.  I just want to add a little.  She, your ability to educate I think is without parallel.  You add “Temptation.”  I read your last few posts, but I do not want to stop with that overview. I want to pursue it on my own.

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By Tom Edgar, May 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment

A very learned friend once said. “The best form of Government is by a benevolent Dictator, but unfortunately they never remain benevolent.”

Even Mgabe started out like that, and to a degree Hitler, but then the other saying kicked in. Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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By Tom Edgar, May 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment

I’ll add another Wow!  I did say earlier to another person elsewhere, I use this and associated sites to learn, at my age I wonder why, but I am addicted.

Now the only reason I can think “She” runs off to teach is to earn money, you are doing a wonderful job here and not receiving a plugged nickel.

I’ll not bow and scrape in admiration, but on my knees I grovel.  The one thing I regretted not having in my education was to be denied the access to a knowledge of the Classics.
I have always thought that such learning was absolutely essential to clear thinking.  She.. I dips me lid.

In deference to my old headmaster.  He said.  I am not here to teach you anything but how to learn and think.. Well the poor old fellow, who I would visit, in his retirement, whenever I was on shore leave would shudder at this atheist as he was a devout Anglican.  Oh! not everybody is perfect.

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By Shenonymous, May 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment

As promised, garth.
Plato’s communism

Plato’s anger and contempt, his indignation, moved him to action in
the form of literary philosophical essays and treatises.  The dramatically
potent and metaphoric language found in the Republic can be traced to
his outrage at the unrestrained independent complexion of the
Athenian society.  The State came to be regarded as more or less a
partnership of individuals, some even would have said that the proper
political order of that relationship was its domination by the strongest
individual in his own self-interests.  This point of view is loudly seen in
the character Thrasymachus in the Republic.  This view was something
Plato would attempt to derail at all costs.

The new elaboration of society produced many thinkers who came to
challenge the existence of any positive morality.  Justice or morally
right conduct consisted in the view that a man should take what he
could get, and the strong man should take more than the weak. Similar
selfish individualism contaminated political theory.  Such views Plato
blamed the group of unschooled itinerant (traveling around the
country) teachers of Greece, half-professors and half-journalists, who
occupied themselves in spreading those individualistic ideas.  Their
specialty focused mainly on young boys, who were then trained for
political life.  Plato intensely set about to refute thee Sophists, refute
the dogma of individualism and restore the universal laws of morality. 
To do this, he felt a ‘true’ conception of the State must be achieved,
rehabilitation was not enough.  His intention was to show that no
simple partnership between individuals would serve the good of the
state, but rather a ‘moral communism’ where all seeking the same
goals act as a collective.  The royal leader would be a philosopher king. 
The rulers of Greece were corrupt who were politicians for the bounty
and fortune their office would bring them.  It did not matter if it was
democracy or oligarchy, the only difference: in one the rich suffered, in
the other the poor were tyrannized.

Ernest Barker, Platonist scholar stated in his 1923 translation of the
Republic, “The evils of Plato’s day are evils which are still with us.”  His
solution, first through the education of the youth to build unselfish
character; second, by material means intended to reinforce the spirit:
by a system of communism, or socialism, that would relieve the mind
to pursue knowledge and liberate the character from the temptation of
self-seeking. Platonic education was primarily and education of
character; and was permeated by a goal of morality.  Right action is the
telos, the aim.  Right action is wisdom.  The aim of Platonic education
was the perfection of man, but because men do not stand alone, is part
of a system, the aim of education is to make men capable of taking
their place in the system.  Both remedies, regard the philosopher king,
and soldiers and politicians (statesmen) are “stripped” of private
property, and subjected to a system of communism that does not touch
any other class of people of the State.  Plato’s communism was a
limited collectivism.  It was reserved only for the rulers of a State.  For
some reason, that limitation seems quite a right thing to do?  No?

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By Shenonymous, May 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment

There is much more to the Platonic Ideal City, The Republic,
and its parallel to an individual man.  Just as the Ideal City
would have a good ruler, so the individual man would be a
good man, but within the context of the State, were we are
more interested in being separate and self-reliant.  Plato was
not satisfied with producing statesmen, politicians, who will
choose things that are best for the State, and by extension for all of

His guardians who would teach all of the children under his
communism, the guardians would not have houses or private property
of their own, because avarice, selfishness, and greed has a haven in
them.  He believed family life and private property encumbers a man to
neglect the higher state of having knowledge and would lose time for
spiritual matters.  The guardians were to live in barracks and to eat at
common tables.  An odd kind of communism that is true.  It was a
communism of consumption, Barker said.  Since they are paid in rent
from the farmers who they protect and would be free from material
needs, and are in return nurtured by their “flock” they would be watch-
dogs not wolves.  Selfishness would not arise.  (Right?)

A sequel:  In Plato’s Republic, women will come into their own
personhood.  Since the guardians have the care and educating the
children, women are emancipated for their “true” life.  But here is the
rub, hahaha (the fool that Plato was as much as wise), women will be
free to be what he thought they were meant to be: an imperfect man! 
But, physical differences is the only difference and women would be
able to do all that men can do, only to an inferior degree.  And
while women would still bear children, the State would regulate the
sexual activity so that health and vigorous children would be born.

Children would be taken at birth and given them to the guardians.  The
State would see to it that mothers and fathers would not know any of
their own children in case favoritism would happen.  The State would
unite the children as if they were of a common blood. 

Quite different from modern socialism and communism.  Plato’s starts
from moral and political considerations as its aim.  Socialism is based
on economic grounds.

Aristotle had three criticisms of the Republic.  If anyone is interested, I
would write about these next time.

A couple of comments before retiring for the evening, an early riser is
required of me for tomorrow.

I believe Night-Gaunt made the same point as Clash’s last
line of his post.  The way the story goes though, which gave us food
for thought, was there was no “working out” between the two men. 
Seems academic that if they could have “worked” it out, yeah, there
would have been no dilemma.

Seems like Plato provided a solution to a few of the problems
lists in our expectations of each other, but he did not pay
attention to the environment, most likely because it was not a problem
2400 years ago?

And Tom does have a charming sense of humor.  I hope you did
not mind my reversing the parameters of your What if, which I thought
was an excellent alternative and creative way to think about the
situation?  It gave me the inspiration to change it further, thinking we
ought to consider even more possibilities given the diverse nature of
the world?

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By Clash, May 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment


There is the way it is and the way it ought to be, to strive for the way it ought to be is the struggle, the reason the question of morals and morality exists.  To want does not necessarily have any correlation with material things. One could want clean air to breath, clean water to drink’ food not contaminated by or grown in industrial waste or altered by technology.  One can want to move through this life expecting others to cease the rape of the natural world for their own comfort and convenience. Rational humans should have come to this conclusion long ago.

So if you want the definition of want can mean any thing you want I guess?

It is not I that has given up my friend, and if I find that Mr. Edgar’s sense of humor amusing what can I say, I was just being sociable.

As far as Heinz and the druggist, well if they had taken any “responsibility” or more to the point worked something out there would be a possibility that no dilemma would have existed. But then they were only human.

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By garth, May 4, 2010 at 9:48 am Link to this comment


Wow!  Thank you.

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By Shenonymous, May 4, 2010 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Since I have classes today, I shall have to do this in several
parts as it is not a light subject to hit and run comments.

On the other hand, what if the druggist were a Christian
(which is more likely) and would not sell to a Muslim (whose
last name obviously could not be Heinz, but with slight
modification it could be bin Hinez). Would the Western
mind have a different view?

It seems that we did happen upon at least one universal moral, and
garth was the first to state it, but I think we all knew it in our
subconscious, Do No Harm.  garth posits we are born immoral, and
Thomas Huxley argues that human nature is essentially evil. 

Always going more for what has been studied formally than relying on
my intuition or personal opinion, what I’ve gathered is that
sociobiologists believe that morality is a product of evolutionary forces
acting at an individual level and as well as at group level through
group selection (though to what degree this actually occurs is a
controversial topic in evolutionary theory).  Some scientists argue that
the set of behaviors that constitute morality evolved primarily because
they provided possible survival and/or reproductive benefits (i.e.,
increased propagation of the species success).  As a consequence,
humans evolved “pro-social” emotions, such as feelings of empathy or
guilt, in response to these moral behaviors.  In this respect, morality
would not be absolute, but relative, which supports Tom’s argument,
and constitutes any set of behaviors that encourage human cooperation
based on their ideology. 

Frans de Waal’s investigations led him to the view that human morality
has grown out of primate sociality.  Other social animals such as
primates, dolphins and whales have shown to exhibit what Others refer
to a human mental state called premoral sentiments.  It is thought that
several characteristics are shared by humans and other social animals,
particularly the great apes among which are attachment and bonding,
cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect
reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and
peacemaking, deception and deception detection, community concern
and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and
response to the social rules of the group.

Social animals create hierarchical constructions among the members.
Each individual knows its pecking order within the society.  The social
order is preserved by rules of expected behavior

Ah, yes…Plato, the divine (in lower first cap).  Yes, Plato did theorize
communism but it was limited to the Guardians and the Politicians! 
Diogenes Laertius said his name was Aristocles, and was the son of
Ariston.  Plato was a name given to him by his gymnasium teacher for
his big boned body, others say his forehead was wide which is what
Plato means, still others refer to his large body of work, the latter is
unreasonable since Plato was called Plato long before he wrote
anything. So it goes. His father was said to trace his ancestry back to
Codrus, the last “legendary” king of Athens. His mother was called
Perictionè and was of the family of Critias, one of the leaders of the
Thirty Tyrants who took power in Athens after its defeat in 404 B. C. in
the Peloponnesian war, and also of Solon, one of the great legislators
of Athens in the previous century, who was listed among the Seven
Wise Men of Ancient Greece.  So Plato came from high society and
politicians and royalty in the family. 

Hence, Plato came from a family that had anti-democratic tendencies. 
Elitist one could easily say.  Slightly different in the laboror class (a
mason by trade) Socrates who claimed that the artist Daedalus was his
ancestor (see the Phaedo), his father was Sophroniscus, a sculptor, his
mother Phaenarete was a midwife (nurse who brought babies to birth).

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By Shenonymous, May 4, 2010 at 8:33 am Link to this comment

Socrates claimed to carry on his mother’s handiwork of
midwifery, only instead bringing to birth false ideas in
men’s heads.  He had three sons, and a second wife. 

While he died of suicide (hemlock) it was an ordered death
of execution the result of being convicted of a capital crime
of corrupting the youth of Athens to believe in one god instead of the
pantheon, hence impiety of ‘failing to acknowledge the gods that the
city acknowledges’ and ‘introducing new deities.’  One of the original
iconoclasts,  Which was the real reason he was put to death was
because he pissed off the politicians who were sophists and liars.

When Socrates was executed, Plato well felt his anti-democratic feelings
were justified, and that mob rule was evil (democracy is considered rule
by the many or the mob).  Thomas Jefferson felt the same way by the
In the Republic, Plato put to pen his proof that the eternal laws, the
universal laws, of morality could not be dislodged by the skeptic. He
pissed off the Syracusian tyrant, Dionysius who then sold Plato into
slavery!  But he did not serve long and returned to Athens only years
later to return to Syracuse to the nephew Dion who was himself
explelled from the city state.  Plato’s attempt to create a philosopher-
king failed, and failed miserably.  Plato wrote the Republic sometime
between 40 and 60 years of age.  Also titled The State, the latin word
republica means “concerning Justice.”  Composed of four treatises,
metaphysics, or the unity of all things in the Idea of the Good, moral
philosophy, that examines the virtues of the human soul and its
unification and perfection in justice, then the one on education that is
considered the finest essay ever written on that subject, and which
brings up the idea of communism, then the final section deals with
political science and the proper government and proper laws that ought
to regulate the ideal State.  The entire book was written to answer one
main question, What is a good man, and how is a good man made?  To
answer this, Plato uses the allegory of justice of a State that in the end
would lead to conclusions of how a man might conduct himself in the
best way.  Plato’s intention was not to show any particular literary form,
but to use the dialogue to express his philosophy.  It was his ardent
desire to show thinking as it was thought and to avoid just giving voice
to opinions.  He wanted to “awaken” thought not to provide knowledge
or facts.  What we do on these forums is actually illustrate our minds,
our thinking. 

His indignation with what was happening to the State (in Athens),
inspired him to write the Republic from his dismay at the spirit of
excessive individualism that he thought to have invaded Greece.  The
Greeks, in fact, had reached the point in their development of no longer
accepting unquestioningly the laws of morality or the obligations of
political life.  Does that ring familiar?  They began to ask why and how
of these things.  That kind of motive is at first destructive, it is what
might be similar to the motives of the Hellenistic spirit, or polluting of
the Apollonian idea.  Without resorting to the ever popular Nietzschean
notions of the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, those motifs are
representative of modes of thought, that did not originate within Greece
civilization but occurs throughout history from the time culture began,
that rise to its zenith then descend into chaos only to rise again in an
orderly structure, then the cycle repeats. This can be seen as a dynamic
in all historic civilizations.  What I call the Rise and Fall phenomenon.

Have to go off to work today but will get back this evening.  Discussion
about Plato’s communism is needed, and to answer garth’s question.  I
do believe I will answer your question adequately.

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By garth, May 4, 2010 at 7:26 am Link to this comment


Your statement, “Garth I’m not quite sure I followed the Salk/Business man bit.” might be attributable to Australia’s health insurance policy or agenda, which you exemplified in a previous post.  I meant to show in an anecdotal way, the irony that Businesses exist to make money, medical practitioners exist to heal, or cure.
Nowadays, here in the U.S., both the medical practice and the drug researchers are in cahoots with the insurance companies (Business) to mete out health care at the public’s expense and at their benefit.  They all get rich; we simply die off.

Clash’s comment: 

“Mr. Edgar;
You still have it, the Muslim druggist put a grin on my face ear to ear.
Again your plain speech has identified the very motivation of this ride, how to come to that definition.  So far you are most correct, “it means what ever I want it to mean”. That leads to another question; what do each of us really want?”

Clash’s commetn leaves the discussion of morals and morality nowhere.  Is want equal to morality?  Then are we to throw up our arms and say, “What’s the use?”

Moral arguments and morality will continue no matter who gives in to nihilism.

What is moral?  What is morality?

I don’t think Clash’s interpretation of the Heinz dilemma is accurate.  Don’t the participants in all this “dilemma” have any responsibility whatsover?  Or should we go throuh life aquiring, giving nothing, and say when we die, I got all I could get.

Like the joke at MIT:  Get a BS, an MS and a PhD.  Start a company and buy as much as you can buy.  Then when you die the person with most wins.

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By Clash, May 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm Link to this comment

Good evening to you all;

The interpretation by Shenonymous in the post of 5/3/10 at 6:45 is as close as it comes to what was intended, simply if Heinz had the money there would have been no dilemma. Were economics become political occurs at the point the druggist uses the law (society, state) to justify his claim to property that would save the wife of Heinz.

Much like the insurance corporations use the law to deny payment and care for profit and will do so until they are forced to.  A one hundred dollar a day fine just isn’t going to do the trick if you need one hundred thousand dollars of treatment and have a life expectancy of six months.

Mr. Edgar;
You still have it, the Muslim druggist put a grin on my face ear to ear.
Again your plain speech has identified the very motivation of this ride, how to come to that definition.  So far you are most correct, “it means what ever I want it to mean”. That leads to another question; what do each of us really want?

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By Tom Edgar, May 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

Garth I’m not quite sure I followed the Salk/Business man bit.
However the morality of any action really boils down what is Moral.  Is it just an interpretation of. It is moral for me and mine?  Then me and mine, does that mean my family, my countrymen, those who are of my religion or philosophy, colour, social class? 
I actually embrace all humanity as my fellow being, knowing full well that, as an atheist, the feelings are not reciprocated by most. Strangely many Christians, who are supposed to have my ideology, are amongst the most likely to reject me and those of other beliefs.

The question of what is morality is too variable to categorise.  One group embraces monogamy another polygamy, and a smaller group polyandry, each, evidently, considering the other immoral. My country and most other advanced nations, U S A excepted, consider it immoral to execute felons. 

South Sea Islanders considered pre marital sex to be normal but post ex marital sex a transgression.  There, for the Europeans was a real moral dilemma. Didn’t stop them from exploiting the situation.  Their own Calvinistic morality was no obstacle.

So before any discussion on Morality can ensue there must be a definition.  Which will take you straight to Alice in Wonderland. “It means, whatever I want it to mean.”

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By garth, May 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm Link to this comment

Tom’s post reminded me of two conversations I had about 45 years ago.  The first was with a Professor of Public Health at a state University who had said in class that Jonas Salk had a decision to make when he dicovered the cure for polio:  Should he market it and become rich or should he make it available through Government to reach more people?

Later that Summer, I brought this question up to a business man I knew in the chemical industry and he said that the Professor was, in a word, full of shit.

Hmmmmmm, I thought.  Then I remembered.

I lived through the polio epidemic and I knew friends who were confined to an iron lung.  I knew the fear of swimming in a public swimming pool.

I think the businessman was right, and I think history has proved him right.

Morals have changed in 45 years.  Kohlberg is preparing the future generations for Green or no Green Morals (rather than black and white)  and making students think that this is the only decision.  If you are not at the end of the stick, then you are scot free.  So, the moral is: don’t get caught in a situation where you need anything or anyone.  Now, they call it “personal responsibility.”


I’d loved to hear more of Russian River and Plato’s Republic.  I’m jealous.  I wish I were a fly on the tent wall. I heard that

Plato has great ideas on Socialism in the Republic.  True?___ False?___

Not that I heard it but does he?


Much thanks, but I meant that I was quitting taking offense to peccadillos real or imagined.  I value greatly as well as I value She’s, the knowledge you add.  Keeps me fruitfully busy googling after I read them. 

You are right I have a short fuse and hair trigger.  Anonymity and seclusion affords me these excesses.


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By Tom Edgar, May 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

O K I am just a trouble make.  I Posit this, and it is prompted by a racist Politician who only this week put her property up for sale with the proviso it was not to go to a Muslim/Arab

What if the Pharmacist did the same. Only to make it more contentious for C96 the Druggist is a Muslim and will not allow the Christian access to his drug.

Does this change anything?

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By Shenonymous, May 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

I don’t see where we disagree, Night-Gaunt on the
Heinz Dilemma. 

Seems to me that Clash’s answer of economics referred
to Heinz who does not have the wherewithal (economic base) to
meet the druggist’s demand.  Hence his economic situation is
what forces his entering into an immoral act of stealing.  I might
be wrong of course, only Clash would be able to corroborate my
reading.  The dilemma for him is if he doesn’t get the medicine his wife
will die, if he does he might suffer jail time, but if he is not caught he
would only be subjected possibly to guilt of having been reduced to
being a thief.

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By Night-Gaunt, May 3, 2010 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous from what I have seen if the Heinz Dilemma is just looked upon as an exercise in economics I would question the person making that observation. For I see a blind spot in relation to the threat of death for the woman if her husband can’t get the medicine. Death vs profit? Which to choose? Or put another way, life vs profit loss? The way our Life/health Insurance companies are concerned they choose profit over life. They will consciously let someone die rather than pay out. Something a psychopath would do. Without empathy, sympathy or humanism that is the logical outcome when life is set up as a commodity. Who needs death panels? So unnecessarily dramatic when you can simply withhold life saving medicines and surgery to save a buck. That is done every day here. Hopefully the new legislation will at least curb that bit of legal murder.

As an addition layer to the dilemma, what Clash & Tom Edgar posit of force used and maybe a maiming or death of the druggist to accomplish the mission. When such things are done it negates the original intent. The husband may justify it but at a terrible cost. One his wife may not agree with. The other is the druggist’s side. Yes they have a right under the law to protect their property up to and including the death of the robber. Just as if there is a riot and looting breaks out. I see it justified to protect their property. Most of what is taken has nothing to do with survival. It is much harder if it is survival materials like food, water, batteries etc. and then the dilemma becomes more murky. But it still comes down to survival/life vs profit/property. There is also a law to report criminal activity or finding someone dying on the side of the street. A contradiction no?

Our present system is one where it is Libertarian not for individuals but for corporations, and only in the realm of economics. To them the druggist has every right to say no, jack up the as high as (s)he wants and defend to the death what they do with the drugs they own. Regardless of another’s trouble.

“So without the chip, I have a question for you, why would you label me capitalist?”-Clash

Your answer to the Heinz Dilemma was that first it was economic. Typical of a Capitalist. I like Capitalism but it must be restrained like fire and electricity or cell growth. Otherwise if let loose unconditionally it destroys itself. Like fire, electricity and cell growth produce fires, electrocution and cancer.

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By Shenonymous, May 3, 2010 at 4:13 am Link to this comment

It’s possible that a moral dilemma cannot be solved.  If the
druggist decides to defend his medicine with his life, which
might be an unwise choice given that he could repeat the
process and make another batch, for if it isn’t repeatable
he would not have the future riches he had been dreaming
about, so we have to assume he can make more of the
medicine, but if as Tom suggests, he puts his life on the line for
an inanimate object the question still has to be considered if his life is
as valuable as the woman’s.  I would judge the druggist’s action to put
his life before his medicine to be, in this case, immoral but I would not
value his life as less, or more valuable than the woman’s.  It is possible
that the woman will die even if she gets the medication, and her
longevity is probably not as long as if she had not got the disease. 
What role does probability play in the choice of action?  What choice we
do make is reflective of what kind of person we are and choose to be. 
Of course since we do not know the future we are faced with the moral
dilemma.  If we think, on balance, using non-moral processes of
practical reasoning to decide between the conflicting demands of either
moral imperative of either man, one could always toss a coin.  No court
would side with Heinz.

I suppose there might be some inanimate objects, furthermore, that
could be considered as worthy of giving one’s life.  I can’t think of one
at the moment.

Heinz will do what he thinks is the right thing to do, and the druggist
will do what he thinks is his inalienable right to his property.

Moral problems arise solely within the mind, and it is therefore the
mind itself that both defines the moral environment and contains the
criteria that solutions must meet to be judged as satisfactory. 

Everything that makes some particular concern a “moral problem” to a
person is contained wholly within that person’s mind. It is, then, the
mind-set of the husband and the druggist that presents a moral
problem, and it is this mind-set that provides the frame of reference
that is drawn upon when the decision to to withhold the medicine for
monetary gain, or to steal it. 

The question is still there, if in the process of the theft the druggist is
killed what is the value of the morality in that if he could not have been
reasoned with (which was in Night-Gaunt’s solution)?  I would
not kill the druggist even if my wife died.  To do so would put the
imperative not to kill into a slippery slope of justifying killing for other
reasons that ordinarily would not have been moral.  I think Sophie’s
choice was worse.

William Styron invited his readers to enter just such a context.  The
mother, Sophie, and her two children are interred in a Nazi
concentration camp. A guard informs Sophie that one child will be
killed and the other allowed to live. Her decision will save the life of
one child but only by condemning the other to death. The situation is
further complicated by the guard who informs Sophie that, if she
refrains from choosing either child, then both will be killed. This piece
of information provides Sophie with an ethically compelling reason to
choose one child; yet, Sophie has equally compelling reasons to choose
to save both. Thus, the value of preserving human life gives rise to a
genuine ethical dilemma.

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By Tom Edgar, May 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

As far as I can remember this exercise was originally about diverting trains to avoid larger fatalities but saving a personal relative if the train is diverted into another direction.

However if I may throw a spanner into the works.

Should the Chemist decide to intervene, and defend his drugs physically. Is it right kill or maim the poor fellow to gain your own ends?

I mean this is always the ultimate decision. Should you kill to save a life?  Do you go to war to gain peace? The latter doesn’t seem to work too often.

A classic case in the U K was stated by a very learned Judge with a serious accident involving a fire engine running a red light..  “There is no excuse, you should never risk a life to save a life.”  Now that is virtually done every day on the surfing coasts of many nations, sometimes with costly results. I doubt, if in any emergency situation, one thinks of the relative costs.  Is the life risked of more value than the life saved, or vice versa. 

Relative, but not as severe,is the use of serious surgery to improve the well being of elderly people.
I have a friend who recently has had, free on National health, a hearing implant, now near eighty, and deaf all her life, she has also had hip implants.
Is this justified in one so old? Should the costs of this be reserved for the younger? All of this is relevant to the original situation.
Personally I declined a procedure, very recently, as I thought,that as an octogenarian, the extremely costly regular medication was ridiculous.  I also admit I am not in favour of many medications that so often have the ability to introduce other problems.

The dilemma is the same. I guess if you are the beneficiary of life saving actions, medically or philosophically,determines your attitude.

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By Clash, May 2, 2010 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment


I will try to clarify what I meant by strong, when one is confronted with life and death issues, ones own life or the life of others (since the questions seem to arise  
from the scenario presented concerning Heinz), I am referring to the thought and actions it may take to save the life. What these actions and thoughts may be are I think what you are questioning? So I will try to answer you the best that I can. Given the circumstance presented the strength I refer to would include those actions required to accomplish the goal (securing the medication) to include meeting force with force if necessary, but only such force as required. These actions might include one or all of the specifics in the spectrum that were presented. As I perceived the problem presented the moral question is the right of property weighed against someone’s life, so the only moral issue would be that of theft, unless force were met by force, were in a loss of another life could be in question , in that circumstance I could only relate personal experience and that I wont do here.

So without the chip, I have a question for you, why would you label me capitalist?

If you had read any of my previous posts you would understand that I have no great love for the empire, or the crumbling republic that supports it’s corporate endeavors.

I do apologize for misinterpreting your lines in reference to psychopaths, as a personal attack, I will read your posts more carefully and give more thought to them before responding in the future.

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By Shenonymous, May 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

Reading your somewhat esoteric post April 30, 7:45pm
Night-Gaunt, I was intrigued to know who knows who
they are in not posting in all earnestness to learn about the topic
we have chosen?  I for one do not like subterfuge especially when
a subterranean criticism is being levied.  I do not see anti-
intellectualism manifest at all on our small enclave of truth seekers. 
So please be specific.  Has someone asked you to compromise yourself
to their satisfaction?  Again, please name names as ambiguity is
damaging to our endeavor.  I for one should act to try to prevent that. 
Is there a game of egoism afoot?  I am totaling missing it if there is. 
Our group should not be so fragile as to allow misunderstandings to
disintegrate it.

Thank you for making that clarification of your quote, but I still have
the same questions as I asked before the modification was made.

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By Night-Gaunt, May 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

“My” entire culture Clash? I may live in it but I don’t want it to be (psychopathologically friendly) corporate dominated as it is now. Would you mind addressing particulars here when you reference me directly in your criticisms? I don’t think you even read what I write or you wouldn’t say “You have not once communicated civilly with me,...” Care to give specifics? I don’t think I have called you a name or or SHOWTED at you or intimated that your intelligence was lacking have I? Where do you live? How is is different from here?

“Your accusations are unclear, is your meaning that you think I would if could unloose psychopathic criminals into this world?”

No accusation. For if you looked at the litany in my question to you it covered the gamut full of contradictions because I was looking again for specifics and therefor clarifications from you. I gave you a spectrum—-use it. Please read it again as an honest query as it is intended. (Take the chip off your shoulder for a time, it makes things less belligerent to you so you won’t need to be so defensive when no attack has taken place.)

I am an Atheist. I see that both corporate and Capitalistic culture need to be controlled to be reoriented back to support of us us as it was originally intended. Unlike today where it is of, by and for the corporate owners, with their form of casino Capitalism is to be bailed out by us when they fail in their extravagant wagers.

Shenonymous sorry I left out the modifier in that quote you use it should have said, “But for some they would rather keep to the Libertarian Predatory Corporate Capitalist system and the death of those who can’t afford (it) will be designated their fault. I find many in the corporate world to think that way as part of doing business.”

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By Shenonymous, May 2, 2010 at 3:30 am Link to this comment

garth I was looking over the forum (the part where we
began our look at morality as a group), and reread your
declaration that humans are by nature immoral.  While I
agree I am holding out for one reservation that quite possibly
there is a gene in us that gives us a sense of right and wrong. 
But perhaps not.  It seems there have been experiments that shows
a glint of altruism exists in very small children.  When I was in the
classroom with very young children I did take note (as it was part of my
job to do so) that children of the Kindergarten and elementary through
2nd grade, show definite behaviors that are exceedingly self-serving,
they lie up the yingyang, and are very defensive.  Now I do not know if
that is learned behavior from birth onward because of parental
nurturing or if it is simply human nature.  As I observed these children,
some were in classes for special needs.  Kids with various mental
deficiencies, mongoloid, autism, and retardations of different degrees.
These kids also showed extreme selfishness, violently so at times.  It
led me to believe that it is a natural defense mechanism for they have
much difficulty in understanding verbal language of any kind, and
many speak gibberish.  But that is not the end of my story. I also
observed moments of extreme altruism, or sympathy for other children
by children.  Amazing, it was to me at those moments for they reached
beyond their own needs, which does predominate.  So while I agree
that most of our behaviors of morality are learned, and that we are
born in an immoral state, I have concluded that there is one or two
genes that does care about others and that would be because the
human organism cannot survive on its own and must, by nature, rely
on other entities for its survival, beginning with its dependence on their
mothers.  What say you about this?

Just to let you all know I am typing away at the copying of the book
and have reached about page 6.  It was a bear to set up the style so it
will print very much like the original that is in a sort of half page
format.  I have gotten over that layout hurdle and am clicking away for
spurts at a time since I get bored just copying things.  And of course I
have been waging wars on other forums (haha) and must attend to that
as well as my non-electronic life (which predominates).

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By Shenonymous, May 2, 2010 at 3:26 am Link to this comment

Good wee hours of the morning, Tom (and all). I didn’t think
for a minute that you were expressing any despise for America. 
I hope I didn’t imply that at for that was not my intention at all.
I am outraged by the treatment of our armed forces who come
home from wars and are often destitute of a settled mind, a
settled life , often their jobs have been given to someone else
or simply done away with.  I can see a hundred thousand people
coming home from the war and adding to the unemployment lines.  It
is a travesty to both these people and our country in two different
directions.  I worry about when the war is declared over and our
military comes home.  But on the other hand how much finer the wold
will be when they do end the war.  I worry that it won’t be possible.  In
which case, we won’t have to worry about the unemployment problem
as much.  Just the PTSD problem that is mounting.  This is a cause that
some politicians really needs to articulate unceasingly.

I get together with a bunch of people annually in mid-summer up on
the Russian River in Northern California studies the advices that can be
extracted out of Plato.  We have been meeting for a couple of decades,
at first and for about 10 years, every Friday!  Some miss occasionally
but turn up the next week f’sure.  Then once we moved to various parts
of the country, we get together once a year.  This year, the first four
books of The Republic will be discussed as we sit around on couches
and the floor.  There is always good food around as we potluck it.  We
are interested in the concept of justice.  The Republic is a good place
to start.  I’m only telling this because I want to show that people do get
together in a sustained way to try to understand without rancor and
flaming comments.  And without conceits.  We all attend with humility. 

Earlier N-G said “But for some they would rather keep to the
Capitalist system and the death of those who can’t afford will be
designated their fault. I find many in the corporate world to think that
way as part of doing business.”
  Two questions came up in my mind: 
Are those ‘some’ who would rather keep to the Capitalist system
conjoined with the idea of the deaths of those who can’t afford will be
designated their fault of a number that outweighs those Capitalists who
wouldln’t?  Then of those “many” in the corporate world, how many are
there and how do you know?

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By Tom Edgar, April 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment

When I criticised America for lack of national compassion as a whole She, you will realise from the personal e mail, I do not despise the country or the people, quite the contrary.  It is pretty much the attitude I have to my present and previous countries.

Regarding returned military.  The U S A at present is pursuing the most despicable endeavours to deny the veterans fair compensation, or even ANY compensation.
Oh! This is not unusual.  During WW2 the British Merchant Navy , which had casualties nearly four times the military rate, were always hailed as national heroes, especially by the garrulous, hypocrite Winston Churchill who, post war, supported the shipowners in their endeavours to reduce the wage level of mariners.  It wasn’t his only endeavour against veterans,  workers.  The depression years coal miners (mostly WW1 veterans)when striking to MAINTAIN their wage were greeted by his Parliamentary oration .“Give me a Brigade of Guards and I’ll drive the scum under the earth.”

Which brings me back to the treatment of veterans, American or not. Mainly thee poor misled young men are untrained in anything other than military matters
Quite a few are straight from school, high and low, so when they are discharged they have lost the years in which they could have acquired a trade or professional qualifications.

I know it took me many years to “Settle Down” after WW2. and I do not claim to have had as hard a war as some.  If you served your country then your country is duty bound to serve you ten fold, after all it was your life that the country was willing to lose.
They take away the period people cherish most. Surely the taxpayer wouldn’t mind losing money just to to say thanks.

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By Clash, April 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Night -Gaunt;

Your entire culture is abnormal from my perspective, labels also appear to be a large part of your culture. You rail against the corporate world, yet you attack anyone who like you has only contempt for the corporate controlled social order. I could be wrong but your comments come off as very defensive. What are you afraid of? Fear paralyzes the mind you know. Your accusations are unclear, is your meaning that you think I would if could unloose psychopathic criminals into this world? You have not once communicated civilly with me, is that to find out just how much of your bullying I can stand, or is it that you truly believe yourself to be that much more intellectual, that your version of morality is the only way? You accuse me of much from your tunnel vision of the world. I have no use for your phony god the god of stasis, or your vision of nihilistic heaven.

So when I speak of the strong surviving specifically, I specifically mean those who have adapted naturally with all the attributes that it takes to survive in YOUR corporate controlled society without giving up ones personal independence. You see I don’t believe every thing will always turn out for the best. 

Lambs are good and they name each of their kind good, but the birds of prey they call bad, yet how else would the bird of prey be. Yet the birds also call the lambs good, good to eat.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

Clash when you start talking about the “strong” surviving what do you mean specifically? The most violent, ruthless, fastest, smartest, most flexible, most thoughtful, most moral, the one to organize others to defeat the bully? The psychopaths among us have their views on it and we see it all the time both in reality and in fiction. Theirs is the way of the gun and bomb and assassin. Of lies and using us as dupes to their lies. What a terrible world that would be for us if they made it safe for psychopaths and created more artificially to populate their version of Heaven. You sound like a Capitalist who only sees transactions and not morality if I read you correctly. Our culture is steeped in that—-it is considered normal to do so. I am abnormal in that context. (Also in others.)

I am still sorry to see anti-intellectualism manifest here too. Such defensiveness and derision is counterproductive. It makes it unhealthy to be educated to a certain point higher than some arbitrary level of each individual’s choosing ant any particular forum. One thing I will not do is compromise myself to satisfy others. The same should be for all of you. This isn’t a game of egos, at least not for me, decorum and the Golden Rule should be in use. I come here to communicate and learn. I thank those who uphold that and am disappointed with those who do otherwise. (You know who you are.)

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By Shenonymous, April 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

Agreed completely, it would be the best cut (as in best cut of
meat) of Americanism if war veterans were treated properly as
those who laid down their lives for their country and had “their
housed paid for for 5-10 years free and clear?”
I’d go farther,
for “paid off free and clear.”  That would be in my mind a moral
thing to do. Is there any argument there?  Then,“How about dialing
down the imperial stretch we have now?”
  Yes, again, but telling it to
money moguls is pissing in the wind exercises.  To unseat them a
sympathetic congress must be elected first for I believe in our form of
government.  Democracy.  And it is well known that I favor regulated
capitalism that supports much needed social programs.  I won’t go into
that one again at least not right now!  But change has to start at the
level where the people have a direct voice in elections.  What is one
thing we the people individually can do besides waiting for elections?

More on the topic of this forum, I just received an email with an article
in the Onion about god being bipolar that was in my mind another
moment of theological despair.  The progress of science, since
medieval times, has seen a slow erosion of supernatural causes.  From
Galileo onward, modern science has had to verify any hypotheses
through experimentation.  Furthermore, Ockham’s razor demands that
entities are not multiplied unless necessary.  Simplicity in essence and
the elimination of all excess.  These two notions spelled the knell for
religions that worshipped extraterrestrial gods.  And terrestrial ones
that could not be confirmed or substantitated.  But if you wish to read
the article, please visit
do see what you think.  I will be spending copious hours putting the
Hawton on the computer this weekend and I hope to have it entered by
Sunday evening.

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By Clash, April 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Good afternoon all;
My apologies for being late to the table, social obligations have kept me from the table. You see that in the tribal (communal) relationship of the society I belong to one is expected to travel when necessary if asked to participate in any of the endeavors that keep the tribal cohesion successful. In return for my participation a new portable computer so that I will be able to participate from were ever I may end up.

So as to the posts , again I will need some time to read and digest there content before commenting myself.

I have it seems in my absence received Hawton’s Feast of Unreason and will be looking forward to the reading. Yet at a glance I did pick up some of the comments as to which society’s are more nationally compassionate, that struck a cord as during my stay last week, a young man of 20 years old or so gave me a book who’s title seemed very interesting, The Coming Insurrection, who’s author’s the invisible committee shed quite a different light on the view points of Europe’s youth concerning their society and the world in general.  I have briefly skimmed the pamphlet but as yet can offer no opinion. The social comments made by these young people are quite interesting.

The Heinz Dilemma, is purely political, in that it is purely economic, that in turn derives from the will to power, one man has through whatever means come up one that which the other believes he needs to survive, at this point the stronger organism will prevail, if the security provided by society is strong enough the mans wife will die thus harming the man, if the man has the strength and the resources and takes what he needs his wife survives thus he survives. Nature has taken its course either way, the moral boundary stealing is societal an there for exists only to the society that they belong to. If the man is caught he suffers only what his society imposes, if not then he would feel guilt only in the amount he believed in his society’s concept of good and bad. We again come to that singular point, ones basic concept of society, what is expected, and what are the goals of said society?

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By Night-Gaunt, April 30, 2010 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

Looking back at US history from the beginning we see that the war veterans typically get a raw deal. They are so important as soldiers, usually, but when their job is done or they are too damaged to fight on they are discarded. It was the same in 1786 and is so now. Just imagine if some of those billions went to them instead of to DARPA? Imagine their housed paid for for 5-10 years free and clear? How about dialing down the imperial stretch we have now? (Tell that to the big money moguls of the coming imperial dynasty and their “full spectrum dominance” that the Dominionists secretly favor.) They must be unseated first.

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By Shenonymous, April 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm Link to this comment

It would seem AC that your logic is impeccable.  A nice fresh
voice.  When it comes to ethics and morality, it seems that
justice is a principle that they just cannot do without.  They are
permanent siblings.  But you claim there is no justice.  That isn’t
saying that there is no such thing as justice, it is simply saying
justice does not appear in human interaction.  Seems like before we
jump to the conclusion that there is no justice, even in view of the
seemingly good examples given, a few terms need to be clarified. 

Take justice as a term, for instance.  As an extension of the word just,
justice has something to do with such behaviors as having honor and
acting fair.  There is something righteous and proper, that is based on
facts and sound reasoning.  So I suppose we have to look at those two
words, honor and fair to start getting a grasp of what justice means. 
To have honor means to have personal integrity and to be fair means to
be equitable.  Integrity means steadfast adherence to a strict moral or
ethical code, and equitable means marked by impartiality, where being
partial means an imbalance in valuation; equitable means behaving in a
just way, conforming to truth, fact or sound reason.  So we have come
full circle and have reached tautology, which means repetitively
redundant.  We are now talking in a circle. 

This is what is called meta-language, or talking about a term in order
to come to some clear idea of what the term means before we can talk
about whether it is applicable to a claim.  More than often, usually, we
speak to one another using the same words but understanding them
with different meanings.  Such was Plato’s project to clarify the
language so that politicians could no longer fool the people all of the
time and the public could get it right some of the time.

While it seems true that good persons perish while not-so-good
persons live,  that is an observation that is two pronged.  All people
perish at some time or another.  We are mortal.  It seems the judgment
is that it is not fair or just that persons die for some reason or another
before the length of time that would fit their species.  And the not-so-
good persons live beyond the good persons is somehow wrong, is not
a good, is not just, therefore, not fulfilling the idea of justice. 

These thoughts naturally leads us to consider whether our mortality is
just or not is some other debatable issue that goes into both scientific
answers and the philosophic which takes us on a digression from
morality, where justice is still in that ballpark.  Now I don’t mind
digressions and often go on a frolic of my own but inasmuch as we
have formed a sort of, a quasi, study group, others will have to say
whether that is a digression that is wanted.  In the meantime I am busy
squeezing in copying the Hawton text into the computer.  I am
formatting it as it is printed in booklet form so it is a bit slow going. 
But I am a fast typist having learned that skill in high school decades

Happy thinking.  And welcome AntiChrist, your thoughts are most
intriguing.  There is much more to deal with such as mercy, wars, god
and solar systems, but I think I’ve overstayed my time for the moment. 
Tomorrow is another work day so I will check back tomorrow evening. 
I hope all youse guys jump in and comment up that famous River, the

Tom, the only thing I would add to your criticism of America, is when
service men return from the war, what kind of jobs are awaiting them? 
When they come home from the wars in the Middle East, they will add
to the unemployment rate.  There needs to be some provision for these
people who have put their lives in jeopardy in the service of their
country to have gainful employment.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if
PTSD was exacerbated by the fact that there are few jobs for them.

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By Tom Edgar, April 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment

I daresay I will be asked to give evidence of my short answer to comparative compassion.

Let us start with treatment of returned servicemen.
America’s present day treatment is so woefully inadequate that it is embarrassing to compare with other advanced countries.  Treatment of the ill is another area where the comparison is light years apart, even under Obama.
Then there is the aged population.  France has, from memory, and I acknowledge I’m not up to date, but the pension was at the rate of 80% of the base wage.
Other advanced countries are comparable. Even Australia has rental assistance for those unable to own their homes, and are unemployed, for whatever reason.
In practically every area of social welfare America, under a Capitalist regime, relies on religious organisations, and their willing supporters, to succour the needy instead of the tax paying population as a whole.

This means that those individuals who are compassionate, regardless of motivation, are there in the American Society, but as a whole, and represented by their elected Government,compassion for their own people, to my thinking, is not a national characteristic.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 29, 2010 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

I don’t understand what I said to you Garth but I apologize fully to you because that is how you see it. I don’t consider myself smart, just educated and not finished with that yet. [I was quoting others.] So I surrender, white flag, at your mercy, I lie on my back belly exposed. It seems that even in prose I can still mess up my communication with others. I have that problem—a big flaw in me I work to compensate for. Again I apologize.

The problem with that part of the need to believe is that it can be used on the unwary. Both Napoleon & Hitler found it to be very useful to keep the people restful, motivated and busy no matter their own religious leanings. But even in cults it is the same impulse used to gain control over smaller groups of people but follows the same pattern. The largest and most successful among them is Scientology. Created be a SiFi author an occultist L. Ron Hubbard. A brilliantly conceived pseudo-scientific/religious organization that is very rich and powerful.

The power from physical threats works. Just look at South Park recently. COM network censored them even more than it was originally done. This sends a message that if you don’t want your religion parodied in any way then threaten violence and carry it out. Most others will never come near you again.

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By Antichrist, April 29, 2010 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

May I respectfully posit the following diatribe?
There is no justice-good persons sometimes perish
while not so good persons live.  There is no mercy-
children die at child-birth or at tender young ages
sometimes.  Brains come wired like bowls of spaghetti
on occasion, much to the chagrin of reasonable
people. Wars are engaged in at the slightest of
provocations. Causation appears to care not one whit
for logic and rational bearing.  A god(s) laden world
should show some guidance and evidence of order? 
Maybe even a little compassion.  Solar systems should
not blow up and stars burn out and diseases and
pestilence hold sway over mechanical incoherences.

The world we find ourselves in appears exactly as I
would expect it to be if there were no god(s).

Now for the logical part…how would we know that a
god(s) who manifested himself to us was who he said
he was?  How would we know he had created us? How
would we know that he was not just a daemeon and
there was not a more powerful god(s) lurking in a
galaxy far away?  How would this god(s) know he had
lived forever?  How would this god(s) know that he
would live forever, since forever hasn’t happened
yet?  How would this god know that he knew everything
that was going to happen and if he did know
everything that was going to happen, would he be
helpless to change it?  Why would god(s) make it
impossible to discover him in the universe?  Please
feel free to consider religions as a virus that
occupies way too much time and treasure.  I do
apologize to the universe for wasting it’s time.

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By Tom Edgar, April 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

At this moment I am unable to give out as it is my weekly “Town” day.  But off the top of my head.  New Zealand. Sweden, Finland, France.  But these are only by Comparison. I would contend in comparison virtually all western European nations are not only more socialist than the U S A but, generally speaking, more “NATIONALLY” compassionate.  This doesn’t mean they are ideal nor that they are totally compassionate and perfect.  As that arch hypocrite Winston Churchill once said. “Democracy is a terrible system but it is the best tried so far.”  He also failed to see that Democracy, Communism or Socialism has never been actually practiced.  All by definition require input from the people and not just at election time when the next set of Dictators are entrenched,  Must AWAY.

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By garth, April 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

I call it quits, a white flag, but first an example of patronizing:

“Isn’t it the journey of discovery half the fun Garth?”

Who are you, no better, whom do you think you are?

“Usually I am accused of being “too smart” so this is surprising to me. I never talk down to anyone including you.”

I don’t think you are as smart as you think you are.  Unusual, yes, but that does not always equate to being smart.  I think a researcher at Harvard has recognized more than one 100 types of intelligence.

Your passive-aggressive insinuations reveal a lot about you.  Like the person I knew in college who, while visiting his friend, a daughter of a wealthy man, keyed a valuable painting in the living room when no one was looking.  His way, I suppose, of settling the score for his bruised ego in this society of accumulation.

But I beg forgiveness for this sidetrack. 

My interest here is to take advantage of the situation and force myself to do some self-searching and go further than I have I already done as a result of trying to keep up with this discussion.  I have changed my religio-world view quite drastically.  Thanks.

After all, a thoughtful, moral person, whether or not a Johnny-come-lately, is still better than an immoral one?

Simple, isn’t it?

Let She, Clash and Tom take the lead to the readings, readings of Hector.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 28, 2010 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Greetings everyone. One problem of the Heinz Dilemma is that it is the profit motive as the blockage between health and welfare and the druggist staying in business. The idea of single payer is to take profit of Mammon out of the equation so we can concentrate on the more important health and welfare of the population. But our society functions from the Randian idea of greed for ones self is the ultimate in beneficence for society. The problem with that is that there is no equal sign in that particular framework of social operation. I found that without that the logical train derails. It is why in times of need the prices go up based upon availability not importance for survival. Profit wins out over life. I am of the Kropotkin school of Mutual Aid Anarchism myself.

We have good and bad qualities and a particular environment can help to bring them out. The concept of euthenics essentially. Positive or negative (usually a combination of the two) and varies from location to location within society. Until we are all born into optimum conditions it will remain so. Quality of life is as important as life itself.

Such artificialities as Shenonymous has concluded are indeed impediments that don’t have to be. Can we build a better society? Join the civilized nations of the 1st world? Not at this time. Unless the corporate hold on us can be broken and relegated to being our servants again it will not happen. For those who believe the better parts of the Bible (positive human morals)  & others beliefs etc. will aid them and the rest of us will just have to be humanists to fight the inhumanity of these artificial constructs and their very powerful owners.

Garth please explain to me where I was patronizing before? It wasn’t intended and it was directed at everybody, not just you. Usually I am accused of being “too smart” so this is surprising to me. I never talk down to anyone including you. I am getting the suggestion that you Garth are attacked constantly somewhere in your life or you wouldn’t be so hair trigger for defense. I am sorry you experience that. Try not to take it personally—-it is hard, I know.

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By Shenonymous, April 28, 2010 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

Tom says, “Which is of more importance, Society itself,
or Society’s wealth?”
  Shenonymous asks - “what
about Society’s individuals?  Seems to me that it is individuals
that engage in morals or immorality.  Therefore we have to
start with them, their behavior, which is why I think we have
begun this meditation on morals, to see where we can improve
our own set???”
  Perhaps a description of immoral acts is a way to
start?  Maybe I misunderstand?  Shall we resort back to a forum of
opinion?  Or shall we try to push through this with mutual respect?

I am in the process of committing the little Hawton book “Why Be
Moral…”  to cd and if you would contact me through truthdig, or at
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with an address I will mail you a hard copy.  It
might take a day or two to put it into Word (due to some arthritic
fingers) and another day or two for the USMail service to deliver but it
will get there I assure you.  In the meantime, a question I think garth
has insightfully more or less put to us is: “The questions created in
these moral examples seem to indicate more of a directing tool for the
Proposer, the ones in power, than to the teaching of what is a moral
decision, what does it mean, and how will it affect others and you?”

Yes, the dilemmas are only to be used as a tool, the two presented
offer paradigm questions which means we can each contribute an
answer.  I’ve given mine for the Heinz Dilemma, but not the Euthyphro
one.  I think one step at a time is the best way to go rather than try to
cover all the bases at one time.  Even in baseball one cannot be on all
four bases at one time, 1st base, 2nd, 3rd, and Home. 

Of course we do not have to use the dilemmas as catalyst.  But some
clearly stated question will have to be put otherwise we will be like
flounders who do not know where they are going.  They have their eyes
on the top of their head, so i’m told.  I guess that is better than some
other places other than the normal sides of their head, hahaha

Again Tom says, “Countries with less disparity between the highest
and lowest usually have a greater social conscience.”
  Would you
please, Tom, say which countries have a greater social conscience?

Not really so simple.  If it were simple it would have been solved a long
time ago.  Too many facets to polish with one swipe.

You take the socialist view and would confiscate the harvest of
individual effort.  I would disagree but would instead put government
regulation on medicines.  Medicine by virtue of its definition is for the
health of people, and hence since health is spoken of in the
Constitution, people have a constitutional right to health and what goes
towards that end.  A government program ought to be in place where
all medicine would be covered by supplement, i.e., a Medicare program,
Part B where Rxs are covered for those who cannot afford them.  Also a
maximum dollar would be regulated where inventors of medicines
would be remunerated but still make money.  I am not an extreme
socialist I am a capitalist at my core because I believe capitalism
encourages such things as drug invention.  However there is
unregulated capitalism that encourages corruption and much evil
obtains.  That has to be prevented.  We have to have watchers of the
watchers (ala Big Brother???? let us hope to gawd not!)  Even though I
hold to the basic principles of capitalism, I also believe in social
programs and somewhat redistribution of the wealth of the state to
those less fortunate and unable to provide for their health and other
necessary welfare.  It is a matter of rational decision making.

Well I am open to peaceful discussion, sans emotional opinion.  Please
do try to convince me that for America it should be otherwise.

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By garth, April 28, 2010 at 8:26 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Shenonymous and Tom Edgar.  I logged in before the blog was downloaded because I was “loaded for bear” after stewing and imagining N-G’s remarks to be patronizing and Tom Edgar’s to be accusative.  My anteneae leave me too sensitive and too sel-conscious.

Tom, if I may call you that, brought up what I was questioning in the so-called cultural differences.  My moral approach was influenced by my family, the church, Roman Catholic, and by society, a small blue collar industrial city in the Northeast. 
Status played a big roll.  Did someone wear “hand-me-downs” to school?  Did they even fit and were they charity?  If so, what a low life! Though, that phrase was not used then.
The questions created in these moral examples seem to indicate more of a directing tool for the Proposer, the ones in power, than to the teaching of what is a moral decision, what does it mean, and how will it affect others and you? 

Does conscience really exist.

I posit that humans are, by nature, immoral. (Ever look at animals who kill for survival.  They are proud and happy to be domesticated.  Pure nature.)

The wars, the out-right mayhem and unbelievability of our human history, I theorize, led some to create myths of super-naturality to counter it” Creationism, God on Earth, etc.

I do hold out, however, that there are some good thoughts and there are some good ‘impeti’ lying within some of us.

The strictly American solution, to the contrary, is to “land on” both parties, Heinz and the Druggist.  We don’t want problems.  But our morality creates them unendingly.

Where’s the reading in Hector Hawton?  Is that self-directed?

Where’s Clash when you need him?

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By Tom Edgar, April 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

Simple Simon says this is really governed by the two extremes of Socialism and Capitalism.

Which is of more importance, Society itself, or Society’s wealth?

Average Americans would have an entirely different attitude to the dilemma in comparison with a Cuban or a Dane.  Where acquisition of status, especially when judged by the amount of wealth, is paramount in a nation’s culture (or lack of it)then the Pharmacist would be seen as in his right to require remuneration commensurate with his own evaluation of the product’s worth.

Where individual status is of lesser importance in the aspirations of a particular population then the welfare of the individual would be paramount.

Countries with less disparity between the highest and lowest usually have a greater social conscience.

The forgoing only means that the question would most certainly have a different response according to the individuals of different cultures.  Those brought up in a progressive socially aware environment (Socialist) would have no compunction in condemning the Pharmacist.
Those in a society where the individual’s financial status is thought to be more important than the welfare of the population as a whole(Capitalist)would no doubt support the right of the Pharmacist.  Unless of course it personally affected them.
My answer is. Have the State confiscate the drug. with reasonable compensation to the Pharmacist. Then free distribution to the sufferers.

As a personal contribution. This is epitomised by the drug treatment I was offered costing me, in Australia, for each injection $4.50c. (Actual Oz price $4,000.00c) In the U S A $3,000.00c. I declined, partly because I thought it a waste on me, at my age, and because I thought my country shouldn’t be buying exorbitantly overpriced drugs.

Quite simple says Simon.

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By Shenonymous, April 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Good evening. To talk a bit more about the Heinz Dilemma.
Night-Gaunt’s solution seems to be Contractualist.  The
Contractualist theories emphasize the idea that each
reasonable person will endorse social arrangements that
could be accepted by all “reasonable” persons, this includes
the idea of reasonable justification acting as a constraint on
pure self interest.  It seems a fine and highly evolved expectation
of human nature and it seems N-G half expected the druggist “to
do the right thing.”

That perspective is in contrast to the more callous utilitiarian view of
contractarianism which applies to theories that focuses on self-interest;
a contractarian justification for civil society would attempt to show that
cooperation with government is in the interest of each citizen, or with
individuals who appear to have some power (i.e., the druggist who has
the power of having the drug). And this might apply to the druggist’s
decision to not yield one cent as he wants to get as much as he can
out of the life giving drug.  There would be no moral imperative to
motivate him beyond his own advantage.

The problem as presented is that Heinz had already appealed to the
druggist’s sense of charity or sympathy and the druggist was
committed to being, and felt the right to be, the ultimate self-server. 
In a code of ethics, or morality, there is a hierarchy of values, such as
life over money, and so forth.  Other times the individual deserves the
podium because the world is composed of individuals and social
organizations composed of individuals, other times, the family has
precedence, and other times the society does.  The mystery is whether
there is a way to prioritize when it is moral and when it is not to
elevate one entity over another.  Can there be a rule or principle by
which we can decide?  Once Heinz appealed to the druggist’s moral
nature and got nowhere, I feel he was free to do what he did and was
the reasonable thing to do for a person who’s life hangs on the
administration of the drug.  It is irrelevant she is Heinz’s wife.  In other
words, consequences play into the actions.

I would characterize my own view as more along the line of positive
social consequentialism.  This is the idea that humanity, human dignity,
legality, justice, responsibility, tolerance as well as moral obligation are
principles that more promotes moral results better than other
perspectives.  To live up to these concepts, all humans, including
Heinz’s wife, have the right to life and deserves to have the best
possible chance to live as is available.  The artificial unavailability of the
status of the medicine because of proprietary rights is just that, an
artificial handicap. 

What say all you others?

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By garth, April 27, 2010 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

I’d like to read Clash’s repsonse.  He was after sedential (a neologiism that is a hybrid of seed and essential) in this path.

Night-Gaunt, a lot of the times the journey of discovery leads back to same place, which I would not describe as fun.

I still think that a course in Reading for Comprehension is a worthwhile endeavor, especially here in Truthdig.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 27, 2010 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

Isn’t it the journey of discovery half the fun Garth?

The Heinz Dilemma is a moral test. Not an economic one. You can get a clear picture of someone by how they answer a question like that. I would first do everything I can to bargain. If I can’t win that way, I would gladly steal the medicine and take the consequences after. A choice between stealing and someone dying is an easy one. But for some they would rather keep to the Capitalist system and the death of those who can’t afford will be designated their fault. I find many in the corporate world to think that way as part of doing business. It is in fact the way of the psychopath and it has been nurtured in the recent corporate system since 1978! As they gain more control over businesses and gov’t their way is the one taught and encouraged. If you don’t then you lose out. It has gotten far worse as the economy took a downward spiral since 2001.

To psychopaths morality is connected to empathy. So since they feel none of the latter then for the former is just a choice of convenience over actual feelings. It becomes a practical exercise without emotion just a cost benefit analysis for themselves.

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By Shenonymous, April 27, 2010 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

Not to worry about the double posting Tom. It is a bug
in the TD programming and it happens to many of us. 
Success twice means pay dirt!

Thinking through moral dilemmas can be a strain on the
brain.  It might be a good exercise to present a couple of
these just to get the thoughts moving in a good direction.  The goal of
our efforts though, I think, and please correct me if I am wrong, is to
come up with a set of universal morals that apply to everyone,
everywhere, for all time.  That should distill them down to really just a
few.  My goal is to see morals more clearly in the context of our lives
right now.  Give definition to behaviors that plague us as caring human
beings and to give a solid ground for interacting in a moral way with
others, at all times.  I don’t know, maybe I’m looking for a 3x5 card
index of what to do under certain circumstances.  I don’t think that is
too curtailed a way to deal with problems if the synoptic notations are
just reminders of what has been given an exhaustive bout of reasoning. 

Maybe in using moral dilemmas, a code of ethics or best behavior will
make themselves obvious and we can start a list that has some rational

One of my favorites is a classic problem found in Plato’s Euthyphro.  I
will present a brief account once the Heinz Dilemma has run its course. 
I await other’s thoughts about it.

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By Tom Edgar, April 26, 2010 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

O Heck. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
TheN you succeed twice,  Sorry.

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By Tom Edgar, April 26, 2010 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment

Chapter 2.

She.  Far from being the benign and philosophical figure you imagine. My background is far from that.

I was brought up in a very tough area and in an extremely competitive environment.  Once when talking to an extremely close Scots friend I said “Hughie where I was bred you learned to run or fight.” He was was from Glasgow, and a born again (several times) Christian. “Och Aye ‘twas the same in Glasgae Tom.  I couldn’a fight, I couldn’a run so I learned to pray”  cynically I asked if it worked.  “I dunno, I still got beat up.”

Well I did a little boxing but was a much better, and more than useful competitive amateur, welter weight, wrestler, if no champion.  Both, at times have been useful, especially at sea.  So my natural instincts and upbringing have been modified both by a Quaker wife and a physical deterioration accompanying age. There have been other influences, notably a Church of Nazarene Pastor my most cherished friend, long dead. Two Catholic Priests I remember with admiration along with a Methodist Minister, and a lovely Muslim part time Imam, from a Brisbane Mosque.  A Jewish family, long departed from my sphere were also profound influences.  No atheists? Well there was Hawton and Lord Russel but they were not personal. Atheists are thin on the ground, whilst non believers abound. It is not a requirement to have beliefs to be decent,lovable, or to be,otherwise, intelligent. Nor the opposite to be an atheist in spite of the thoughts of theists about us.

I must get back to Armstrong’s book before I make comment there.  She writes so well supporting things with which I thoroughly disagree.  I do love the ability of writers who string together sentences that, often enough, have no meaning whatsoever.
Just like media journalists whose ability to write so much about nothing at all is to me wonderful, but what a waste of talent.

I hope I have clarified my position, I don’t know why I tried,  but I do hate artificiality and pretentiousness, Having been a Professional Photographer I have known too many that qualified in those areas.
I tried to send and failed. Here goes again

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By Tom Edgar, April 26, 2010 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

Chapter 2.

She.  Far from being the benign and philosophical figure you imagine. My background is far from that.

I was brought up in a very tough area and in an extremely competitive environment.  Once when talking to an extremely close Scots friend I said “Hughie where I was bred you learned to run or fight.” He was was from Glasgow, and a born again (several times) Christian. “Och Aye ‘twas the same in Glasgae Tom.  I couldn’a fight, I couldn’a run so I learned to pray”  cynically I asked if it worked.  “I dunno, I still got beat up.”

Well I did a little boxing but was a much better, and more than useful competitive amateur, welter weight, wrestler, if no champion.  Both, at times have been useful, especially at sea.  So my natural instincts and upbringing have been modified both by a Quaker wife and a physical deterioration accompanying age. There have been other influences, notably a Church of Nazarene Pastor my most cherished friend, long dead. Two Catholic Priests I remember with admiration along with a Methodist Minister, and a lovely Muslim part time Imam, from a Brisbane Mosque.  A Jewish family, long departed from my sphere were also profound influences.  No atheists? Well there was Hawton and Lord Russel but they were not personal. Atheists are thin on the ground, whilst non believers abound. It is not a requirement to have beliefs to be decent,lovable, or to be,otherwise, intelligent. Nor the opposite to be an atheist in spite of the thoughts of theists about us.

I must get back to Armstrong’s book before I make comment there.  She writes so well supporting things with which I thoroughly disagree.  I do love the ability of writers who string together sentences that, often enough, have no meaning whatsoever.
Just like media journalists whose ability to write so much about nothing at all is to me wonderful, but what a waste of talent.

I hope I have clarified my position, I don’t know why I tried,  but I do hate artificiality and pretentiousness, Having been a Professional Photographer I have known too many that qualified in those areas.

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By Shenonymous, April 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

I didn’t have to think twice as to what I would have done
were I the husband.  I would have stolen the drug.  Most
likely I would go to jail for stealing, but such are the
consequences for breaking the law.  I would feel a duty
more to my wife as a human being and I would be ready
to go to jail. 

I thought about the duty to obey the law against stealing and decided
from my gut feeling that it was far better to save the woman than be
concerned about the cold command of the social law.  Jail would not be
a pleasant experience and stealing is a vice to be sure.  But there are
circumstances when laws must be broken and one’s integrity towards
another human must take priority for a higher cause.  A person’s life
has more worth than the law against stealing. 

When teaching children morality, one must be very clear that it is the
human life that is more valuable that has to be weighed against
breaking a social law.  It seems that even some discussion with
children would be in order so that they begin to understand relative

I would appreciate it if others expressed their choice and reasoning for
the drug/life perplexity.

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By Tom Edgar, April 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

Garth et al.  Before you have any false ideas of my qualifications, having taught (part time) for some years at tertiary and secondary levels.  Academic qualifications have I none.I lectured in my own particular professional area, and after some time, at the tertiary level, I was displaced by one of my ex pupils who had the papers which I lacked.  Two others,(permanent full time) including the head of department, had to sit exams to qualify for the positions they had held for over twenty years or have that same pupil appointed over them. I am amused that nowadays the same position occupied by myself has six academically papered people teaching the same amount of students. Ah! Such is Empire Building in the academic area. The “Head” of course having a larger staff receives even higher monetary compensation.  Skeptic am I???

Most of my education is self taught. The advantage and disadvantage is the teacher, and the pupil, at all times, have equal knowledge. The learning is at a pace and in a direction acceptable to both.

She.  Once again. Do not read into my ramblings more than it contains.  Yes age mellows the actions of some, others it only does the opposite. To come to my way of thinking would also require the marriage to,or at least the friendship of my late wife.  So many people did she influence by her calm peaceful and erudite thinking, and she too academically unqualified. Thirteen years dead and still influencing so many. You would also have to have my war and peace experiences both good and bad then gradually suppress all the anger that was engendered by an unjust, unequal system which, unfortunately, is, in some areas , today, even worse.

I have been a Part Political member and even,once, a prospective Federal Government candidate.  Now I am a political cynic.  Trust one of them, and I’m not too sure about him either.  Why did I not run as a candidate? Once again my wife. At the time she was the Federal District President of the Party.  When I told her of the “Branch” request, she said, ever acutely perceptive.  “I thought you always wanted only to be respected?”  Thankfully a high flying career in politics shot down before take off.

My computer wants to update so will sign off and leave other pearls of accrued wisdom for others to add.  Next chapter later on.

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By Shenonymous, April 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

The moral dilemma, garth, is a good way to start our engines!
Thanks.  It reminds me a bit of Sophie’s Choice.  Only she had
to choose between two of her children.  A horrible choice. 
So is stealing worse than saving a life?  Is that the essential
question?  Or is it more complicated than that?

There are the three paths to solutions of morality: the duty bound or what
is the traditional code, the religious dependency or let god decide, and the
internal innate feeling of right and wrong or what do the feelings say?
Each of our answers, or decisions, will fit into one of these three
categories.  I will certainly give this some thought this evening.

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By garth, April 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

Tom Edgar,
thank you for your post.  Enjoyable.

To start out with this endeavor, and to show that I am champing at the bit to get started I picked your comment below:

“As for the “Food Bank”... On which side of the counter will we meet you?  And more pertinently, if you lived in a decent country with a fair social conscience you wouldn’t be running food banks or needing hand outs.”

This rebuttal brings up a very important point, that of cultural differences.  For example, the moral example below is from Kohlberg of the Universtity of Chicago and a student of Piaget.  It is a moral dilemma.  Note the way the moral decision turns to the observer and on the “last person” standing, so to speak.

Heinnz stole the drug and we are supposed to pass judgement on him.  But the “druggist” gets a free pass for his avarice and unwillingness to find some other solution to Heinz’s dilemma. 
This is a typical American way of looking at things.  Money is the goal and all other ways around it are short-circuited.

Here’s the example from Kohlberg.

“Heinz Steals the Drug

In Europe, (The use of Europe as the setting is simply to misguide the observer.) a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that? (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 19)

This type of research is done on children to get them at an early age to direct their moral thinking for life, or so I feel.

One must ask oneself, what moral decisions am I making and what influenced them?  Or so I think.

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By garth, April 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment


I consider you an e-friend and a valuable asset to my lack of knowledge in certain areas in these threads and a person who will call me on my displays of ignorance.  You are an asset.
I feel like you.  I don’t know about morals either and the writings thereof, but that is the point. Shenonymous, a professor of Critical Thinking,  Tom Edgar, a man who taught college in Australia, and Clash, a self-evident intelligent human being, as you are, are willing to begin in this this journey of discovery of Moral Thinking. 
I don’t think that this will be as one college professor described a course called “An Approach to Literature, a “Reproach to Literature” a easte of time.  It might turn out to be something very rewarding. 

I might learn something about moral thought.

I hope you have the time and the interest.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 26, 2010 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

DCambly, your comments and contradictions are noted. Ever hear of multi-tasking? Are you just a doer and not a thinker?  There will always be some who disdain discussion in favor of “leaving it all alone.”

Never have read Hawton or heard of him either. I can say that one of the ways to start any kind of moral basis is does what I do harm others directly? Marriages other than (2)straight heterosexuals do not harm them or others. In fact it defends and protects them. (Religious based laws are un-Constitutional but it doesn’t matter if it is defended and allowed to stand.) Details can be looked next. I have had limited exposure to philosophy. Mostly in non-academic settings and fiction have I come across such ideas and actions though not identified as such usually. [In SiFi filled with aliens as friends etc, the idea of human racism becomes a sick and pathetic joke of abysmal primitives for an example.]

Thank you Garth for responding, there are plenty who would not.

Between being busy and had problems accessing the internet and not having anything to say at the time was why the long silence.

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By Shenonymous, April 26, 2010 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

Oops, I see I reposted the last paragraph of my last post!
Yikes!  Please excuse the mindlessness.

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By Shenonymous, April 26, 2010 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

This is a great site as there are various categories in a
selection bar at the top and there are a ton of books
free online if you are logged in. 

You are much kinder, Tom Edgar, than I.  I hope it is
a feature of your years at learning wisdom and something
I have to look forward to. 

We are having a time lag here on our project but there is no hurry for
the topic itself takes deep and wide and long thought.  Another writer
that might be worth a look is Simon Blackburn, another Brit.  His small
book, Being Good, subtitled A short introduction to ethics, would at
least cover what we might be after.  But aye, there is the rub.  What
exactly shall we say we are after?  Night-Gaunt seems to have
abandoned our efforts.  Too bad since I think he always has profound
things to say.  We should have an end game in sight.  In the perennial
search for morals and morality, what would be a good overview that
might give us a leading question?  Are we searching for something
abstract, universal that would apply to everyone everywhere for all
time?  Seems that is the higher goal?  Starting with only one foot
forward seems to be a safe plan?

What question do I live with?  I seem to have a feeling what is moral.  I
think it is wrong to kill anyone, but not really murderers of innocents.  I
believe in capital punishment for the guilty-without-a-doubt.  But for
those where doubt does exist, no, even though they might be guilty it
is something we cannot know at the time of sentencing.  What other
ideas about morality are paradigms? 

I still do like Hawton.  I haven’t got started in putting his lovely little,
no more than little, really small book on morality.  Non-electronic life
interrupts!  (said with much humor)  I will do that today. 

I am planning on inviting a few others to join this group, who I think
thinks often about our topic.  If they do join in, I think they would
provide many good questions, and offer some answers as well.

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By Tom Edgar, April 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm Link to this comment

Oh! Two things.  I knew not what I had started by inserting Hawton into the discussion, I take heart that it be of advantage to all including, maybe, Cambly.

The reaction to this latest interjection by an unappreciative person for loftier intellectual pursuits needn’t have been quite so antagonistic, but I also weathered that storm earlier.

Maybe D is also non religious and thinks time IS wasted on pursuing discussions on God, then again maybe not, and (s)he is objecting to that pursuit whilst disregarding all the sites, and all the religious outlets, that persistently and actively denigrate non believers whilst reserving their right to being unquestioned and untouchable.

Where D is so unquestionably wrong is making a negative statement without backing it with any supportive justifying commentary.

As for the “Food Bank”... On which side of the counter will we meet you?  And more pertinently, if you lived in a decent country with a fair social conscience you wouldn’t be running food banks or needing hand outs.

Have just returned from representing my little group of WW2 participants in our annual “Parade.”
Rather a big thing “Down Under”.. The pointed thing was that one ex career “Navy” man was trying to talk some youngsters into joining the armed forces whilst I took them aside and told them to avoid like the plague volunteering for anything promoted by Politicians, and non battle hardened ex servicemen.
I never could understand how men who have really endured the horrors of wars would entice others to do the same. Come to think of it not many of them do.

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By Shenonymous, April 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm Link to this comment

Prothero presents a good argument that religions are more different
than they are the same which is the perennial attitude by those who
have a habit of reducing everything to the lowest common
denominator.  He is probably right tha learning keenly that they are
sharply different might be essential for future survival.  His essay was
excellently rich with his knowledge of the different religions and how
they are precedently the same but succinctly was able to show the
differences.  I very much admired his economy of description without
really leaving much out.  It won’t do if “we pretend that religious
differences are trivial.” 

He said he did not think there is a coming clash between Christianity
and Islam while at the same time making it clear that it is almost futile
to “imagine” any meaningful interfaith conversation would seal the rift
that exists between them.  Personally I have some disagreement.  I
think there is a clash coming.  Maybe not for many more years, but it
cannot help but be on the clipboard since these two religions are the
most quarrelsome.  The belligerence is bound to erupt, especially when
Islam starts its imperialist moves.  They wish to be in the hegemonic
driver’s seat because it is in their holybook.  It will be interesting to
watch this coming avalanche.  Since everyone has access to read this
article, it might be a good one to start with?  It certainly provides an
easy bit of materials to sink our philosophical teeth into.

Let’s see if the others will read it and then have some preliminary
comments.  Do think about a motivating question to present to us to
get started.  Prothero gives plenty of substance to draw from, don’t you
The following is a paper where Hawton and several others each wrote a
chapter or section, entitled “Reason in Action” you all might find useful. 
It is about 124 pages long and if you join the website you can
download it in a variety of formats that once you are logged in you will
see a list in a left side column.  I just downloaded it as a pdf file.  But
it is perfectly accessible by anyone.  This is the web address.

This is a great site as there are various categories in a selection bar at
the top and there are a ton of books free online if you are logged in.

One more thing.  The formatting for this TD page of comments has
gone blooey again. If you all would try to keep your comments to about
65-7- characters wide when this page goes to a new page it will be
fixed.  Otherwise it will be messed up for awhile.  I don’t know if
anyone else is getting this extra wide formatting.

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By Shenonymous, April 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

A good site for some Hawton.  The google books will lapse some of the
pages.  If when you read and you run across that problem, just let me
know which page is missing and I’ll download it into the forum for you. 
We will make this project work somehow.

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By garth, April 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment


I agree and I regretted writing it after I clicked Submit.
Joseph Campbell said that “turning the cheek” was the most difficult aspect of Christian teaching. I think maybe he said of all religious teaching. That’s one I haven’t learned.

The link to Hawton is:;=

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By Shenonymous, April 25, 2010 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Your indignance, garth, while appreciated by myself and most likely all
the others who have formed our group is wasted on a mental midget. 
No one is breaking DCambly’s arm to even visit here.  We are on a
quest, a valiant on as it shows I think conscious beings with a
conscience and one that suits us, to hell with the miserables.  It is not
a closed system and we would love to have other contributors who will
respect our right to have this dialogue.  Mentally handicapped like
DCambly will always show up on forums as flamers who have only bile
in their hearts, always spewing godtalk.  It is an intolerance that does
not match that of atheists or agnostics or those who are deists without
organized religion dictating their thinking.  Personally I don’t even mind
a religioso as long as he/she do what Night-Gaunt has now sloganized
for me, Live and Let Live!  Sometimes an intellectual Christian or
Muslim or Jew or Hindu or whatever has something of interest to
contribute and I for one want to hear it for consideration.  I do not
think I have all the answers.  I think maybe Hawton did! hahaha The
more I read his writings after reading umpteen other philosophers, I
like him a lot!  Remaining open to the world is maybe good advice? 
Now that four of us has some Hawton, I vote that TomEdgar give us a
paradigm paragraph to get the locomotion started?

I have downloaded the Prothero article and will read it leisurely this
evening.  A first glance says it looks very interesting.  I look forward to
reading it.  I’ll also get started in putting the Hawton tiny text on the
computer.  Please share what article you found on the Internet, I’d love
to see it too.

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