Humanist Sermon on the Mount


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James:

Well done.

As Michael Marotta pointed out in his comment:

If it had been said 2000 years ago, would anyone have understood? We take our progress for granted. We marvel at the material constructs rightfully; and at the same time, we are shamed and shocked by the mentality (or complete lack of it) of earlier times. But those are no more immoral than a saddle without stirrups or a carriage without springs.

Thank you for putting these thoughts into easy forms. Now, we just need to transmit them widely.

Adam

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James:

Well done.

As Michael Marotta pointed out in his comment:

If it had been said 2000 years ago, would anyone have understood? We take our progress for granted. We marvel at the material constructs rightfully; and at the same time, we are shamed and shocked by the mentality (or complete lack of it) of earlier times. But those are no more immoral than a saddle without stirrups or a carriage without springs.

Well said by Michael M. Marotta. Ethics evolves as we evolve.

And what can be observed in the development of ethics is a movement toward more empathy toward our fellow human beings.

The Declaration of Human Rights is a reflection of this development.

Edited by Xray
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Who is doing the blessing?

Ba'al Chatzaf

That would interest me too. Using the term in the above context will only provide fodder to those who hold that man cannot live without religious ideals.

It looks like some atheists are by no means immune to falling back into religious thinking from which they believe to have escaped.

Edited by Xray
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It's very much OK, I think.

It is quite basic, but I find that fine, in that any type of spiritual practice (which this is, accept it or not) that resonates to atheists is a very good thing.

I would say this: understand the word "Blessed" when using it. If it is only cynical in application, not such a good thing. It is, in fact, a very heavy word; one of the heaviest ones out there.

Very good, though! I like it!

In the UU church, I would say that, although the diversity is amazing, more or less you have a very large contingent of secular humanists. And, secular humanists are some of the most reasonable people in the world.

I have a lot more fun with the pagans, though. :) I can hardly wait to play at their summer solstice. The folk group I play in, Silver Branch, is headlining that one. I'm telling you, those people know how to have a good time!

rde

Blessed Be

Edited by Rich Engle
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Xray, have you read a book called "Anthem?" it's by a woman named Ayn Rand. Neat lady.

Having only read the two major works of the neat lady's fiction, all I can do is to speculate here what your point might be. TIA for elaborating.

I do recall though that Rand wrote about the use of religious terms not being restricted to the supernatural. (Foreword to The Fountainhead, p. ix).

She refers e. g. to Dominique Francon as "priestess"; John Galt is called "man as a god".

Rand argues that religious terms refer to real emotions. Indeed they do, but what is the nature of these emotions? The origin of these emotions, at the times when the terms were created, certainly was connected to belief in the supernatural.

Now despite belief in the supernatural becoming less frequent due to the rise of agnosticism and atheism, in the human psyche there's still the homo religiosus active making us susceptible to religious feelings like "worship", to holding things as "sacred", etc. even if these feelings are not connected to the supernatural anymore.

Classic case is Comte wanting to establish a 'Positivist Religion' which was to give his ideology the touch of the 'sacred'.

Edited by Xray
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Xray, have you read a book called "Anthem?" it's by a woman named Ayn Rand. Neat lady.

James,

It was good to see your usage of the word "exaltation" in your blog; it's one of my favorites.

A secular word for a human emotion that we should borrow back.

To explain: Xray worships at the altar of 'the people', and (universally dispersed) empathy/compassion is her religion's greatest virtue. The inference in her bringing it up on OL often, is that an Objectivist lacks empathy because of his apparent regard only for himself. That is, he is somehow inhuman.

I have never managed to convince her of this false dichotomy - or, that conversely, an O'ist has more capability for compassion than anyone else. Particularly, more than those who try to live by it as a code.

In Xray's own words, ..."some atheists are by no means immune to falling back into religious thinking from which they believe to have escaped."

Well said, Angela!

Tony

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To explain: Xray worships at the altar of 'the people',

As an anti-collectivist, I cannot "worship at the altar" of a collective ("people"). :)

Edited by Xray
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To explain: Xray worships at the altar of 'the people',

As an anti-collectivist, I cannot "worship at the altar" of a collective ("people"). :)

Glad to know that. You have given at least one of us a misleading impression, it seems. <_<

Still, I would like to know how you can possibly justify empathy/compassion as a virtue.

As far as I understand, it is an emotion, which is the effect of consciously held premises and actions - not a prime cause.

Any value or virtue that cannot be chosen and directly implemented can not be rational, imo.

Admittedly, one could argue that empathy is 'built in' to Man (originating from his early life in a co-operative tribe), therefore an instinct, and it is still today an essential part of his make up.

But then, so is the 'fight-or-flight' instinct, so is the communal instinct, and so is fear, hatred and bigotry. (e.g.,bigotry for those who differ from one's own appearance, language or customs - ie, not of one's tribe.) 'Good' or 'bad', these are all pre-rational, at best.

OTOH, Objectivist benevolence is deliberately volitional, stemming from the virtues of justice and self-respect, and therefore an objective virtue.

(To be clear, I'm definitely not for dismissing or denying compassion - either the instinct or emotion - as a distinctly human response.)

Tony

Edited by whYNOT
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Still, I would like to know how you can possibly justify empathy/compassion as a virtue.

I avoid using the term "virtue" in this context. For "virtue" always has a ring to my ear that something takes moral effort to achieve, and I don't think that feeling empathy and compassion requires moral effort.

I'd prefer to use the term "value" istead of "virtue" here.

(I'll adress the rest of your reply in a later post).

Edited by Xray
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Admittedly, one could argue that empathy is 'built in' to Man (originating from his early life in a co-operative tribe), therefore an instinct, and it is still today an essential part of his make up.

Recent research on mirror neurons sems to support this theory.

But then, so is the 'fight-or-flight' instinct, so is the communal instinct, and so is fear, hatred and bigotry. (e.g.,bigotry for those who differ from one's own appearance, language or customs - ie, not of one's tribe.)

Correct. They are all part of Man's nature, and it is essential for an ethics which is to work to study human nature in detail.

Ayn Rand said she knew only little about psychology, and imo this also shows in her philosophy.

'Good' or 'bad', these are all pre-rational, at best.

"Good" and "bad" are quite difficult terms to deal with in a theory of ethics because they often translate as 'suited to purpose', which makes the claim of an absolute good or bad problematic.

The same thing can be regarded as good or bad depending on the goal an individual wants to achieve. Fire for example is regarded as "good" if one's goal is to cook a meal over a campfire, but is seen as "bad" if the curtain catches fire in one's living room.

In Objectivist terminology one could say that "good" and "bad" are contextual. Just as values are contextual.

Ayn Rand TVOS, p. 16: "The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible." (end quote)

OTOH, Objectivist benevolence is deliberately volitional, stemming from the virtues of justice and self-respect, and therefore an objective virtue.

Imo the deliberate and volitional aspect of benevolence in Objectivism strongly goes toward showing benevolence primarily to those who share the value system of this philosophy, but not to those who don't share it, or who don't act according to it.

To be clear, I'm definitely not for dismissing or denying compassion - either the instinct or emotion - as a distinctly human response.)

I understand what you mean here, Tony, and think it is important that you pointed this out.

I don't think Rand took this distinctly human pre-rational response enough into account.

For almost everything in the Objectivist ethics is about conscious volitional choice based on "rationality", the result being Man as a fully rational, and hence, morally perfect human being (since rationaliy is declared to be Man's basic virtue, going by this premise, a fully rational being must also be perfect moral being).

I can imagine that those who tried to live up to this ideal and found that somehow it didn't seem to work, then tended to blame themselves for not being "fully rational and morally perfect" enough, rather than reexamining the premises of the ethical system itself.

Not to be misunderstood: I'm not against rationality, far from it. .

But is rationality really a virtue? Isn't it far more a cognitive than a moral category?

Putting it to the test shows were the problems can lie in a concept of "rational selfishness".

In ITOE, p. 33, it is stated:

"A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly." (end quote)

Example from Gone With The Wind: was Scarlett just selfish or "rationally selfish" in snatching Frank Kennedy, her sister Sue Ellen' fiancé, away from her? (After all, she did it for Tara (her highest value). Irrc, another film character (Mammy?) explicitly pointed this out).

Edited by Xray
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  • 1 year later...

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