Approval and Condemnation: Must they be based on Morality?

Archer.Todd at Archer.Todd at
Tue May 15 11:54:31 PDT 2001

Oooh! What I've got to say!

Carrol and Gordon said:

Carrol Cox:
> This is simply not true, either as a general statement or as an
> empirical summary of human experience. Most humans (including most of
> those who claim, if asked, to believe in god) get along very well
> without any god.

Gordon: If that were true, then they wouldn't be so busy making them.

What are you talking about here Gordon? The fact that for millennia humans have found gods, spirits, and devils because of their imagination and ignorance, or the tendency for (at least some) humans to magnify another human being into a "god?"

Carrol and Gordon said:

Carrol Cox:
> _You_ seem to need some sort of god. Most humans don't in fact. God is
> no more absent than are three-headed field mice, one-ton blue frogs with
> three eyes, etc. You seem to argue that we need some metaphysical
> absolute in order to ground our approval and disapproval of this or that.
> But none exists, so we'd better learn how to get along without one. But
> as it happens, we never really needed such a support and don't now. We
> are better off without it, since in fact all such supports (as Ollman
> suggests) turn out to be disguised arguments for capitalism.

I don't see any fixed connection between religious beliefs in general and capitalism in particular. It seems to be instead that capitalist processes influence people to select some religious beliefs and reject others; but the godmaking (or godfinding) urge goes on, capitalism or not, and so we find gods before and after and in between capitalism, as well as with it and of it.

I think what Carrol and Ollman are getting at is the fact that humans don't absolutely need something held over their heads reminding them that humans are imperfect and therefore requiring a "boss" to hold them in check (e.g. a god or an exploitative system) (Ollman on Marx:"The criticism of religion ends,"he says, "with the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man. It ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being.")

Gordon said:

It's a fallacy to attribute evil to an idea merely because it has been used by evil persons or in an evil way.

But an idea is generated by people, living in conditions generated (at least partially) by other people. The idea does not exist in itself; it exists only so long as there are people around to keep ii in their heads and act on it.

Analytic geometry and its sisters and cousins can come into being only because some people have a fixed, even obsessive principle of being concerned with -- that is, valuing -- its content. The people who do this generally attribute great ontological status to their concerns and findings -- that is, they regard them as _truth_, something always available to everyone. Yet they don't drop out of the sky by any means -- they must be _made_ -- so it's a curious kind of eternal being. However, most people can't summon the will to deal with analytic geometry without this notion of permanence. No one who cares about gemoetry believes the theorems will all be different tomorrow; they believe in the fixed principles of their form and its validity. We might as well recognize this belief.

Those who invented geometry discovered only that certain observations stay the same no matter who comes upon them, and these geometrical/mathematical observations stayed the same because the observations stayed the same (e.g. putting two pebbles together gets you two pebbles, not necessarily the Platonic Ideal "TWO"). People have yet to make a good case for the existence of any sort of Ideal or deity.

Gordon said:

Then you're not trying very hard. In longer form: we create (perhaps illusory) eternal principles so we will know who we are -- so we will recognize ourselves in the past and the future, in the distance as well as at home. We demand social and cultural coherence and insist that it's grounded in something external to ourselves -- this is probably a biological necessity. It's silly to pretend otherwise.

Right, humans look for meaning. I figure it has something to do with consciousness, but that doesn't necessarily mean there are Platonic Ideals or Gods floating around somewhere.

Gordon said:

I have to point out again that denying that there can be any fixed principle (like non-violence) as a basis for values is itself a fixed principle, indeed, a fixed _metaphysical_ principle. The most that rigorous skeptics and nihilists can say is "I don't see any fixed principle here" and not "there's no such thing." (That is, if we apply the more or less fixed principle of demanding consistency and meaningfulness from our skeptics and nihilists.)

Denying the validity of fixed principles denies only the "fact" of their independent Ideal existence; people who deny fixed principles are concerned only with earthly experiences, not the Timeless Ideal.

Gordon said:

An atheist who values atheism (believes it is truth) is already hopelessly entangled with a moral order -- the idea of truth is the idea of a moral order. As for you an Ollman and Marx, you all seem to believe there is some kind of enduring, valuable relationship between phenomena and your theories, indeed, with some _Ding_an_sich_ behind the phenomena. Real nihilists just laugh all this stuff off, if they pay any attention to it at all.

A thinking atheist doubts strongly (or even denies) the existence of any deity unless it can be proven by accepted experiential data that gods/a god exists; it is not necessarily the same thing as morals. Please show me where Ollman believes in an enduring relationship similar to a Platonic Ideal. Science (and Scientific Socialism) is concerned with observation and, when proven sufficiently incorrect, revising previous observations when new data becomes available (contingent no Ideal).


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