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Absolutes

Philosophers and rhetoricians, Welcome!

Do you believe in an absolute right and wrong?

Yes.
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No.
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Total votes : 36

Postby mingshey » Thu Apr 29, 2004 3:32 am

If you stop hating, there's nothing evil. In Chinese the letter for "evil" and "to hate" are same. Hating something you think bad(or evil) stirs up hatred in you. And that makes you an incarnation of hatred. And you become "evil". I think that's why many people fails to stop war and strives.
And the idea of absolute good and evil justifies and/or amplifies the little hatred in you, and make you evil, if not stopped by social, legal, or psychological limits and common sense you learned from your youth.
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Postby Kasper » Thu Apr 29, 2004 5:41 am

I'm coming into this a bit late but I think right and wrong are really personal preferences. It's all dependend on one's personal scales:

That what makes me happier / That what makes me unhappier

Happier = good
Unhappier = evil

This does not mean that noone would ever do anything for someone else. It makes me feel pretty good to financially support a third world child. (a very simple example)

As for absolute good or bad: is it bad if someone dies? Sure if its your husband or wife you would consider it a very bad thing, but on the big scale of things: if noone ever died that would be pretty bad (overpopulation and never enough food)

The problem with vices, as generally considered to be bad because they damage society as a whole, is that they could individually be classed as good (that what makes me happier). Personal happiness should be divided into hedonism (short term / high intensity) and perhaps eudemonisn (or whatever term you like - being long term but of a lower intensity). So what from a short term perspective seems good (makes me happier) on the long run may be bad (makes me unhappier) e.g. heroin or anything that brings remorse.

As for saying that God controls everything and everything is therefore good, this may be so. But it is this idea that stops parents from letting their kids have injections to prevent diseases since God will decide if it good for them to get it or not. I can't agree that this is good (doesn't make me happier)

So as for an absolute good or bad: no, everything just is; that's all. Whatever personal opinions we have on that.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby Apotheosis » Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:32 pm

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate...leads to suffering!

Quoth the Yoda, nevermore! 8)
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Postby Mongoose42 » Thu Apr 29, 2004 6:32 pm

threewood14 wrote:
So I have always wondered how everything started. I thought and thought and thought and came to the conclusion that there must have been a start.

Well I believe that with the begining of the universe, also came the flow of time. They go together like a cute couple. But if the flow of time came with the universe, how could anything cause it to start? No events can happen because there is no time right? This brings in God. God started the universe simply because, he was bored! Nothing but Him existed. Time does not apply to God. He is everywhere in the universe and at every point in time always. He has no begining and will have no end.

He knew that all this would eventually happen and its not like He had to wait.

This is how God controls the universe. I said that Time does not apply to Him. So in theory, He is starting the universe at this moment. If He sees something He doesn't like in the universe, He changes the begining slightly to tweak it.


You have gotten quite far with your reasoning (few phd's have done better) but I have a few questions with your logic.

1. You had said that heaven and hell are outside of our universe and thus are not made by God. But you also said that at creation God was the only thing in existence.

2. Your belief that God goes back to the beginning of the world and tweaks it to get a better result brings up a temporal paradox. If something is changed in the past then everything under the influence of time has no memory of the change. If the universe has no memory of a change, then no matter how many times God changed the beginning the current universe is His final alteration and what is, from a deity perspective, the best version of the universe.

Side question: Is the continuous reaction of events that determines everything the same thing as fate?
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Postby threewood14 » Thu Apr 29, 2004 8:49 pm

1. You had said that heaven and hell are outside of our universe and thus are not made by God. But you also said that at creation God was the only thing in existence.

2. Your belief that God goes back to the beginning of the world and tweaks it to get a better result brings up a temporal paradox. If something is changed in the past then everything under the influence of time has no memory of the change. If the universe has no memory of a change, then no matter how many times God changed the beginning the current universe is His final alteration and what is, from a deity perspective, the best version of the universe.


1. Yeah I missed that. I believe that God and His kingdom existed forever. His kingdom will have no end as well as Him.

2. The universe finaly is not the best version, but simply the best version that God thinks for us. He tweaked it enough so that it would yield the greatest amount of souls into Heaven.

Is the continuous reaction of events that determines everything the same thing as fate?


No. I think fate is something like this. There is a ball coming down and your fate is to get hit by the ball. Before the ball comes down, you go underground 500 ft and lock yourself in the room. Right before the ball hits the ground 500 ft above you, an earthquake happens and the ball klonks you on the head. It is similar to fate, but fate is inescapable.

Note: Which Ph.Ds?
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Postby Emma_85 » Thu Apr 29, 2004 9:23 pm

But if the flow of time came with the universe, how could anything cause it to start? No events can happen because there is no time right? This brings in God. God started the universe simply because, he was bored! Nothing but Him existed. Time does not apply to God. He is everywhere in the universe and at every point in time always. He has no begining and will have no end.


You've also forgotten something else - not only was time created during the big bang, the laws of physics were too. That means causality for example was also created then and may, just like time, not have existed before (although of course there may not have been a before :wink: ). The universe doesn't need a reason to exist :shock: , we can't imagine anything like that at all of course. Just like we can't imagine anything that isn't 3d for example or 'beyond' time. Our brains don't work that way, they work for the surrowndings we live in only. And causality is one of the things 'hard wired' into our brain. That's why even if you tell a small child that God created everything they will ask 'But where did he come from?' (unless they've been subjected to the idea of God from very early on or are scared to ask questions :wink: ).
"Why did the big bang happen?" "Because of God"
You could just as well say it happened for no reason what so ever (which is what you are saying too when you say that God was bored. If God existed he would not be human, and so would probably not be bored, he’d live outside of time, and not know of anything as human as ‘having too much time on his hands’) or say that it has a reason, but we can’t say what that reason was. For how can we look beyond the boundary, beyond the big bang itself?

So this is how I believe everything started. God first created the branes and jsut banged them together. He knew that all this would eventually happen and its not like He had to wait. Time does not apply to Him. I believe that the fate of the universe is kind of like an atom. See the Solution to the Expansion of the universe thread. I think that God is the supreme ruler of the universe and Satan tries to capture His control. He has suceeded very little and has no where near the amount of control that God has.

God knows of Satan then and just lets him act? But still – you said you haven’t read much about the branes theory yet and that it is very new. I’d be extremely wary to base your beliefs on it then, especially as it claims to be an explanation for the big bang. All the data we have was created after the big bang, there is know way we can look beyond it, so this is just an interpretation of the cosmos at the most, nothing more.

This is how God controls the universe. I said that Time does not apply to Him. So in theory, He is starting the universe at this moment. If He sees something He doesn't like in the universe, He changes the begining slightly to tweak it. God is not the perfect unflawed being, but still highly supreme and in control. He has the best intentions for us because HE simply loves us.

If God is not omnipotent and does not know all (for he would know right ‘from the beginning’ about every little atom otherwise) then what is the point of him? He would just be like Zeus for example, not perfect and so the question, where does this God come from is all the more pressing. Only if you believe in an all knowing creator, a being that just knows and planed everything and that is infinite in every respect can you hope to put a stop on that question. For if God is absolute in everything, then there couldn’t possibly be anything ‘larger’ anything else more potent in order to create God. The idea of a flawed one God does not answer the ultimate question.

I belive that God does not want us to worry about these things too much and HE does not want us to understand Him completely until we go to Heaven. This is why no one does! He wants to be sure that you have faith in Him. He wants you to trust Him; have Faith in Him. For He knows that if you have faith in Him, you love Him. Regardless if you understnad Him or not, He wants trust.

So you were Roman Catholic... is that why you believe to know something about the creator of the universe? Do you believe He’s responsible for writing the Bible and that He’s letting us know that He wants trust through interpreting the holy script, or how does He communicate His wishes to us?

Why do some people not trust God, because they have been corrpted unfortunatly by Satan. He has very little control, but has some control nonetheless.

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Postby threewood14 » Thu Apr 29, 2004 10:53 pm

we can’t say what that reason was


Of course we cannot. I can't really back up why He was bored or whatever. Its a reason just a the same...



The idea of a flawed one God does not answer the ultimate question


What is the ultimate question?



Do you believe He’s responsible for writing the Bible and that He’s letting us know that He wants trust through interpreting the holy script, or how does He communicate His wishes to us?


I think the Bible is a collection of stories demonstrating the power of God. It shows people who read it or interpret it that God is extremely powerful. It's God's way of getting us to have Faith in Him.

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Postby Emma_85 » Fri Apr 30, 2004 5:21 am

What is the ultimate question?


Sorry if I didn't make that clear :( , with the 'ultimate' question I just mean literally (this is a Latin forum too after all :wink: ) the furthest, the last question. The idea of having a God, who is 'best at everything', means that we are basically putting a stop to the question of 'but who made God?', because if we say there is nothing better than Him at all, as he is perfect, then nothing else could have created him, as something that perfect and infinite can't be created by anything inferior, therefore a God defined in that way can have no creator. So when you say He's not perfect, we're back to the question, who made your God, as something that isn't perfect could always still be created by something that is perfect or at least more perfect than your God.

Of course we cannot. I can't really back up why He was bored or whatever. Its a reason just a the same...


Yes, but how can you believe that a reason you just made up and you can't back neither logically or any other way (religiously you could back it up by interpreting Genesis that He was bored or something) is anywhere near to the truth. Logically your guess isn't as good one, because as I said you are assuming He is in someway human. Your God could just as well have made us for any other reason... That's why I asked you why it is you believe just this, because to me it makes no sense to base a faith solely on my own probably very flawed guesses. What makes you believe He was bored? It's a reason, though not a very good one, but that he was lonely or barking mad are reasons too, why did you choose that he was bored as a reason?
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Postby threewood14 » Fri Apr 30, 2004 2:23 pm

So when you say He's not perfect, we're back to the question, who made your God, as something that isn't perfect could always still be created by something that is perfect or at least more perfect than your God.


I believe that my God existed forever. He has no begining therefore nothing created Him. I'm not sure of this, but does a God have to be flawless in order to be supreme? I think God's lack of perfection, although it may be slight, demonstrates that mistakes bring strength. You learn from your mistakes. Now since my God has been around forever, He has in theory made an infinite amount of mistakes. Like I said, time does not apply to God, but I mean the time dimension in our own universe. God has His own time that has existed forever just like Him and His kingdom. So, I could make a case that my God has infinite knowledge beacuse HE has made an infinite amount of mistakes, but taht still does not answer the ultimate question. In fact, I believe that no one will truly be able to answer that question without a debate.



Yes, but how can you believe that a reason you just made up and you can't back neither logically or any other way (religiously you could back it up by interpreting Genesis that He was bored or something) is anywhere near to the truth.


You also said that God is someway human. I read in the Bible that God made man in His image. Why? That's a good question. If you could find a better reason for Him creating the universe, tell me. I don't think any reason we come up with will be valid enough to say so.
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat May 01, 2004 8:11 pm

Uhh... you do know that I don't believe in any God/s whatsoever, don't you?

So, I could make a case that my God has infinite knowledge beacuse HE has made an infinite amount of mistakes,


But if you have infinite knowledge, you don't make mistakes, because you know the exact consequences of eveything.

but taht still does not answer the ultimate question. In fact, I believe that no one will truly be able to answer that question without a debate.


The thing is we can't say what is the cause of our universe, and we may never be able to.

I don't think any reason we come up with will be valid enough to say so.


I don't believe the Bible is worth the paper it's printed on when it comes to how much 'truth' is in the book. If we are like God, why do we die, why are aren't we all-knowing, why do we have limited capabilities and why do we have bodies and so on... In fact I'd go so far as to say, that basically we'd be the exact opposite of a God. Can something timeless have a mind? If it knows everything ever, it can't change its mind... it always has the same emotions... and as the change of those things defines what a mind is, God would not have a mind. He might have something totally different, but nothing in any way even remotely human.
I'm not saying that any other reasons for creating the world we can think of are better, because we'd only be able to think of human reasons, and they would be different than any reasons such a being would have. So better than just guessing is to admit that this being isn't human and we don't know anything about it. That of course reduces God to being only the cause of the universe and basically nothing else. We could then call God the cause of the universe.

Now of course I know you don't agree with what I just said, where exactly don't you agree? Do you believe He can still have a human mind despite knowing everything?
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Postby threewood14 » Sun May 02, 2004 12:43 am

But if you have infinite knowledge, you don't make mistakes, because you know the exact consequences of eveything.


The statements contradict each other. In order to have infinite knowledge in the first palce, you must make an infinite amount of mistakes. Otherwise, you will not have an infinite amount of knowledge.

However, since God has been around forever in His 'time' realm, in theory He has had this infinite amount of knowledge for an infinite amount of times. But then again, I said somewhere a while back that logic seems to disappear when talking about super-natural beings and I would consider God a super-natural being. I think you agreed about that, but I'm not sure.

Now of course I know you don't agree with what I just said, where exactly don't you agree?


Probably the place I disagree most is...
we are like God, why do we die, why are aren't we all-knowing, why do we have limited capabilities and why do we have bodies and so on...


I think you would agree that this says that God is human like, but He is not a human. He resembles human qualities like the mistakes He has made, but He also has this infintie knowledge soit kind of contradicts itself once again. I do not think that God is like a human although He looks like one. Just because He is slighty flawed does not mean that He is a human. A human I would say has flaw too, but has much more than God. ITs kind of like the Greek Gods. The were divine, but had human traits. But when they fought each other like in the Trojan War, there must be a winner and a loser. The point I'm trying to make is that if two Greek Gods fought each other, then somebody must lose right? If they are both unflawed, then it would be like a sword that can cut anything against a shield that can defend against anything.

Again, logic seems to disappear when talking about a supernatural being...
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Postby Apotheosis » Sun May 02, 2004 1:06 am

Again, logic seems to disappear when talking about a supernatural being...


...that's because the definition of supernatural is illogical...
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Postby threewood14 » Sun May 02, 2004 1:11 am

exactly
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Postby xon » Sun May 02, 2004 3:40 am

I believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Bad.

Its is the pursuit of Good which drives humanity onward, and the disdain for Bad which keeps it from falling by the wayside.

If one culture (A) believes strictly in monogomous relationships and therefore is likely to be less susceptible to AIDS, and another (B) believes in polygamous relationships and therefore is wiped out by AIDS... then perhaps culture A's version of Good and Bad, regarding relationships, is more "correct" than culture B.

There is Absolute Good and Absolute Bad, just that different people pursue it in different ways and with differing opinion of what Good and Bad actually is.
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Postby threewood14 » Sun May 02, 2004 9:33 pm

To tell you the truth, I'm still not exactly sure what you mean by absolute good and bad.
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Postby xon » Mon May 03, 2004 2:58 pm

Thank YOU threewood14!

I don't know for sure, and you don't know for sure. No one will be entirely sure.

However, I do know that certain moral restricitions do give certain people an evolutionary advantage. Recall my AIDs example.

Jews and Muslims don't eat pork. Pigs can be infected with flesh-eating worms that harden into cysts, even after the pig is dead. They come alive in the human host who has eaten the pig, and then the host is at risk of death. So is that moral tradition an evolutionary advantage? Yes. Or at least it was :wink: .

The funny thing is, morals often have nothing to do with the physical world, but do have evolutionary implications!
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Postby threewood14 » Mon May 03, 2004 9:55 pm

We have to relate it to the point in time and ones take on a matter. Without that, its really hard.
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Postby primitive » Wed May 05, 2004 12:16 am

I think right and wrong are not facts. They are the opinions of persons and no more. However, many people may have the similar opinions about a certain thing.
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Postby Michaelyus » Fri Jul 09, 2004 8:56 pm

I think there should be some things that are completely wrong; can murder ever be justified? I don't think so. There might be reasons, something that isn't actually the person's fault, but then that person should not have killed that victim.

I think that God is perfect, and why we are so imperfect is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, knowing the implications. They were perfect, until Satan persuaded them to sin. They could have restrained themselves... but they didn't. If God had destroyed them there and then, then Satan's challenge to God:
People would be better living without God
would have been unresolved. Would we be better ruling themselves, or do we need God to rule us? So he left them to live (he didn't know that Satan was going to rebel; he created him as an angel; after his rebellion, God still let him live, on account of that challenge). We are then their offspring. Satan is trying to prove his claim, God is trying to prove his.

In my opinion, God isn't omniscient or omnipresent , but he is eternal and omnipotent. I don't believe in the Big Bang, nor in the belief that God created the universe in 168 hours (what does יוֹם mean?). Because God has perfect wisdom, he has set absolutes for some things, while non-absolutes for others.
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Jul 10, 2004 10:12 am

can murder ever be justified? I don't think so


Neither do I. I can think of many reasons why murder is not justifiable, reasons I think any human with even only half a brain should be able to understand. The thing is though, that our conception of what is right and wrong changes as time passes and is/was different in other cultures.
Of course we think that our conception is right. But what about future generations? Will they be shaking their heads and calling us the most immoral civilisation ever, because most things we did were, in their opinion, wrong? For example we drive cars, which in part causes global warming, which again might lead to hundreds of thousands dying. Driving a car to work is not considered wrong now, but in the future they might call it wrong. This is probably not a good example, maybe vegetarianism or war would be better, but I hope you get my point. Our perceptions of what is right and wrong seem to change over time. And causing death and destruction is an important issue.
So for one culture at a certain time, certain things are right and others wrong. It's the people that decided what is and isn't, based on facts, beliefs, reasoning, logic, feelings and so on.

I understand your reasoning, it is the Christian reasoning.
Why is there so much evil in the world, when we have a perfect God? Because Adam and Eve messed it all up for us. You know what, if I were you I would really, really hate Adam and Eve :P .
Now of course you already know that I'm not Christian, but everything you have said so far makes sense to me if you believe in the Christian God, except for one thing.
How can you believe in Adam and Eve, that God created these two and so on, but not believe that God created the earth/universe in 7 days (I think it was only 6 though, he had a nap on the 7th :wink: ). I mean, that too is in the Bible, so if you don't believe in the 7 day theory, why do you believe in Adam and Eve? The only 'evidence' you have of Adam and Eve is the holy book, but if you believe a part of the holy book to be wrong, why not the other part? Is there a certain reason why you believe that one part of the text is incorrect?
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Postby Michaelyus » Sat Jul 10, 2004 6:54 pm

Ah- yes, sorry, my mistake; in 6 days. But does יוֹם mean "day", as in a period of around 24 hours, as in from sunset to sunset? Remember; a translation can be pretty inaccurate.

Don't all women have some sort of common genetic signature among their genes?
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Postby Emma_85 » Sun Jul 11, 2004 9:53 pm

Hmm... well, I'm afraid if you are reading it in either Greek or Latin that too will be a translation. But what font are you using? It's strange, so I don't actually know what you are referring too. Could you use a different one maybe? Four empty boxes don't mean much to me :wink: .
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Postby Michaelyus » Mon Jul 12, 2004 7:51 pm

Actually, it's Arial. I got it off some website, with an English and Hebrew Bible. If you have Microsoft Word (2000), then it should be on Insert > Symbol. It's translated as "day", but just means a definite period of time in general, from what I know.

***note: I do not know Hebrew***
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Postby Emma_85 » Mon Jul 12, 2004 8:29 pm

Ah, I don't know any Hebrew either, but I still can't see the text in Word 2000. I pasted it and turned it into symbol...
Strange... must be some other version of Arial my version of Word doesn't support (which I find strange :? ). My I.E. is messed up anyway, has been for a long time, I can't even download most things with it properly ... I'll have to re-install it sometime. (Uh... you may have noticed I'm not a pc expert so maybe I'm just talking rubbish now :P ).

But if you are wondering about the meaning of yom, then you might find this site interesting (can't guarantee what they say is right though, cause I don't know any Hebrew, but the article doesn't seem to be bad):

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c002.html

Edit: when I say 'bad' I was just talking about the few points the author makes on the use of the word yom, the rest is obviously just rubbish. Dino skeletons and fossils being left over from Noahs flood and all that is just uh... :lol:
Edit2: sorry if I'm insulting anyone, who believes that Dino skeletons and fossils are the left overs of the big flood... but the thought is just too funny ... :P
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Postby Kalailan » Fri Jul 30, 2004 6:49 pm

Hmm. This debate, although not far from it, has driven off the subject. Nevertheless, i think i can connect the two.

Let me start from the begining.

"What makes Man superior to Beast?"

I think it is the capabilty of abstracting; It is that which enabled humans to designate languages, the most concrete advantage man has over beast.

Now, humans have a very high abstracting capability. it is so high, that we can see a face in the opposite side of an embroiderd carpet, or in the fibers of a wooden board.
it can be seen that in many ancient languages nouns have genders, something virtualy useless.
this giving life to objects, personifying them, is a consequence, some would say side effect, of the high abstraction capabilty humans have.

now, the concept of divinity, i think, is an abstraction of the world. "primitive" religions have many deities; they percept the world as many small parts.
an evolution of this perception would eventualy lead to "one god", a further abstraction of the world, now conceived of as one whole thing.

(if this part isn't clear, please do let me know.)

now, some would say that, because the concept of divinity is a mere function of our brain, it must be abandoned.
i say the exact opposite.
just like our science of mathematics isn't the only one virtualy possible, and nevertheless it is most real in the sense that it can be used to some extent in the real physical world, the human concept of divinity can be just as true.

how does it relate to good and bad?
just like the human perception of mathematics isn't the only one possible, yet it is true for us, good and evil can vary from each person and remain true.

i answered "No" in the poll. i don't believe there is absolute good and evil.

<kalailan is stretching his muscels>
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Postby Lucus Eques » Fri Jul 30, 2004 8:00 pm

*gasps in disbelief*

Have we all forgotten the very foundation of our belovèd Classical world? Does no one remember Socrates? The correct answer to the question posed by this thread is the basis of everything we love so much from antiquity.

From Plato's Theatetus:

The Sophists claim that everything is true according to each individual's measure of truth, and thus all theories are equally true and false.


We can imagine Socrates giving him one of those puzzled, strange, bulge-eyed looks of his:

Then I would say that they must admit that their own statement can be false too!  For how can they hold that all opinions are equal and not include themselves in this?  How can we even believe their principle when the principle itself is relative to the man or group which holds it?


If "there are no truths," then that statement itself cannot be true. Or even if "there are no truths" is just a version of the truth, the nature of the world it describes presupposes a contradiction. Thus a philosophy lacking in the proven absolute Truth, the Ideals which Plato showed definitively do and must exist for us seperate individuals to even have the ability to communicate on the same plane of existence, is totally without reason.

To see so many dismiss absolutes as no more than religious fancy is so deeply insulting, most especially to our long-dead Philosophers who gave us the gift of this wisdom. Socrates lived and died three whole centuries before the emmergence of Christianity, which, as we are aware, would hold similar philosophies (as does Buddhism, and other universal manners of belief). That St. Thomas Aquinas reconciled Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle so perfectly into Christianity should come as no terrific surprise; the two greatest and most influential pillars of the Western World, Philosophy and Christianity, were bound seemlessly and allowed everything else that we are so proud of to follow.

The whole reason for the fruition of thought in the Classical world came when Socrates proved the Sophists wrong. There is indeed absolute Truth. Discerning it is our goal as philosophers; moreover, this is the foundation of all philosophy. That even the Greek scholars among us missed this ineludible logic by our most beloved heroes of the past is to me most terrifying.
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Postby Emma_85 » Fri Jul 30, 2004 10:13 pm

Plato too believed in just one God though, he believed in these Ideas, but that doesn't mean that just because Plato thought that absolutes existed that they do indeed exist.
I don't quite understand how this proves or disproves absolutes. How does this have anything to do with absolutes? We are talking about things being morally right or wrong. Is killing someone wrong for example? The sophist might say now that killing someone is wrong and killing someone is right are equal moral positions, because depending on what a person believes is it right or wrong. If Socrates then says that how are they sure that their opinion is correct if they think it depends on how you look at it, then I think they could fairly answer that facts and morals are different things. While what is right and wrong in a moral sense lies in the eye of the beholder or their heart or whatever, you can prove facts, but try proving that killing someone is morally wrong, moral is not a fact. They aren't saying that every opinion is equal (their opinion that every moral opinion is equal for example might be considered a better opion than that only one set of absolute morals exists).
I have to admit I have no idea in which context these sentences are said, because I have not read the Theatetus, so please correct me if I have just misunderstood you.
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Postby Democritus » Sat Jul 31, 2004 1:12 am

Kalailan wrote:now, the concept of divinity, i think, is an abstraction of the world. "primitive" religions have many deities; they percept the world as many small parts.
an evolution of this perception would eventualy lead to "one god", a further abstraction of the world, now conceived of as one whole thing.

(if this part isn't clear, please do let me know.)


Well, it's clear, but I don't agree with it. What if there actually are gods and goddesses? I mean, what are you going to tell Athena, when she picks you up by the ear and shakes you and informs you that yes, she really does exist, thank you very much? All our reasoning about how we invented the gods won't be much help.

Either the gods exist, or they don't. It doesn't really matter how we discover this or arrive at the idea. The fact of their (non-)existence is independent of us.

Kalailan wrote:how does it relate to good and bad?
just like the human perception of mathematics isn't the only one possible, yet it is true for us, good and evil can vary from each person and remain true.


But one plus one really is two. This is true, independently of my perceptions or opinions or biases, or even all my reasoning and memories. It was true before I got here and it will be true afterwards.

I voted "yes" in the poll. I believe there is absolute good and evil. But that's not the same thing as claiming that I understand it, or can discern it all the time. Sometimes I know it when I see it, sometimes I don't.
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Postby xon » Sat Jul 31, 2004 4:07 am

I voted "yes" in the poll. I believe there is absolute good and evil. But that's not the same thing as claiming that I understand it, or can discern it all the time. Sometimes I know it when I see it, sometimes I don't.


That echoes my early posts in this thread.
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Postby Kalailan » Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:12 am

Democritus wrote:Well, it's clear, but I don't agree with it. What if there actually are gods and goddesses? I mean, what are you going to tell Athena, when she picks you up by the ear and shakes you and informs you that yes, she really does exist, thank you very much? All our reasoning about how we invented the gods won't be much help.


well - although i did claim that we invented gods, i did not claim that they do not exist. just the same with mathematics - they are true to us because that's how our brain works.

Democritus wrote:
Kalailan wrote:how does it relate to good and bad?
just like the human perception of mathematics isn't the only one possible, yet it is true for us, good and evil can vary from each person and remain true.

But one plus one really is two. This is true, independently of my perceptions or opinions or biases, or even all my reasoning and memories. It was true before I got here and it will be true afterwards.


this is true for you, and me, and everyone who reads this. but imagine an alien organism based on a drop of water. for this alien, 1+1 isn't 2. it's 1+1=<, because a drop of water plus a drop of water don't form two drops, just one bigger drop.
as our brain is not water drop based, we cannot really develop such a form of mathematics. our form of mathematics is the one fit for us - and it works.
anyway, imagine us having nine fingers instead of ten. wouldn't tha change our mathematics?
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Jul 31, 2004 10:47 am

But in our defined system of mathmatics 1+1=2 holds true. We invented mathmatics to suit us, and it this system everything works. What happens in reality if you add one thing an other is something totally different.
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Postby Democritus » Sun Aug 01, 2004 3:27 am

Kalailan wrote:
Democritus wrote:But one plus one really is two. This is true, independently of my perceptions or opinions or biases, or even all my reasoning and memories. It was true before I got here and it will be true afterwards.


this is true for you, and me, and everyone who reads this. but imagine an alien organism based on a drop of water. for this alien, 1+1 isn't 2. it's 1+1=<, because a drop of water plus a drop of water don't form two drops, just one bigger drop.
as our brain is not water drop based, we cannot really develop such a form of mathematics. our form of mathematics is the one fit for us - and it works.


Oh, I don't agree at all. What you say is true enough for "raindrop," but it's not true of "one milliliter of water." If I have one ml of water and I add another ml of water, then I always get 2 ml of water. That's for sure, and it doesn't matter what planet you come from.

Moreover, it's something generally true. If I have one orange and then I receive another orange, then I will have two oranges. If I have sneezed exactly once, and then I sneeze exactly one more time, I will then have sneezed exactly twice. Hence the abstraction of "one" and "two".

Kalailan wrote:anyway, imagine us having nine fingers instead of ten. wouldn't tha change our mathematics?


This is partly true and partly false. Our representation of math is not the same thing as the mathematics itself. If I add MCLV and CCV then I should get MCCCLX, for exactly the same reason that 1155 + 205 = 1360.

If I owe you ten dollars, but you have only nine fingers, does that mean that I only owe you nine dollars? Of course not.

Emma_85 wrote:But in our defined system of mathmatics 1+1=2 holds true. We invented mathmatics to suit us, and it this system everything works. What happens in reality if you add one thing an other is something totally different.


We did not invent this, this is external to ourselves. It was true before we got here.

How about this example: What is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius? Did we invent that ratio? Clearly we did not invent it. If we had invented it, we would have selected a much more convenient number than pi. How about the square root of two? The Greeks were very upset when they learned that this number was not a ratio of two whole numbers. If they had selected the value of the square root of two, then they would have selected a number more to their liking.

But they were not in a position to select the value of the square root of two. It is what it is, and it doesn't matter if we like it. It's not a rational number, and that was true before the Greeks even started thinking about rational numbers.

It's true for the aliens too. I will let them know, the next time I see them. :)
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Postby Democritus » Sun Aug 01, 2004 3:47 am

Democritus wrote:What is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius? Did we invent that ratio? Clearly we did not invent it. If we had invented it, we would have selected a much more convenient number than pi.


That should be 2[face=SPIonic]p[/face], of course. C=2[face=SPIonic]p[/face]r, C=[face=SPIonic]p[/face]D. :)
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Postby Lucus Eques » Sun Aug 01, 2004 11:38 am

I couldn't agree more with Democritus. Well put, friend. I won't add any of my own meaningless commentary, though; it would only weaken the argument. ;)
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Postby Emma_85 » Thu Aug 19, 2004 8:38 pm

We did not invent this, this is external to ourselves. It was true before we got here.

How about this example: What is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius? Did we invent that ratio? Clearly we did not invent it. If we had invented it, we would have selected a much more convenient number than pi. How about the square root of two? The Greeks were very upset when they learned that this number was not a ratio of two whole numbers. If they had selected the value of the square root of two, then they would have selected a number more to their liking.

But they were not in a position to select the value of the square root of two. It is what it is, and it doesn't matter if we like it. It's not a rational number, and that was true before the Greeks even started thinking about rational numbers.

It's true for the aliens too. I will let them know, the next time I see them.


We may not have invented pi, but we did invent the perfect circle (pi is only that ratio in a perfect circle). But find me a perfect circle in nature on which to test pi... the perfect circle was not something humans 'found', it was invented, because how could it be anything but invented as it just doesn't exist in nature, only in the minds of humans?
That's the surprising thing about the invention of the wheel. It was invented by mathmaticians, because they'd worked out the circle was best for transportation.
Same goes for 90° angles and such like.

So when I say that humans invented mathmatics that is they set out the basics, within this system there is loads to explore and find. But just think how different all our maths would be if we didn't have a decimal system. What about a set of 12 or even 16 instead of just 10 numbers? It might make a huge difference, I don't actually know, but would the number e still be of any importance at all in a system of 12s? What if your alien friends have 12 fingers and not 10?
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Postby Democritus » Sat Aug 21, 2004 12:22 am

Emma_85 wrote:We may not have invented pi, but we did invent the perfect circle (pi is only that ratio in a perfect circle). But find me a perfect circle in nature on which to test pi... the perfect circle was not something humans 'found', it was invented, because how could it be anything but invented as it just doesn't exist in nature, only in the minds of humans?


If I were the inventor of the perfect circle, I certainly would have set the circumference to equal 3 or maybe 22/7 or a more sensible number.

You are right that the perfect circle doesn't exist in the real world (at least, I don't think I've never run into a perfect circle anyplace, either), however, I'm sure that this perfect circle is something beyond me. When I examine it, I am exploring it, not inventing it.

Emma_85 wrote:So when I say that humans invented mathmatics that is they set out the basics, within this system there is loads to explore and find. But just think how different all our maths would be if we didn't have a decimal system. What about a set of 12 or even 16 instead of just 10 numbers?


Changing the notation will change some of our "rules of thumb" used for manipluating numbers, but these changes are superficial.

In the case of decimal numbers, we can spot right away that the decimal numbers 250, 4035 and 99055 are divisible by 5. We can we write the same numbers in hex as FA, FC3 and F1B67, and then it's not so obvious that they are evenly divisible by 5. So, that would be one difference.

Nevertheless, FA, FC3 and F1B67 are divisible by 5. That fact is unchanged by our representation of these numbers.

Emma_85 wrote:It might make a huge difference, I don't actually know, but would the number e still be of any importance at all in a system of 12s? What if your alien friends have 12 fingers and not 10?


In a base-12 system, or any other base, e is still e and [face=SPIonic]p[/face] is still [face=SPIonic]p[/face] and sqrt(2) is still sqrt(2). Numbers like [face=SPIonic]p[/face] or e have a mathematical meaning independent of any notation. e pops up in a lot of places. It was apparently first discovered by accident by bankers working out compound interest.

http://www.recoveredscience.com/constanteofgrowth.htm

If you want to "change the basics," then you could adjust something fundamental, such as the the axioms of Euclid. In that case you are in the land of non-Euclidean mathematics.

But this is not the same thing as saying, well, there is no truth and false, everything is arbitrary. Non-Euclidean mathematics is just a branch of math that starts out with axioms that happen to differ from the axioms identified by Euclid. This kind of mathematics still uses mathematical reasoning and logic, and it also involves identifying propositions as true and false. Non-Euclidean math is strange, but not arbitrary.

I don't understand why 2+2=4, but I know that it is true, and this truth is independent of me and my wishes. I don't entirely understand what truth is, but in many cases, I know truth when I see it. As human beings, about the best we can ever hope to do is try to separate truth from falsehoods, as far as we can distinguish them. With a lot of work, we can extend our ability to distinguish truths and falsehoods, but we seem to always have limits.
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Aug 21, 2004 3:57 pm

When I examine it, I am exploring it, not inventing it.


Yes, I agree that you're exploring and not einventing the perfect circle when you examine it, I was just trying to point out that maths is something that examines things that don't exist in nature and therefore concepts (like the concept of a perfect circle) are things that are (maybe) unique to human thinking. They are human concepts.

In a base-12 system, or any other base, e is still e and p is still p and sqrt(2) is still sqrt(2). Numbers like p or e have a mathematical meaning independent of any notation. e pops up in a lot of places. It was apparently first discovered by accident by bankers working out compound interest.


Ah, ok, that settles that then, thanks for clarifying that for me. Hex is something I’ve never understood...

I don't understand why 2+2=4, but I know that it is true, and this truth is independent of me and my wishes. I don't entirely understand what truth is, but in many cases, I know truth when I see it. As human beings, about the best we can ever hope to do is try to separate truth from falsehoods, as far as we can distinguish them. With a lot of work, we can extend our ability to distinguish truths and falsehoods, but we seem to always have limits.


It is only true because of certain axioms though. It's not really common sense to say that 1+1=2. Add two drops of water and you get one big drop :wink: ... You can't work at all with things like that so you say that 1+1=2 and not one big drop.
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Postby Phylax » Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:46 am

I'm going to avoid all religious thought, if you don't mind, in what I want to say. My view is that religious "truths" are used to fill up the space left by the unknowable, or the "not-yet-knowable". If you want to fill up that space in your own way, then that is fine by me, provided it doesn't threaten my life or livelhood in any manner.

The question was: "Do you believe in an absolute right or wrong?"

For me, it is important to differentiate between moral and non-moral senses of the words "right" and "wrong".

To say "2+2 = 3 is wrong" is right, provided that the parties to this discussion are agreed as to definitions of '2', '+', '=', '3', 'wrong', and the basic algorithm. But this is a non-moral meaning of 'right'.

To say "telling the truth is right", - a moral proposition - is not so easily dismissed as "right" (would you, for example, always in all circumstances want to tell a murderer where his victim was?)

As far as I can remember, there are two schools of thought amongst those philosophers who concerned themselves with ethics:

(1) Deontologists - who believe that moral 'truths' are self-evident and as calculable as any mathematic or logic. Kandt was one such.
(2) Utilitarians - who believe that a good act leads to the "greatest good of the greatest number of people". John Stuart Mill was of this persuasion.

My thinking is that there is a big problem with (2). "Let's all kill the Jews - it will make us all a lot happier" is the nub of the problem.

But then again, I have a problem with (1). I wouldn't want to answer to the Gestapo, when asked, and telling the absolute truth, "She's in the attic".

As I remember, there is a third position, much liked by modern Christian moral philosophers, called Existential ethics. Here, you do right according to agape, and according to the circumstance. Basically, it was what Jesus did - break the law when the earthly/pharasaic law conflicted with the law of lovingkindness. But of course, and alas, there is nothing here to do with mathematicians' and logicians' notion of 'absolute'.

So, the absolute: I have a hypothesis that no system can be fully known by any device or system within it. If, for example, you run software on a computer to test the speed of that computer, then you slow that computer down. Quantum Mechanics appears to me to bear this uncertainy out (but what do I know, for heavens' sake?!) Hawking and Penrose and all those brilliant people have brains (and from them - IQs) that are made from the same stuff that our universe is made from. They describe the universe using their brains. Their ultimate imagination is limited by the stuff of our universe.

I think this is where Russell and Whitehead in an analagous way hit the rocks in 'Principia Mathematica', - a system cannot ever fully describe itself - though I am a total dickhead, and should like to learn more.

I hypothesize that more and more and more will be learnt about our current universe, but we will never be able to learn everything about it.

To do that, it would be necessary to stand on a differrent vantage-point - "dos moi pou sto" - but that will be from a different universe, if such a thing were ever possible.

This is a very brief statement of my complete ignorance, so I offer it with vast humility.

My master Socrates also proclaimed humble ignorance,
In honour to him,
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Oct 09, 2004 9:17 am

(1) Deontologists - who believe that moral 'truths' are self-evident and as calculable as any mathematic or logic. Kandt was one such.


I'm not too sure you can say that Kant thought the moral 'truths' to be calculable like mathematics or logic. I mean he prided himself with the invention of his 'kategorischer Imperativ', that is a system by which, if any one should find himself in the situation of not knowing what is right and wrong he can easily find out what is by imaging what it would be like if everyone did what you are about to do, e.g. tell a lie, what would it be like if everyone lied?
This system is not really based on logic, but on 'Vernunft' (reason). So 'it just stands to reason' that doing such a such a thing is right or wrong. Kant spends the first part of his work 'Kritik der reinen Vernunft' looking at what reason actually is and comes to the conclusion that it's something we are all born with. Kant also went on to prove that you couldn't prove God and so could only believe or not whether God made us like that (he did believe in God personally, but not as a philosopher if you know what I mean). He hadn't heard of evolution yet, otherwise he might have named that as an alternative.

Anyway, as you said Kant's system is lacking, he didn't want to concede that there are some circumstances in which his 'rules' don't apply (using the example of a murder asking in which direction the guy he wants to kill has gone. Kant says you should say the truth, because if you don't and say he went the other way and the victim thought that the murder would follow him and so jumped over a few fences to find a different road and ends up on the one you sent the murderer along, then it's your fault that the murderer kills his victim. Which as you said is stupid. There are other things where I think you can't just say, well, think about it, what if everyone did it? Because life is more complicated, but it's a good general rule I suppose, one that can only be used for general and not for unique situations and highlights the fact that we all use the same mechanisms to reach conclusions on moral as we do to solve other problems. That we often reach similar conclusions when it comes to moral is probably not because there are some absolute truths out there that we tend towards, but because we all use the same tools to reach those conclusions.

And ... eh... I hope what I said made any sense and was on topic :wink:
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