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  #1  
Old 08-07-2011, 11:29 PM
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Default Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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  #2  
Old 08-08-2011, 01:56 PM
apple
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

Thank Jimmy Carter for the mullahcracy in Iran, and thank Bush and Obama for the future Islamic Republic of Egypt. The people of Egypt do not want freedom, they want religious despotism.



Assad may be a thug, but he's miles and miles better than 80% of the people in Syria.
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  #3  
Old 08-08-2011, 06:26 PM
Winspur Winspur is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

"Assad may be a thug, but he's miles and miles better than 80% of the people in Syria. "

What a lovely statement of prejudice.

I would try to argue with you about Jimmy Carter, but I have learned through experience that some people will believe he is the root of all evil despite any evidence one brings to bear upon them. (viz. Bachmann)

Instead I'll give you a challenge. Show me a poll asking Americans how they feel about those "harsh punishments" -- including the death penalty for apostates from Christianity.
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  #4  
Old 08-09-2011, 10:06 AM
apple
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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What a lovely statement of prejudice.
Not prejudice, judgment, which I have and you don't. Assad isn't stoning people to death, he isn't cutting off people's hands, and he isn't murdering people for apostasy. He is a secular individual, and he's a member of the relatively reasonable Alawi Muslims to begin with. If you look at my statistics, and look at countries comparable to Syria (like Jordan and Egypt), you'll see that there is a great likelihood that the people of Syria will do much worse than Assad.

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I would try to argue with you about Jimmy Carter, but I have learned through experience that some people will believe he is the root of all evil
That is not what I believe. Carter did a mixture of good and evil, though the evil vastly outweighs the good. For example, he signed a liberalization of the airlines. He appointed Paul Volcker, whose correct monetary policies ultimately led to better economic health (but under Reagan). He supported civil rights, which led to a boycott of his peanut farm. He showed very, very weak support for the great shah but he was better in this respect than his primary opponent Ted Kennedy, who wanted to hand the shah over to an Iranian lynchmob. He left his Baptist church in Georgia over disputes over women's rights.

On the other hand, he refused to back the shah to the hilt and (based on diplomatic documents) was more concerned with preventing a crackdown by the regime, than in defending a staunch US ally. His weak response to the hostage crisis led to the 444-day crisis, whereas the hostage-takers wanted to take the hostages for only a few days, according to the diaries of the hostage-takers. He was a self-proclaimed born-again idiot who brought hordes of poor, backward and uneducated barbarians into the political system, forever poisoning the US political system with fundamentalist ignorance.

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Instead I'll give you a challenge. Show me a poll asking Americans how they feel about those "harsh punishments" -- including the death penalty for apostates from Christianity.
Obviously, there is no such poll. Do you really think that you'll see 80%, or even 50%, or even 20%, or even 10% of Americans advocating such measures? Or do you think that it's anti-Islamic "prejudice" to ask Muslims about such Islamic punishments, and not, say, Quakers.
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  #5  
Old 08-09-2011, 10:59 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Not prejudice, judgment, which I have and you don't. ...
Y'know... asserting things like makes it seem like you lack confidence in the weight of your arguments on topics that aren't you. It's also annoying and has the general effect of reinforcing a view opposite to what it states. Isn't more than enough to have one sugarkang around here telling us all about the value of his own opinions?
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  #6  
Old 08-09-2011, 01:18 PM
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Y'know... asserting things like makes it seem like you lack confidence in the weight of your arguments on topics that aren't you. It's also annoying and has the general effect of reinforcing a view opposite to what it states. Isn't more than enough to have one sugarkang around here telling us all about the value of his own opinions?
My main objective was to refute the very ignorant comment made about 'prejudice', even though it was clear that I was not pre-judging, but judging. I'll limit myself to merely taking down the other person next time, if you prefer.
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  #7  
Old 08-09-2011, 11:33 AM
Winspur Winspur is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Obviously, there is no such poll. Do you really think that you'll see 80%, or even 50%, or even 20%, or even 10% of Americans advocating such measures?
I don't know, but I wouldn't assume anything. Until you show me a comparison with American opinion you have no cause to prate about Egyptians, Syrians, et. al. being backwards savages.
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  #8  
Old 08-09-2011, 01:21 PM
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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I don't know, but I wouldn't assume anything. Until you show me a comparison with American opinion you have no cause to prate about Egyptians, Syrians, et. al. being backwards savages.
Ah, an appeal to ignorance. Mr. Winspur demands that people provide evidence that Quakers do not favor killing people for apostasy. Well, guess what? I don't need to prove anything to you. It has already been established that Egyptians and Jordanians are backward savages (not all, but the vast majority), and it is very probably that a similar percentages of Syrians hold the same opinions.

Now, whether or not Egyptians and Jordanians are backward savages, is in no way dependent on opinion within the United States. If you can prove that similar percentages of Americans hold these opinions, go ahead, and I'll call Americans backward savages too. Of course, you can't prove squat.
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  #9  
Old 08-09-2011, 02:46 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Originally Posted by apple View Post
Ah, an appeal to ignorance. Mr. Winspur demands that people provide evidence that Quakers do not favor killing people for apostasy. Well, guess what? I don't need to prove anything to you. It has already been established that Egyptians and Jordanians are backward savages (not all, but the vast majority), and it is very probably that a similar percentages of Syrians hold the same opinions.
Maybe they do, but as someone who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years, I can assure that executions for apostasy, even in most "backward" Saudi Arabia, are virtually non-existent. For a very simple reason: most Muslims, like most Christians, never think of changing their religion. But I agree that Muslim agnostics and atheists--if they exist--- would do well to emigrate. Syria and Lebanon, as I am sure you know, have significant Christian populations.

It has not been "established" that Egyptians and Jordanians are "backward savages." It has been repeatedly asserted by you---as if your subjective dislike of certain customs were the touchstone of the truth. As Montaigne famously said in the 16th century: "Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, falsehood on the other." Oh, and Montaigne also thought that cannibals were not nearly as nasty and savage as some Europeans....

Last edited by Florian; 08-09-2011 at 02:54 PM..
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  #10  
Old 08-09-2011, 05:43 PM
apple
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Maybe they do, but as someone who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years, I can assure that executions for apostasy, even in most "backward" Saudi Arabia, are virtually non-existent. For a very simple reason: most Muslims, like most Christians, never think of changing their religion.
It is the principle that matters. About 4/5 of the people in Jordan and Syria support murdering people, because they (justifiably) no longer want to be Muslim. The Koran says that there is no compulsion in religion, but the 'prophet' himself has commanded his ignorant followers that the ones among them who abandon ignorance and barbarity should be killed. As far as I know, Islam is the only supposedly mainstream religion that has to keep its followers in line by threatening to kill them if they leave the religion.

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It has not been "established" that Egyptians and Jordanians are "backward savages." It has been repeatedly asserted by you---as if your subjective dislike of certain customs were the touchstone of the truth.
Then there's also nothing wrong with the Holocaust. I just happen to 'subjectively dislike' what the Nazis did. Of course, the people who carried out the massacre disagree, and their opinion is just as good as mine.

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As Montaigne famously said in the 16th century: "Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, falsehood on the other." Oh, and Montaigne also thought that cannibals were not nearly as nasty and savage as some Europeans....
If this be Montaignism, give me ultramontanism.
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  #11  
Old 08-09-2011, 06:07 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Then there's also nothing wrong with the Holocaust. I just happen to 'subjectively dislike' what the Nazis did. Of course, the people who carried out the massacre disagree, and their opinion is just as good as mine. .
No, that is false. Genocide and executions for apostasy are not even remotely comparable. Executions for apostasy in the Muslim world, as I said, are extremely rare. And they are extremely rare because apostasy (changing to another religion) is extremely rare. Surely, you must know this. If you cannot see the difference between genocide and the enforcement of religious orthodoxy (custom), you are either willfully blind, or just being perverse.

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If this be Montaignism, give me ultramontanism.
Yes, well, somehow, your preference doesn't surprise me.
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  #12  
Old 08-09-2011, 06:44 PM
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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No, that is false. Genocide and executions for apostasy are not even remotely comparable. Executions for apostasy in the Muslim world, as I said, are extremely rare. And they are extremely rare because apostasy (changing to another religion) is extremely rare. Surely, you must know this.
The frequency is completely irrelevant. Your claim is that murdering people for leaving Islam is not objectively wrong, and simply a matter of taste, because it is relatively rare. Yet the frequency of evil plays absolutely no role in whether or not it is objectively wrong. It is hardly the case that murder in a particular jurisdiction is wrong when there are 300 murders a year, but not when there are 5 murders a year.

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If you cannot see the difference between genocide and the enforcement of religious orthodoxy (custom), you are either willfully blind, or just being perverse.
Oh, now this is interesting. Apparently, you aren't a full-fledged moral relativist, your line in the sand is genocide. Murder can't be called objectively evil, but for some reason, genocide can. But why? Surely, it can't be that something is "custom". Genocidal pogroms against the Jews were custom in Europe for the longest time. The murderers of St. Bartholomew's Day were merely enforcing religious orthodoxy: the Catholic belief that heretics needed to die. The 'prophet' Muhammad was enforcing his own religious orthodoxy when he committed genocide against a Jewish tribe: killing all men and selling the women and children into slavery. And the 'final solution' was only the enforcement of the ideological orthodoxy of Nazis, namely, that there should be no Jews in the greater German Empire. Admittedly, an ideology that was quite recently cooked up, and one that did not involve any notion of a 'God', but surely you will agree that these two factors were not what was wrong with the Holocaust?

Also, genocide is only slightly different than a multiple of murder. Why is it that a policy of murder can't be called objectively evil, but once it passes some arbitrary line that allows you to call it 'genocide', it suddenly becomes objectively evil?
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Old 08-10-2011, 06:38 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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The frequency is completely irrelevant. Your claim is that murdering people for leaving Islam is not objectively wrong, and simply a matter of taste, because it is relatively rare. Yet the frequency of evil plays absolutely no role in whether or not it is objectively wrong. It is hardly the case that murder in a particular jurisdiction is wrong when there are 300 murders a year, but not when there are 5 murders a year.
"Murder" is a legal/moral/religious category---not a scientific, metaphysical category (objective). You know this as well as I do because in another exchange (with badhat if I remember correctly) you pointed out that the Old Testament commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," actually meant to its authors "Thou shalt not murder."

There is and always has been a distinction between murder and killing, if only because most civilizations have condoned killing in war and distinguished it from the crime of murder. Indeed the killing of certain classes of people---slaves for example--has not everywhere and always (ubique et semper) been considered a crime. So I don't see how you can say that executions for apostasy in Islam are "objectively" murder, "objectively" evil. If Muslims consider apostasy to be a crime punishable by death, they obviously are not committing murder in their own eyes; they are punishing a crime.

Needless to say, I do not approve of such a custom. In fact, I consider it barbaric, but that is only because I am not Muslim.

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Oh, now this is interesting. Apparently, you aren't a full-fledged moral relativist, your line in the sand is genocide. Murder can't be called objectively evil, but for some reason, genocide can.
Genocide is certainly a crime, and a different crime from murder. Do we condemn it because we consider it to be objectively evil? No, we condemn it because we consider it to be a "crime against humanity" and have so defined it in international law--and only very recently at that. Along with war, it is one of the most horrible proofs of "man's inhumanity to man." But if you want to get me to say that there is no difference between war and genocide on the one hand, and the judicial execution of apostates on the other, because they are both objectively evil, you are barking up the wrong tree.

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But why? Surely, it can't be that something is "custom". Genocidal pogroms against the Jews were custom in Europe for the longest time. The murderers of St. Bartholomew's Day were merely enforcing religious orthodoxy: the Catholic belief that heretics needed to die.
True, all extremely deplorable events, as we can all agree. I would point out, though, that the persecutions of heretics in Europe (unlike the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre) were carried out legally, lawfully by the state, the secular arm of the Church when heresy was defined as a crime.

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The 'prophet' Muhammad was enforcing his own religious orthodoxy when he committed genocide against a Jewish tribe: killing all men and selling the women and children into slavery.
Truly deplorable, horrible events. The Old Testament, if I remember correctly, has similar barbarities in it.

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And the 'final solution' was only the enforcement of the ideological orthodoxy of Nazis, namely, that there should be no Jews in the greater German Empire. Admittedly, an ideology that was quite recently cooked up, and one that did not involve any notion of a 'God', but surely you will agree that these two factors were not what was wrong with the Holocaust?
Truly deplorable, horrible events.

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Also, genocide is only slightly different than a multiple of murder. Why is it that a policy of murder can't be called objectively evil, but once it passes some arbitrary line that allows you to call it 'genocide', it suddenly becomes objectively evil?
No, for the reasons given above.

Last edited by Florian; 08-10-2011 at 07:25 AM..
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  #14  
Old 08-11-2011, 01:56 PM
apple
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
"Murder" is a legal/moral/religious category---not a scientific, metaphysical category (objective). You know this as well as I do because in another exchange (with badhat if I remember correctly) you pointed out that the Old Testament commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," actually meant to its authors "Thou shalt not murder."

There is and always has been a distinction between murder and killing, if only because most civilizations have condoned killing in war and distinguished it from the crime of murder. Indeed the killing of certain classes of people---slaves for example--has not everywhere and always (ubique et semper) been considered a crime. So I don't see how you can say that executions for apostasy in Islam are "objectively" murder, "objectively" evil. If Muslims consider apostasy to be a crime punishable by death, they obviously are not committing murder in their own eyes; they are punishing a crime.
I define murder as 'unjustified' killing. And whether or not someone is committing murder, is not dependent on whether that person recognizes that he is committing murder. Most murderers would say that their actions are completely justified. It does not matter that there is a faux 'crime' for which people are punished. Saddam Hussein and Stalin also punished people for the 'crime' of disagreement with the regime. The fact that they "think" that they are punishing a crime makes no difference at all. If it did, then Saddam Hussein and Stalin were not murderers.

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Needless to say, I do not approve of such a custom. In fact, I consider it barbaric, but that is only because I am not Muslim.
And I consider the Holocaust to be barbaric, but only because I am not a Nazi. Does this mean that the Holocaust is not objectively evil and barbaric?

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Genocide is certainly a crime, and a different crime from murder. Do we condemn it because we consider it to be objectively evil?
Absolutely! If we did not think that genocide was objectively evil, and that its evil was not dependent on individual tastes and preferences, why would we condemn people for their preferences? I do not condemn you for liking purple, why should I condemn someone else for liking genocide? For that matter, why is it defined as a crime against humanity, as opposed to say, a service to humanity? Because it is objectively evil.

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But if you want to get me to say that there is no difference between war and genocide on the one hand, and the judicial execution of apostates on the other, because they are both objectively evil, you are barking up the wrong tree.
I did not say that there is no difference between murder and genocide, but that both are objectively evil. Although it is true that the categories of murder and genocide are intimately related, as genocide is basically the "extreme plural" form of murder, in fact, to such an extent that it is impossible to condemn one without condemning the other. The murder of many people is what makes genocide evil. It is strange to denounce genocide as objectively evil, while denying that the underlying act of murder is objectively evil.

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True, all extremely deplorable events, as we can all agree. I would point out, though, that the persecutions of heretics in Europe (unlike the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre) were carried out legally, lawfully by the state, the secular arm of the Church when heresy was defined as a crime.
That would still make the error of the murderers one of process, and not of substance. I.e., what they did was morally right, it just wasn't their job to do it. If it is the case that something that is enforcement of religious custom cannot be objectively evil, then the actions of these people were not objectively evil.

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Truly deplorable, horrible events. The Old Testament, if I remember correctly, has similar barbarities in it.
It does, and it is a useful reminder that the people committing murder and genocide need not recognize what they are doing, for their actions to count as murder and genocide.
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  #15  
Old 08-11-2011, 02:22 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Because it is objectively evil.
You two seem to be talking past each other because you haven't defined the term "objective." Florian seems to mean it in a scientific sense sometimes, but then uses it as society's objective standard in other instances. You, on the other hand, seem to be using the objective standard for what Americans might consider to be evil when consulting a jury. The American objective standard is the legal one, and that is determined by what is "reasonable." Would an ordinary, reasonable American find these actions evil? Yes.
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:33 PM
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You two seem to be talking past each other because you haven't defined the term "objective." Florian seems to mean it in a scientific sense sometimes, but then uses it as society's objective standard in other instances. You, on the other hand, seem to be using the objective standard for what Americans might consider to be evil when consulting a jury. The American objective standard is the legal one, and that is determined by what is "reasonable." Would an ordinary, reasonable American find these actions evil? Yes.
I actually don't mean what any person or people might think about actions, but the Form of the Evil, if you will. The correct application of reason can lead one to objective standards of good and evil. And I know that there's no way to prove this to your satisfaction.
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:49 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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And I know that there's no way to prove this to your satisfaction.
You don't have to prove it to my satisfaction. I might be the only one on this board that partly agrees with you on these matters and the only one that doesn't try to shut you up because you have different opinions.
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Old 08-11-2011, 08:39 PM
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You don't have to prove it to my satisfaction. I might be the only one on this board that partly agrees with you on these matters and the only one that doesn't try to shut you up because you have different opinions.
It was not a slam against you in any way, but being an atheist libertarian, I thought you might want proof. After all, how undemocratic is it to suggest that morality is not dependent on the whims of individuals, that individuals don't get to make up whatever they want and have that be considered just as good as the well-founded beliefs of others? So a person making such outrageous claims might want to prove his claim, which I did not do.

It's difficult, because it is metaphysical, and relies on reason. So I do not think that I would be able to prove the existence of objective moral standards, but I do think that I could convince people that there are.
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Old 08-11-2011, 08:45 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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It was not a slam against you in any way, but being an atheist libertarian, I thought you might want proof.
No problem. I meant that I don't need proof because I'm just not knee deep into this topic like you are with other folks. I think we both know where our agreements and disagreements lie.
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  #20  
Old 08-11-2011, 04:46 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

Apple says....

You are free to use the word "objective" in your idiosyncratic manner. I think I made my meaning sufficiently clear in my previous post. Objective is a scientific category; murder is a legal/moral/religious category. When you say that murder is "unjustified killing," you are basically saying the same thing as I did because you are implying that some killing is justified..... or perhaps that killing is sometimes justified..... in any case, that it is up to the law to decide when killing is justified, as in war.

I do not consider capital punishment for apostasy to be "murder" because, as I said in my previous post, it is a punishment for a crime as defined by Islamic law (and seldom carried out). I consider such a punishment to be a barbaric custom, "unjustified" in your words, i.e. incompatible with our current western, secular legal norms, which forbid the state to kill people for heresy or apostasy. If you want to call our norms "objective," feel free to do so, but I think that this is an abuse of language.

You are also free to compare the horrendous crimes against the Russian and the Iraqi peoples committed by Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein with executions for apostasy, but no one is going to take you seriously.

Last edited by Florian; 08-11-2011 at 04:56 PM..
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  #21  
Old 08-11-2011, 08:32 PM
apple
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Apple says....

You are free to use the word "objective" in your idiosyncratic manner. I think I made my meaning sufficiently clear in my previous post. Objective is a scientific category; murder is a legal/moral/religious category.
Actually, I use the word objective in the same way that ethicists use the word. On the other hand, your idea that that all non-scientific claims are equally valid is known as 'scientism'.

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When you say that murder is "unjustified killing," you are basically saying the same thing as I did because you are implying that some killing is justified..... or perhaps that killing is sometimes justified..... in any case, that it is up to the law to decide when killing is justified, as in war.
It is strange that you are surprised. I never denied that some killing is justified, I merely denied that killing people for apostasy is justified. Hence, such unjustified killings are murder, even if they are considered lawful and legitimate in the culture carrying out the murders.

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I do not consider capital punishment for apostasy to be "murder" because, as I said in my previous post, it is a punishment for a crime as defined by Islamic law (and seldom carried out).
I also find it strange that you keep harping on the frequency with which people are murdered for apostasy. Presumably, killing Jews is wrong, regardless of whether you are killing 20 or 6 million. It's impossible to say that killing 20 Jews is not murder, but killing 6 million is.

You also ignored my other point, preferring to chide me for comparing murdering people for apostasy with Stalin and Saddam murdering people for disagreeing with them. But by your standards, what Stalin and Saddam did is not murder. After all, they defined their crimes as defined by Soviet and Iraqi law respectively. Why are their unjustified killings murder, but not the unjustified killings of Islamic theocratic regimes?

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I consider such a punishment to be a barbaric custom, "unjustified" in your words, i.e. incompatible with our current western, secular legal norms, which forbid the state to kill people for heresy or apostasy. If you want to call our norms "objective," feel free to do so, but I think that this is an abuse of language.
I do not call objective whatever happens to be the norm in Western countries, though in this case, Western countries have one thing right. Still, Western countries are wrong about many things. I do think that there are objective norms, which in no way depend on the actions of Western countries, that not everything is taste, that it is not true that I like flowers, and someone else likes genocide, and that both these likings are objectively equally valid.

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You are also free to compare the horrendous crimes against the Russian and the Iraqi peoples committed by Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein with executions for apostasy, but no one is going to take you seriously.
Question: do you think the idea that the actions of Stalin and Saddam constitute "horrendous crimes" is objective, or that it is dependent on the whims of individuals, to either agree or disagree with it, and that both opinions are equally valid (because they do not rest on science)?
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:17 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Actually, I use the word objective in the same way that ethicists use the word. On the other hand, your idea that that all non-scientific claims are equally valid is known as 'scientism'.
You are just playing with words. So far we have: objective = true = valid = justified. Perhaps you would like to add next: Because I say so?

What do you mean by valid? That which is true everywhere and always, regardless of what we think, i.e. objectively true, a valid law of nature like e=mc2? Or that which all human beings have always regarded as just, fair, right, moral? These are two very different senses of valid, objective, justified.

A moral prohibition or injunction is not a claim or a truth about the universe. It is a law or a command (nomos) that enjoins us to do or not to do something. It is valid because a community has so decided that it is valid, and for no other reason.

That does not mean, imo, that a community can enjoin or prohibit anything, n'importe quoi, that it is all a matter of "taste" and "whim." I happen to believe in a modest version of natural law (jus naturale), but I am for that very reason sceptical of claims that the positive law is everywhere and always (ubique et semper) the same. I know enough history to know that norms have varied over time, that "murder" has meant different things at different times and in different cultures. In the ancient world killing a slave was not considered murder; in European and Anglo-Saxon common law the definition of murder has changed over time, today we have "degrees" of murder etc. I said in my first post that all civilizations have condemned murder as a crime and distinguished it from killing in war, which is not a crime. So I suppose you could say that if any norm comes near to being universal, it is the prohibition of murder.

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It is strange that you are surprised. I never denied that some killing is justified, I merely denied that killing people for apostasy is justified. Hence, such unjustified killings are murder, even if they are considered lawful and legitimate in the culture carrying out the murders.
You can repeat as often as you like that this particular law is unjustified in your eyes, invalid or whatever, that it is really "murder" in disguise. All you really mean is: that as a modern, secular western liberal, living under a system of law in which the separation of church and state is absolute, you cannot "justify" executions for apostasy. I agree, but the fact remains that in certain Muslim jurisdictions apostasy is "justified" as a capital crime.

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I also find it strange that you keep harping on the frequency with which people are murdered for apostasy. Presumably, killing Jews is wrong, regardless of whether you are killing 20 or 6 million. It's impossible to say that killing 20 Jews is not murder, but killing 6 million is.
Of course I would call the killing of 20 Jews murder if it was in fact murder. Just as I would call the killing of 6 million Jews murder or genocide. What is your point?

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You also ignored my other point, preferring to chide me for comparing murdering people for apostasy with Stalin and Saddam murdering people for disagreeing with them. But by your standards, what Stalin and Saddam did is not murder. After all, they defined their crimes as defined by Soviet and Iraqi law respectively. Why are their unjustified killings murder, but not the unjustified killings of Islamic theocratic regimes?
Stalin and Saddam were tyrants, and tyrants do not rule by law; they rule by fear and terror in order to stay in power. The murder of enemies has always been the way of tyrants, whatever spurious legal justification they may give it.

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I do not call objective whatever happens to be the norm in Western countries, though in this case, Western countries have one thing right. Still, Western countries are wrong about many things. I do think that there are objective norms, which in no way depend on the actions of Western countries, that not everything is taste, that it is not true that I like flowers, and someone else likes genocide, and that both these likings are objectively equally valid.
No one has ever made such an absurd claim.

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Question: do you think the idea that the actions of Stalin and Saddam constitute "horrendous crimes" is objective, or that it is dependent on the whims of individuals, to either agree or disagree with it, and that both opinions are equally valid (because they do not rest on science)?
I think that when a tyrant violates the laws of his own people, either the secular or religious laws (in Islam there is no distinction), killing them and brutalizing them in order to stay in power, he commits horrendous crimes.

And that is not a whim on my part.

Last edited by Florian; 08-12-2011 at 07:19 AM..
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Old 08-14-2011, 08:00 PM
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What do you mean by valid? That which is true everywhere and always, regardless of what we think, i.e. objectively true, a valid law of nature like e=mc2? Or that which all human beings have always regarded as just, fair, right, moral? These are two very different senses of valid, objective, justified.
Obviously the former. I've stated many times that it does not matter what people believe. Moral standards do not have to be universally held to be universally applicable.

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That does not mean, imo, that a community can enjoin or prohibit anything, n'importe quoi, that it is all a matter of "taste" and "whim." I happen to believe in a modest version of natural law (jus naturale), but I am for that very reason sceptical of claims that the positive law is everywhere and always (ubique et semper) the same. I know enough history to know that norms have varied over time, that "murder" has meant different things at different times and in different cultures.
And I have not disputed this. However, we apparently disagree about whether this is of any importance. I do not believe that the fact that a person does not believe that he is committing murder, or that he is doing something wrong, lessens the person's culpability at all. Thus, the Nazis were murderers, even though they did not think that murdering Jews was murder - because Jews were sub-human scum.

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You can repeat as often as you like that this particular law is unjustified in your eyes, invalid or whatever, that it is really "murder" in disguise. All you really mean is: that as a modern, secular western liberal, living under a system of law in which the separation of church and state is absolute, you cannot "justify" executions for apostasy. I agree, but the fact remains that in certain Muslim jurisdictions apostasy is "justified" as a capital crime.
Well, you yourself have called the murders of Saddam, Stalin and Hitler murders, even though their actions were "justified" in their respective jurisdictions. Unless you want to relativize their actions, and say that they are not objectively wrong, but merely not according to your tastes and whims, you really don't have a ground to criticize me for extending your line of argument to Islamic murders for apostasy.

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Of course I would call the killing of 20 Jews murder if it was in fact murder. Just as I would call the killing of 6 million Jews murder or genocide. What is your point?
The point I have made many times, that the fact that "very few" executions are carried out for apostasy is irrelevant to whether it is a moral thing to do or not.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Stalin and Saddam were tyrants, and tyrants do not rule by law; they rule by fear and terror in order to stay in power. The murder of enemies has always been the way of tyrants, whatever spurious legal justification they may give it.
Abu Afak, a distinguished Jewish poet and the oldest man in Arabia, learned that the hard way. Note that his murder was entirely legal under the "laws" of the Islamic community. After all, the Prophet's word was (and is) law.

Muhammad was a tyrant, someone who commanded that his religion be spread by the sword, and that believers be kept in line with the sword. 1400 years after his death, his tyranny still holds sway over the House of Islam. It is absurd to exempt this tyranny from your definition of murder and tyranny.

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No one has ever made such an absurd claim.
You came dangerously close to it when you said that stoning is not barbaric, but just something that I subjectively dislike (i.e., something that is not to my taste).

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I think that when a tyrant violates the laws of his own people, either the secular or religious laws (in Islam there is no distinction), killing them and brutalizing them in order to stay in power, he commits horrendous crimes.

And that is not a whim on my part.
According to the Enabling Act, Hitler's actions were entirely legal. So his actions definitely did not violate the "secular... laws". Are Hitler's actions therefore not criminal?
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  #24  
Old 08-15-2011, 07:34 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Obviously the former. I've stated many times that it does not matter what people believe. Moral standards do not have to be universally held to be universally applicable.?
Of course it matters. If people didn't believe that some act is right or wrong, how could they know whether they are acting rightly or wrongly?

Universally applicable? What does that mean? A law or a "standard" is applicable when it exists as the law of a particular political community and is applied or enforced by that community. It is universally applicable when it is the law or the standard of every political community and enforced by every political community.

Universally applicable law= natural law= jus naturale.

How do you know, anyway, that there are universally applicable laws (or standards in your words) apart from the particular laws of existing political communities?

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And I have not disputed this. However, we apparently disagree about whether this is of any importance. I do not believe that the fact that a person does not believe that he is committing murder, or that he is doing something wrong, lessens the person's culpability at all. Thus, the Nazis were murderers, even though they did not think that murdering Jews was murder - because Jews were sub-human scum.?
Nor did I say anything so ridiculous as that thinking an act is right, when it is wrong, makes it right. The prohibition of murder, as I have repeatedly said, is a universal, cross-cultural norm (standard), although the definition of what constitutes murder has changed over time.

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Well, you yourself have called the murders of Saddam, Stalin and Hitler murders, even though their actions were "justified" in their respective jurisdictions. Unless you want to relativize their actions, and say that they are not objectively wrong, but merely not according to your tastes and whims, you really don't have a ground to criticize me for extending your line of argument to Islamic murders for apostasy. ?
I most certainly did not say that the actions of Saddam, Stalin and Hitler were "justified" in their respective jurisdictions. I said exactly the opposite: that they were tyrants who ruled by terror, not by law. They certainly did not rule by the established laws of Europe and Islam, which have always regarded murder as a capital crime.

Before Hitler could carry out the "final solution," he had to convince himself and his fellow Germans, on the basis of pseudo-scientific, racist doctrines that the Jews were sub-human "enemies" of the Ayrian race. This extra-legal justification for genocide, like Stalin's extra-legal justification for the murder of "class enemies" of the proletariat, was contrary to all European legal doctrines and traditions.

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The point I have made many times, that the fact that "very few" executions are carried out for apostasy is irrelevant to whether it is a moral thing to do or not.
Islamic law defines apostasy as a capital crime. The Holy Roman Catholic Church, for much of its history, took a similarly dim view of heresy and had heretics put to death by the state, the secular arm of the Church. I am willing to concede that Islamic law is "immoral" if you are willing to concede that Church is (or was) immoral.

But I am not willing to say that either Islam or the Church is (was) guilty of murder since I do not think that most people, even today, consider capital punishment to fall under the rubric of murder.

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Muhammad was a tyrant, someone who commanded that his religion be spread by the sword, and that believers be kept in line with the sword. 1400 years after his death, his tyranny still holds sway over the House of Islam. It is absurd to exempt this tyranny from your definition of murder and tyranny?

Yes, it is utterly absurd. The history of Islam is long and complex, like the history of every other civilization. To say that every Islamic regime since the time of Muhammad has been a "tyranny" would not stand up to the most elementary historical scrutiny.

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You came dangerously close to it when you said that stoning is not barbaric, but just something that I subjectively dislike (i.e., something that is not to my taste).
If you understand what barbarism and civilization mean, you cannot possibly confuse this antithesis with a question of "taste." But that is a long discussion.

I didn't say that stoning is not barbaric. In fact, I said the exact opposite: I said that executions for apostasy are barbaric by our contemporary European notions of the separation of church and state.

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According to the Enabling Act, Hitler's actions were entirely legal. So his actions definitely did not violate the "secular... laws". Are Hitler's actions therefore not criminal?
See above.

Last edited by Florian; 08-15-2011 at 07:54 AM..
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Old 08-16-2011, 09:47 PM
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Of course it matters. If people didn't believe that some act is right or wrong, how could they know whether they are acting rightly or wrongly?
We're not discussing their knowledge of whether something is wrong, we're discussing our knowledge of whether something is wrong. Also, I will point you to the fact that the legal system never takes into account whether someone "knows" that the murder they commit is wrong. If they don't know, they should know. And that is my philosophy.

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Universally applicable? What does that mean? A law or a "standard" is applicable when it exists as the law of a particular political community and is applied or enforced by that community. It is universally applicable when it is the law or the standard of every political community and enforced by every political community.
I never said 'law', I said standard. I am a legal positivist, I do believe that whatever the legislator decides on is the law. As you no doubt know, natural law theorists believe, in the words of Thomas, that lex iniusta non lex est. I disagree. That does not mean that the law can't be wrong, and when the law is wrong, we have a duty to disobey it.

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Nor did I say anything so ridiculous as that thinking an act is right, when it is wrong, makes it right. The prohibition of murder, as I have repeatedly said, is a universal, cross-cultural norm (standard), although the definition of what constitutes murder has changed over time.
But we are not bound by cultural conceptions of murder, are we? If a particular culture decides (yes, I know this is simplistic, don't make an issue out of it) that killing spiders is murder, and just as bad as killing actual humans, we are under no obligation to take this into account when we judge spider-killers. Similarly, when a culture decides that an unjustified (not according to them, according to us) killing of a human being is not murder, then that culture happens to be wrong, and such killings still count as murder.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
I most certainly did not say that the actions of Saddam, Stalin and Hitler were "justified" in their respective jurisdictions. I said exactly the opposite: that they were tyrants who ruled by terror, not by law. They certainly did not rule by the established laws of Europe and Islam, which have always regarded murder as a capital crime.
Europe did not have laws, as it was not a legal jurisdiction. Thus, Hitler was not acting in violation of any European law. The only applicable law, was German law, and German law authorized the chancellor to take whatever measures he thought appropriate. After deciding that Jews were not citizens, but subjects of the German Empire, the measure he thought appropriate was that all Jews needed to be gassed. This was not in violation of any European or German law, and none of the people prosecuted in Nuremburg were prosecuted under any European or German law.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Before Hitler could carry out the "final solution," he had to convince himself and his fellow Germans, on the basis of pseudo-scientific, racist doctrines that the Jews were sub-human "enemies" of the Ayrian race. This extra-legal justification for genocide, like Stalin's extra-legal justification for the murder of "class enemies" of the proletariat, was contrary to all European legal doctrines and traditions.
So you're saying that what Hitler did was murder, because it was in violation of all European legal doctrines and traditions (I disagree, see the previous paragraph). What if these legal doctrines and traditions did not exist? Could these same actions then not be counted as murders? This seems odd and very relativistic.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Islamic law defines apostasy as a capital crime. The Holy Roman Catholic Church, for much of its history, took a similarly dim view of heresy and had heretics put to death by the state, the secular arm of the Church. I am willing to concede that Islamic law is "immoral" if you are willing to concede that Church is (or was) immoral.

But I am not willing to say that either Islam or the Church is (was) guilty of murder since I do not think that most people, even today, consider capital punishment to fall under the rubric of murder.
Obviously. Why would I even bring it up, if I didn't think that this was extremely immoral. But not only was it immoral, it was in fact murder. Your statement that executions for whatever offense cannot be murder, because people do not regard capital punishment as murder, makes little sense, as we are not discussing whether capital punishment in general is murder. We are discussing whether unjustified capital punishment is murder. So executing a murderer is not murder, but if Rick Perry knowingly executed an innocent man, he committed murder. Similarly, medieval executions for murder were not murder, but executions for heresy were, because they were unjustified.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Yes, it is utterly absurd. The history of Islam is long and complex, like the history of every other civilization. To say that every Islamic regime since the time of Muhammad has been a "tyranny" would not stand up to the most elementary historical scrutiny.
Well, you call a regime killing its opponents a tyranny that rules by terror. Why would a religion that kills people who want to leave it not count as a tyranny that rules by terror? Whether or not the history of Islam is long and complex is irrelevant in this matter.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
If you understand what barbarism and civilization mean, you cannot possibly confuse this antithesis with a question of "taste." But that is a long discussion. I didn't say that stoning is not barbaric.
Actually, I am not arguing that civilization and barbarism are a matter of taste, you seem to be. After all, you said that I only call Egyptians barbarians because of my own subjective views. What does that mean? That I call Egyptians barbarians, because I (subjectively) do not like stoning. Stoning is not according to my taste, and that's all there is to it. Someone else might like it, and his opinion is just as good. Neither one of us is objectively right.

And yes, I know that you strongly oppose stoning. The point is not that you are a secret supporter of stoning, the point is that you wrongly choose to relativize something that is an absolute.

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
In fact, I said the exact opposite: I said that executions for apostasy are barbaric by our contemporary European notions of the separation of church and state.
This descriptive statement does not mean anything, as even a Muslim could agree with this. I could say that: killing people for apostasy is right by Islamic standards of justice. I am looking for a normative statement. Killing people for apostasy is wrong, period. It does not matter who does it, it is wrong for everyone, in all places, in all times.
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  #26  
Old 08-17-2011, 09:21 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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I doubt if we could agree on anything even if we were using the same vocabulary and had similar philosophical views.

So I will let you have the last word.

Last edited by Florian; 08-17-2011 at 09:27 AM..
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Old 08-17-2011, 10:18 AM
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I doubt if we could agree on anything even if we were using the same vocabulary and had similar philosophical views.

So I will let you have the last word.
Well, I have it on good authority that you are a Kantian, which would mean that you do believe in objective moral standards. In fact, standards that are more rigid and inflexible than those of a Platonist like myself. So it's a bit strange that we're having this debate to begin with, you should be criticizing me for being too lax.

We can continue this debate at another time, because I'm very interested. There seems to be a fundamental inconsistency in your views. The idea of "murder relativity" appeals to you, you do not simply want to call any killing you disapprove of "murder". But at the same time, you can't bear to say that all sorts of atrocities were not actually murders, so you introduce an inconsistency. It is not at all clear to me why the presence of such traditions inweighing against a particular killing would make a killing a murder, unless we want to say that killing is only murder if it takes place in a society of culture where it is considered unjustified. Of course, this also opens a can of unpleasantness.
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  #28  
Old 08-18-2011, 05:22 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Well, I have it on good authority that you are a Kantian, which would mean that you do believe in objective moral standards. In fact, standards that are more rigid and inflexible than those of a Platonist like myself. So it's a bit strange that we're having this debate to begin with, you should be criticizing me for being too lax.
I explained in an earlier post why I think the term "objective" is inappropriate in talking about moral standards/laws/prohibitions/injunctions (the word is unimportant). I will quote myself:

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What do you mean by valid, objective? That which is true everywhere and always, regardless of what we think, i.e. objectively true, a valid law of nature like e=mc2? Or that which all human beings have always regarded as just, fair, right, moral? These are two very different senses of valid, objective, justified.

A moral prohibition or injunction is not a claim or a truth about the universe. It is a law or a command (nomos) that enjoins us to do or not to do something. It is valid because a community has so decided that it is valid, and for no other reason..
This statement of mine is perfectly compatible with your "legal positivism," which you endorse here:

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I never said 'law', I said standard. I am a legal positivist, I do believe that whatever the legislator decides on is the law. As you no doubt know, natural law theorists believe, in the words of Thomas, that lex iniusta non lex est. I disagree. That does not mean that the law can't be wrong, and when the law is wrong, we have a duty to disobey it.
Now I shall repeat my question:

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How do you know that there are universally applicable laws (or standards in your words) apart from the particular laws of existing political communities?
Forget about Islam etc.. Just tell me how it is that you know that a particular law, now or in the past, is "wrong" (or unjust) and that we (or they) have (or had) a "duty" to disobey it.
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Old 08-19-2011, 10:56 PM
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I explained in an earlier post why I think the term "objective" is inappropriate in talking about moral standards/laws/prohibitions/injunctions (the word is unimportant). I will quote myself:

This statement of mine is perfectly compatible with your "legal positivism," which you endorse here:
If "[a law] is valid because a community has so decided that it is valid, and for no other reason" means that a law is technically valid, but not necessarily morally right, then yes. But if you mean to imply that legality implies substantive legitimacy, then no.

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How do you know that there are universally applicable laws (or standards in your words) apart from the particular laws of existing political communities?

Forget about Islam etc.. Just tell me how it is that you know that a particular law, now or in the past, is "wrong" (or unjust) and that we (or they) have (or had) a "duty" to disobey it.
Well, let me first make one thing clear, this is not something that one can prove. I couldn't prove to you that I exist, or that the world exists. Or that you are not a soul held in bondage by an evil demon putting thoughts into your head. I could potentially convince you of the existence of objective moral standards, but consider it unlikely.

We have two options. Either there are objective standards, or there are not. If there are no objective standards, then morality is subjective, and when morality is subjective, one cannot make definite statements. I cannot say that murder is wrong, I can only say that it is wrong for me, and for Florian, because this is what we happen to (subjectively) believe. Murder may be very good for Charles Manson, as he disagrees with us on the morality of murder. As there are no objective ways to determine who is right or wrong, we can't say that Charles Manson is wrong, only that we subjectively believe him to be wrong. And of course, subjective belief tells us something about the subject, not the object (the actions), and is thus without any value.

I find this to be deeply troubling, and also dangerous. Of the two alternatives, the idea of objective moral standards, determined through the best use of dialectic and the human reason of worthy people, is greatly superior.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:04 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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If "[a law] is valid because a community has so decided that it is valid, and for no other reason" means that a law is technically valid, but not necessarily morally right, then yes. But if you mean to imply that legality implies substantive legitimacy, then no..
You will have to define legitimacy, avoiding circularity. Both words, after all, derive from the same Latin root, lex (leges). How do you determine when a law is legitimate or illegitimate?

You have repeatedly said, in your remarks about Islamic states/governments, that they have all been tyrannical since the time of Muhammad. I assume you mean that they have all been illegitimate? The only ground that you have ever given for this truly extraordinary opinion is that Muslims execute apostates. Or have I missed something?

So, if I understand you correctly you are saying this: legitimate = objective; illegitimate = subjective?

I will address your other remarks when you have answered my question.

Last edited by Florian; 08-23-2011 at 09:08 AM..
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Old 08-24-2011, 08:54 PM
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You will have to define legitimacy, avoiding circularity. Both words, after all, derive from the same Latin root, lex (leges). How do you determine when a law is legitimate or illegitimate?
Moral legitimacy, or justice, and it is determined by the use of the reason of a worthy individual. It may share a root with the word legal, but that does not make the two words synonyms, that's what is called the etymological fallacy - a word is more than its etymology.

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You have repeatedly said, in your remarks about Islamic states/governments, that they have all been tyrannical since the time of Muhammad.
I actually meant the religion itself, not the states/governments (nor do I say that these were not tyrannies, just that I have not opined on the matter in this discussion). After all, you said that Stalin is a tyrant for killing his opponents to stay in power. Well, Islam is an ideology that stays in power by killing its opponents, like people who try to liberate themselves from the ideology.

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I assume you mean that they have all been illegitimate? The only ground that you have ever given for this truly extraordinary opinion is that Muslims execute apostates. Or have I missed something?
Well, if you recall where this discussion started, I called the people of Egypt barbarians for supporting three barbaric practices. I actually only called these practices illegitimate (morally illegitimate), and in fact, I said that killing for apostasy was and is murder. State support for an illegitimate practice does not necessarily mean that the state itself is illegitimate, as even very legitimate states can pass and enforce illegitimate laws.

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So, if I understand you correctly you are saying this: legitimate = objective; illegitimate = subjective?
This would be a logical contradiction, and I don't know where you got the idea that I would say something like this.
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:31 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Moral legitimacy, or justice, and it is determined by the use of the reason of a worthy individual. It may share a root with the word legal, but that does not make the two words synonyms, that's what is called the etymological fallacy - a word is more than its etymology..
True, a word is more than its etymology, but the difference between legality and legitimacy is not self-evident. I repeat my question: How do you know whether a given law is legitimate or illegitimate? You have not answered the question by tacking on the adjective "moral." You have simply added another undefined word to your chain of terms:

Justified = objective = legitimate = morally legitimate

I still don't have the foggiest idea why you think that executions for apostasy are unjustified, illegitimate and immoral. Even less do I understand why this single law condemns Islam in your eyes.

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Well, if you recall where this discussion started, I called the people of Egypt barbarians for supporting three barbaric practices. I actually only called these practices illegitimate (morally illegitimate), and in fact, I said that killing for apostasy was and is murder. State support for an illegitimate practice does not necessarily mean that the state itself is illegitimate, as even very legitimate states can pass and enforce illegitimate laws..
But you have not said why this particular law is morally illegitimate. I agreed with you very early on that it is a barbaric practice---from our modern, European, secular, perspective. But that merely reflects our historical situation. Our laws no longer allow the state to execute apostates (or heretics).

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This would be a logical contradiction, and I don't know where you got the idea that I would say something like this.
No, it is not a logical contradition. It follows logically from your previous remarks. The opposite of objective is subjective in everyday and in philosophical usage. You have repeatedly said that you know what is "justified," what is "objectively" right, what is "legitimate," and now you say that you know what is "morally" legitimate. But you have yet to explain why executions for apostasy are unjustified, objectively wrong, illegitmate, or morally illegitimate.

Last edited by Florian; 08-25-2011 at 02:38 AM..
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Old 08-25-2011, 10:26 AM
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I repeat my question: How do you know whether a given law is legitimate or illegitimate? You have not answered the question by tacking on the adjective "moral." You have simply added another undefined word to your chain of terms:

Justified = objective = legitimate = morally legitimate

I still don't have the foggiest idea why you think that executions for apostasy are unjustified, illegitimate and immoral.
Well, you don't believe in any objective moral norm, only in the whims and tastes of individuals, so you'll dismiss any argument as: "well, that's just your subjective opinion". There's not much of a point to make an argument.

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Even less do I understand why this single law condemns Islam in your eyes.
If I told you that there was a cult that threatened to kill anyone who tried to leave it, what would you say? Would you say that this cult is perfectly respectable?

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But you have not said why this particular law is morally illegitimate. I agreed with you very early on that it is a barbaric practice---from our modern, European, secular, perspective. But that merely reflects our historical situation. Our laws no longer allow the state to execute apostates (or heretics).
You claim that the idea that this practice is barbaric is "subjective". That there's nothing inherently wrong with it, but that it's just not according to my taste. If it is subjective, then another person can legitimately disagree with me, and say that such practices are right, and have the same moral standing as you and I do, as people who condemn this practice. Hence, you say that it's not murder, but killing. I think you yourself realize that you can't universally apply this standard, because you refuse to apply it to the Holocaust, and to Stalin's killings. Why? Because they somehow violate accepted legal norms in Europe at the time - as if that makes something objectively wrong. If that's the case, then you should condemn count Raymond as being objectively wrong for not persecuting the Cathars, as that violated accepted legal norms in Europe at the time, that secular rulers should combat heresy.

You want to be a relativist, but you can't. You simply can't bear the thought of calling the Holocaust "simple killings" as opposed to "murders", because you know that the cold-blooded slaughter of Europe's Jews was so obviously wrong. Not subjectively according to apple and Florian, but objectively wrong. If the Holocaust is only subjectively wrong, then a Nazi could call it morally right, and both opinions would be equally valid. If the Holocaust is only objectively wrong because of the accepted legal norms in Europe at the time, then similar actions elsewhere might be called objectively right. Or if the legal norms in Europe differed, and imposed on rulers an obligation to kill all Jews, it would be, in fact, objectively right.

I find this to be unacceptable. And you don't like the fact that I can't give a definition of what's moral and immoral, but even Plato realized that such abstract concepts often can't be encapsulated in a definition. I think we need to find what is right or wrong, by the use of reason and the dialectic. I realize that it's easier to just deny the existence of objective moral norms, but it leads to unacceptable outcomes, as you no doubt know.

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No, it is not a logical contradition. It follows logically from your previous remarks. The opposite of objective is subjective in everyday and in philosophical usage. You have repeatedly said that you know what is "justified," what is "objectively" right, what is "legitimate," and now you say that you know what is "morally" legitimate. But you have yet to explain why executions for apostasy are unjustified, objectively wrong, illegitmate, or morally illegitimate.
I can't give you a definition that a computer could apply, which is what you demand. I can't prove to you that objective moral norms do exist, any more than I can prove to you solipsism is not true.
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:08 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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...
I can't give you a definition that a computer could apply, which is what you demand. I can't prove to you that objective moral norms do exist, any more than I can prove to you solipsism is not true.
Of course you can't. This is the subject of a profound unresolved debate and people can legitimately disagree. My own feeling is that the burden of proof is on those who want to assert the existence of objective moral standards. (How can a normative standard also be be an objective one by the way?)
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:32 AM
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Of course you can't. This is the subject of a profound unresolved debate and people can legitimately disagree. My own feeling is that the burden of proof is on those who want to assert the existence of objective moral standards.
Well, my main 'proof' is that relativism and nihilism are so unsatisfactory (and their popular versions, self-contradictory), that we are left with objectivism as the only viable basis for morality.

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(How can a normative standard also be be an objective one by the way?)
How can an objective standard not be a normative one? Suppose that we assume of an objective moral standard that murder is wrong? It follows that this is a normative standard that everyone should follow.
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:48 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Well, my main 'proof' is that relativism and nihilism are so unsatisfactory (and their popular versions, self-contradictory), that we are left with objectivism as the only viable basis for morality.



How can an objective standard not be a normative one? Suppose that we assume of an objective moral standard that murder is wrong? It follows that this is a normative standard that everyone should follow.
It's good that you included the irony quotes around "proof."

"Objective" means something that's true regardless of context - by tautology or by definition.

o 2 + 2 = 4
o "To run" is an English verb.

"Normative" implies judgments in regard to what's typical within a given context.

o Humans are smarter than dogs.
o Killing people is wrong.

The terms really don't have overlapping meanings.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 08-25-2011 at 12:13 PM.. Reason: clarity
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Old 08-27-2011, 12:52 PM
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It's good that you included the irony quotes around "proof."

"Objective" means something that's true regardless of context - by tautology or by definition.

o 2 + 2 = 4
o "To run" is an English verb.

"Normative" implies judgments in regard to what's typical within a given context.

o Humans are smarter than dogs.
o Killing people is wrong.

The terms really don't have overlapping meanings.
This is actually not true, at least, in the context of ethical philosophy, where objectivism refers to the idea that one can come to objectively valid moral truths. Presumably, unless one is an immoralist, one would seek to abide by objective moral truths, which would make them normative (prescriptive).
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Old 08-27-2011, 02:07 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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This is actually not true, at least, in the context of ethical philosophy, where objectivism refers to the idea that one can come to objectively valid moral truths. Presumably, unless one is an immoralist, one would seek to abide by objective moral truths, which would make them normative (prescriptive).
All right, every time I get into the weeds on this issue I seem to leave a mess behind. Ethical objectivism seems self-evidently inconsistent to me, but I lack the chops to make that case coherently. I will say that I'd have thought an apparently aggressive secularist would have more obvious regard for Hume's fork, particularly the is/ought distinction. I conflated analytic truth and objective truth above, but I fail to see a useful distinction (and that might admittedly be due to my own limitations.)
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:52 PM
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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All right, every time I get into the weeds on this issue I seem to leave a mess behind. Ethical objectivism seems self-evidently inconsistent to me, but I lack the chops to make that case coherently. I will say that I'd have thought an apparently aggressive secularist would have more obvious regard for Hume's fork, particularly the is/ought distinction. I conflated analytic truth and objective truth above, but I fail to see a useful distinction (and that might admittedly be due to my own limitations.)
I did not collapse the is/ought distinction. I would not say that an unjust law is not a law, but I would say that it is an unjust law and that it therefore ought not to be.
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Old 08-25-2011, 12:45 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Worldwise: Crisis in Syria (Elias Muhanna & Michael Young)

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Well, you don't believe in any objective moral norm, only in the whims and tastes of individuals, so you'll dismiss any argument as: "well, that's just your subjective opinion". There's not much of a point to make an argument. .
I said absolutely nothing of the kind. I certainly don't believe that laws are subjective whims. In fact, I told you at the beginning of this exchange that I believe in a minimalist version of natural law (jus naturale).

I asked you to answer the question:How do you know whether a particular law (the law against apostasy) is legitimate or illegitimate? To answer that question you would first have to explain what you mean by legitimate, and whether there is a distinction between legitimacy and legality. (And if you think that is an easy question, think again!). Then, assuming there is a real distinction, you would have to explain why this particular law is indeed illegitimate, despite its "legality" in the eyes of some if not all Muslims.

I also asked you, because you equated "legitimate" and "objective," to explain what you mean by saying that laws/moral norms/standards are "objectively" true. You then jumped to the conclusion that I must believe that laws/moral norms are merely "subjective" because I doubt if they can be called objective. Non-sequitur. They could be neither. I see that in your next paragraph you add another word to your series of verbal equations and ask me if the Muslim law (cult) regarding apostates is perfectly "respectable."

Justified = objective = legitimate = morally legitimate = respectable

So now I am even more confused. "Respectable," to my mind, has nothing to do with scientific objectivity, although I can see how it has a connection with legality or legitimacy. Generally, people in any society believe that the laws/norms/standards by which they live are "respectable," and that those who abide by them are respectable. Members of other societies of course may have a different understanding of respectability....

If you want to answer my original question: how do you know that a particular law is legitimate or illegitimate, we can "perhaps" continue this dialogue........ Notice I am not asking you to answer the question how you know that this particular Muslim law regarding apostasy is legitimate or illegitimate, but how we can know whether any law is legitimate or illegitimate.

Last edited by Florian; 08-25-2011 at 01:03 PM..
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