Social Question

Your_Majesty's avatar

What would happen to this world if it's completely ruled by rationality and religion never exist?

Asked by Your_Majesty (8215points) April 6th, 2010

Will that make us a better society? Or the contrary?

I’m just curious if that ever happened to this world. Any prediction would be appreciated.

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81 Answers

JeffVader's avatar

Sadly, I expect humanity would simply find something elese to argue & fight over.

SophiscatedLady's avatar

No one go to heaven?

Your_Majesty's avatar

@SophiscatedLady Without religion we don’t even know if heaven and hell are exist.

JeffVader's avatar

@Doctor_D Well, it’s always seemed to me that the so called religious troubles around the world are just a case of violent people being violent, Northern Ireland, Al-Qaeda, ETA.

earthduzt's avatar

That is a tough question, almost impossible to answer. I would assume if there was nothing but rational thought and religion had never existed then most of the wars would never had occured. Maybe we would be far more advanced at this time. Now this is asuming we always had rational thought and never strayed from rationality. Maybe without religion we would have started to really think about science at a much earlier time and followed through with it. Back in the dark ages people that were into science were considered heritics and were held in constraint due to religion. With no religion and pure rational thought science wouldnt have been suppressed and we would’ve discovered things much earlier therefore at our present time we would be more advanced. Which religion did tend to stunt our scinetific development.

On the contrary without rational thought, then I think we would most likely be the same way except instead of fighting over beliefs we would be fighting over nationalist beliefs.

Or maybe we would just have a primitive society due to the lack of morals that religion can bring to the table.

That is a very tough question to answer. It could go so many ways….could be better or worse.

Pandora's avatar

@JeffVader I agree with you. People will always want to dominate another group of people.
@Doctor_D for it to exist would mean utopia but so long as someone has to rule, Utopia would never exist.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Even in a totally rational world there would be conflict, since peoples self-interests often come into conflict. Any group that feels oppressed will fight against the “powers that be” regardless of how rationally concieved the society is.

roundsquare's avatar

Why assume rationality would lead to a lack of religion? Maybe we’d just find the “correct” (as in factually true) religion.

In any event, I think that a world run by fully rational humans would be so different from the current one that it would be nearly impossible to imagine. The answer isn’t just “like our world except no conflict” or “like our world but with different conflicts.” Its completely different.

Pandora's avatar

@roundsquare Its completely different Agreed.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Ok, I’ll take a controversial stab at it. Rationality and no religion…

The sick? If they are not going to recover and be productive in one week, let them die.
Disabled? Either aborted or left to die.
Substance abusers? One month to recover then to prison for forced recovery.
Prisons? Are work details. No work, no food.
Welfare? After one month, cancelled. No work, no food.
Arts? Waste of time.
Compassion? Is weakness.

That’s enough for now. That should get the ball rolling.

Blackberry's avatar

~It has only just beguuuuuuunnnnnn… be reeeeeeeeaaallllllllll~

j0ey's avatar

I think humans by nature are an irrational, violent, and discriminating bunch, that see anything different to them as a threat. This is probably why we are at the top of the food chain, we have successfully eliminated everything that could stand in our way.

Taking religion out of the equation will not make the world any more rational. It will just take one thing, off the endless list of excuses people will use to kill each other and gain power.

Religion is a man made concept. Religion does not cause irrationality Therefore a world without religion would be no more rational. Therefore I dont think, because of how humans are by nature, the world could be anymore rational.

Blackberry's avatar

Yes I agree, even though religion is the cause of a lot of problems, as well as proselytizing at young ages, it will not make us any better. We are still animals. We still can not overcome racial and cultural differences, and road rage.

Anonymoususer's avatar

Religion can continue to exist as long as noone is forced to belive in it.

poisonedantidote's avatar

had you said atheism or secularism in place of religion i would have agreed with @JeffVader and said same idiots different excuse to fight, but as you said rationality i would have to say that we would see some improvement. then again, we would still see some improvement if we kept the religion and just had more rationality all round.

Cruiser's avatar

People will simply find simply someone or something else to believe in. I would fully expect factions to develop in size and levels of interest reflective of the structure of religion. People are joiners and need to belong! Many people by nature don’t want to have to think about what to do with their lives and simply want to have someone lead their lives for them. The rationality part of your question is an impossibility as wants and needs will always affect peoples ability to be rational about those needs and desires!

davidk's avatar

1. agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan for economic development.
2. having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: a calm and rational negotiator.
3. being in or characterized by full possession of one’s reason; sane; lucid: The patient appeared perfectly rational.
4. endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.
5. of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rational faculty.
6. proceeding or derived from reason or based on reasoning: a rational explanation.

Even as an atheist I must admit that these are not mutually exclusive concepts…faith and reason, that is.

LostInParadise's avatar

We can’t live by rationality alone. Rationality can only tell you how to accomplish something. It does not tell you what should be accomplished. Traditionally, religion has attempted to answer that question. I am in favor of replacing religion with secular spirituality. We need the courage to declare what we value without saying that it comes out of some religious text.

JackiePaper's avatar

people would spend their lives enhancing the world, not preparing for their demise.
there’d be zombies but not the bible toting bible quoting type of zombie.
Animals like to travel in packs so rest assured there would be some group of kooks everyone would have to tolerate.

Exhausted's avatar

I think humans need to believe in something more powerful than themselves. The problem comes when we can’t agree on what that power is and how it correlates with our lives. If we were strictly rational we would possibly feel hopeless and helpless because so many of our issues are above and beyond our ability to control them. If we believe in a “higher power” that gives us comfort to believe those things can be improved, fixed….etc. Maybe realizing that we are small, insignificant aspects of a huge enviroment, larger than we can possibly fathom, is more than we can accept without needing to level the playing field with something just as big and powerful.

Exhausted's avatar

I always answer first and then go back and read what everyone else says. I gather that a general consensus is that religion is responsible for the evil and conflict in the world, but I don’t agree. I think that evil people with the need for power and control use religion as a way to justify their mission. The basic concept of religious beliefs is to find a way for us to improve our existance and live together in harmony. But even that can be twisted to justify a person’s desire to gain power and control. Using a person’s religion to accomplish this makes their desires appear righteous.

Dr_C's avatar

The Republican party as we know it today would not exist, the Rush Limbaugh’s and Glen Beck’s of the world would be subjected to the ridicule they deserve… People would start life on equal footing and have the same opportunities to do with as they wish.

Oh yeah… Sarah Palin would not exist. Where do I sign up for this perfect world?

Bluefreedom's avatar

Maybe things would make a lot more sense?

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

Just listen to the song Imagine by John Lennon.

davidbetterman's avatar

Just look at the history of Russia from Lenin on…
Look at the history of Nazi Germany
The killing Fields of Cambodia
Mao Tse Tung’s China

The list goes on.

Maximillian's avatar

The human mind needs something——a deity or an object——to worship. It is the nature of ourselves. We must worship something. Now, if organized religion did not exist, and rationality only existed, then, as someone earlier said, those who are disabled are tossed away. The weak are trampled, and those who don’t work are discarded.

This is going to piss some people off, but as much as some hate it, many religious principles are good. The Golden Rule——treat others as you want to be treated. Or, love your neighbor. The list goes on.

Religion is not the cause of evil in this world. Evil people are. Now, in a pure rational world, the concept of good and evil doesn’t exist. But as I said earlier, the need and desire to worship something still holds. The beastly nature of man acts like an over ride. Rationality can not stand for long; it will eventually give into the hostility of the human race.

In a nutshell, the world would not become a better place without religion. I strongly believe that it would remain the same, or become worse.

But that’s just me.

Hexr's avatar

Just because there is no religion doesn’t mean there’s no morality. In fact, it would likely contribute to increased morality, since people won’t be using stupid things to justify their wars, violence and nonacceptance. It bothers me a lot when people assume you have to be religious to have morals, and that morality is always positively correlated with religion.

Without religion, I believe the world would be a better place. There would be no “holy” wars, and no atrocities would be committed “in the name of religion”. Science would have progressed further, and we would be much more advanced because we wouldn’t have people trying to hinder science because their small minds cannot take the possibility of their fantastic beliefs being discredited.

Unfortunately, though, as some people have already mentioned, if it’s not religion, people would be fighting over something else. But at least without religion there is the possibility that the “something else” would be more reasonable than something no one can empirically prove exists.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with religion itself, I have a problem with the followers who use it to justify crimes against humanity and other bigotry. Mentally inferior people follow it like it’s the word of existence, and contort it to their own beliefs (while claiming that the opposite is true). They act as if they have moral authority over other people because they “see the truth”, even though that is horrendously hypocritical, especially from a religious perspective. These are the people I have problems with, and at least without religion we know this wouldn’t occur.

ninjacolin's avatar

because i believe religion is an intrinsic part of humanity i would have to suggest that this question is bogus.

davidbetterman's avatar

It is a bogus question @ninjacolin

I wonder if Doctor D stands for Doctor Demento?

mattbrowne's avatar

Is it rational to clone a human being? Are there rational explanations of the universe’s purpose?

ninjacolin's avatar

it it wasn’t rational, it wouldn’t be done. :P

LostInParadise's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t see how your two questions relate. There may be a rational basis for cloning humans or anything else, just as there are good reasons for artificial insemination.

As to the second question, what does it mean to say that the universe has a purpose? This presupposes that there is something outside the universe, i.e., God. But then one could ask, what is the purpose of having God? You have to stop somewhere and say that whatever it is, just is.

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – My point was that rationality can’t answer all our questions for example those related to ethical and philosophical issues. My rational conclusion is that our world can get us into trouble if all our actions are solely ruled by rationality. Religion is one offer among a variety of worldviews.

ninjacolin's avatar

@mattbrowne rationality is why we have the answers to those questions. rationality is the means for attaining answers at all.

religion itself is a rational conclusion.

LostInParadise's avatar

@mattbrowne , As to your last point I am in complete agreement. We differ only in that I do not see any advantage to invoking God for making non-rational decisions.

Jabe73's avatar


Winters's avatar

Probably an increased amount of suicides.

deadhead's avatar

Without some form of Religion rationality would have no form or basis.To have rationality means their must be Religious truisim to form some sort of rationality.How could people make rightous choices without guidance from a higher power. I don’t know what that power is but it makes us as people have a moral line that we can make rightious choice’s using both Religion and our own rationality.God gave us the ability to think for our selves and to make decesions on our own.

LostInParadise's avatar

Even if we go along with your assumption that we are somehow guided by a higher power when we make moral decisions, why do we have to believe in that power? How do you account for the fact that atheists are just as moral as believers? Do you only do the right thing because you think that God is watching you?

superjuicebox's avatar

There’d probably be a lack of war, starvation, we would probably be much more technologically advanced and overall smarter and farther along in our “evolution”. All religion is, is hope for those who are scared of the unknown, this hope also comes with fear, this fear is what causes irrationality.

flutherother's avatar

Pure rationality on its own would never do anything. It requires the idea of ‘I want’ to get it started and that comes from emotions and feelings. It can suggest the best ways of accomplishing goals but can’t even begin to tell us what those goals should be.

roundsquare's avatar

@flutherother I tend to agree with you, but I’ll play devil’s advocate for a bit.

Are you sure there is no “objective” standard of right and wrong?

flutherother's avatar

@roundsquare I don’t think there is. We can usually get a consensus on what is right and what is wrong but that isn’t quite the same thing.

LostInParadise's avatar

I agree. There are some neuroscientists who think that greatest happiness can be calculated and that there can be a morality based on that. I think they are way off. Much of morality comes down to values and I don’t think there will ever be a way of computing moral values.

ninjacolin's avatar

@flutherother and @LostInParadise

I don’t like thinking of Values as magical entities. They are simply rational conclusions like any other.

In fairly general terms, the brain is a computer that calculates conclusions using the hard and fast laws of logic as discovered/defined by Socrates. Brains intake large sets of information through the nervous system which are stored in memory. By accessing those memories, conclusions are necessarily formed such as “jump”, “say you love this person”, “yawn”, “vote for pedro” and the like.

Take the decision to answer a question truthfully as example. Whether you will answer a question truthfully isn’t a matter of magic. It’s a matter of what your brain remembers about the situation you are faced with as it relates to memories of relevant other situations.

Values come down to what you remember being generally worthwhile kinds of conclusions. Values are individualized as a result of everyone simply having access to different sets of remembered experiences. An example of this is to ask 300 people who have all had anchovies at one time in the past whether they want anchovies on their next pizza. They will each decide not based on magical values that come out of no where but based quite directly on their memories of how much they enjoyed anchovies on pizza in the past.

Bribe 50 people with a reward of $1000 for saying yes. The memory of the bribe will affect the value of having anchovies on their pizza.
Lie to another 50 about the anchovies being poisoned. The memory of your warning will affect the value they place on having anchovies on their pizza.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is possible to come up with general moral guidelines that everyone would agree to. The problem comes when these guidelines come into conflict. Should a person caught by enemy forces tell the truth in response to questions from the captors? You asked the question as to what the purpose of marriage is. There are varied responses, corresponding to differing values. The mind is an emergent property of the brain. Investigating neuron behavior will tell no more about morality than examining examining computer circuits will explain the operation of a computer program.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise, what I’m saying is values are created by the grand total sum of your experiences in life. Depending on what you’ve gone through, your values might be one thing or another. The mechanism for deciding values (like it is for deciding anything in life) is your rationality which functions quite predictably according to Socrates’ logic.

@LostInParadise said: “Much of morality comes down to values and I don’t think there will ever be a way of computing moral values.”

I agree that a person’s values are convoluted and tucked away in their heads making it difficult to understand them as a whole. But when we converse, we can uncover the foundations of people’s values and often we can even shatter those foundations by exposing their brains to new truths (or lies, even). We can do this because everyone’s values function predictably in one key way: Rationally. Some values are sound, some values are fallacious, but they are all rationally developed. As such, they are all subject to the laws of logic. New, conflicting experiences can and do force in new values that weren’t there before and old values are forced out.

The world already is ruled by rationality. Religious beliefs are just one of many kinds of conclusions rational minds are capable of coming to. Religious beliefs just happen to pertain to a person’s conclusions about the grand scheme of things. For example, whether you believe there was a big bang or the snap of a finger. However, religious beliefs are not irrational.

LostInParadise's avatar

You said: Some values are sound, some values are fallacious, but they are all rationally developed.

Suppose I said that it is very important to save a species of small non-descript fish that can only survive in a particular river, and that I felt that it was worth preventing the development of housing and industry in order to keep the fish from going extinct. That would be based on my set of values. Someone else could very well decide that the fish species is inconsequential and that it should not stand in the way of people’s well being. How would you rationally decide which of the positions is sound and which is fallacious? I say that such terms do not apply, that it is a matter of conflicting values.

Another example. One person says that a person is human upon conception and is opposed to all abortions. Another person comes up with a set of criteria as to what makes a fetus human and decides that abortion is okay during the first trimester. Again, how do you decide which position is sound and which is fallacious?

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise soundness is determined by examining arguments logically.

The researcher doesn’t whimsically believe preserving the fish is important. Again, his values aren’t magically derived, they come from what he has experienced in his lifetime related to that fish species. The researcher has come to believe that preserving that species is important because of the “case” he’s been exposed to. If he can expose others to that case, others would then share the same values.. Unless his case is demonstrably false or weak compared to other arguments/knowledge/insights that the builders may have.

You decide which position is sound or fallacious by examining the premises those positions are based on. You can learn how to do this in a Critical Thinking and Logic course in University. Or just google it. There are actual very real laws and/or principals that govern what we believe to be true or false. Our brains don’t seem to be able to defy these laws. It’s just the way that they work.

What a person goes through in life and what they learn about conception actually modifies, codifies, and creates their values regarding abortion. The learning process never ends, however, so someone who is staunchly opposed to abortion one day could actually become pro-choice over time.. depending on what they experience in life. Values are malleable.

flutherother's avatar

@ninjacolin I like apples, you like oranges. I don’t rely on logic I just prefer the taste.

ninjacolin's avatar

@flutherother, your brain does the logic. “you” just post it’s conclusions on fluther. :)

ninjacolin's avatar

btw, the reason i like oranges over apples isn’t whimsical either. I have an allergy to apples. also, i’ve always disliked their hardness.. notice how my past gives me my opinion about apples? It’s all about what I remember. I’m not making my opinion up, I’m remembering my experiences. Brains are fast.

Instead of going through all my memories when confronted with an apple or an orange, I just grab an orange. I don’t have to sit down and have a 10 minute discussion with myself. My brain takes care of it for me quickly using a tricky little thing called assumptions.

LostInParadise's avatar

The reason that I want the fish species preserved is because I think that each species is precious and that the diversity of life on this planet is something most extraordinary. Someone else can say that he does not give a fig about the diversity of life. He would be content with whatever minimum is required for humans. Who is right? It comes down to values. There is just no way of placing values on some sort of a scale.

flutherother's avatar

@ninjacolin Subliminal memories of past experiences is hardly the same as logic.

ninjacolin's avatar

“Who is right? It comes down to values. There is just no way of placing values on some sort of scale.”

I have to disagree. Values can absolutely be misplaced or under-informed. Let’s say killing that species would ensure the survival of the planet, but because you weren’t aware of it, you single handedly prevent the earth’s ecosystem from lasting another 15 years. If you don’t remember the right information, your values are useless to you and potentially to those you love and would otherwise have preferred to protect had you known better.

“Values” is a bit of a magical term. It’s unclear what it refers to.

@LostInParadise what is a value?
Do you think people’s values can change over time?
What makes a person’s values change?

ninjacolin's avatar

@flutherother what you call “Subliminal memories” don’t come out of no where. They were once reasoned on, figured out and then tested over time finally to be accepted as “safe assumptions.”

For example, the “subliminal memory” that your floor will support your weight when you get out of bed in the morning. This is something you began learning from the moment you were placed on a floor as a baby. Your brain doesn’t have to do all the testing all over again, it just accepts that floors designed by humans tend to support our weight. So we happily trust them until something happens to change our belief.

LostInParadise's avatar

Suppose that saving or eliminating the fish species has no consequences either way. Life adjusts and goes on. I say that the fish species has value in and of itself, like a work of art. Someone else is completely indifferent. How can you decide who is right?

In the end everything comes down to values. Our entire monetary system is a veiled form of barter. Prices represent the value of items in terms of other items.

Everything that you do is a choice. You choose to go to one movie over another. You choose one profession over another. You choose to live in one city over another. There are no absolutes here. It is all based on values. You could answer that you try to maximize your happiness, but that begs the question. Why is it that what makes you happy differs from what makes someone else happy? It is a different set of values. You can probe your neurons and all that you will come up with is a physical affirmation of your preferences, an encoding of your basic values.

flutherother's avatar

@ninjacolin You are saying we must live by faith and I have to agree with that. The floor did not collapse beneath me this morning I am pleased to say but I had no absolute guarantee that it would not. In the same way there can be no guarantee that our values are correct as they are based on assumptions and not on objective truth.

We use logic to decide whether a particular position is sound or fallacious, but logic requires something to work with and this something, like the taste of an orange, has nothing to do with rational thinking.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise you didn’t really answer my specific questions from before. could you?

“I say that the fish species has value in and of itself, like a work of art. Someone else is completely indifferent. How can you decide who is right?”

You developed your value for the fish up to the time of the debate. The other person developed a different set of values for entirely other things in his life up to the time of the debate. Now me, as a neutral 3rd party, how would I decide who was right? I would have to hear(law) both parties out, learn what you both have learned about the things that you value, then weigh the pros and cons of both ideas.

My decision would be a rational one based on the information you presented. One idea would simply have to seem more truthfully aligned with things that are known to be important and relevant.

I believe “choice” is best defined as: The most logically consistent conclusion a mind is able to come up with about a certain matter at a given time. Every choice is a rational one. Some are sound, some are unsound, but all are technically rational.

@LostInParadise said: “Why is it that what makes you happy differs from what makes someone else happy? It is a different set of values.”

Depending on your definition of the term “value” I’m sure that I agree with you completely. As long as you acknowledge that values are created by your experiences in life and values can change based on new experiences in life.

For example, I don’t value speaking English because of some intrinsic, mystical appreciation for the English language. I speak English because I live in an English speaking country and because I experienced growing up here with loving, English speaking parents who taught it to me. It’s a matter of my experiences that give me my value for the language. My value for the language isn’t tied up in some intrinsic appeal. It’s born out of necessity given my unique experience of reality.

I agree with you that values are encoded into our neurons, specifically through our experiences in life. I also acknowledge that they can be re-encoded through new experiences.


@flutherother The more I think about it the more I come to believe that “rational thinking” is simply a matter of having more time to think over a thing but otherwise no different from experiencing that thing for the first few seconds… get it? That seems like a tricky statement but I think it’s on the ball.

The taste of an orange is a single concise memory of the thousands of oranges you’ve tasted in your life time. A memory on it’s own I wouldn’t usually consider “rational thinking” either…but as I think about it, I suppose it’s at least somehow rational in that my brain omits everything else I’ve ever tasted. My brain is deliberately not including memories of the taste of strawberries and asparagus and giving me only memories of oranges. (brains are fast, did I mention that?) If I were thinking of oranges and received memories of strawberries, I would consider it an irrational conclusion. But that doesn’t happen. Somehow my brain is rationally accessing the correct memories as requested by my consciousness.

LostInParadise's avatar

My decision would be a rational one based on the information you presented. One idea would simply have to seem more truthfully aligned with things that are known to be important and relevant.

But that is just the point. What things are known to be important and relevant and, assuming we can find some universal standards, what happens when they are in conflict with one another?

In the case of the fish species, it is important from a human perspective to maintain and admire the diversity of life, but it is also important to maintain the material well being of our species. Which is more important? How could there even be common currency, and even if there were one, how could you make an evaluation?

Sartre gives the example of a person in WW II who is torn between taking care of his elderly mother and joining the resistance against Nazi occupation. Which of these is important? They both are. There is no universal scale where you can weigh one against the other.

There is simply no possibility for a universal calculus of all options. Deep down there are different sets of core values, each perfectly reasonable and self-consistent. And complicating things is uncertainty. Not only are we confronted with differing sets of values, we also have to deal with not knowing for certain what the consequences of our actions will be.

flutherother's avatar

The taste of an orange is simply the taste of an orange. It isn’t a memory or a rational thought or anything else. It is simply the taste of an orange. Whether we like it or not comes from the experience of the taste. We can use logic to get more oranges or to persuade ourselves of the benefits of eating oranges but logic can’t tell us if the taste is good or not. Rational thought supports or shapes our prejudices but doesn’t create them.

LostInParadise's avatar

@flutherother, If I understand @ninjacolin , he is not saying that the taste of the orange is based on rational thought. Rather he would say that liking the orange is logical because it has a pleasant taste and provides nutrients. The point that I have been trying to make is that there are cases where the choice of values is not so clearcut.

flutherother's avatar

If we assume common values based on logic we can still be presented with dilemmas as your examples show. However we can’t assume this as our values are not logical. Like the taste of the orange I do not believe our values arise from logical thinking.

The taste of the orange is not based on rational thought neither is our liking of the taste and neither are the impulses that make us human. We are all human and we are all made much the same way and though we may not understand ourselves we do seem to understand each other well enough.

ninjacolin's avatar

Oh wow, how convoluted this is becoming. I have limited time at the moment. I’m going to make some assertions without backing them up just to clarify where I stand on these matters so far.

@flutherother said: “The taste of an orange is simply the taste of an orange. It isn’t a memory or a rational thought or anything else. It is simply the taste of an orange”

False. The taste of an orange only exists as a memory in an individual’s head: The taste of an orange is quite specifically a memory of an experience and it isn’t anything else.
Proof: What does an orange taste like? Answer: What you remember it tastes like. It never tastes like anything else.

“Whether we like [the taste of an the orange] or not comes from the experience of the taste.”

True. The experience of the taste is a memory. Your brain will have rationally concluded that the experience was pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.. the rest is just memory of the conclusion your brain came to.

“Rational thought supports or shapes our prejudices but doesn’t create them.”

False. Rational thought shapes/forms our prejudices. (brains are fast, btw)

“The taste of the orange is not based on rational thought neither is our liking of the taste and neither are the impulses that make us human.”

False. The opposite is true.


Memories (aka. “Beliefs”) are the “facts” that our brains use to make their decisions.
If the facts change our conclusions necessarily change as well.

The recursive flow of brains:
– First we experience.
– Then we experience reasoning on our experience.

Reasoning is the experience of evaluating our new experiences against our old experiences. If you remember ever being dumbfounded by an experience then you know what it feels like to experience in the raw, temporarily failing the recursive loop.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise said: “There is simply no possibility for a universal calculus of all options.”

False. There is a universal calculus and it belongs to me, the individual. Whatever I believe is right, actually is. (Or in your terms, whatever I value most is necessarily of most value)
Proof: What do you believe to be true that is actually false? Answer: Nothing at the moment. This isn’t a trick, it’s a Truism. It has weight that should never be ignored.

“Deep down there are different sets of core values, each perfectly reasonable and self-consistent.”

True. Core values (aka. “beliefs”) are created by our collective rationalized experiences in life. Core values are malleable as brains are subject to new experiences.

@LostInParadise, you’ve dodged my question several times now. Do you believe values are malleable? Yes or no? (as much as I’m enjoying this conversation with you, I do happen to find your dodging a little fishy and we’re suppose to be squids here on fluther. I honestly find it a little disrespectful and I know you don’t mean to be. Please answer me this question, I think it would help the conversation a lot.)

And complicating things is uncertainty. Not only are we confronted with differing sets of values, we also have to deal with not knowing for certain what the consequences of our actions will be.

Sometimes the consequence is redefined values.

Now this is where it all began:

@flutherother said: “I don’t think there is [an objective standard of right and wrong]. We can usually get a consensus on what is right and what is wrong but that isn’t quite the same thing.”[...] from @roundsquare.

@LostInParadise said: “I agree. There are some neuroscientists who think that greatest happiness can be calculated and that there can be a morality based on that. I think they are way off. Much of morality comes down to values and I don’t think there will ever be a way of computing moral values.”

Because values are malleable based on experiences, and because “right” and “wrong” are simply conclusions that only rational minds can come to.. it stands to reason that the only reason we disagree is because we have molded ourselves with different values. If all our experiences were identical, we would all have molded ourselves the same values and the same opinion of right and wrong. We don’t and will never have exactly identical experiences and hence will never have exactly the same values. However, through the experience of communication and understanding our values can be modified to become more aligned than they were yesterday.

LostInParadise's avatar

Yes, values are malleable. I do not see how that changes things. Maybe we are not so far off in our thinking. You are saying that the calculus of values is subjective. I agree. The point that I am making is that the calculus can never be objective. There is no standard that we can use for two or more people to choose between them. To get back to @flutherother ‘s orange. Bringing in memories or neurons or whatever other baggage you want to bring in does not provide any more explanatory power than saying the orange tastes pleasant.

Let me give an analogy. Suppose I write a computer program that, for the sake of simplicity, adds the numbers from 1 to 100. Someone is skeptical about this and wants to see the internals of the computer when the program is run. We load the program and examine the computer circuits at each step and find that it faithfully follows the program and that the final result is indeed the sum of the numbers from 1 to 100. The person is still skeptical and wants to see the program run on a computer with a different architecture. I oblige and the result is again the same. The program is like our minds. It has an existence apart from the machinery (brain) it runs on. I can point to the program and talk about how it works without any need to reference the underlying machinery that runs it. It is the same with values.

Richard Dawkins introduced the concept of memes, which is a fancy term for beliefs. Memes are like genetic material in that they can be passed from one person to another. He said that in the same way that he considered our bodies as nothing more than vehicles for the preservation of our genes, we could in the same way think of our bodies as nothing more than structures for the competition between and perpetuation of memes. The abstract software rules. Unless the underlying machinery is malfunctioning, there is no need to refer to it. There is nothing gained.

flutherother's avatar

@ninjacolin The first time we taste an orange it tastes nothing at all like a memory and we know at once whether we like it or not. Our values are founded upon such experiences rather than logic.

@LostInParadise We can put our thoughts into words but I don’t accept that our minds exist apart from our brains. The way we think comes from the way our minds are constructed. For example much of our thinking is imagined in visual terms. This just shows how closely perception and reasoning are aligned. I think if we ever meet an intelligent alien species we will have more difficulties with communication than we imagine. The only language we could mutually understand would be that of mathematics, which is rational, abstract and doesn’t arise from our perceptions or memories.

LostInParadise's avatar

The mind is an organizational structure on the brain the way that a computer program is an organizational structure on a computer. The mind of course is far more complex and includes the processing of sensory input. I do not see in principle why a mind could not operate in some man made machine that may have parts that resemble brain structure but may have parts that are far different.

ninjacolin's avatar

@flutherother said: “The first time we taste an orange it tastes nothing at all like a memory and we know at once whether we like it or not. Our values are founded upon such experiences rather than logic.”

The experience of tasting an orange for the first time is a complex bio-physical and chemical reaction. Someone unconscious would go through the exact same reaction as someone who was conscious. The only difference being that the person who was conscious could remember the event (as well as rationally respond to the event. eg. be taken aback by how good/bad it tastes)

Without the memory, the taste of an orange does not exist.

LostInParadise's avatar

Here I agree with you. There is no consciousness without memory, although there can be memory without consciousness. There have been experiments to show that even some of the lowliest of creatures have some sort of memory.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise our values, then, are founded on such memories of experiences.

You can have memories without consciousness because memories are more important than experiences when it comes to consciousness.. lol, maybe that gave me away: Okay, fine, I don’t really accept the idea that we can have memories without consciousness. Not actually. I get what you’re saying, but i don’t find that choice of words to be the most accurately descriptive of what’s going on.

“Consciousness” has always been sold to us as thing that only humans posses. I don’t buy it. Yes, somehow it’s useful to separate the human conscious from all other forms of consciousness but I don’t think it’s accurate to suggest that we’re the “only” conscious entities out there, as if we’re doing anything more than simply more of the same.

Every chemical/physical reaction (when considered in it’s entirety) is technically conscious. Why? Because they are responding to the past. That’s all humans do, we respond to our memories. Our memories are the past. Therefore, anything that responds accurately and concisely to the past is essentially doing the same thing a human mind is doing. Human logic is just a more complicated physical/chemical reaction than a tin can that merely bends when you squish it rather than turning into a bullfrog. The tin can responds to it’s circumstances based on it’s past. Human brains just take it a few very complicated steps further, but that’s all. They aren’t doing anything magical, they’re just following orders like everything else. Every system is conscious that has and accesses memory, I would say. But again, I see what you mean using the terms regularly.

LostInParadise's avatar

So much to respond to. Firstly, what I am saying is that there can not be an objective basis for morality. I concede that each person has a subjective set of values based on genes and experience.

I don’t want to get sidetracked into a discussion of consciousness. Let me just outline Sartre’s characterization of it in Being and Nothingness. He said that the essential nature of consciousness is to perceive and react to what is not present. To be able to see that something is missing and to look for it is an act of consciousness. Tin cans cannot do this. Individual neurons can not do this either. The mind structures the brain in such a way as to be able to notice what is missing and to be able to formulate plans to locate it. Some day scientists may be able to figure out how this trick is done, but at the moment they are nowhere close.

flutherother's avatar

@ninjacolin Our view of the world is based on memories of past events. I think I am starting to agree with you. But what are we remembering? With our first taste of the orange we are conscious of the sensation of the taste and we are conscious that we like it and we remember this experience. My point is that this memory is created a result of a complex bio-physical process as you call it and is not a conclusion arrived at through logic. I believe that our values develop in a similar way from our experiences and precede rational evaluation.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise I think there is an objective basis for morality as discovered by Aristotle: Valid and Sound logic. Objectively, any valid and sound conclusion is necessarily the moral conclusion. As you said before, though, because we live with uncertainty we are constantly in a state of ignorance about what the Truly valid and sound conclusions may be. But as far as morality goes, whatever the most valid and sound conclusion we can come up with is the conclusion we ought to abide by.

As for consciousness, I’m fairly certain that consciousness is simply the experience of the Present (specifically) moment for a functioning brain with memories. Compare with the experience of a rock or an ocean in the Present moment. The only difference is the object.

@flutherother I agree with you that experiences and/or memories aren’t rational conclusions in themselves. But I would point out that reasoning and coming to a conclusion is an experience in itself.. which we remember. Next, remembering an experience is also an experience.. which we remember.

Values are freshly coded every day of our lives. Sushi is a great example. You likely have many friends who detested sushi at first but learned to love it based on continued experiences with sushi. I know this was the case for me and many of my friends. (usually guys) I think this demonstrates well that our values are not set in stone by the very first experiences we have had in the past but by the average of similar experiences that we have all our lives including the experiences of reasoning on our experiences.

LostInParadise's avatar

I think we are at an impasse and will not get any further. You remind me of someone I knew who was convinced that things could be ordered in terms of goodness, so that, for example, given any two novels, one was definitely better than the other. When asked how to apply the universal standard he was at a loss.

ninjacolin's avatar

Hold on, I didn’t expect you to disagree with that last comment. If there is an impasse, I think we’ve reached it together. My conclusions on this:

- I concede that a lack of omniscience (aka. ignorance) prevents an individual from knowing with certainty what the most moral decision in a given circumstance may be.
– However, I suggest that what morality is is simply valid and sound conclusions adhered to in a given situation.

I hope we agree on these two points above.

I woke up today realizing that morality is a pretty special thing that doesn’t require there to be objective preferences in certain cases. For example, which book is better? This isn’t a moral question. This is a question about what you remember to be true. It’s personal trivia. Not morality. I suppose I’m different from your friend in that. Another thing, I have several lists of favorite things. Movies for example, I have a top 10 and a top 3. My top 10 probably has about 30 items in it. They all fit into that category. My top 3 probably has about 5 – 10 items. I don’t know what my #1 favorite movie is. I think I must have 3 of them. :) as a side note: I believe the art we like best is the art we relate to the best. i think that’s the qualifier.

Morality deals quite specifically with outcomes. Morality is a matter of abiding by valid and sound conclusions. If you like one book and hate another it would be immoral for me to give you the book I know you hate as a present. But you aren’t doing anything morally relevant by simply realizing that one book is better than another. As @flutherother and I have been discussing, your experience of the books is simply your irrational, hands-on experience. You didn’t decide to like or hate the books. You simply realized that you did. You remember that one book is better or worse.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why then can’t there be values related to morality similar to the values related to book preference? One person thinks that all wildlife species should be preserved and another person thinks that increasing industrialization is more important. These are two different values and the final outcome is will be a compromise. This is not necessarily the most rational decision. As another example, one person is a libertarian and another is a socialist. Again the final outcome will be somewhere in the middle. This is not, and cannot be, based on any calculus of morality but on political power.

ninjacolin's avatar

That’s really an excellent question. Really making me think here.. I would suggest that it’s because the matters of libertarianism vs socialism, libeterainism (the other kind) vs determinsm, and other philosophical/political labels that we’ve given our different positions represent the kinds of ideas that are the simplest to conclude on.

Art is simply more complicated than politics and philosophy. Morality is more clear cut than book preference.

LostInParadise's avatar

I recommend the book Justice by Michael Sandel. Justice is not the same as morality but many of the issues are the same.

Hibernate's avatar

Ration is good but it has it’s flaws just like any religion.

But if we’d use rationality over religion we’ll end up changing our view once every few years… what’s wrong today can be good tomorrow and viceversa.

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