Alan Mandelberg, PhD: "Morality without God"

The San Diego Philosophy Forum is pleased to announce that Alan Mandelberg, PhD [Oregon], will speak on: "Morality without God."

This event, open to the public and free of charge, will take place 6:30-7:45 PM, Tuesday, November 25 at the North University Public Library: 8820 Judicial Dr. (near the 805 highway's Nobel Exit).

This is a food-friendly space, with light refreshments and coffee available.  More information, if any, will be posted, as available, to SDPhil.org

-------------

SECULAR MORALITY

"....Secular morality is the aspect of philosophy that deals with morality outside of religious traditions. Modern examples include humanism, freethinking, and most versions of consequentialism. Additional philosophies with ancient roots include those such as skepticism and virtue ethics. Greg M. Epstein also states that, "much of ancient Far Eastern thought is deeply concerned with human goodness without placing much if any stock in the importance of gods or spirits." Other philosophers have proposed various ideas about how to determine right and wrong actions. An example is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative.

A variety of positions are apparent regarding the relationship between religion and morality. Some believe that religion is necessary as a guide to a moral life. This idea has been with us for nearly 2,000 years. There are various thoughts regarding how this idea has arisen. For example, Greg Epstein suggests that this idea is connected to a concerted effort by theists to question nonreligious ideas: "conservative authorities have, since ancient days, had a clever counterstrategy against religious skepticism—convincing people that atheism is evil, and then accusing their enemies of being atheists."

Others eschew the idea that religion is required to provide a guide to right and wrong behavior, such as the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics which states that religion and morality "are to be defined differently and have no definitional connections with each other". Some believe that religions provide poor guides to moral behavior. Various commentators, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are among those who have asserted this view...."  (Wikipedia: Secular Morality)

"....Religion differs from morality or a moral system in that it includes stories about events in the past, usually about supernatural beings, that are used to explain or justify the behavior that it prohibits or requires.

Sometimes there is no distinction made between a moral code and a code of conduct put forward by a religion, and there is often a considerable overlap in the conduct prohibited or required by religion and that prohibited or required by morality. But religions may prohibit or require more than is prohibited or required by guides to behavior that are explicitly labeled as moral guides, and may allow some behavior that is prohibited by morality.

Sometimes morality is regarded as the code of conduct that is put forward by religion, but even when this is not the case, morality is thought by many to need some religious explanation and justification.  However, just as with law, some religious practices and precepts are criticized on moral grounds, e.g., discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Morality is only a guide to conduct, whereas religion is always more than this...."  (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)  See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/, for an extensive general discussion.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:

Alan Mandelberg received his BA from Queens College, New York, his MA in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and his PhD in philosophy from the University of Oregon.  After teaching for several years, he began a real estate and finance practice that has been going strong for over forty years: the Real Estate Investment and Exchange, where he is President. 

During his PhD program, and into his teaching years, Dr. Mandelberg's main interests were the philosophy of science and Wittgenstein’s "anti-metaphysics."  He has since become increasingly interested in ethics, which prompted him to resume writing in philosophy.  The paper to be presented is a result of this renewed activity.

Dr. Mandelberg's stance as, "pretty much a militant atheist," led him to write the essay he'll be presenting.  He debuted the paper in San Diego,  has presented it twice, before two local groups of non-believers, and has "sent it to a few friends who look at the world pretty much as he does."  The paper is brief enough that (for the Forum), he plans to add a section regarding G.E. Moore’s “Open Question” argument.

Whereas the original paper focused on defending non-believers against the charge of being "amoral," or even "immoral," the new section will be more on the offense -- against "uncritical thinkers, among whom I count those who think that they can base morality on faith."  He expects and welcomes a spirited response at the Forum.

Dr. Mandelberg has graciously allowed us to post his paper, which is now available in the files section of this Metup, and at the SDphil.org site.

###


Join or login to comment.

  • Alan M.

    (#3) My second primary reason for being an atheist might be styled as a matter of logic as opposed to experience. Religious dogma is contradictory and incoherent when one looks at it critically. In the end it makes no sense whatever. I am tempted to say that it is so illogical and confused that it is not even good enough to be false.

    3 · November 27

    • Andrew

      I have heard religion described as being "beyond logic," though it isn't yet entirely clear to me what that means, or why the two would be incompatible. There are, however, theologians, (Dr. Bombaro for instance), who may be able to discuss this coherently. [sigh]...

      January 8

    • Derek B.

      Logic merely implies contradictions that, relationaly, must be true (e.g., deductive, demonstrable, certain, etc). Experience can never imply a contradiction, and must settle for probability as phenominal outcome only - never truth as WHAT but WHEN and WHERE only. This alone ought to be enough to class these two as NOMA; short of this, answer the Raven Paradox in the discussion section. <g>

      Experience turns to logic (cf. reason) in an effort "know HOW", in addition to WHEN and WHERE, and this is always formal and model-dependent. WHAT is a spiritual question - unlike WHEN and WHERE which are empirical, or HOW which is a logical question; WHAT is transcendent...

      January 9

  • Mark G.

    (1 of 3) I wasn’t able to attend the talk, and so my comment will be directed toward his posted paper. Dr, Mandelberg attempts to get around G.E. Moore's open question problem, as well as Hume's is-ought problem, by stating, "If there are both strictly factual, but also moral elements already in the very concepts that we use to describe morally relevant situations, then there is no reason to have to jump any gap from facts to values." He uses rape as an example. "That rape is a physical act of violating someone’s person is basic to understanding what rape is. That it is evil is part of understanding what rape is. There is no “open question” here." According to Dr. Mandelberg, then, morality is intrinsic, found in the meanings of morally relevant concepts. Personally, I disagree that morality is intrinsic, but will overlook this point, in an attempt to make another point. And so, I will grant, for discussion sake, that the above statement is true.

    2 · November 26

    • Tim

      2 of 2:

      It's correct to say that there is no god, but if one can't explain why, his belief is as dogmatic as the typical theist. The atypical theist, however, may attempt to use reason, but due to a rational error, makes the wrong conclusion that there is a god. In other words, an atheist can use non-objective means to stumble upon the correct conclusion by chance, making him an irrational atheist; a theist can use objective means but still make a mistake to make the wrong conclusion, making him a rational theist. Personally, I would rather deal with a rational theist than an irrational atheist because I can still reason with the former.

      In deciding who to reason with, it’s the justificatory process, not the conclusion, that measures rationality.

      1 · November 27

    • Andrew

      I wish you could've been there, as you must have a special interest in this, and could address it in some depth...

      1 · January 8

  • Mark G.

    As we all know, during this time of the year, many people around the world celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, many others who profess to be "non-believers" celebrate the holidays in other ways. Some celebrate Winter Solstice or just enjoy the "spirit" of the holidays. In fact, some even insist on erecting their own version of the Nativity Scene - a monument to atheism - next to the actual Nativity scene, in public places. On Sundays, many "non-believers" participate in Sunday Assemblies. In an attempt to define their ethics, many humanist "non-believers" have erected the Humanist version of the 10 Commandments, which value compassion and self-sacrifice to others.

    1 · December 23

    • Tim

      In other words, one ought to judge himself positively rather than negatively. In yet other words, one ought to judge himself by characteristics rather than by the absence of characteristics. Properly, those characteristics ought to be things within our control, e.g. values/achievements, rather than things out of our control, e.g. race or the values/achievements not of oneself but of others (whether they share your race, geographic region, etc.).

      The same standard by which to judge oneself also ought to be the same for judging others.

      3 · December 23

    • Derek B.

      I agree with Pope that, with regard to vice, the all too common tendency is: "Seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." - a pourous and contagious rather than insular notion of will... Regardless, in my experience, I've noticed that, utlimately, we become what we always were - a rather transcendental notion...

      1 · December 24

  • Derek B.

    In closing, I'd like to thank Tim for willingness to, at least, engage in discussion, so important to philosophy. As far as a definition of reason goes, I touched on that in the only post he appreciated; regardless, IMHO, reason is the pursuit of predictability via induction (viz., scientific method) in a sensible, cognitive domain, beyond the scope of any truth as certainty, where logic is appealed to to produce models of reality in an effort to standardize this pursuit (cf. the Standard Model). Reading Hume would be a big help here. Kant did and wrote "Critique of Pure Reason"... Insofar as humor is concerned, especially as it relates to discussion, and, too often, is a "dish best served on an empty stomach", please visit:

    http://www.meetup.com/san-diego-atheists-agnostics/messages/boards/thread/2806635/0

    Rude? Well, of course not. <s> Philosophy? You've got to be kidding... <g>

    December 16

  • John H.

    I am reminded of a line in the movie "Amadeus" when Emperor Joseph II comments on Mozart's music; "Too many notes. My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening." Too many words about the obvious. Get out of our Western mindset and of course there is morality without God, it is called Buddhism. Of course there is personal responsibility for moral action, it is called "right living". Of course there is consequence for straying from right living which is "karma". Yes there is concern for our fellow creatures, it is called "compassion". Yes it can be measured scientifically, it is called "kinesiology". Take off the blinders folks, there is a big world out there beyond our Western prejudice and Abrahamic religious patriarchy.

    1 · November 26

    • Tim

      2 of 2:

      3. It’s interesting how Derek continues his M.O. of raising new points that don’t refute mine. I’ve explained my understanding of Hume, but he doesn’t make any corrections. It’s almost as if his M.O. is that of a shotgun—spew out a slew of information, relevant or irrelevant (99% of which falls in the latter category), and see what sticks. Why can’t he directly address my points like I have with his? Maybe that's another troll tactic.

      4. What the hell is up with Derek’s obsession with Mark G.?

      5. It’s unfortunate that Derek wants to argue association rather than actual ideas. Another troll tactic?

      6. More unfortunate is that Derek is all assertions and close to zero arguments. The one moment he did have an argument, he interested me; perhaps yet another troll tactic.

      7. If he wants to engage in a discussion, he’ll need to show that he can.

      8. Merry Christmas to everyone, but maybe not to Derek, as he may be all “empty space in time.”

      1 · December 11

    • Derek B.

      Hehe... that's all but all empty space in time to you. <g>
      Spock: Logic is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell BAD. Are you sure your circuits are registering correctly? ... - Star Trek I, Mudd, 1967
      No one wants to do philosophy... might as well humour the shrinks. <sigh>

      1 · December 13

  • Michael C.

    1of2/A comment on religion, logic and reality. It certainly would be wonderful if we could use absolute reality as a handy criterion for deciding to accept or reject a proposition. Unfortunately we humans are very very small and universe is very very large. What we know is like a few drops of water in vast ocean of reality. If the human race keeps learning more for a few million years we will learn a lot more. But even this much won't amount more than bucket or two compared to the ocean. So we will never be able to use this wonderful tool (absolute reality) So what to do? At birth each of us is thrown into avast and monstrously confusing world. Well, we struggle with this reality as best we can. To help us in our struggle we have well established science and logic. They usually are much more reliable than other tools, but are often unavailable when we need advice here and now. Other resources include intuition, "common sense", tradition etc.

    1 · November 27

    • Michael C.

      Most scientists learn a bitter, nasty lesson early in their careers: We humans are not capable of a vast, accurate contact with reality. Unfortunately the more you learn the more you understand the size of the problem.

      2 · November 28

    • Tim

      Mike, I wish I had the time to read such books. I’m already studying for a vocational certification, and I’m working 60 hours/week. It would be better if you just summarize the studies.

      So it sounds like you agree that reality is the source and standard of knowledge; that is the absolutism I meant.

      That “bitter, nasty” lesson sounds like the consequence of incorrect philosophy. As I’ve said, from bad premises follow bad conclusions. Persisting on a path of bad premises will only produce a worse conclusion. And from what I can gather, I would guess that these scientists have unrealistic standards; more specifically, their standards require omniscience. As long as one maintains such impossible standards, one will always fall short, hence the “bitter, nasty” lesson. It’s really an unproductive discussion until we level-set fundamentals, which you seem determined to avoid. The equivalent is blindly accepting premises and building a philosophy from there.

      December 4

  • Michael C.

    2of2/ A lot of traditional advice and practices are buried in religions. Many of us believe that religious preoccupation with the supernatural is an unhelpful and unhealthy distraction. But should we throw out the baby with the bath water? A recent development in psychotherapy should give one pause.
    Personality disorders, especially the borderline type, have been unaffected by any and all types of psychotherapy or medical interventions. during the past 15 years a new type of therapy has proven remarklably effective. The techniques were borrowed in a massive way from Buhddhism stripped of excess supernatural baggage and combined with cognitive behaviorism.
    I agree with Dr. Mandleberg's two objections to religiosity and I would add a third: too much confidence in the supernatural can be unhealthy andcan distract us from beneficial advice.

    2 · November 27

    • Tim

      I’m usually an outlier, so I take it I’m not part of this “many.” I believe even most people with opposing beliefs have potential value to offer. So I’m not surprised if a religion discovers value, and it may have been discovered through reason or chance. Yes, religious people can be reasonable—my brother is religious, but he exercised reason to become an electrical engineer. He can do this by compartmentalizing reason; unfortunately, inconsistent use of reason limits one’s potential, and subsequently, happiness. But if you’re concluding that this study proves that religion can be beneficial, you’re committing the same error you’ve committed in past discussions: correlation is not causation.

      I’m not going to even ask for the study’s methodology because it’s irrelevant to the more important point above. I also wouldn’t even call religion-bashing “throwing the baby out with the bath water;” I call it not seeing the real issue—faith and dogma, both of which are not exclusive to religion.

      1 · November 27

  • Michael C.

    Comment on what many scientists come close to believing about science: 1. logical positivism is dead; 2. We have many ways of finding out about ourselves and the surrounding world science is not the only way. other approaches include art,intuition, formal logic etc. 3. Producing scientific advice on any particular subject is usually very expensive, time consuming or impossible. 4. Never the less WELL EST-ABLISHED scientific advise is usually (i.e. not always)FAR more reliable than advice produced any other way with the exception of certain logical statements within formal logic. This is not surprising since Science just is the art of producing reliable advice when this is possible; 5. Science and technology play opposite roles. Scientists generally search for regularities and generalities within nature including human nature. Technicians and engineers generally start with an individual applied task and rely on advice from the sciences to meet their goals when available.

    3 · November 26

    • Tim

      Mike, I’m glad you acknowledge that science is not always reliable. And one way to know whether a scientific claim is reliable is to examine the premises. I’m also glad that you acknowledge that knowledge is hierarchical, so if philosophy is more fundamental than science, then it’s clear that we must have correct philosophy to ensure we have correct science. In one sentence, what exactly do you disagree with?

      1 · November 27

  • Derek B.

    Al, Art... Tim... yes. Must've touched a distinction. <g>

    November 13

    • Arthur M.

      It is Dr Mandelberg not Al. Treat our presenters with respect. Or they will cease coming and this destroy the forum, which you haven't had the courtesy of ever showing up at a meeting and participating in person like a man.

      November 22

    • Derek B.

      Aww schucks... highchair it is. <sigh>

      "Ramble Tamble", CCR, Cosmos Factory, 1970.

      Your Mortgageness. <g>

      November 27

  • Alan M.

    (#2) However I am an atheist for at least two main reasons. First of all I believer that none of the many hundreds of religions in the world have any more evidence for their doctrines than any of the myriad of others. Pointing this out is called "the argument from diversity" among non-believing philosophers. Contrary to what some religious critics would say, atheism is not just some sort of faith based dogma itself. A rational person looks for evidence. For the various religious faiths there is no evidence, just BLIND faith.

    2 · November 27

  • Alan M.

    (#1) I have resisted the temptation to reply to other responses to my talk. But I do want to respond to Tim. Putting aside the the talk about rational vs. irrational atheists, I can only say why I am an atheist - and I hope a rational one. Where it merely the case that I was going by what my experience in life, I would be an agnostic. We cannot say that this world is an accident or the creation of some divinity.

    1 · November 27

  • Tim

    I thought it was timely that logical positivism was mentioned. In tonight’s discussion, the physical sciences were cited as proof of certain ideas. Unless we validate the philosophical premises behind scientific claims, we are rejecting philosophy by subscribing to scientism, the belief that the physical sciences are the only method to study reality. Since philosophy studies fundamentals, it’s the foundation of all knowledge; from bad premises follow bad conclusions.

    2 · November 26

  • Brent

    I've never known religious individuals to be more moral than non-believers. I've only known believers who think that they are more moral. By attempting to ground a morality without God, are we not acquiescing to theism's self-acclaimed monopoly on morality? This seems to be the plight of atheists in general. They define themselves in contradistinction to theism. As Camus said, the rebel is defined by that against which he rebels. If we were able to abolish the theistic world, what world would be left? The a-theistic world? No, along with the theistic world, we would have also abolished the a-theistic world. Now that would be a true moralistic beginning.

    2 · November 25

    • Tim

      4 of 5:

      Examining reality, we discover the nature of man and ourselves as individuals. And from understanding the nature of such things, we discover our needs. And from understanding our needs, we discover what fulfills our needs. Perhaps that can provide a basis for what’s right and wrong. In fact, I think that is the case, and given this objective and reality-based morality, we want to value morality, as it guides us on how to not just survive as animals, but also flourish as beings with conceptual sight of the animalistic immediacy of now and of the rational long-term projection into the future.

      November 26

    • Tim

      5 of 5:

      In this kind of morality, right and wrong is defined not by others but by each individual. And it’s our ability to think long-term that allows us to discover that cooperation and trade (with other willing rational beings), not predation or domination, improves both our survivability and flourishing. This is the difference between benevolence and altruism—the former seeks win-win relationships while the latter seeks lose-win relationships. In this kind of morality, there is no conflict, contradiction, or paradox.

      Tangentially, I believe that moral conflicts, contradictions, and paradoxes is epistemological; more specifically, it’s caused by an error in knowledge; even more specifically, it’s caused by an incorrect interpretation of reality.

      2 · November 26

  • Andrew

    Fantastic audience chemistry, intense, well-handled Q&A.

    November 25

  • Tim

    Guys, don't the troll. By responding to him, you're legitimizing his comments. Ignore him.

    1 · November 22

    • Andrew

      I understand your concerns, Tim, but if we're not for the open exchange of ideas, who will be?

      1 · November 24

    • Tim

      I’m all for the open exchange of ideas, but there should be ground rules. In fact, the very reason why we can have an open exchange of ideas is because we can agree on basic principles like civility, respect, and cooperation. Allowing for the violation of these principles sets a bad precedence, and I would imagine a hostile environment would discourage future speakers.

      Since Derek is allowed to troll, I’m selling the idea in this open marketplace of ideas that we all ignore him so he goes elsewhere to play keyboard warrior. <g>

      3 · November 25

  • Andrew

    The paper should now also be available in the "More > Files" section of this Meetup. See you all tomorrow...

    November 24

  • Nancy P.

    I have to teach that evening, so I am cancelling.

    November 7

    • Andrew

      Sorry you can't make it. At least the paper's available...

      November 24

  • Andrew

    Dr. Mandelberg has graciously allowed me to post his paper on the sdphil.org site. Maybe that will help clarify a few things. (Will try to post here as well.)

    November 24

  • Alan M.

    Again Derek goes off without having any idea as to what I am going to say. Piece of work!

    November 22

    • Derek B.

      Last time I checked, this was a philosophy forum replete with comment and discussion sections - not Ticketron. <g>

      November 22

    • Arthur M.

      Derek

      Forum and discussion doesn't mean you can be rude. You're rude.

      So far, I have never seen you at a forum meeting. Show up, listen to the presentation, and interact on PERSON. Otherwise, keep your uninformed comments to yourself.

      1 · November 22

  • Alan M.

    Why don't you stop your own pontificating and come and listen. I welcome your critical responses then.

    2 · November 7

    • Tim

      Just ban him. I've seen his cowardly, passive-aggressive comments on other Meetup groups. His intentions are not sincere.

      1 · November 12

    • Derek B.

      Threes a charm. Al: An exigesis can be a useful tool from a theological standpoint; however, from the stance of a self-described "militant atheist", it becomes the clarion call: "How many times must the canon-balls fly before they are forever banned" - or Tim's sentiment. Art: Does your sense of humor extend beyond "highchair"? Tim: It's nice to see that humor is being Rountabled over there. That sincerity has been called into question here I thought I might Taylor you an example of dry wit (requires some ability to self-deprecate): "Swift move ex-lax". <g>

      November 22

  • Alan M.

    "Militant evangelism"? I have no intention of that. It is a waste of time. You have no idea what the content of what I am reading is yet you persist in these snide remarks. My paper is in a standard format exegesis, and repsonse to the exposition, that one would expect from a trained philosopher - which I am. Given what I have seen of your mumblings, the session will be none the worse for your absence. I have no interest in jousting with an "adversary" except to expose my idea to a literate audience and learn from their response. If you or anyone else has a critical comment worth considering, I look forward to that. I am a real believer in Socratic dialogue but not in debating a philodoxer - which you appear to be.

    3 · November 10

    • Arthur M.

      Hear hear!

      Thank you for volunteering your time to present an interesting topic.

      2 · November 10

  • Derek B.

    Hmmm... sounds like a solioquy/diatribe... pontificating. <g>

    Hume's "tabla rasa" or that cognitive blank slate completed only by reality and reason. Sensibility over sensitivity - an impression nonetheless - but one of reflection often treated as an illusion at best, a material by-product at worst; irregardless, the active, rather than passive, principle of everything we do.

    The idea that a perfect morality may be cognitively arrived at with enough math, muster and industry; existing nowhere else; found only in a bright, exalted self, reflecting upon itself, sickened, and, as a consequence, given only to cognition.

    Where do I sign? <g>

    November 7

  • Nancy P.

    Good.

    September 24

Our Sponsors

  • San Diego Public Library

    Meeting Space and Refreshments

  • San Diego Academic Philosophers

    Eugene Troxell and others who have generously given time and expertise

  • Janice Mohseni

    Funding, Guidance, Food & Logistics

  • SD Philosopher's Rountable

    Well-prepared audience members, and advice.

  • Mark Wheeler, PhD

    Guidance, Encouragement Funding and Participation

  • Steve Barbone, PhD & Family

    Funding, Participation and Encouragement

  • Arthur Mitchell

    Funding and Encouragement

  • Brent Blackhurst

    Funding and Encouragement

  • Anonymous Donors

    Funding and other Support

  • Independent Scholars

    Papers and Readers

  • Our Hyper-Engaged Audience

    Attention, Questions and Moral Support

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Create your own Meetup Group

Get started Learn more
Bill

I started the group because there wasn't any other type of group like this. I've met some great folks in the group who have become close friends and have also met some amazing business owners.

Bill, started New York City Gay Craft Beer Lovers

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy