Book and Media Club: discussion

  • February 2, 2013 · 10:00 AM
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I’ve had a brainwave about the Book and Media Club, courtesy of a discussion at the last one.

 

I think we should give the club a focus for each year; that way we can feel like we are really making progress. We can examine a topic from multiple angles and really get a grasp on it.

 

This year, I propose we focus on morality: what is it, where does it come from, what are its limits, and any other question you can think of to pose about it. As was observed at a past meeting, pretty much every time an atheist gets into a debate, it ends up coming down to questions of morality.

 

For this Meetup, I will reprise the basic take I did on Sam Harris’s book, The Moral Landscape. Some of you have heard it before but others have not. What I did was not so much summarize the book as attempt to explain an underlying thought structure that makes it more comprehensible. I think that structure would be useful in thinking about any moral questions, so I’ll present it here as a tool that will be of use in future discussions.

 

Now taking volunteers for future Book & Media Club presentations on this topic! What’s your favorite text that addresses morality?

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  • Jay

    It seems I spend most of my time in the company of morons, then I come to one of these discussions and find myself dumbstruck by the intelligence of the people I am surrounded by. The skill with which these thinkers express their thoughts is a shock to my system. Thanks again to all.

    1 · February 3, 2013

  • Tom Y.

    The groups' thoughtful engagement, combined with license to speak frankly, probably brings my "freethought conversation deprivation" out. It was great to hear other voices of consideration and concern. Having considered the topic of discussion prior to the gathering was a real boost.

    February 2, 2013

    • Mark P.

      Great isn't it? So much different from the squirming that goes on in the true believers who are so afeard that the mere hearing of such skeptical notions as freethinkers discuss would doom them in an afterlife.

      February 3, 2013

  • Mark P.

    Is it too early in the year of morality to be discussing the effect law has on an individual's willingness to be the enforcer themselves in a realtime tuff moral dilemma? Doesn't it make us cowards when it comes to enforcing a perceived wrong when we don't have to expose ourselves to any of the negative consequences descending on the shoulders of the enforcers?

    February 3, 2013

    • Mark P.

      My analysis of my sense of responsibility for a death is somewhat dissipated by the spread of the responsibility that comes of having informed enough people that they too ought to have seen the potential for a death, but would not pursue correctives because of some inertial idea that they would be doing so alone. This shields me from my failure to accomplish good for fear of being castigated during the process I chose to accomplish that good. Being me it means I was a bad magician whose command and skill in producing the desired effect had not yet been perfected. Excuses, excuses all to shield myself from an obvious failure.

      February 3, 2013

    • Mark P.

      Summing up: If each of us had to enforce a moral standard rather than rely on the enforcement of law, would there be less insistence on compliance with a forced food standard at schools. Isn't society's shield of invincibility based on isolating individual's from enforcement of custom? I think if each of us had to personally enforce a moral decision on another; personally undergo the time, effort, and vengeful attitudes resulting from such an action that the real burden of responsibility would be too much and the shelter of a lynch mob would be needed to boost our bravery that comes of taking on such a responsibility; that if personally required to enforce our morality on others we would tone down the sense of responsibility that society says each of us should have for other members of society.

      February 3, 2013

  • Tom Y.

    I'm now inspired enough to actually pay for the The Moral Landscape. But then, we all do, don't we? I'll be showing up solo this time, because of a prior commitment to a drum gig.

    January 28, 2013

  • Mark P.

    But the instinct to survive,” he had gone on, “can be cultivated into motivations more subtle and much more complex than the blind, brute urge of the individual to stay alive. Young lady, what you miscalled your ‘moral instinct’ was the instilling in you by your elders of the truth that survival can have stronger imperatives than that of your own personal survival. Survival of your family, for example. Of your children, when you have them. Of your nation, if you struggle that high up the scale. And so on up. A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual’s instinct to survive—and nowhere else!— and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts.
    http://dwrighsr.tripod.com/heinlein/RatAnarch/

    January 19, 2013

    • Mark P.

      “He offered God a temptation and he bit. When Satan tempted Jesus, in the story of the Gospels, Jesus didn't bite. Evolution of God. In Job, it's a tale to explain the incredible inability of a god to prevent catastrophe to his human worshippers, no matter how Good they are in living their lives, and how even their children can be lost through no fault of theirs, no matter how perfect they try to be. It sort of foreshadows the later concept of Jesus that works alone cannot save you. In Job, nothing can.” ~ Cal Nordt

      January 20, 2013

    • Mark P.

      Nothing can. IMO that is the most accurate vision of the situation though unacceptable to the thumpers.

      January 20, 2013

  • Mark P.

    "The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to the individual." ~ Colonel Dubois from Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers' as is the next quote beginning with: "But the instinct to survive,..."

    January 19, 2013

  • Mark P.

    Heinlein I've found and operated from his morality principals as developed in so many of his sci-fi novels since I learned to read in grade school, the reading inspired by Heinlein, submarines, dinosaurs, and volcanos. Later pretty pictures got most of my attention.

    January 19, 2013

7 went

  • Janet
    Chairman of the Board, Flammifer, group founder, Organizer
    Event Host
  • Galen
    President, Fearless Leader, SAF, Co-Organizer
  • Jay
  • Tom Y.
    At-large Board Member, Assistant Organizer
  • Markus K.
    AT-LARGE BOARD MEMBER, Co-Organizer

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