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A Simple Demonstration of Objective Morality on Atheism (in a Long-Winded Essay)

gustave-dore-cropMany theists and atheists alike claim that atheism cannot provide an objective basis for morality. And this concern perhaps more than any other turns many people away from atheism.

More and more I’m honestly puzzled by this deep concern many people have about whether morality is “objective.” I just can’t see the pressing practical relevance of the question, as surprising as that might sound, though that’s a discussion for another day. But in any event, let me suggest that morality is indeed objective on atheism, for what that may be worth. And this isn’t difficult to demonstrate.

It is commonly held that atheism can accommodate only conditional “if, then” subjective moral claims. For example, “If you [happen to] value your cat’s life and well being, then you ought not gratuitously harm your cat.” So let’s look at perhaps the most basic and immediate moral claim we’re all faced with: “If you value your own life and well being, then you ought to [all else being equal] act to preserve and maintain your life and well being.”

There’s a long discussion to be had about what exactly the term “objective” means in this context, and I’ll touch on that in a few moments. But for now, I take it that generally speaking, those who are concerned about the moral implications of atheism might tend to suspect or believe that, on atheism, it is more or less arbitrary for one to value one’s own life and well being, because one could just as well not value one’s own life and well being. And here we get to the crux of the issue: Far from being an arbitrary preference, the only coherent option we have is to value our own lives and well being. And that’s because we must exist and enjoy at least a modest degree of well being in order to make any value judgments at all. It is logically incoherent to debase, devalue, or take an apathetic position toward our own existence and well being, because these goods are necessary in the very first place in order for us to make any value judgments whatsoever. It is therefore an objective moral fact that we ought to value our own lives and well being, and thus we objectively ought to act to preserve and maintain these goods. So the conditional “if, then” disappears and a more appropriate formulation of this basic moral truth is: “Because you value your own life and well being [in the very act of living, breathing, and contemplating these issues, you are affirming the value of your own life and well being], therefore you ought to [all else being equal] act to preserve and maintain your life and well being.” And so we’ve demonstrated, on atheism, at least this basic moral fact, and thus we already can see that it’s incorrect to claim that atheism cannot provide an objective basis for morality.

The obvious question at this point is, “What about other people?” Perhaps we’ve established that we objectively ought to act in accordance with the value we have for our own lives and well being, but if that’s all we can say then we obviously haven’t made very much progress toward a workable ethical system. Yet hopefully it shouldn’t be too surprising that additional moral facts follow from and are implied by the foundational moral fact we’ve just discussed, though that would take us far beyond the scope of this essay, and it’s not directly relevant to my argument here in any event. I set out to demonstrate that atheism can provide for objective morality, and in demonstrating the most basic moral fact of all, that goal has already been accomplished. And of course it’s the case that–whatever one’s meta-ethical views–applied ethics quickly becomes fraught with ambiguities and difficulties and it is often unclear how generalized moral facts or principles inform all the complexities of the various situations we might find ourselves in. Anyway, I’ll be sure to address a number of these follow-up conversations at various points in the not-too-distant future. First up is likely to be how the golden rule–or something very similar–follows from the foundational moral fact we’ve just discussed.

Now, one might object that the model I’ve outlined here amounts to nothing more than a sort of odd epistemological parlor trick. That on this model, morality is contingent on our own seemingly contingent existence, and thus moral facts aren’t ontologically objective facts “out there.” So here we get into that discussion I mentioned a few moments ago about what exactly is meant by the term “objective” in this context. I should note that some atheists defend moral platonism, a model on which moral facts do exist objectively “out there” as real ontological entities, of one form or another. However, this model becomes unnecessarily complex and difficult to defend, not to mention that it’s quite implausible, it seems to me. And I don’t think that moral ontology is really the common concern here anyway. The primary concern is whether on atheism there are moral facts (whatever the ontology of those facts) or whether morality instead is a matter of wholly subjective preferences. And we see that atheism has no problem providing a basis for moral facts–that morality is certainly not arbitrary or subjective. I suppose for those who are concerned about moral ontology, I would put the question to you: Why is a realist ontology important? Even if moral facts don’t have an independent existence of their own, wherever there are rational beings such as us, there moral facts will “exist” as well. So what’s problematic about saying that moral facts wouldn’t exist if we didn’t exist? If rational beings such as us didn’t exist, and thus there were no moral facts, who would be negatively impacted by such a state of affairs?

Another common related concern is that even if atheism can provide for moral facts, what about moral obligations? In other words, sure, there may be moral facts, but why actually try to act in light of them? First, it’s obvious but perhaps important to point out that even on theism there’s nothing physically coercing us to behave morally. Clearly, then, what one might be concerned about here is the consequences of our actions, and specifically those consequences which might be uniquely imposed by God (eg, heaven and hell) rather than being apparently natural consequences of the reality in which we find ourselves (eg, the natural deleterious consequences of stabbing oneself). And here this discussion begins to get very complex, deserving an essay (or series of essays) in its own right, which would take us far beyond the scope of this essay. But let me say a few things briefly:

First, mere theism doesn’t imply anything in particular about divinely imposed consequences of our actions (whether in this life or in an ostensible afterlife). There’s a dizzying variety of opinion among theists on this topic, and any particular option here must itself be established over and above mere theism.

Second, the common assumption or inference that God is in the business of meting out consequences for our actions cannot be sustained. It isn’t simply that more needs to be established–beyond what mere theism establishes–about divinely imposed consequences. Rather, it’s that divine plans and intentions and actions are radically indeterminate on theism, and so we can’t draw any justified inferences about what sorts of consequences God is likely to impose. And thus theism can’t offer any genuine moral obligations above and beyond what atheism can. I’ll happily admit that this particular point is quite controversial, although it would take me too far afield to delve into it now. I promise I will, sooner rather than later.

Third (and this relates to the question of moral obligation but also to the earlier meta-ethical question of objective morality), it’s a directly empirical question–and a vastly complex one at that–whether or not theism (or certain brands of theism, rather) correlates significantly (if it does, and I have no reason to suspect so) with lower rates of (say) violent aggression than does atheism (or certain brands of atheism, rather). And that’s to say nothing of the further difficulty of teasing out causal relationships (if there are any, and I have no reason to suspect there are) between these certain brands of atheism and acts which by sweeping consensus are immoral (murder as opposed to same-gender consensual sex, for example). To reiterate, these are vastly, vastly complex empirical questions, and sloppy assertions that atheism encourages consensus immoral acts are quite simply irresponsible. Just as easily, I could sloppily and irresponsibly assert that theism encourages violent aggression, because it encourages tribal us vs. them attitudes. If one truly cares to genuinely establish any causal connections between a/theistic beliefs and consensus immoral acts, one has a mountain of very careful and highly technical empirical research to perform. And by the way, clearly this goes for atheists too, many of whom recklessly and harmfully assert (along with many theists as well) that, for example, Islamic doctrine widely serves as a primary motivation for terrorism.

Another potential objection is that perhaps it’s not clear what room, if any, this model leaves for acts such as self-sacrifice, martyrdom, euthanasia, or other instances of behavior in which one might (arguably, at least) reasonably value something more highly than one’s own life. I won’t spend much time here, nor wade into a thorny applied issue such as euthanasia, but instead I will simply note that nothing about this model implies that one’s continued life is necessarily the greatest good that one might value. In certain circumstances we might reasonably value other goods even more highly.

And I’ll touch on one other type of objection for now: Have I really demonstrated objective morality on atheism, beyond the slightest doubt? This is a misbegotten type of objection. There are precious few, if any, beliefs which can be demonstrated true beyond the slightest doubt. Even the claim “I exist” is conceivably false, if for no other reason than for possible semantic ambiguity in the terms “I” and “exist.” The epistemic question we ought (usually) ask ourselves isn’t, “Is this belief indubitably true?” but rather, “Is this belief probably true?” And even though objective morality on atheism is conceivably false (as are all propositions), nevertheless it is firmly demonstrable, and that’s what actually matters.

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Comments
  • Daniel Wilcox 4.3.15 at 2:13 pm

    #1 I agree with you that atheists can be as ethical as theists; it is often true, at least in my experience, that some nontheists are more ethical than the vast majority of theists.
    #2 But then you say,
    “And thus theism can’t offer any genuine moral obligations above and beyond what atheism can.”

    In my understanding this isn’t true of many famous atheists now, nor of almost any I’ve read or known in 50 years. Repeatedly many atheists emphasize that ethical oughts are no more than “preferences” based in culture, society, personal inclination, even as evolutionary adaptions or “misfires.”
    Furthermore, many atheists now are claiming humans don’t have any choice. And, if every human has no choice, then the word “ethical” has a different meaning from what various human thinkers have defined the word to mean.

    If I can’t choose, how in the hell;-) can I make an ethical choice? If my actions have been determined by the cosmos, nature, etc., then, of course, I am only a passive hitchhiker along for the ride. Sam Harris even claims, me, my “I” doesn’t even exist, but is an illusion.

    I beg to differ.

    #3 Which brings me back to what seems to be a confusing point you started with: “I’m honestly puzzled by this deep concern many people have about whether morality is ‘objective.'”

    Well, because if genital mutilation, rape, slaughter, dishonesty, etc. are only subjective, relative, even illusions, then those actions aren’t wrong, except in a particular individual’s or society’s subjective opinion.

    I think everyone is created equal, some doesn’t. I think fidelity is important, some don’t.
    When in Rome…?

    • Jeff Kesterson 4.4.15 at 10:57 pm

      Hi Daniel, thanks for stopping by again!

      I understand that many individual atheists happen to claim that morality is entirely subjective, but I’ve tried to demonstrate in my essay why atheism (simply: the claim that God doesn’t exist) is perfectly consistent with objective morality. Does my demonstration of this strike you as an ineffective one?

      As for determinism, there’s a fascinating and complicated discussion to be had here. I suspect that determinism is true, which certainly does mitigate moral culpability, but it certainly does not imply that moral oughts are therefore impossible or irrelevant. Indeed, by identifying and advocating for these moral oughts, it would seem that we help to bring about moral behavior (and it really doesn’t matter for our purposes whether or not that causal chain is fully determined).

      And as for my puzzlement with many people’s deep concern about whether morality is objective: Regarding rape, slaughter, etc, it is hard-wired into the vast majority of humans that these actions are immoral, and that’s true whether we ultimately conceive of these moral rules as objective or as (broadly, intersubjectively) subjective. The vast majority of us detest these actions and will do whatever we can to curb and eliminate them, even if we consider these matters ultimately to be about subjective preferences rather than about objective moral facts. I do happen to think that there are objective moral facts, but I also don’t see how anything actually practically changes by slapping the “objective” label on morality. As I mentioned in point three of my discussion of moral obligations, it’s a directly empirical question–and a vastly complex one at that–whether one’s meta-ethical views significantly impact one’s behavior. I suspect there is no significant impact to be found, and I certainly would need to see some thorough, careful, hard empirical data to the contrary before I changed my tune here to one of deep concern over meta-ethics.

    • Mike D 4.10.15 at 10:54 pm

      Daniel, I think you’re confusing a number of issues. Determinism doesn’t preclude an inability to have volition. I strongly recommend Sean Carrol’s essay “Free Will is as Real as Baseball”.

      You’re also being hasty in your use of “atheists” making various claims about morality without acknowledging the contexts of those claims. Understanding certain moral norms as evolutionary by-products (for example) is important to understanding why we hold certain types of moral values at all, but it doesn’t make them trivial or meaningless to us. I think if you took more time to understand the context of the claims you’re mentioning, you’d better understand Jeff’s essay.

  • Daniel Wilcox 4.5.15 at 12:39 am

    Thanks for responding (of course if determinism is true, then neither of us had any choice in the matter;-)
    It seems we are talking past each other. For instance, I don’t see how your statement “but it certainly does not imply that moral oughts are therefore impossible or irrelevant” can be true at all if determinism is true.
    Christians and atheist determinists claim that the rapist, the killer, and the liar have no choice. Well, if they have no choice, then of course, a “moral ought” can’t exist and can’t be chosen or rejected, so not only is it not only “impossible or irrelevant,” it appears to make no prose sense.
    But I’ve had this discussion and disagreement for over 50 years with Christian determinists. You don’t want to know how many Calvinists never tired of telling me that I both “ought” to repent, but yet at the same time told me I couldn’t!
    And now of late, since my deconverting, I’ve been told by many nontheistic determinists a variation. They say we are determined, have no choice, but we ought to do such and such. Huh?

    It seems to me that there is a lack of consistency by all determinists. For example, they claim the killer can’t help himself, but they say they the determinists can bring change. But of course they are also determined, so they can’t do ‘nothin’ either. Everything is being determined by the cosmos, fate, god, etc.

    What also kills any humanity to all of this is that if determinism is true, then the Holocaust, the 30 Years War had to happen, as will all future tragedies and horrors.
    And to throw a little humor in…so, too, I have to continue to think that determinism is destructive and dehumanizing…while you have to continue….etc.

    • Jeff Kesterson 4.6.15 at 8:10 am

      I guess to be clear, I’m wondering whether the question of theism vs. atheism has anything to do with your concerns about determinism and morality. For example, is determinism less likely to be true on theism than on atheism, in your opinion, and therefore theism has this advantage over atheism?

      Your specific concerns about determinism and morality make for fascinating conversation as well, but I’m first trying to understand how they fit within the context of the question of theism vs. atheism.

  • Daniel Wilcox 4.6.15 at 8:49 am

    Intriguing question. I forget now…maybe I’ve not mentioned my history. Briefly, for 51 years I as a committed Christian had a seemingly unending encounter and battle with Augustinians and Calvinists. It started when I was about 17 in 1964. A Christian youth leader (who turned out was a “Calvinist”) told me God sometimes calls Christians to commit immoral actions, and that God was calling me to do so, and then proved it by quoting Old Testament stories. Another early encounter was hearing a famous Calvinist leader lecture that “every rape and murder is planned by God”! Etc. Needless to say, I tried to avoid them, though it seemed predestined;-) for me to encounter them everywhere…and it got worse and worse. But I kept viewing all that horror as not the true Christianity. Sound familiar;-)?
    Finally, 2 1/2 years ago, the church where I attend promoted another book by a Calvinist minister who claims that every infant is in “essence,evil” and that God has a hidden, primary will where he has willed for most humans to be eternally damned, etc. And even one of the Christian organizations I had great respect for went Calvinist.

    I gave up my running battle of so many years, realizing that the small version of Christianity that I had experienced as a young youth can’t be true…etc.

    So I continued searching, and seeking. Even though I wasn’t an atheist, I went to atheist websites looking for hope.
    Instead, guess what? It turns out they too were promoting determinism, the only difference being that instead of God causing every rape and murder, all slaughter, etc., it’s the Big Bang or the Cosmos.

    And I got banned for a while from one site because I politely disagreed and explained why I thought humans have choice. And I encountered Sam Harris’ articles for hard determinism. (His first two books had some good points and I liked reading them; I don’t remember him claiming determinism, but rather that humans have choice.) Etc.

    Theism is heavily deterministic, 1,700 years of Augustinian-Calvinism; Islam since about 1200 C.E. is almost completely deterministic; the Greeks were heavily deterministic, etc.

    Atheism seems to be a more mixed bag. While the current crop of atheist leaders seem to be mostly deterministic, others in the past were strongly convinced humans have a choice. For instance, Albert Camus, who I admire.

    So to answer your question briefly;-), even though I am intellectually convinced that the cosmos has “meaning and purpose” (maybe some form of panentheism, Whitehead, Hartshorne, etc.), if I had to choose between atheism versus determinism, I would become an atheist like Camus.

    In fact, I suppose if I question my motives for why I chose to read your article, it is mainly because the title supported, at least seemed to, the concept of ethical choice.

    Does that answer your question?

    • Jeff Kesterson 4.8.15 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks for sharing some of your personal story Daniel! It sounds then as if we agree that the question of determinism has no direct bearing on the question of mere theism vs. mere atheism.

      To your concerns about determinism and morality, I honestly can’t say that I’ve dug very carefully and deeply into the main issues here. And perhaps the reason for that is that these issues strike me as intellectual curiosities (interesting ones, to be sure) rather than as truly pragmatically important issues.

      Whether or not we actually have libertarian free will, it seems that we have the phenomenological experience of free will. The latter is important to my human experience, the former not so much, it appears to me. I don’t know whether the past, present, and future have been/are deterministically set, but I do know that my actions can either help to create a better future or a worse one, and that from my personal frame of reference I have choices in the matter. And it’s important to me to help create a better future, and so I gain a strong sense of personal meaning and satisfaction from my efforts here, and a sense of sadness and dissatisfaction with my failures here. Sure, if determinism is true then even my sense of purpose and satisfaction/dissatisfaction is itself determined, but so what? I just can’t see why that ought to bother me.

      Now if theism and determinism both are true, then I’ve got a lot of dissonance/anxiety over the prospect of a supposedly “good” God planning and determining every rape and murder (or at least allowing these evils, on a non-deterministic theism). But if atheism and determinism both are true, then this particular dissonance/anxiety disappears. That’s not to say that on atheism rape and murder somehow lose their tragic sting, but it is to say that on atheism at least I don’t have the further worry about why a supposedly good God would intentionally orchestrate (or at least allow) these tragedies.

      Is any of that helpful?

  • Daniel Wilcox 4.9.15 at 11:01 am

    Jeff, Welcome back to another mystery tour;-)
    You say, “I do know that my actions can either help to create a better future or a worse one…” Last time I commented on determinism of how it negates that, at least according to atheists such as Harris, because according to him, there are no alternative actions so there are no better future or worse, and your “I” is itself an illusion, etc. One can’t even wonder why a “supposedly good God would intentionally orchestrate these tragedies” or why an indifferent Big Bang or Quantum Fluctuation fated everything including the illusion of choice, ethics, etc. because even those thoughts were determined too. I don’t think a thinker can get outside of the deterministic loop.

    But on to the more interesting question from your title:-)
    Can there be objective ethics if non-deterministic atheism is true?

    First, I think that there probably is because so many atheists (sometimes to a much better degree than theists) concentrate on and struggle with how to live ethically in the world, despite their seeming negation of anything transcendent. As I mentioned before, Albert Camus is a prime example. A.C. Grayling, whose book against bombing civilians I’ve read–excellent analysis of ethics related to war!

    But if there is no ultimate meaning or purpose, how can there be ultimate good or bad?
    Sort of like asking if there is no color in a different universe, how could aliens speak of green or red?

    You say, “It is therefore an objective moral fact that we ought to value our own lives and well being,” based upon logic.
    However logic doesn’t show something is necessarily real and objective; it depends on the presuppositions, right? Some Calvinists and Augustinians are very good at logical explanation but they start with faulty premises.

    Step outside of the human species, and if there is no objective truth ‘out there’ and the human species is meaningless as natural selection is claimed to show, then it would seem that any talk of “ought,” while maybe logically possible, isn’t accurate objectively. For if I as a thinking primate exist for no purpose, and nave no meaning, it seems difficult to see how I “ought” to value what is of no value.

    The old point of Hume comes up, one can’t get an “ought” from an “is”.

    You then say,
    “some atheists defend moral platonism, a model on which moral facts do exist objectively “out there” as real ontological entities,”

    I think a version of “moral platonism” is the best model for ethical atheism (though it seems to stretch the word ‘atheism’ to include pantheism and deism, etc.) Then ethics are objective in a similar sense to mathematics and aesthetics.
    Will the equation 2 planets plus 2 planets equal 4 planets still exist long after all human brains become extinct. etc.
    Yes, though there won’t be anyone to do the equation.
    Will raping, rapine, and slaughter, and dishonesty still be wrong and generosity, honesty, etc. still be right, even when all humans have become extinct?
    Yes. because any time another conscious, rational species shows up, or exists somewhere else in the universe or the multiverse, there too dishonesty, injustice, won’t be acceptable.

    The difficulty for moral platonistic atheists, though, would seem to be discerning “where” these transcendent truisms exist if there is no ultimate place-holder.
    For someone like Einstein, he solved it it seems by clarifying that while he didn’t think there was a “personal god,” he did think the universe itself was objectively beautiful in its structure–so thought objective truth existed within the universe itself.

    About 5 years ago I read an article on infidels.com which argued effectively for objective ethics, but now I can’t remember how he solved this problem.

    And Michael Shermer wrote The Science of Good and Evil trying to show ethics are “transcendent” a worthy undertaking, but I don’t think he pulled it off. Also, he doesn’t seem to practice objective ethics himself, according to news of late.

    It seems to me, too, that all non-deterministic ethical atheists and ethical theists are actually in the same boat–that objective ethics can’t be proven, though it has to be assumed.

    For instance, “equality.” Deists and a minority of Christians claimed this truth was “self-evident” back in the 1700’s. But the very fact that for most of the many past thousands of years of human history, humans practiced and supported the exact opposite, and that millions of humans continue to practice and support “inequality” (including millions of Christians and other theists)would seem to show this an illusion.

    Also look at hard science: human beings aren’t “equal” physically, mentally, psychologically, educationally, emotionally, socially, etc.

    So how in heck are they “equal”? It would seem to have to be a “transcendent” truism–one “up” there in the Platonic world of ideas and forms.

    And it seems to accord with reason and consciousness that humans “ought” to be treated fairly. Indeed, many ethicists think the objective “ought” applies to non-rational, but conscious sentient creatures too.

    However, this is disputed. Some atheistic thinkers disagree, arguing against equality for all manner of groups. Of course they do so based upon the idea that ethics aren’t obejctive, aren’t transcendent, aren’t universal, etc. Instead, ethics are “preferences.”

    On a practical note, I think the only way anything ethically gets done in history is to assume that ethics are “objective.” As long as a unethical behavior is only considered a preference, there is little chance it will be ended. The classic example, of course, is slavery. For thousands of years it was assumed to be fine, then for hundreds it was a preference (either for or against). Only
    when Enlightenment thinkers tried to show that slavery was always wrong in all of its forms, was it finally, at least by nations, abolished.

    What all this comes down to me is that even if there is no “objective ethical standards against slaughter, female mutilation, dishonesty, injustice, etc. and for compassion, fidelity, etc., there “ought” to be. So I come out where Camus ended up: even if the universe is absurd–has no meaning–it “ought” to and I plan to live for those oughts.
    Thanks for the dialog.

  • Mike D 4.10.15 at 10:48 pm

    This is actually a super-concise, on-point discussion of this topic. I haven’t fully embraced scientific moral realism precisely because you can’t seem to have objective moral facts without prudential concerns, and there’s no fundamental moral obligation “out there”, as an empirical fact, to value those prudential concerns. But you raise the point that those prudential concerns are both basic facts of human nature and necessary prerequisites to reasoning about moral values at all. And, uh, well said!

    • Jeff Kesterson 5.14.15 at 9:48 pm

      Sorry for the absurdly late response, but thanks for stopping back in Mike and for sharing your thoughts. Yeah I think one of the biggest obstacles here is that we tend to assume for whatever reason that for morality to be objective, there must be some “thing” objectively out there. But not so. If certain moral facts are basic prerequisites of moral reasoning (as I’ve tried to briefly demonstrate here), then we need not go chasing after implausible platonic accounts of morality in order to speak of objective morals.

  • Mark K 4.16.15 at 8:41 pm

    There has long been a division of thought between free-will and determinism, but is this dichotomy necessary? Could it be possible that they are both true simultaneously? I suppose that depends on how one personally understands both of these concepts and their consequences.

    What is the essential component of determinism? There are several branches of determinism, to be sure, but the crucial element is that there must exist a direct correlation between cause and effect. Otherwise everything happens chaotically and there is no understanding to be had at all (at least of an objective reality that goes beyond just the “self”). “How did I get here?” In the absence of cause and effect this question cannot really be answered definitively, we can only speculate and assume. There are then only free-floating random events which have no necessary connection between them at all.

    The German mathematician philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a supreme rationalist, advanced “The Principle of Sufficient Reason” which, briefly, is that; for everything that “IS” (exists) there must be a sufficient reason for why it is thus and not otherwise. In the absence of this principle what could we possibly know and understand objectively? Without it we slip into Solipsism or even Nihilism (if we are honest with ourselves).

    In the absence of free-will to speak of morality is meaningless. Minus a real free choice how can actions have any significant meaning? How are values labeled “good” or “bad” valid? But couldn’t one make a similar argument in favor of determinism supporting morality?

    If there does not exist a direct and necessary correlation between cause and effect then what could morality possibly mean in that context? If actions (causes) are not necessarily connected to consequences (effects) then morality could never be consistent (it would be random and chaotic) and therefore becomes arbitrary. When I write “consequences” it is important to note that I do NOT mean punishment/reward. What I mean, by way of an example, is that if you were to kill a person then that person would be dead. Your actions (killing) caused the effect (death). That point may seem so obvious and tedious that it may seem silly to state but the subtle difference is important to appreciate.

    For morality to be something other than nonsense TWO things are necessary; there must exist a real choice that we are free to make YET there must also be a direct connection between our actions (cause) and consequences (effect). For morality to mean anything valuable at all then there must exist principles which are objectively true beyond our own subjectivity. The principles themselves need not be considered “moral”, but nevertheless they inform any notions of morality. When I write “principles” do not think “Thou shalt not murder”, think instead “1+1=2”. To escape mere subjectivity an absolute (therefor objective) framework is needed. (As a side note, I declare that absolute framework to be mathematics itself, but a different discussion is to be had there.)

    What is religion really about? Theists would say “God/gods”, but is that true? Buddhists, as eternalists, do not believe in “God” (as conceived of as the perfect creator being of the universe). So there is no inherent contradiction between being both a Buddhist and an atheist simultaneously. Are they therefor excluded? Break it down as simply as possible and it will look something like this. Religion is concerned with the relationship between the “self” and the “other”. How each religion interprets each of these terms changes from one to the other. The “other” might be “God”, or it might be plural “gods”. The “other” may be essence/principle. The “other” may not be unified (“good” vs “evil”). The “self” may be an illusion (like Maya), yet illusion or not there it is. Religion is predicated on cosmology (and cosmogony), even if not explicitly stated. Cosmology informs religion, it also informs ethics. Under these considerations I would describe science, as an enterprise (or at least the scientific method,) as a religion (a way of relating to the “other”).

    Some may say that “I” is an illusion that does not truly exist. What is an “I”? a point of self-reference, a center of experience, a “unit” of existence. “I” is a subject. “I” is the origin/source of subjectivity. In a purely objective universe the very possibility of even the “illusion” of subjectivity is not permitted. What is the first objective truth you can affirm without a doubt? “Something” exists. What else can you declare safely? “I” (subjectivity) exist. “Something” objectively exists and so also do “I” (subject) exist (as both subject and object (not necessarily “physical”)). The very fact that a self-referential statement is even possible is proof in and of itself that subjectivity exists.

    For morality to be a coherent and meaningful concept then we need both an objective framework (cause and effect) and subjectivity (a self-referential “I” which is capable of making value judgments). For morality to actually matter it is not enough to say that “it” exists. In the absence of a conscious “I” there can be no reflection on past successes/failures, no reflection on the present situation, no reflection on future possibilities. An “it”, as an unconscious entity, reacts on survival instincts alone. There is no critical reflection process (that we can easily observe). Is a lion immoral? or a virus? or are they blind survivors?

    Some may try to claim that cause and effect excludes the possibility of choice. What is the justification (sufficient reason) for this? Take mathematics for example. In math there is an absolute correlation between cause and effect but that does not mean there are no choices in math. How many ways can you solve an equation? Well, I suppose that depends on the equation. But, perhaps there may even be an infinite number of ways to tackle any math problem, however we tend to stick to whatever we think is the most efficient method. In mathematics there is strict determinism of cause and effect and yet choice still has a place.

    All value judgments require subjectivity to even make them. That does not mean they cannot be informed by objective facts, such as the influence of chemistry, biology, genes, hormones etc. on sexuality. What then is the basis of morality? Many philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, concluded that reason is the true foundation of morality. I agree with that conclusion. A person is ethical (moral) insofar as they think and behave rationally. Both aforementioned philosophers set out an in-depth rational ethics arguing that we should sublimate our base appetites and desires with our reason to plan for better outcomes. If we plan for the future and act rationally we can achieve greater ends, not just for ourselves but for others as well. It is in our ability to act, as causal and subject agents, that morality becomes possible. Morality evolves in relation and proportion to our evolved reason. When an “it” evolves and becomes an “I” it also becomes a rational (moral) being.

    Those are my thoughts anyway.

    • Jeff Kesterson 5.14.15 at 10:10 pm

      Wow, thanks for the detailed thoughts Mark, and sorry (as I said to Mike as well) for the absurdly slow response on my end.

      To be clear, is your claim that contra-causal free will is necessary (though not sufficient) for coherent talk about morality? That seems to be Daniel Wilcox’s position as well, in his comments above. I can’t see how it’s correct, though.

      Here’s how I think about it: We necessarily value our existence and well being. And certain actions align with this value (they are “moral” in other words) and certain actions do not (they are “immoral”). So when I say that I ought to–all else being equal–take good physical care of my body, I’m simply making explicit the connection between the value I necessarily have for my well being and those actions which (I anticipate) will contribute to my well being. That’s it. It really is a metaphysically very simple connection. For the life of me, I can’t see how questions about the ontological status of free will have any bearing on this issue.

      It’s perfectly coherent, in other words, for me to say that murder is immoral, even if I’m a determinist. The issue of moral culpability is quite a tangled web, to be sure, particularly on determinism, but we need not untangle this web in order to speak meaningfully about about whether certain actions are moral or immoral.

      • Mark K 5.23.15 at 2:37 am

        First, I would like to note that I am not disagreeing with your initial post. My somewhat haphazard and inebriated response was aimed at the branching discussion which has gotten a bit off topic, and I took it on an even further tangent for which I apologize.

        Do I think it is possible to have a practical discussion on morality in the absence of another discussion on epistemology and metaphysics? Yes, I suppose so. But if ethics amounts to a code of conduct to govern relations then they are underpinned by one’s epistemology and metaphysics, are they not? particularly in regards to ontology, cosmology, and cosmogony.

        If I recognize only my own existence as truly ontological and everything “other” as some sort of creation of my own mind then my sense of morality (if it is even worth mentioning in this scenario) would be completely solipsistic and all my actions would be justified. For only my actions truly exist and there is nothing to compete with my will. Or if I were to grant ontological status to other minds besides my own but nevertheless concluded that, in terms of cosmology, I was the center of the universe then my sense of morality would still have failed to develop past one of solipsism. If I am the center of it all then it is all about me and what I want. My will be done! And I believe cosmogony is important, in terms of a discussion on morality, because how I understand my own origin and the origin of everything else (if I recognize anything else as ontological that is) is going to affect my understanding of where, in the grand scheme of things, I am currently. By comparing past origins to present circumstances a trajectory emerges which begins to form a teleology into the future of possibilities, all of which will affect my understanding and behavior in the present moment. A person may or may not have an explicit system of understanding for these philosophical issues but they still implicitly affect our thinking on what moral behavior is or could mean.

        Going back to cosmogony, how many origin points are there? Most people would probably say one? But that is not how I understand cosmogony. I understand there to be an infinite number of origin points, and so I understand there to be an infinite number of causal chains that interact with each other in mutual feedback loops. By contra-casual free will do we mean that causality and free will coexist but are at odds with one another? Well, that isn’t quite what I mean. By my understanding causality and free will are not only coexistent they are essentially the same thing, and conflict emerges from a multiplicity of origin points/casual chains interacting with one another. Then this conflict is the source of restraint on a truly absolute freedom. We are all competing, in a way.

        The way I see it, minds are the only conceivable initiating force when we take causality to its cosmogony. Crucially, however, minds need not be considered conscious by necessity, and neither do decisions need to be made consciously. Although I would say that a conscious decision is more meaningful then an unconscious one, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say unconscious decisions are meaningless.

        Should we make a distinction between determinism and predeterminism? Perhaps the former could refer to a scenario in which genuinely different options/choices exist and the decision is made/taken in the present moment by the initiating causal force (minds, by my reckoning) thus becoming historical fact. And then the later might refer to a scenario in which no alternative avenues exist, everything is fated to happen one way and one way only, and could not have possibly happened any other way. The way I see it morality makes sense in only the first of these scenarios.

        If everything is fated to happen in a precisely singular way then wouldn’t morality only be applicable in a retrospective sense? An event takes place, that couldn’t have happened any other way, and I assess it as “good” or “bad” after the fact. I may hope for more “good” things to happen in the future but if everything is fated then my hope is in vain and can have no affect on any outcome. If everything is fated then morality serves the purpose of what? to give our lives meaning and value? But if all things are fated and morality exists for the purpose of happiness then shouldn’t we conclude that everything is “good”, since it had to be this way, and therefore we should just accept and be happy about everything? If being unhappy about “bad” things cannot ever truly affect change to make it “good” then isn’t it just a waste of time and energy? Yet, then, even our assessments, conclusions and feelings of happiness/unhappiness must be fated as well.

        If there is ultimately only one origin point and we are all a part of the same causal chain then whence all this multitudinous differentiation? even the “illusion” of it is inexplicable. Does the fact of our various divergent assessments and conclusions necessarily imply a multiplicity of causal chains? Where else could the distinction arise?

        Someone like Sam Harris would say what? Our wants/needs are dictated to us and we have no choice but to act on them? So I eat because I am hungry. I am hungry because my body needs food to survive and function. Our hunger is involuntary and so too, then, are our actions. But couldn’t I choose to starve myself to death if I really wanted to? A bizarre choice, I know, but is it not an option? That would surely require an incredibly strong will to overcome such powerful impulses. As a similar relevant real life example think about the various people who have purposely self-immolated. That is the type of rare will-power necessary to overcome such strong impulses, but at least certain individuals have displayed such a will.

        I think you, Jeff, and I are united in our mutual disbelief in a creator god but I suspect our epistemology differs? If I understand you correctly your epistemology would be a form of empiricist materialism? Whereas I would describe myself as a rational idealist. So then you would perhaps describe mind as equivalent to brain, making mind then an epiphenomena of matter? Whereas I would say mind is “noumenal” (to barrow a term from Kant) and also “unextended” (as per Descartes’ definition) and that mind finds its expression in a mathematical zero-point singularity which I would then further define as a non-local Fourier frequency domain. And then brain matter would be merely an interfacing inverse Fourier transform.

        Isn’t culpability the desired endpoint though? To change undesirable “immoral” behavior in order to produce a better outcome. Isn’t the point of passing judgment in the first place to improve future prospects?

        • Jeff Kesterson 5.28.15 at 9:12 pm

          So Mark would you say you’re a compatibilist? I’m not quite sure that I’m following your view. I do agree that reflecting on issues of epistemology and ontology is very important, for what that’s worth.

          I may hope for more “good” things to happen in the future but if everything is fated then my hope is in vain and can have no affect on any outcome.

          That’s not true, I don’t think. Because your hopes, beliefs, intentions, critical thinking capabilities, etc, are a crucial part of the causal chain(s). They’re not removed from the causal chain as fatalism or defeatism might have it. You absolutely do have an effect on what happens, even if those things which make “you” who you are have been determined.

          Isn’t culpability the desired endpoint though? To change undesirable “immoral” behavior in order to produce a better outcome. Isn’t the point of passing judgment in the first place to improve future prospects?

          Sort of. I’m not quite sure about the world “culpability” because that’s a tricky issue which I don’t think really concerns us for the sake of this discussion. The point of ethical reflection, advocacy, punishment, etc–I take it–is to influence the hopes, intentions, etc, etc of ourselves and those around us, crucial as those things are to the chain(s) of causation and therefore to making a “better” future.
          And I don’t have a strong opinion at this point on the mind/brain question. I suspect the mind is wholly a product of the brain, but that’s a whole other can of worms. I can’t honestly say, though, that I was able to follow what you said about Fourier frequency domains and so forth :)

  • Daniel Wilcox 5.23.15 at 9:11 am

    Since my name and Sam Harris’ was brought up, I guess I need to respond. Of course, in my view it’s my choice. I’m not fated to do this. But in Harris’ view, if time were rerun a “trillion” times everything would be exactly the same. This “illusion,” meaning my “I” according to him would do exactly the same acts a “trillion” times. (See his and Jerry Coyne’s discussion on determinism at Harris’ website this week. Coyne agrees and says humans are “wet robots.”) How could ethics possibly exist in such necessity a trillion times over?

    Jeff, you say, “It’s perfectly coherent, in other words, for me to say that murder is immoral, even if I’m a determinist.

    No it’s not, other than that you had to say it because it was determined.

    If it is totally determined that everything that happens has to happen, and there is no alternative, then it wouldn’t seem to make sense to speak of what ought to be–because it can’t ever be, not in a trillion repeats.

    • Jeff Kesterson 5.28.15 at 8:55 pm

      Yes, if determinism is true then the all trillion reruns would be the same, but that doesn’t mean that it’s incoherent to speak of morality. Again, my view is this: We necessarily value (as a starting point) our own existence and well being, and there are actions which align with that value (they are moral) and actions which do not (they are immoral). Since “we” (that is, our desires, intentions, critical thinking capabilities, etc, etc) are a crucial part of the causal chain, then it’s not only coherent but furthermore it’s critically important that we reflect on questions of morality and advocate for what we and others ought to do. The only case in which it would be incoherent to speak of morality would be if some sort of fatalism or defeatism were true, wherein our desires, intentions, critical thinking capabilities, etc, didn’t appear to have any causal effect on the world around us.

  • Mark K 8.13.15 at 4:17 pm

    My view is rather similar to compatibilism, but not entirely. If compatibilism includes a rejection or avoidance of metaphysics then, in those regards, I am not a compatibilist. So what, for me, lies “beyond physics”? What is the ontological substance of the universe? The Arche? I think Pythagoras gave the correct answer 2,500 years ago, “all is number, number rules all”. That is, mathematics itself is the “stuff” of existence. Not “god” or “matter” which, to me, both seem very vague terms when compared to the absolute precision of mathematical definitions.

    I think the only way to truly explain causation is to be found in mathematics. The sufficient reason for all of ontological existence is explained accurately solely by mathematics alone. Science and physics are, like all things, merely a subset of mathematics. What caused the big bang? Creationists would say “god”, but then what caused “god”? If “god” needs nothing to explain his/her/its existence then why should the universe? Someone like Stephen Hawking would say it is pointless to speak of “before” the big bang, as “time” did not exist. But it is not meaningless to speak of the cosmogony of the cosmos, including that of the big bang event. Indeed it is one of the greatest questions one could ever inquire about. Does it not have an answer?

    Here is the problem, as I see it, with science, as it exists currently, and it is the same problem that plagues everything else that fails to fully explain (such as religion). Their shortcomings are a result of the them being insufficiently mathematical. Science has succeeded so spectacularly because it applied mathematics, but not in its entirety. Science, or empiricist materialism, only recognizes a portion of mathematics as truly ontological, namely finite positive real numbers. Science currently does not know what to make of imaginary numbers. They use them in their calculations and then filter them out of their conclusions at the end. This is mathematically unacceptable. Scientists also don’t quite know what to do with negative number results, and only really tolerate their presence in the form of negative charges. And finally, and most crucially, most scientists seem to reject the ontology of zero and infinity, the two most important numbers by far.

    If you, Jeff, recall at Dave’s wedding, I asked you what happens when you divide a finite quantity by zero. I believe your reply was “it is undefined”. Indeed that is what most people are taught in school, including myself. Zero is “nothing”, it has no ontological existence. At best it is a convenient place holder and nothing more, but is that true? Think of it this way. How many times can you take zero out of one? The answer is that you can do it an infinite number of times. Or to think of it slightly differently, how many times can you cut up a line? no matter what the length? If you divided a line in half repeatedly you would be able to continue doing this forever without limitation, infinitely many times. Division by zero is definable and its result is infinity. Zero and infinity share an inverse relationship, like two sides of the same coin. So if zero has the potential to create an infinite result then it is not truly “nothing” in an absolute sense.

    How many dimensions exist? Traditionally we have thought of it in terms of three dimensions (length, width, height), and later Einstein proposed “spacetime” with “time” being the fourth dimension. And now M-theory proposes eleven dimensions. What is the first dimension? A line. A line connects two points. A point is defined by the number zero. A point is the zeroeth (zeroth) dimension. Or another name for a zero point would be a “singularity”. A black hole is what happens when you divide a finite quantity by zero, it is also what differential calculus is ontologically. Something else interesting about points is that an infinite number of them can occupy the exact same spot (coordinate). Thomas Aquinas once asked how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. An even more precise question is how many dimensionless zero points can be superimposed onto one another? The answer is an infinite result.

    I am going to make a bold claim that “spacetime” is correct but that a four or eleven dimensional universe is arbitrary and false. They lack mathematical sufficiency. Every point, number, equation can be graphed onto a coordinate grid. The Cartesian/Gaussian grid is a complex plane that includes both “real” and “imaginary” numbers, both positive and negative. The complex plane is six dimensional. The cosmogony of this coordinate grid is founded on and from zero points (singularities). “Spacetime” is “complex”. Energy is mathematical sinusoidal waves interacting in six dimensions, three of “real space” and three of “imaginary space” (time). The cosmogony of all energy in the entire universe has its beginning in and from zero-point dimensionless singularities, and matter is just localized energy that exists on a gradation scale within complex space. Zero is the lower limit of existence and infinity is the upper limit.

    I apologize for being so long winded and I will attempt to show why I even bothered to take the time. How is this relevant?

    For me, any discussion of morality becomes murky without first addressing the issues of causation and the role free will does (or doesn’t) play in it. However we cannot resolve the issue of causation without addressing the issue of causation’s cosmogony. Did the universe explode from a single minuscule, but still finite (non-zero), super dense “egg”? Or did the universe originate from an infinite number of zero-point singularities everywhere simultaneously? Does the universe have a center? If it does then in terms of importance and magnitude that center has “god” status. One single causal chain? or an infinite number of causal chains interacting with one another in mutual feedback loops? One of these visions is mathematically complete and the other is not.

    How a person views morality will be, whether implicitly or explicitly, substantially affected by that person’s view of casual chain/s and how they personally see themselves fitting in the “pecking order”. “Respect your elders” because they proceed you in the causal chain and therefore have greater primacy in the pecking order. “Obey ‘god’ no matter what because he/she/they/it is THE casual chain that predetermines all things and all souls, even if that “god” orders a father to perform ritual sacrifice (murder) on his only son.”

    I think that, perhaps, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for theists that prevents them from embracing science and evolution and to also reject atheism is that these, by themselves, have yet to provide a satisfying answer to cosmogony and causality. People feel lost in what appears to them to be randomness. “Hello existential crisis!” Creationists have convinced themselves that “god” solves this dilemma, but it does not resolve the issue, it merely obscures it by pushing it to the background. “God” does not by itself truly answer or explain anything at all.

    In Fourier mathematics there exist two different ways to express the same mathematical information. Fourier transforms are non-local frequency domains. They are dimensionless zero-point singularities that can communicate across infinite distances in an instant, this explains “Pauli’s Exclusion Principle” which governs the quantum states of fermions (such as electrons). The other mode of information and exchange is inverse Fourier transforms which are localized expressions of energy (and by extension matter) in the Cartesian/Gaussian complex plane of “spacetime”. All singularities can communicate with one another non-locally in the frequency domain. The roots of causation’s cosmogony begins in the Fourier frequency domain, beyond the confines of “spacetime” in the zero/infinity domain. This may not seem to make sense in terms of physics but it does in terms of mathematics, which is what true metaphysics is all about.

    The entire universe is expanding but that does not necessitate a single origin point. It only requires a uniform set of laws to guide the cosmos’ expansion from all of its origin points, mathematics is that law. The expansion will not only over come the force of gravity but also electro-magnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. It makes no sense to say that the universe was created out of true and absolute nothingness, that is no mechanization that explains “how”, no sufficient reason for causation. And “god” doesn’t remove the issue either, but only adds another layer to the problem. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that the universe itself is eternal, existing in vast cosmic cycles beginning with a “big bang” (birth), expansion (life), and succumbing to complete entropy (death) when all energy in potential becomes fully actualized. Then a rebirth takes place. The cosmogony is not a single point but an infinite number of zero-points. From complete potential (zero) to complete actualization (infinity). That is the cosmic journey as I see it and we are each unique participants in that journey. From the Fourier frequency domain comes “spacetime” and then it returns again to its original form.

    Singularities are entirely mathematical “objects”. They are “minded” but not initially conscious. They begin in potential and become actualized through complex “spacetime”. A completely mathematical universe has a sufficient reason for everything and causation is inviolable. When a singularity (mind) evolves to the point of being self-referential and making statements like “cogito ergo sum” then I would consider it as a being with moral agency, or in other words rational capacity to reflect on its past, present and future actions. All energy in the universe has an origin and can be traced. An individual is responsible for their own energy output and its effects. Culpability measures in proportion to an ability to consciously understand and control one own actions.

    I agree with you that notions of theism/atheism by themselves imply very little, if anything, about morality on a practicable daily basis. I also agree, after you have articulated so well, that it is possible to have a practical discussion on morality without fully resolving the issues of causation, etc. However without addressing these deeper philosophical issues and challenging the axioms that serve as people’s starting foundation it seems likely that the results of such arguments will be greatly inhibited, especially if we are aiming for holding people responsible for their words and actions in order to build a more fair and beautiful future for everybody.

    • Jeff Kesterson 8.17.15 at 2:20 pm

      Wow Mark, there’s a lot here! Definitely interesting, and although I can’t help but suspect that it’s rather speculative material, I’d be curious to chat more about how you came to these conclusions.

      But first, am I understanding correctly that, in your opinion, the mystery of causation must be addressed at a deep level before we can have productive conversations about morality? Because I would certainly disagree with that. All we need–it seems to me–is the belief that “we” (that is, our intentions, memories, desires, etc) are a part of the causal chain. The issue of culpability certainly is a tougher nut to crack, but basic moral questions need not send us scrambling for a rigorous account of causation.

  • Mark K 9.8.15 at 6:00 pm

    I do realize that I have largely simply made bold assertions without taking the time to trek through a vigorous rational proofing process (and this may, I admit, exceed my own technical mathematical proficiency, which still has plenty of room to grow). I am painting broad strokes here, after all. So, in result, much of what I wrote will merely seem quite speculative. As for how I came to these conclusions, in exhaustive detail, that would require a lengthy discussion that we can save for a later time.

    I will concede to you that we can in fact have a productive discussion on morality without resolving issues of causation, which, to be frank, is a philosophical debate that may surpass the typical person’s intellectual abilities (and, yes, perhaps this includes myself). Many theists seem to believe that they alone have a monopoly on issues of morality, a mistaken belief that can be address without solving the mystery of causality. However most people, it seems to me, speak of morality with an intention to drive the discussion towards establishing some sort of legalistic system that seeks to control people’s behavior. So then the question must be asked just what, in fact, are we culpable for anyways? At which point the issues of causation and free-will become intractable barriers that must be overcome.

    To whatever degree we are in conflict on this topic, I do not mind agreeing to disagree.

    Here are a “few” final thoughts on mathematics, for the time being. (I opened a can of worms, and so this is not even really about morality at this point.) What is the status of mathematics? Is it merely an abstraction? If so then how strange is it that a mere abstraction (thought by some to be a human invention, although I would argue the exact reverse of that) accords so perfectly with the reality we encounter. If mathematics is the foundation of ontology then the mystery disappears immediately. If ontological then reality appears mathematical because the universe IS mathematical.

    Mathematics, as a system, is absolutely consistent and complete. Since it covers the full spectrum of numbers from the origin and center of zero out into every conceivable direction all the way to infinity, it therefore constitutes a perfect plenum and continuum, there are no unaccounted gaps (which is something science cannot claim for itself). Only by admitting zero-points and infinity is this possible. Mathematics is also (and this is absolutely critical) a closed system. By “closed” I mean that it never has to refer to anything “beyond” itself to explain it (something else science cannot claim for itself, and neither can “god”). Mathematics does not need science, or religion, or anything else to account for it, to have it make complete rational sense. Science, on the other hand, would be no better than astrology, alchemy, mysticism and voodoo if it were not for mathematics. Mathematics is the indispensable engine that make science even possible.

    Mathematics is a system that is a priori, analytic, necessary, eternal, immutable, deductive, and intelligible. Science is a system that is a posteriori, synthetic, contingent, provisional, ad hoc, inductive and sensible. Is it not clear which of the two systems is primary and which is secondary? Which is superior in every possible way? Mathematics is an indestructible adamantine edifice constructed upon axiomatic perfection that simply is incapable of failure. Science is not. 1+1=2 is a tautological truth (the same as saying 1+1=1+1) that has always and will always be true. Sure we could, if we wanted, adopt different symbols and sounds to express these concepts, but regardless the core truth they represent remain unchanged.

    Scientists often challenge religious folk to prove their faith’s validity, a damning stumbling block for religion for sure. But what do they mean “prove it”. What does that mean? They mean with empirical evidence that is experimentally verified, but is that the same thing as proof? No it is not. There is a vast graveyard of scientific theories that have been experimentally validated once upon a time but have since been disproved. Newtonian physics was supplanted by Einsteinian physics, which in turn is being supplanted by quantum mechanics. By contrast, once a mathematical proof has been discovered it is never and can never be disproved. This is the difference between what Leibniz labeled “truths of reason” and “truths of facts”. Truths of reason (mathematics) are true by the very definition of the variables therein. They can never not be true. This is what constitutes eternal and absolute truths. Truths of facts have beginnings and endings. Only rational (mathematical) proofs are true proofs, not to be equated with empirical evidence, which is inferior.

    Should we deny the ontology of the rational unobservables (by the empirical senses) of mathematics? What is the sufficient reason for such a stance? There is none, it is a dogmatic faith position of empiricist materialists. Absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence. Many people of faith use this to sneak their religious beliefs through the back door, a “god of the gaps” approach. This is illegitimate. Only mathematics is capable of escaping mere speculation. Hence why it is the true metaphysics.

    The overwhelming vast majority of modern day scientists subscribe to the meta-paradigm of empiricist materialism. This is a metaphysical assumption and they filter everything through it and dogmatically refuse to allow it to be challenged. We cannot begin with our conclusions, unless self-deceit is our purpose.

    I do realize that virtually no mainstream scientist has or will support my “theories”, but truth is not a popularity contest. What does truth care about our prejudiced beliefs, whether those beliefs are based on feelings (faith) or the senses (empiricism)? There is one scientist though that comes close, Max Tegmark and his mathematical multiverse theory. Although I would say that the Copenhagen “multiverse” interpretation of quantum mechanics (and it is only an interpretation) has already been rationally refuted by Leibniz’s principle of “compossibility.”

    Most people, that I know anyway, seem to loath mathematics and would be horrified to hear that it was the grand unified theory that explains absolutely everything, and oh what irony if it does turn out to be the final answer to everything. First of all because they are not yet rationally powerful enough to comprehend it beyond basic arithmetic (even that is too much for some people). Second because it is taught as a sterile and cold abstraction. But if true ontology is founded solely on mathematics then it is the very essence of life itself. I challenge you to think of one single coherent concept that is not a mathematically constructable expression. (This is just a mental exercise, no need to actually provide one, but if you think you have I would be interested to hear it.) Someone may be tempted to reply “but what about love?”, or something similar. Love is an emotion. Emotions are biochemical mixtures. Biology extends from chemistry, chemistry from physics, and physics from mathematics. So even “love” is mathematical.

    Science on the most microscopic scale is quantum mechanics, where we approach the Arche, the fundamental “stuff” of existence. Another name for quantum mechanics would be wave mechanics, or alternatively again Fourier Analysis. Pure mathematics. Science is currently grounded on an “unreal” unobservable quantum wave function that exists nowhere at all! And still they refuse to abandon their quasi-religious meta-paradigm of empiricist materialism. This “unreal” wave function arises from Fourier frequencies which are non-local, unextended, dimensionless and immaterial, entirely rational and yet still not ontological? Strange. They communicate with the local, extended, dimensional and material world via Fourier transforms and inverse transforms.

    Perhaps my most outrageously speculative assertion I made was by equating singularities with mind. Numerous scientists have proclaimed that the laws of physics break down at the level of singularities. A more accurate statement would be to say that this is exactly where the meta-paradigm of empiricist materialism breaks down, but they are not likely to admit that any time soon. However the laws of mathematics are perfectly intact within singularities, which are Fourier frequency domains. I can even tell you the precise mathematical equation that defines and explains them. Which is Euler’s Generalized Formula. This formula produces perfect sine and cosine waves of every conceivable variety, which is why I say energy is, defined mathematically, sinusoidal. Singularities are not “physical” objects but mathematical objects. Or to put it in slightly different terms if singularities are not physical entities then they are mental entities. To say they are mathematical or that they are “minded” is essentially the same thing. Both are about patterns, organization and order.

    Creationists claim the universe is the product of “God”. “Let there be light” it’s a miracle! Full stop. Empiricist materialists claim the universe is the product of a random quantum fluctuation in absolute nothingness, full stop. How is this any different from saying magic created the universe? Both are non-explanations. Both fail to provide a sufficient reason for anything at all. As theories of cosmogony they are complete failures. Mathematics does not suffer from this critical fault. Mathematics DOES provide a sufficient reason for absolutely everything, causation is inherent within the system and requires nothing extra outside it to help it along. For me to assert that the universe is eternal is a necessary result of me also asserting that the universe is completely mathematical. By mathematics’ very own nature it exists eternally. And the reason I assert that the universe is cyclical is a result of a massive mathematical pattern repeating itself over and over again endlessly.

    Also consider photons, which are mass-less, hence non-material, hence dimensionless. How very peculiar. What are they mathematically? They are pure “real” number cosine waves. Base frequencies from which extended complex spacetime is partially constructed, the other base frequencies being pure “imaginary” number sine waves, alternatively known as “chronons”. This can be demonstrated using Euler’s Formula and the unit circle that accompanies it, and refuting Einstein’s theory of relativity in the process. Once again, the difference between mathematical proof and scientific evidence is a significant one.

    I certainly do not expect anyone to accept what I have written uncritically on faith. That is an epistemological approach that I do not advocate. I seek rational answers to questions that do more than simply vaguely describe the world around us but actually succeeds in explaining it in certain terms.

  • […] well being. It’s not only that we typically happen to value these goods, but further that we objectively ought to value them. They are foundational goods of nearly the highest value possible to us, and only in extreme and […]

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