If all existence ends at death isn't hedonism the only logical lifestyle?

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jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 23 Mar, 2010 07:55 pm
@richard mcnair,
It is interesting that you won't rule out self-consciousness on the part of animals, on account of the fact that 'we don't have evidence of what they think', but appear to rule out the idea of a life beyond this one. How can there be any evidence for or against that? There are plenty of documented cases of children who remember their previous existences. Besides, it is not at all clear to me why the human person ought not to be a trans-historical process. Every element in my body has been around for a long while, and the individual personality is also a re-combination of elements - cultural, linguistic and psychological. The human is as much a process as an entity.

Religious systems are usually built around a reward and punishment scenario, whereby 'the evildoer' is threatened, and the virtuous rewarded, in accordance with their deeds. I guess it is religion on this level that is supposed to have been abandoned, by the question in the OP. In other words, given that we don't believe in heaven and hell anymore, is there any reason to seek virtue over pleasure? I do accept that Epicurus has a good answer, incidentally. I don't think it is the only answer, but at least it is a consistent philosophy, from what I know of it. On the other hand, it seems to me obvious that nihilism is a very common alternative to old-fashioned religion. It is all very well for intelligent and self-motivated individuals who are able to study such things as Greek philosophy, and live according to their principles. But I am afraid that for a large number of humans - probably those for whom the carrot-and-stick approach was actually created - the alternative will actually be the slogan of well-known social philosopher Bart Simpson: 'Whatever". In light of which, hedonism is quite a logical outlook.

---------- Post added 03-24-2010 at 01:44 PM ----------

I guess I should be careful with the word 'secular'. It may not be the word I am after. I am fairly secular myself. But I don't necessarily believe that it rules out past and future existences.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 23 Mar, 2010 10:00 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;142782 wrote:
It is interesting that you won't rule out self-consciousness on the part of animals, on account of the fact that 'we don't have evidence of what they think', but appear to rule out the idea of a life beyond this one. How can there be any evidence for or against that? ....


I will be brief, which you will probably not regard as satisfactory, but I don't know what version of things you are proposing, and this is going off topic.

From examining the human brain, there does not appear to be a spot in it which gets data from an immaterial soul. (Many early researchers wanted to find such a thing, as they were religious and wanted support for their beliefs, but there appears to be no such thing, judging from the evidence gathered so far.) The idea of an immaterial soul magically attached to a material body is problematic; how could two completely different things interact? How could something without mass or energy move something else with mass? Rather than go through the arguments about it, you can read an article on the subject if you want, of which I will quote a sample:

Quote:
Argument from brain damage

This argument has been formulated by Paul Churchland, among others. The point is simply that when the brain undergoes some kind of damage (caused by automobile accidents, drug abuse or pathological diseases), it is always the case that the mental substance and/or properties of the person are significantly compromised. If the mind were a completely separate substance from the brain, how could it be possible that every single time the brain is injured, the mind is also injured? Indeed, it is very frequently the case that one can even predict and explain the kind of mental or psychological deterioration or change that human beings will undergo when specific parts of their brains are damaged. So the question for the dualist to try to confront is how can all of this be explained if the mind is a separate and immaterial substance from, or if its properties are ontologically independent of, the brain.[35] Property dualism and emergent dualism avoid this problem by asserting that the mind is a property or substance that emerges from the appropriate arrangement of physical matter, and therefore could be affected by any rearrangement.

Phineas Gage, who suffered destruction of one or both frontal lobes by a projectile iron rod, is often cited. Gage certainly exhibited mental changes after his accident, though the extent of those changes is less certain. But undoubtedly this physical event, the destruction of part of his brain, caused some kind of change in his mind, suggesting a correlation between brain states and mental states. Moreover, in more modern experiments, it can be demonstrated that the relation is much more than simple correlation. By damaging, or manipulating, specific areas of the brain repeatedly under controlled conditions, for example in monkeys, and obtaining the same results in terms of changes in mental state each time, neuroscientists have shown that the relation between damage to the brain and mental deterioration is causal.

Argument from biological development

Another common argument against dualism consists in the idea that since human beings (both phylogenetically and ontogenetically) begin their existence as entirely physical or material entities and since nothing outside of the domain of the physical is added later on in the course of development, then we must necessarily end up being fully developed material beings. Phylogenetically, the human species evolved, as did all other species, from a single cell made up of matter. Since all the events that later occurred which ended up in the formation of our species can be explained through the processes of random mutation and natural selection, the difficulty for the dualist is to explain where and why there could have intervened some non-material, non-physical event in this process of natural evolution. Ontogenetically, we begin life as a simple fertilized ovum. There is nothing non-material or mentalistic involved in conception, the formation of the blastula, the gastrula, and so on. Our development can be explained entirely in terms of the accumulation of matter through the processes of nutrition. The postulation of a non-physical mind would seem superfluous.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind)

We could also talk about getting drunk; why does it affect thinking, if the mind is something distinct from the brain? The alcohol affects the brain, but how would that matter to a mind if it were something other than the brain or the functioning of the brain?

(I should add, "property dualism" or "emergent dualism" do not posit a separate substance that could "live on" beyond the body, so they are not relevant to the discussion.)

Now, if we are material things, we know what happens to the material at the end of life. So no afterlife.

If you want to pursue this line of argument, it should be done in a new thread, as this one is supposed to be about the idea of what impact the lack of an afterlife has on ethics, not about whether or not there is an afterlife.
 
Marat phil
 
Reply Tue 23 Mar, 2010 10:22 pm
@richard mcnair,
Between morals and hedonism there is no distinction.:: to live happily and have a clear conscience - it is simple. So learnt Epikur. The crime - is dangerous to you because you risk to lose freedom. If you even are atheist, you live in a society. To be released from morals - it is not possible. Police, friends and neighbours constrain permissiveness of some.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 23 Mar, 2010 10:32 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;142804 wrote:
If you want to pursue this line of argument, it should be done in a new thread, as this one is supposed to be about the idea of what impact the lack of an afterlife has on ethics, not about whether or not there is an afterlife.


I wonder if anyone has thought about whether the absence of belief in an afterlife has any bearing on the suicide rate?

There has been a big rise in the suicide rate in Australia, although it has come down again, due to the dedicated efforts of mental health initiatives such as Beyond Blue and Black Dog institute (more strength to them.)

But I would have thought that religious considerations might be important in this matter. After all, if death really is the end of everything, then I can see why, for so many troubled people, it seems so attractive. There are no consequences - well, none that the victim need worry about. But if the culture said that there were consequences in the next life, it might be a deterrent. (My personal view, which is Buddhist, is that every action must have consequences - I can't see any way around this, including dying. But of course, I don't expect many to agree with that.)

And again, people who are rational, reflective, and can set their own goals and navigate life - I don't think these are the kinds of people that the destruction of popular religious culture really effects. But from a public policy perspective, I think that materialism, of the type that says you only live once, and life has only the meaning you are prepared to give it, can't help but cause nihilism in the minds of many ordinary people. And I think nihilism - not a considered, reflective, philosophical nihilism, but a F*** everything nihilism - is actually a very common outlook among the Western young.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 12:00 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;142758 wrote:
So when you turn off your car, it is "resting" because it's "tired". The action is important, not the concept or the thinking. That way leads to silliness...

I don't get why you are acknowledging the important difference, but arguing with someone who is saying there is an important difference :listening:

You are trying to convince him of something he hasn't denied and presumably accepts, unless you are saying he thinks humans don't have basic drives?


So you think that what I'm saying is equivalent to saying that cars and animals are the same thing? That's what I call a far reach. I am saying that the action is more important than the concept in this instance because I used the word seek and the word seek is a verb. Our conceptualization of an instinctive drive is secondary to the existence of the drive. Animals (including humans) don't need concepts or language to seek out the end result of an instinctive drive. The confusion here is the relationship between concepts and actions. Seeking is an action and actions do not require concepts.

How am I trying to convince him of something he hasn't denied and presumably accepts? He apparently believes, as you do, that animals do not seek ends. He also apparently believes that the different characteristics that make us human also make us more than animals. I call that greedy inductionism.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 12:14 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;142812 wrote:
I wonder if anyone has thought about whether the absence of belief in an afterlife has any bearing on the suicide rate?

There has been a big rise in the suicide rate in Australia, although it has come down again, due to the dedicated efforts of mental health initiatives such as Beyond Blue and Black Dog institute (more strength to them.)

But I would have thought that religious considerations might be important in this matter. After all, if death really is the end of everything, then I can see why, for so many troubled people, it seems so attractive. There are no consequences - well, none that the victim need worry about. But if the culture said that there were consequences in the next life, it might be a deterrent. (My personal view, which is Buddhist, is that every action must have consequences - I can't see any way around this, including dying. But of course, I don't expect many to agree with that.)

And again, people who are rational, reflective, and can set their own goals and navigate life - I don't think these are the kinds of people that the destruction of popular religious culture really effects. But from a public policy perspective, I think that materialism, of the type that says you only live once, and life has only the meaning you are prepared to give it, can't help but cause nihilism in the minds of many ordinary people. And I think nihilism - not a considered, reflective, philosophical nihilism, but a F*** everything nihilism - is actually a very common outlook among the Western young.


I think that it often leads to nihilism because people have been indoctrinated with the religious belief that without religion there is no meaning or purpose to life, and when the person manages to throw off the shackles of religion, they do not manage to throw off all of the residue of their religious training, and so they believe such things.

As for the suicide rate, I expect that that will not be too much affected by a belief in an afterlife. People tend to make their beliefs conform to what they want to believe, rather than based upon evidence (otherwise, they would not be apt to believe in an afterlife at all). I discuss this a bit in another thread. So, with the belief in an afterlife, most likely, the person contemplating suicide will simply believe that they will go to heaven, or if they believe in reincarnation, they will get a new life here, and may then have a better shot at a good life. So I don't think that believing in an afterlife is really going to be much of an incentive to not commit suicide. Indeed, the suicide bombers of the world are generally motivated by the belief that there is an afterlife, so I think a case could be made for the opposite of what you appear to be asserting.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 03:26 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;143112 wrote:
I think that it often leads to nihilism because people have been indoctrinated with the religious belief that without religion there is no meaning or purpose to life, and when the person manages to throw off the shackles of religion, they do not manage to throw off all of the residue of their religious training, and so they believe such things.


Well I have well and truly 'thrown off the shackles' and declined confirmation as an Anglican at age 13, something I have never regretted. But I have nevertheless become, or remain, a very religious person, in the sense that Einstein was religious - not in an orthodox or denominational way. And what if the purpose of life is 'the cosmic religious feeling'? If you deny it, you might be denying something of great importance. (Einstein said 'atheists are those who still feel the weight of their chains.)
 
north
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 03:44 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;143217 wrote:
Well I have well and truly 'thrown off the shackles' and declined confirmation as an Anglican at age 13, something I have never regretted. But I have nevertheless become, or remain, a very religious person, in the sense that Einstein was religious - not in an orthodox or denominational way. And what if the purpose of life is 'the cosmic religious feeling'? If you deny it, you might be denying something of great importance. (Einstein said 'atheists are those who still feel the weight of their chains.)


atheists have what chains ?

atheists have a freer thinking than those boged down with religious dogma
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 03:59 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;143217 wrote:
And what if the purpose of life is 'the cosmic religious feeling'? If you deny it, you might be denying something of great importance. (Einstein said 'atheists are those who still feel the weight of their chains.)


I think he said "fanatical atheists are those...". Having been raised an atheist, I experience wonder at the universe with no conception of god attached. If I'd been raised religious I think I'd naturally go for a deistic kind of explanation. Not a big difference in my opinion.
 
north
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 04:16 pm
@Jebediah,
I was raised in a religious enviroment , and rejected it when I was 12:D
 
Marat phil
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 06:31 pm
@richard mcnair,
Apostle Jacob: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?". It can be simple atheists do not wish to go to church and pretend to be sweet and kind? To pay church gathering and to participate in charity? The atheist is always DOUBTING. The believer can be the fanatic only. IMHO
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 06:40 pm
@richard mcnair,
The 2007 biography by Walter Isaacson: Einstein - His Life and Universe has a chapter called 'Einstein's God'. He was not at all sympathetic to atheism. - one of the quotes says something like 'I know there are people who say there is no God, but what really annoys me is when they quote me in support of that view'. I do wonder whether this chapter was edited in light of 2006's The God Delusion, wherein the first chapter of which, A Very Religious Non-Believer, Dawkins tries to show that Einstein's view of religion was basically the same as his own - which I am quite sure it is not. Einstein was completely dismissive of religious orthodoxy, Jewish or any other type, and was very much a supporter of Spinoza's type of pantheism, as well as a generally intellectual type of mysticism. But he was equally dismissive of atheism, as that chapter will show.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 07:53 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;143327 wrote:
The 2007 biography by Walter Isaacson: Einstein - His Life and Universe has a chapter called 'Einstein's God'. He was not at all sympathetic to atheism. - one of the quotes says something like 'I know there are people who say there is no God, but what really annoys me is when they quote me in support of that view'. I do wonder whether this chapter was edited in light of 2006's The God Delusion, wherein the first chapter of which, A Very Religious Non-Believer, Dawkins tries to show that Einstein's view of religion was basically the same as his own - which I am quite sure it is not. Einstein was completely dismissive of religious orthodoxy, Jewish or any other type, and was very much a supporter of Spinoza's type of pantheism, as well as a generally intellectual type of mysticism. But he was equally dismissive of atheism, as that chapter will show.


The article I read was:

Einstein & Faith - TIME

Quote:
"I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."


Although I do wonder why we find his views on in to be so weighty Very Happy
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 07:58 pm
@richard mcnair,
actually the provenance of that quotation has been disputed by some scholars, which is a shame, because I particularly like it.

As to why his views on the question are highly regarded - actually, they're not, by many people. I have a book of the 'mystical writings of the world's great physicists', from which I quote pretty regularly, and which is always greeted with: well what do they know about philosophy, they're only physicists (hrrmmph).

I find the 'mystical' writings of Einstein (and Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrodinger, Jeans, and others) infinitely more interesting than any orthodox religiosity (or atheism, for that matter.)

---------- Post added 03-25-2010 at 02:08 PM ----------

Actually there is a point I want to make in regard to the original post. This is that religion (which is many things) actually sets out to solve a problem. The problem it sets out to solve is large, vague and ill-defined. Various religions have addressed it in various ways. But the issue is that the problem that it seeks to solve hasn't simply gone away. There are many who think that religious thinking just belongs to a bygone age, it is simply a relic from the days before science. Not so. The problems which it attempts to solve are real and ever-present, and while they are, religion won't simply go away, even though many wish it would.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 07:02 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;143347 wrote:
actually the provenance of that quotation has been disputed by some scholars, which is a shame, because I particularly like it.

...



There are certain people, like Einstein, who have had various things attributed to them that are of dubious origin. In Einstein's case, one ought to be very careful about supposed quotations because of this sort of thing being common with him.

As for that particular quote, I know nothing about it one way or the other.

I personally have gotten the impression that Einstein was a "polite" atheist, who did not want to upset the religious people, so he said that he believed in some sort of god upon occasion, though the god appears to be of no significance to anything he did. Or maybe he wanted to avoid the bigotry of religious zealots. (There are others who have been variously accused of being atheists who explicitly stated that they believed in a god or gods, such as Epicurus and David Hume, as, of course, one can have a strong motive to say something that isn't true. In earlier times, it was more risky to admit to being an atheist than in modern "western" nations, though even now, there can still be a cost. For example, even today, no one running for President of the United States would be wise to admit to being an atheist.) But I honestly do not really care what Einstein believed about religion, as I am not going to blindly follow him on that no matter what he believed. Still, his admiration for David Hume would be odd if he were religious.

Wikipedia has a slightly different take on him:

Albert Einstein's religious views - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One thing to remember is that statements made at different points in a person's life may conflict and still be honest, as a person may change his or her mind during a lifetime. And, of course, one may speak metaphorically rather than literally, and someone may lie occasionally for some motive or other.
 
Diogenes phil
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 05:55 pm
@richard mcnair,
Seems like human selfishness to me.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 06:39 pm
@Diogenes phil,
I agree with north. If you don't imagine you have a personal afterlife, you still have a kind of afterlife: the effect of your actions on the world.

So it comes down to this: your morality will be based on your outlook on the species. To the extent you believe in its ability to manifest its best possibilities, you'll act in line with that faith, helping to build things that will continue after you're gone. There are human stories that play out over centuries.... many lifetimes.

Those that have no such faith in humanity will act to secure their own pleasure with no concern for what they leave behind.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 11:12 pm
@richard mcnair,
I have discovered a very interesting new book on Amazon on this topic called Surviving Death by Mark Johnston. He is a philosopher of religion, rather than an apologist or theologian, at Princeton.


Description
Quote:

In this extraordinary book, Mark Johnston sets out a new understanding of personal identity and the self, thereby providing a purely naturalistic account of surviving death.

Death threatens our sense of the importance of goodness. The threat can be met if there is, as Socrates said, "something in death that is better for the good than for the bad." Yet, as Johnston shows, all existing theological conceptions of the afterlife are either incoherent or at odds with the workings of nature. These supernaturalist pictures of the rewards for goodness also obscure a striking consilience between the philosophical study of the self and an account of goodness common to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism: the good person is one who has undergone a kind of death of the self and who lives a life transformed by entering imaginatively into the lives of others, anticipating their needs and true interests. As a caretaker of humanity who finds his or her own death comparatively unimportant, the good person can see through death.

But this is not all. Johnston's closely argued claims that there is no persisting self and that our identities are in a particular way "Protean" imply that the good survive death. Given the future-directed concern that defines true goodness, the good quite literally live on in the onward rush of humankind. Every time a baby is born a good person acquires a new face.


Personally I believe something like this myself. I completely reject the idea that the personal identity which commenced at such and such a DoB and will end at such and such a date, fully describes the human being. Humans are more than a personal identity - they are members of a species, a society, a culture, a community, and many other networks of meaning and being. On the one hand, I don't think that I as a person will survive or have lived before, but on the other, I am also something more than just a personal ID.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 02:25 am
@richard mcnair,
actually after writing this post I realised I had already quoted the same passage before in this thread. Apologies. Anyway it is still relevant.
 
mediadrug
 
Reply Thu 22 Apr, 2010 03:44 pm
@richard mcnair,
hedonism is a selfish way of life, even though your existence may end when you die and even if there is no afterlife, the life of others will continue, and the selfishness of hedonism may adversely affect those who are still around after you die, so with respect to the happiness and wellbeing of others, hedonism is not logically or morally sustainable
 
 

 
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