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Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Moon is a Que Ball

I love analogies. I use them all the time. And it seems that I'm not the only one. I've heard and read analogies from a number of theists recently, attempting to refute a materialistic and objective worldview. From pool tables, to lunar atmospheres, to ice cream flavors, there have been plenty of analogies thrown around. These analogies have either had their components misapplied, or they have excluded important additional factors in an attempt to make the irrational and immoral choice seem "rational" according to their interpretation of objectivism. In each of these cases, the theist proposing the analogy is attacking a strawman. Some of these strawmen are propped up because of ignorance, and some may have even been propped up because of dishonesty. I am now going to take all of these analogies from the theists who have wielded them, deconstruct them in plain English, and show how each of these analogies is actually an argument in favor of materialism and objectivism.

Before we can deconstruct these analogies, we must ask the question (copied and pasted from www.whatisobjectivism.com): "Does consciousness have primacy over existence (subjective reality) or does existence have primacy over consciousness (objective reality)?" Objectivism states, of course, that existence has primacy over consciousness. In other words, reality will be what it will be regardless of the accuracy of our perception of it. So it is very important to obtain the most accurate perception of reality possible.

The first strawman to catch my attention was the pool table analogy proposed by Matt Slick on episode #47 of the Hellbound Alleee show. In this episode, Franc said, "Morality is the study of action - what is optimal action."

Matt Slick then replied "Whoa whoa whoa whoa. If morality is the study of action, then on a pool table, when you hit one ball against another you see the action that results from that is also the study of morality. The point is, your definition of what morality is, is highly insufficient." Matt Slick continued shortly "...You said morality deals with action. Pool tables deal with action, but watching the balls on a pool table strike one another is not an issue of morality, but of physics. Therefore, your statement...is not sufficient."

In this example, Matt's mistake should be obvious to everyone. Franc stated that morality is the act of evaluating a given situation and identifying the optimal choice or action. On a pool table, that would be equivalent to observing the positions of the balls on the table and determining the best available shot (making the choice). But Matt mistakenly equated it with what comes after the choice is made: the simple actions of the balls hitting each other. He misapplied the analogy. The mistake that Matt made seems almost too obvious to be accidental. According to CARM, Matt graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1991 with a Masters degree in Divinity and has been studying religion and debating people since 1980. That’s over 25 years! So is Matt making a simple one-time mistake, or does he totally misunderstand the concept of "making a choice," or is he doing it deliberately?

In any case, this pool table analogy actually ends up being an argument in favor of objectivism. This is why: On a pool table with a given arrangement of balls, there are only a handful of "optimal" or "moral" shots available, and sometimes only one optimal shot. The optimal shots are objective in that they will remain the same regardless of the shooter's perception. The shooters task is to properly observe the table and the balls, and determine which shot is the optimal one. The "moral choice" is an independent objective reality. It is most definitely not subjective, for the optimal shot on the pool table is not whatever the shooter wants it to be. Existence (the balls on the pool table) has primacy over consciousness (the shooters perception). Aren't analogies fun?

The next analogy is from blog comment poster Mark, where he said "Thus, for instance, the judgment that the moon has no atmosphere may count as an objective judgment, whereas my judgment that vanilla is the best ice cream flavor is subjective." Again, we have confusion over what "objectivity" is. Mark agrees that the moon objectively has no atmosphere (which means that the moon's lack of an atmosphere is true regardless of any conscious observers wish). But Mark makes a mistake in saying that his preference for vanilla ice cream is "subjective," for it most definitely is not. Mark doesn’t choose what his taste senses like the best. In reality, his taste senses tell him what to like by giving him positive and negative feedback. Mark's favorite flavor will be the flavor that gives him the most positive feedback out of all the flavors he's tasted. Mark likes vanilla objectively in that he is choosing the optimal action (favorite flavor) based on objective information (pleasure/displeasure feedback). Mark cannot "choose" to like the flavor of vanilla any more than he can "choose" to like the flavor of dog shit. In addition, Mark cannot "choose" to like vanilla the best any more than he can "choose" for the moon to have an atmosphere.

One important note regarding the moon/ice cream analogy is that Mark insisted that the fact that different people like different flavors makes taste subjective. But on the same token, not all lunar bodies in our solar system lack atmospheres. So atmospheres are subjective to particular moons in the same way that favorite flavors are subjective to particular people. This however, is irrelevant to objectivism's claim that existence has primacy over consciousness. All Mark did was point out that with different subjects (different lunar bodies or different people) there are different objective realities (atmospheres and favorite flavors). This is clearly a misunderstanding on Mark's part, as an objective reality is totally compatible with different lunar bodies having or not having atmospheres, or different people liking different flavors. The point that Mark is missing is that nobody can make reality (flavor or atmosphere) suddenly conform to his or her mere whim.

Subjectivity is a conscious entity's will that forces reality to conform to it (think: God's cartoon universe). In a subjective world, the optimal pool shot is whatever we want it to be, and dog shit would taste delicious on a whim.

Objectivity, by contrast, is a material reality that has primacy and forces conscious entities to conform to it, which as I have explained, is how things really are. Now its time for me to eat some of my favorite flavor ice cream: strawberry.

Post a Comment


22 Comments:

At 4/14/2005 2:56 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Shameless plug. New blog by me: Kill The Afterlife

 
At 4/14/2005 7:11 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Great deconstruction of the pool table analogy, Aaron. But I wonder about the ice cream analogy. While the neurochemical pathways in the tongue that are stimulated by individual foods are certainly not contingent on consciousness, isn't their perception? For example, I disliked many foods as a child that I like as an adult.

I guess what I'm asking is, in Objectivist philosophy, what are the limits of consciousness?

 
At 4/14/2005 7:34 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Nice Arcticle Aaron:
"One important note regarding the moon/ice cream analogy is that Mark insisted that the fact that different people like different flavors makes taste subjective. But on the same token, not all lunar bodies in our solar system lack atmospheres. So atmospheres are subjective to particular moons in the same way that favorite flavors are subjective to particular people."

I would rather say that atmospheres would be relative (not subjective) to what makes them what they are.

Likewise - our tastes are relative to what we have been given as part of metaphysical reality. I did not choose what makes my taste mine. This would account for differences in taste. One cannot choose to change one's taste because of the factors that make up our taste. Taste, then, is relative but not subjective.

Zach, right now I am looking over Kelly's "Theory of Abstraction." I think that he might say that this is a "pre-cognitive" state - but I could be wrong. I may post an article soon on this - we'll see.

 
At 4/14/2005 11:07 AM, Anonymous Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Very good article Aaron. I think you've hit the crux of the problem : the primacy of consciousness that is at the core of theism. That is "subjectivism" in its purest form. Anton Thorn writes a lot about this.

I think Thorn handles the question of mind-entities badly though. Even our personal preferences are regulated by natural law - they are not "subjectivist" creations of pure will. Our brain is subject to physical and psychological laws, and some professions (like military intelligence) rely heavily on an understanding of those psychological laws. To claim that even personal preference (if ice cream taste was one, which it is not) is "subjective" in this sense is disingenuous.

 
At 4/14/2005 11:14 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Thank you everyone.

And cadman offered a better word to use: "relative."

I think "relative" is more appropriate in this case than "subjective."

ZAach, regarding the ice cream, your tastes CAN change no doubt there. What happens, is that taste will change as existence (or reality) changes. We know that neither humans nor the environment they live in is static, and we also know that humans intake new information all the time.

So Zach, your tastes that changed over time went through those changes due to a change in the objective reality in which you exist, and due to a change in the information you had available. Perceptions can change, yes. A perception is only as good as teh effort you put in to it.

But regardless, you still cannot "choose" what flavors to like. The best you can do is influence your tastes by controlling the information you receive. As evidence, I will assert that your tastes Zach didnt change because you chose for them to. They changed all by themselves, outside of your direct control, due to your aging and maturing and the changes in your perpection of your objective reality. Reality still exhibited primacy over your consciousness the entire time.

:)

 
At 4/14/2005 4:53 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Aaron: So Zach, your tastes that changed over time went through those changes due to a change in the objective reality in which you exist, and due to a change in the information you had available.

Zach: Ah, I think I understand now. It all comes back to Determinism.

 
At 4/14/2005 11:53 PM, Blogger DavidCyrus declaimed...

I'd have to take the side of the argument that says... Aaron is wrong about the ice cream. He continues to insist that we can't choose to like a flavor of ice cream, implying through analogy that we can't choose to like, or dislike, any sensory stimulation, but rather, our preferences simply occur as an artifact of reality.

People constantly choose what they like by weighing multiple factors in their perception, and considering some factors to be more important than others. They don't follow psychological laws in doing so- they may exhibit choices that sometimes support psychological theories, but I remain convinced that a person can subjectively choose to like or dislike objects by conscious decision.

Furthermore, by agreeing that we can "influence our tastes" by controlling perceptual information, (or in my example, reconsidering one's personal formula for preferences) Aaron is supporting this argument, namely, that we do subjectively influence the effects that reality has on our preferences.

 
At 4/15/2005 12:52 AM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

David,

Just a word of caution... Get ready for an extremely long and boring 20 to 25 paragraph comment post asserting that you are wrong. Also be prepared for aaron to make up stories and attribute them to you and when you point that out he'll blame it on you by saying you were too vague or something similar (forget the fact that he assumes too much). :)

 
At 4/15/2005 12:57 AM, Anonymous Francois Tremblay declaimed...

"I remain convinced that a person can subjectively choose to like or dislike objects by conscious decision."

Demonstrate it.

 
At 4/15/2005 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

You see, Franc and Aaron did not choose to believe in determinism because of the stellar arguments for it, but rather the cause was the movement of non-rational atoms.

Let's see, shake up two cans of sodi pop. The coke and the pepsi fizz upon opening. Was the pepsi fizzing "truth?" Did the pepsi beat the coke in a debate? No, they just fizzed out their insides based upon the non-ratioanl laws of physics wordking upon their bodies. So, Aaron and Franc just fizz deterministically.

 
At 4/15/2005 2:26 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

davidcyrus said:

"I'd have to take the side of the argument that says... Aaron is wrong about the ice cream. He continues to insist that we can't choose to like a flavor of ice cream, implying through analogy that we can't choose to like, or dislike, any sensory stimulation, but rather, our preferences simply occur as an artifact of reality.

People constantly choose what they like by weighing multiple factors in their perception, and considering some factors to be more important than others. They don't follow psychological laws in doing so- they may exhibit choices that sometimes support psychological theories, but I remain convinced that a person can subjectively choose to like or dislike objects by conscious decision."

Demonstrate it. Propose an example. For example, you could tell me whether or not you can "choose" to like the taste of dog shit or bleach.

I assure you, I myself cannot even "choose" to like the the taste of coffee ice cream, much less dog shit.

"Furthermore, by agreeing that we can "influence our tastes" by controlling perceptual information, (or in my example, reconsidering one's personal formula for preferences) Aaron is supporting this argument, namely, that we do subjectively influence the effects that reality has on our preferences."

We can inderectly influence our decisions by limiting and controlling the information we acquire. This supports my objectivist reality argument in that it reinforces the notion that your preferences or choices are determined by your perception of an objective reality. You can only influence your preferences or tastes inderectly (through the controlling of your perception of the objective reality in which you exist), not subjectively (directly and arbitrarily "choosing" what tastes you like). If tastes were truly subjective and based on whim, then you, davidcyrus, should be able to "choose" to love the most horrible tasting thing imaginable, like bleach or rotten fish heads or dog shit. Can you do such a thing?

And just a word of caution, groundfighter76 gave up addressing my arguments directly. He made an appeal to ignorance and laziness in stating that my posts are too long and therefore must be false. And he has stooped to attempts to refute me through ad hominem attacks.

anonymous said:

"Let's see, shake up two cans of sodi pop. The coke and the pepsi fizz upon opening. Was the pepsi fizzing "truth?" Did the pepsi beat the coke in a debate? No, they just fizzed out their insides based upon the non-ratioanl laws of physics wordking upon their bodies. So, Aaron and Franc just fizz deterministically."

You are misapplying the analogy. didnt you read the "Moon is a Que Ball" post of mine? You are doing exactly what matt slick did in my deconstruction of the pool table analogy. You are confusing the consequence of a choice with the choice itself.

Theres nothing moral about a soda can fizzing. "Truth" a statement based on the correctness of your perception (whether your perception of reality is accurate of that objective reality). Morality is a choice... discovering the optimal choice in a given situation, as Franc already stated on the Hellbound Alleee show.

So in your soda can analogy, the morality would be the act of choosing whether or not to shake up the can in the first place, not the physical actions of the bubbles after the can is shaken. You should have read my "Moon is a Que Ball" post, because if you did, you would have avoided making the same mistake Matt Slick did.

 
At 4/15/2005 9:51 AM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

Aaron,

"And just a word of caution, groundfighter76 gave up addressing my arguments directly. He made an appeal to ignorance and laziness in stating that my posts are too long and therefore must be false. And he has stooped to attempts to refute me through ad hominem attacks."

Where have I made an "ad hominem". Every one of your posts has been excessively wordy with not too much substance. It was not an attempt at refutation just a word of caution. Not everyone has all day to spend on the internet like yourself.

ALSO WHERE DID I STATE OR IMPLY "YOUR POSTS MUST BE FALSE" BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO LONG. WHERE AARON WHERE? PLEASE SHOW ME. YOU HAVE LIED AGAIN. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I DON'T LIKE CONVERSING WITH YOU. Especially annoying are sentences like "Why do I get the feeling that only the atheists around here will read through this link?"

You also misunderstood anonymous' analogy of the soda can. Maybe he/she will come back and explain it to you as i don't have the time nor the patience.

 
At 4/15/2005 11:44 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

groundfighter76 said:

"Where have I made an "ad hominem"."

When you said this: "Get ready for an extremely long and boring 20 to 25 paragraph comment post asserting that you are wrong."

"Every one of your posts has been excessively wordy with not too much substance."

Excessively wordy, quite possibly. I'll admit it. See, in my writing style, I type alot, then I shrink it down as I proofread it. But sometimes I am in a hurry (My time is limited too) and I often dont have time to shrink down my posts before I post them. But without substance? I challenge you to support that assertion! And saying that I will write an extremely long and boring reply seems to me like an ad hominem.

"It was not an attempt at refutation just a word of caution. Not everyone has all day to spend on the internet like yourself."

This looks like veiled ad hominem. Are you implying something regarding the amount of time I have to spend on the net?

"ALSO WHERE DID I STATE OR IMPLY "YOUR POSTS MUST BE FALSE" BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO LONG. WHERE AARON WHERE? PLEASE SHOW ME."

It was implied. You wanted to discredit me or put me in a negative light. But you couldnt directly refute my assertions so instead you insulted me, thinking that the insults would somehow make my posts less "true" or "correct." Well, thats what people imply when they insult others at least.

"YOU HAVE LIED AGAIN."

No I read between the lines. I will admit though that I did aggressively attack your post and I may have read too much into it. The nature of your post annoyed me (youre not the only human being here) and I wanted to shed some intelligence onto your statements. You should realize, groundfigher76, that you opened yourself up and left yourself rather vulnerable to my reply. Next time you should be more careful in what you type.

"THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I DON'T LIKE CONVERSING WITH YOU. Especially annoying are sentences like "Why do I get the feeling that only the atheists around here will read through this link?""

LOL! Well prove me wrong and read that link and then make an intelligent comment about the link. Youre not the only one that can imply things in your statements.

"You also misunderstood anonymous' analogy of the soda can. Maybe he/she will come back and explain it to you as i don't have the time nor the patience."

So far thats an unsupported assertion. You claim that I misunderstand the soda can analogy, but you dont have the time or patience to deconstruct my post and show me how Im wrong? You certainly have plenty of time to read everything I type and get annoyed at me and make ad hominem attacks saying that Im a boring writer and all I do is sit on the net. It seems you have unlimited time to attack me as a person, but you never have any time to directly address my topics and statements.

Well groundfighter76, while you attempted to shoot some insulting jabs my way, I again managed to give you a smack down and demonstrate that if anyone is posting anything without much substance, its YOU, not me. The majority of your post is nothing more than attacks on my writing style and my character.

The only times in your post that you actually addressed my points, you said that I didnt have much substance, and you said that I misunderstood the soda can analogy. But in both of these claims, your assertions are unsupported. You didnt demonstrate how my posts dont have much substance, nor did you demonstrate how my deconstruction of the soda can analogy was wrong. You saved all your time for direct attacks on me.

Groundfighter76, may I suggest that in the future when you post here, you should stay on topic, rather than attack people. If you cannot address the topics directly, and if you cannot support the claims you present, then I suggest you dont post anything on the comments sections at all. I dont know about you, but I would prefer if these blogs do not turn into insult contests any more than they already have. So if you do decide to post in these comments again, I respectfully request that you do take the time and patience to show me why Im wrong in my soda can explanation. And I request that you do take the time and patience to show me why my posts dont have much substance.

And by the way, my analogies and deconstructions of pool tables and soda cans are as yet unrefuted. ;)

 
At 4/15/2005 11:59 AM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

I can't find the discussion that I was carrying on last week: so if anyone's interested, I've posted my reply to it here:
http://kamelda78.blogspot.com

 
At 4/15/2005 12:12 PM, Anonymous Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Aaron, don't feed the trolls.

 
At 4/15/2005 12:30 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Sorry Franc. I must admit that I gave in to temptation. I will try to watch myself next time.

 
At 4/15/2005 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

Aaron's slip is showing. What he didn't tell Franc is that he couldn't help feeding the trolls. He just responded because the laws of physics opperating on his body made him do so.

 
At 4/15/2005 4:22 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

anonymous said:

"Aaron's slip is showing. What he didn't tell Franc is that he couldn't help feeding the trolls. He just responded because the laws of physics opperating on his body made him do so."

So you admit then that reality is objective and has primacy over consciousness?

 
At 4/15/2005 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

I don't know what you mean by any of those terms, Aaron. They are not un-equivocal in the history of thought or philosophy. Stop with the Randian mantras. Didn't you write a post about you guys being philosophically acceptable? Your Randist sheeple behavior here isn't going to bode well for that post.

 
At 4/15/2005 4:53 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

"I don't know what you mean by any of those terms, Aaron. They are not un-equivocal in the history of thought or philosophy. Stop with the Randian mantras. Didn't you write a post about you guys being philosophically acceptable? Your Randist sheeple behavior here isn't going to bode well for that post."

Appeal to ignorance and ad hominem.

I really gotta stop feeding these trolls! Shame on me!

 
At 4/15/2005 5:43 PM, Anonymous Francois Tremblay declaimed...

You don't learn fast, Aaron ;)

 
At 4/16/2005 2:58 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

"Appeal to ignorance and ad hominem."

evasion and ignoratio elenchi

 

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