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Thread: The fallacy of moral relativism

  1. #1 The fallacy of moral relativism 
    Forum Ph.D. Darius's Avatar
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    The concept of "moral relativism" is a very popular one today. The basic tenant is that morality itself is subjective, and therefore relative to the observer. This is an argument of ignorance, more than a logical conclusion. To believe that morals, that is; what is used to determine "right" from "wrong", is beyond objective study is to deny the accuracy or scope of science itself. Or, worse, to say science can observe the cause and effect of some things but arbitrarily not others.

    Science, by definition, can observe and study all physical phenomenon. All that is required is an accurate methodology. It's ultimately contradictory for scientists themselves to be on the side of "moral relativism", when doing so is basically to say not all things are observable (which in itself is a claim of metaphysics).

    How can morality be measured? By redefining moral terms in measurable variables. Rather than "good" and "evil", which are vague and ill defined, an action has long-term "positive" and "negative" effects. To deny that these can be observed is to suggest humans are immune to cause and effect, which is simply not the case. The variables to determine those effects are quite diverse; ranging from social, psychological, economical, population, etc. Generally concepts such as "enlightened self interest" also tie into this form of "moral absolutism".

    I therefore argue that, rather than be "accepting" of objectively negative practices, we should actively prohibit them. For example, the bombing of the trade towers has a very definite effect. Not only does it harm the world economy, but it also harms the bombing party (ironically) through that loss in economic status. There is no logical evidence that it helped anyone at all, even the cause of the bombers, as the result was a war that ALSO had a long-term negative effect.

    Moral relativism, on the other hand, would have us believe that it was okay in some reference frame. Maybe so, but that doesn't make that reference any less illogical. Therefore, I argue for the use of absolute morality, where things can be objectively defined in terms of logical parameters and scientific evidence, thus giving us an objective and "absolute" view of morality.


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    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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    Have you read Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic? I ask because he makes some important points regarding morality (and, as it happens, outcomes).

    His point is that if there are outcomes you can measure, then the issue is an empirical one and it simply depends upon what you want to achieve. However this is irrelevant to morality because there is still no way to decide upon what it is you want to achieve without arguing in a foundationless fashion.

    You don't have o agree with him, but if you don't, you will need some pretty strong arguments.


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    I don't agree with him, because he is wrong. You decide what to achieve based on the most probable and beneficial course of action. Enlightened self interest works in this exact same way. There's nothing "foundationless" about making projections based on current observations.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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    Darius I ask you this can your create a tool like a handle. Would not morality be like that, rather then a natural occurence it's a tool made by man. Look from one society to the next, each have a different tool, but even though there are different moralities much like you I agree only one can be right! However it is not right I believe becasue it's written into nature it's right, but because it is what you believe. You are the creator of what's right. You say the right morality is the one that benifits us the most. But what defines benifit? Nature? Did nature write into humans what benifits us the most. If that were the case would'nt we all have the same sense of benifit. Yet there are men killing each other over what they think benifit is. Nature didn't write into humans one key benifit, nature created us that we would have many different moralities, many different senses of benifit. It's "as if" nature felt it was right for us to have many different moralities. But that does'nt mean we have to agree with what nature seems to say. In fact nature made us so we would'nt agree with it. Thus conflict.

    But lets take a closer look at what your saying about benifit. You'v got to descide what your values are. And your hierachy of values. What values that belong to you are more important then other values?
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  6. #5  
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    Logic defines benefit. I swear it's like you've never heard of analytical thinking in any form whatsoever. It's not a question of "nature".
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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    OK so who's Morales are right? I'm not implying they are right because they belong to someone who is right, but it seems that morales are not as important as the tactics used to express them.

    You can't just do what a morale person does, you have to do things as a morale person does them.

    If you see a carpenter hitting nails, you can copy the act, but you can still end up missing a few times, ricocheting a good many times, etc, things are not always what they seem, and techniques is more important than action, you learn technique from action... ANY action.

    I'll take this from Yamamoto Tsunotomo, to paraphrase the way of the samurai "It is not your skill in defeating the enemy, it is your willingness to die for your cause"

    "Charge into battle with your head down, it makes your face dark and inspires fear in unworthy foes."

    "Victory is a matter of fate and destiny"

    I gather from this that there is a benefit to ignoring the consequences of your actions. What say you?

    What are the basics of right morality?
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    I gather from this that there is a benefit to ignoring the consequences of your actions. What say you?
    If you consider ignorance to be a benefit. It's well known that any thinker worth his salt does not.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  9. #8 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    The concept of "moral relativism" is a very popular one today. The basic tenant is that morality itself is subjective, and therefore relative to the observer. This is an argument of ignorance, more than a logical conclusion.
    It's not new. It's walking in another's shoes.

    It's not ignorance. It's empathy.

    I think what is new and ignorant, is the assumption that to fairly oppose another, one should rate their position "incorrect" or "irrational". Personally, I don't fret too much about being on the "wrong" side so long as I'm on the "good" side. What is good for human beings is not always mechanically efficient or supported by reason.
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  10. #9 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    The concept of "moral relativism" is a very popular one today. The basic tenant is that morality itself is subjective, and therefore relative to the observer. This is an argument of ignorance, more than a logical conclusion.
    It's not new. It's walking in another's shoes.

    It's not ignorance. It's empathy.
    I could just as easily say that it is ignorance of how those empathetic feelings are incorrect.

    I think what is new and ignorant, is the assumption that to fairly oppose another, one should rate their position "incorrect" or "irrational". Personally, I don't fret too much about being on the "wrong" side so long as I'm on the "good" side. What is good for human beings is not always mechanically efficient or supported by reason.
    I trust I have not (yet again) overestimated the ability of another by leaving it up to their reason to discover how beneficial an objective moral code would be. Especially in LAW.

    Moral relativism, if we are to accept it at all, can just as easily acquit senseless murder. From the relative perspective of a homicidal sociopath, it was right to do. If you have to put exemptions to the rule of "moral relativism", then it's an incorrect rule.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  11. #10  
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    "I could just as easily say that it is ignorance of how those empathetic feelings are incorrect. "

    And then you, like pong, will be held to established rules of debate: burden of proof.

    Please support your claims, both of you
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  12. #11 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    For example, the bombing of the trade towers has a very definite effect. Not only does it harm the world economy, but it also harms the bombing party (ironically) through that loss in economic status. There is no logical evidence that it helped anyone at all, even the cause of the bombers, as the result was a war that ALSO had a long-term negative effect.

    Moral relativism, on the other hand, would have us believe that it was okay in some reference frame.
    By the terms you've laid out, your version of morality also allows for the possibility that the attack on the World Trade Center was okay in some reference frame. If morality is to be measured in terms of its long-term positive and negative effects, then you have to concede that at some point in the future the September 11 attacks will have some unforeseen positive effect. I'm not saying this is likely, but in order to be scientifically honest about it we cannot preemptively dismiss the possibility of falsification (unless you want to put some arbitrary limit on what counts as "long term"), which means our "measurement" of the morality of the September 11 attacks is not absolute.
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  13. #12  
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    Sigh, poor Darius believes moral absolution can be found... How pathetic...

    Moral Relativism is more about understanding, not condoning nor condemning. It is not a tool by which a moral compass is to be crafted, but a tool to understand another person's moral compass.
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
    -Plato

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  14. #13 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I think what is new and ignorant, is the assumption that to fairly oppose another, one should rate their position "incorrect" or "irrational". Personally, I don't fret too much about being on the "wrong" side so long as I'm on the "good" side. What is good for human beings is not always mechanically efficient or supported by reason.
    I trust I have not (yet again) overestimated the ability of another by leaving it up to their reason to discover how beneficial an objective moral code would be. Especially in LAW.

    Moral relativism, if we are to accept it at all, can just as easily acquit senseless murder. From the relative perspective of a homicidal sociopath, it was right to do. If you have to put exemptions to the rule of "moral relativism", then it's an incorrect rule.
    Jeffrey Dahmer had body parts stashed about his apartment, including in the bathtub. He badly needed a shower. So, quite rationally, he took a shower.

    That was inhuman. We can and do condemn people for their inhumanity, regardless of their rationality. "Correct" does not always equal "good".
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Nothing wrong with morality being relative so long as it's relative to Jesus :wink:
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  16. #15 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "I could just as easily say that it is ignorance of how those empathetic feelings are incorrect. "

    And then you, like pong, will be held to established rules of debate: burden of proof.

    Please support your claims, both of you
    Yes, logical proof has absolutely no weight in a philosophical discussion whatsoever. It requires incredible knowledge to be able to use develop morals in an objective manner, and often times the best you can hope for is flexible guidelines that depend on context. Moral relativism isn't even trying, it's just giving up and allowing anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    By the terms you've laid out, your version of morality also allows for the possibility that the attack on the World Trade Center was okay in some reference frame. If morality is to be measured in terms of its long-term positive and negative effects, then you have to concede that at some point in the future the September 11 attacks will have some unforeseen positive effect. I'm not saying this is likely, but in order to be scientifically honest about it we cannot preemptively dismiss the possibility of falsification (unless you want to put some arbitrary limit on what counts as "long term"), which means our "measurement" of the morality of the September 11 attacks is not absolute.
    Oh for fuck sakes. It's also probable that your atoms will align perfectly and allow you to phase through your bedroom wall. Just because something is probable does not make it plausible, and this is the basis for absolute morality. It would be a ridiculous stretch of reason to assume something devastating to the economy can turn out good, when there are many historical examples of that not being the case. Ever. Must I point you to the history of Rome?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arcane_Mathematician
    Moral Relativism is more about understanding, not condoning nor condemning. It is not a tool by which a moral compass is to be crafted, but a tool to understand another person's moral compass.
    Then if moral relativism doesn't change your morals in any way whatsoever, due to "all morals being relative", you are practicing a form of moral absolutism and lying about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Jeffrey Dahmer had body parts stashed about his apartment, including in the bathtub. He badly needed a shower. So, quite rationally, he took a shower.

    That was inhuman. We can and do condemn people for their inhumanity, regardless of their rationality. "Correct" does not always equal "good".
    Um. How is it inhuman(humane?), when the individuals are dead? Some cultures dig up their dead during celebrations, are you going to call them inhuman? The suggestion that anything to do with the dead is "wrong" is based on subjective, not objective, reasoning.
    Om mani padme hum

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  17. #16  
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    "Moral relativism isn't even trying, it's just giving up and allowing anything. "

    No it's not, it's an idea, that morals are relative to one's cultural context. Your talking about nihilism.
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  18. #17 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    Just because something is probable does not make it plausible
    Precisely what I pointed out when I said "I'm not saying this is likely..." Not that there's any harm in reinforcing the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    It would be a ridiculous stretch of reason to assume something devastating to the economy can turn out good, when there are many historical examples of that not being the case.
    Which is why I didn't assume it. I don't buy moral relativism (as you've defined it) any more than you do. I'm simply pointing out that if you want to treat morality scientifically, then your claims about morality, like any scientific claims, are true only pending falsification, which undermines their status as "absolute." Your comments about World Trade Center attacks (a loaded die of an example if ever there was one) seemed to preempt the process of falsification, which I find to be contrary to a scientific approach.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "Moral relativism isn't even trying, it's just giving up and allowing anything. "

    No it's not, it's an idea, that morals are relative to one's cultural context. Your talking about nihilism.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.
    Your version of moral relativism is the factual observation: Every set of morals is relative to individual cultures with no defined constants. The philosophical concept of moral relativism, however, states what is contained in this quote. I obviously disagree, and state that there are definite empirical and logical methods for determining what is right or wrong.

    It's the definite equivalence of giving up intellectually. After all, it requires work to actually think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    I'm simply pointing out that if you want to treat morality scientifically, then your claims about morality, like any scientific claims, are true only pending falsification, which undermines their status as "absolute."
    That's the beauty of it, yes, but the majority of morals devised from this method are quite absolute. Morals, of course, being guidelines. The judgment of other actions, however, can often be in dispute.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  20. #19 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Jeffrey Dahmer had body parts stashed about his apartment, including in the bathtub. He badly needed a shower. So, quite rationally, he took a shower.

    That was inhuman. We can and do condemn people for their inhumanity, regardless of their rationality. "Correct" does not always equal "good".
    Um. How is it inhuman(humane?), when the individuals are dead? Some cultures dig up their dead during celebrations, are you going to call them inhuman?
    Maybe "If you have to ask, you'll never know". I'm guessing you are not so devoid of feeling, but for whatever reasons have detached intellect, and you test the limits of that detachment on forums.

    The thought of getting naked in a tub of decomposing corpses is universally repulsive. It's a gut feeling that can't be outwitted. The infantissamly small number of people who could do it, we're safe to judge inhuman.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    The suggestion that anything to do with the dead is "wrong" is based on subjective, not objective, reasoning.
    I didn't suggest "anything" to do with the dead. And why are you swerving away from my obvious points?

    Intellectual and utilitarian moral frameworks excuse monstrosities.

    Since our morals are to be human morals, we most appropriately base them on universals of human nature. Human nature is objectifiable and really plain to see... for most of us. :wink:
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  21. #20 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Maybe "If you have to ask, you'll never know". I'm guessing you are not so devoid of feeling, but for whatever reasons have detached intellect, and you test the limits of that detachment on forums.
    So in response to my question you claim tacit knowledge. That's like an argument. Only not at all.

    I didn't suggest "anything" to do with the dead. And why are you swerving away from my obvious points?

    Intellectual and utilitarian moral frameworks excuse monstrosities.
    Showering with body parts in the room is not a monstrosity. Though having committed the act may very well be. You've done absolutely nothing to prove this sudden assumption that intellectual frameworks excuse monstrosities, when the very opposite is true. Being clear in why things are as they are, it's far easier to avoid the many vices modern moralities contain.

    Since our morals are to be human morals, we most appropriately base them on universals of human nature. Human nature is objectifiable and really plain to see... for most of us. :wink:
    It pains me to be the only person wishing to become more than human. Defining morals based upon the vices of humanity is like curing someone by killing them.
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  22. #21  
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    "After all, it requires work to actually* think. "

    *unnecessary emphasis

    Yes, the brain uses something-like 30% of our calories on average.

    This is not to say: the same thought takes the same work for all people and at all times; or, the calorie cost of a thought is an accurate measure of it's truth.

    It might be so, but something like that can be tested experimentally. It may have been already.



    Anyway, this statement seems pointless. It takes work to move your arm up and down to, so whoever moves their arm up and down more must also be moving it in such a way that is more conducive to reality

    "It pains me to be the only person wishing to become more than human."

    And again your wrong, you are not the only person.

    Wishes are a very human thing, however. You mentioned Buddhism once in a discussion we were having, I assume you have been introduced to the principles of it. You seemed, at the time, to think you know all there is to know about Buddhism, and to embrace the philosophy. You mentioned that you change it to suit your needs, not in those words, you said something about making the philosophy better, and I argued that you are not making it better, you are making a new philosophy, and calling it Buddhism. Eliminating the primary fundamentals of Buddhism, freedom from desire(in this case wishes), it is clear that your understanding of what Buddhism, has been, is, and will forever be, is no bigger than your own imagination.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "After all, it requires work to actually* think. "

    *unnecessary emphasis

    Yes, the brain uses something-like 30% of our calories on average.

    This is not to say: the same thought takes the same work for all people and at all times; or, the calorie cost of a thought is an accurate measure of it's truth.

    It might be so, but something like that can be tested experimentally. It may have been already.

    Anyway, this statement seems pointless. It takes work to move your arm up and down to, so whoever moves their arm up and down more must also be moving it in such a way that is more conducive to reality
    Physical effort is not an indicator of psychological effort, with few exceptions. You should have thought of that, instead of spending so much effort writing to get a reply consisting of two sentences.

    And again your wrong, you are not the only person.

    Wishes are a very human thing, however. You mentioned Buddhism once in a discussion we were having, I assume you have been introduced to the principles of it. You seemed, at the time, to think you know all there is to know about Buddhism, and to embrace the philosophy. You mentioned that you change it to suit your needs, not in those words, you said something about making the philosophy better, and I argued that you are not making it better, you are making a new philosophy, and calling it Buddhism. Eliminating the primary fundamentals of Buddhism, freedom from desire(in this case wishes), it is clear that your understanding of what Buddhism, has been, is, and will forever be, is no bigger than your own imagination.
    I often wonder if anyone, most especially you, ever considers what the consequences would be if I was correct. If anyone ever goes to the trouble of walking through my arguments, contemplating the reasoning behind them. The only truth one can derive from doing so is "I do not understand, so please explain".

    As you have requested no knowledge, I cannot give any.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  24. #23 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Maybe "If you have to ask, you'll never know". I'm guessing you are not so devoid of feeling, but for whatever reasons have detached intellect, and you test the limits of that detachment on forums.
    So in response to my question you claim tacit knowledge. That's like an argument. Only not at all.
    Above you quoted only the preamble to my answer.

    You asked
    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    How is it inhuman(humane?), when the individuals are dead?
    and I answered
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    The thought of getting naked in a tub of decomposing corpses is universally repulsive. It's a gut feeling that can't be outwitted. The infantissamly small number of people who could do it, we're safe to judge inhuman.


    Quote Originally Posted by Darius
    Showering with body parts in the room is not a monstrosity.

    ...

    become more than human

    ...

    the trouble of walking through my arguments, contemplating the reasoning behind them
    We do contemplate, Darius. See that preamble again, for example.

    The reasoning you express on forums is severed from humanity. We've seen it before and it's characteristic of someone who cannot come to terms with feelings, so dismisses feelings and even shows contempt for them i.e. they should be mastered. I think your presentation of these symptomatic topics and continued dwelling on them betrays your dissonance - and that is a hopeful thought.
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  25. #24  
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    "Physical effort is not an indicator of psychological effort,"

    No?

    Then what magical fuel does the mind use if not glucose?
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  26. #25 Re: The fallacy of moral relativism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    The reasoning you express on forums is severed from humanity. We've seen it before and it's characteristic of someone who cannot come to terms with feelings, so dismisses feelings and even shows contempt for them i.e. they should be mastered. I think your presentation of these symptomatic topics and continued dwelling on them betrays your dissonance - and that is a hopeful thought.
    I do not seek dominion over my feelings. It is simply that, when weighing what is right and wrong, ones feelings must not enter into the equation. Feelings can easily be unjustified reactions, so they cannot always be trusted. One has to rely on what one knows, rather than what one feels, or else undue suffering can result.

    If I must describe myself, I am quite emotional, but I try to understand when my emotions are justified and when they are not.

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "Physical effort is not an indicator of psychological effort,"

    No?

    Then what magical fuel does the mind use if not glucose?
    You should know what was meant by the phrase quoted. The quoted text it responds to can be used to support the assertion, as you wrote all of that instead of thinking of a simple phrase. Your physical effort was much greater, but your mental effort was in the wrong place; thus, less.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  27. #26  
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    But surely: to be able to measure something, it must be physical; and to know whether something takes more or less effort, you must be able to measure it.

    Mental activity is physical activity, both use caloric energy, and can be measured by the amount of heat generated. Both are equally physical. The separation of mental and physical is an arbitrary appeal to dualist traditions, no?
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    But surely: to be able to measure something, it must be physical; and to know whether something takes more or less effort, you must be able to measure it.

    Mental activity is physical activity, both use caloric energy, and can be measured by the amount of heat generated. Both are equally physical. The separation of mental and physical is an arbitrary appeal to dualist traditions, no?
    I think, Marcus, that this is irrelevant to what was said. Please stick to the topic.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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