Errors in moral reasoning

Events occurring and how they relate/affect Anabaptist faith and culture.
PeterG
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby PeterG » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:32 am

MaxPC wrote:
PeterG wrote:Max, I have indicated that I do not completely share your point of view, and that some of your recent posts seem inconsistent to me. I do not believe that that constitutes an attack.

PeterG wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but you yourself appear to have drawn conclusions about which posts in this thread are more correct than others.

Am I wrong?

Yes, you are mistaken; we are trying to parse a non-emotional approach and I believe you're seeing this through emotional lenses of one side vs another. I'm of the Biblical view when it comes to these matters. That's why I posted Matthew 7:1-3 and Romans 3:10-18.

It's important that we seek God above political indoctrination or bias. I believe it is Dirk Philips, the Father of Mennonite theology who can provide a good insight on these events as well.
.

To be clear then, you believe that all posts in this thread are equally correct?
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MaxPC
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby MaxPC » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:39 am

PeterG wrote:
MaxPC wrote:
PeterG wrote:Max, I have indicated that I do not completely share your point of view, and that some of your recent posts seem inconsistent to me. I do not believe that that constitutes an attack.


Am I wrong?

Yes, you are mistaken; we are trying to parse a non-emotional approach and I believe you're seeing this through emotional lenses of one side vs another. I'm of the Biblical view when it comes to these matters. That's why I posted Matthew 7:1-3 and Romans 3:10-18.

It's important that we seek God above political indoctrination or bias. I believe it is Dirk Philips, the Father of Mennonite theology who can provide a good insight on these events as well.
.

To be clear then, you believe that all posts in this thread are equally correct?

Sounds like you're not understanding me, Peter. It's not a contest. I believe that the Bible is correct.
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appleman2006
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby appleman2006 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:24 pm

haithabu wrote:I'm putting this under Current Events because it is highly pertinent to what is going on in American society right now.

Here are some common fallacies or errors I see people committing in assessing the right or wrong in various situations. This is not some theoretical philosophical discussion but I see them has having the potential to lead to real evil and disorder in society.


1) That moral responsibility is a zero sum game.

There is a tendency to interpret the criticism of one aspect of a position or action or event as a corresponding support for or justification for the other side. We see this repeated over and over in the near universal criticism of Trump's statements on Charlottesville. I myself just got my feathers singed on FB in trying to make what some others deemed to be inappropriate moral distinctions. But God judged Adam and Eve and the serpent separately for their respective sins without assigning any one credit for the contribution of others, and so He will each of us.

People who rely on the zero sum concept for self-justification are less likely to examine themselves for wrong actions and attitudes and are more likely to judge others harshly.


2) That passion is an index of virtue.

That your commitment to a value and therefore your virtue is measured by how vociferously and how intemperately you advocate for it. But I believe that moral reason is like a computer: it doesn't work properly over a certain temperature. In watching the storms of emotion rage through the body public today I am reminded of W.B. Yeats' words:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Movements which elevate passion in moral, religious or political questions are more likely to be complacent about extreme actions by their members and even though the majority may be otherwise reasonable people, the more extreme members tend to set the direction for the rest because they are assigned the moral high ground within the movement and are thus given the capacity to shame the more moderate members into following them or at least not opposing them.


3) A failure to balance values - the idea that one value should be supreme over others.

I think of justice and mercy as values which are conceptually opposed. Justice means to give to someone what is due them for their wrong actions. Mercy means to refrain from doing so. Yet both are necessary and the moral task of humanity under God is to balance the two. An exclusive focus on one over the other leads to objectively evil outcomes.

The same thing applies to human rights codes. A code contains a laundry list of rights and they are all listed co-equally, but there are various situations where different rights come into conflict. It is the job of courts to balance them in an equitable way. If the court were to privilege one right absolutely over another, the second right would be on its way to being nullified or marginalized.


4) ...and that therefore the end justifies the means.

If one value or cause reigns supreme in the moral universe, then petty considerations of reason, truth, integrity, fairness, compassion or legality may be subordinated to that pursuit. Stalin or Lenin are variously reported to have said "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs". The irony in their case is that though millions of eggs were broken, the omelette never arrived.

The problem with this thinking occurs on several levels:

a) The supreme Good that is pursued in the case of a utopian or millenarian or morally perfectionistic movement never arrives. It is either unattainable or the movement moves on in pursuit of ever higher levels of purity. In the end the movement breaks down and its adherents find that they have committed real evil in exchange for an illusionary good.

b) It degrades the person morally. He may persuade himself that these tactics are necessary to achieve his Good, but in the end he becomes his tactics or he becomes what he habitually does.

c) It is immoral (I would say wicked) because the practitioner of these tactics in effect is penalizing his opponents for their virtues. The pushing aside of certain values may give the activist a momentary advantage over his opponents - but only because they are not doing the same themselves. So someone who is committed to telling only the truth is punished for that because no matter what the truth is, the liar can tell a better story.

d) Which leads to the moral degradation of society as those depreciated values go out the window on all sides. Some may think of this as a temporary price to pay on the way to victory, but a society which loses the values of truth, integrity, fairness, civility, social peace and tolerance will not quickly recover them. A generation after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia still struggles to recover the freedoms and rule of law which were denied to it by the Bolsheviks.


5) Moral supremacism - the temptation to think that there is no wisdom or virtue or good faith on the other side of an issue.

Another word for it might be moral narcissism, only this is a narcissism which takes place on a collective level rather than just on an individual level.

This attitude makes its holders correction proof. It impedes their goals by creating unnecessary conflict and resistance to their ideas. Any movement which runs on this basis finds itself splitting into factions over time because its adherents will apply the same intolerance for dissent toward each other as they do toward people outside the movement.

I wrote in another post about "gratuitous hatred" which according to the Talmud was the cause for the destruction of the Jewish nation. The rabbis go on to say that this mutual hatred between Jews took the form of various faction disputing, then fighting, then hunting each others' members down over the question of who was the better Jew. Isn't this what is happening today? That Americans are starting look at each other with fear and loathing over the matter of who is the "better Jew". Or more accurately, who is the better white American.


6) Language abuse to muddy the water. Strictly speaking these are not usually errors but deliberate strategy. But for those who are taken in by them it does lead to errors in moral reasoning.

One is the use of constructive language to describe values, so that terms like "love", "Justice" and "tolerance" are used with special ideologically constructed meanings which are different from, and in some cases opposed to their common everyday meaning. This is wrong because unless those special definitions are made explicit they are deceiving to ordinary folk. They are often used manipulatively to put opponents into a false position where because they oppose the specific application which is being advocated, they are portrayed as being against the value altogether.

Related to that is the use of baggage filled cant phrases to express a position without actually reasoning it out or fitting it to the circumstances. "Person of color" is one such. It immediately invokes a narrative of oppressor and oppressed which is intended to produce a certain reflexive response to any situation where it is applied.

Both of these practices are described in detail by George Orwell under the heading of "Newspeak".


7) Outsourcing moral reasoning to others.

The idea than a group as a whole has a truer moral instinct than any individual in it is based in part on the idea of the wisdom of crowds. However studies where this has been tested for quantifiable matters (the only way this theory can really be tested) have shown that the principle only works when people reach their own conclusions individually without referring to others. So I suggest that the path to collective moral wisdom always runs through each individual's own moral compass.

When people look to the group itself as the ultimate moral arbiter, then its "wisdom" becomes an artifact of the views of its more dominant or vocal members and the benefit of collective wisdom is lost. In some cases, a relatively small but cohesive and coordinated vocal faction can create an apparent consensus where there is none and lead the group in a direction where most of its members in fact do not want to go.

Part of this view is rooted in my personal experience. As someone who was a socially awkward outsider, I learned in middle school that the group was not to be trusted; that individuals who were quite civil one on one could become publicly cruel while in the group setting. If the people I knew while growing up were at their worst in the group, why should I look to the group for my moral cues?

And looking at recent history: those who stood against Hitler (since everyone is talking about Hitler nowadays) did so in spite of, not because of the apparent social consensus around them. Those who went along did so because they did not trust their own moral instincts over the apparent values of their neighbours.


I just want to say that I see this as one of the clearest and best writings on this subject that I have seen in the last week and I have read a lot. I so wish this could be published where many more would read it.

I also saw a video put out by a young black lady on FB this morning that I think said it better than any of us ever could. It gave me hope that the majority will still rise up above the total garbage that has been promoted by someone (she blamed the media but I am not sure that it does not go deeper than that) ) that wishes to divide and conquer.

My biggest fear of what would come from Trump's election is coming even faster than I anticipated.

As Christians it is absolutely imperative that we see through this nonsense. If we do not we will in fact be complacent when the calls for a "just war" are called.

I am pleased at the strong and total unity I see in calling out white supremacy. Not one person here has a single good thing to say for it at least not that I have seen. Ad we all call it for the very evil that it is. Takes a lot of courage considering that well over 90% of people would agree with us. But I think it is still good for people to know where we stand even though it seems some people can say it tens of times and still are not believed.
But I am curious. Forgive me if I missed it. I have not seen one person condemn a senator for asking for the assassination of your president. Guess that is no big deal. Or is it because maybe half of America would actually cheer if it happened right now? Are we not saying it because that would take a bit more courage? Someone might challenge us.

But enough and maybe too much said. Right now I am trying to know how I can really show love to my enemies at a time like this. Showing love to a white supremacists or to a strong violent antifa supporter? Was that really what Jesus wanted me to do? Boy, do I ever have a lot of growing to do. You can pray that I find the wisdom and the grace.
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PeterG
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby PeterG » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:06 pm

appleman2006 wrote:But I am curious. Forgive me if I missed it. I have not seen one person condemn a senator for asking for the assassination of your president.

I find that kind of talk extremely disturbing.
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PeterG
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby PeterG » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:38 pm

[Note: A bug or something in the quote embedding was leaving out some of the content, hence the not-completely-embedded format below.]
MaxPC wrote:
PeterG wrote:Max, I have indicated that I do not completely share your point of view, and that some of your recent posts seem inconsistent to me. I do not believe that that constitutes an attack.

PeterG wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but you yourself appear to have drawn conclusions about which posts in this thread are more correct than others.

Am I wrong?

Yes, you are mistaken; we are trying to parse a non-emotional approach and I believe you're seeing this through emotional lenses of one side vs another. I'm of the Biblical view when it comes to these matters. That's why I posted Matthew 7:1-3 and Romans 3:10-18.

It's important that we seek God above political indoctrination or bias. I believe it is Dirk Philips, the Father of Mennonite theology who can provide a good insight on these events as well.
.

MaxPC wrote:
PeterG wrote:To be clear then, you believe that all posts in this thread are equally correct?

Sounds like you're not understanding me, Peter. It's not a contest. I believe that the Bible is correct.

Yes, I might be misunderstanding you, and it's certainly not a contest.

I noted that you seem to have determined that some posts in this thread are more correct than others, and I asked if I was wrong about that; you answered that I was indeed wrong, which would logically mean that you believe that all posts in this thread are equally correct. Feel free to explain how I am mistaken.

My point is that we all (yourself included, as far as I can tell) necessarily draw conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. I believe (as I assume that you do) that we can and must do this without disobeying Jesus' words in Matthew 7.

Romans certainly teaches that we are all sinners, and that none of us can claim moral superiority compared with others. But this does not mean that we address all sinners identically. If Person A is a thief, while Person B is a thief and a liar, we should address both on the issue of theft and, additionally, address Person B on the issue of lying, keeping in mind that both (and ourselves) share a fundamental moral status.
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PeterG
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby PeterG » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:39 pm

PeterG wrote:
appleman2006 wrote:But I am curious. Forgive me if I missed it. I have not seen one person condemn a senator for asking for the assassination of your president.

I find that kind of talk extremely disturbing.

Just to be clear, it's the state senator's talk that I find extremely disturbing, not appleman's. :)
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temporal1
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby temporal1 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:57 pm

PeterG wrote:
PeterG wrote:
appleman2006 wrote:But I am curious. Forgive me if I missed it. I have not seen one person condemn a senator for asking for the assassination of your president.

I find that kind of talk extremely disturbing.

Just to be clear, it's the state senator's talk that I find extremely disturbing, not appleman's. :)
.. it's not getting a lot of coverage, but ..
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt ... c5c58.html
"JEFFERSON CITY • Some of Missouri’s highest-ranking officials delivered on Friday an ultimatum to state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal: Resign or be removed from office .. ..


what is "extremely disturbing" is that DNC leaders, top-down, are openly attempting sabotage+removal of our sitting POTUS. extremely disturbing, but not altogether surprising, considering their behavior in the prior 8 years. so much in common with "banana republic" type governments.

in the U.S., individuals are apt to freely "say anything," behave badly, but leadership is held to a higher standard. or, it was.

George W was a notable example of this in his retirement, but, it's been expected protocol for retired U.S. presidents, and all elected+appointed representatives, to lead peaceful respect for their replacements, for the good of all.

these lines are now significantly blurred, altho, both obama and hillary have made public statements at times in the past, claiming they respect rule of law, election results, etc.
politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths .. that's long established, so, what can be expected?

many are interested in non-career politicians now, having been disappointed so frequently in the past. clearly, career politicians are furious. :evil:

praying we will somehow survive this mess. if so, it will be by God's mercy, nothing less.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby Bootstrap » Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:06 am

PeterG wrote:My point is that we all (yourself included, as far as I can tell) necessarily draw conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. I believe (as I assume that you do) that we can and must do this without disobeying Jesus' words in Matthew 7.


I agree. And while we wrestle with these questions, looking for the best way for biblical Christians to respond, it's probably best to avoid judging our brethren too much. It may well take time for us to see clearly together.

I believe that the Bible is correct.


Absolutely. That's one thing we all agree on. And I hope we also all agree that Nazis and KKK are evil, and threatened people who live in Charlottesville. I don't think "don't judge" means we can't see that. And if we want to think clearly, I think that's a good starting point. Compassion for those who were threatened by this evil hatred.

Back to the original post. In context, I think this is an error in moral reasoning:

1) That moral responsibility is a zero sum game.


The problem with this is that it forgets who the two sides are in the main event. The two sides are the Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists versus the citizens of Charlottesville that they wanted to intimidate. Let's call them the oppressors versus the victims. And the victims were not morally equivalent to the people who threatened and intimidated them. There were also people who fought back to protect the victims. That probably just poured fuel on the fire, and it was a really bad idea.

But let's not forget the people who were threatened and intimidated. Leaving them out of the picture is a huge "error in moral reasoning". And it's a huge error in Christian compassion.
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Robert
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby Robert » Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:22 am

Bootstrap wrote:And I hope we also all agree that Nazis and KKK are evil, and threatened people who live in Charlottesville.


Well, that is maybe part of my issue.

I do not. I see their ideology as hatred and very judgemental. I see their ideology as evil, but not the person spouting it.

I think their hatred is harmful and their actions often cause others harm. I think their desire to eliminate Jews and African Americans is sick. I see them as broken and their hearts dark. I do not see them as evil, but their actions often are. I see them as redeemable, but also realize that it is no easy feat and they can do a lot of harm before that might happen.

Maybe you were meaning the same thing and just used a shortened form of saying it.
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Sudsy
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Re: Errors in moral reasoning

Postby Sudsy » Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:39 pm

Robert wrote:
Bootstrap wrote:And I hope we also all agree that Nazis and KKK are evil, and threatened people who live in Charlottesville.


Well, that is maybe part of my issue.

I do not. I see their ideology as hatred and very judgemental. I see their ideology as evil, but not the person spouting it.

I think their hatred is harmful and their actions often cause others harm. I think their desire to eliminate Jews and African Americans is sick. I see them as broken and their hearts dark. I do not see them as evil, but their actions often are. I see them as redeemable, but also realize that it is no easy feat and they can do a lot of harm before that might happen.

Maybe you were meaning the same thing and just used a shortened form of saying it.


I so agree that we can judge what is sinful but we are not to be judging the sinner as in condemnation. As Mathew 5 says, leave the judging of the sinner up to God and in the mean time God is providing the rain on both the just and the unjust. We won't be set free of judging others if we don't view things from God's perspective as Jesus died for the KKK and their like just as He died for us. Sin takes on different forms and some are more ugly to most people than other sins but I believe a Christian mindset is not to categorize sins but to pursue what we can do to bring all to know the one who provides the power over sin.

As Robert says these that are seen as most despicable are redeemable. Just look at the apostle Paul and what he once was. He did considerable harm before being made a new creation and that will often happen in this fallen state. But Paul the chief of sinners became the instrument God used for most of our NT.

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others he'll do for you
With arms wide open He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

This is what man needs to know and experience.
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