Marc Hauser: Moral Grammar

| 97 Comments

In earlier postings of mine, I mentioned the term “moral grammar” without providing the full references as to where the term originates and what it means. The term “Moral Grammar” was coined by Marc Hauser to describe a universal set or rules and principles to be used to build moral systems:

The core idea is derived from the work in generative grammar that [MIT linguist Noam] Chomsky initiated in the 1950s and that the political philosopher John Rawls brought to life in a short section of his major treatise A Theory of Justice in 1971. In brief, I argue that we are endowed with a moral faculty that delivers judgments of right and wrong based on unconsciously operative and inaccessible principles of action. The theory posits a universal moral grammar, built into the brains of all humans. The grammar is a set of principles that operate on the basis of the causes and consequences of action. Thus, in the same way that we are endowed with a language faculty that consists of a universal toolkit for building possible languages, we are also endowed with a moral faculty that consists of a universal toolkit for building possible moral systems.

Source: American Scientist The Bookshelf talks with Marc Hauser by Greg Ross

It’s also important to realize that the Moral Law theory does not prescribe what morality should look like

Hauser Wrote:

To be explicit, the theory that I have developed in Moral Minds is a descriptive theory of morality. It describes the unconscious and inaccessible principles that are operative in our moral judgments. It does not provide an account of what people ought to do. It is not, therefore, a prescriptive theory of morality.

To me, the concept of a Moral Grammar has significant overlap with the Natural Law arguments by Aquinas. In fact, some interesting observations can be made when combining the concept of Natural Law, the Bible and these scientific findings. In Romans 2:15, it is stated that the law is written on the hearts of believers and non-believers alike. If this is the case then we can make the following observations

1. Christians who argue that atheists have no principled foundations for their morality and ethics need to take another look at their Bible which contradicts their claims. 2. Of course both Christians and atheists can take these new scientific findings, one accepting that these rules were Created by God, while the other can avoid such conclusions by observing how these rules would have arisen via evolutionary processes.

97 Comments

1. Christians who argue that atheists have no principled foundations for their morality and ethics need to take another look at their Bible which contradicts their claims.

Unfortunately, the bible also contradicts its own claims. Old testament laws are at odds with both Hauser’s results, and the new testament. An “eye for an eye” vs “do as you are done by”.

One problem with this idea is that there is almost no behaviour which has not been acceptable, or even compulsory, in some society. Human sacrifice? almost everybody, so that must be one of the “unconscious and inaccessible principles that are operative in our moral judgments”. Sexual deviations? Don’t ask- incest for Egyptians, temple prostitutes, pederasty- all have been ‘holy’ somewhere sometime. Gluttony and deep drinking was the correct way to demonstrate leadership in Germany right up to the 30 Years War. Slavery, murder, and the forcible extraction of the widow’s mite were mainstream Christianity up to the nineteenth century.

Hauser’s ‘Moral Instinct Theory” parallels that of the Symonds ‘Mega Motivation Theory’ : “We are motivated by those Values of which we can conceive of nothing greater” :

Beauty Freedom Happiness Life love Peace Truth

Richard W. Symonds England

There seem to be rather more moral aphasics than such a theory would allow.

When neuroscientists prove that we have any generative grammar built in, we need to discuss how they evolved. Meanwhile, we have proof that symbol-like processing such as underlies grammars or other models of abstract thinking doesn’t need to be built in but can be learned by neural networks that work sufficiently like a real brain:

“Cognitive modeling with neural networks is sometimes criticized for failing to show generalization. That is, neural networks are thought to be extremely dependent on their training (which is particularly true if they are “overtrained” on the input training set). Furthermore, they do not explicitly perform any “symbolic” processing, which some believe to be very important for abstract thinking involved in reasoning, mathematics, and even language.

However, recent advances in neural network modeling have rendered this criticism largely obsolete. In this article from the Proceedings of the National Academy, Rougier et al. demonstrate how a specific network architecture - modeled loosely on what is known about dopaminergic projections from the ventral tegmental area and the basal ganglia to prefrontal cortex - can capture both generalization and symbol-like processing, simply by incorporating biologically-plausible simulations of neural computation.” ( http://develintel.blogspot.com/2006[…]cessing.html )

Unfortunately, the bible also contradicts its own claims. Old testament laws are at odds with both Hauser’s results, and the new testament. An “eye for an eye” vs “do as you are done by”.

Again, we need to look closely at more than the simple statement to understand why the OT was far more law driven. In the OT, much of the story is about the Jews and their travels. As a small group of wandering people it is essential to have laws to enforce strong internal group coherence, strong sexual morality and strong procreation, all for the survival of the group. Yes, the OT and NT may seem to be at odds with Hauser at a superficial level but I believe that ignores both Hauser’s claims and a careful study of the OT/NT.

Remember in the end, all that ties it together is survival. In the OT survival requires a far more internalized moral system.

Paul Burke Wrote:

One problem with this idea is that there is almost no behaviour which has not been acceptable, or even compulsory, in some society.

That’s not a problem, it merely shows that these rules of the moral grammar are shaped by culture, religion etc into moral laws. What Hauser is pointing out that there exist some (abstract) concepts which appear to be unique amongst cultures.

That’s not a problem, it merely shows that these rules of the moral grammar are shaped by culture, religion etc into moral laws. What Hauser is pointing out that there exist some (abstract) concepts which appear to be unique amongst cultures.

Then how is it possible to falsify the “moral grammar” theory? If it can explain both incest-as-religious-imperative and incest-as-deepest-taboo, if it is supposed to cover the human sacrifice of the Aztecs and pacifism of the Amish, then what is it actually purporting to explain? And what specifically is it predicting?

There is plenty of empirical evidence for some sort of universal structuring of human grammar. What is the evidence that such exists for moral reasoning?

Then how is it possible to falsify the “moral grammar” theory? If it can explain both incest-as-religious-imperative and incest-as-deepest-taboo, if it is supposed to cover the human sacrifice of the Aztecs and pacifism of the Amish, then what is it actually purporting to explain? And what specifically is it predicting?

There is plenty of empirical evidence for some sort of universal structuring of human grammar. What is the evidence that such exists for moral reasoning?

First remember that the grammar does not explain actual moral behavior and laws, it merely argues that there exists a universal foundation of ‘rules’ which get applied. What it explains is the almost universal set of rules of morality while accepting that cultures make variation of said rules. Same applies to languages, while a linguistic grammar may exist which is innate to us, languages are still shaped by society, time, etc.

Read the work by Hauser for a full overview. I can give some examples:

Atheists and theists do not differ significantly in morality. Animals show a level of moral behavior as well.

Theoretical predictions from both kinship selection as well as reciprocal altruism.

At the moment, moral grammar is proposed as a theoretical explanation of both theories about altruism as well as observations in nature and experimental data. I am not sure at this stage however, how one may venture to falsify the theory.

Is this a reason to reject the theory which ties together nicely some very interesting concepts? It may be a very good reason to reject accepting the theory until more data can be shown to support and/or falsify it.

From a review of Marc’s book we learn

Hauser begins the book with a bold theoretical claim: “we evolved a moral instinct, a capacity that naturally grows within each child, designed to generate rapid judgments about what is morally right or wrong based on an unconscious grammar of action.” Of course, the author does not believe that we are born with specific moral rules (e.g., “do not cheat on your spouse”), because this would not explain why different cultures have created different moral systems. Rather, his theory draws from an analogy to linguistics. In the 1950s, the MIT linguist Noam Chomsky began developing the view that humans possess a “language organ” that contains a universal grammar. This grammar, in Chomsky’s explanation, consists of universal syntactical rules and parameters that encode differences among languages. Learning the syntax of a specific language mainly involves setting the parameters of the universal grammar to the language-specific values. Using this theory as a blueprint for his own account, Hauser argues that we are endowed with an abstract universal moral grammar with parameters that encode cultural differences. [This argument has also been developed by John Mikhail in his doctoral dissertation (1) and a forthcoming book (2).] The moral grammar along with a variety of cognitive competencies underlies our morality.

The reviewer then continues to point out that Hauser lacks the details and ends with the notion that

Regardless of how convincing Hauser’s theory eventually proves, its boldness turns reading Moral Minds into a suspenseful experience. Near the end, Hauser reveals that he does not expect a definitive resolution soon and that he considers his theory a framework for future research rather than a summary of a finished project: “By leaning on the linguistic analogy, however, we open the door to these questions, and wait for the relevant theoretical insights and observations.”

Then how is it possible to falsify the “moral grammar” theory? If it can explain both incest-as-religious-imperative and incest-as-deepest-taboo, if it is supposed to cover the human sacrifice of the Aztecs and pacifism of the Amish, then what is it actually purporting to explain? And what specifically is it predicting?

Well, I guess the point is that while two cultures might disagree on the (im)morality of activity X, they will agree that the act is not amoral. The minimal set of such activities would constitute the universal moral grammar I guess.

So to prove the theory false, one needs to show that no such minimal set exists. Namely, show that that for every activitiy X, there are two societies which disagree about X’s amorality.

Yeah, sounds generally irrefutable.

I am confused why people are making such a big deal about the theory presented by Hauser, it provides for an exciting outline as to how we may start to begin thinking about how to tie together these often disparate findings. How does one show an innate foundation for morality? For instance via ‘experiments’ with children, and as some have stated, by comparing what is the commonality amongst cultures and other animals.

PvM wrote:

I am confused why people are making such a big deal about the theory presented by Hauser, …

I don’t see them making a big deal of Hauser yet. I’m can’t because I’ve only started reading up on Hauser. It’s not Hauser - but you - they seem to object to.

What jeffw, Paul Burke and Zarquon seem to object to is your attempt to turn this into some sort of Christian apologetic where Biblical morality is written on atheist hearts.

How does one show an innate foundation for morality?

That’s a good question, but it potentially carries hidden assumptions about what is innate. Which is certainly the case if you try to drag one specific religion into the picture ignoring all others.

Is it possible all morality is relative and culurally determined, shaped only by the necessity of keeping groups of human beings work together?

Is there really anything innate about what we normally call morality?

There probably is something innate, but I wouldn’t imagine you could find that in religion which overlays a lot of other things into the mix.

What jeffw, Paul Burke and Zarquon seem to object to is your attempt to turn this into some sort of Christian apologetic where Biblical morality is written on atheist hearts.

Actually, I am arguing that Christians have no cause to state that Atheists lack a principled foundation of morality and I am arguing that Hauser gives a reason why atheists and Christians share similar moralities in the end and I am arguing that Hauser’s findings should be exciting to Christians and Atheists alike.

That’s a good question, but it potentially carries hidden assumptions about what is innate. Which is certainly the case if you try to drag one specific religion into the picture ignoring all others.

I am limiting myself to Christianity because it seems to argue in favor of an innate morality and I am most familiar with Christianity. If Hauser is right we would find similar morality amongst other religions, societies, cultures etc.

Is it possible all morality is relative and culurally determined, shaped only by the necessity of keeping groups of human beings work together?

Is the pope catholic :-)

Is there really anything innate about what we normally call morality?

There probably is something innate, but I wouldn’t imagine you could find that in religion which overlays a lot of other things into the mix.

I am not sure what you are saying here.

PvM wrote:

Actually, I am arguing that Christians have no cause to state that Atheists lack a principled foundation of morality and I am arguing that Hauser gives a reason why atheists and Christians share similar moralities…

If so, then you need to be much, much more careful in throwing around names like Aquinas and Francis Collins and terms Natural Law without doing a lot of explaining. Those names and terms are linked to an argument that “morality proves God.” (C.S. Lewis also makes the same argument.)

Anyone who knows Aquinas and Francis Collins knows those arguments by them first and will suspect that’s the direction you are taking them, as indeed, you seem to here: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]_vs_sci.html

… I am arguing that Hauser’s findings should be exciting to Christians and Atheists alike.

So far I’m not impressed by Hauser.

Mirror neurons are also used in more detailed arguments for innate morality through sympasthy and empathy.

I am limiting myself to Christianity because it seems to argue in favor of an innate morality…

What’s in the Bible concerning “laws written on the heart” is an unsupported claim or assertion, not an argument. At best it can be called an observation made of all those who are not Christians in Paul’s time.

… and I am most familiar with Christianity.

Being familiar with only one religion will certainly distort any claims you make about religion generally.

Is it possible all morality is relative and culurally determined, shaped only by the necessity of keeping groups of human beings work together?

Is the pope catholic :-)

If it’s all culurally determined, shaped only by the necessity of keeping groups of human beings working together for their own survival, then how is it also “innate”?

There probably is something innate, but I wouldn’t imagine you could find that in religion which overlays a lot of other things into the mix.

I am not sure what you are saying here.

A lot of religion seems arbitrary, a lot of morals are made to aid the religion and priesthood, not the group. A lot of religious morality actually seems to make people more stupid and cruel, not less.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 54, byte 54 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Norm wrote:

What jeffw, Paul Burke and Zarquon seem to object to is your attempt to turn this into some sort of Christian apologetic where Biblical morality is written on atheist hearts.

I’m not sure that’s what Pim is trying to do here. However, I think Pim could use the bible as a rough (very) historical guide to the moral views held by the cultures who contributed to material in it, so long as he up front makes clear that:

-the implication that there is an external source of morality (as Collins, Lewis, etc. claim) has no evidential basis (I don’t think Pim is claiming this, but he should make it a priority to clarify it beforehand).

-the bible is only a tangential historical document, and was never meant as such, even if things of anthropoligical significance can be gleaned from it.

-the bible is just one of many such potential sources of such information, and other sources should be considered as well, if the bible is considered as a source of information about the state of a particular culture’s moral viewpoints to begin with. IOW, a broader approach than just “christians” is not only warranted, but should be at the core of Pim’s argument here, I think.

or, maybe I’m just reading too much into Pim’s argument here, and maybe it all just boils down to a simple attempt to reconcile differing viewpoints on the source of morality?

However, if the latter, I can’t figure out what on earth would be the point of saying something like:

2. Of course both Christians and atheists can take these new scientific findings, one accepting that these rules were Created by God, while the other can avoid such conclusions by observing how these rules would have arisen via evolutionary processes.

because AFAICT, these two statements are mutually exclusive.

I am arguing that Hauser’s findings should be exciting to Christians and Atheists alike.

Findings? What findings? If Hauser has any findings, they are not in evidence. And if I had any excitement about this, it wouldn’t be because I’m an atheist.

I am arguing that Hauser gives a reason why atheists and Christians share similar moralities…

Here’s an adequate reason: atheists and Christians are all human beings, and exist within the same culture.

Sheesh.

2. Of course both Christians and atheists can take these new scientific findings, one accepting that these rules were Created by God, while the other can avoid such conclusions by observing how these rules would have arisen via evolutionary processes.

because AFAICT, these two statements are mutually exclusive.

That’s no different, at base, from the fact that “Christian beliefs are true” and “Christian beliefs aren’t true” are contradictory.

I have no trouble with the notion that aspects of morality are evolved and thus it is to some degree “innate”, in fact I’m quite certain of it, and there is no news here – and certainly no “new scientific findings”. But referring to this as a “grammar” goes way beyond the evidence, and rides the coattails of a considerably more detailed theory of “deep structure” in linguistics. But far worse is that PvM’s insertion of the atheist/Christian element gets everything wrong. There are two underlying reasons that many Christians claim that morality comes from God: one is so that they can argue that, since there is a shared morality, there must be a God. The other is so they can state their own moral pronouncements as absolutes, rather than merely their opinion, on the pretense that they are just stating what God has decreed. The notion that God implanted us with “rules” that manifest as our moral judgments not only undermines these applications, but goes against Christian doctrines of free will and original sin. God told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple, they had the choice as to whether to obey, and they chose not to, out of their autonomous free will, not because God’s implanted rules failed to function. If this parable suggests anything innate, it’s inquisitiveness and resistance to authority – which are to be punished. As Bertrand Russell said, “What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite”, and “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence”.

If Hauser has any findings, they are not in evidence.

Ok, I see a finding in the interview. Apparently, Hauser has found that, if asked to decide between saving your best friend or five strangers, “normal” people will choose saving their best friend while people with damage to their frontal lobes will choose saving the strangers. Pardon me if the view that this supports a theory of a built-in moral grammar strikes me as a case of strong confirmation bias.

And if I had any excitement about this, it wouldn’t be because I’m an atheist.

Let me amend that a little. If Hauser’s work panned out and, as PvM seems to suggest, it led Christians to reevaluate their beliefs about the source of morality, such that they no longer claimed that atheists can’t be moral, then I would be … not excited, but glad of the consequence. However, I would glad of that consequence no matter how it came to be, and I have no reason to think that Hauser will have any more influence over self-serving Christian BS than any other science or reason has had.

There are two underlying reasons that many Christians claim that morality comes from God: one is so that they can argue that, since there is a shared morality, there must be a God. The other is so they can state their own moral pronouncements as absolutes, rather than merely their opinion, on the pretense that they are just stating what God has decreed.

If there is an argument from shared morality, how do you interpret Collins’ stance that it is that very morality that isolates humans as “special creations”?

It seems to me, that if the argument of shared morality was a pervasive one, that Collins would argue the exact opposite of that; animals documented to have morals equivalent to humans would support the idea of shared morality, yes? Even if it acknowledges homology and common descent instead of special creation.

believe me, I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell Collins is talking about, ever since that analysis of his book appeared on Talk Origins.

Coin wrote:

Hauser seems to have some kind of coherent idea here, or at least the basis for one, indicating a direction for future study into how moral systems arise and how they act.

Something slightly more detailed on how human beings become moral at the neurological level is here (like Hauser, also on the Edge website):

While mirror neurons seem a bit overhyped, there is still certainly a lot to think about there and it does tie into Hauser’s general ideas.

At least we’ve got a physical structure to explore and discover the limits of.

Is purpose the absence of purposelessness?

Oh whoa that is so deep

If there is an argument from shared morality, how do you interpret Collins’ stance that it is that very morality that isolates humans as “special creations”?

Shared among humans, not shared between humans and animals.

It seems to me, that if the argument of shared morality was a pervasive one, that Collins would argue the exact opposite of that

The fact that Collins doesn’t put forth a particular bad argument has no bearing on whether it is “pervasive”.

With regard to PvM’s original question for this thread, I suggest looking into the anthropological literature about hunter-gatherer societies. These, especially if not modified by being close to agriculturists, best resemble the way humans have lived for all but the last 11,000 years or so. This means that almost all genetic development had occur ed before agriculture.

Who knows? Arguing is fun, I suppose, but there seems little content in the entire thread for lack of facts. (The main and important exception is Torbjeorn’s post regarding neural nets. That will actually be useful to me…)

If there is an argument from shared morality, how do you interpret Collins’ stance that it is that very morality that isolates humans as “special creations”?

a) there is an argument from shared morality offered by many Christians b) shared among humans, not shared between humans and animals c) whether many Christians offer some argument has no bearing on how I interpret some person’s stance d) since I don’t think we’re “special creations”, I interpret him as wrong

It seems to me, that if the argument of shared morality was a pervasive one, that Collins would argue the exact opposite of that

Whether or not Collins puts forth some argument has no bearing on whether or not many Christians do, and I don’t know whether the pervasiveness of some argument would affect whether Collins adopts some argument or its opposite, but it certainly isn’t something he would necessarily do.

animals documented to have morals equivalent to humans would support the idea of shared morality, yes?

I’m not aware of any such documentation, and that’s way beyond Hauser’s claim. And why worry about animals when the best evidence for or against shared morality among humans comes from evidence about humans. In any case, many Christians assert common morality, and argue that this shows they’re right about God; it has nothing to do with evidence, or Francis Collins.

I’m not aware of any such documentation, and that’s way beyond Hauser’s claim.

sorry, i guess it’s a bit tangential, but I didn’t find Hauser’s postulations to be particularly interesting.

I was more interested, and have been for a while now, in analyzing what Collins had to say, as I both disagree with it vehemently, and wonder how he could ignore entire fields in biology and psychology to argue that morality indicates special creations.

as to examples of higher order behaviors recently being studied, there was an article in PNAS published last week on elephant behavior and morality you might take a gander at. Of course, that is built on earlier work with apes, and related to work on the study of altruism in general.

I posted a link to a news blurb on the PNAS article in the ATBC area, as it hadn’t actually come out yet:

http://www.sci-tech-today.com/story[…]133007INHI5O

bottom line, I understand what you mean, but the fact that we can point to the very behaviors that Collins thinks “special” to humans in other animals undermines the morality-as-indicator argument, and I begin to wonder why folks like Collins, who do have extensive backgrounds in related fields, don’t think to use common descent itself as a “theistic evolutionist” type of argument.

If you haven’t already checked it out (PT is so slow now, I’m not going to bother going back to check, hope you don’t mind), there was a very interesting kickoff to this discussion on the Talk Origins site (which was also posted on PT) a while back:

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Theistic.cfm

Popper may not have thought the following through when he wrote that

Popper Wrote:

But far worse is that PvM’s insertion of the atheist/Christian element gets everything wrong.

Everything? Really?… Such as?… Let’s see if Popper has any suggestions which are not based on a flawed understanding of Hauser’s research and arguments

Popper Wrote:

There are two underlying reasons that many Christians claim that morality comes from God: one is so that they can argue that, since there is a shared morality, there must be a God. The other is so they can state their own moral pronouncements as absolutes, rather than merely their opinion, on the pretense that they are just stating what God has decreed. The notion that God implanted us with “rules” that manifest as our moral judgments not only undermines these applications, but goes against Christian doctrines of free will and original sin.

And here lies the poor logic. If Popper had read Hauser, and my comments, he would have known that Hauser does not claim that this moral grammar predefines the moral laws, on the contrary, these are left up to the cultures and societies to formulate based on their specific circumstances. In other words, the idea that God ‘implanted’ us with a moral grammar neither undermines the notion of free will nor the Christian doctrines on such. In fact, that God has left the implementation of moral laws to society indicates that free will is not affected

God told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple, they had the choice as to whether to obey, and they chose not to, out of their autonomous free will, not because God’s implanted rules failed to function. If this parable suggests anything innate, it’s inquisitiveness and resistance to authority — which are to be punished. As Bertrand Russell said, “What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite”, and “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence”.

The rest of Popper’s comments (in this posting as well as thread) seem to be caused mostly by an unfamiliarity with Hauser’s position, the theological concept of Natural law.

Popper Wrote:

Let me amend that a little. If Hauser’s work panned out and, as PvM seems to suggest, it led Christians to reevaluate their beliefs about the source of morality, such that they no longer claimed that atheists can’t be moral, then I would be … not excited, but glad of the consequence. However, I would glad of that consequence no matter how it came to be, and I have no reason to think that Hauser will have any more influence over self-serving Christian BS than any other science or reason has had.

You fail to understand the implications of Hauser’s findings, they are both consistent with a Christian as well as Atheistic perspective, in addition, since this natural law, according to the Bible is known to all, Christians have no cause to state that atheists have no principled foundation to their morality. On the other hand, atheists are free to ignore any religious implications, and rest assured that their morality finds its roots in an evolved innate moral grammar. If I have done a poor job at explaining Hauser’s position, I will surely take full responsibility but one would hope that those commenting on Hauser’s work would at least familiarize themselves with it?

Such as the part I quoted

Hauser Wrote:

To be explicit, the theory that I have developed in Moral Minds is a descriptive theory of morality. It describes the unconscious and inaccessible principles that are operative in our moral judgments. It does not provide an account of what people ought to do. It is not, therefore, a prescriptive theory of morality.

Hauser aside, you, meanwhile, seem to be shrugging off a scientific approach to this while pushing some kind of philosophical ideas instead, and using Hauser’s proposed objective framework as a wedge to promote some subjective ideas you have about morality even though Hauser’s work seems to be much too tentative to support something like that. This is not an appropriate use of science.

Of course philosophy is subjective but am I using it as a wedge? On the contrary, I am using it as that which combines us all, christian and atheist alike. Of course, this is appropriate use of science, like Dawkins’ statement that Darwin made it possible to be a fulfilled atheist (I paraphrase) for instance. It’s not an appropriate scientific use of science but scientific findings surely have other relevance than just to science.

And from a religious and atheist perspective, these findings seem quite fascinating as it both supports a Christian teaching as well as shows that there exists foundations for Atheists to claim as a basis for their morality. And yes, I am shrugging off a scientific approach to this here. That should be obvious when I started to talk about religious issues.

As to Collins’ position, these words by Aquinas may be helpful, which also addresses free will but argues that while animals have instinctual behavior humans have the capability of reason and as such can make a judgement or choice. It’s this ability to chose which gives man free will and thus free man from being bound to instinctual responses. Note that I am not agreeing or disagreeing with this, just attempting to find out how Collins’ builds his argument. It seems time to get his book and read it.

I answer that, Man has free will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free will.

Popper may not have thought the following through when he wrote that

I suffered once before through reams of your dishonest idiocy and jackassery, and I really don’t want to repeat it (especially not when the server for this site continues to suck so badly). Enjoy yourself.

normdoering: Sorry for late commenting. Life imposed.

“Our reality maps do effect our moral choices.” Agreed. I was discussing atheism as such, secular vs morality. That religion as a phenomena and perhaps also as a non-secular set of ideas on the other hand is about morality isn’t usually contested.

The Rolling Stones cancel a gig in Hawaii and postpone other tour dates as Mick Jagger suffers throat troubles…

The judge who put coded messages in his Da Vinci Code plagiarism trial ruling has written another…

Singer George Michael lends the piano on which John Lennon wrote Imagine to an anti-war exhibition…

Singer George Michael lends the piano on which John Lennon wrote Imagine to an anti-war exhibition…

Singer George Michael lends the piano on which John Lennon wrote Imagine to an anti-war exhibition…

London-born rapper Sway is to be honoured at the BET Hip-Hop awards in the US…

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 6, 2006 11:44 PM.

Well, well, Wells: Jonathan Wells reacts was the previous entry in this blog.

DO GEESE SEE GOD? (And should we even try to know?) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter