Over at Uncommon Sense Greg Swann took a good natured (I assume) swipe at me for self-identifying as one who leans politically towards the left. I suspect Greg has difficulty with the notion that a person can accept some tenets of a particular creed without swallowing the entire doctrine whole and unquestioned.
If anyone cares to take a swipe at me, let it be at my values, and not at what they assume my values are.
Here are some of my values:
(1) My actions should match my values.
(2) Each of us has the right to live our lives as we please, each according to his own values, so long as one's actions are not done at the coerced expense of others.
(3) Each of us owes it to ourselves to root out the illogic and fallaciousness in our own thought patterns.
(4) Altruism is bad. (OK, technically, altruism is non-existent, null syntax.) Kindness is good. The difference is that altruism is the bizzare notion that self-sacrifice and doing nice things for others is somehow inherently good. "Kindness" is the recognition that I value living in a world where when a person who makes a mistake, or ends up in a jam, or just needs a hand... they can occasionally get the hand up that they need. (And see Value #1)
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(5) Leaving the world in some way better than I found it. Producing more than I consume. That production might be something in the way of useful products, it might be something in the way of useful ideas, it may be passing on useful values to a new generation.
If any of those values strikes you as inherently evil... this is your chance. Attack away. :-)
Over at Uncommon Sense, Rich Nikoley (avowed atheist and dyed-in-the-wool rationalist) was recently involved in a dialog with an avowed deist. When the deist pronounced Rich to be lacking in faith, Rich replied to the effect of "I'm a pure rationalist... faith has no place in my cognitive functioning."
I've given some thought to Rich's point of view and come to the conclusion that there's a flaw in that reasoning. The difference between a deist and a rationalist is not that one willingly accepts certain tenets on faith while the other does not; the difference lies only in which tenets each is willing to accept.
There is little to be gained in examining the rationale of the deist, since his proclivities towards faith are obvious to both himself and the casual observer. More interesting is the list of things that the rationalist (as well as everyone else) must accept on faith.
(1) An Objective Reality
The strict rationalist insists that an objective world outside of and separate from himself exists. This theory that there is a qualitative difference between "imagination" and "reality" offers absolutely no testable hypothesis from which its accuracy can be verified. As such, it is logically equivalent to the theory that this alleged universe was created by an Invisible Pink Unicorn.
If one is willing to take on faith that an external reality exists, we get to:
(2) Knowledge of an Objective Reality
Each of us has data collection organs (senses, as interfaced to our brains by the central nervous system), as well as a processing center (our brain) to refine that data into concepts. The strict rationalist assumes implicitly that his senses are reporting data that (for the most part) accurately relects the external reality.
Anyone who has see the movie "The Matrix" can posit at least one alternative explantion for the data that arrives at our brain via our sensory mechanisms. In the world of "The Matrix", the data arriving at the citizens' brains is generated artificially by an external machine. In the world suggested by the rationalist, the data arriving at our brains is generated by an objective, natural reality. It's important to note that there is no test that can discern between these two states. Those who propose a "Matrix reality" are in the same boat as those who propose a "natural reality"... neither of them can show evidence nor devise a test that can distinguish one from the other.
The proposition that our senses are reporting a natural reality must be taken on faith.
(3) Deterministic Causality
Part and parcel of the rationalist view of the universe is absolute causality: event C was caused by event B, which itself was caused by event A, et cetera, ad infinitum.
There is no evidence that the universe actually works like this.
There is copious evidence that at least partial causality exists... we see it and rely upon it in our every day lives.
To assume that this partial causality presupposes an absolute, universal causality is a leap of faith. It is the duty of those who make extraordinary claims (i.e., "absolute causality exists") to support those claims via evidence... and the philsophy of pure rationalism has not done so.