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Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 08:14PM
'It only matters if you think everything is predetermined and so make no attempt at independent decisions, feeling that everything will fall into place--or not...'

Which would be a decision in itself, surely? My understanding of a deterministic universe - one governed by cause-and-effect - suggests it isn't demonstrably different from one governed by blind chance. If there's no way of proving free will is an illusion and if the truth one way or the other doesn't affect the outcome in any meaningful way, then what's the big deal? You might as well enjoy the ride.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 08:41PM
I would be distrustful of the mental health of someone who wanted to be regarded and treated as a chattel slave, i.e. as a thing to be bred, worked to death or not at another's will, and so on.

So, to the question, "are we then to say that former iterations of humanity who did think that breeding slaves was within the norm* were necessarily evil as judged by an independent external moral authority?" I must answer with an emphatic yes, even if, so far as we can tell, no one questioned the practice at that time and in that place. They could well be what the Bible calls "people who sat in darkness."


Again, though, the scientific method, so incredibly productive of information, can never tell us how we ought to use that information or ought not to use it.

But don't misunderstand me here. I'm not preparing an argument that will say one must have Christian belief in order to support the morality that is evidently necessary. I'm only saying that the morality that is necessary is disallowed by materialism, which likewise disallows anything to exist but mere "things."

STC, HPL!


*I take "norm" here to mean "the range of morally acceptable behavior."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19 Feb 21 | 08:44PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 08:52PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 'It only matters if you think everything is
> predetermined and so make no attempt at
> independent decisions, feeling that everything
> will fall into place--or not...'
>
> Which would be a decision in itself, surely?

One would think that this is how such a fatalist would see it, certainly.

> My
> understanding of a deterministic universe - one
> governed by cause-and-effect - suggests it isn't
> demonstrably different from one governed by blind
> chance. If there's no way of proving free will is
> an illusion and if the truth one way or the other
> doesn't affect the outcome in any meaningful way,
> then what's the big deal? You might as well enjoy
> the ride.

To me, it doesn't matter, never has... I *feel* like I'm in the driver's seat, mostly, and that's certainly good enough for me...

...but I'm pretty easy to please, really. A simple man, with simple tastes... :^)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 09:21PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I would be distrustful of the mental health of
> someone who wanted to be regarded and treated as a
> chattel slave, i.e. as a thing to be bred, worked
> to death or not at another's will, and so on.

Generally speaking, I'm mistrustful of everyone except those with whom I've established some form of a personal relationship.

Not to dodge your point, however, I'd avoid such people as much as possible; they would be driven by incomprehensible (to me) motivations, and hence would make me nervous as hell.

>
> So, to the question, "are we then to say that
> former iterations of humanity who did think that
> breeding slaves was within the norm* were
> necessarily evil as judged by an independent
> external moral authority?" I must answer with an
> emphatic yes, even if, so far as we can tell, no
> one questioned the practice at that time and in
> that place. They could well be what the Bible
> calls "people who sat in darkness."

Ah, here we must disagree, amicably, I hope, Dale. I value our exchanges and your points of view.

>
>
> Again, though, the scientific method, so
> incredibly productive of information, can never
> tell us how we ought to use that information or
> ought not to use it.

Here's an exercise in utilitarianism.

Posit that the Nazis performed experiments on prisoners that ultimately led to an effective treatment for cancer--I mean that it was pivotal information that to replicate might take decades.

Do we use it ASAP, or proscribe it?

No need to answer, just consider it.

I'll tip my hand: I'd use it without qualm. I would not concern myself about this being a boon to mankind, but rather as a useful solution to an existential problem that could conceivably threaten me and mine.

If it were to be used solely on Barbary apes--who knows why?--I'd still be OK with it, because I cannot see why *not* to use it.

>
> But don't misunderstand me here. I'm not
> preparing an argument that will say one must have
> Christian belief in order to support the morality
> that is evidently necessary. I'm only saying that
> the morality that is necessary is disallowed by
> materialism, which likewise disallows anything to
> exist but mere "things."

Dale, I can see what is probably most people's idea of morality in my own actions and comportment, but cannot for the life of me see that it's binding on others unless me and others who share a similar moral code--and this would probably include you--force this upon them by might of arms or threat. We would therefore force "right" behavior on otherwise "bad" people.

Yes, you heard it here first: might makes "right".

>
> STC, HPL!
>
>
> *I take "norm" here to mean "the range of morally
> acceptable behavior."

Norm within what cohort? Mescalero Apaches? Quakers? Uighurs? Denisovans?

Can we say with certainty that any society that doesn't share our cohort's norm a "bad" society?

I wouldn't say that and yet I'd have no qualms about forcibly subduing them--as I assume they would me, if they could.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 10:10PM
Sawfish wrote, "Posit that the Nazis performed experiments on prisoners that ultimately led to an effective treatment for cancer--I mean that it was pivotal information that to replicate might take decades. Do we use it ASAP, or proscribe it?"

I would want to discuss the matter with persons whose wisdom I respected. But my immediate thought was to use it. A question for me (since you have it that I am the one who must make the decision) is: What right would I have to withhold such knowledge from the physicians who could use it to save people from suffering and death?

To take another example: I don't believe that our laws should approve the torturing of suspected terrorists. Suppose some such suspect has been tortured and information is brought to me about the location of an explosive device that the terrorist at last said is ticking somewhere. What right would I have to risk the lives of the people who might be killed or injured if I kept that information to myself?

As for "norms," I think you overstate the variations between various societies as regards what they hold to be right or wrong, as indeed most educated people do. It seems, in fact, though, that morality has been pretty much the same everywhere, but what's varied is how far it extends. To state "Thou shalt not steal" as a universal rule is not different in kind, but in degree, from prohibiting theft within one's clan or tribe (but not from outsiders). To say that you shall revere the gods is not categorically different from saying "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc.

If I'm not mistaken, when explorers from Europe went to China or the New World, they did not find people living without morality unless these were in a state of extreme desperation -- if then; there was, at least usually, common ground. I'd bet that, if people groups with "no" morality were found, these would not be people who had never in their "history" possessed moral awareness, but people who had fallen from it into degradation e.g. from plagues, wars, etc. That might have happened in some places in Europe on account of the Thirty Years' War, etc.

This is getting a bit away from the point I wanted to make about Lovecraft, which I guess we can leave be.

"....here we must disagree, amicably, I hope" -- of course!

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 February, 2021 10:55PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish wrote, "Posit that the Nazis performed
> experiments on prisoners that ultimately led to an
> effective treatment for cancer--I mean that it was
> pivotal information that to replicate might take
> decades. Do we use it ASAP, or proscribe it?"
>
> I would want to discuss the matter with persons
> whose wisdom I respected. But my immediate
> thought was to use it. A question for me (since
> you have it that I am the one who must make the
> decision) is: What right would I have to withhold
> such knowledge from the physicians who could use
> it to save people from suffering and death?
>
> To take another example: I don't believe that our
> laws should approve the torturing of suspected
> terrorists. Suppose some such suspect has been
> tortured and information is brought to me about
> the location of an explosive device that the
> terrorist at last said is ticking somewhere. What
> right would I have to risk the lives of the people
> who might be killed or injured if I kept that
> information to myself?

Let me re-state my understanding of this: while you do not believe in torturing prisoners, if one happened to be tortured and divulged life-saving information, you'd feel morally compelled to share the results of torture?

While I wouldn't feel morally compelled to share it, I would, under most circumstances.


>
> As for "norms," I think you overstate the
> variations between various societies as regards
> what they hold to be right or wrong, as indeed
> most educated people do. It seems, in fact,
> though, that morality has been pretty much the
> same everywhere, but what's varied is how far it
> extends. To state "Thou shalt not steal" as a
> universal rule is not different in kind, but in
> degree, from prohibiting theft within one's clan
> or tribe (but not from outsiders).

I agree that this is mostly accurate, although I'm reluctant to state that some groups did not routinely practice customs among themselves that might be considered immoral. This would need more checking.

Current norms against incest, selling of children, etc.

But if it's true that the Mescaleros, for example, believed that thou shalt not kill, but that it applied only to other Apaches, while our modern moral sense says that thou shalt not kill applies to all innocent humans (some might say *all* humans, regardless of "innocence") of any group--I'd be comfortable arguing that the expanded scope between modern western societies and the example Apaches is itself a profound difference in moral codes. That by *not* extending the prohibition against killing to non-Apaches they are immoral from our POV, right?

In this sense, "bad" folk?

> To say that
> you shall revere the gods is not categorically
> different from saying "Thou shalt love the Lord
> thy God," etc.
>
> If I'm not mistaken, when explorers from Europe
> went to China or the New World, they did not find
> people living without morality unless these were
> in a state of extreme desperation -- if then;
> there was, at least usually, common ground. I'd
> bet that, if people groups with "no" morality were
> found, these would not be people who had never in
> their "history" possessed moral awareness, but
> people who had fallen from it into degradation
> e.g. from plagues, wars, etc. That might have
> happened in some places in Europe on account of
> the Thirty Years' War, etc.

I'm not specifically addressing a society devoid of its own moral codes, nor have I at any point in this discussion, but rather the difference in the codes, and their scope, between yours (and likely mine) and other societies.

But what you raise is interesting: in a greatly stressed and deprived environment, like a death camp, do morals break down? Probably. And possibly profound guilt ensues in the survivors.

How about amoral societies? Are there any? Could there be any? Or is "amorality" more properly limited to individuals and sub-cultures within a larger, moral, group? I think maybe it is so limited, but have no explored this at all.

I mean, group morality provides for social cohesion, and without that, no recognizable society, maybe.

>
> This is getting a bit away from the point I wanted
> to make about Lovecraft, which I guess we can
> leave be.

Lots of fun, Dale! Other people won't talk to me about this kind of stuff: you will.

>
> "....here we must disagree, amicably, I hope" --
> of course!

!!! :^)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 12:01AM
Yes, my immediate response is that I would be morally at fault if, supposing I had reason to believe the information was true, I kept it to myself in an emergency such as was proposed.

The Mescaleros should be reasoned with, to help them to see that recreational killing of non-Apaches is wrong, just as such killing within the group is wrong. The difference between their present notion and that to which I’d want them to come IS important, but I’m emphasizing the common ground already existing, the agreement that some killing is wrong even if it was an attractive idea for some reason, e.g. to prove one’s skill and manhood or whatever.

There’s a hierarchy within the moral code, by the way. As a rule, one ought not to lie. But one may lie for the sake of conformity to a greater law of morality. I am not to lie in order to escape consequences of my laziness as a pupil, for example: the dog didn’t “eat my homework,” I didn’t do it, so I take the consequences. But now I’ve got Anne Frank in my attic and the Nazi patrolman asks me if I have been sheltering Jews. I’ll lie.

I doubt you could have an “amoral society,” but you could have a society in which one aspect of morality had undergone, in it, some horrible distortion and preemption of everything else. That’s what happened with Nazi Germany, I suppose. A loyal love of home and kin is appropriate, but with them it was grotesquely inflated and disfigured, and everything else was suppressed.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20 Feb 21 | 12:01AM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 12:11AM
Good points, all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 03:11AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Is it your view that honest recognition of the reality
> of free will (which I experience as I experience
> myself to be a person), necessarily leads to a
> religion?

No, it isn't necessarily. A spiritual experience of life (if that is what you associate with "free will" and being a "person") doesn't have to lead to organized religion. But it often does form into religion in human cultures.

Lovecraft surely also conceived himself to be a person from his mechanistic perspective. A person born into this world, and leaving this world and existence after his death, ceasing to be, leaving behind the marks of his actions, for the good or bad of others to continue building upon.

You find comfort in having your particular view of what you define being a person is. You have your belief-system (and it seems to me like you are here trying to prove it in a convincing way by temporarily pretending to ignore your Christian background in the presence of pagans). Lovecraft had his rational intellectual approach, which is also a belief, based on what his senses perceived. Reality is the same, either way, whatever we believe in. Many people find easy comfort in Christianity and other religions, it makes their existence bearable. I admit that religion has also proven to be an effective tool for controlling the primitive masses and preventing turmoil.

Thanks for the exchange. But I must step back here, for I feel I have already gone too far. I have promised myself not to get into political or religious discussions on this site. For such discussions easily slip into endlessly spinning merry-go-rounds.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 10:22AM
Here's S. T. Coleridge in his own words:

"Whatever is comprised in the chain and mechanism of cause and effect, of course necessitated, and having its necessity in some other thing, antecedent or concurrent -- this is said to be natural; and the aggregate and system of all such things is Nature. It is, therefore, a contradiction in terms to include in this the free-will, of which the verbal definition is -- that which originates an act or state of being."

We can see that, before HPL was born, STC would have understood clearly what HPL meant by mechanistic materialism. (STC was writing circa 1815.)

Coleridge didn't believe he could prove the existence of free will objectively, but insisted that "every man may find for himself" that he is indeed a moral nature"; "there is more in man than can be rationally referred to the life of nature and the mechanism of organization." If a man choose "to disclaim our natural as moral beings.... he excommunicates himself. He forfeits his personal rights, and becomes a thing: that is, one who may rightfully be employed or used, as means to an end, against his will."

Coleridge critique of the positivist view, his certainty that the scientific method cannot give an adequate accounting of human awareness, thus does not make an appeal to a "God" located in the lacunae of the physical sciences, but rather proceeds from an appeal to the intuitive awareness of his readers, of themselves as purposive beings (who spontaneously feel the injustice that has occurred if their humannness is denied). He has no opposition to modern science, yet his thought is a descendant of the ancient Greek wisdom, which urged seriously gnothi seauton, "know yourself," and of Plato's maxim that philosophy begins with wonder, etc. For the positivist mentality, "all that" has to amount to a shuffling of meaningless words. But you can see why I can wish that STC and HPL could have sat down together for an unhurried conversation (rather than a formal debate).

In writing the above, I haven't added much, if anything, new, to what I wrote before, but I wanted to share a little of Coleridge's own words.


My sense is that HPL rarely had conversations, or epistolary exchanges, with people who were as smart as he was, and he might have enjoyed the experience of talk with Coleridge, who did have exchanges with thinkers of his day, notably the chemist and inventor Humphry Davy.

[www.jstor.org]

His interest in science was genuine and persistent.

[www.oxfordhandbooks.com]

I see an intriguing affinity between STC and HPL as writers of exceptional imagination and as devotees of science. It's true that HPL was more intrigued by astronomy, Coleridge by chemistry, but they had some real common ground.

Incidentally, what did HPL say about "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," and "Kubla Khan" -- does anyone have that information?

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 11:02AM
Quote:
DN:
Coleridge didn't believe he could prove the existence of free will objectively, but insisted that "every man may find for himself" that he is indeed a moral nature"; "there is more in man than can be rationally referred to the life of nature and the mechanism of organization." Coleridge didn't believe he could prove the existence of free will objectively, but insisted that "every man may find for himself" that he is indeed a moral nature"; "there is more in man than can be rationally referred to the life of nature and the mechanism of organization." If a man choose "to disclaim our natural as moral beings.... he excommunicates himself. He forfeits his personal rights, and becomes a thing: that is, one who may rightfully be employed or used, as means to an end, against his will."

The last part of Coleridge's statement, that: "If a man choose 'to disclaim our natural as moral beings.... he excommunicates himself. He forfeits his personal rights, and becomes a thing: that is, one who may rightfully be employed or used, as means to an end, against his will.'"

By this he means that practically speaking, this is his definition of what is often criminal behavior.

He is essentially describing the ancient custom of outlawry, whereby an organized society withdrawal societal protection for an individual, making him fair game for any treatment a member in good standing of that society may wish to employ. This would mean that killing such a proscribed individual would not be viewed as breaking the social contract.

He would essentially have the same social status as an animal.

Would you consider this to be immoral, Dale? I wouldn't, be we already know that I see "morality" differently than you--and perhaps even most people. I'd see it as a pragmatic functional attempt for a society to police and enforce the standards understood in the social contract of that society. It is one of the few effective and immediate ways that this can be done. The concept of rehabilitation for the bettterment of society is absent, possibly because this requires much additional time/expense/effort by the society, with little assurance that any general benefit is gained.

Rehabilitation as social policy begins to make sense when there is an insufficient number of individuals for the society to conduct its normal, accustomed habits ad practices. Hence, in time of famine, it might make sense to rehabilitate a farmer who ran afoul of the contract, but in times of plenty, with an abundant supply of human labor, it makes much less sense to rehabilitate an unskilled individual.

So social utility plays a big part in my concept of popular morality.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 11:42AM
Sawfish, we are approaching the point where I will feel out of my depth, as regards political theory.

My impression is that your thought might have affinities with Robert Heinlein's. He wouldn't, I think, have advocated outlawry in that situation, but he did see the liberties of citizenship as things that should be extended in varying degrees, depending on people's service to society -- or didn't he?

But his thought might have affinities with China's social credit system, which horrifies me, although I think some version of it may be coming here, thanks to the woke movement. I don't see you as likely to align with the Chinese arrangement.

[arcdigital.media]

By "excommunicates himself," I think Coleridge is not referring to how society sees the person, but to what the person is doing to himself. He is surrendering his rights and dignity -- which, NB, seems an inevitable corollary of materialism if one is logically consistent. This theory dehumanizes oneself insofar as one conceives of oneself.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 20 Feb 21 | 12:02PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 01:02PM
I'll admit that much of this is just me thinking over my experiences, observations, and readings and amalgamating and testing repeatedly until I have a model that seems to account for what I've seen, read reports of, or otherwise experienced.

It's just a bastard personal philosophy.

But I'd still stand by the outlawry part from Coleridge, based on this part:

"...becomes a thing: that is, one who may rightfully be employed or used, as means to an end, against his will."

To me, this endorses slavery, and since few would comply, it might well be a de facto death sentence.

Oh, well...!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 01:49PM
Well, Sawfish, your latest message strikes a billiard ball against my consciousness-ball and knocks it off to a tangent, namely the importance for Coleridge's imagination of "outlawry." I mean, certainly his most famous character -- the Ancient Mariner -- is an outlaw! He commits a crime (the wanton killing of the albatross that had been the friendly companion of the sailors) and imposes upon himself a harrowing exile from his fellow human beings. Less well-known is a "prose fragment" on the Wanderings of Cain! In "Christabel," much of the poem's interest centers on a female outlaw, Geraldine -- I'm sorry that, for us, "Geraldine" is a semi-comic name, as there is nothing semi-comic about her.

Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 20 February, 2021 02:08PM
Off topic, but I think Lovecraft would have been very impressed by J. R. R. Tolkien. There are old LP recordings available on Youtube of Tolkien reading and singing, and speaking elvish, from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is music to my ears. His passion and dedication is remarkable.

Lovecraft philosophical materialist, and Tolkien born Catholic. I think if they had met, and if Tolkien had been patient, he would have appreciated Lovecraft's intellectual scope. But Lovecraft may have acted diffident, closing up like a clam. I think the real issue is that of a lack of academic schooling, which made Tolkien automatically tower above in authority. Both Lovecraft and Smith were freewheeling rebels, self-taught outsiders, ... just the same, geniuses. But their lack of formal schooling, would have caused social diffidence and inhibition for them in Tolkien's company.

Even though a materialist, Lovecraft was passionate. His wife Sonia has described how, when Lovecraft read literature aloud, his voice would transform and completely become the part, acting out in deep empathy.

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