1. Hmmm . . .
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    TOWARD A PERSONAL “SPIRITUAL” PHILOSOPHY

    Introduction

    The following is a work in progress—perhaps it always will be—as part of a more particular project I’m working on for myself. I don’t think that anything here is original, just my attempt to express it in my own terms… Nevertheless, I thought I’d test it a bit against the thoughts of some of my friends on here.

    Although I didn’t think of laying it out this way, it can be put into at least a quasi-inferential format, with I, II and III as my basic premises. From premise I, for example, I conclude that the search for meaning is essentially hermeneutical.

    Premises I and II seem to me to be self-evident; but maybe not…

    Premise III seems weaker: just because we are confronted by the unknown does not entail that we are confronted by the unknowable—nor justify either a refusal to carry on continuing research or a “god of the gaps” type of argument in the face of empirical discovery. Nevertheless, following A.J. Heschel, it seems to me that people are continually astounded by the immensity of an edgeless totality which we inhabit, and the epistemological (if not metaphysical) mystery implied by a totality that does not entirely fit within our “grammar of understanding.”

    It might be wise for some to recall, as they read this, that (a) I never, ever, argue religion versus science; and (b) I have, and do argue that there are limits to our ability to think coherently about things—for example, “what happened before time,” or “where was everything before there was ‘where’ (space). Wittgenstein says that when we reach such limits we must simply—stop. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”

    But that is also, for me, where the poetry begins…

    With regard to section IV, my “conclusion,” most religious systems seem to be comprised of at least three parts:

    (1) Some originary “mystical” experience, and allusive/elicitive “maps” that attempt to point others to similar experiences.*

    (2) Aesthetic response (poetry, myth, liturgy, art, etc.) to what I have called the mystery, that are also intended to be elicitive.

    (3) Philosophical propositions about the nature and meaning of the mystery and experiences of it.

    I take it that any philosophical propositions made in a religious context are not thereby privileged in any way—and hence subject to standard methods of philosophical analysis and critique. I also take such “Wittgensteinian” limits as mentioned above to apply to religious metaphysics no less than any other metaphysical speculations.

    Although I take mystical experiences to be quite natural and valid in themselves as such, that does not mean that I am not skeptical about claims for their content (visions, messages, etc.)—which means that I think that such “translations” of the experience into a coherent conceptual grammar are not validated by the fact of the experience itself, and can be properly critiqued from the point of view of philosophy or science.

    Therefore, at bottom, I take what I have called here “aesthetics”** as the primary (if not the sole) “justification” for religious expression. This does not mean that I trivialize it—quite the contrary: aesthetics are as much a part of human consciousness as rationality, as much a part of living a joyful, rich and flourishing life, and can be powerfully therapeutic. Ultimately, those are the terms in which I would probably judge any such expression—religious or otherwise.

    * I use the word “mystical” in a strict, almost technical, sense that does not entail acceptance of the supernatural. (The same for my use of the word “mystery.” )

    ** I am not convinced that this is the best word; in this and all cases, I am open to suggestions for a better vocabulary.

    _____________________________________

    Now, I’m just going to dump the whole thing out...
  2. Hmmm . . .
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    I. Absurdity (Camusian Style)

    The situation of existential absurdity is two-fold:

    (1) We wish for the world* to disclose to us meaning/understanding; and

    (2) the world discloses no such meaning/understanding, but only facts, relationships and their patterns—or, perhaps, text, con-text, textuality.

    The patterns that the world discloses—its coherence—can be called tao or torah or logos; here I will call it grammar.

    Our consciousness also has a tao, a torah, a logos, a grammar (or grammars). For example: (a) our conceptual grammar—how we conceive, think and speak about ourselves and the world; and (b) a perceptual “sub-grammar,” that is simply how our brain translates sensory input into sensations, images, etc. (for example, how the visual cortex translates received sensory data into a picture, say, of a tree). And perhaps a “meta-grammar” that is the grammar that coordinates our various grammars…

    The grammar of the world and the grammar of our consciousness have both universal and individual aspects. Think of the grain of wood: a skilled forester can look at the coherence of a particular grain-pattern, and tell what kind of tree it comes from. At the same time, the grain-pattern of two trees of the same species (e.g., a walnut or an oak) are never exactly the same. Likewise for the grammar of our consciousness: you and I will “grammatize” the world in similar fashion, but not identically.

    I take the grammar of the world to be complex, dynamic, essentially non-linear (think “chaos theory” ).

    Whatever our understanding(s) of the world, we arrive at such via the application of our grammar to the grammar of the world. We decide/determine understanding/meaning by using the grammar of our consciousness to interpret the grammar of the world. What we call “meaning” arises from that engagement. That is what I mean when I say that meaning is not strictly disclosed to us, but that we “make meaning.”

    The search for meaning is always creative and interpretive. It is always hermeneutical. We can only understand the Torah through our own torah.

    * I use the word “world” simply to mean the universe, the cosmos, the totality—“The world is everything that is the case.” (Wittgenstein)
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    II. Non-duality / Non-separability

    “Two stones cannot occupy the same space at the same time,
    but two fragrances can.”

    —Kabir Helminski ( a Sufi)

    Although we might find it useful to speak of the grammar of the world and the grammar of our consciousness as separable entities, they are not really so. We are not separable from our world. We are of the world, as well as in it; our grammar is part of the grammar of the world—each is context for the other in the textual totality.

    I sometimes call this entanglement: we are intimately entangled with our world; the grammar of our consciousness is intimately entangled with that of the world.

    Even the word “entanglement” can imply a degree of separability beyond what I envision, however. A thread in a tapestry may be entangled with others, and yet it might also be possible to pull it out of the rest of the weave. What I envision is more like a stream or current—or a whorl or swirl—in a body of water (an ocean, say); one neither denies that the stream is there, nor imagines that it can be “cut out” of the whole body of water.

    This is the basis of my monistic—or perhaps more properly, non-dualistic—worldview (the so-called “perennial philosophy” ). Just as you cannot carve out my smile from my face, or separate the gulf-stream from the ocean, you cannot separate the manifold forms from the whole. To imagine that you can is illusion (maya).

    Ultimately, my existence is as a stream in—and of—the one ocean (the all, the whole, Brahman, YHVH, God, whatever you choose to call it) from which it has arisen, and to which it will one day “return.” All forms are transient. The stream that I call “me” will one day disappear—but, to quote Ramakrishna: “Where could I possibly ‘go’?”

    This non-dualism is at the foundation of Advaita Vedanta, Taoism, Buddhism, Kashmiri Shaivism (within Hindu Shaivism generally), and streams of the perennial philosophy that appear in religions ordinarily considered to be dualistic (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Often it is seen as heretical by the guardians of a dualistic vision in such religions—since it essentially denies the notion of theos as a being that transcends the dimensionality of the word (universe, cosmos), and (at least sometimes) challenges the very coherency of such a notion. Non-dualism is essentially non-theistic, in this sense; when non-dualists use the word “God,” they generally mean something like Being-Itself, rather than a being—even if they speak in trinitarian symbolism of the ground-of-being, the power-of-being and being-manifest.

    Non-dualism versus dualism seems to be the great religious/metaphysical divide.

    “The Holy One manifests in a myriad forms.
    I sing the glory of the forms.”

    —Kabir
  4. Hmmm . . .
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    III. Mystery

    There seems to me to be no reason to assume that we are a privileged species in the sense of the grammar (or even the sub-grammar) of our consciousness being exhaustive—that is, I see no reason to assume that the grammar of the world may not transcend (go beyond) our own. In fact, it seems to me that it does. And, philosophically, I make that assumption.* I call it the mystery.

    Recognition of the mystery underlies all religious “faith,” and—as I use the term—“spirituality.” The origin of each religion is generally the experience by someone of the mystery (Moses, say, or the Lao Tzu). Most supernatural theists, I would think, view the mystery as being ontological—that God’s very being-ness is sufficiently different from our own as render that God ultimately mysterious. A non-supernaturalist monist might view the mystery as being fundamentally epistemological—or, perhaps more broadly, existential.

    Here I’d like to distinguish between two types of knowledge, as I think of them, anyway: episteme and gnosis. Epistemic knowledge is propositional, conceptual, descriptive—in short, episteme belongs to what I have called the conceptual grammar of our consciousness. Gnosis is recognition unmediated by conceptual grammar, an immediate “intuitive” grasping, an intimate apprehension (it is noteworthy that gnosis is also used to refer to erotic intimacy, sexual “knowledge” ). Gnosis is essentially experiential, regardless of any attempts to translate that experience into conceptual terms.

    I am skeptical that the grammar of our consciousness can ever get behind phenomena to the so-called thing-in-itself. At least, I am skeptical that we could ever know it if we did—unless we also knew that our grammar was in that sense exhaustive.

    What in the literature is called a “mystical” experience (not necessarily a religious or supernatural experience!) is an intimate, conceptually unmediated, experiential, gnostic realization of the mystery—of the fact that the grammar of the totality transcends our own, while our existence arises from and is intimately entangled with the totality—like the stream in the ocean. That is the only sense in which I use the word mystical. It is in the sense of, say, the Zen satori experience.

    Aside on mystical content—

    Whether or not a mystical experience is triggered intentionally (e.g., by meditation practices), the conceptual processes of our minds seem to want to assert their “grammar,” trying to make conceptual sense of the experience—to give it conceptual content. Such content may take the form of visions, auditions, etc. A memory of some religious image may be triggered—a mental image of Krishna, say—and associated with whatever conceptual content arises. (This religious image need not come from one’s own religion.)

    Thus, one may have a “religious experience” in which Krishna seems to appear, surrounded by the fragrance of incense, and to speak. And, just like the ordinary visual images produced in the visual cortex, the vision of Krishna seems to be external to ourselves. To one who objects that her experience was just too powerful to be just a “vision in the mind,” I would say: “Do not form too paltry an opinion of the power of the mind.”

    I call this process “immediate translation”—i.e., of an otherwise unintelligible experience into an intelligible one, as the brain attempts to assert its habitual grammar to form recognizable and sensible patterns. Zen masters urge us to ignore such makkyo (bedeviling illusions). I’d say that at most, one might value them aesthetically, not to deny that they might trigger some helpful insights into the nature of one's existence. The point is that the mystical experience does not itself validate the conceptual content of its grammatized form.

    * Again, I have no argument with the discoveries or pursuits of science here; a scientist qua scientist cannot a priori assume a limit on the ability of the grammar of our consciousness to decipher the grammar of the world—including that very grammar of consciousness (e.g., in brain/mind studies).
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    IV. Aesthetics

    Since the experience of the mystery (the mystical experience) transcends our conceptual grammar, it cannot be adequately, or even accurately, described in terms of that grammar. Nevertheless, the mystery does not seem to be “ungrammatical.”

    Now, an argument can be made here that since our grammar is not separable from the grammar of the cosmos, but is in fact part of it, there is no reason to assume that our attempts to conceptualize (to grammatize) even that transcendent, mysterious aspect cannot be at least somewhat accurate, even if not complete—that the grammar which transcends our own is nevertheless not likely to be so dissimilar to our own. To this argument, I have two responses:

    (1) On the one hand, even if that assumption is accurate, it does not alter the fundamentally hermeneutical nature of our attempts to grammatize and understand the world. Certain phenomenal descriptions of facts may be conclusive; our understanding of them is interpretive.

    Confronting the mystery, how could we know that the grammar that we apply can adequately or accurately capture it? Since most of the disputes among the world religions hinge precisely on the insistence that “our grammatization of the mystery is correct therefore yours is not” I would be at least cautious on that count alone.

    Basically, I think that any insistence that one’s own grammatizing of the mystery is accurate and exclusively correct amounts to an idolatry of the “graven image”—whether that image is graven in stone, on a page, or in the mind. The real antithesis of the mystery, to me, is not knowledge, but idolatry. Knowledge, to the extent it can be had, is never a threat.

    (2) On the other hand, accounts of the mystics seem universal in some aspects: that the experience of the mystery is coherent and harmonious—even as it may be frightening in its awesomeness. This would not likely be so if its grammar were completely disjunctive with our own. (Also, the experience is generally not “ethereal,” but sensual as well as “spiritual,” which only makes sense if one does not artificially distinguish between the spirit/mind and the body, treating the spirit/mind as some kind of “ghost in the machine.” )

    I use the word aesthetic to refer to this experience and sense of coherence, harmony and beauty. We only find beautiful that which is in coherence/harmony with our consciousness.

    Therefore, I think that the single grammar that is properly applicable to the “gnostic” experience of the mystery is an aesthetic grammar—the grammar of poetry, myth, symbolism, art, Zen koans, music, dance, etc.

    I think that the texts of the various religions need to be read in terms of that kind of aesthetic grammar (whether or not the original authors thought that’s what they were presenting—though I think that mainly that is a safe assumption.) Yes, there may well be philosophical questions and arguments in the aesthetic weave of such texts (the book of Job comes to mind, or the Upanishads). And I don’t treat that weaving as invalid, but I think it is dangerous to take it as—“gospel truth,” and hence not subject to standard philosophical analysis. (The same can be said for attempts to pit scripture against science.)

    Further, I think that this aesthetic grammar needs to be treated as primarily as allusive, or elicitive—to use a word donated by bbarr sometime back—rather than as propositional or explanatory or descriptive. That is, a Zen koan or a Sufi poem or a Hasidic tale is aimed principally at eliciting from the reader an actual experience of the mystery by inviting a shift away from the conceptual/grammatical lens through which we become habituated to experiencing our world and ourselves in it. The same for mantra, for rosary practice, for Hasidic niggun, Gregorian chant; the same for mandalas and Greek Orthodox icons; the same for tai chi (as a meditation in movement) and Sufi dance; and on and on…

    At bottom, I think that religious expression (aside from any strictly philosophical content it may also hold) is justified primarily as an aesthetic response to the perceived mystery. Religion seems to me to be closer to Beethoven than to biology—or more like midrash than linear logic.
  6. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    14 Mar '07 08:35
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Further, I think that this aesthetic grammar needs to be treated as primarily as allusive, or elicitive—to use a word donated by bbarr sometime back—rather than as propositional or explanatory or descriptive.
    I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord--but you don't really care for music, do ya? I've heard it said it goes like this--the minor fall, the major lift--the baffled king composing Hallelujah...
  7. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    14 Mar '07 08:38
    A nice presentation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (from which vistesd has pulled a few quotes):

    http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/tlph.html
  8. Hmmm . . .
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    15 Mar '07 03:22
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    A nice presentation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (from which vistesd has pulled a few quotes):

    http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/tlph.html
    Dottewell, who did his thesis on Wittgenstein, argued that I have not sufficiently appreciated the differences between the early (Tractatus) and the later Wittgenstein. He might be right (what “chutzpah” I have!). I am a “synthesizer” by nature, and may be prone to re-interpretation in order to achieve the synthesis I am after...
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    dude i never read these long posts of yours
  10. Standard memberDeepThought
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    15 Mar '07 05:00
    Originally posted by vistesd
    From the start of the introductory post
    ...(b) I have, and do argue that there are limits to our ability to think coherently about things—for example, “what happened before time,” or “where was everything before there was ‘where’ (space). Wittgenstein says that when we reach such limits we must simply—stop. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”
    I don't agree with this bit. You spend a lot of time talking about grammar, but little about vocabulary, when we reach limits like that we need to invent some new words - or be a bit more careful about what we mean with the already existing words we have.

    The two examples you give "what happened before time?" and "where was everything before there was space?" are actually quite easy to cope with - there was no "before time" so nothing happenned and there wasn't a "before space" because there wasn't a time when there was no space. They are basically ill-posed problems - once you stop worrying about answering them on their own terms then they aren't difficult to think about.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    15 Mar '07 16:47
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I don't agree with this bit. You spend a lot of time talking about grammar, but little about vocabulary, when we reach limits like that we need to invent some new words - or be a bit more careful about what we mean with the already existing words we have.

    The two examples you give "what happened before time?" and "where was everything before there wa ...[text shortened]... g about answering them on their own terms then they aren't difficult to think about.
    Thank you. This is the kind of constructive criticism I’m after.

    Re vocabulary: You’re right. In the “Zen Once Again” thread, I treat vocabulary a bit, without really using the grammar metaphor that I have here. I need, however, to bring them together and see what correctives are necessary to do that.

    This ties in with your second point: I do think we can trick ourselves by how we set the question/problem. There has been some talk about time-space dimensionality on here that I see as falling into a trap of the kind my questions about “before” and “where” were intended to illustrate.

    Question: are you claiming that time-space dimensionality is (1) “eternal” and (2) a feature of the totality that has no edge—so that it makes no sense to talk of, say “outside?” I agree with the second; not sure about the first. (Both, however, would cause problems for traditional theism...) Perhaps you could just expand a bit on how you are thinking about this...?
  12. Standard memberDeepThought
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    15 Mar '07 19:26
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Thank you. This is the kind of constructive criticism I’m after.

    Re vocabulary: You’re right. In the “Zen Once Again” thread, I treat vocabulary a bit, without really using the grammar metaphor that I have here. I need, however, to bring them together and see what correctives are necessary to do that.

    This ties in with your second point: I do thin ...[text shortened]... aditional theism...) Perhaps you could just expand a bit on how you are thinking about this...?
    There are a number of possibilities, the simplest is that the universe started at time zero and talking about times before that is nonsense since time is a physical thing that came into being with space and everything else, this was the model of the universe I had in mind when I made the above post. An eternal universe can't easily be ruled out, you could have endless cycles of big bangs followed by big crunches - with entropy somehow being reset in the process; although as you alluded to it's not an easy concept. M-theory (as I understand it which is barely) has the universe which we inhabit as a 4-dimensional membrane embedded in a higher dimensional space called the bulk; then there is an "outside the universe" and you could start to meaningfully talk about "outside time" or "outside space". In this model you could even say "before time" defining it as points in the bulk neighbouring the universe at it's start but not in it.

    I don't know if this is standard but I have heard believers of one sort or another claim that God (or whoever) is outside time so I'm not sure that you are entirely right about such concepts causing problems for traditional theism. Although as creatures of time it is rather difficult for us to imagine an existence without it.

    I'm quite interested in what you were saying about aesthetics - the old cliche "a picture tells a thousand words" springs to mind, as part of what you seemed to be saying was that what cannot (easily) be expressed within the framework of our linguistic grammar becomes expressible with symbols. Intuitive/empathetic wisdom rather than verbal/logical reason would seem, at least in part, then to provide the new grammar that you say is neccessary.
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    16 Mar '07 14:24
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    There are a number of possibilities, the simplest is that the universe started at time zero and talking about times before that is nonsense since time is a physical thing that came into being with space and everything else, this was the model of the universe I had in mind when I made the above post. An eternal universe can't easily be ruled out, you cou ...[text shortened]... m, at least in part, then to provide the new grammar that you say is neccessary.
    There are a number of possibilities, the simplest is that the universe started at time zero and talking about times before that is nonsense since time is a physical thing that came into being with space and everything else, this was the model of the universe I had in mind when I made the above post.

    ...

    I don't know if this is standard but I have heard believers of one sort or another claim that God (or whoever) is outside time so I'm not sure that you are entirely right about such concepts causing problems for traditional theism.


    There have been several discussions of this one here; I argue that such theists may be able to voice concepts—such as a God outside of time-space dimensionality— but that the concepts make no sense. I think we can often be guilty of thinking we make sense, when upon closer examination, we don’t. Ultimately, the tendency is then to imagine another space outside of space, or time outside of time, because, as you say, it is difficult not to; I’m not sure its really possible.

    If the universe is more in accord with your other descriptions, can we speak of a totality at any point? If not, then non-dualism eventually breaks down; the dualists are correct, and perhaps there is a God in the bulk...?

    BTW, I think talks of the totality also faces some of the same problems, since we have no vantage point outside it, and can only see perceptively from our place in it; and we, too, are not only in it, but “of” it as well. The only completely accurate map of the totality is itself, including us. I think we cannot even construct a proper analogy for the whole, since all our analogies are drawn from within it. If there is ultimately a totality without an edge, then we have no other “thing” to which we can compare it.
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    03 Apr '07 09:58
    vistesd,

    This is a great stream.

    For starters, I was wondering about your claim that Premises I, II, III are 'basic'. In this context, I understand that term to mean foundational, as in taken without any underlying support. You say, essentially, that I (absurdity) and II (non-duality) are basic because they are 'self-evident', but I'm wondering if you don't mean something more like just simply evident to the self. I take 'self-evident' to mean that the proposition is obviously true by virtue of definition or its analytic structure or logical necessity, etc. As such, I would definitely challenge your claim that I and/or II are self-evident. I was thinking you might have meant something more like they are simply evident to you within your own phenomenological framework. Concerning absurdity, for example, this is more along the lines of how I would interpret Camus' identification of absurdity because he often presents it as a feeling, as something palpable. Maybe the problem here is just that based on the literature I have read on foundationalism, etc., I take 'self-evident' to mean something specific; whereas you might just be using it colloquially.

    I was wondering also about some clarification on 'meaning'. In this context, I take a 'hermeneutical view of meaning' to be some set of normative claims or value claims about the world (some set of beliefs about how the world ought to be, not just about how the world is). So when you say in I (absurdity) that the world discloses no meaning, I take it that you're saying that there are no normative facts or moral properties. Is that fair enough? Or are you just saying that there is a problem with our being able to identify any such facts, properties, etc.? (Or do you mean something altogether different?) Regardless, either way there might seem to be a problem with your taking such lack of disclosure as basic on the grounds that it is (self- or otherwise) evident. There are many agents (ethical intuitionists, for example) who would not only deny your position but actually find just the opposite: that there are objective moral facts and that at least some of them are just simply evident through intuitive awareness. In fact, I would say that when you press people and make them dig down to their moral foundations, a lot of them will probably just tell you that they take some moral facts to be just plain and obvious (e.g., that one should not cause undue pain and suffering). So one could make a challenge against you here by saying that you're trying to endorse something on the grounds that it is evident when on the contrary it runs counter to intuition. How would you respond to that?
  15. Hmmm . . .
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    03 Apr '07 14:274 edits
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    vistesd,

    This is a great stream.

    For starters, I was wondering about your claim that Premises I, II, III are 'basic'. In this context, I understand that term to mean foundational, as in taken without any underlying support. You say, essentially, that I (absurdity) and II (non-duality) are basic because they are 'self-evident', but I'm wondering if n on the contrary it runs counter to intuition. How would you respond to that?
    Thanks for your response and helpful questions.

    Yes, self-evident is too strong a term. (This was also before I read Scrib’s essay on the nature of axioms.) For the moment I’ll drop back top something like “intuitively clear to me.” If one wants to take them as simply premises, that’s fine.

    Re meaning:

    I tend to ask people what they mean by “meaning” when they use that word. I am using it pretty synonymously with understanding (hence the slash)—how we come to understand the world (not in simply a descriptive sense). Colloquially, the existential story we tell to others and ourselves, that we have learned.

    Sometimes people in discourse seem to extend it to teleology, and what they see as their purpose in life. I think the same argument holds.

    Re value:

    I would use this word simply in the sense of preference ordering or clustering. What I value is what is dear to me. Moral values are one kind of value.

    Re morality:

    I have really ignored moral considerations here, as I am skeptical about how much one can draw moral conclusions from a non-theistic spiritual philosophy. I am not a deontologist (though I was—without knowing the word—for most of my life). I have no systematic moral theory to offer others. I would probably mostly take a Taoist view that non-duality/non-separability implies that “immoral” behavior (such as causing undue pain and suffering) is disharmonious, both socially and with regard to the individual psyche, and—in the sense that I have used the term here—incoherent with the nature of the whole, hence destructive; and that probably is intuitive.

    Rather than a western “sin” view of things, I take an eastern “illusion” view of things. If one does not realize that certain behavior is destructive of the coherence of the Tao (again both in which and of which we are)—if one cannot see clearly how “out of whack” it is to deliberately cause undue suffering, or not to intervene when another is committing such behavior, then one is—well, not seeing clearly, but operating under some illusion.

    When I talked of facts in section I, I was not addressing the question of moral facts at all. I dislike the term, but perhaps I do not understand it correctly. I suspect you are correct “that when you press people and make them dig down to their moral foundations, a lot of them will probably just tell you that they take some moral facts to be just plain and obvious”. However, there seems to be a redundancy in that statement, in that what seems plain and obvious is likely to be taken for a fact. Also, that kind of statement seems to come when one can no longer argue the validity of one’s moral conclusions...

    I would rather say that (1) we infer, perhaps largely intuitively, moral conclusions from a set of facts and circumstances; (2) there may well be a moral grammar to our consciousness that determines how such conclusions are arrived at; (3) the commonality of that grammar leads to (statistically anyway) a commonality of moral conclusions across humanity; (4) individual variations in that grammar lead to individual variations with respect to moral conclusions (I also tend to be a perspectivist), although generally within the bounds of “central tendency”.*

    With all that said, would not Camus view the seeking of a sure moral system to be another attempt to escape the absurd? In the real situation, are “moral facts” always so clear that we do not have to wrestle with them? I always find moral decision-making to be a bit messier than moral theorizing...

    The key word in that phrase “undue pain and suffering” seems to be undue. Can I always tell that? Some people argue for moral positions that have nothing to do with undue pain and suffering (I am likely not to agree with them). For example: is it a “moral fact” that humans ought to be vegetarian—that meat-eating necessarily causes undue pain and suffering? How does such a “moral fact” (if it is one) square with the natural facts of our physiology? Were/are hunter-gatherer societies inherently immoral on this score? Is not a great deal of our talk about moral theory really descriptive of how we think people come to moral decisions, or how we think we do?



    * I would not argue a moral theory strictly from the, possibly pathological, tails of the distribution.
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