To the question what made life worth living 

Anaxagoras answered

Contemplating the heavens and the total order of the cosmos.

The philosopher Nietzsche says there is no dignity in existence nor in man. That to exist is an expiation.

He says also that only the Greeks could philosophise since only them had culture. 

He asks what does man know about himself?

To the question what is truth, he answers they are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses; coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account as coins but merely as metal.

He writes,  if I make the definition of a mammal and then declare after inspecting a camel, “ behold a mammal,” then no doubt a truth is brought to light thereby, but it is of every limited value and does not contain one single point which is true-in-itself, real and universally valid, apart from man. 

And finally, does the infinite exist?

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Thus spake Zarathustra

You remember a few days ago I said I don’t like long posts, I lied ;-P. I will read a long post if it is on a topic that I enjoy and it is well written. So Kate don’t worry, I will read your 1500 word reviews and dogs posts.

Here is a review of Thus spake Zarathustra, a book by Nietzsche. If you haven’t read the book, maybe you should, if you have, read it a second time.

Here is a snippet of the book, Nietzsche is writing about the death of the gods

With the old Deities hath it long since come to an end: and verily, a good joyful Deity-end had they! They did not “begloom” themselves to death: that do people fabricate! On the contrary, they laughed themselves to deathonce on a time!

That took place when the ungodliest utterance came from a God himself: the utterance: “There is but one God! Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” An old grim-beard of a God, a jealous one, forgot himself in such wise: And all the gods then laughed, and shook upon their thrones, and exclaimed: “Is it not just divinity that there are gods, but no God?” He that hath an ear let him hear.

Indulge me, go read it 😀

On free will and punishment

My position on free will is known to the readers of this blog. I am not saying anything new in this post. Here is a passage from Nietzsche that I hope to hear your comments on.

Have the adherents of the theory of free will the right to punish?— People who judge and punish as a profession try to establish in each case whether an ill-doer is at all accountable for his deed, whether he was able to employ his intelligence, whether he acted for reasons and not unconsciously or under compulsion. If he is punished, he is 
punished for having preferred the worse reasons to the better: which he must therefore have known. Where this knowledge is lacking a man is, according to the prevailing view, unfree and not responsible: except if his lack of knowledge, his ignorantia legis [ignorance of the law] for example, is a result of an intentional neglect to learn; in 
which case, when he failed to learn what he should have learned he had already preferred the worse reasons to the better and must now suffer the consequences of his bad choice. If, on the other hand, he did not see the better reasons, perhaps from dull-wittedness or weakness of mind, it is not usual to punish him: he lacked, one says, the 
capacity to choose, he acted as an animal would. For an offense to be punishable presupposes that its perpetrator intentionally acted contrary to the better dictates of his intelligence. But how can anyone intentionally be less intelligent than he has to be? Whence comes the decision when the scales are weighted with good and bad motives? 
Not from error, from blindness, not from an external nor from an internal compulsion? (Consider, moreover, that every so-called “external compulsion” is nothing more than the internal compulsion of fear and pain.) Whence? one asks again and again. The intelligence is not the cause, because it could not decide against the better reasons? 
And here one calls “free will” to one’s aid: it is pure willfulness which is supposed to decide, as impulse is supposed to enter within which motive plays no part, in which the deed, arising out of nothing, occurs as a miracle. It is this supposed willfulness, in a case in which willfulness ought not to reign, which is punished: the rational 
intelligence, which knows law, prohibition and command, ought to have permitted no choice, and to have had the effect of compulsion and a higher power. Thus the offender is punished because he employs “free will,” that is to say, because he acted without a reason where he ought to have acted in accordance with reasons. Why did he do this? But it is precisely this question that can no longer even be asked: it was a deed without a “for that reason,” without motive, without origin, something purposeless and non-rational.— But such a deed too ought, in accordance with the 
first condition of all punishability laid down above, not to be punished! It is not as if something had not been done here, something omitted, the intelligence had not been employed: for the omission is under all circumstances unintentional! and only the intentional omission to perform what the law commands counts as punishable. The 
offender certainly preferred the worse reasons to the better, but without reason or intention: he certainly failed to employ his intelligence, but not for the purpose of not employing it. The presupposition that for an offense to be punishable its perpetrator must have intentionally acted contrary to his intelligence—it is precisely this 
presupposition which is annulled by the assumption of “free will.” You adherents of the theory of “free will” have no right to punish, your own principles deny you that right! But these are at bottom nothing but a very peculiar conceptual mythology; and the hen that hatched it sat on her egg in a place far removed from reality.

The Wanderer and his shadow, F. Nietzsche

New atheists! Old atheists!

In many debates and apologists writings, many of them have made a distinction between a group they call new atheists and old atheists. As far as I can tell, none of the theists who use these terms have defined who fits into what group and last time I asked Debilis, our resident apologists whose main occupation is to misrepresent atheists, he didn’t give me a straight answer. While we wait to be told who fits where, here is a quote by the great Nietzsche, the assassin of god, who I think the theists would gladly call old atheist, and here is a gem on christianity, I found while reading the blogs sites I subscribe too.

The Christian conception of God–God as god of the sick, God as a spider, God as spirit–is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. It may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God–the formula for every slander against “this world,” for every lie about the “beyond”! God–the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy!

Nuff said.

What happens after the death of god: A reflection

I have identified myself as an atheist for about a year now, before that, I was a practicing Catholic though there are a few things I had stopped doing over time for example I couldn’t bring myself to give offering [so no point in enriching the church], stopped going to confessions and saw going to receive communion as a long walk to the altar among others. In this post, therefore, I intend to reflect on the changes that have since taken place since I took leave of god. But before we get deeper into this, there is a passage in Nietzsche’s Gay Science that is appropriate for our purpose. He writes

THE MADMAN—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed.

In many posts that I have seen by friends who were brought up religious, they talk about a certain loss, an emptiness and a struggle to let go or something similar. In my case, I think, the idea of god was quickly replaced by a desire to know, to understand reality, or as it were, nature that the feeling of loss, if it was there didn’t last quite long. In the duration that I have been godless, I have read more on religion than I ever did in the 28 years that I was religious. My major regret is that I wish I had known what I know now earlier. I have nothing against those who brought me up religious, they didn’t know better and they had themselves been brought up religious and my parents were not exposed to tools of critical thought that I have been exposed to. They did their best to grant me a good education and even though I was religious through my campus education, it is the love I developed for philosophy in first year that has made this journey interesting.

I have found questions about the historicity of Jesus intriguing, I have read a little about the Buddha, I have read a little on the authorship of the bible, the koran but I spend the most time reading philosophy.

In the passage about the madman, Nietzsche wants us[the godless] to urgently face the consequences of the death of god. What does this mean to me? In my case it has meant a fresh consideration of things that were hitherto taken as a given, for example, that man was created by god, he[god] was the author of morals, creator of the universe and all those things that have been attributed to god. I will attempt to explain some of these changes below in a little detail.

That man was created by god

This belief I think was held uncritically. I don’t know where life began, and I don’t think this will be known in the near future but I have a working grasp of how life has progressed on this rock called earth. I don’t think I rejected evolution even when I was religious, it was just treated as something different,  though I must add here that I wasn’t a good student of biology in high school. I didn’t find it interesting as the physical sciences and just did it because it was compulsory.

God as the author of morals

I have come to think that we shouldn’t talk about morality at all. My thoughts are that morality are in  line with this piece found here

 On the intellectual side, many have worried that there is no good way to vindicate the assumptions and commitments of morality. A careful and clear-eyed study of morality will reveal, some argue, that morality is a myth; others argue that the various principles that are presented as authoritative standards for all are actually merely expressions of emotion or projections of the idiosyncratic attitudes of those advocating the principles; still others argue that in some other way morality is not what it pretends to be and not what it needs to be if it is to be legitimate. On the practical side, many have pressed the difficulty of getting people to judge themselves and others impartially; others have worried that, while we have an interest in convincing others to conform to morality, we ourselves rarely have any reason, really, to conform; still others have thought that the sort of freedom morality assumes is not available to humans as they actually are.

I also hold the view that in the Euthyphro dilemma conclusively makes any talk about morality, if there can be such discussion, independent of god. I realize that some of the things I thought immoral, appeared to be so since I was looking at life using a christian filter. Having replaced this filter, I find, my reasons for objecting to some act is sometimes not based on any stable ground other than own feeling. Does this mean then that everything is permitted? No.

The universe as a creation of god

This has been one of the most interesting areas of learning. I have read a bit of big bang cosmology, I have looked at the cosmological arguments that attempt to posit a god as necessary for the creation of the universe. I am persuaded to believe that the universe has always existed in some state especially since I can’t think of a break in the cause-effect continuum and the creation or annihilation of matter. These, to me, persuade me to reject the notion of god being required as a creator of the universe.

Free will

I believed then that man was responsible for his actions. That man chose to do evil. Did I have reasons to believe this? I don’t know. Whereas I think we don’t have free will, I don’t think it would make a difference even if we had it unless it can be proved that; i) the cause- effect continuum applies to everything else in nature except human beings ii) that our environment has no bearing on our actions iii) our previous experiences do not affect our decisions iv) that a person would act otherwise than they did in a given situation.

Other areas of life that have had to be modified in light of the death of god include my thoughts on nationhood and patriotism, marriage, the question of love, culture, after life, heaven and hell among others. These may not be a direct consequence of the death of god but a result of critical thought and application of the much praised common sense.

In conclusion, if I was clever before, I have just moved closer to genius 😛

On morality

Friends, this is the beginning of a sketch on morality that I have been developing and I would so much welcome comments and questions in developing it further. I am trying to describe my moral position from a philosophical point of view.

Before we proceed, let us deal with definitions. The Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy defines descriptive and normative morals values thus;

  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
  2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

That said, I will begin by getting gods out of the picture by introducing the Euthyphro dilemma which dispensed with the notion that gods are required for morality.

The theory am developing is that morals do not exist. Yes, you read it correctly. Morality is an illusion one that we have created for practical purposes. It is an illusion that our race has developed over time to propagate its survival in the universe. To enforce this illusion, there is shame and threat of punishment that are used to restrict urges. The realization that if this urges were not restricted, there would be chaos. Moral codes are just practical tools and that is it.

To justify morality, those men and women who went before us had to claim that man was responsible for his actions. Man had to be seen as a moral agent, one capable of making moral judgments concerning any particular action. This notion has been passed down to us that it is accepted by almost everyone as being true. They convinced their follows that there were moral values or norms that had to be adhered to.

In Human, all too human Nietzsche writes

The super animal, the beast in us wants to be lied to; morality is a white lie, to keep it from tearing us apart. Without the errors inherent in the postulates of morality, man would have remained an animal. But as it is he has taken himself to be something higher and has imposed stricter laws upon himself. He therefore has a hatred of those stages of man that remain closer to the animal state, which explains why the slave used to be disdained as a nonhuman, a thing.

In order not to make this a long treatise, I welcome all questions and comments.

Related articles

1. on ethics part i-moral philosophy’s third way 

2. quasi realism

3. William Craig on morality and meaning

Free will: A religious idea

One of my blogging buddies, myatheistlife, made a case for free will which can be found here, here, here and here which I did disagree with. I ask you to read the articles he wrote, they are well argued though in the end I didn’t think he made a strong case for free will. For those of you, who have followed this blog for sometime know that I hold the belief that free will is a chimera. We live in a deterministic world. Our actions appear to us to be freely willed, and freely chosen but this is just an appearance, an illusion.

My friend mentions Dennett, who for all intents and purposes I think holds the idea there is no free will but thinks people need not be told they have no free will that it is bad for society. I think this is analogous to not telling men that they share a common ancestry with other apes fearing that they will start to behave like apes[most behave worse than apes without holding this to be true].

In the Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes of four great errors;

  1. The error of confusing cause and effect,
  2. The error of false causality,
  3. The error of imaginary causes, and lastly
  4. The error of free will.

He says this of the error of free will, and I find it agreeable, that without the desire to punish, the need free will does just not arise.

Today we no longer have any tolerance for the idea of free will; we see it only too clearly for what it really is- the foulest of all theological fictions, intended to make mankind responsible in a religious sense- that is dependent upon priests. […]

He goes on to say,

Whenever responsibility is assigned , it is usually so that judgment and punishment can follow. Becoming has been deprived of its innocence when any acting the way you did is traced back to will, to motives, to responsible choices; the doctrine of the will has been invented essentially to justify punishment through the pretext of assigning guilt. 

The Hebrews priests, not being able to explain why their god allowed them to suffer, resolved that it must have been men’s failure to do as god willed/ commanded that they were punished. By telling men they had wronged god, the priests were for all intents assured of a steady income as long as they maintained they were spokesmen/ agents of the supposed god they had created. This folly has been passed down to us.

Alvin Platinga in his attempt to explain away evil in the world, advanced the free will defense that many theists, apologists and theologians use to justify and defend any attempts at showing that if the Abrahamic god does exist, then among other things he is capricious, a cruel bastard and a fiend. If this god were to exist, and is responsible for everything that exists, then there is no explaining away evil free will or not.

Nietzsche continues on this absurd psychology

All primitive psychology, the psychology of will, arises from the fact that its interpreters, the priests at the head of ancient communities, wanted to create for themselves the right to punish- or wanted to create this right for their god. Men were considered free only so that they maybe considered guilty – could be judged and punished; consequently every act had to be considered as willed and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness.

And finishes by saying what our duty is, that is, we must free the world of the idea of punishment and guilt, and by extension of morality objective or otherwise.

Today we immoralists have embarked on a counter movement and trying with all our strength to take the concepts of guilt and punishment out of the world- to cleanse psychology, history, nature and social institutions and sanctions of these ideas. And there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming by means of the concepts of “a moral world order”, “guilt” and “punishment”. Christianity is a religion for the executioner.