Chance and Providence

Other relevant parables…

…the deceitfulness of wealth…

I seem to recall that there were quite a number of suicides following Black Thursday (October 24, 1929).

Asserting they are facts does not make them into facts. We observe these natural laws in action. These natural processes are facts.

That directly contradicts what you said before:

The explanations are false as I have already explained . . . how many times now?

Those same concepts apply to the meaning you have constructed in your life, do they not?

Pastors committing suicide:

https://www.9marks.org/article/when-a-pastor-commits-suicide/

No, they do not, because the meaning of my life was not constructed by me.

No, it does not, for the same reason.

@swamidass,

And yet another thread that goes from the interesting issue of chance vs. providence, and becomes a dispute over whether God exists or not.

That was rather the point. You can’t have providence without God.

(see @jongarvey’s reply: Chance and Providence)

@DaleCutler

This should be a “given” on this list. I’m not saying there can’t be any non-Christians… or non-Theists… I’m saying, that if someone wants to challenge the very premise of Christianity, it should be done in separate room, where only people who enter the room know the discussion is going on.

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This old chestnut is worth a comment, in the context of laws of nature. Assuming God as Creator, he created the laws on which the universe runs, analogously to the moral principles on which the universe runs. It is not that he makes moral (or immoral) decisions, but that morality itself is his invention, and we are as subject to it as we are to gravity.

So a valid parallel to the quoted question, which shows up its incoherence, would be: “So any law of nature that God creates is natural by definition, no matter what it is?” Although it would be possible to object that an inverse cube law or a universe of predominantly antimatter would have been better, I’ve never heard anyone criticize God for the injustice of the laws of nature.

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That depends on what you mean by “moral qualities”, which isn’t clear at all. One could say, for example, that X has moral implications or qualities if it affects the well being of sentient organisms. That way “chance and necessity” can have moral qualities because of how it affects sentient organisms.

The well-being of sentient organisms is of no interest to chance and necessity (which is Dawkins’ favourite meme). It matters only to moral beings. The question, then, is how chance and necessity would generate that interest in sentient beings, by generating humans, and why it would be of any moral significance if they did.

The majority of “sentient beings” show no particular interest in the well-being of other sentient beings, either. So whence this quality in (some) humans? And why do we (presumably including ourselves amongst the moral) consider those displaying it “better” than those who despise others?

And we are sentient beings. That doesn’t mean we aren’t also “chance and necessity”.

The question, then, is how chance and necessity would generate that interest in sentient beings, by generating humans, and why it would be of any moral significance if they did.

No, that’s not the question. It is a question, and an interesting one. But it’s not necessary to know the answer to it, in order to see that “chance and necessity” can have moral qualities or moral implication.

Because all it depends on is the definition of morality we use. What is morality? How do we define it? What does it take for something to have moral implications or qualities?

If we define that X has moral implications when it affects the well-being of sentient beings, then whether we understand how those sentient beings are manifestations of “chance and necessity” is irrelevant.
We don’t need to know how that works. Just like we don’t need to know how, for example, an immaterial soul actually works, or how consciousness works. All we need is a definition of morality that makes us able to determine what it means to say that something has moral qualities or moral implications.

The majority of “sentient beings” show no particular interest in the well-being of other sentient beings, either.

I don’t see why they have to in order for me to say that something has moral qualities or implications. It is not the case that everything that exists, or every being that exists, should have moral qualities or implications, in order for me to be able to say that there are some things that have moral qualities or implications.

So whence this quality in (some) humans? And why do we (presumably including ourselves amongst the moral) consider those displaying it “better” than those who despise others?

That’s an interesting question in it’s own right, and many different answers are possible. But it’s stricitly speaking not necessary for us to know that to say that certain events that occur, or actions we take, have moral implications or qualities. Again, because all that is required here is that we define morality in a way that allows us to analyze those events and actions and see if they qualify under the definition.

That’s somewhat begging the question: if there is no explicable route between chance/necessity and moral sense, then they are simply unrelated facts… but with a strong probability that chance and necessity are not sufficient to explain morality.

And philosophers have yet to find a coherent way to explain how “is” could ever become “ought.”

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I think the problem is the lack of a universal “we” to decide…so we end up with 7+ billion opinions.

Ultimately the “I” (or non-universal “we” or usually “them”) with the most power and resources holds sway…and which “I/we/them” holds that position is, in the long run, determined solely by chance and necessity.

Doesn’t that always leave the universe with only “is” and no “ought”?

Interestingly, it doesn’t, because however many different human moral viewpoints there are (and they are nevertheless convergent in the same way human languages are), what unarguably remains is the strong sense of “ought,” which cannot be reduced rationally to chance and necessity.

In other words, quite apart from the question of which side of “pro-life” or “pro-choice” one is on, the fact that it matters to you is still a huge question. Nothing matters to chance and necessity, but only to voluntary agents, who are therefore either inexplicably emergent from chance, or axiomatically prior to it.

That leaves to one side, of course, the theistic argument that the Creator is the root of that moral sense, and the arbiter of how it should be directed.

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If. At worst we don’t know whether there is such a route, that doesn’t mean there is in fact no such route. I think there is such a route that gives us a moral sense. As in there is a chance/necessity explanation for why we have moral opinions(it’s evolution). I’m not saying that explanation means those moral opinions are objectively binding in some way. But it does give a good explanation for why those moral opinions exist. It all has to do with survival and reproduction in the end. We hold moral opinions on facts that matter for our capacity to survive and reproduce. What to eat and when, whether and with whom to share food, resources, and shelter, whether to hurt or kill others and under what circumstances, whether or with whom to have sex.

I wouldn’t claim that the fact that those moral feelings, opinions, senses, desires, or whatever you call them, evolved entails or even implies we ought to follow them. Nothing can get us there, evolution or otherwise. Whether a God put them in us, or they are intrinsic to immaterial souls with free will, or they evolved, the fact of the matter about how we came to have such moral intuitions does not entail we OUGHT to follow them.

You can only get oughts by assuming them axiomatically. There is no way out of this. You start by simply defining that we ought to behave a certain way. The act of defining this is subjective. Posting gods or indeterministic immaterial souls doesn’t help you. You still have to start with subjectively defining (for example) that “We ought to follow God’s created moral law”. Why? That’s just your subjective opinion!

… but with a strong probability that chance and necessity are not sufficient to explain morality

Where did this strong probability come from? It is not implied by our mere potential ignorance.

And philosophers have yet to find a coherent way to explain how “is” could ever become “ought.”

That would be a problem for any conceivable explanation for our moral sense. Even if the universe was somehow “more” than just chance/necessity, it still wouldn’t follow from any IS that we OUGHT to do something in particular. You might say that it IS the case that humans have some moral value, and then that’d be your premise. But you can’t get to any oughts from that.

If you disagree and think you can somehow get to oughts without assuming them, by positing something else than chance/necessity, then please enlighten me, how do you derive your oughts?

That is a problem yes, and I don’t think there is any sort of “objectively binding” solution to it. It seems to me that is in fact the situation we are in. People pointing to divine beings doesn’t solve it. If we have “free will” of any sort, that still leaves us with 7+ billion opinions on morality.

Ultimately the “I” (or non-universal “we” or usually “them”) with the most power and resources holds sway…and which “I/we/them” holds that position is, in the long run, determined solely by chance and necessity.

Doesn’t that always leave the universe with only “is” and no “ought”?

No. After all, there are moral opinions. The oughts are subjective opinions about what we ought to do, but then it is an objective fact that there are subjective opinions about what we ought to do. And I don’t see how you solve that. Sticking immaterial souls with free will, or divine beings, into that equation doesn’t get you objective oughts. You still have to begin with making subjective definitions, ultimately based on your personal opinion. That is our conondrum.

Morality begins with subjectively invented definitions. We(you, me, anyone) define that we ought to behave a certain way. But those definitions are subjective opinions. There is no morality that doesn’t begin in this way, as someone’s subjective invented definition.

That’s an intellectual cop-out. Not knowing how a tune can be green is not a matter of ignorance, but of coherence. There is simply no conceivable step from “is” to “ought,” and saying “there may be one day” is just wishful thinking.

“Ought” is not derived, but primary.

That’s the whole point - choice is anterior to what we call chance and necessity. In fact, it renders both of them poor descriptions of reality: necessity is merely regular divine choice, and chance is always epistemological, that is, contingent divine choices we cannot predict.

In this way, the wisdom and justice of “primary mind” (in this conversation the divine mind) is quite capable of explaining the phenomena of chance and necessity rationally. Whereas to explain mind starting with chance and necessity ends up, as you do, merely asserting that there is an explanation of the incoherent in some future discovery. An IOU is not an explanation.

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No that’s really just stating a potential fact. We could be in a situation where we did not possess an explanation for how “chance/necessity” could give us a moral sense.

Not knowing how a tune can be green is not a matter of ignorance, but of coherence.

Sure, but you’re playing rather fast and loose with language here. It is not at all obvious that tune and color are analogous to chance/necessity and moral sense.

There is simply no conceivable step from “is” to “ought,” and saying “there may be one day” is just wishful thinking.

I’m not saying there is such a step. In fact I’d agree there is none. But it’s not a problem theism solves.
You are again playing it very loose with language. I have said I think there is an explanation for us having a moral sense. And by that I mean us having moral opinions. You seem to take that to mean I must explain how we get to moral OUGHTS from some IS. But a moral sense, or having moral opinions, is not the same as showing that we objectively OUGHT to follow those moral senses or opinions. I haven’t claimed that, and I don’t think anyone or anything can get us there. Including theism.

And by primary you just mean assumed. It’s an axiom, or presuppostion we make. I agree. Neither of us can show they’re objective.

That’s the whole point - choice is anterior to what we call chance and necessity.

I don’t understand what you mean by “anterior”, what does that mean? And why are you suddenly introducing the concept of choice?

In fact, it renders both of them poor descriptions of reality: necessity is merely regular divine choice
and chance is always epistemological, that is, contingent divine choices we cannot predict.

I’m sorry but you have stopped making any sense. We can’t have this conversation when you have a personal vocabulary.
Neither of those are normal uses of the words chance or necessity, in science or philosophy. No wonder you think “chance/necessity” can’t explain why we have a “moral sense”, you have really odd and unstated definitions or chance, necessity, and moral sense. And you’re constantly introducing new concepts and ideas that only make your claims and arguments more difficult to comprehend.

Since it’s now clear you’ve used alien definitions of everything we’ve been talking about, I dont’ see how we can proceed.

In this way, the wisdom and justice of “primary mind” (in this conversation the divine mind) is quite capable of explaining the phenomena of chance and necessity rationally.

So you say, but what the hell is the “wisdom and justice of primary mind”? What is primary mind? Why posit that? How do you get oughts from it? Can you produce an argument that concludes with oughts without assuming them? If not, then isn’t your demand that I do so hypocritical? How can you then claim to be in any sort of superior position to mine if you have to do the same thing I do, begin by assuming the oughts?

Whereas to explain mind

Now we have to explain mind too? Okay, let’s hear yours then. Start by defining what mind is, it’s essential attributes and nature. Then explain it’s workings and existence.

starting with chance and necessity ends up, as you do, merely asserting that there is an explanation of the incoherent in some future discovery.

No, because I haven’t claimed to have explained mind. I have claimed that chance/necessity can explain how minds come to have a moral sense. Aka moral opinions.

Well, I may be talking past you, but I don’t think it would be incomprehensible if you’d read the link I put out as the start of this post.

Unless you question what is actually meant by “chance” and “necessity”, in the context of theism and atheism, then no progress can be made. And, as the OP link states from the start, “chance” in experience is always epistemological, that is, a statement of our lack of knowledge of cause, rather than ontological, that is a cause in itself. This is basic stuff. Necessity, too, is merely epistemological - that is, we cannot see how something could be otherwise. But it might be.

You asked me how I derive “ought,” and I explain that it arises necessarily on the basis of theism. Unless one recognises that morality, the concept of right and wrong, is both dependent on mind, and indeed essential to it, then the prirority of both over matter can’t be appreciated.

So if someone tells a person what their meaning of life is, then it isn’t ephemeral anymore?