This is an exchange I had with an atheist on CARM. I don't even remember the context that prompted it, but it brings up two issues that I think are very important. The first one deals with the near universal atheist acceptance of reductionism and how they truncate reality by reducing ideals such as love and justice to mere momentary feelings, which they dis-value as the result of chemicals and nothing more. The second issue deals with a notion I see more and more, the reduction of concepts to the realm of the un-real. Both of these are extremely important issues because they amount to nothing more than gimmicks, yet I see atheists trading on them all the time as ways of disparaging belief.
(1) feelings are bad, they are subjective, according to most atheists, they are only the result of chemicals in the head, they have no further use or value beyond this.
(2) concepts are always unreal, God is a concept, thus God is unreal (this gimmicky "argument" pulled by "Big Thinker" on CARM incessantly. No matter how many times one disproves it he's always bringing it up again.
So in argument with a particular atheist the issue of love came up. Is it a feeling or is there something more important and wider than just the feelings and physical response that go with the notion of "love?" I say there's a concept to it which of course he says means it's not real.
Below I said to him (in blue) "no it's not' meaning "no love is not just a feeling." Love is more than just the racing heart beat and butterfly stomach of momentary infatuation, in fact love is much more than just romantic infatuation; there are different kinds of love but they all revolve around the idea of the will to the good of the other (agope, the highest form of love).
He says it's just a reaction to chemicals firing across the synapse.
Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
no it is not. It's not a feeling at all. It's a concept, the will to the good of the other. The feeling is something that comes with it and reinforces it.
Of course it's a concept. Everything is. But it's not "the will to the good of the other". That's something you have decided to attach to it. And please don't drag out some nonsense like "Oh, so you don't want good things for those you love?"
In saying that this is a concept I've added to love, he's also adding something to it. He's assuming that certain physiological responses typify the term "love" which means he's using a concept to designate a stimulus response, and he is no less evoking a conceptual understanding of a set of responses than am I.
The feeling is love - whatever else comes with that (and, of course, that varies wildly from person to person) is not love - it's a consequence of it for that particular person.
Quote Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
obviously it would. you can't just have chemicals promoting a feeling and also have that backing up an idea. There is no such thing as innate ideas.
Who said anything about innate ideas? We are talking about an emotion - love. One which is caused by certain chemical reactions in the brain. That feeling existed before we put the label 'love' on it.The reason I brought up Innate ideas is becuase we are both attacking a term to a set of stimulus responses. He is limited the set to just certain physiological responses that go with romantic or ludic stimuli while I am taking in a large use that has often been made of the limited English term, "love." He's limited the use of the term in order to cut off the wider concept because that would disprove the propagandist notion that love is nothing more than this little narrow range of physical feeling. His view still henges upon the very thing he says mine henges upon, attaching a term to set of feelings.
Innate idea come in to it because for thousands of years people have been using concepts to describes things they feel that are deeper than just this one little set of ideological responses. Al the conceptual talk that goes with the idea of love (such as "will to the good of the other," agope, koinonia and the like) are descriptions of things people feel. If they weren't feelings that refer to a broader conception there would not be such elaboration on this one concept. To say that it's just chemicals is like saying the concepts that go with it must be innate because they too are suggested by the chemicals.
My position is that love is not just a feeling its an emotion. There's more depth to emotion than just a little momentary feeling. He's arguing that if you attack a broader concept to it then you are just making up a bunch of stuff becuase it's not confined this the narrow range. His view just arbitrarily cuts off most of the what had histrionically been used for. This is done for ideological reasons:
(1) atheist are scared to death of feelings
(2) anything involving feelings must be discredited by atheist
(3) you reduce love to just a feeling because if you did not it would destroy your world view.
(4) you are dogmatically asserting that the feeling is the thing itself and the word is made up to describe the feeling. that's arbitrary.
that is proved by the fact that other languages have different words for different kinds of love. English doesn't' have that. Greeks were highly educated, the Anglo Saxons were barbarian. The Anglo Saxon's stopped with the feeling,the Greek cataloged all the related phenomena.
Quote Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
then you don't have argument against religious experience. so religious experience is a chemically induced feeling about something real. what's the problem?
Did you actually read what I wrote? I have no problem at all with religious experience in as much as it is a chemically induced feeling. The problem comes up with someone claims that the cause for that religious experience is external - that is, that it is a chemically induced feeling about something real. That you cannot evidence.The fact of the feelings in relation to the concepts, and the effect of religious experience upon that process, such that one's life is transformed in valuable ways across the board, is the proof that it has to be external. If not you have to accept that it's innate ideas, which against are supposed to be impossible so that would indicate some higher origin. As a direct result of religoius experiencing the person doing the experiencing senses undifferentiated unity, or an all pervasive sense of love (and in that feeling of "love" there is a grander and broader and deeper correspondence to concepts such as "will to the good of the other" than in any other kind of set of feelings to which we attach the term "love).
The effects found by two of the major studies include:
*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style
*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion
The reason for assuming it's an external cause is that these effects are in direct correlation to a sense of presence that the expericer citified as "God" or "higher power" most of the time. One of the most common effects is that the experience is drawn into religious belief, either first time or a deeper sense of commitment, as a result of the experience. This is all in relation to the correlation bewteen sense of presence and the all pervasive sense of love, which the person experiencing identities with the broader concepts not with just the little truckled set of physiological response.
The atheist gimmick would be to say concepts are about unreal ideas in the mind. Yet concepts are about anything. Everything we think is a concept. I have a concept of the world around me. I have concepts of millions of real things all the time. You hae two things working there, the concept and the referent that it is a concept of. Some referents are only in the mind, like Superman. Some referents are real, like the world around me. All concepts are in relation to their referents. Being a concept in no way means the referent is unreal. So the the referent of the concept of Love includes but is not limited to the little set of physiological feelings, but also the deep and broader senses that are attached to the various words that English reduces to the one word "love."
the Greeks even had about several words for different kinds.
eros--the desire to have sex (simiar to ludos)
agope--the will to the good of the other.
All of those are both feelings and concepts. I have a concept of willing the good of the other, but I also feel a sense of the rightness of this. The strong feelings I have for it reinforce the idea that it's right enable me to be committed to it. It's not less just becasue I can put it into words. The words are probable inadequate to give full justice to what is being felt.
If we look though the literature of the world we find vast amounts of evidence for this idea. In Huckleberry Finn when he decides slavery is wrong and feels it deeply enough to say "Ok I'll go to hell then." He's willing to go to hell for the rightness of freeing slaves, and he knows it's true, but he feels it. There the concept is correlated with a physical feeling in connection with it. The feeling backs up the concept. Its' not just an "illusion" brought of my physiology it's concept that he knows is right by the concept of the concept.
We see this reflected all the time in literature around the world, complex idea accompany deep feelings and we call them "emotions." In reducing concepts to feelings and then dis-valuing feelings the atheist reductionists are merely truncating reality and setting up a situation where your world view so automatically privileged and the data that disproves it is lost.
The concept of agope, sometimes translated "charity," although that's inadequate, or "God's love," is not only a Christian concept but had a currency in Greek culture. It is defined by Tillich as the willingness to according the other the basic human dignity due him/her. That requries a complex and compound conceptual referent. Not only does it involve the idea of "good of the other" but also the concept of "human dignity." The reductionist says "you are just sticking a bunch of things on this simple set of physiological responses." Of cousre truncating it in that way takes away the concepts which are felt in themselves. One can have passionate feelings about the good of the other, and about willing the good, about human dignity and according it to people who are being denied it.
I have always sensed that the feelings I feel when responding to something like civil rights workers singing "we shall over come" are must different kind of feeling than a response to the stimulus of a beautiful woman, and I consciously understand that they are and can feel that depth in the feelings at the moment. These are not the same feelings. When thinking of the term "love" in the broader context of agope I clearly sense the connection. There is something in that amalgum of feelings I have about political committment to ideals I care about that I can easily term "love." Che Guevara said Marxism is a strange kind of love, not for gleaming steel factories but for people.