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Posted by Nicholas on November 10, 2002 00:55:24 UTC

"I consider a belief that adds meaning to life as evidence that one should hold it"

Define meaning.

"Mario, where do you think the notion of truth comes from? I can't see any origination of truth other than what you call aesthetics."

I think truth is derived from usefulness, which is linked to survival. There is a fundamental difference between aesthetics and usefulness. The first humans to create fire may not have found the process or the result particularly pleasing (perhaps they were afraid of it), but it helped them survive. Thus, the "truth" about fire was arose in order that other humans could survive.

"Okay, name the highest items on your Validity Dectector list. Let me ask if 'aesthetics' is needed to place items at the top of that list."

I actually agree with this, though perhaps to a lesser extent than you intended.

"The appeal of a belief is what makes a belief appear to be true. There are different types of appeal, but I don't think there is no universal appeal that distinguishes 'truth' in all cases. "

There are indeed different types of appeal, and not all of them include aesthetics. For example, it is commonly considered to be 'true' that we will all die one day. I don't find this aesthetically pleasing at all, so clearly there is more to 'truth' than just our desires.

"You can choose your beliefs, and as a result those beliefs choose you."

You're going to have to explain this. It sounds circular to me.

"If we cannot call those meaningful experiences as 'truth' (or 'approximate truth') because we technically do not 'know', then I see no benefit to the concept of what it means to understand something."

This smacks of the perfectionist fallacy. Simply because we cannot know 'absolute' truth, that doesn't mean we should abandon the concept entirely. A coherent existence would not be possible without some concept of truth. The concept of truth is what makes me think I can type on this keyboard and letters will appear on the screen. If I had no idea what a keyboard was, I would not think this. There is clearly a difference between understanding and not understanding something. The only thing that religion helps me understand is why other people act the way they do. But then I have to ask what religion helps them understand. Eventually, if I follow that chain, I will probably end up going in a circle or hitting a dead end. This is why I am agnostic.

"There's no justification to be agnostic when spiritual meaning is a fundamental human need - at least for most folks."

This is a great line. Perhaps you and I have a different definition of "fundamental".

"Perhaps there is a small percentage of people that do not require meaning in their lives"

I'm agnostic and I think I have meaning, but I'm not sure how you're defining it. That's why I asked you to explain.

"I am talking in more general terms, that is, with society as a whole."

Simply because the majority acts in a certain way does not mean that the majority represents what is "fundamental" about human beings. Most of the needs of human beings change depending on their circumstances. I would define "fundamental" needs as those which do not (i.e. everybody should have them). This includes food, water, and probably some kind of social interaction. It doesn't go too far beyond that, however.

"If someone, who suffered greatly, had an emotional need for hell (i.e., they need to believe that evil doers will be punished), then I could certainly understand if they went ahead and held that belief."

As would I. I think tolerating other people's needs is important, as long as their needs are not infringing on those of others. Religion has a nasty habit of doing this.

"Or, more realistically, if someone wants to be dedicated to their religious beliefs, then I see no reason why they cannot continue to believe in hell if that is what they really want to believe."

If only you could be so tolerant of agnostics.

In order to debate many of the other things you said, I'll need a definition of meaning.

Fond regards,


P.S. Sorry to intrude on your argument but, just like Mario, certain things rub me the wrong way.

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