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  1. This thread has prompted me to think and engage with these words of President Nelson's, and in so doing, it has given me a valuable object lesson in these principles. I'll write it down here first, and then I'm probably going to go add it to my personal journals. Anyways, I was somewhat troubled by these statements of President Nelson's, as I find prophetic infallibility to be a terribly frustrating concept and my prima facie interpretation of his words seemed to imply a tacit endorsement of that idea. I was troubled by the totality of his statement in my prima facie interpretation; surely anybody would realize that not every thought expressed in General Conference necessarily represents ultimate truth? In a somewhat troublesome habit of mine, I began to cast around in my mind for how I, in my expansive wisdom, would have phrased the infelicitous thought better. I puzzled over it a bit until I realized that if I phrased it as "what is communicated to you today and tomorrow is pure truth", then that feeling of totality, that impression that he was speaking about every word of Conference, seemed to fall away for me. That choice of words seemed to convey better the message that the Spirit will teach you pure truths...at which point I realized that there is no functional difference between "what is communicated to you" and "what you hear." In terms of an objective standard of meaning (a risible concept but let's roll with it for a moment), there's not a difference between them, not functionally. So the difference in what I felt the words meant, what they meant to me, how they impacted me...had to come from me, and I can't accuse President Nelson based on what goes on inside my head. So I shall not accuse him. That was my mind, in all its conscious and subconscious machinations, at work. In real time I saw your point about the imprecision of language play out. Fine stuff. Also I'm not really sure what he means when he uses the word "pure." The word implies an incorruption, a singular nature...but can't purity exist in the presence of impurity? If there is a gold nugget amidst gravel, isn't that nugget still pure? On what scale is the "purity" we're talking about here? Perhaps he was favoring poetic expression over analytic vigor? Who's to say?
  2. You get a trophy for this. Phenomenal expression of great concepts.
  3. There was an 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon on display in the 2nd-Floor Reading Room/Periodicals Collection of the Harold B. Lee Library last year, it might have been the very same. Then again, I imagine BYU probably has a few first-edition copies of the Book of Mormon lying around.
  4. Yeah, Bill Nye syndrome. Look at what Pinker got his awards for. Cognitive neuroscience, writing, and general popularization of science. None of those are ethics, which is the topic on which you are invoking his authority. That could just as easily be said about Christian ethics, or any code of ethics. The question of ethics is: what constitutes human flourishing? On what scale? The fact that both Aristotelian-Thomists and Pinker can use the same exact words to describe their moral systems ought to tell you that we're not dealing with a particularly precise or individuated mode of thought here. You have missed the point of my entire commentary in this regard. Or rather, you have reasserted your point without rebuttal. I say again: the fact that humanistic ethics and Christian ethics agree on certain points does not establish that humanism is the basic underlying framework. I will repost my prior paragraph on that, for convenience. Emphasis added: I especially object to the following sentence, which in my opinion is represents a view that historically indefensible: From a historical standpoint this is nonsense. The concept of "human rights" has an ancient pedigree in Christian thought. Early Christianity existed as a direct rebuke to the classical conception of the human being, which made the idea of human rights possible in the first place. See the following: The Scandalous Origins of Human Rights. Actually, as argued by Harvard professor Samuel Moyn, the conception of human rights which distilled in the second half of the twentieth century is directly descended from dialogues conducted by Christian churches based on a Christian worldview. See his 2015 book Christian Human Rights. Natural rights dialogue has been ongoing in Christianity for a millennium, so the claim that "human rights" owes its existence to humanism, a decidedly late philosophical enterprise, is nonsense. Furthermore, for Latter-day Saints the question is even less difficult since we have a revelation endorsing the existence of human rights and granting justification in befriending them: D&C 98, 101, and the Book of Mormon's discussion of the "rights and liberties of the people" (which are vaguely defined, but the general concepts of rights is there). You can call those modern forgeries influenced by humanism all you want, it doesn't matter: for believers who believe in the divine origin of these texts, the authority comes from God, not humanism. Do I have to be in order to think that he made some good points in a specific article? And yet they both derived their thinking from the Enlightenment. Pinker should be a little more precise in his argumentation before proclaiming the Enlightenment as a panacea. It is, after all, entitled "Enlightenment Now". Pinker needs to elaborate on how his interpretation of the Enlightenment prevails over the others without assuming the conclusion. He doesn't have to. If an argument implies absurdities, then it doesn't matter who points them out. How is Omelianchuk wrong?
  5. With respect, Steven Pinker is not regarded as "one of the greatest writers and thinkers of our time" by professional ethicists, generally speaking. He's one thinker among many, and he's not a slouch, but he's not a giant. That image only persists because Pinker writes for a popular audience and thus is highly visible. Bill Nye syndrome is at it again. First, a note: I disagree. First, the word "humanism" requires more of a definition than we're working with here; the closest thing you've come to a definition is an instruction to read Pinker. Unfortunately, this thread will be long dead and cooled by the time I'm done with Pinker, so if you would like a meaningful conversation, please provide a definition of "humanism" for us to work with. Actually, now that I think about it, I'd like to hear what you believe "humanism" to be in your own words; use what Pinker taught you. Anyways, I contend that humanism is not the basis of our common morality, and I assert that this demonstration of your point is marred by a fallacy. You assert that, because we hold the same opinion on a moral matter, we must both be grounded in humanism. This evidence does not carry us to your conclusion, however. Just because we have the same view on the morality of a particular act does not mean that we share the same moral framework: to assert such would be to commit a fallacy of composition. Furthermore, your evidence does not establish a direction of causality. Just because humanism (however you define it) adopts a moral stance, does not mean that it is the origin of that moral stance. Therefore, the fact that we hold a moral stance which is embraced in humanism does not mean that we derive it from humanism, or that humanism provides a common moral basis. I, for my part, would contend that what you call "humanism" is hedonistic utilitarianism rebranded with conspicuous Christian moral tendencies. It is transparent from a study of history that the moral basis of "humanism" as it has been most commonly defended is not self-evident to all societies; with that in mind, I wonder how it obtains justification since it has no other authority but self-evidence to rely on if it indeed claims to be "moral truth." John Gray provides some trenchant critiques of Pinker for the New Statesman. The general thrust of his argument is that Pinker is a poor historian. He paints a Manichaean picture of the Enlightenment as entirely pure and good, but this elides a massive chunk of illiberal Enlightenment thought such as that of Nietzsche and Comte, who demonstrate clearly that Enlightenment thought only leads to today's fashionable ethics when paired with other influences outside of "pure rationality." Am I to assume that what they were doing "wasn't real humanism?" If so, how do you plan to prevent Correct Humanism™️ from becoming...whatever they were doing, I guess? I also note that there is controversy about the statistical accuracy of Pinker's statistics regarding world peace, but I haven't read too deep into that so I cannot comment. There's a back and forth between him and a scholar named Taleb, anybody can Google it as they wish. Regarding Harris, there's a pretty devastating argument against the ethics of The Moral Landscape, and that's even before you get into the deeper methodological issues that Mike Blackaby explores in this piece and Jonathan Haidt in this piece. I copy Adam Omelianchuk's formulation of the argument from his review of The Moral Landscape for First Things. As Omelianchuk sums it up: " If psychopaths and moral saints can exist on the same moral level, then morality is meaningless." I would actually strengthen Omelianchuk's point 9: I don't think it's merely possible but in fact established that premises 7 and 8 are incompatible. You can make the argument that the achievement of one's own well-being cannot come at the expense of others, but then you are depriving the psychopath of his wellbeing in the name of others. You could argue that the wellbeing of the multiple is of more significance than the wellbeing of the one, but this is a clean road to tyranny and the moral justification of obscene demands. Not to mention the underlying problem at the foot of it all: Harris assumes the definition of wellbeing from the get go, but that is the fundamental question: Harris' approach is an question of means, the ends having been decided by assumption, but outside that assumption the ends are not decided.
  6. What do you call everything you have posted on this thread if not "testimony to your opinions?" Aren't you declaring them and your belief in them? Declaring our statements of belief to be "testimony" (with whatever negative imprecation you intend to convey) but yours to be whatever else commits a clear No True Scotsman fallacy. As for being open to being wrong, isn't @smac97 doing the same when he says the things I'm about to quote? Does "being open to being wrong" entail not having convictions or opinions, or does it mean acknowledging one's fallibility? For my part, I can't see any sort of progress being made with the first definition: if nobody has convictions, then no persuasion can take place. If you want "openness to being wrong" to be a good that everybody should seek, then it'll have to be the second definition, in which case, what do you call this:
  7. Why do you ask us? Ask those who have done it what they saw. Also, I'm sorry, but that's a really narrow definition of "affection" which I do not accept. Another word may be appropriate, but I think "affection" is broader than romantic/sexual interaction.
  8. I still struggle to correctly pronounce the word "hibiscus." Alas, even when the original cast was there, the quality kind of declined in their last couple of seasons and I tuned out. Still, hearing the old references brings back some nostalgia.
  9. I remain committed to the belief that the Awkward Avoidance Viking represents peak comedy.
  10. Grant Hardy has an interesting thesis where he argues that Moroni Christianized the Jaredite history forcibly: they were likely not as Christian as they have been made out to be. If he's right, then the Book of Ether as we have it is probably at some distance from whoever the Jaredite record keepers may have been. Rather, it is an abridgement/recasting made by Ether from a plurality of records of various types (much like Mormon's work drawing from a plurality of records) with significant redaction by Moroni. This opens up interesting interpretive windows: one the one hand, we could view the episode where Shule forges swords from the hill as an couple-layers-of-culturally-influenced translation of an unconventional event in which he sharpened meteoric iron into blades (since as a refugee he probably would not have access to standard obsidian.) Or we could view it as a legendary event where Shule is depicted as retaking the kingdom with weapons made from sacred material (meteoric iron or metal of any sort was typically used for religious ornamentation), thus securing the mandate of Deity for his reign (which does seem in line with his character depiction.) I've long since learned to forget modern conventions of authorship and the definition of history when dealing with ancient authors. Titus Livius has been quite enlightening in this regard.
  11. I've got your back. The article is "The much exaggerated death of positivism" by Joe Kincheloe and Kenneth Tobin, published in Cultural Studies of Science Education in 2009. I've read it and I agree it's pretty good. Reading things like this is always an amusing experience for me. I get the impression that Kincheloe and Tobin would not like me nor my views on most things very much. Such a shame. For me, the article that really rang positivism's bell was Alan Goff's The Inevitability of Epistemology in Historiography: Theory, History, and Zombie Mormon History. I still need to read Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism though, that one's the real groundbreaker (or so I'm told.)
  12. Nail on the head. There exists scriptural evidence which indicates that God's dealings with men are not as cut-and-dry as we would like them to be. Maybe we should take God a little more seriously when He says His ways are mysterious. Take Matt 19:4-9 First, it should be noted that a) we do not keep this commandment of the Savior's presently, and b) Jesus Christ stated explicitly that the Lord permitted Moses to include in the scriptures authorization for a practice that was against the eternal order, in the name of immediate necessity. I've started to think of God as a little more utilitarian than I previously have, but who knows? My conception of the Father is likely to shift a lot around certain experience-based poles until further interaction fixes more poles in place.
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