virus: Let's not have a... (was: Cow)

Tim Rhodes (
Thu, 27 May 1999 18:40:01 -0700

Glad to see you're still as feisty as ever, Hermit, even after my time in the wings, looking on at the proceedings from a comfortable distance. (And not really liking much of what I saw, to be honest. [ <---this is not directed at you specifically, Hermit, but to the the entire furry mass which is CoV as a whole] )

I have no reason to argue with you over this, there is more than enough of that level of bickering here already. My points were simple, which you may or may not disagree with. And if my syntax offended, I apologize.

The points I'd hoped I'd made were:

  1. Relativism does not, of itself, negate meaning.
  2. Morality can be seen as a "goal state" for a social system in much the way that the setting on your thermostat is the "goal state" for the temperature of the room. The deviation from that state may be described in terms of the "ethics" (as you point out), but the fact that the "goal" is not the "actual" (or is not based in science, for example), does not necessarily make the "goal" invalid or useless.*

(* These two terms I would use interchangeably in this setting--for what is "useful" I would consider also, from my way of thinking, to be "valid".)

Do you agree with the above at all, in any way? If so, I think there still may be hope yet for you and I.

-Prof. Tim

-----Original Message-----
From: TheHermit <>
To: <> Date: Thursday, May 27, 1999 5:02 PM
Subject: RE: virus: Cow

>Prof Tim
>What is morality. How do you measure it. Playing pomo word games may give
>you a hard-on, but it doesn't advance the discussion.
>FYI, my statement was not constructed or presented as a syllogism and as
>such, cannot be an "incorrect syllogism" no matter how incorrect the
>statement was (but you didn't demonstrate or claim that so I won't address
>it). Your making assertions about my statement as a syllogism doesn't
>advance anything but the notion of you dressed in rusty armor, sitting on
>emaciated donkey and tilting at straw men.
>Ethical systems do exist (are described) and as many as can be imagined can
>be constructed. Unlike morals, they can be reconciled and compared. The
>measure for an individual is how well they adhere to the ethical system
>profess. The measure of ethical systems themselves can be measured by their
>genetic viability and their utility to their adherents.
>Your thermal analogy not only fails, it doesn't even get off the starting
>blocks. If you liken Brownian motion to morality, by implication you are
>asserting that all moral systems are measurable in the same terms
>(temperature) irrespective of their cause (molecule type). I am prepared to
>bet that if you were to explain the "morality" of Tamerlane (or Timur
>Plato, Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther, Stalin and Pat Robertson in the same
>terms, that you would get a temperature doing it. I suspect you would have
>extreme difficulty reconciling their differing moral platforms no matter
>similar the end result might appear to be (or not depending on your
>references). Measuring their behavior relative to their own professed
>is not at all difficult, and evaluating their ethical systems in terms of
>utility is also viable.
>Temperature is not "imaginary" - if you are exposed to enough Calories for
>long enough you will be "burnt" (i.e. your tissues will be damaged, and
>if you are not a witch, you will burn :-) ). Temperature is an average
>energy value contained by a system and is calculable, not a myth at all.
>Show me the person burnt by a moral system. Show me your "morality
>thermometer". Explain to me the laws which govern the workings of your
>"moral molecules". Don't just hide behind false analogies and
>unsubstantiated sorties.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:
>> []On Behalf
>> Of Tim Rhodes
>> Sent: Thursday, May 27, 1999 5:50 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Re: virus: Cow
>> TheHermit wrote:
>> >Morality can only exist with an external reference. Otherwise
>> >you are simply playing with references, and as each person's
>> >"morality" is equally valid, the word is meaningless.
>> FYI--this is an incorrect syllogism.
>> As an analogy: Just because the rate at which ever molecule
>> in a solution
>> moves is different (while being "equally valid") it does not
>> preclude the
>> solution from having an overall temperature. Neither does it turn the
>> concept of 'temperature' into a "myth" as a result.
>> >As there are no external references, the concept of morality is
>> >only a convenient myth;
>> As mythic as the concept of "room temperature". (But I bet
>> you still have a
>> thermostat on the wall, don't you?)
>> -Prof. Tim