Where do axioms come from?

in #philosophy7 years ago (edited)

While reading @dwinblood's post about the fallacy communism this little fragment got my attention:

I am not religious, so when I say "this is evil" it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with simply knowing that killing someone for thinking different things than you do is wrong.

How is it that there are things that "we simply know"?
Where does this knowledge come from?

To be clear, I am not trying to tease @dwinblood, that's an honest question. That's something that intrigues me a lot lately. Many of us declare not being religious, yet there seem to be some sort of set of axioms which are true to us without any rational or scientific proof.

Where do those axioms come from? They cannot be verified by anything we have at our disposal. So do they come from outside of our reality? If so, why not call them God?

@dwinblood says that "it has nothing to do with religion", as if religion was something unreliable. But maybe his statement actually is the very essence of religion? As it deals with things that seem to be way more primordial than the reality we have access to.


What if we defined God not naively, as some angry old man creating stuff, but instead as the domain where our axioms come from?

On the other hand, if we deny the existence of this external domain, then we imply that the reality we live in just created itself by some sort of bootstrapping mechanism.

I used to think what way until I realized that nobody can give me any example of anything that us capable of this trick. Not even in such abstract areas as mathematics - every mathematical theory needs to have some external axioms which cannot be derived from within the theory.

So maybe blockchains? They are known for their bootstrapping & self-validating capabilities.
No, not even them - every blockchain has its origin outside itself.

So why do we believe in the bootstrapping theory, if we have not seen a single instance of it?

For me it's just as irrational as believing in God. Or even more irrational because by rejecting the concept of an external reality you believe in something that does not exist, not even mathematically: a self-contained entity.


(image source 1) (image source 2)


Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond... I had some active comment sections today and I try to be engaged there.

A couple of things... When I say I am not religious... I don't follow any revealed, prophetic, etc based religions. Nothing organized. Those shift so much and it is easily proven they do that at this point they are primarily works of man. Some people find comfort in them. They tend to cause discomfort in me.

I wrote a few times about the closest things religion wise to explain me... here are a few you can read or not read. They are old so I am not trying to solicit votes. I don't tend to do that.

The little religion that history has forgotten... Deism (not to be confused with Theism) - 10 months ago... explains my thinking best I think
If reality were only a simulation how would WE the simulants be able to know for sure?
Outcast, Hermit, different wiring, or possibly genetics... Am I intentionally obstinate? (some profanity... oh no)

Then there is what I wrote a few days ago that also ties into this... (images are clickable links to the articles)

Please understand my intentions are not to trash any religion. I know Christianity the best and I've studied it extensively and have many different bible versions. If I wanted to trash it and bash it I could do a pretty thorough job. That is not my goal though, and I don't see it as necessarily beneficial to do that. I don't mind people practicing it or any religion until they try to force it upon me or they make laws based upon it that force things upon me. I will fight in those situations.

Your post has been an inspiration for me and I did not mean to argue against any statements that you've made. So there is no need to be so defensive.

I just thought that your declaration was quite symptomatic: we reject religion yet we act and say things as if we were religious. And this also refers to people who openly declare themselves as atheists.

But I guess it all depends on how you define the word "religious".

My definition is very broad and it boils down to this: if there is at least one thing that you consider to be absolutely true (as opposed to everything being totally relative) than you are accepting the existence of a transcendent reality and thus you are being religious.

Ultimately the reason I added the religion comment in my post though is somewhat what you were talking about. I knew if I mentioned the word "evil" some people would immediately draw their own conclusions. Some would not see it as a chance to target religion, others would. I've actually encountered that before. I don't believe we actually need religion to understand the concept of evil. Some people though obviously have mental issues (example: psychopaths and sociopaths) and cannot totally comprehend this. So yes I recognized that by using "evil" some people may choose to focus on that word from a religious context, and if they are anti-religious that may stop them from reading any further, or if they are religious they could potentially take it in a context other than what I was aiming for as well. So yes, some of what you were writing about is true to my motivations as well.

I remember thinking "evil" and then feeling the need to put that qualifier in there. This is experiential in my case. I've had discussions derailed by that word before. People can latch onto a word and get fixated on it and ignore everything else I was talking about. Thus, I believe that qualifier was my experience trying to head that off at the pass so to speak.

That's an interesting insight.

I don't believe we actually need religion to understand the concept of evil.

That's the crucial point. I don't think it's possible to separate those two. When we deal with the concept of evil, we implicitly assume the existence of a transcendent reality and that's the very domain of religion. We could call it ethics but still it's the same thing: something that shapes our behavior yet it's beyond our rationality.

something that shapes our behavior yet it's beyond our rationality.

Personally I am fine with that. It fits right in with Deism.

So let me rephrase that "I don't believe we actually need ORGANIZED religion..." :)

I don't intend it as defensive and I didn't take your post as anything offensive. It's actually a good post. Well written.

I just thought I'd share what inspired me down that path. You noticed that I felt the need to mention religion in the post. I actually noticed that too as I was writing it. Yet I may have been coming at it different than you thought so I thought maybe if you knew a bit more about me as all I said was I am not religious in my post, but actually that was not quite true. I simply am not part of any organized religion. :) I am a religious soloist.

I'm glad it inspired you. I actually get why you wrote what you did. I just felt a need to share with YOU what actually did likely inspire my choice of words.

I actually had nothing wrong with what you wrote. If I had I would have quoted that part and discussed it. So please take no offense. I was simply being as open and honest with you as I could in a QUICK fashion as the comment sections of two of my posts have been pretty active today and it took me a bit to reply to you even though I opened it up in a tab as soon as you told me about it.

OK, that's good. Now I understand your point.

I used not to belive in god too, because i just assumed that religious people were dumb(axiom). But after a while, i figured, that there could be some god-like intelligence which we don't know yet. There could be something, not measureable, but still be there. Do you belive in something like an intelligent force which we just can't measure yet?

At this stage I am pretty sure there must be reality outside this reality, as I everything I know of has an external domain. So for me it's not a matter of belief - I just cannot imagine any other option.

Whereas what I actually believe (and it's an act of unjustified faith) is that there are aspects of this external reality which have impact on our reality.

Excellent post. It's a shame it did not receive a proper payout.


Yeah, it was written when i had about 75 followers, and i was trying to just gain a following.. Have to say the level of engagement has appreciably improved now..

Thanks again for the upvote, $34 is a sizable amount for me :)

I am pleased to have discovered you. We might disagree on some concepts but still I appreciate the quality of your thinking.

For me it's very encouraging that here on Steem sooner or later every valuable contributor will be discovered - it's just a matter of being consistent.

Actually, your old post has sparked an interesting exchange between @kyriacos and myself. I wonder what you think of it.

What aspects are you talking of?
It's interesting that you name it, Nikola Tesla has a similar view on the things - he belive that parallel universes exist!

What aspects are you talking of?

Morality comes from outside.

So morality isn't shaped by hundreds of years of evolution?

That's a tough question, I'm still grappling with it.

Evolution is the source of ultimate truth - which means for me that truth can be defined as whatever survived the process of evolution and the oldest something is the more truth it conveys.

Thus I treat evolution as a mechanism of discovering the truth. Morality manifests itself via evolution but is not the end-product of it.

We could say that morality is the set of rules that allowed those who followed them to survive. But this does not imply that evolution created those rules. Instead we could say that evolution revealed the rules we now call morality.

Actually I was thinking about an answer against the "evolution created those rules" argument but couldn't find any. It seems logical that nature had those rules already and by time it just revealed them to us, because we were getting smarter to discover them. So morality does come from something outside. But why do you think there is another reality outside of this one?

Morals are a fabric, you can take them off if you dare. They're not God given, we learn them. In China they eat dogs and horses, and people in Europe consider that immoral. And people are trained to kill other people for thinking different things everyday.
But I still believe in God.

They're not God given, we learn them.
Surely some specific moral rules are shaped by local culture. But still from those rules we can extract meta rules which are universal across all cultures.

If we learn them, then there must be some origin. And there are two possibilities:
-- a long time ago some smart guy just invented some rules and they just spread across all mankind
-- those rules are intrinsic to us and have existed prior to our existence
The latter just makes more sense to me, as everything around follows this pattern, so why should we consider ourselves to be a special case?

I believe there are two opposing forces, positive and negative. Life and death. Love and hate. Light and Darkness. The only rules here on Earth are made up by man, but those forces are Intrinsic. If you live in hate, darkness, negativity and death, you will suffer. Your soul knows what's good. I think we're on the same page really!

Your soul knows what's good.

Yes, it looks like we're talking about the same thing, just using different words. For me the two opposing forces are those: order and chaos.

Yet there are some things all human beings innately feel are wrong such as killing and stealing. Are there any cultures where thats not the case?

What about in all the armies of the world? And all the sacrifices that were made to the Sun God in the ancient cultures of mesoamerica, where were their morals?

Actually, the concept of sacrifice is an excellent manifestation of morality. And it has survived till our times, just in a different form. But the concept is still the same: accept some suffering now so that there is less suffering in the future. We do it everyday.

The thing one can imagine situations where killing and stealing is justified. Yet there can be extracted some meta-rules which are shared by all cultures across all human history.

Killing was poor word choice. Murder is universally accepted as wrong, and youd be hard pressed to find societies (not individuals) which have no problem with stealing. All societies have scenarios in which they justify the taking of life.

  1. Thank you for pulling me out of my desire to leave my desk and have a nap quake.
  2. The question "Does 'evil' KNOW it is 'evil'?" And then what follows is the definition based on a perception of "what is evil".
    That's right up there with "What is consciousness?"
  3. The Allegory of the Cave (Plato) is a strong foundation for "where do axioms come from"!

i liked this post the details of covering the content attracted me the most :) totally agree with you looking forward for more unorthodox posts

upvoted make sure to follow me and upvote my post if you find useful

I'll be flagging such spam.

Neat read thanks for posting :). You now have a new follower.

I'll be flagging such spam.

Interesting theory :) Thank you for the effort to provide people value. You have a new follower. I will appriciate it if you follow and upvote me too :))

I'll be flagging such spam.

Hey, but that's not spam..

Your comment appeared a couple of seconds after I'd published my post so you could not have read what I wrote. If you tell me that you are a speed reader, then I'll remove my flag.