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Science and a twist on the is ought gap
Posted: 09 March 2011 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Starting with function, rather than what is, we can explain things like moral judgment, altruism, forgiveness, anger etc.

So science can tell us about these things.

If we can establish what the aim ought to be, science can also tell us about how to achieve the aim.

But can science bridge the Function—————>Aim gap?

I don’t have any answers but I hope this is a helpful way of formulating the problem.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 March 2011 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m not sure I follow. What do you mean by “function”? Do you mean starting from determining the function of moral behavior?

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Posted: 10 March 2011 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Kaizen - 09 March 2011 04:24 PM

I’m not sure I follow. What do you mean by “function”? Do you mean starting from determining the function of moral behavior?

I’ve got my idea of function from the biological definition I got some time ago from Doug, meaning what it was selected for. The heart functions as a pump, for instance. I’m sure we can apply that to any behaviour. When we ask why we evolved to be altruistic, we are asking what is altruism’s function, I think.

Function is similar to purpose as in aim but not the same, as aim entails beings who are attempting to make the future some way by behaving some way.

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

I think in order for there to be something that we ought to do, there needs to be an aim that we ought to have. So If I ought to fill a bucket of water (using a non moral example) then when I go to the tap I ought to take the bucket with me. If it has a hole in it I ought to repair the hole.

Can we establish some link between function and aim that can guide us perhaps? function is to do with survival whilst aim is to do with avoiding suffering/harm and gaining happiness.

I guess answering what is the function of suffereing and happiness would be a good start.

Stephen

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Posted: 10 March 2011 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 12:43 AM

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

“Beneficial” is a potential problem here because it can be taken to convey a value judgment.  The trick is to avoid ideas like beneficial, better, good, etc. or make it clear you are employing them in a way entirely independent from subjective preference.  Or, one can bite the bullet and concede that subjective preference is a required ingredient in whatever morality is. 

I think in order for there to be something that we ought to do, there needs to be an aim that we ought to have. So If I ought to fill a bucket of water (using a non moral example) then when I go to the tap I ought to take the bucket with me. If it has a hole in it I ought to repair the hole.

This is the same problem from another angle.  Defining one ought in terms of other oughts is not difficult.  The trick is to either define oughts in terms of things that are not oughts or demonstrate that oughts are fundamental and non-reducible.

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Posted: 10 March 2011 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM
StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 12:43 AM

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

“Beneficial” is a potential problem here because it can be taken to convey a value judgment. 

Yes it can be but I’m just using it in the evolutionary aimless sense.

Stephen

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Posted: 10 March 2011 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 11:12 AM
the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM
StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 12:43 AM

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

“Beneficial” is a potential problem here because it can be taken to convey a value judgment. 

Yes it can be but I’m just using it in the evolutionary aimless sense.

Stephen

Okay.  But even then there is potential for coming up against the naturalistic fallacy.  It might be an instructive exercise to try rewording that sentence with the most clearly value-free terms you can.  But if you wish to take your thread in another direction please disregard my hijack.

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Posted: 10 March 2011 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 11:12 AM
the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM
StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 12:43 AM

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

“Beneficial” is a potential problem here because it can be taken to convey a value judgment. 

Yes it can be but I’m just using it in the evolutionary aimless sense.

Stephen

IMO this is an example of “selection”, starting with parental care, family unity, group unity and support. Seems to me that the early hominids who presented a united front to adversaries would be more successful in survival than those who were more solitary and more vulnerable to predators.
Grooming is a wonderful example of beneficial cooperation and is very instrumental in bonding.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM

This is the same problem from another angle.  Defining one ought in terms of other oughts is not difficult.  The trick is to either define oughts in terms of things that are not oughts or demonstrate that oughts are fundamental and non-reducible.

I think that’s impossible but I don’t think it’s a problem because we can stop at what we ought to aim for.

If I’m wrong about that then I think this just can’t be done at all. I guess I’m saying consequensialism must be right.

What we know is nothing would matter at all if we weren’t capable of degrees of suffering and degrees of happiness.

So we’ve at least go something to go on.

Stephen

[ Edited: 11 March 2011 12:51 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 11 March 2011 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 01:36 PM
StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 11:12 AM
the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM
StephenLawrence - 10 March 2011 12:43 AM

Morals start off as purely functional, so altruism starts out as being selected because it’s beneficial to the group.

“Beneficial” is a potential problem here because it can be taken to convey a value judgment. 

Yes it can be but I’m just using it in the evolutionary aimless sense.

Stephen

Okay.  But even then there is potential for coming up against the naturalistic fallacy.  It might be an instructive exercise to try rewording that sentence with the most clearly value-free terms you can.  But if you wish to take your thread in another direction please disregard my hijack.

I agree with you but no time now.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 March 2011 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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StephenLawrence - 11 March 2011 12:48 AM
the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM

This is the same problem from another angle.  Defining one ought in terms of other oughts is not difficult.  The trick is to either define oughts in terms of things that are not oughts or demonstrate that oughts are fundamental and non-reducible.

I think that’s impossible but I don’t think it’s a problem because we can stop at what we ought to aim for.

I’m surprised that you do not see that stopping point as a the problem.  If we had that then the part where we agree science is useful (deriving oughts from other oughts or perhaps oughts from wants) strikes me as almost trivial.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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the PC apeman - 11 March 2011 09:55 AM
StephenLawrence - 11 March 2011 12:48 AM
the PC apeman - 10 March 2011 05:13 AM

This is the same problem from another angle.  Defining one ought in terms of other oughts is not difficult.  The trick is to either define oughts in terms of things that are not oughts or demonstrate that oughts are fundamental and non-reducible.

I think that’s impossible but I don’t think it’s a problem because we can stop at what we ought to aim for.

I’m surprised that you do not see that stopping point as a the problem.  If we had that then the part where we agree science is useful (deriving oughts from other oughts or perhaps oughts from wants) strikes me as almost trivial.

I’m wondering if science can be useful in telling us what the aim ought to be and if it can do so by bridging the function————-> aim gap.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 March 2011 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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StephenLawrence - 11 March 2011 01:57 PM
the PC apeman - 11 March 2011 09:55 AM

I’m surprised that you do not see that stopping point as a the problem.  If we had that then the part where we agree science is useful (deriving oughts from other oughts or perhaps oughts from wants) strikes me as almost trivial.

I’m wondering if science can be useful in telling us what the aim ought to be and if it can do so by bridging the function————-> aim gap.

Stephen

Yes, but you seem to do so by embedding an ought within function.  So your twist on the is-ought problem appears to be to discuss a relatively trivial ought-ought problem.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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the PC apeman - 11 March 2011 02:04 PM
StephenLawrence - 11 March 2011 01:57 PM
the PC apeman - 11 March 2011 09:55 AM

I’m surprised that you do not see that stopping point as a the problem.  If we had that then the part where we agree science is useful (deriving oughts from other oughts or perhaps oughts from wants) strikes me as almost trivial.

I’m wondering if science can be useful in telling us what the aim ought to be and if it can do so by bridging the function————-> aim gap.

Stephen

Yes, but you seem to do so by embedding an ought within function.  So your twist on the is-ought problem appears to be to discuss a relatively trivial ought-ought problem.

I don’t really understand you.

What we ought to aim for is not a trivial problem, it’s the key.

If science can get us from function to what the aim should be then it can solve the problem of what is objectively morally right.

So whether it can or not seems to be of tremendous importance rather than trivial.

the function is linked to survival. The aim is linked to the reduction of suffering and the increasing of happiness and these things in turn are linked to survival.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 March 2011 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I guess I am not understanding you either.  What is the function and what is the aim in your earlier example? Why are there two oughts?

So If I ought to fill a bucket of water (using a non moral example) then when I go to the tap I ought to take the bucket with me.

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Posted: 12 March 2011 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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the PC apeman - 12 March 2011 12:20 AM

I guess I am not understanding you either.  What is the function and what is the aim in your earlier example? Why are there two oughts?

So If I ought to fill a bucket of water (using a non moral example) then when I go to the tap I ought to take the bucket with me.

There is no function in the example.

My point there was if science can establish the aim we ought to have then it can do the rest. Once we know the aim science has plenty to tell us about how to achieve it.

How could science establish the aim?

It seems to me it would need to bridge the is ought gap.

How could it do that?

I speculate it could explain the move from function to aim and I see no other chance of it being able to tell us what aim we should have than that.

Stephen

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Posted: 12 March 2011 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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StephenLawrence - 12 March 2011 12:31 PM
the PC apeman - 12 March 2011 12:20 AM

I guess I am not understanding you either.  What is the function and what is the aim in your earlier example? Why are there two oughts?

So If I ought to fill a bucket of water (using a non moral example) then when I go to the tap I ought to take the bucket with me.

There is no function in the example.

In more ways than one.

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