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There’s no such thing as morals or values!
Posted: 18 August 2012 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Gdb or Doug,

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality:

 

Moral realism is the class of theories which hold that there are true moral statements that report objective moral facts. For example, while they might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape individuals’ “moral” decisions, they deny that those cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior. This may be the philosophical view propounded by ethical naturalists, however not all moral realists accept that position (e.g. ethical non-naturalists).[8]
  Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, holds that moral statements either fail or do not even attempt to report objective moral facts. Instead, they hold that moral claims are derived either from an unsupported belief that there are objective moral facts (error theory, a form of moral nihilism); the speakers’ sentiments (emotivism, a form of moral relativism); or any one of the norms prevalent in society (ethical subjectivism, another form of moral relativism).

The objective moral facts referred to in moral realism is the belief that there exists a morality from outside our subjective opinions or right or wrong. It claims that there exists right and wrong beyond our actual existence…a set of laws, along with the laws of physics, that are fixed and must be obeyed in order for real prosperity.
If they are as physical laws, are they deterministic or non-deterministic? If they are deterministic, we can’t blame anyone for doing something that may appear to be bad because in reality they are physically determined by law to behave according to these moral laws; in essence, everyone will naturally obey because it is in our DNA to do so.
On the other hand, if they are non-deterministic, then there are physical laws that are capable allowing people to opt for varied moral behaviors. But then which behaviors are the ‘correct’ ones and how to we determine who to listen to? Only religion answers this logically by proposing the objective entity of a being that is outside our subjective experiences. Of course this isn’t resolvable because we either can never know the true morals of such a being because even if it were to all of a sudden appear before us, we’d recognize that it’s a subjective entity.

That’s why I say morals are not real.

P.S. GdB, I’d make great compost. When I’m dead, it won’t make a difference to me what my body’s used for.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

Gdb or Doug,

I’ll have a few things to say, but I hope only a few.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

If they are as physical laws, are they deterministic or non-deterministic? If they are deterministic, we can’t blame anyone for doing something that may appear to be bad because in reality they are physically determined by law to behave according to these moral laws; in essence, everyone will naturally obey because it is in our DNA to do so.

None of this follows. A toaster is deterministic, but it can break down. A computer is deterministic, but it can behave badly. A nematode is deterministic, but it can become ill. Anything with a function—and biology is chock full of functions—has normative properties. Ethical properties are just another form of normative property.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

On the other hand, if they are non-deterministic, then there are physical laws that are capable allowing people to opt for varied moral behaviors.

Sorry, not right. Stochastic physical laws have nothing to do with allowing people to opt. All they have to do with is randomness. We’ve dealt with this way too much in other threads for me to get into it again.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

But then which behaviors are the ‘correct’ ones and how to we determine who to listen to? Only religion answers this logically by proposing the objective entity of a being that is outside our subjective experiences. Of course this isn’t resolvable because we either can never know the true morals of such a being because even if it were to all of a sudden appear before us, we’d recognize that it’s a subjective entity.

No, not right either. Religion provides no special answer at all to these questions, and certainly does not do so “logically”. The standard religious answer is in terms of a theory of divine command, which is simply a rule of the stronger. The fact that a strongman tells me that it’s right to do X is absolutely no argument at all that it’s right to do X. Further, one only has to look at the Bible to see that the ethical strictures it contains are largely complete nonsense.

There is no royal road to ethical truths. But there are, in general, better and worse ways for humans to live together: ways that provide more happiness; ways that allow the most people to achieve what they want, and avoid what they do not want. There are also ways that do not do this: crucially, we can be wrong about such matters, so it’s not a mere matter of opinion.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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dougsmith - 18 August 2012 09:30 AM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

Gdb or Doug,

...

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

If they are as physical laws, are they deterministic or non-deterministic? If they are deterministic, we can’t blame anyone for doing something that may appear to be bad because in reality they are physically determined by law to behave according to these moral laws; in essence, everyone will naturally obey because it is in our DNA to do so.

None of this follows. A toaster is deterministic, but it can break down. A computer is deterministic, but it can behave badly. A nematode is deterministic, but it can become ill. Anything with a function—and biology is chock full of functions—has normative properties. Ethical properties are just another form of normative property.

A toaster is only ‘broken’ relative to our functional use of it. In computers, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Garbage-in -> Garbage Out’? The computer doesn’t behave badly; it functions only according to it’s circuitry and programming effectiveness. I can become ill from a bacterial infection; but the bacteria, on the other hand, is effectively surviving. You’re mistaking effectiveness to a function or task with moral aptitude. Hitler wasn’t evil because of the Holocaust; He was evil because those of us who survive today were grossed out by imagining it could have been us from those vivid pictures we witnessed of those bodies from the new-at-the-time motion pictures and film. Our cultures have evolved (not ‘bettered’) to suit a different environment. Gladiators weren’t a forced entertainment on the ancient Roman society; it was a good and just form of entertainment and life then.

Most Americans didn’t even sufficiently care to question George Bush when he continued to fake blame at Al Qaeda, “terrorists”, Osama Bin Laden, “terrorists”, Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction, and more “terrorists” even when it was blatantly so obvious that he just wanted to conquer Oil ... I mean Iraq. But they are a free people now, right? 
 

dougsmith - 18 August 2012 09:30 AM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

On the other hand, if they are non-deterministic, then there are physical laws that are capable allowing people to opt for varied moral behaviors.

Sorry, not right. Stochastic physical laws have nothing to do with allowing people to opt. All they have to do with is randomness. We’ve dealt with this way too much in other threads for me to get into it again.

I’m not defending non-deterministic ideals. The point of the argument was to show that if you hold the moral realist view, both deterministic and non-deterministic alternatives applied to a moral law, akin to the power of a physical law, does not hold. [I don’t know how Stochastic probability even relates(?)]

dougsmith - 18 August 2012 09:30 AM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 08:05 AM

But then which behaviors are the ‘correct’ ones and how to we determine who to listen to? Only religion answers this logically by proposing the objective entity of a being that is outside our subjective experiences. Of course this isn’t resolvable because we either can never know the true morals of such a being because even if it were to all of a sudden appear before us, we’d recognize that it’s a subjective entity.

No, not right either. Religion provides no special answer at all to these questions, and certainly does not do so “logically”. The standard religious answer is in terms of a theory of divine command, which is simply a rule of the stronger. The fact that a strongman tells me that it’s right to do X is absolutely no argument at all that it’s right to do X. Further, one only has to look at the Bible to see that the ethical strictures it contains are largely complete nonsense.

There is no royal road to ethical truths. But there are, in general, better and worse ways for humans to live together: ways that provide more happiness; ways that allow the most people to achieve what they want, and avoid what they do not want. There are also ways that do not do this: crucially, we can be wrong about such matters, so it’s not a mere matter of opinion.

I’m not standing for a religious view. I’m saying that you must in order to believe that there is such thing as an objective X (=truth/viewpoint/value) outside the subjective self. You seem to agree that you wouldn’t trust an ancient manuscript or person of human authority (strongman) to have wisdom on morality. Where is this perspective of moral absolutism outside of yourself? Point to it.

I think you can describe more or less effective ways to behave. I personally think that it is wise us to choose the classical liberal notion as an agreeable convened moral code of conduct: Allow as much freedom for others in my environment to do what they want, when they want, as long as they do not infringe on my right of the same freedom of behavior. At least, that’s effective from my perspective for me in my environment.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 10:53 AM

A toaster is only ‘broken’ relative to our functional use of it. In computers, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Garbage-in -> Garbage Out’? The computer doesn’t behave badly; it functions only according to it’s circuitry and programming effectiveness. I can become ill from a bacterial infection; but the bacteria, on the other hand, is effectively surviving.

All true but irrelevant. My point is to say that normative properties can accrue even to clearly deterministic devices. So it’s no argument at all to say that X is a deterministic device so therefore it has no normative properties.

And ethical properties are simply one sort of normative property.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 10:53 AM

Hitler wasn’t evil because of the Holocaust; He was evil because those of us who survive today were grossed out by imagining it could have been us from those vivid pictures we witnessed of those bodies from the new-at-the-time motion pictures and film.

This is called being provided with a reductio and taking it. I won’t get into it too much because I find it repugnant. But no, Hitler would have been evil whether or not those of us who survived today believed it. And in fact, given what you say about GW Bush and Iraq, I think it’s pretty clear you know this and are just BSing at some level.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 10:53 AM

I think you can describe more or less effective ways to behave. I personally think that it is wise us to choose the classical liberal notion as an agreeable convened moral code of conduct: Allow as much freedom for others in my environment to do what they want, when they want, as long as they do not infringe on my right of the same freedom of behavior. At least, that’s effective from my perspective for me in my environment.

OK, well that’s a start, anyway.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I’m missing your vocabulary. What is normative properties? I respect that you’ve been here a long time, not to mention whatever formal education you have, but could you explain without sending me off to Harvard or a long digression into catch-up reading?

P.S. I don’t think it’s necessary to get inflamed emotionally about mentioning vile characters or events to make a rational argument. It also makes me wonder why anyone doesn’t ask themselves, if someone were to be very good and nurturing for, say, fifty years of their lives but then does one infamous and vile act that makes them incredibly hated, does anything they do in the last fifty years disappear? Is someone who is evil, always evil 24/7? ...someone angelic, perfect 24/7?

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Posted: 18 August 2012 01:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 12:22 PM

I’m missing your vocabulary. What is normative properties? I respect that you’ve been here a long time, not to mention whatever formal education you have, but could you explain without sending me off to Harvard or a long digression into catch-up reading?

A normative property is a value-laden property. Generally normative properties are distinguished from descriptive properties.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 12:22 PM

P.S. I don’t think it’s necessary to get inflamed emotionally about mentioning vile characters or events to make a rational argument. It also makes me wonder why anyone doesn’t ask themselves, if someone were to be very good and nurturing for, say, fifty years of their lives but then does one infamous and vile act that makes them incredibly hated, does anything they do in the last fifty years disappear? Is someone who is evil, always evil 24/7? ...someone angelic, perfect 24/7?

Nope. Nobody is either perfectly good or perfectly evil. But one doesn’t need to assert such a falsehood in order to say that Hitler was someone who did some very bad things.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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dougsmith - 18 August 2012 01:06 PM

A normative property is a value-laden property. Generally normative properties are distinguished from descriptive properties.

Okay, you said, “Anything with a function—and biology is chock full of functions—has normative properties.” So you are saying that biology has ‘value-laden’ properties. And since they are distinguished from ‘descriptive’ properties, are these properties incapable of being described physically (i.e. non-descriptive)??

You also stated that, “...normative properties can accrue even to clearly deterministic devices.” What’s an example of a normative property and how do they accrue?

dougsmith - 18 August 2012 01:06 PM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 12:22 PM

P.S. I don’t think it’s necessary to get inflamed emotionally about mentioning vile characters or events to make a rational argument. It also makes me wonder why anyone doesn’t ask themselves, if someone were to be very good and nurturing for, say, fifty years of their lives but then does one infamous and vile act that makes them incredibly hated, does anything they do in the last fifty years disappear? Is someone who is evil, always evil 24/7? ...someone angelic, perfect 24/7?

Nope. Nobody is either perfectly good or perfectly evil. But one doesn’t need to assert such a falsehood in order to say that Hitler was someone who did some very bad things.

You’re giving the average person too much credit. Most Americans can’t name five countries in Africa let alone know the political realities of Hitler’s Germany. All they know is Hitler = Jew haters = gas chambers = old black-and-white footage of concentration camps with grotesquely starving people = piles of dead corps in ditches =  evil = people-find-it-handy-to-call-one-a-“NAZI”-is-a-good-last-resort-to-shut-others-up-in-a-distasteful-argument! That’s it. Try your own survey.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 01:43 PM

Okay, you said, “Anything with a function—and biology is chock full of functions—has normative properties.” So you are saying that biology has ‘value-laden’ properties. And since they are distinguished from ‘descriptive’ properties, are these properties incapable of being described physically (i.e. non-descriptive)??

“Function” is a value-laden property, since it distinguishes the proper function of an organ, gene or behavior from its malfunction or something that it does as a “spandrel” in Gould’s term. E.g., the function of the eye is to see.

The function of these objects is determined roughly by what items of the same type did that enabled reproduction of that part. That is, the account is etiological: values are determined by the history of causation.

Similarly, “health” and “illness” are normative properties that have good scientific backing, based on the well-functioning of an organism.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 01:43 PM

You also stated that, “...normative properties can accrue even to clearly deterministic devices.” What’s an example of a normative property and how do they accrue?

I just gave a couple. We also understand what it is for a machine to function properly or malfunction, though of course in this latter circumstance the function/malfunction distinction is made in terms of the intention or usage-pattern of the makers or users. This does not, though, mean that the distinction is wholly a matter of opinion or debate: a device can be malfunctioning even though no user is aware of that fact.

Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 01:43 PM

Nope. Nobody is either perfectly good or perfectly evil. But one doesn’t need to assert such a falsehood in order to say that Hitler was someone who did some very bad things.

You’re giving the average person too much credit. Most Americans can’t name five countries in Africa let alone know the political realities of Hitler’s Germany. All they know is Hitler = Jew haters = gas chambers = old black-and-white footage of concentration camps with grotesquely starving people = piles of dead corps in ditches =  evil = people-find-it-handy-to-call-one-a-“NAZI”-is-a-good-last-resort-to-shut-others-up-in-a-distasteful-argument! That’s it. Try your own survey.

Of course, but this supports an objectivist view. On the view that there is no such thing as good or evil, all we are left with is opinions about good and evil. If most Americans have unsophisticated views about Hitler, what does it matter? The only point to distinguishing sophisticated from unsophisticated views is if there is a fact of the matter about right and wrong which such sophistication might help reveal.

The point I made in that other thread about making philosophical points with one’s philosopher hat on, versus those one makes in daily life, holds here and with the point about Bush and Iraq. One cannot consistently hold that all moral views are fictions and at the same time get morally up in arms about Bush or unsophisticated Americans. If all moral views are fictions then Bush’s Iraq escapades are no more morally relevant than is my scratching my elbow.

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Posted: 18 August 2012 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 18 August 2012 02:49 PM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 01:43 PM

Okay, you said, “Anything with a function—and biology is chock full of functions—has normative properties.” So you are saying that biology has ‘value-laden’ properties. And since they are distinguished from ‘descriptive’ properties, are these properties incapable of being described physically (i.e. non-descriptive)??

“Function” is a value-laden property, since it distinguishes the proper function of an organ, gene or behavior from its malfunction or something that it does as a “spandrel” in Gould’s term. E.g., the function of the eye is to see.

The function of these objects is determined roughly by what items of the same type did that enabled reproduction of that part. That is, the account is etiological: values are determined by the history of causation.

Similarly, “health” and “illness” are normative properties that have good scientific backing, based on the well-functioning of an organism.

You’re using transference to connect value with a question-begging definition and obscurity. As far as I see it, functios of matter are part of its description. The “value” you are trying to give credit to these functions is its effectiveness. If moral behavior is considered to be judged by its effectiveness, there is no need to enter the concepts of good and bad except for casual colloquial conversation. It seems that the purpose of those like Gould was to try to attempt to defend a sense of respect for atheists who want to assert moral reality outside of religion; nihilism, it’s alternative, scares people unnecessarily into a sense of psychological doom, not to mention serious social prejudices and fears. An asteroid could hit this world tomorrow and humanity annihilated. Do you presume that a moral essence transfers to the posterity of a newly evolved creature that’s even more advanced?

dougsmith - 18 August 2012 02:49 PM
Scott Mayers - 18 August 2012 01:43 PM

Nope. Nobody is either perfectly good or perfectly evil. But one doesn’t need to assert such a falsehood in order to say that Hitler was someone who did some very bad things.

You’re giving the average person too much credit. Most Americans can’t name five countries in Africa let alone know the political realities of Hitler’s Germany. All they know is Hitler = Jew haters = gas chambers = old black-and-white footage of concentration camps with grotesquely starving people = piles of dead corps in ditches =  evil = people-find-it-handy-to-call-one-a-“NAZI”-is-a-good-last-resort-to-shut-others-up-in-a-distasteful-argument! That’s it. Try your own survey.

Of course, but this supports an objectivist view. On the view that there is no such thing as good or evil, all we are left with is opinions about good and evil. If most Americans have unsophisticated views about Hitler, what does it matter? The only point to distinguishing sophisticated from unsophisticated views is if there is a fact of the matter about right and wrong which such sophistication might help reveal.

The point I made in that other thread about making philosophical points with one’s philosopher hat on, versus those one makes in daily life, holds here and with the point about Bush and Iraq. One cannot consistently hold that all moral views are fictions and at the same time get morally up in arms about Bush or unsophisticated Americans. If all moral views are fictions then Bush’s Iraq escapades are no more morally relevant than is my scratching my elbow.

I do hold moral codes of conduct that I think are effective for me and agree to make them through conventions. You’re claiming they exist without these. I have judgements about truth and effective means of behavior. I’m just not deluded into thinking that effectiveness to accomplish a task or serve a function has unique beneficial meaning to every environmental subject equally. Like those German citizens who turned their heads away from NAZI faux pas, Americans turned their head away when Bush created a law that hides his Presidential correspondences for future reference so no one could possibly validate or invalidate potential incrimination of his behavior. This is a comparison to demonstrate the hypocrisy of moral certitude—not a judgement against Bush or the average American’s knowledge base.

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