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Article in New Morality section in the Web magazine “Evolution: This view of life”
Posted: 22 September 2013 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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VYAZMA - 21 September 2013 04:10 PM
Mark Sloan - 21 September 2013 01:45 PM

No, “agent” is just the name in game theory for the independent actors in the game.

No, I think you are framing “morals” as an agent.  Why else would you assign a cost to them?
People innately know that acting “morally” is as much a benefit to them as it is to everyone.  Thus no cost!
And that is Innately. It’s not even thought out most of the time. It just “is”.  That’s social behavior dynamics.
Nothing costs anything.

Lots of behaviors have nothing to do with morality.

Yes but all morals are based on behavior.

How do you define “make the social group work’? I define it as increasing the benefits of cooperation, the chief benefit of living in a society.

Absolutely not.  There has to be tensions. There has to be certain levels of competition and violence. Some may subjectively see this as immoral, but it’s not.
It’s the balance.  It’s human behavior.  It’s about cooperation, yes.  But not increasing the level of cooperation. If it was about increasing the level, then by now we would have already lived in a Utopia since the stone ages.

“Costly cooperation strategies” are strategies in game theory that expose the initiating agent to exploitation. Unacted on morals don’t cost anything. But to act morally must be costly, in some sense at least in the short term, or it would not be admirable. And yes, morality is a force for good.

I can already tell I don’t like “game theory” whatever that is. 
I will counter with this:  If it cost anything then it would have withered on the evolutionary vine eons ago.
Get rid of this “cost” meme. That leads nowhere.  It’s obvious what the impetus is behind that.  It suggests numbers, and calculations, and possible ways to reduce costs. It suggests “oughts” and things I can’t even explain right now. I can’t think of it right now.
It’s contrived.  It’s trying to put value on completely automatic actions. It suggests deficits.

So “Dog eat Dog” is an enforced moral code in some society, meaning people who refuse to act this way are thought to deserve punishment? What society is this?

No, I don’t know where I said that. It’s not enforced.  It’s not what we would label moral either. But it is just as powerful as the behaviors we would label as moral.

“Dog eat Dog” does describe a kind of behavior, and can eve be expected behavior in a culture (and therefore a “norm”), but it has nothing to do with morality.

Sure it does.  What “moral” actions could we exert if there was no “dog eat dog”?

What if your morality includes running planes into buildings or other forms of mass murder or burning people at the stake?

Lois

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Posted: 22 September 2013 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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GdB - 22 September 2013 04:25 AM
Lois - 21 September 2013 03:14 PM

Somewhere along the line some humans found survival to be affected by cooperation, so they decided, “Oh, yeah! That’s what morality must be. Let’s go with that.”

So here you say that morality is based on the improved survival because of cooperation.

Lois - 21 September 2013 03:14 PM

Humans will do what they think they must do to survive.  And they will talk endlessly about how their “morality” helped them survive, without a scrap of evidence.

And here you say there is no evidence for it.

Can you please explain?

Cooperation itself improves survival, not that it is a moral stance.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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No, VYAZMA, evolution has everything to do with this. The problem is that you either don’t really understand what or you deliberately try to ignore it in order to allow you to talk philosophy. It’s just like talking theology and arguing if God meant X or Y while trying to ignore the fact that God doesn’t exist.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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Look at Lois’s last post. It has everything to do with evolution although it’s a complete nonsense at the same time. Were I to step in and explain to her why she doesn’t know what she is taking about, I would be changing the subject, right?

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Posted: 22 September 2013 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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VYAZMA - 22 September 2013 12:39 PM

...Nobody’s disputing that morals come from evolution. In the sense that everything comes from evolution.
What’s the term evolution?  I could correctly state that a pencil eraser comes from evolution!...

Right.  Morals can be modified within an existing generation.  Moral behavior can be modified at any given moment.  Do we come ready equipped by biological evolution with capacities, limitations and propensities that effect our development of morals, and our moral behaviors?  Of course. But morals are not only a product of our ancestors survival to reproduction.  Not by a long shot.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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Yes, Tim. Culture, politics, geography, all play a role here. But so does evolution (or rather natural selection, as many people here don’t seem able to tell the difference between evolution and natural selection), but once you take that into consideration, you better get the facts right. What does, for example, “cooperation improves survival” mean? And this thread is full of such nonsense.

[ Edited: 22 September 2013 03:46 PM by George ]
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Posted: 22 September 2013 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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George, Occam agreed “completely” with your post #70.  I, however, consider this one statement from that post, to fall short:  “...our morality evolved the way it did because it resulted in being advantageous, through survival and reproduction.”  That is not the whole story. As you say in your last post.  “Culture, politics, geography, all play a role here.”

I would pointedly add that our complex verbal behavior and the development of technologies that advance our communication and which promote the dissemination of ideas, also play a key role effecting our “morality”.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 04:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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George - 22 September 2013 01:59 PM

No, VYAZMA, evolution has everything to do with this. The problem is that you either don’t really understand what or you deliberately try to ignore it in order to allow you to talk philosophy. It’s just like talking theology and arguing if God meant X or Y while trying to ignore the fact that God doesn’t exist.

Where did I say evolution has nothing to do with this?  Again you are making up things that people said in this thread.

here’s me saying this a few posts ago….
Nobody’s disputing that morals come from evolution.
What else you got George?
You still didn’t answer my question about who said people are following random laws of “dog eat dog”.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

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Posted: 22 September 2013 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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George - 22 September 2013 02:05 PM

Look at Lois’s last post. It has everything to do with evolution although it’s a complete nonsense at the same time. Were I to step in and explain to her why she doesn’t know what she is taking about, I would be changing the subject, right?

Who’s arguing against that? Human behavior is a product of evolution
that picked out cooperation and social skills to further the process of evolution(reproduction).
I’m on here to debate some of the points Mark Sloan made.
I don’t know where you are coming from.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

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Posted: 22 September 2013 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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Lois - 21 September 2013 03:14 PM

There is no morality other than what humans make up. If “dog eat dog” helps us survive, we will create a “dog eat dog” society, which is exactly what we’ve done. Somewhere along the line some humans found survival to be affected by cooperation, so they decided, “Oh, yeah! That’s what morality must be. Let’s go with that.”

Humans will do what they think they must do to survive.  And they will talk endlessly about how their “morality” helped them survive, without a scrap of evidence.

I disagree. There is lots of evidence about what morality ‘is’. That evidence is the data base against which science of morality’s hypotheses are tested.

That data base includes all past and present enforced moral codes, our moral emotions such as empathy, loyalty, shame, guilt, and indignation, and data collected around the world on how people make moral judgments - for example, Google Jonathon Haidt moral foundations.

But you are on the right track with cooperation. Cooperation produces synergistic benefits not possible with individual effort. But cooperation exposes actors to exploitation. Exploitation of other actor’s cooperation attempts is always the winning short term strategy and sometimes the winning long term strategy. But exploitation destroys future benefits of cooperation. This is the cross cultural and even cross species universal cooperation/exploitation dilemma that our ‘moral’ biology and enforced moral codes attempt, with varying degrees of success, to solve.

I see I previously described the evidence in my comment #47 to George which also might be of interest.

[ Edited: 22 September 2013 06:25 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 22 September 2013 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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Lois - 22 September 2013 01:53 PM

Cooperation itself improves survival, not that it is a moral stance.


“Cooperation itself improves survival” describes what ‘is’ and is therefore legitimately within the domain of science.

When you say “not that it is a moral stance” I understand you to be making a claim about what morality ‘ought’ to be which is a philosophical, not a scientific question. What science says morality ‘is’ may be, as a matter of logic, irrelevant to what morality ‘ought’ to be (which is what I expect was what you were pointing out).

However, I don’t see the science of morality as being completely irrelevant.  I see the science of morality as being culturally useful in informing us about the best ‘means’ for achieving group ultimate goals. But what those group ultimate goals ‘ought’ to be is a subject for moral philosophy, not science.

[ Edited: 22 September 2013 06:28 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 22 September 2013 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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George - 22 September 2013 02:05 PM

Look at Lois’s last post. It has everything to do with evolution although it’s a complete nonsense at the same time. Were I to step in and explain to her why she doesn’t know what she is taking about, I would be changing the subject, right?

Speak for youself, George, and how YOU don’t know what you are talking about. You know more about that than anyone. And that wouldn’t be changing the subject. 

Lois

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Posted: 22 September 2013 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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Mark Sloan - 22 September 2013 06:13 PM
Lois - 22 September 2013 01:53 PM

Cooperation itself improves survival, not that it is a moral stance.


“Cooperation itself improves survival” describes what ‘is’ and is therefore legitimately within the domain of science.

When you say “not that it is a moral stance” I understand you to be making a claim about what morality ‘ought’ to be which is a philosophical, not a scientific question. What science says morality ‘is’ may be, as a matter of logic, irrelevant to what morality ‘ought’ to be (which is what I expect was what you were pointing out).

However, I don’t see the science of morality as being completely irrelevant.  I see the science of morality as being culturally useful in informing us about the best ‘means’ for achieving group ultimate goals. But what those group ultimate goals ‘ought’ to be is a subject for moral philosophy, not science.

That was my point. I never said it should be a subject for science.  It isn’t science, IMO.

Lois

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Posted: 22 September 2013 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

Sorry Mark, I get a bit lost in where you position your ‘costly cooperation strategies’ principle. Is it meant as a scientific principle to understand moral behaviour only, or also as modern-day replacement of Kant’s categorical imperative (or utilitarian ‘the highest good for the most people’), i.e. as a guiding principle that leads us to unambiguous moral rules?

It is a scientific principle. It is a philosophical question if it is or is not culturally useful for defining what norms a society is going to enforce (its moral code). However, I argue that using the principle as the template for moral norms will, in fact, define the norms that will be most likely to achieve common goals of enforcing moral codes such as increased well-being.

I see the principle as more effective than Kant’s in achieving increased well-being. But I doubt Kantians would agree that this justifies claiming the principle is ‘better’ than Kant’s.

GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

I am also not sure that it works in the ‘one man for five people’ example. Wouldn’t it be very cooperative if we were all willing to sacrifice our selves for the greater good on the long term? Would that also not be evolutionary advantageous?

Note that the principle tells us that our moral intuitions are about cooperation, not body count. The principle explains (it does not justify) common intuitions about this and other “Trolley problems” as consistent with avoiding reducing the benefits of cooperation and not being consistent with a simple utilitarian body count. What the goal of morality ‘ought’ to be is not part of science, but of moral philosophy.

GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

You regular mention that science is silent about ‘ultimate ends’. I agree. I would go even further: there are no such ultimate ends. No ethical discourse has the promise to converge to some absolute justification, because the outside criterion just does not exist. This in contrast with science, where the outside reality exists that, via observation and experiment, in the end decides if our theories are correct or not.

I agree. However, it is simple fact that groups of people do form societies and have goals for those societies such as increased well-being, and, in order to achieve those goals enforce norms of behavior (enforce moral codes). With such a goal defined, science is fully capable of informing us about the best moral norms for achieving that society’s goal.

GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

So we only have our cultural values as a measure of our moral rules. These are not fixed, so the moral rules will not be either. But that does not mean taking these values blindly as our starting points. Rationally grounding a moral rule means that if somebody makes a moral claim about a behaviour, he must be prepared to defend his position. In that he can refer to values we share, nothing more. He can refer to values we have in common, there are no ultimate ends we can refer to. In the worst case, when we do not share values, we must bring the discussion to the higher level of discussing these values themselves, and try to find common ground. I don’t know if your principle of ‘costly cooperation strategies’ leads to unambiguous results.

No,we also have what science can tell us about the function of moral rules, why we have the values we do, and why our values can superficially appear to be so diverse, contradictory, and bizarre.

GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

The idea of moral justification makes no sense if we do not presuppose such a moral discourse in the background.

Right. Justification of what morality ‘ought’ to be (including its ultimate goals) is not part of the domain of science, but of moral philosophy.

Mark Sloan - 21 September 2013 12:02 PM

Therefore the function of morality cannot be changed by “free discourse” or “open, fair and rational discourse”.

GdB - 22 September 2013 04:07 AM

This sentence somehow lets me shiver: function of morality? Morality standing outside an open, fair and rational discourse? Maybe I do not understand you.

My claim is about what the function of morality descriptively ‘is’ as a matter of science. Of course, all truth in science is provisional, so in that sense the science can be changed by “free discourse” or “open, fair and rational discourse”.

Also, it is logically possible for “open, fair and rational discourse” to conclude that the function of morality ‘ought’ to be something else. However, that would mean that the function of morality ‘ought’ to be something different from the function of all past and present moral codes, which seems to me to be impossible. That impossibility of morality having a different function (assuming the science of the matter holds up) is the idea I was trying to express.

[ Edited: 22 September 2013 07:33 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 22 September 2013 07:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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Lois - 22 September 2013 06:47 PM
Mark Sloan - 22 September 2013 06:13 PM
Lois - 22 September 2013 01:53 PM

Cooperation itself improves survival, not that it is a moral stance.


“Cooperation itself improves survival” describes what ‘is’ and is therefore legitimately within the domain of science.

When you say “not that it is a moral stance” I understand you to be making a claim about what morality ‘ought’ to be which is a philosophical, not a scientific question. What science says morality ‘is’ may be, as a matter of logic, irrelevant to what morality ‘ought’ to be (which is what I expect was what you were pointing out).

However, I don’t see the science of morality as being completely irrelevant.  I see the science of morality as being culturally useful in informing us about the best ‘means’ for achieving group ultimate goals. But what those group ultimate goals ‘ought’ to be is a subject for moral philosophy, not science.

That was my point. I never said it should be a subject for science.  It isn’t science, IMO.

Lois

So you agree at least with my above comment? If so, that is progress.

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