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Moral Subjectivity V.S. Moral Absolutism
Posted: 27 October 2008 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 05:15 AM
faithlessgod - 26 October 2008 05:37 PM

but a causal explanation is not a justification for any moral system.  It could descriptively show what is and is not possible but not what should be the case within those constraints.

I have not proposed a moral system as yet.  I have only agreed with others here that there is a biological basis for why humans are driven to be moral, in general.  And that this lends itself to much further examination.

No argument there except a causal analysis is not the same as a justification for a moral system, it can, at best, indicate the constraints any moral system labours under.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 05:15 AM
faithlessgod - 26 October 2008 05:37 PM

Just because it is innate cannot be the basis for a prescription.

Why not?

Sorry I overstated my point. Please let me correct this to “Just because it is innate is not a justification for a prescription”
The rest I agree with. Can I add that I am pleased to see this does look at like the sort of moral relativism I recall you endorsing in past conversations (please forgive me if my recollection is mistaken). grin

[ Edited: 27 October 2008 10:19 AM by faithlessgod ]
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Posted: 27 October 2008 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Do I have to add, “The ability to empathize”?

Since some see, “The inability to empathize”, as the source of all evil, “The ability to empathize”, may be the source of all good?

Surely this, then, is a moral stance?

Some references:

Albert Schweitzer, “Philosophy of Civilization,” 1923
“If I am a thinking being, I must regard life other than my own with equal reverence, for I shall know that it longs for fullness and development as deeply as I do myself. Therefore, I see that evil is what annihilates, hampers, or hinders life.. Goodness, by the same token, is the saving or helping of life, the enabling of whatever life I can to attain its highest development.”


The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1999 Edition:
“Empathy and other forms of social awareness are important in the development of a moral sense. Morality embraces a person’s beliefs about the appropriateness or goodness of what he does, thinks, or feels… Childhood is ... the time at which moral standards begin to develop in a process that often extends well into adulthood. The American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg hypothesized that people’s development of moral standards passes through stages that can be grouped into three moral levels…

“At the third level, that of postconventional moral reasoning, the adult bases his moral standards on principles that he himself has evaluated and that he accepts as inherently valid, regardless of society’s opinion. He is aware of the arbitrary, subjective nature of social standards and rules, which he regards as relative rather than absolute in authority.

“Thus the bases for justifying moral standards pass from avoidance of punishment to avoidance of adult disapproval and rejection to avoidance of internal guilt and self-recrimination. The person’s moral reasoning also moves toward increasingly greater social scope (i.e., including more people and institutions) and greater abstraction (i.e., from reasoning about physical events such as pain or pleasure to reasoning about values, rights, and implicit contracts).”

Richard Dawkins’ Interviews on CD - “The Root of All Evil” - he starts to talk about empathy and innate morality.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Good to here from you again too, faithless.

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 06:41 AM

Please let me correct this to “Just because it is innate is not a justification for a prescription”

I agree.  Although I think that some of the reasons why people should be moral do have something to do with the fact that they are driven innately to be moral.

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 06:41 AM

The rest I agree with. Can I add that I am pleased to see this does look at like the sort of moral relativism I recall you endorsing in past conversations (please forgive me if my recollection is mistaken). grin

I don’t remember myself ever endorsing moral relativism.  I have never embraced the term or any of the ideas that I see the term as meaningfully representing.  Actually about year ago a came out, on this forum, very strongly against moral relativism.

I did loosen up, however, some time ago with regards to the sorts of things that some members of this forum had been calling moral relativism because I think that many of the self-proclaimed moral relativists on this forum aren’t really moral relativists.  At least, not in the sense that you and I would use the term.  It is possible that you remember me defending some of McKenzie’s views, for example.  What I gather about this topic is that many atheists and persons who wish to respect diversity oppose a fixed moral system that they think will work against personal and cultural freedom.  There are the real moral nihlists and then there are people who want us to stop acting “more holy than thou.”

So I think that there is sometimes a bit of a red herring to the topic of this debate.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM
faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 06:41 AM

Please let me correct this to “Just because it is innate is not a justification for a prescription”

I agree.  Although I think that some of the reasons why people should be moral do have something to do with the fact that they are driven innately to be moral.

But if they are innately driven to be moral then no should is required! grin

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM

I don’t remember myself ever endorsing moral relativism.

My apologies.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM

I did loosen up, however, some time ago with regards to the sorts of things that some members of this forum had been calling moral relativism because I think that many of the self-proclaimed moral relativists on this forum aren’t really moral relativists.

Agreed

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM

What I gather about this topic is that many atheists and persons who wish to respect diversity oppose a fixed moral system that they think will work against personal and cultural freedom.

But that is a problem as they are smuggling in their values whilst contradicting themselves by asserting their moral relativism (BTW no Brennan I don’t recall you doing this specific thing but others here yes). To posit diversity as a value is one thing, to make it a moral imperative is another and question begging. Further moral relativism does not deliver on such desires, both theoretically and practically - look at the problems it has caused, in different ways in the UK and France.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM

There are the real moral nihlists and then there are people who want us to stop acting “more holy than thou.”

Well it is surely clear that some claimed moral systems are more corrupt, indeed more immoral -based on self-contradiction, internal incoherence if nothing else - than others. And such systems do not pussy foot around trying avoid the sensitivities of others who reject those systems. This is a poor excuse to both endorse problematical systems and to avoid evaluating others. If we cannot debate these questions in an open and honest way here without some’s fears blocking it, then where can we?

Nonetheless it is good that your observations mirror mine. The difference I suspect lies in how we deal with these.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Many cultures, past and present have been mistaken about facts of the matter. What is different when it comes to morality? As a subjective term it can be subjected to all sorts of manipulations and distortions to suit one group over another. I need an argument - beyond such observations - of why this is immune to analysis, evidence and arguments that work in just about every other aspect of life. I would be delighted if you could give one, but have not seen one from you nor anyone else who defends such a thesis like yours.

I feel like we’re not talking about the same thing. What I am saying is that what people decide matters in a moral sense, and how they form specific moral rules, is strongly contingent on what their culture has conditioned them to believe. This is not a matter of what is “really” the fact of the matter or not, but it is how moral judgements are formed. My larger point si that I don’t see how you can construct a universal morality when what people think about morality is so culturally conditioned. The only way I see this happening is in the context of cultural uniformity or the imposition by force of a moral system on everyone, neither of which is a likely or problem-free approach. I’m not sure what exactly you are sayng in your response to this point.

Pluralism only works if the culture supports it, so it’s not a great example.

No this is work in progress. Many cultures recognize the need to deal with this “inclusively”. Just that the current solutions e.g in the UK, have often been (very) poor. Why do you want to summarily dismiss any real attempts to deal with this?

Again, it feels like we’re speaking past one another. I simply believe that saying tolerance or pluralism is a good universal moral principle to satart with assumes that tolerance or pluralism is a moral good in and of itself. Of course I believe it is, nbut there are lots of people who don’t, so once again the “real” truth as people perceive it is contingent on culture. As I point out later, this doesn’t mean I don’t believe in advancing the idea of pluralism, I just don’t think it is a self-evidently, inherently true moral principle any more than any other is.

Yes but implicit in all this is the assumption that this is dependent only on beliefs and desires. I have seen no argument that this is the case. Observing that people have differing opinions, individually or culturally, is just so trivial and cannot lead to the conclusion that is al there is to morality.

So what else is there? I haven’t seen any convincing case made for anything else. God is the leading candidate, but I think we both reject that. I’ve never truly understood your theses about morality, but you haven’t convinced me that you have some other foundation for it that isn’t entirely dependant on what people want and believe and the factors that produce these wants and beliefs.

I feel all your talk about my self-contradiction comes from your own asusmptions that if I do not accept an ultimate, absolute, objective truth about moral facts not contingent on beliefs and desires, then I cannot take my own moral values seriously. This simply isn’t true. I believe in my moral principles, and I believe in them strongly enough to try and propogate them, by reason and discourse preferntially, by force in extremis. I don’t need to know that I am absolutely, unequivocably right in all things to take my own values seriously enough to act on them. This is not self-contradiction, it is merely the refusal to take a sensible and useful idea (there is no demonstrable basis for morality above and beyond inherentl;y subjective beliefs and desires) to ridiculous extremes in practice (since morality is relative there really is none and we cannot act morally, nihilism, post-modernism, blah, b lah, blah). We act in the face of uncertainty and imperfect knowledge all the time. I am open to the idea that my moral precepts may be wrong, and I don’t claim or need an ironclad certainty from outside of human opinions to justify believing and acting.

As erasmus points out, maybe this is not what you are accustomed to thinking of moral relativism as being (what he calls moral nihilism), and perhaps we could short-circuit a lot of this if we just picked a different label for it. FWIW, I have the same problem with “agnostic.” I don’t really think there is a god, and I act as if there isn’t, but I am not convinced I can know with enough absolute certainty to use the label “atheist,” so people get confused about what I really think

[ Edited: 27 October 2008 11:40 AM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 27 October 2008 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 27 October 2008 10:26 AM

Do I have to add, “The ability to empathize”?

Yes you do and I am glad you have. However his makes it clearer that it is not a virtue in and of itself, but a capacity shared by all normally functioning humans - apart from psychopaths (we tend to notice the unsuccessful ones - no just those that have been caught but the very few that have become serial killers and so on). Granting that not all evil is due to psychopaths, a well established point supported by psychologists who show that not all tyrants are psychopaths, this leaves the challenge that it, in and of itself, is insufficient to qualify as a virtue or a vice. Indeed under certain social systems at least some psychopaths could operate as moral as is required for on the public shared level I am focusing on - even if they are labouring under the difficulty of working in their prudential interest only - they want to avoid condemnation and punishment and seek praise and reward and it takes them more work to see how to do this but they still can. Of course many social systems do not have the appeal to prudential reason to make this work but I see no reason why they could not. Would I want to live in such world is a different question grin .  Incidentally I think a decent argument could made that the popular conception or xian and islamic morality works in exactly this way, appealing to prudential interest alone -punishment in hell, reward in heaven - assuming that we are all psychopaths without any empathic capacity. Makes one wonder about xians who espouse such doctrines wink

Ecrasez l’infame! - 27 October 2008 10:26 AM

Since some see, “The inability to empathize”, as the source of all evil,

Hence my expansive reply to your previous comment. Psychopaths by which I mean those who lack the capacity for empathy are not all evil. They may or may not be good - whether they care or not.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 27 October 2008 10:26 AM

“The ability to empathize”, may be the source of all good?

That is plausible given those some who see it this way. The question is are they correct or not?

Ecrasez l’infame! - 27 October 2008 10:26 AM

Surely this, then, is a moral stance?

When did we start talking about moral stances? You have now made it one but your original one word statement “empathy” was woefully insufficient. And still you have not shown how this is a virtue.

Sorry what is the point of these references? Can you not make an argument based on first principles or do you need an argument from authority. Dawkins is a well known moral philosopher? wink

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Posted: 27 October 2008 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 11:09 AM
erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 10:29 AM

I agree.  Although I think that some of the reasons why people should be moral do have something to do with the fact that they are driven innately to be moral.

But if they are innately driven to be moral then no should is required! grin

It is a classic dilemma of the human condition that our hearts are not always clearly aligned with our brains, that what feels right to us is not always easily made sense of.  And also the converse, that what makes the best sense does not come naturally or easily.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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OK we have been round this before and lets try and avoid too many cycles again. So let me examine your post carefully.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

Many cultures, past and present have been mistaken about facts of the matter. What is different when it comes to morality? As a subjective term it can be subjected to all sorts of manipulations and distortions to suit one group over another. I need an argument - beyond such observations - of why this is immune to analysis, evidence and arguments that work in just about every other aspect of life. I would be delighted if you could give one, but have not seen one from you nor anyone else who defends such a thesis like yours.

I feel like we’re not talking about the same thing.

Clearly, although I feel that I know what you are talking about but you are refusing to acknowledge what I am talking about. Lets see

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

What I am saying is that what people decide matters in a moral sense, and how they form specific moral rules, is strongly contingent on what their culture has conditioned them to believe.

As I have said before trivially true. This looks you are failing to make the process/product distinction, We agree roughly on the process by which moral decisions come about but you are not acknowledging there is a product, - that there actual real, physical actions with material effects and this is the target of everyone’s moral opinions, this is the territory you just want to look at maps.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

This is not a matter of what is “really” the fact of the matter or not, but it is how moral judgements are formed.

This is just an assertion, where is your argument that entitles you to ignore the territory of morality?

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

My larger point si that I don’t see how you can construct a universal morality when what people think about morality is so culturally conditioned.

Before one goes to construct a “universal morality” we first need to know what that could mean and you dont and prior to that that there is a field to which it could apply which you deny without argument.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

The only way I see this happening is in the context of cultural uniformity or the imposition by force of a moral system on everyone, neither of which is a likely or problem-free approach. I’m not sure what exactly you are sayng in your response to this point.

I am not saying nor have ever said anything of this kind. This just displays how much you misunderstand what a realistic moral framework could possibly look like, maybe because you appear to be afraid (?) to even look.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

Pluralism only works if the culture supports it, so it’s not a great example.
No this is work in progress. Many cultures recognize the need to deal with this “inclusively”. Just that the current solutions e.g in the UK, have often been (very) poor. Why do you want to summarily dismiss any real attempts to deal with this?


Again, it feels like we’re speaking past one another. I simply believe that saying tolerance or pluralism is a good universal moral principle to satart with assumes that tolerance or pluralism is a moral good in and of itself. Of course I believe it is, nbut there are lots of people who don’t, so once again the “real” truth as people perceive it is contingent on culture. As I point out later, this doesn’t mean I don’t believe in advancing the idea of pluralism, I just don’t think it is a self-evidently, inherently true moral principle any more than any other is.

Neither do I - no moral principle is self-evident else everyone would already be doing it! You cannot start with any moral value, you need to see where these could possibly come from and you are simply refusing to look, to be a bit grandiose - a bit like the catholic church refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope (note I am not claiming to invented this equivalent to a telescope)

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

Yes but implicit in all this is the assumption that this is dependent only on beliefs and desires. I have seen no argument that this is the case. Observing that people have differing opinions, individually or culturally, is just so trivial and cannot lead to the conclusion that is al there is to morality.

So what else is there? I haven’t seen any convincing case made for anything else. God is the leading candidate, but I think we both reject that. I’ve never truly understood your theses about morality, but you haven’t convinced me that you have some other foundation for it that isn’t entirely dependant on what people want and believe and the factors that produce these wants and beliefs.

It is dependent upon beliefs and desires and their material effects on others beliefs and desires - and this is quite amenable to an empirical analysis, like anything else why do you deny it is not? Where is your argument that justifies you are assuming a specialness to morality, whereas I am not.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

I feel all your talk about my self-contradiction comes from your own asusmptions that if I do not accept an ultimate, absolute, objective truth about moral facts not contingent on beliefs and desires, then I cannot take my own moral values seriously.

Oh dear. I have never argued for this, this is your projection. An ultimate, absolute truth is just as false as your moral relativism. Indeed anyone who claims an ultimate, absolute moral systems is really a cover for a moral relativism.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

This simply isn’t true. I believe in my moral principles, and I believe in them strongly enough to try and propogate them, by reason and discourse preferntially, by force in extremis. I don’t need to know that I am absolutely, unequivocably right in all things to take my own values seriously enough to act on them. This is not self-contradiction, it is merely the refusal to take a sensible and useful idea (there is no demonstrable basis for morality above and beyond inherentl;y subjective beliefs and desires) to ridiculous extremes in practice (since morality is relative there really is none and we cannot act morally, nihilism, post-modernism, blah, b lah, blah).

Yes but you have already acknowledged that anyone else might feel equally but oppsoitely on a topic and are possibly be even more prepared to act on this and you argue there is no way to show which is more likely correct or less likely wrong. Surely your argument shows that you do not know at all, it is just an opinion as you think everyone else’s is too?

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

We act in the face of uncertainty and imperfect knowledge all the time.

That is my argument, I look to minimize such uncertainty, it has long been shown that epistemic objective approaches cannot eliminate it.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

  I am open to the idea that my moral precepts may be wrong, and I don’t claim or need an ironclad certainty from outside of human opinions to justify believing and acting.

The issue is not or should not be your moral precepts. We are talking about morality meta-ethically, that is objectively trying to establish which approach moral relativism, moral subjectivism, moral absolutism, moral intuitionism or ethical naturalism moral realism (my choice) is most likely correct. You still have given no argument to support your point, just used trivial truths which fail to make your case.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

As erasmus points out, maybe this is not what you are accustomed to thinking of moral relativism as being (what he calls moral nihilism),

Me too

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

and perhaps we could short-circuit a lot of this if we just picked a different label for it.

Maybe except you sound exactly like a reluctant moral relativist based on your points above, reluctant beuase you are reluctant o bite the bullet and explicitly support normative relativism which is the inevitable conclusion of your approach. However that is not important, what is, is whether you can make a case for your muted or mitigated moral relativism and I have seen no argument.

At least I , when defending my thesis in the past, have made explicit claims providing evidence and argument even if you think I am mistaken. I hypothesis not strange entities, assume no specialness and apply occam’s razor and equivalent, utlilize the best available relevant knowledge in cognitive psychology and the philosophy of action and practical reason and am arguing for a variant within what the majority of moral philosophers have settled upon Preference Satisfaction (PS) Utilitarianism - my variant (not of my invention) answering what I think are the key weaknesses in PS. But even without pushing my own variant, I see not argument not to examine PS further given your points.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 11:12 AM

FWIW, I have the same problem with “agnostic.” I don’t really think there is a god, and I act as if there isn’t, but I am not convinced I can know with enough absolute certainty to use the label “atheist,” so people get confused about what I really think

I understand agnostic as those who are reasonably certain one cannot know - it is an epistemological position.

Have to finish now Spooks has started grin

[ Edited: 27 October 2008 03:06 PM by faithlessgod ]
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Posted: 27 October 2008 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 01:49 PM
faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 11:09 AM

But if they are innately driven to be moral then no should is required! grin

It is a classic dilemma of the human condition that our hearts are not always clearly aligned with our brains, that what feels right to us is not always easily made sense of.  And also the converse, that what makes the best sense does not come naturally or easily.

Well at least my approach both acknowledges this and takes this explicitly into account so you are you agreeing, you seem to be arguing in my favour?

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Posted: 27 October 2008 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Arrgggg! What we have here is a failure to communicate… grin

You haven’t articulated any convincing position in this thread or in the previous ones on the same subject. You’ve resorted to accusing me of timidity or fear when I simply disagree with you, you say I fail to see the reality you claim to see but have not convincingly demonstrated, you repeatedly accuse me of being unwilling to follow my positions to theri inevitable conclusion but you’re the one who claims that conclusion is inevitable and I’ve already denied that this is true, and finally you compare me to the Cathlic Church and you to Galileo. I mean this is getting ridiculous. We’ve been over your propositions in detail and I don’t find them convincing. You seem unable to accept this could in any way be due to a weakness in the propositions or your presentation of them, so it must be due to my lack of comprehension, vision, courage, whatever. Balderdash!

I think we’ve effectively taken over this thread, but we’re not providing any new insights, just rehashing an old disagreement in which we are so fundamentally incompatible in how we conceive the question that we can’t even really substantively debate it. Sorry, and nothing personal but I’m done for now.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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faithless,

I dunno.  I’m not sure what we are arguing about.  I was simply saying that cognition about morality and having a sense for morality are two very different things.  Neither is perfectly correct always.

We should care about others.  The base reasons that each of us has to care about others are that (1) hurting others betrays civility in the sense of a social contract and (2) because we are empathic creatures the hurting of others is a form of hurting ourselves.

I think that we should take into consideration the interests of all those who are effected by our actions.  It is not enough to live just for oneself or to just go with the flow of society.  There are basic rights that should be established and respected as taking precedence in certain conflicts of interest.  With regards to the respecting of different cultures, the world is for all practical purposes already a global society and the most relevant and essential themes to most humans transcend cultural parochialisms anyway.  (On the other hand, I do respect individual liberties and certain forms of pluralism to the degree that they do not unjustly intrude upon others.  There are many beautiful traditions which I have no interest in interfering with.)

[ Edited: 27 October 2008 03:57 PM by erasmusinfinity ]
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Posted: 27 October 2008 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

I dunno.  I’m not sure what we are arguing about.

I did not think we were arguing. I thought we were more agreeing than not, which is, as I recall, different to in the past.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

I was simply saying that cognition about morality and having a sense for morality are two very different things.  Neither is perfectly correct always.

But I agree! However cognition - roughly beliefs - and sense - roughly certain feelings - desires - are only part of how morality works.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

We should care about others.

We might agree on this but this is insufficient. Others can make a case otherwise psychological egoists, Randian Objectivists spring to mind.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

  The base reasons that each of us has to care about others are that (1) hurting others betrays civility in the sense of a social contract and (2) because we are empathic creatures the hurting of others is a form of hurting ourselves.

I reject social contract base morality. Now I can say why but my replies are already quite long!. If anyone asks me a question such as why I reject social contract morality or any other point I have brought up I am happy to answer. I just don’t want to answer a question that others are not interested in and waste time. Still I will briefly here. As far as I see a social contract does not exist, it is a fiction, an ex post invention to purportedly explain how things work. However people never agreed to it, it is a hypothetical construct, so it is a fiction and when used in an argument is a false premise. Now any argument based on false premises cannot be shown to correct. Its conclusion might, coincidentally, be correct, but such an argument could not prove this - in a pragmatic, provisional sense of course. That is why I reject social contract theory. (2) I think I have explained to some degree in other posts in this thread.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

I think that we should take into consideration the interests of all those who are effected by our actions.

Yes I think we should too, but again others - egoists - disagree. We need more than just our mutually agreeable opinions to make a case. I have already mentioned welfare utilitarianism which I have claimed can explain rights. I could expand on this too but this would be answering a different point to where we differ. It is not sufficient for us to agree on what morals should be like, the question is can we show it, and this has to allow the danger that what we discover is different to what want. That is the requirement to achieve epistemic objectivity - to transcend one’s perceptions, preferences and prejudices. Ironically many of these issues you,I and Brennan will agree upon are supported by the best provisional solutions I have found to date, the irony is why given this point you guys are reluctant to pursue this.  The rest of your post I also agree with but hopefully I have made my point.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM

I thought we were more agreeing than not, which is, as I recall, different to in the past.

Had we argued so much in the past?  big surprise

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM
erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

We should care about others.

We might agree on this but this is insufficient. Others can make a case otherwise

How do you propose convincing persons who are intent on not caring about others that they should start caring about others?  Maybe we could give ‘em Dickens’ old Scrooge treatment.  A visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future maybe?  cheese

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM

I reject social contract base morality.

I did not propose a social contract as a basis for morality.  I do think that there are implicit social contracts in most all social situations and that the consequences of not fulfilling these contracts can play a part in motivating people to behave morally.  In other words, to behave immorally we risk others behaving as such toward us, our families, friends, nation, etc.

That is only one of the two reasons that I gave for why people ought to behave morally.  I think that the other was the more powerful.

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM

Now I can say why but my replies are already quite long!.

Yes they are.  They are also very interesting.  Maybe we could try to stick to one or two points at a time.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

You haven’t articulated any convincing position in this thread or in the previous ones on the same subject.

Yes I have. I have been quite clear about what I am doing. Now for new readers or those who missed our past debates I now need to expand on this:

I have looked for the best possible solution base on our knowledge of reasoning, psychology, culture and biology. I have presented this in various ways in the past but very briefly here any moral framework requires a “theory of the good” - values - and a “theory of right” - prescriptions. I will present in a nutshell the prior basis to such a moral framework.

There have been many claimed theories of value but most suffer from being fictions - god’s will or nature, categorical imperatives, natural law, supernatural absolutes, spiritual accounting (karma),  social contract, ideal observers, intrinsic prescriptivity, opinions and so on. I reject any of those solutions as any argument based on a fiction is relying on a false premise. Others address the wrong issues genetic theories are causal and not justifications - at best this describe a species of value - survival value - but not value itself.  The closest are happiness and well-being approaches but they are still subjective.  Now the current state of the art in moral philosophy is preference satisfaction and welfare (generic interest)  approaches. However preference is still too vague and has other problems - I can expand upon if asked. However the dominant approaches in the theory of action is based on beliefs, desires and intentions and that is good enough for our purposes here. (Tropisms being the evolutionary basis of desires, tropisms being proto-desires?)  Now we can detect desires by their material and physical effects or consequences so this can be used for a theory of value - the desire fulfilment of value. Value is the relation between desires and the states of the world that are the target of those desires. These values are extrinsic and desires exists, states of the world exist and so these values exist, these are not fictions.

With respect to a “theory of right” all prescriptions are explicitly or implicitly state reasons to act.  So we need know what reasons to act exist but the only ones for which there is broad evidence are desires. So desires are reasons to act - and this links the two theories - so all prescriptions work with existing desires. Some people might lack these desires, in which case they are external to the person to whom the prescription is addressed and for properly socialised adults expressive means such as praise and condemnation can be used to promote and demote such desires.

That is the framework in a nutshell although I had not addressed specifically moral values and prescriptions in the above.  I am trying to be brief. All the above and its moral expansion is provisional and defeasible. It relies on data, evidence, argument and reason.

Now you have offered absolutely nothing on your side except to selectively chose evidence to support your conclusion - the cart leading the horse - a crude characterisation I know of your position. Specifically you appear to refuse to look through the telescope and deny the clear evidence. To extend this analogy
you don’t have to agree that there are four moons orbiting Jupiter, you could show, by argument, otherwise - my analysis might be incorrect - but if you deny there is anything relevant to look at then you have disqualified yourself from making any constructive criticism of my attempted solution. Now I have not intended to offend you, it is just that these metaphors spring easily - maybe too easily - to mind in my conversations with you.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

You’ve resorted to accusing me of timidity or fear when I simply disagree with you, you say I fail to see the reality you claim to see but have not convincingly demonstrated,

The point is we never got to discussing any of the above this time because you refuse to acknowledge there is any sort of territory to which the maps that you acknowledge exist refer to! Without such a territory where people physically and materially interact and so help and hurt each other - however difficult it is to determine which it is - well then there is nothing to talk about!

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

you repeatedly accuse me of being unwilling to follow my positions to theri inevitable conclusion but you’re the one who claims that conclusion is inevitable and I’ve already denied that this is true

Quite correct but a denial is insufficient I have been waiting for evidence and argument as to why that conclusion does not follow and you have not given any! Please note that I think it is worth debating this with you as you very eloquently represent a popular position which makes it far easier to zoom in on points of disgreement compared to other representatives of such a position. I might complain that you offer no argument but you also do not evade, use sophistry in defending your position. I am not being condescending when I say I have no doubt over the sincerity, honesty and commitment with which you hold that position and that I can learn something from this debate. I hope you can too.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

We’ve been over your propositions in detail and I don’t find them convincing.

In this thread we have not been discussing my propositions, only yours. I have been merely seeking to establish the domain to which morality could possibly applies, esle it is meaningless. You seem to have defined this domain away and this is what I have been challenging you on.

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

You seem unable to accept this could in any way be due to a weakness in the propositions or your presentation of them, so it must be due to my lack of comprehension, vision, courage, whatever. Balderdash!

Well until you can explain why morality is not about the effects that people have one each other through social interactions, you appear to be answering a fictional problem. I think you well understand what I am arguing for in this sense, but are refusing to acknowledge the problem space. I admit I was pushing you to see why but did not want to upset you, I thought you could take it.  I apologise if I have upset you. In which case there is not much point pursing this with you. A pity :-(

mckenzievmd - 27 October 2008 03:17 PM

I think we’ve effectively taken over this thread, but we’re not providing any new insights, just rehashing an old disagreement in which we are so fundamentally incompatible in how we conceive the question that we can’t even really substantively debate it. Sorry, and nothing personal but I’m done for now.

At least we can end on a point we totally agree upon! grin

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Posted: 27 October 2008 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 05:35 PM
faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM

I thought we were more agreeing than not, which is, as I recall, different to in the past.

Had we argued so much in the past?  big surprise

Must be my mistake. Maybe because you tried to take a conciliatory position between myself and others and I misread that? Anyway pleased to know this. I am not seeking argument but want my points challenged. However the most basic one, without which nothing can be developed is the one that people are, inexplicably to me, the most resistant.

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 05:35 PM
faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM
erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

We should care about others.

We might agree on this but this is insufficient. Others can make a case otherwise

How do you propose convincing persons who are intent on not caring about others that they should start caring about others?  Maybe we could give ‘em Dickens’ old Scrooge treatment.  A visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future maybe?  cheese

This is probably another thread but I humbly suggest expressivism - praise, commendation, blame, condemnation, reward and punishment. This is because you cannot reason with people to change their desires only their beliefs and even only those if they are not dominated by a “desire to believe”—faith. So you have to target their desires via their emotions - e.g. emotional reactions such as shame , guilt and embarrassment can modify desires. The irony is that others have asserted that people are products of their culture and these expressive means are the means to make people the products of their culture! I don’t need to invent anything new.

faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM
erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

I reject social contract base morality.

I did not propose a social contract as a basis for morality.  I do think that there are implicit social contracts in most all social situations and that the consequences of not fulfilling these contracts can play a part in motivating people to behave morally.  In other words, to behave immorally we risk others behaving as such toward us, our families, friends, nation, etc.

I agree - we are not far off - however I look at the underlying structure of how this works via beliefs and desires (motives). I do not think there is an underlying “social contract” as I argued previously but i do not deny that the concept of some sort of contract is used very often in social interactions and that affects - in roughly predictable ways - the beliefs and desires of the participants involved. It was the foundational implication, that maybe I mistakenly read into your statement, that I was objecting too. And this also makes my point about over answering as I did giving an argument as to why I reject social contract morality? wink

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM

That is only one of the two reasons that I gave for why people ought to behave morally.  I think that the other was the more powerful.

As I said I already addressed this somewhat in other replies, maybe not to you. If you are willing to defend this maybe you could make your case as you chose in another thread and we could discuss it there?

erasmusinfinity - 27 October 2008 03:41 PM
faithlessgod - 27 October 2008 04:58 PM

Now I can say why but my replies are already quite long!.

Yes they are.  They are also very interesting.  Maybe we could try to stick to one or two points at a time.

Yea I had one of those free days, and yours and Brennans points got my attention and interest. Plus I have not discussed this in a while. I want to start writing my blog again and discussions here are inspirations for blog topics. Anyway how about you suggest the points that interest you? I have missed debating with you guys, still maybe more on a one response a day basis might be more manageable. Oh yea I just stopped smoking yesterday too, so all my former smoking time has been spent responding here wink

Anyway lets see how the dust settles.

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