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Old 6th August 2019, 11:38 AM   #161
theprestige
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Because I don't consider the concept of an "absolute moral statement" to really be a thing.

Again you can say "There are right and wrong ways to build a bridge" without declaring "the is absolutely one right way to build a bridge."

Morality and ethics, again the only parts I can really speak to because they are the only parts I consider valid, are just... applied psychology and sociology to me.

The whole "Is morality subjective or objective" thing doesn't really fit into my headspace.
That seems reasonable to me.

Where do you come down on ethical questions in public policy?

I ask about public policy because it's a practical, real-world situation. Regardless of your philosophical position, you're called upon to vote, to have an opinion of how the government should spend your tax dollars. To have an opinion on how the government should treat you and your fellow citizens.

You don't think it's ethical to withhold chemotherapy from a cancer victim, if they can't prove the morality of treating them. Do you think it's ethical for your government to require you to pay for that chemotherapy?

And by "do you think it's ethical?" I mean, "is that how you would vote, if the question ever came up for a vote?"
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Old 6th August 2019, 01:06 PM   #162
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Where do you come down on ethical questions in public policy?
Okay before this train leaves the station let me make sure one thing is 100,000% clear.

I will NOT discuss politics with you. Not anymore. That ship sailed, hit the reef, sunk, and there's now a thriving coral reef on the wreckage.

We'll ride this "public policy" train down the razors edge as long as we can, but the second I get the first whiff of politics or liberal/conservative tribalism, I'm out.
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As to the question... the same way we apply public policy about anything else. We balance the needs of the majority against the tyranny of the majority, what the public wants versus what can be given to them.

Again, and we're going to keep coming back to this, the same way we balance the public anything. Questions of ethics and morality are not special.
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Old 6th August 2019, 01:19 PM   #163
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I'm a moral realist, and I'd like to give a simpler way of looking at this issue. Let's start with two declarative statements.

1. Adding gasoline to an out-of-fuel car is a good way to get it running again.
2. Chocolate is a good flavor of ice cream.

Sentence 1 is pretty clearly objective, while sentence 2 is pretty clearly subjective. Now let's add a new sentence:

P. The complete abolition of slavery is a good way of advancing human prosperity.

All I'm saying is that Sentence P is more like 1 than it is like 2. To put it another way, the thought process behind answering, "Why should I abolish slavery?" is similar to, "Why should I refuel my car?" and completely different from, "Why should I choose chocolate ice cream?"

At this point, someone will likely retort with, "Well, yes, but why should we advance prosperity?" but that's not really the point. All we're trying to figure out is whether or not these questions have objective answers, not whether or not we should care. To put it another way, the entire field of method does not need to tell you why life is preferable to death before it can state, objectively, that clean water is healthier than poison.
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Old 6th August 2019, 01:49 PM   #164
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Originally Posted by I Am The Scum View Post
All I'm saying is that Sentence P is more like 1 than it is like 2.
Similarly, if I didn't like fish when I was a kid but I do now, I'm unlikely to say that my taste-preference was mistaken--I just didn't like fish back then. Whereas if I used to believe that gay people should be jailed for having sex with each other but have since come around, I am likely to regret the former position. At the very least, we don't talk about moral utterances as if they were merely emotive.

A problem with ethical subjectivism (as it's being related in this thread) is that it requires us to say that if A held X at point t, A was correct to do so, and if A then held ~X at t+1, A was again correct to do so, despite the fact that one view is the negation of the other. This tends to make subjectivism difficult to distinguish from nihilism.
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Old 6th August 2019, 01:51 PM   #165
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Originally Posted by I Am The Scum View Post
I'm a moral realist, and I'd like to give a simpler way of looking at this issue. Let's start with two declarative statements.

1. Adding gasoline to an out-of-fuel car is a good way to get it running again.
2. Chocolate is a good flavor of ice cream.

Sentence 1 is pretty clearly objective, while sentence 2 is pretty clearly subjective. Now let's add a new sentence:

P. The complete abolition of slavery is a good way of advancing human prosperity.

All I'm saying is that Sentence P is more like 1 than it is like 2. To put it another way, the thought process behind answering, "Why should I abolish slavery?" is similar to, "Why should I refuel my car?" and completely different from, "Why should I choose chocolate ice cream?"

At this point, someone will likely retort with, "Well, yes, but why should we advance prosperity?" but that's not really the point. All we're trying to figure out is whether or not these questions have objective answers, not whether or not we should care. To put it another way, the entire field of method does not need to tell you why life is preferable to death before it can state, objectively, that clean water is healthier than poison.
I admit, my first impulse was to retort, "Well, yes, but why should we advance prosperity?"

But I take your point.

On the other hand. Something like "advancing human prosperity" is actually a complicated proposition with a lot of subjective judgement at play. Not the least of which is the question, "why should I care about advancing human prosperity?"

Advancing my own prosperity seems like a slam-dunk value proposition for me. Advancing your prosperity also makes a lot of sense, if my prosperity depends on yours. But that's a game-theoretical consideration, not a moral consideration.

The moral conundrum is especially acute if we look beyond my lifetime. I'm going to be dead in fifty years no matter what. Why shouldn't I strip-mine the Earth, and maximize my own prosperity in my lifetime, without concern for the fate of those who succeed me?
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Old 6th August 2019, 02:25 PM   #166
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I admit, my first impulse was to retort, "Well, yes, but why should we advance prosperity?"

But I take your point.

On the other hand. Something like "advancing human prosperity" is actually a complicated proposition with a lot of subjective judgement at play. Not the least of which is the question, "why should I care about advancing human prosperity?"

Advancing my own prosperity seems like a slam-dunk value proposition for me. Advancing your prosperity also makes a lot of sense, if my prosperity depends on yours. But that's a game-theoretical consideration, not a moral consideration.

The moral conundrum is especially acute if we look beyond my lifetime. I'm going to be dead in fifty years no matter what. Why shouldn't I strip-mine the Earth, and maximize my own prosperity in my lifetime, without concern for the fate of those who succeed me?

I would say you would get a round of applause from climate change deniers, for this kind of attitude. Those of us with children and grand children, have our reservations for obvious reasons. Not all I would concede, as immediate self interest trumps* all else for some.

* There's a good word.
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Old 6th August 2019, 02:40 PM   #167
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I would say you would get a round of applause from climate change deniers, for this kind of attitude. Those of us with children and grand children, have our reservations for obvious reasons. Not all I would concede, as immediate self interest trumps* all else for some.

* Theres a good word.
Do you have a moral argument for why I should diminish my present prosperity, to improve the future prosperity of your children and grandchildren?

Your reasons are not obvious to me. Could you explain them?
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Old 6th August 2019, 03:39 PM   #168
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
It does, however, mean making people unhappy if they get in the way of your principle of maximizing happiness.

And when did we agree that maximizing happiness was the basis of morality, anyway?

So what if Hitler sought to increase his happiness at the expense of Jewish happiness? Is that so wrong?
Which leads me to this question. What should be the foundation for morality?
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Old 6th August 2019, 03:55 PM   #169
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Do you have a moral argument for why I should diminish my present prosperity, to improve the future prosperity of your children and grandchildren?

Your reasons are not obvious to me. Could you explain them?

Well I was talking about the moral obligation a parent feels toward children. Something that is demonstrated daily all around the World, as in the recent shooting incident in the USA, where a mother shielded her baby from gunfire and subsequently perished.

As an unrelated party I imagine you're urge to show altruism may be somewhat diminished. None the less there are some who do this in an extreme way, and many who do so in a milder form.

Can I give you reasons for behaving in this non selfish manner? No I don't think so. It is a quality that most of us admire, although contrary to the quest for survival of self, in some cases.
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Old 6th August 2019, 04:00 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
Which leads me to this question. What should be the foundation for morality?
**** if I know. These threads always seem to stall out somewhere between the part where the rational thinkers all express certainty in their moral calculus, and the part where any of them actually attempt a rational explanation that isn't "because reasons". At least you're asking.

I started a thread a while back on the same topic. It was actually kind of productive. Got farther than this one, anyway. This one seems to be having a pretty typical run here. Same old questions, same lack of answers. Nothing really new.

---

So here, I'll add something new:

I don't know which of these *should* be the foundation for morality, but it seems like it's gonna be one of these three:

Faith
Norms
Sociopathy

I've been leaning towards sociopathy lately, but if it's going to be norms my vote is MacDonald.
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Old 6th August 2019, 04:08 PM   #171
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Well I was talking about the moral obligation a parent feels toward children. Something that is demonstrated daily all around the World, as in the recent shooting incident in the USA, where a mother shielded her baby from gunfire and subsequently perished.



As an unrelated party I imagine you're urge to show altruism may be somewhat diminished. None the less there are some who do this in an extreme way, and many who do so in a milder form.



Can I give you reasons for behaving in this non selfish manner? No I don't think so. It is a quality that most of us admire, although contrary to the quest for survival of self, in some cases.
As moral arguments go, this one seems pretty weak. It's mostly an appeal to emotion, with some attempt at shaming me for not conforming to your subjective standards.

Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to feel a moral obligation to your children?

Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to act to my own disadvantage, because I don't share your feelings of obligation?
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Old 6th August 2019, 04:15 PM   #172
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Originally Posted by caveman1917 View Post
Would someone who would've blocked everyone else out have owed it to the others to have chosen differently?
Yes.

Quote:
If yes, then clearly "owing something to others" isn't the property distinguishing the behaviours. Both you and the other hypothetical person who blocks everyone out would "owe it to others" but what would distinguish you is that you have a desire to act ethically whereas he doesn't.
There's a contradiction in your reasoning--in order for him to be aware that he owes it to others not to block him (if he isn't, there's nothing to account for), he has to agree that it is better not to block people, which means he and I must have similar propositional attitudes--we both hold that it is better not to block everyone else. It cannot therefore be true that I desire to act and he does not, because the acknowledgment that one outcome is better than the other is the very thing you want to call a desire. All we can say is that we both prefer one outcome over another, but he has experienced a failure of will where I have not. That's not explicable in terms of the presence or absence of desire, if you hold that a moral judgment is (or entails) a desire.

In any case, if I had acted otherwise, according to this account, I could not call my actions moral (since I would be ignoring my "desire to act ethically")--so the idea that morality is just a label that we stick on what we wanted to do is just not true. Moral desires would then be distinct from other desires, which would render this account of morality as desire inadequate. That's all that needs to be shown.

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Old 6th August 2019, 04:30 PM   #173
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
**** if I know. These threads always seem to stall out somewhere between the part where the rational thinkers all express certainty in their moral calculus, and the part where any of them actually attempt a rational explanation that isn't "because reasons". At least you're asking.

I started a thread a while back on the same topic. It was actually kind of productive. Got farther than this one, anyway. This one seems to be having a pretty typical run here. Same old questions, same lack of answers. Nothing really new.

---

So here, I'll add something new:

I don't know which of these *should* be the foundation for morality, but it seems like it's gonna be one of these three:

Faith
Norms
Sociopathy

I've been leaning towards sociopathy lately, but if it's going to be norms my vote is MacDonald.

Faith in what?

Norms? Seriously?

Sociopathy? "A mental health disorder characterized by disregard for other people." That's what should he the foundation of our morals?
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Old 6th August 2019, 04:38 PM   #174
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
As moral arguments go, this one seems pretty weak. It's mostly an appeal to emotion, with some attempt at shaming me for not conforming to your subjective standards.

Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to feel a moral obligation to your children?

Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to act to my own disadvantage, because I don't share your feelings of obligation?
I can't answer for Thor. But my answer is yes. I think everyone has an obligation to society as a whole which includes future generations. I'm not the one of us that is a Christian. But what happened to being your brother's keeper?

Maybe you were serious about sociopathy being the basis for morality? I thought you were just kidding.
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:05 PM   #175
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
As moral arguments go, this one seems pretty weak. It's mostly an appeal to emotion, with some attempt at shaming me for not conforming to your subjective standards.
It was not an argument, just an observation.

Quote:
Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to feel a moral obligation to your children?

Do you believe it's morally wrong for me not to act to my own disadvantage, because I don't share your feelings of obligation?
There are no absolute rights or wrongs in all this. If someone behaves in an altruistic manner, by far the greater number of us would think this commendable. If someone doesn't feel any compulsion to perform deeds for the good of others, that is understandable although unlikely to inspire admiration in others.
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:17 PM   #176
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
Faith in what?
The existence of some universal morality to which axiomatic appeals can be made. This seems to be more or less where JoeMorgue keeps ending up, though he keeps stopping short of actually acknowledging it.

Quote:
Norms? Seriously?
Seriously. Take a look at this thread, and previous threads, and every other instance of this debate on this forum. Social norms seem to be the prevalent conclusion most people arrive at. It's pretty obvious in debates about human rights.

Quote:
Sociopathy? "A mental health disorder characterized by disregard for other people." That's what should he the foundation of our morals?
Think about it. Pure prisoner's dilemma, enlightened self-interest stuff. You're not concerned about what other people think. You're not concerned about custom, or tradition, No worries about how you were raised or what you were taught to believe. All that matters is a dispassionate evaluation of what works for you and what doesn't.

Most sociopaths are pretty adept at going along to get along, but not because they're concerned with morality. Their concern is whatever practical and profitable strategy they can find, for getting what they want.

Obviously the sociopaths will eat all us non-sociopaths for lunch if we give them a chance, but so what? It's not like there's a higher law that says they shouldn't. And who knows? Maybe once they've cleared us out of the way, and sorted out the kinks in their objective social darwinism approach to things, they'll build a far more productive society than we ever will. Two sociopaths in a Prisoner's dilemma are probably going to find a mutually beneficial arrangement a lot faster than a Communist and a Christian, even though the latter each believe in a moral code, and the former believe in nothing but self-interest.
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:21 PM   #177
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
I can't answer for Thor. But my answer is yes. I think everyone has an obligation to society as a whole which includes future generations. I'm not the one of us that is a Christian. But what happened to being your brother's keeper?
You lost me. Who's the Christian, here? Are you saying I should adopt Christianity as my moral foundation? Or just complaining that I don't?

Quote:
Maybe you were serious about sociopathy being the basis for morality? I thought you were just kidding.
Only half kidding. Put two sociopaths in a room, all they care about is, "how do I make it easier for this guy to go along with what I want, than fight me over it?" And really, what's a higher morality than that?
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:25 PM   #178
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
It was not an argument, just an observation.



There are no absolute rights or wrongs in all this. If someone behaves in an altruistic manner, by far the greater number of us would think this commendable. If someone doesn't feel any compulsion to perform deeds for the good of others, that is understandable although unlikely to inspire admiration in others.
You seem to be drifting off topic with your observations.

Are you saying that inspiring admiration in others should be the basis of morality?
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:33 PM   #179
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The existence of some universal morality to which axiomatic appeals can be made. This seems to be more or less where JoeMorgue keeps ending up, though he keeps stopping short of actually acknowledging it.
If I knew what "universal morality" was supposed to mean I'd know whether or not you were putting words in my mouth.
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Old 6th August 2019, 05:50 PM   #180
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
If I knew what "universal morality" was supposed to mean I'd know whether or not you were putting words in my mouth.
If I knew what "certainly immoral" was supposed to mean, I'd know whether you were actually appealing to a universal morality.
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Old 6th August 2019, 06:10 PM   #181
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The existence of some universal morality to which axiomatic appeals can be made. This seems to be more or less where JoeMorgue keeps ending up, though he keeps stopping short of actually acknowledging it.
I personally believe shared morality should be based on universal well being. Our own and society as a whole. I don't see how "faith" plays into it unless you employ a definition of faith that I haven't heard before.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Seriously. Take a look at this thread, and previous threads, and every other instance of this debate on this forum. Social norms seem to be the prevalent conclusion most people arrive at. It's pretty obvious in debates about human rights.
I don't think that is true. But maybe we're just phrasing at it differently. I do believe that the morality practiced by a society is based on what that society values and changes over time...so maybe. That said, I believe morality should be based on well being which is in fact an absolute morality.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Think about it. Pure prisoner's dilemma, enlightened self-interest stuff. You're not concerned about what other people think. You're not concerned about custom, or tradition, No worries about how you were raised or what you were taught to believe. All that matters is a dispassionate evaluation of what works for you and what doesn't.

Most sociopaths are pretty adept at going along to get along, but not because they're concerned with morality. Their concern is whatever practical and profitable strategy they can find, for getting what they want.

Obviously the sociopaths will eat all us non-sociopaths for lunch if we give them a chance, but so what? It's not like there's a higher law that says they shouldn't. And who knows? Maybe once they've cleared us out of the way, and sorted out the kinks in their objective social darwinism approach to things, they'll build a far more productive society than we ever will. Two sociopaths in a Prisoner's dilemma are probably going to find a mutually beneficial arrangement a lot faster than a Communist and a Christian, even though the latter each believe in a moral code, and the former believe in nothing but self-interest.
I'm not a fan. Certainly a society could be entirely based on self centered principles. Might makes right. Just seems dystopic.
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Old 6th August 2019, 06:28 PM   #182
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
I personally believe shared morality should be based on universal well being. Our own and society as a whole. I don't see how "faith" plays into it unless you employ a definition of faith that I haven't heard before.

I don't think that is true. But maybe we're just phrasing at it differently. I do believe that the morality practiced by a society is based on what that society values and changes over time...so maybe.
I'd call this morality based on social norms.

Quote:
That said, I believe morality should be based on well being which is in fact an absolute morality.
And I'd call this morality based on faith.

Quote:
I'm not a fan. Certainly a society could be entirely based on self centered principles. Might makes right. Just seems dystopic.
Yeah, I'm not much of a fan either. On the other hand, it seems to work for pretty much every other animal on the planet. And it does cut the gordian knot pretty cleanly.
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Old 6th August 2019, 07:08 PM   #183
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Think about it. Pure prisoner's dilemma, enlightened self-interest stuff.
The prisoner's dilemma is an example where ethical egoism is self-defeating (by acting in a strictly self-interested way, we end up worse off than we would be if we had acted for the common good--egoism seems to suggest that we should not be egoists), so it's more than a little strange that you'd bring it up as a point in favor of ethical egoism.

That's also one of the reasons egoism is self-effacing--meaning that it tends to lead to the adoption of other ethical frameworks. When it's pointed out that your ethical egoism is incommensurate with my ethical egoism (since we cannot agree on what the ultimate good is), people will unwittingly adopt methodological egoism ("Well, it just works out better for everyone if we act according to our self-interest"), abandoning egoistic justifications in favor of broad consequentialism. Notably you did precisely this with "On the other hand, it seems to work for pretty much every other animal on the planet." Although I find the idea that animals are ethical egoists...contentious. Which brings us to the next point:

People tend to confuse descriptive and normative egoism. They seem to take it for granted that if people are self-interested, they ought to be self-interested. This doesn't follow, and the adoption of ethical egoism arbitrarily excludes the interests of others, in much the same way that racism does (that is, not in terms of moral properties that people have, but due to morally irrelevant differences).

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Old 6th August 2019, 08:35 PM   #184
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[quote=theprestige;12779141]I'd call this morality based on social norms.

Morality IS a social construct...So maybe.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
And I'd call this morality based on faith.
It certainly isn't the "faith" as described in Hebrews 11-1"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

A morality based on well being is simply asking does an action support well being of all the parties to the best of its abilities. I don't know how you can call that "faith".

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Yeah, I'm not much of a fan either. On the other hand, it seems to work for pretty much every other animal on the planet. And it does cut the gordian knot pretty cleanly.
I'm not sure it does. Not when you consider that 99 percent of every species that has ever existed is extinct. I also don't believe that all species are sociopathic. I certainly don't believe it's true with dogs or elephants.
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Old 6th August 2019, 08:49 PM   #185
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
Morality IS a social construct...So maybe.
Yes, maybe values derived from social constructs are social norms. MAYBE.

Quote:
It certainly isn't the "faith" as described in Hebrews 11-1"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

A morality based on well being is simply asking does an action support well being of all the parties to the best of its abilities. I don't know how you can call that "faith".
I call it faith because there's no evidence that maximizing collective well being is the most moral choice.
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Old 6th August 2019, 08:52 PM   #186
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
The idea that morality/ethics is variable doesn't mean it is arbitrary, nor does it mean that all moral/ethical systems work, either at all or as good as other systems.

Again people get way to hung up on some variation on asking "Are ethics subjective or objective" and think that's a bad question.

We have river we need to get cars across.

Person A: Builds a suspension bridge. Cars can now cross the water.
Person B: Builds a Truss bridge. Cars can now cross the water.
Person C: Builds a cantilever bridge. Cars can now cross the water.
Person D: Builds a bridge out of cardboard and old chewing gum. It collapses on the first car.

The fact that we have multiple viable options doesn't mean we don't also have wrong answers. It doesn't mean the bridge building is subjective, just complex.

It is possible for moral systems to fail, or to work better or worse in certain scenarios. That makes it more complex, nothing more.
Person D might have the right answer if he was being forced by the Nazis to build a bridge so that their army could cross a river and invade a territory and he didn't want them to do so.

The right and wrong answer depends upon your values.

Values depend on desire.
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Old 6th August 2019, 09:00 PM   #187
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I call it faith because there's no evidence that maximizing collective well being is the most moral choice.
I call it based on desire. If you didn't want to maximise collective well-being then there would be no reason to do so.

Utilitarianism is ultimately based on desire, just like any moral system.
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Old 6th August 2019, 10:41 PM   #188
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
That's not ethics, that's just optimizing for self-interest in a race for resources against peer competitors.

Josef Stalin only had to apply that rule to a relatively short list of people who were actually in a position to do anything unto him. The vast majority of Russians, Eastern Europeans, etc. he was free to use as pawns without regard to how they might behave if the situation were reversed. Because the situation would never be reversed.*

I would say that true ethics and morality are rules you apply because you believe they are the right thing to do, not because they are the optimal strategy for self-benefit over time.


---
*Yes, it's always possible that he'd be stranded on a deserted stretch of Siberian highway, depending on the nonexistent goodwill of a vengeful kulak his policies had tortured for years. But that's just risk management.
If you only apply it to those with the power to do things back to you, then you aren't doing it right. Do follow it correctly is to have no ability to arbitrarily decide who you will treat as you want them to treat you, and who you won't, but rather treat everyone else as you want to be treated.

In your example Stalin clearly was clearly not following this method because he did indeed do things to people that he would not have wanted done to himself.

If followed correctly it doesn't optimise self-interest, but rather pushes for a collective interest. You achieve the best interest for yourself by making sure that you work at helping others in the ways you desire to be helped yourself, and in treating others in the ways you want to be treated, regardless of if they have the power to do so in return. In fact the ultimate end should be increasing all people's power to the level where they actually can help and treat you the same way you help and treat them, thus rising all in the society together.

The view you present is more of one of "treat those with equal power as I want to be treated, and damn everyone else." rather than what I presented. In fallacy terms this is called a Strawman.
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Old 6th August 2019, 11:31 PM   #189
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Sorry for disappearing, had a very busy day yesterday.
Good points raised.
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Old 6th August 2019, 11:32 PM   #190
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
That’s the problem I am alluding to. It’s definitely true that this happens often and can be demonstrated that much of our moral decisions are post-hoc rationalizations - or at least many controlled experiments show that humans will do this. And yet, what they often also show is that there is a rational answer them against which the rationalization can be shown (maybe I am not explaining this well). It seems to me that it only underscores the need to learn how to deal with cognitive biases and to train ourselves to be more rational.

Maybe a good example is someone who says “I realize I rationalize eating meat when I know that it follows from any reasonable principle that I shouldn’t eat it.”
Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
I don't agree. Empathy might have something to do with the origin (the historical contingencies of a particular field of inquiry) of morality, but it is not the basis (the logical and philosophical foundation) of morality. The earliest known mathematics were developed in order to do things like levy taxes, facilitate trade, and track celestial bodies, but it would be an error to say that any of those things are the basis of mathematics.

Empathy makes for a poor foundation on which build a normative code, not least because of the underlying presumption of ethical egoism. Empathy could only be the basis of morality if my feelings are the basis of morality, which would be an absurdly self-important thing to believe, and immediately runs into problems with the relativity of pronouns. If I reject ethical egoism, then I have no immediate use for empathy--I can just value the well-being of others directly, since I would then have to concede that there's nothing special about me.


Consideration of the interests of others.
Not all feelings are moral. Compassion or empathy are because they sustain the basic moral norm: attention to one's neighbour. They are a necessary condition of morality. Reason does not.

"The basis of morality" means that without empathy there is no sense of moral responsibility: a necessary condition for morality to exist. See Damasio's studies: a patient with a damaged prefrontal lobe understands what a moral norm means but feels no impulse to comply with it. There are cases of very intelligent serial killers, but without the slightest empathy for their victims.

Hume: you can't deduce a rule from only reasoning. One cannot logically go from being to ought.

This does not mean that reason does not play a necessary role in the development of moral norms. Crazy compassion can be nefarious. In Spain we say that hell is paved with good intentions. It's understandable, isn't it?

There's something inhuman about someone who's guided only by a logical moral system. It would be like HAL, the robot of 2001. Once in a while, a prick of remorse is more than useful.

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Old 6th August 2019, 11:32 PM   #191
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Not the least of which is the question, "why should I care about advancing human prosperity?"
Because you are part of society and your prosperity depends on it. The more advanced and technological society, the more true this becomes.



Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Advancing my own prosperity seems like a slam-dunk value proposition for me. Advancing your prosperity also makes a lot of sense, if my prosperity depends on yours. But that's a game-theoretical consideration, not a moral consideration.

Lots of research has been done on the evolution of cooperation and game-theory proves cooperation to be the most prosperous long term strategy. Defectors do have an advantage and will prosper in such a society up until the point where there are too many of them and the strategy becomes self-defeating. Defectors numbers plummet, cooperators increase - and the cycle repeats. These things have been modeled.

Your "slam-dunk" proposition gives you individual advantage at a cost to society as a whole. It decreases the total prosperity of the population and is only successful in the short term.
IOW it's a short sighted selfish strategy.
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Old 7th August 2019, 12:54 AM   #192
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
Because you are part of society and your prosperity depends on it. The more advanced and technological society, the more true this becomes.
But what if you could become even more prosperous by advancing one section of the community at the expense of another, where the section of the community being advanced includes you?

Shouldn't you then do that?
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Old 7th August 2019, 02:37 AM   #193
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Originally Posted by I Am The Scum View Post
I'm a moral realist, and I'd like to give a simpler way of looking at this issue. Let's start with two declarative statements.

1. Adding gasoline to an out-of-fuel car is a good way to get it running again.
2. Chocolate is a good flavor of ice cream.

Sentence 1 is pretty clearly objective, while sentence 2 is pretty clearly subjective. Now let's add a new sentence:

P. The complete abolition of slavery is a good way of advancing human prosperity.

All I'm saying is that Sentence P is more like 1 than it is like 2. To put it another way, the thought process behind answering, "Why should I abolish slavery?" is similar to, "Why should I refuel my car?" and completely different from, "Why should I choose chocolate ice cream?"

At this point, someone will likely retort with, "Well, yes, but why should we advance prosperity?" but that's not really the point. All we're trying to figure out is whether or not these questions have objective answers, not whether or not we should care. To put it another way, the entire field of method does not need to tell you why life is preferable to death before it can state, objectively, that clean water is healthier than poison.
Yish, not quite. As soon as you put "good" in statement one you made it subjective. But ok, I get your point.

What I don't get is why you think P is more like 1. I think it's more like 2 myself. Productivity might have gone up since the end of slavery but that's because of technology, mainly.
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Old 7th August 2019, 02:51 AM   #194
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My suffering is bad. I know this because I've experienced it. Your suffering is like mine. I know this because we are physical systems with the same properties. Therefore your suffering is bad.

It's possible to deny the first statement. Perhaps my suffering is simply something that I dislike but there's nothing objectively "bad" about it. I can see that as a valid rational viewpoint, but I don't actually believe that anyone believes it about themselves.

So sure, it's an axiom that I have to begin with, but it certainly seems to be a bare, if somewhat mysterious, fact of our universe the suffering of conscious systems is a bad thing. If you disagree go induce some suffering in yourself and see if you think, in that moment, that there's no moral quality to your suffering: that the world wouldn't be a better place without it.

Perhaps this is an illusion. Okay. Until that's demonstrated I think it's better to work on the assumption that it's not.
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Old 7th August 2019, 02:56 AM   #195
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
What I don't get is why you think P is more like 1. I think it's more like 2 myself. Productivity might have gone up since the end of slavery but that's because of technology, mainly.
Because the set "humans" includes the slaves, and their prosperity is included in the total of human prosperity. As long as abolishing slavery increases the prosperity of the slaves more than it decreases the prosperity of the slave owners (and everyone else), then total human prosperity is increased by abolishing slavery.

As I Am The Scum said, this doesn't address the question of why we should care about human prosperity, whether or not total human prosperity is the right metric, or even how to go about measuring it, but it is true that it's an objective question. What we do with the answer may be subjective.
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Old 7th August 2019, 03:25 AM   #196
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So much to digest.
Lots of discussion concerning relative specific points. I'd like to focus on the broader concepts first.

I was of the opinion that science can't answer moral questions, I might be changing my mind. I think it might be possible to devise a universal moral framework using science, even if it's worthless in answering any detailed specifics.

As has already been discussed, a good scientific case can be made that feeling good/bad, pleasant/unpleasant is a universal state of evolved neural networks, with the function of encouraging behaviour leading to reproductive success and avoiding harmful situations.
Since the universal goal of life is to reproduce, for animals with complex enough brains to experience it, maximizing happiness/minimizing suffering would be a universal goal.
So that's where we start.

Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Morality must be a function of utility in order to be sustainable: high ideals don't last long against reality.
Exactly, that is why we have it. It's had the evolutionary function of bolstering cooperation in closer knit groups leading to reproductive success.
It also has a dark side. In a system with limited resources reproductive success depends on out-competing other close knit groups.
Within a social group the cooperative, empathetic side of behaviour has always been seen as virtuous and the combative, selfish side as evil. The reverse is true for interactions between competing groups. Why this is so should be self-evident.
Game theory, and the fact that it evolved in the first place, shows that cooperation is the better strategy.
Since we are all stuck on this planet together our social group has basically expanded to include the whole globe.

I propose the over-all function of a moral code stay the same: The continued prosperity of the group.
Since our concept of morality has recently expanded to include such outlandish groups as other races, woman, children and even animals; I propose to expand it to include all life.
I think all living things have value.
Just as your prosperity depends on the prosperity of your society, the prosperity of society depends on the prosperity of the system it inhabits.
For the foreseeable future our prosperity depends on the prosperity of the planetary ecosystem.

It boils down to:
Maximizing happiness/minimiz suffering by striving to sustain a balanced stable ecosystem where all life has value.
More complex life with more complex brains having more individual personal value and less complex life having more aggregate/ecological value.
Something like that, I'm not sure. Does that make sense?
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Old 7th August 2019, 03:29 AM   #197
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
But what if you could become even more prosperous by advancing one section of the community at the expense of another, where the section of the community being advanced includes you?

Shouldn't you then do that?

That would be inefficient by decreasing the prosperity of the whole. In the long term cooperation is the superior strategy.
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Old 7th August 2019, 03:34 AM   #198
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
As I Am The Scum said, this doesn't address the question of why we should care about human prosperity, whether or not total human prosperity is the right metric, or even how to go about measuring it, but it is true that it's an objective question. What we do with the answer may be subjective.

Maybe it's just me but I'm not at all comfortable using "human prosperity" as a metric. I cannot see how it could be justified in any objective way.
I'm trying to be objective in devising a moral framework.
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Old 7th August 2019, 04:14 AM   #199
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Because the set "humans" includes the slaves, and their prosperity is included in the total of human prosperity.
It's included but the total prosperity might still be higher with slavery than without, under a certain set of circumstances. Under that scenarion the slaves would be thrown under the bus for the greater good... the greater good. Or, if you don't consider slaves people, they're actually not included at all.

Quote:
As long as abolishing slavery increases the prosperity of the slaves more than it decreases the prosperity of the slave owners (and everyone else), then total human prosperity is increased by abolishing slavery.
Exactly. So in the inverse, then it isn't.
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Old 7th August 2019, 05:51 AM   #200
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
There's a contradiction in your reasoning--in order for him to be aware that he owes it to others not to block him (if he isn't, there's nothing to account for), he has to agree that it is better not to block people, which means he and I must have similar propositional attitudes--we both hold that it is better not to block everyone else. It cannot therefore be true that I desire to act and he does not, because the acknowledgment that one outcome is better than the other is the very thing you want to call a desire. All we can say is that we both prefer one outcome over another, but he has experienced a failure of will where I have not. That's not explicable in terms of the presence or absence of desire, if you hold that a moral judgment is (or entails) a desire.
Oh but we can assume for the sake of argument that he has been made aware that some people believe he owes it to them not to block them out, he simply chooses not to adopt said belief as his own. In other words, the difference is that he does not have the desire to act in accordance with that belief whereas you do.
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