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The Is/Ought Problem

 
sojourner
 
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20 December 2015 20:04
 
Nom de Plume - 20 December 2015 10:18 AM

Yes, there may be a perpetual dichotomy between theory and practice. I don’t know that for a fact though, because history doesn’t always constrain the future. With psychological/behavioral data streaming in we could some day potentially objectify right/wrong, universally, to a sufficient level as to break free of all superstition, as a species, thereby bringing everyone into the same fold.

Admittedly that won’t occur in the near future, but I can’t rule it out as a real possibility. The point is that it certainly won’t happen if we don’t believe that it’s possible, and I for one believe firmly that it is.

Your point about “segregated cultures on different planets continuing to war with one another,” this assumes that those people are all from present day Earth. If however they are enlightened about the stupidity of warring, understanding that they are committing a fallacy in trying to convert each other to their own mores, then they woud not continue to war with one another. They would instead embrace their differences, understanding that moral certainty can exist only within groups, such as those groups that they compose. From this they can deduce that they each have no logical grounds to condemn the behaviors of people on the neighboring planets.

There may be other reasons for them to war with one another, perhaps due to something as simple as lack of food due to a worldwide drought. But if each planet is self sufficient, there should be no reason for them to ever go to ethnic war with one another.


The funny thing is, I think you are actually arguing for a universal morality here. As best I can reason out, there a few options for morality:


1. Relativism, environment/circumstance based morality / different internally consistent frameworks. If this is the case, it leads us to the divide we are seeing in liberalism today. You can either say (at either extreme, there are midpoints of course) that: 1. Liberalism means advocating for liberalism and pluralism by enforcing your vision of liberalism and pluralism on everyone else, which seems like… kinda… a contradiction… 2. Liberalism means being totally true to pluralism and thus being tolerant of intolerance. Not a great choice, right?


2. Morality as some sort of self-evident “thing”, just waiting to be discovered. Unless you believe in divine revelation this will never be a concrete ‘thing’, but it may have a sort of Platonic form. In this case, we should invest heavily in individual education as we will want everyone to learn as much about this system as possible so that they can ‘see’ it for themselves.


3. A blend of the two, which is where I tend to fall - i.e., that there are moral ‘forms’ that are consistent among humans but that context and environment play a big role, ergo we would expect that groups that have been separated by time, space, and causal chains will have somewhat differing moral intuitions, but not that they are simply from different moral planets when it comes to fundamentals.


Now, if you’re arguing that everyone will come to similar “self-evident” conclusions about how we need not fight each other, it seems to me that you are advocating either position #2 or 3, in which case the need for permanent segregation doesn’t really make sense. In that case it’s like saying “These two groups speak different languages, ergo they should be separated for all time.” Well, why? Couldn’t they learn each other’s language and eventually speak a common one?

[ Edited: 20 December 2015 20:06 by sojourner]
 
 
Poldano
 
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20 December 2015 20:34
 
Nom de Plume - 20 December 2015 07:53 AM
Twissell - 20 December 2015 07:06 AM

Preamble:
Landscapes are the mathematical descriptions of equations with multiple variables. When there are few parameters, we can exhaustively describe this landscape and know exactly which parameter values are required to reach the peaks and pits of the landscape.

But when such equations become more complex, numbering hundreds of parameters, we can no longer find those peaks and pits just by looking at the formula (not to mention that we can not envision a 2000-dimensional surface) - we need search algorithms, time and luck to reach points of sufficient elevation. The algorithms are optimization strategies based on the shape of the landscape at a specific point, i.e. how does the terrain curve along each parameter axis. These algorithms have names such as ‘Steepest Descent’ or ‘Newton-Raphson’ etc. and can be very good in finding the quickest route to the nearest peak (or pit). They can, however, not tell you if that extreme point is the highest (lowest) one on the entire landscape (global) or only in the neighborhood from where you started (local).
Other search algorithms randomly jump across the landscape to find points of interest - hence they are called Monte Carlo- Methods.

main point:
Any description of a Moral Landscape would be so high dimensional that we would have no hope of finding the peaks just by guessing - which is what we have done in society so far.
What would be required would be meticulous record keeping on the current state on well-being across time and as many parameters as possible. Only then suggest the best policies and could tell if these policies bring us closer or further way from a world optimized for human well-being.

That’s why the moral code must center around the individual. Good and Bad are really just different words for Pleasure and Pain. That’s what it breaks down to, and these occur on an individual basis. That is, we don’t collectively feel pain. Being empethetic is certainly not the same as actually experiencing these sensations. The Pleasure/Pain response is also central to an individual’s instinctive drives, which are quite objective. Morality, then, has it’s roots in the psyche of the individual, not in the collective conscious of a society.

In the sense of their psychological link to pleasure and pain,  good and bad also take on objective form, that is, they truly exist for the individual. As suggested elsewhere by myself, and now apparently also by Poldano, when you have a society full of like-minded individuals (a common culture), then what is good for one individual will ideally be good for all of the other individuals as well, or restated, it should theoretically be good for society in general.  In logical terms A(individual’s values) then Z(moral code), A=B,C,D,E(other members of closed society) thus B,C,D,E then Z.

This “moral certainty”  (as opposed to moral relativism) would require a general consensus. The objectivity of a moral code under these circumstances would be simply that it is itself an objective thing, i.e., it exists! In a society like the United States, we have people from many cultures, and some of the values of sub groups are simply incompatible with the values of other sub groups. Morality in this system is not objective, because it is self contradictory, i.e. it cannot be defined, or pinned down. There is no consensus. There is no moral certainty, and thus it does not exist, and for that reason does not achieve objectivity. There is only the objective individual’s feelings of good and bad.  When we apply these precepts to the real world we can see them in vivid in action. There is constant strife between indivuduals and between sub cultures, and the lack of moral consensus is the root cause of that. It seems quite obvious to me what needs to be done to eliminate all of these disputes and skirmishes.  Isn’t it obvious in hindsight that forcing people together who have incompatible values is a recipe for disaster? How hard is that? Do we honestly believe that it’s the other person’s duty to conform to our mores?  Why doesn’t he/she have the same right to demand that it is we who change over to their mores? Yet we in America continue blindly down this insane path, convinced that new legislation will magically fix it. Absurd!

Although we have some similarity of theoretical viewpoint, I don’t agree with all the pragmatic conclusions here. Moral viewpoints can be changed by learning and most of all by young people growing up in a different culture from their parents. It cannot be entirely stress-free of course, but there are ways to avoid confrontation leading to violence. Encouraging newcomers to adopt context-customary behaviors in public, while leaving private in-group behavior an in-group choice, is one method. This has worked for America in the past, and can be expected to work in the future for any country willing to adopt the correct policies.

Part of my moral relativism holds that, pragmatically, we don’t know in specific concrete circumstances which of the available choices will turn out to be the most ethical. In other words, we cannot avoid making some mistakes, and having to correct our customs at some future time. There is hope that we can improve our principles in the process, but that is hard. Sometimes compromise is the only course that is available.

 
 
Nom de Plume
 
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20 December 2015 21:27
 
Poldano - 20 December 2015 08:34 PM
Nom de Plume - 20 December 2015 07:53 AM
Twissell - 20 December 2015 07:06 AM

Preamble:
Landscapes are the mathematical descriptions of equations with multiple variables. When there are few parameters, we can exhaustively describe this landscape and know exactly which parameter values are required to reach the peaks and pits of the landscape.

But when such equations become more complex, numbering hundreds of parameters, we can no longer find those peaks and pits just by looking at the formula (not to mention that we can not envision a 2000-dimensional surface) - we need search algorithms, time and luck to reach points of sufficient elevation. The algorithms are optimization strategies based on the shape of the landscape at a specific point, i.e. how does the terrain curve along each parameter axis. These algorithms have names such as ‘Steepest Descent’ or ‘Newton-Raphson’ etc. and can be very good in finding the quickest route to the nearest peak (or pit). They can, however, not tell you if that extreme point is the highest (lowest) one on the entire landscape (global) or only in the neighborhood from where you started (local).
Other search algorithms randomly jump across the landscape to find points of interest - hence they are called Monte Carlo- Methods.

main point:
Any description of a Moral Landscape would be so high dimensional that we would have no hope of finding the peaks just by guessing - which is what we have done in society so far.
What would be required would be meticulous record keeping on the current state on well-being across time and as many parameters as possible. Only then suggest the best policies and could tell if these policies bring us closer or further way from a world optimized for human well-being.

That’s why the moral code must center around the individual. Good and Bad are really just different words for Pleasure and Pain. That’s what it breaks down to, and these occur on an individual basis. That is, we don’t collectively feel pain. Being empethetic is certainly not the same as actually experiencing these sensations. The Pleasure/Pain response is also central to an individual’s instinctive drives, which are quite objective. Morality, then, has it’s roots in the psyche of the individual, not in the collective conscious of a society.

In the sense of their psychological link to pleasure and pain,  good and bad also take on objective form, that is, they truly exist for the individual. As suggested elsewhere by myself, and now apparently also by Poldano, when you have a society full of like-minded individuals (a common culture), then what is good for one individual will ideally be good for all of the other individuals as well, or restated, it should theoretically be good for society in general.  In logical terms A(individual’s values) then Z(moral code), A=B,C,D,E(other members of closed society) thus B,C,D,E then Z.

This “moral certainty”  (as opposed to moral relativism) would require a general consensus. The objectivity of a moral code under these circumstances would be simply that it is itself an objective thing, i.e., it exists! In a society like the United States, we have people from many cultures, and some of the values of sub groups are simply incompatible with the values of other sub groups. Morality in this system is not objective, because it is self contradictory, i.e. it cannot be defined, or pinned down. There is no consensus. There is no moral certainty, and thus it does not exist, and for that reason does not achieve objectivity. There is only the objective individual’s feelings of good and bad.  When we apply these precepts to the real world we can see them in vivid in action. There is constant strife between indivuduals and between sub cultures, and the lack of moral consensus is the root cause of that. It seems quite obvious to me what needs to be done to eliminate all of these disputes and skirmishes.  Isn’t it obvious in hindsight that forcing people together who have incompatible values is a recipe for disaster? How hard is that? Do we honestly believe that it’s the other person’s duty to conform to our mores?  Why doesn’t he/she have the same right to demand that it is we who change over to their mores? Yet we in America continue blindly down this insane path, convinced that new legislation will magically fix it. Absurd!

Although we have some similarity of theoretical viewpoint, I don’t agree with all the pragmatic conclusions here. Moral viewpoints can be changed by learning and most of all by young people growing up in a different culture from their parents. It cannot be entirely stress-free of course, but there are ways to avoid confrontation leading to violence. Encouraging newcomers to adopt context-customary behaviors in public, while leaving private in-group behavior an in-group choice, is one method. This has worked for America in the past, and can be expected to work in the future for any country willing to adopt the correct policies.

Part of my moral relativism holds that, pragmatically, we don’t know in specific concrete circumstances which of the available choices will turn out to be the most ethical. In other words, we cannot avoid making some mistakes, and having to correct our customs at some future time. There is hope that we can improve our principles in the process, but that is hard. Sometimes compromise is the only course that is available.

If compromise is the only practical path, then sure, I agree with you. What I was discussing was more along the lines of Plato’s Republic. I was trying to determine logically what an “ideal” moral system (maximizing good) might look like. Voluntary segregation looks like a good short term remedy for a lot of the worlds ills today Something like that might not look so good at some point in the future, or even in the past (when cross cultural cooperation assisted with survival). But today we have not only different religious groups, but also different sects within those religions, and even differences within those sects. Then we have differences in nationality on top of that, and finally differences in race, with it’s own set of complications. Add to that Democrat’s vs Republicans, liberals, conservatives, communists, socialists, facists, pacifists, idiots, intelligentsia, the list goes on and on and on and on. It seems that no two people in this country are on the same page. Total chaos is the word that comes to mind. That’s what we have. If ever two distinct sides could be formed, then a civil war would be inevitable, but there are too many sides for any one of them to take such a notion seriously. All of the sides are minorities, and that includes the Christian rebel flag toting white as snow rednecks FWIW. They too are a minority. Let’s add gays, abortion rights activists, feminists, black lives matter activists, yada, yada, yada. Each and every one of these groups is actively pushing their own agendas, and guess what, something has to give. We can’t simultaneously adopt two values that are mutually exclusive to one another. Where these conflicts occur the only option I can see (other than extermination) is separation, as far as possible preferably. Conversion is a third option, although hardheadedness seems be the only trait these groups share in common, so that’s not a real option. But I digress. wink

[ Edited: 20 December 2015 21:33 by Nom de Plume]
 
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20 December 2015 22:15
 
Nom de Plume - 20 December 2015 09:27 PM

...

If compromise is the only practical path, then sure, I agree with you. What I was discussing was more along the lines of Plato’s Republic. I was trying to determine logically what an “ideal” moral system (maximizing good) might look like. Voluntary segregation looks like a good short term remedy for a lot of the worlds ills today Something like that might not look so good at some point in the future, or even in the past (when cross cultural cooperation assisted with survival). But today we have not only different religious groups, but also different sects within those religions, and even differences within those sects. Then we have differences in nationality on top of that, and finally differences in race, with it’s own set of complications. Add to that Democrat’s vs Republicans, liberals, conservatives, communists, socialists, facists, pacifists, idiots, intelligentsia, the list goes on and on and on and on. It seems that no two people in this country are on the same page. Total chaos is the word that comes to mind. That’s what we have. If ever two distinct sides could be formed, then a civil war would be inevitable, but there are too many sides for any one of them to take such a notion seriously. All of the sides are minorities, and that includes the Christian rebel flag toting white as snow rednecks FWIW. They too are a minority. Let’s add gays, abortion rights activists, feminists, black lives matter activists, yada, yada, yada. Each and every one of these groups is actively pushing their own agendas, and guess what, something has to give. We can’t simultaneously adopt two values that are mutually exclusive to one another. Where these conflicts occur the only option I can see (other than extermination) is separation, as far as possible preferably. Conversion is a third option, although hardheadedness seems be the only trait these groups share in common, so that’s not a real option. But I digress. ;)

Plato’s Republic is not at all practical, in my opinion. That’s because it is not possible by any social, psychological, or philosophical methods to indefinitely ensure the rectitude of the people running the show. That is of course my opinion, but it’s amply supported by historical evidence, and I would wager by game theory as well (pun intended, as an afterthought).

A chaos of competing interests is the normal state of affairs for human society. What might be novel about the current situation in the U.S. and in other western democracies is the number of interests that are managing to get a political audience. As we can observe, however, some of these constituencies have sufficient lack of animosity toward others that blocs of compatible interests can form and achieve some political success. Those that can build alliances with no others are those that cannot win a share of positive political influence; they have no recourse but coercion, usually violent, to get what they want.

 
 
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20 December 2015 23:06
 
Poldano - 20 December 2015 10:15 PM
Nom de Plume - 20 December 2015 09:27 PM

...

If compromise is the only practical path, then sure, I agree with you. What I was discussing was more along the lines of Plato’s Republic. I was trying to determine logically what an “ideal” moral system (maximizing good) might look like. Voluntary segregation looks like a good short term remedy for a lot of the worlds ills today Something like that might not look so good at some point in the future, or even in the past (when cross cultural cooperation assisted with survival). But today we have not only different religious groups, but also different sects within those religions, and even differences within those sects. Then we have differences in nationality on top of that, and finally differences in race, with it’s own set of complications. Add to that Democrat’s vs Republicans, liberals, conservatives, communists, socialists, facists, pacifists, idiots, intelligentsia, the list goes on and on and on and on. It seems that no two people in this country are on the same page. Total chaos is the word that comes to mind. That’s what we have. If ever two distinct sides could be formed, then a civil war would be inevitable, but there are too many sides for any one of them to take such a notion seriously. All of the sides are minorities, and that includes the Christian rebel flag toting white as snow rednecks FWIW. They too are a minority. Let’s add gays, abortion rights activists, feminists, black lives matter activists, yada, yada, yada. Each and every one of these groups is actively pushing their own agendas, and guess what, something has to give. We can’t simultaneously adopt two values that are mutually exclusive to one another. Where these conflicts occur the only option I can see (other than extermination) is separation, as far as possible preferably. Conversion is a third option, although hardheadedness seems be the only trait these groups share in common, so that’s not a real option. But I digress. ;)

Plato’s Republic is not at all practical, in my opinion. That’s because it is not possible by any social, psychological, or philosophical methods to indefinitely ensure the rectitude of the people running the show. That is of course my opinion, but it’s amply supported by historical evidence, and I would wager by game theory as well (pun intended, as an afterthought).

A chaos of competing interests is the normal state of affairs for human society. What might be novel about the current situation in the U.S. and in other western democracies is the number of interests that are managing to get a political audience. As we can observe, however, some of these constituencies have sufficient lack of animosity toward others that blocs of compatible interests can form and achieve some political success. Those that can build alliances with no others are those that cannot win a share of positive political influence; they have no recourse but coercion, usually violent, to get what they want.

Indeed. All true. I commend you and respect your command of the issues.

 

 
Hypersoup
 
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26 March 2016 02:29
 

I think going from is to ought as an individual is where it starts. Politially theres are so many interests and group. Im not a mathematician, but lets say for each person there are 3 or 4 reasonable options at one instant. Read, meditate, exercise, or chat. Even for one person, theres no certainty which is the best way.


Its so complex. There only inductive inference. Like trying to predict the weather, society is chaotic system-ish, so difficult to predict ( and therefore to manage) Back to basics is the better way.

The only deductive knowledge we can (perhaps) have is that being shot is not good, breaking legs is not good etc. But even this depends on context, maybe? Or its deductive that that well being is a good a priori, because it is in our interests by definition.

All of those parameters thoough, even for each individual, makes for a tricky mix politically. So my soluiton would be to actually teach people - or orffer public educaiton on a voluntary basis - the skills the need for well being.  For instance the meditation skills mentioned in Sams latest book (afaik). Or psychology and basic CBT skills in schools etc.


Thats why (I think) TML has been called a “recipe for fascism”.


But that “agent focused” (if aiming to improve the person, the individual) seems to make sense scientifically. For we are a species of persons, and our care (ones responsibility) is primarily for oneself, because one is wired to oneself, and feels ones own needs and desires etc directly, then… Thus the individual is the basic principle, the “arche” of ethics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arche Meaning thats where ethics starts.

Its like in TML in a world with no sentient beings, earthquakes, floods etc simply wouldnt mattter. But add one being, with needs (either created or evolved needs) and there are interests, and cares etc which make for moral significance.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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28 March 2016 20:05
 

On the original OP:

I don’t think there is an is/ought problem. It’s a distinction of kinds. It is a recognition that description and prescription are different kinds of propositions.

‘I have a strawberry’ is different from ‘I want a strawberry’

Of course prescriptions and descriptions overlap and enfold one another in all sorts of ways but they are still distinct and need to be distinct in order for our communication to be intelligible.

One of the most glaring errors in The Moral Landscape is when Sam correctly points out that prescriptions and descriptions are entangled but then goes to argue, incorrectly that this fact infers the lack of any important distinction.

 

 
sojourner
 
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29 March 2016 06:49
 
Brick Bungalow - 28 March 2016 08:05 PM

On the original OP:

I don’t think there is an is/ought problem. It’s a distinction of kinds. It is a recognition that description and prescription are different kinds of propositions.

‘I have a strawberry’ is different from ‘I want a strawberry’

Of course prescriptions and descriptions overlap and enfold one another in all sorts of ways but they are still distinct and need to be distinct in order for our communication to be intelligible.

One of the most glaring errors in The Moral Landscape is when Sam correctly points out that prescriptions and descriptions are entangled but then goes to argue, incorrectly that this fact infers the lack of any important distinction.


Yes - it seems to me that morality really only applies to sort of engineering or drawing up architectural plans for the future. And that the distinction here is between “What could we do?” vs. “What should we do?”. The former question is simply a description of the state of the world, the latter requires an obvious follow-up “Ok, but why?”. If the answer is “To maximize well-being”, then you could, potentially, be saying that the ethical thing to do is to purposely create utilitarian nightmares. Kids today just aren’t into gladiator death battles, but if we started teaching it in the schools we could bring back this tradition, and if that maximizes well-being overall, well hey, we ‘should’ do that. This is obviously reprehensible but it doesn’t, in theory, conflict with his moral theory in any way.

This is why I’ve said before that I think Harris’s theory contains many embedded assumptions about human nature (i.e., that utilitarian nightmares do not maximize well-being, because any witnessing of suffering, if it is comprehended at any level, requires us to mirror and thus share in that suffering on at least some level) and it would be an interesting follow-up if he explored that side in more depth.

 
 
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31 March 2016 01:34
 

I dont think that you can go from is to ought for millions of people too easily, but for individuals, some outcomes are better then others, more preferable. We are designed in a way that allows cultural freedom, but also rewards health and well being. Being stabbed, burnt etc, they are instinctively bad. More or less.  The issue is that our evaluationsa are usually fallible, and learned.

For example liking beer, or valuing art.  They have an outcome on our desires and emotions, which for a phenomenologist are the basis of there being values in the world. For instance, I am thirsty, so orange juice becomes valuable. But so does the apple juice, the cider and the beer. Which one is The Preferable?

Unknowns haunt ethics.

This haze of uncertainty seems to indicate nihilism, or that everything is merely subjective opinion perhaps. Some people like this, and some like that.  QED. There cant be a rational, truth based calculus. Ehtics becomes the target for skepticism.


Yet underlying all these possibilities and potential choices, is a “programmable” well being instinct, like the eros of Freud maybe. I think that ethics and evaluation, the pursuasinve arguments for “killing is wrong” etc, even if they are often couched in theological term like the 10 commandments, or incoherelty expressed in second rate philosophy, they all the same indicate that life and ethics are interwoven for us human beings.

 
 
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31 March 2016 05:46
 
Hypersoup - 31 March 2016 01:34 AM

This haze of uncertainty seems to indicate nihilism, or that everything is merely subjective opinion perhaps. Some people like this, and some like that.  QED. There cant be a rational, truth based calculus. Ehtics becomes the target for skepticism.


Yet underlying all these possibilities and potential choices, is a “programmable” well being instinct, like the eros of Freud maybe. I think that ethics and evaluation, the pursuasinve arguments for “killing is wrong” etc, even if they are often couched in theological term like the 10 commandments, or incoherelty expressed in second rate philosophy, they all the same indicate that life and ethics are interwoven for us human beings.


My thinking is that the “programmable” part is simply the “human goodness” part. As in, animals cannot be ‘bad’, exactly (beyond a certain extent - some social animals do have their mores) because they lack the capacity to understand or be aware of their actions and how they impact others. But my feeling is that once a mind is aware of causing suffering, then to harm another or to fail to help another is intrinsically harmful to oneself.


I think that if this were not the case, humans simply wouldn’t be capable of the levels of cooperation that we are. Yes, there is a lot of trouble in the world, but I think the majority of that comes from zero sum thinking and situations, not lack of care. I.e., to protect an innocent person you have to punish a criminal, if there is only so much money then if you give it to this charity you deprive that charity of it. Etc. But in terms of pure malice, I’d say the level of it you see in the world is about on par with the level of self destructive behavior you see (meaning - you may be harming yourself if you harm another, but it’s also true that people sometimes do self destructive things - from the minor like bad habits or not taking good care of ourselves to the major like suicide, so if we are programmed to treat others about as well as we treat ourselves, this does not necessarily mean ‘perfectly’.)


In other words, I don’t know that we are programmed to be cooperative so much as cooperation is inherent to our nature (look, a soup tie-in, hyper soup!)

 

 
 
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01 April 2016 01:21
 
NL. - 31 March 2016 05:46 AM
Hypersoup - 31 March 2016 01:34 AM

This haze of uncertainty seems to indicate nihilism, or that everything is merely subjective opinion perhaps. Some people like this, and some like that.  QED. There cant be a rational, truth based calculus. Ehtics becomes the target for skepticism.


Yet underlying all these possibilities and potential choices, is a “programmable” well being instinct, like the eros of Freud maybe. I think that ethics and evaluation, the pursuasinve arguments for “killing is wrong” etc, even if they are often couched in theological term like the 10 commandments, or incoherelty expressed in second rate philosophy, they all the same indicate that life and ethics are interwoven for us human beings.


My thinking is that the “programmable” part is simply the “human goodness” part. [bold]As in, animals cannot be ‘bad’, exactly (beyond a certain extent - some social animals do have their mores) because they lack the capacity to understand or be aware of their actions and how they impact others. But my feeling is that once a mind is aware of causing suffering, then to harm another or to fail to help another is intrinsically harmful to oneself.[/bold]

 

That makes sense. I think though that some of the social anilals may have an “emotivist ethics” in the sense that a snarl, a woof, a meow etc, may comminicate basic emotions or desires to others. (see emotivism aka “horay boo theory” in meta ethical philosophy).

An example would be - possibly - the alarm calls of primates. I think that these may have been the groundwork for more sophisticated human language, but also at root theyre quite similar to emotive ethical expressions. “Snake, danger!” for instence rings a bell with the serpent (the devil, the anti life creature) from genesis in the bible.

So anilals are maybe half way between human ethics, and the “natural evil and natural good” of earthquakes, fires, storms, harvests etc.

As for harm to others, sometimes it is necessary for ones own good, Arjuna.

I think that if this were not the case, humans simply wouldn’t be capable of the levels of cooperation that we are. Yes, there is a lot of trouble in the world, but I think the majority of that comes from zero sum thinking and situations, not lack of care. I.e., to protect an innocent person you have to punish a criminal, if there is only so much money then if you give it to this charity you deprive that charity of it.

I hthink that much criminality stems from a lack of good education. I mean, children know the difference between right and wrong, and then the experts in philosophy campus, they tell us its a basic illusion or whatever.

In other words, I don’t know that we are programmed to be cooperative so much as cooperation is inherent to our nature (look, a soup tie-in, hyper soup!)

Probably theres both elements, innate and learned. HAve uyou heard of the LAD (language acquisition device in developmental psychology? I think we have a ethicsacquisition device, a faith acquisition device, and a cooperation acquisition device too. A capacity there, inchoate, waiting to be nurtured by primary care givers and society….

[ Edited: 01 April 2016 01:32 by Hypersoup]
 
 
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02 April 2016 19:22
 
Hypersoup - 01 April 2016 01:21 AM

That makes sense. I think though that some of the social anilals may have an “emotivist ethics” in the sense that a snarl, a woof, a meow etc, may comminicate basic emotions or desires to others. (see emotivism aka “horay boo theory” in meta ethical philosophy).

An example would be - possibly - the alarm calls of primates. I think that these may have been the groundwork for more sophisticated human language, but also at root theyre quite similar to emotive ethical expressions. “Snake, danger!” for instence rings a bell with the serpent (the devil, the anti life creature) from genesis in the bible.

So anilals are maybe half way between human ethics, and the “natural evil and natural good” of earthquakes, fires, storms, harvests etc.

As for harm to others, sometimes it is necessary for ones own good, Arjuna.

.......

I hthink that much criminality stems from a lack of good education. I mean, children know the difference between right and wrong, and then the experts in philosophy campus, they tell us its a basic illusion or whatever.

.......

Probably theres both elements, innate and learned. HAve uyou heard of the LAD (language acquisition device in developmental psychology? I think we have a ethicsacquisition device, a faith acquisition device, and a cooperation acquisition device too. A capacity there, inchoate, waiting to be nurtured by primary care givers and society….


I’m somewhat familiar with the idea of an LAD, although I think this was an unfortunate word choice, as it causes skeptics to rail that it must be like some sort of black box in the brain and if this black box exists why haven’t we found it yet, huh? But however you want to frame it, I think it’s fairly obvious that human brains come with some sort of infrastructure on to which language is going to map.


What is of concern to me is the nature of morality. Above, you cite survival in evolution as a possible basis for morality; then say children ‘know’ the difference between right and wrong - I would say, what is it that they ‘know’? Arbitrary standards shaped by evolution and culture? Relative standards that are ‘objective’ in that they couldn’t be any other way for us humans (if A=B and B=C then… etc., etc.) given the causes and conditions that serve as our starting axioms? Or something bigger than all of that?


The first explanation, honestly, I don’t really care about. If morality is totally subjective then the only people who suffer when it changes are the older, already enculturated generation, but after that the new mores are presumably just as good as the old for the generations born into them. The second explanation I find acceptable, I guess, although it’s largely descriptive so there’s not much to do except go about describing it. The last is the one that interests me most. But this requires metaphysical explanations. To the bolded above - yes, I agree that a survival-based morality largely makes sense for a species that lives and then disappears into nothingness. I assume this is why most religions contain a lot of thoughts on death and either continuity of consciousness or an afterlife - not as a promised reward for good behavior (although that no doubt plays a role) but as a logical piece that has to be filled in philosophically for certain kinds of morality to really make sense. If you posit some Good that is even greater than material life, then all sorts of other things follow.

 
 
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Hypersoup
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03 April 2016 02:13
 

Thanks for getting back to me. I have written an essay on this topic of ethics. I start of with we have evolved, and consciousness brings values into existence, and the positives tend to cluster around health welfare and flourishing (and their causes), and the negatives tend to cluster around experiences an practices which harm us and their causes.

I am basing the evaluation angle on the work of Husserl (see page 233 - value apprehension - here (A to Z of Husserls Phenomenology, Drummond)) , who says that values are constituted in feeling acts.


So morality is not arbitrary, because through it (feeling) emerges value, and theferefore importance, mattering, significance.

But morality is not emotionalistic, just the regulation of feeling, because its not feelings as such
- in sua (on their own) - that matter,. They are necessary but individually insufficient. Rather its worlds, or lives etc that matter. Or things within them in a more holistic sense. Say, your favourite antique on the shelf etc. Feelings matter too, of course, but they cant just be isolated from an existential psychological point of view.

[ Edited: 03 April 2016 02:26 by Hypersoup]
 
 
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Hypersoup
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03 April 2016 02:24
 

I think that religion had a lot of secular functions. Take dharma which meat to preserve, or to sustain or protect (depending on your source of definitiion).


Or taqua (piety in Islam) means to protect, guard etc.
See here for a good guide:
http://www.imamreza.net/eng/imamreza.php?id=12436

For example:

An ascetic was asked what Taqwa is. He said: “What will you do if you enter a piece of land full of thistles?” The one who had asked the question said: “I will keep away myself from it.” the ascetic said: “Do the same in world, it is Taqwa.”

 
 
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sojourner
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03 April 2016 20:27
 
Hypersoup - 03 April 2016 02:13 AM

Thanks for getting back to me. I have written an essay on this topic of ethics. I start of with we have evolved, and consciousness brings values into existence, and the positives tend to cluster around health welfare and flourishing (and their causes), and the negatives tend to cluster around experiences an practices which harm us and their causes.

I am basing the evaluation angle on the work of Husserl (see page 233 - value apprehension - here (A to Z of Husserls Phenomenology, Drummond)) , who says that values are constituted in feeling acts.


So morality is not arbitrary, because through it (feeling) emerges value, and theferefore importance, mattering, significance.


Pretty much agree with this, at least as a plausible hypothesis.

 

But morality is not emotionalistic, just the regulation of feeling, because its not feelings as such
- in sua (on their own) - that matter,. They are necessary but individually insufficient. Rather its worlds, or lives etc that matter. Or things within them in a more holistic sense. Say, your favourite antique on the shelf etc. Feelings matter too, of course, but they cant just be isolated from an existential psychological point of view.


I guess that depends on how you want to define ‘feelings’. Why or how would life be meaningful for a planet of robots who felt nothing about anything? ‘Meaningful’ is, in and of itself, a felt sense.

 
 
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