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Philosophy Undergraduate Student’s Paper: “The Materialization of Morality: A Response to Sam Harris’s Scientific Basis for Ethics”

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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05 May 2016 22:48
 
the Antinihilist - 04 May 2016 06:17 PM

As I have been reading these past few posts on page 4 of this thread, a central dilemma I am seeing (which I argued in my paper) is the profound leap directly dealing with the is-ought problem. When I talk about biochemistry, I am referring to, very simply, deterministic biological and chemical phenomena of organic beings and the ramifications a strict deterministic philosophy has on human freedom and thus morality. Additionally, I argue that Harris equivocates on the definition of well-being. In one sense, it seems to be reducible to simply refraining from biological or psychological harm and promoting pleasure… but that kind of definition is simply a matter of subjective “good” or “bad”—no where near objective “right” and “wrong” as he attempts to extend it to be. So I would have to say, the finer details being discussed on this page are important, but cannot be considered until the larger philosophical dilemmas are addressed, as argued in my paper.

Yeah, the is/ought problem is still there. I get around it by saying that oughts are discrete manifestations what is sometimes called the will to live. Each ought is relative insofar as it is shared and possibly communicated by similar organisms. Wherever there is life there will be oughts to direct living agents in decision making. Life processes start out prebiotically as entirely reactive and conceptually deterministic (the reactions don’t always work the same way, so the determinism is actually somewhat teleological). As life’s complexity increases, multiple responses to the same stimuli become possible, thereby contextual decisions become possible in principle, and mechanisms (or algorithms, if you prefer) biasing response choices can evolve. That, very sketchily, is the pattern I expect will eventually be discovered in the prebiotic chemistry that led up to life on earth.

Ultimately, oughts derive from entropy, which I envision abstractly as asymmetrical probability of some events compared to their inverses. The objective origin of oughts is therefore the same entropy that appears to be related to the direction of time and the evolution of the universe. Obviously, I am not a hard determinist; it is difficult for me to conceive of how any decision making is possible if every possible event is invariably determined.

 
 
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05 May 2016 23:00
 
nonverbal - 05 May 2016 05:58 PM
icehorse - 05 May 2016 02:57 PM

And thus, the old PR / SH debate circles around once again smile

TML also contains inconsistencies other than what’s found glaring from its outer-binding perch. Another, found within the text of the book, surrounds the simultaneous claims that people are, at root, puppets of a sort, lacking the equipment we falsely imagine we have to will even the most basic decision-making processes . . . and that we individuals simultaneously (miraculously?—WTF!) have within us a moral imperative of sorts that hinges on a proposed ability for us to act sensibly and compassionately toward others not in our immediate family, tribe or state.

Or have I misread him? Please correct me.

He’s fuzzy on these points. Sometimes he talks like a hard determinist. But then, all people who talk like hard determinists have to be at least somewhat inconsistent. One of the consequences of hard determinism is that all experience is merely epiphenomenal, as are all evident decisions. The entire purpose of morality, then, would seem to be wishing for the right thing, or conversely disapproving of the wrong thing, since whatever is going to happen with respect to the right thing is going to happen whether you wish for it or not. What we end up with seems to me to be substantially less consequential than a gathering of childless widowed geriatric church ladies having tea.

 
 
segalbe
 
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segalbe
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09 December 2017 21:41
 
Poldano - 05 May 2016 11:00 PM
nonverbal - 05 May 2016 05:58 PM
icehorse - 05 May 2016 02:57 PM

And thus, the old PR / SH debate circles around once again smile

TML also contains inconsistencies other than what’s found glaring from its outer-binding perch. Another, found within the text of the book, surrounds the simultaneous claims that people are, at root, puppets of a sort, lacking the equipment we falsely imagine we have to will even the most basic decision-making processes . . . and that we individuals simultaneously (miraculously?—WTF!) have within us a moral imperative of sorts that hinges on a proposed ability for us to act sensibly and compassionately toward others not in our immediate family, tribe or state.

Or have I misread him? Please correct me.

He’s fuzzy on these points. Sometimes he talks like a hard determinist. But then, all people who talk like hard determinists have to be at least somewhat inconsistent. One of the consequences of hard determinism is that all experience is merely epiphenomenal, as are all evident decisions. The entire purpose of morality, then, would seem to be wishing for the right thing, or conversely disapproving of the wrong thing, since whatever is going to happen with respect to the right thing is going to happen whether you wish for it or not. What we end up with seems to me to be substantially less consequential than a gathering of childless widowed geriatric church ladies having tea.

So I came to the same conclusion about epiphenomenalism myself. The thing is, if we have goals as biological organisms, it seems reasonable that we are compelled to pursue them. This is determined by neurotransmitters, neurons, etc., of course. Like computers which acquire applications and software and are enabled to accomplish new tasks, achieving certain states of mind may be reflective of newly downloaded programs. The question is, which mind states signal the acquisition of the best programs for survival? Our minds are looking to absorb any information which will help that goal. It seems that the mental state of clarity in regards to this mission, reflects that the underlying physical architecture is gearing up for a successful push towards these ends.
*EDIT*
Allow me to clear up this metaphor a bit.: Your brain is the hardware; Your conscious experience is the monitor; Behavior patterns are applications; Your sensory organs are the mouse and keyboard; Neurotransmitters are drivers(which ensure the correct functioning of the applications). Survival is hard-coded into our computers.  Our operating system is an epistemologist, constantly seeking new programs to more efficiently achieve our goal. We are self correcting computers hooked up to the internet.

[ Edited: 10 December 2017 08:40 by segalbe]
 
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12 December 2017 02:34
 

Edgar Allen Poe was masterful at deriving the basis of his sort stories from from the social conditioning and pre-formed beliefs of his readers.  By borrowing from the assumption of Humanities morality through Myths, Religion and superstitions he immediately spoke to the readers subconscious and drew a solid foundation from which to write his gripping stories of Horror.  If Poe were to be personified as an animal it would inevitably be a vulture.  While I do not find this to be reprehensible, I do take note that his career went downhill toward the end of his life and he was regarded as ‘washed up’ in some professional circles, possibly due to the fact that he loathed the consolation of alcohol.  By coddling his emotions with alcohol he could romanticize ways to spin an exciting tall tales??  Now everybody loves a good bit of excitement it seems now and then but in an environmental, economic and Political Climate such as ours perhaps it isn’t so wise to prioritize the emotional mind over the rational mind.  Certainly not in making a career out of it when it means in the end you will begin to pull out hair and chew on your own foot as a result.  In terms of Machiavellianism this could be be said as ‘the ends does not justify the means’.  My personal theory about The Moral Landscape is that it is a doorway by which one may step through that is opening to something not yet presented to us…

 
 
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