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Sorry Sam, Morality Does Not Exist
Posted: 24 December 2006 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“WWFStern”]
“Murder is wrong” is not a factual statement.

“Murder—if generally treated as acceptable—is difficult to reconcile with human beings living together in a society” is closer to a statement of fact. It’s still sort of an opinion, though.

But those statements mean pretty much the same thing.

That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to live and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice. (The part about society can be added to the degree that living in a society promotes life.)

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Posted: 24 December 2006 04:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”][quote author=“WWFStern”]
“Murder is wrong” is not a factual statement.

“Murder—if generally treated as acceptable—is difficult to reconcile with human beings living together in a society” is closer to a statement of fact. It’s still sort of an opinion, though.

But those statements mean pretty much the same thing.

That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to live and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice. (The part about society can be added to the degree that living in a society promotes life.)

But where is the evidence for this: That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to live and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice.

Again, while it seems rational, there is no evidence tying “morality” to that notion.

Just as easily, I could say: That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to perish and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice.

Why does morality relate to preserving life, rather than ending it?

Moreover, if morality does relate to preserving life, why does morality only count with respect to human life? Why isn’t the preservation of goldfish life equally important?

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Posted: 24 December 2006 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“WWFStern”][quote author=“SaulOhio”]
That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to live and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice. (The part about society can be added to the degree that living in a society promotes life.)

But where is the evidence for this: That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to live and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice.

Again, while it seems rational, there is no evidence tying “morality” to that notion.

First of all, I would like to ask you what you think morality is.

I define it as a code of values and principles to guide human action for the purpose of living successfully (survival and happiness). You might say I have chosen that definition arbitrarily (which is what you seem to be getting at later in your message.) But thats not how it works. You do it the other way around, create the concept, then find the right word to apply to it. I didn’t just decide I want morality to be real then make up a definition to fit it. The ideas come first.

Just as easily, I could say: That something is morally wrong means it is inconsistent with the choice to perish and the necessary principles that are the condition necessary to carry out that choice.

But why would you? There are plenty of reason to choose to live. Friendship, love, sports, hobbies, a fulfilling career, chocolate-chip cookies. Unless there is something mortally wrong with your life, such as a slow wasting disease, mental impairment, living in a tyrannical dictatorship with no hope of escape or resistance, then there is no reason to choose death. Such reasons are exceptions, not the rule. (Under some of those situations I might choose death. That would be perfectly appropriate. But I would be wishing I could live without them. )

Why does morality relate to preserving life, rather than ending it?

Because ending it requires no long range course of action. Our lives tend towards death as it is. Preserving life requires work.

Moreover, if morality does relate to preserving life, why does morality only count with respect to human life? Why isn’t the preservation of goldfish life equally important?

Because goldfish don’t need to think things through. They have no choice in the matter. They act automatically, with no need for a code of values and principles. They wouldn’t know one if it was given to them.

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Posted: 24 December 2006 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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SaulOhio wrote

Because goldfish don’t need to think things through. They have no choice in the matter. They act automatically, with no need for a code of values and principles. They wouldn’t know one if it was given to them.

I’m quite sure that goldfish say the same thing about humans.

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Posted: 24 December 2006 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”]

I would argue that morality doesn’t require evidence.  Morality is what we agree to.  It is a code of sorts.  It is not an object.

You are arguing against a pre-defined or rather predestined morality: one that is handed to us, set in stone perhaps.  It is a mute argument because that isn’t what the word defines really.  That is what the religious desire the word to define, but it isn’t what it is.

Nobody was handed morality and no consortium came together to enact certain moral virtues… however, it isn’t difficult to see that morality as a practice is as we define it to be. (with some exception perhaps… I don’t like using absolutes)

If you got everybody (or even a great majority) to agree that death and punishment, suffering and pain, etc. were more moral than the absence of such… you will have effectively negotiated the current moral map. 

The thing is, you will be hard pressed to bring about such change (and it might be considered a bit of lunacy to try).  This is because the code has been negotiated for lifetimes.  It is what it is.  And it is what Sam describes it to be.  Morality has the intent (in some forms) to reduce suffering. CURRENTLY!  And one would be dense to think that this moral track is going to change any time soon.

There are arguments out there, and laws passed, to promote less suffering in animals.  These things change all the time.  Some say for the better and some say for the worse. 

Children used to work in mines… it is rather immoral now.  Why?  Because we negotiated a new morality on that issue.  Pets could be mistreated without legal recourse… not any more in most states.

I am not sure what “evidence” you are looking for, but I suspect you are the type that just likes to get on a point and argue it to no end.  If such is the case, believe what you will… morality doesn’t exist…. fine…  do you want a freaking cookie?

I am reminded of a song lyric from one of my favorite bands…

Consequences dictate
our course of action
and it doesn’t matter what’s right.
It’s only wrong if you get caught.
If consequences dictate
my course of action
I should play GOD
and shoot you myself.*
I’m very tired of waiting.

This is chaotic, but it perhaps summarizes some of your sentiment.  Some of our moral framework is often set by the majority, and if your intentions are contrary to that framework… you are likely to see certain moral issues as mere rules.  And yet, beyond the rules… there are reasons that I do not kill my own children.  The main being that it would cause both them and I a great deal of suffering and pain. 

As a thinking and rational person, I can equally equate that to do such to somebody else’s child would cause the same amount of pain and suffering.  So killing a child, something that brings pain and suffering, could easily be agreed by the majority to be an immoral act.  How many children do you need to see die before you have enough evidence that it is immoral to kill them?

If you say that it doesn’t matter how many, and you will never see it as immoral… well you are in the minority.  So you just have to follow the rules or don’t get caught.  Because if you do get caught, you will face another side of morality that the majority has agreed to… legal execution.

I think that this entire discussion is based on a false understanding of morality.  I reiterate: morality is something internal that has to be uncovered, it is not a result of social negotiations of right and wrong.  That is more like ethics, religious or other teachings, and so on.  At best, these can only be approximations that are developed in an attempt to give some sort of formal linguistic expression to our internal sense.  The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that can veil this sense in the mind.  The Stoic system of ethics is possibly the best formal system developed, but even that requires that an individual clarify their consciousness so that disruptive factors are eliminated.

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Posted: 25 December 2006 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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[quote author=“Sander”]Hello WWFstern,

The following doesn’t address your point in the least, but I can’t let an opportunity go by to quote Oscar Wilde when someone mentions morality.


“I never came across anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless, cruel, vindictive, log-stupid, and entirely lacking in the smallest sense of humanity. Moral people, as they are termed, are simple beasts. I would sooner have fifty unnatural vices than one unnatural virtue.”


I like this one ...

“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.” - Oscar Wilde; An Ideal Husband;  Act. II

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Posted: 25 December 2006 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”][quote author=“burt”]

I think that this entire discussion is based on a false understanding of morality.  I reiterate: morality is something internal that has to be uncovered, it is not a result of social negotiations of right and wrong.  That is more like ethics, religious or other teachings, and so on.  At best, these can only be approximations that are developed in an attempt to give some sort of formal linguistic expression to our internal sense.  The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that can veil this sense in the mind.  The Stoic system of ethics is possibly the best formal system developed, but even that requires that an individual clarify their consciousness so that disruptive factors are eliminated.

You are quite simply wrong.

Internal that has to be uncovered?  That isn’t even intelligent.  You are way too black and white in your approach to this issue. 

No level of ‘soul-searching’ for appropriate ethical treatment of animals will keep the Vietnamese from eating dogs.  Maybe some of them sure (some don’t already), but it will still be a socially accepted norm.

And what do you do when there is opposing morality on an issue, burt?  Are you saying that one side holds the true morality and the other side is just wrong?  By whose standards?  God’s?

No.  You are way off the mark.

Sam puts it perfectly in the shades of grey that it really is…

We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

You are missing my point Sean, what I am saying is that if you reach a certain state of consciousness you will natually act morally, whether or not that action conforms with any formalized standard.  It is not a matter of whether or not you and I agree on some moral standard like “eating dogs is wrong.”  Rather, when we are in that state we will both see the same way.  The Stoic Sage is an example of the idea.  We have moral codes because most of the time we only see through our egotistical and cultural filters and so need something else to rely on.  Try reading some of the Socratic dialogues from the point of view that Socrates is not trying to find definitions (the Aristotelian intepretation) but rather that he is using his dialectic in the same way that the Madyamika school in Buddhism uses it, to strip away relative illusions leading the person to the point of recognizing that there is something beyond that is the essential reality.  You are still stuck in looking to the exterior for definitions or agreements or understandings of what morality is.  Wrong direction.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 01:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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SeanK wrote:

Children used to work in mines… it is rather immoral now. Why? Because we negotiated a new morality on that issue. Pets could be mistreated without legal recourse… not any more in most states.

It was necessary at the time because their labor was needed to put food on the table. It is considered immoral now because our economy has progressed to the point where the value of the labor of the parents is enough not only to put food on the table, but put the children through school. The specific moral action taken has changed because the economic conditions have changed. The underlying moral principles have not.

You apply the Pythagorean theorem to trangles of different sizes, you will get different answers for the length of the hypotenuse. That doesn’t mean the Pathagorean Theorem is not absolute.

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Posted: 26 December 2006 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”]
Given that your concept does not appear to be generally mainstream, and I tend to be a realist (observable not ethereal)... I am not going to concede my view as faulty or that it is the wrong direction to think about the subject of morality.

However, I am willing to learn more about your viewpoint… so what specifically do you recommend that I read to better understand what you are bringing to the discussion?

 

No need to concede your view, but I suggest that a second view can lead to seeing it from a different perspective.  As for suggested readings, the important thing is not only what is read, but the point of view taken while reading it.  I think I mentioned that in reference to some of the Socratic dialogues (Greater Hippias is good, although not directly related to morality, and the Symposium is excellent for showing first a sequence of culturally related ideas and then a more objective discussion of the same thing.)  A really excellent piece was by Mark Lilla in New York Review of Books in September, 2002 (if I recall dates correctly) called The Lure of Syracuse (googling the title will get the exact reference).  In that piece the author considers the question of why in the 20th century so many of the intellectual elite ended up supporting totalitarian regiemes and it is, in my view, an excellent analysis.

Basically, I think that morality needs to be discussed on at least two levels, the first is generally what has been discussed here: is it only relative, are there evolutionary reasons behind it, and so on.  The second relates to the question of how to become a truly moral person (which sometimes could well involve going against the socially agreed conventional morality).

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Posted: 31 December 2006 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Thank you, WWF Stern for the welcome breath of fresh air.

Are that really that many people who never ran across in college or elsewhere the observation that there can be no ‘should’ in a conclusion that is not aleady in the premises???  I.e.,that no ‘should’ can be proven by verifiable fact and valid logic?

The attacks on religious beliefs are sound only because those beliefs fail the demonstrative tests of rationality.  For a sceptic to then couple those attacks with equally unsound claims for some absolute, non-religious morality is—ultimately—to go a long way to self-impeaching one’s basic credibility, if not one’s basic faculties of reasoning as well.

Apparently you will have no more success in proving your point here than atheists have when arguing with believers! And for the same reasons!!

Extraordinarily and tragically ironic!

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Posted: 31 December 2006 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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[quote author=“Feppish”]
Are that really that many people who never ran across in college or elsewhere the observation that there can be no ‘should’ in a conclusion that is not aleady in the premises???  I.e.,that no ‘should’ can be proven by verifiable fact and valid logic?

I’ve heard ARGUMENTS that there can be no should proven by facts and logic, but no observation. Its like an atheist claiming that he has observed that there is no God. How can you observe something that you claim doesn’t exist, or even claim that it doesn’t exist. For the concept of God, you have to demonstrate that the whole idea is self-contradictory. However, in morality, maybe you just aren’t looking in the right place? Go back and read my posts on this subject. “Should” is a choice, but one based on observed facts of reality. The choice to live is based on the observation that life can be enjoyed, that happiness is possible.

Ayn Rand based her moral system on two premises, the first is the choice to live, and the second is the law of causality, that our actions have consequences.

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Posted: 31 December 2006 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”][quote author=“Feppish”]
Are that really that many people who never ran across in college or elsewhere the observation that there can be no ‘should’ in a conclusion that is not aleady in the premises???  I.e.,that no ‘should’ can be proven by verifiable fact and valid logic?

....  Go back and read my posts on this subject.

Instead of graciously inviting me to read your posts, why not just present a sample here? Any complete argument with the conclusion being something like “Ergo, [such and such] is bad.”

I was not referring of course to perfectly sound conditional-types of shoulds such as the enthymemic, “If you want to maximize your chances of stayng out of jail then you shouldn’t murder anyone,” but to some sort of absolute moral code.

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Posted: 31 December 2006 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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[quote author=“Feppish”]Instead of graciously inviting me to read your posts, why not just present a sample here? Any complete argument with the conclusion being something like “Ergo, [such and such] is bad.”

I was not referring of course to perfectly sound conditional-types of shoulds such as the enthymemic, “If you want to maximize your chances of stayng out of jail then you shouldn’t murder anyone,” but to some sort of absolute moral code.

I won’t speak for Saul (and goodness knows we disagree all over the place), but my disagreement with the original point is that I think that a dangerous equivocation is taking place here.

When people talk about morality, they might be talking about an absolute code of right and wrong.  They might, however, simply be talking about a working notion of right and wrong based on values that are held by a majority of people in a given population.

I’m uncomfortable with Saul’s objectivist zeal, but, in essence, the two points that Rand made are a decent start.  People are hardwired to live and reproduce.  The fact that our actions can increase or decrease our chances to do these things, coupled with the ability to plan for the future and make choices means that we can choose strategies to maximize the likelyhood of achieving these objectives.  Finally, given the realization that most other people are, more or less, the same, leads to reciprocity, and all of the other factors that lead to “natural” morality.

When Sam speaks of morality, he is talking about this natural morality, and the degree to which modern humans can distill it into clear and elegant terms.  The Golden Rule, contract law, good samaritanism etc., none of these things are real in the sense that WWF Stern is railing against them, but they are very real in a different sense, and nothing at all like religion.  God isn’t real, and the agreement amongst his followers does not make him any more real.  A covenant, on the other hand, isn’t real, but it is made real as long as people abide by it.

Arguing against morality, then, is, in my opinion, very childish.  There is clearly something real, because people are able to make agreements amongst each other, and these agreements let them do real work.  This is objectively observable, even quantifiable.

-Matt

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Posted: 31 December 2006 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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[quote author=“Feppish”]Thank you, WWF Stern for the welcome breath of fresh air.

Are that really that many people who never ran across in college or elsewhere the observation that there can be no ‘should’ in a conclusion that is not aleady in the premises???  I.e.,that no ‘should’ can be proven by verifiable fact and valid logic?

The attacks on religious beliefs are sound only because those beliefs fail the demonstrative tests of rationality.  For a sceptic to then couple those attacks with equally unsound claims for some absolute, non-religious morality is—ultimately—to go a long way to self-impeaching one’s basic credibility, if not one’s basic faculties of reasoning as well.

Apparently you will have no more success in proving your point here than atheists have when arguing with believers! And for the same reasons!!

Extraordinarily and tragically ironic!

The propblem is that religious beliefs only fail tests of rationality if you assume a prior conditions that lead to their failure.  Any strictly rational argument must rely on initial unproved assumptions, taken as given.  There are a number of religious beliefs that can be discredited on rational and empirical grounds, but there are others that cannot.  The beliefs that can be shown false are all related to religious views of the nature of the material world—every religious battle with science on those grounds has led to a resounding defeat for religion.  On the other hand, other religious beliefs that do not tresspass into the territory of science are immune to rational or empirical criticism and one can simply choose to accept or reject them without prejudice.

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Posted: 31 December 2006 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”][quote author=“Feppish”]Thank you, WWF Stern for the welcome breath of fresh air.

Are that really that many people who never ran across in college or elsewhere the observation that there can be no ‘should’ in a conclusion that is not aleady in the premises???  I.e.,that no ‘should’ can be proven by verifiable fact and valid logic?

The attacks on religious beliefs are sound only because those beliefs fail the demonstrative tests of rationality.  For a sceptic to then couple those attacks with equally unsound claims for some absolute, non-religious morality is—ultimately—to go a long way to self-impeaching one’s basic credibility, if not one’s basic faculties of reasoning as well.

Apparently you will have no more success in proving your point here than atheists have when arguing with believers! And for the same reasons!!

Extraordinarily and tragically ironic!

The propblem is that religious beliefs only fail tests of rationality if you assume a prior conditions that lead to their failure.  Any strictly rational argument must rely on initial unproved assumptions, taken as given.  There are a number of religious beliefs that can be discredited on rational and empirical grounds, but there are others that cannot.  The beliefs that can be shown false are all related to religious views of the nature of the material world—every religious battle with science on those grounds has led to a resounding defeat for religion.  On the other hand, other religious beliefs that do not tresspass into the territory of science are immune to rational or empirical criticism and one can simply choose to accept or reject them without prejudice.

We are using the word ‘rational’ in different ways. You seem to be using it in the more restricted meaning of being non-empirical, but I have used it in the more common sense of lacking in fact or logic or both.

Since Judeo-Christianty, at least, is centered on factual claims of a creator and so forth that are unproven, I think my judgment that it fails the tests of rationality cannot be rejected in the manner you seem to have attempted.

There are ‘religious beliefs that are immune to rational or empirical criticism?’  I can’t imagine any beliefs immune to that kind of criticism—what did you have in mind?

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