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should’s should
Posted: 18 November 2007 11:01 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hi,

Outside of our deepest wishes and hopes, is it reasonable to think that certain opinions should not be held.  I mean “should” in the more scientific sense; I understand that for utilitarian and moral reasons we might say a certain idea should or should not be accepted.

I’m asking about the “should” that we respect in modern science. The non-personal and unangry “should” of modern science.  The “should” that assumes all events in the universe are unfolding in line with (and AS) natural, non-intentional causes.  Things that gross us out or anger us would still be seen as simply outcomes of natural laws (even sociological and psychological laws).

In that sense of “should”, is there any evidence that certain beliefs should not be held?

gulp

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Posted: 19 November 2007 12:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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gulp - 19 November 2007 04:01 AM

Hi,

Outside of our deepest wishes and hopes, is it reasonable to think that certain opinions should not be held.  I mean “should” in the more scientific sense; I understand that for utilitarian and moral reasons we might say a certain idea should or should not be accepted.

I’m asking about the “should” that we respect in modern science. The non-personal and unangry “should” of modern science.  The “should” that assumes all events in the universe are unfolding in line with (and AS) natural, non-intentional causes.  Things that gross us out or anger us would still be seen as simply outcomes of natural laws (even sociological and psychological laws).

In that sense of “should”, is there any evidence that certain beliefs should not be held?

gulp

Gulp: any reason ? Well sure there is ! At least I see it that way. “Shouldn’t” applies to anything that hurts ,destroys, causes pain either mental or physical, takes away the dignity of , steals, lies ,is cowardly etc. against humanity.
“Should” applies to anything that does not inflict these afore mentioned things on humanity -
“Should ” gives love, prevents pain , or is reluctant to cause pain, is constructive, truthful, respects the dignity of,is brave etc. etc.

Does’nt that make sense ?

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Posted: 19 November 2007 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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gulp - 19 November 2007 04:01 AM

Hi,

Outside of our deepest wishes and hopes, is it reasonable to think that certain opinions should not be held.  I mean “should” in the more scientific sense; I understand that for utilitarian and moral reasons we might say a certain idea should or should not be accepted.

I’m asking about the “should” that we respect in modern science. The non-personal and unangry “should” of modern science.  The “should” that assumes all events in the universe are unfolding in line with (and AS) natural, non-intentional causes.  Things that gross us out or anger us would still be seen as simply outcomes of natural laws (even sociological and psychological laws).

In that sense of “should”, is there any evidence that certain beliefs should not be held?

gulp

Questions about “should” “ought” or “must” (and their negations) aren’t scientific questions, they are purely philosophical ones that are generally brought under the rubric of inquiries into the nature of normativity.  Now there are numerous bases for “shoulds” and numerous ways one might catalog them for analysis, but perhaps the best place to begin would be with something like Kant’s distinction between theoretical reason and practical reason.  The former is about what I ought to believe and the latter is about what I ought to do.

When you ask, “is there any evidence that certain beliefs should not be held” it’s not clear what your asking.  Evidence is normally understood as brute fact.  And facts absent some prescription make no command on one to do anything.  The fact that one’s grandmother is sick implies nothing about what one ought to do.  One only comes to the conclusion that one ought to visit one’s sick grandmother if the major premise in the logical syllogism is the principle that “everyone ought to visit their sick relatives.”  Of course, Kant argued that certain beliefs weren’t optional, one had no choice but to accept that “2+2 does not equal 5.”  Of course, we know that no one has to accept this.  http://www.ditext.com/carroll/tortoise.html

[quote author=“dee”]
Gulp: any reason ? Well sure there is ! At least I see it that way. “Shouldn’t” applies to anything that hurts ,destroys, causes pain either mental or physical, takes away the dignity of , steals, lies ,is cowardly etc. against humanity.
“Should” applies to anything that does not inflict these afore mentioned things on humanity -
“Should “ gives love, prevents pain , or is reluctant to cause pain, is constructive, truthful, respects the dignity of,is brave etc. etc.

Does’nt that make sense ?

It makes superficial sense, but such a statement is actually inconsistent with our reflective judgments in a variety of ways.  Getting my cavity taken care of causes pain.  Yet, I have a reason to experience the pain and the dentist isn’t a bad man for causing me pain.  I should go to the dentist if I have a cavity.  Orgasm is pleasurable.  But a woman who experiences orgasm during a rape has been harmed far worse than a woman who doesn’t experience orgasm while being raped.  One ought not to rape even if one could guarantee an orgasm for each victim.

I can come up with a counter example for every “should” and “shouldn’t” you’ve put up there.  One ought to lie to an ugly bride on her wedding day and tell she’s beautiful.  The norms governing truth telling ought to take a back seat to those governing politeness (etiquette).  If you wanted to try to begin to systemtize these judgments so that you don’t wind up with such obvious objections, you need to begin with a couple of principles arranged in a hierarchy that attempt to sort out what to do when you come to prima facie conflicting judgments.  For example, one approach is to begin with several principles of non-malfeasence:

1.  One ought not to harm.
2.  One ought to prevent harm.
3.  One ought to remove harm.

Harm is clearly related on some level to pain, but harm is not reducible to pain.  The dentist causes me pain, but does me no harm.  The rapist may cause pleasure, but still harms.  Unfortunately, fleshing out the meaning and scope of the term “harm” ain’t that easy.

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Posted: 19 November 2007 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I wish I knew how to post a specific reply, but it seems I must just respond at the bottom of thread. I’m happy for both of your responses and I’ll start with Dee and then (forgot the name, but will soon see)....

Dee I like how you put that.  I am with you on those qualities of “should”....
But that is not the kind of “should” I am asking about.  I’m talking about the scientific should that Sam (and many of us) claim is the only “should” that rationality has reason to articulate.

We can study ants and talk about what they “should” do based on our understanding of ant behavior. We can study soil and talk about how it “should” react to weather based on our understanding of soil.  If we study babies we can say how they “should” act, again, based on our understanding. These are “shoulds” that we can talk about in a rational manner that makes space for evidence based conversations.

So we can imagine a lion tearing apart a smaller mammel.  It might look gross and mean or whatever, but with our reason in hand, we have no sense that this “shouldn’t” be taking place.  Can we extend this to humans, or are humans special?  Let’s imagine something that we find appaling with humans.  How about the way humans have justified murdering each other because of magical beliefs.  Do we have any reason to believe that those actions (and justifications) should not have happened?


Sometimes I watch Sam debate people and it seems that he is presuming that certain beliefs should not be held. Rather than looking at the fact of the belief (it is being held, obviously) as if he was watching the complicated behavior of ants, he seems to look at the belief as if it is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I see clearly the point he making between the content of the belief and the actiions it leads to.  But I’m wondering if there is an implicit “should” in Sam that implies that beliefs somehow stand outside the realm of natural phenomena….

This is not an arguement against his point that what we believe has consquences.  I’m more interested in what lives underneath the attempt to change beliefs. I’m curious if there are not certain magical notions motivating many of the arguements that we rationalists make.

gulp

[ Edited: 19 November 2007 04:28 PM by gulp]
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Posted: 19 November 2007 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Thanks Publias,

I agree with the basic distinction you are making and appreciate your examples very much.

I’m talking about the “should” that you might hear if you are watching an ant colony with an ant specialist.  As you watch a particular group of ants engaged in a particular behavior, the specialist might say something like,

“Now, soon, The X ant should begin doing such and such to the Y ant.”

Or he might scratch his head and say,

“Interesting, the ants shouldn’t be doing X until this other process has taken place…perhaps it is because…..”

This is what I mean by the scientific “should”.  It is a should that remains completely removed from moral presumptions because it assumes that natural law runs the show.

Is there any evidence that human beliefs are less grounded in the unfolding of natural law than other natural phenomena?  I doubt many people on this list would allow for such a notion. That’s good.

But why do so few of us atheists (including myself) live according to this fact?  Why do we treat human beings as if they are some type of supernatural organism that lives outside the web of nature, as if humans choose their beliefs and reactions rather than simply behave according to the complicated nature of their conditioning?  I wonder if we aren’t being a bit more hypocritical than the religious believer when we have conversations and debates which seem to imply that we think “choice” is involved with rationality.  I’m not talking about a complicated discussion about “free will” (although those are fun). I’m talking about our basic belief that human beings are just as much the product of impersonal natural laws as dolphins and bee colonies. 

Does it matter if we profess an atheism based in rationality if we still live our basic lives as if we believe human beings are special spirits who make choices based on vague supernatural abilities?  I’m willing to say that it is built into our DNA to act as if we make choices, but if we really want to take the issue of delusional beliefs seriously, I think we need to walk our talk; we need to demonstrate to all people who live according to delusional belief systems that it is possible to eradicate them from one’s life. If we simply talk about our preferred ideology (atheism or some variant of a rationalistic world-view) as if it is a step in the right direction, but we still act as if other people should not be believing what they believe, I think we set ourselves up as hypocrites and, ultimately, undermine our stated intentions. 

Is there any reason to think that the fanatical religionist should not be holding his delusional beliefs?  No matter what we hope they will soon belief, I’m asking if there is any evidence at all that they should not hold what they presently believe?

gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 01:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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gulp - 19 November 2007 06:15 PM

I wish I knew how to post a specific reply, but it seems I must just respond at the bottom of thread. I’m happy for both of your responses and I’ll start with Dee and then (forgot the name, but will soon see)....

Dee I like how you put that.  I am with you on those qualities of “should”....
But that is not the kind of “should” I am asking about.  I’m talking about the scientific should that Sam (and many of us) claim is the only “should” that rationality has reason to articulate.

We can study ants and talk about what they “should” do based on our understanding of ant behavior. We can study soil and talk about how it “should” react to weather based on our understanding of soil.  If we study babies we can say how they “should” act, again, based on our understanding. These are “shoulds” that we can talk about in a rational manner that makes space for evidence based conversations.

So we can imagine a lion tearing apart a smaller mammel.  It might look gross and mean or whatever, but with our reason in hand, we have no sense that this “shouldn’t” be taking place.  Can we extend this to humans, or are humans special?  Let’s imagine something that we find appaling with humans.  How about the way humans have justified murdering each other because of magical beliefs.  Do we have any reason to believe that those actions (and justifications) should not have happened?


Sometimes I watch Sam debate people and it seems that he is presuming that certain beliefs should not be held. Rather than looking at the fact of the belief (it is being held, obviously) as if he was watching the complicated behavior of ants, he seems to look at the belief as if it is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I see clearly the point he making between the content of the belief and the actiions it leads to.  But I’m wondering if there is an implicit “should” in Sam that implies that beliefs somehow stand outside the realm of natural phenomena….

This is not an arguement against his point that what we believe has consquences.  I’m more interested in what lives underneath the attempt to change beliefs. I’m curious if there are not certain magical notions motivating many of the arguements that we rationalists make.

gulp

Gulp and others who responded to my ideas about “should” etc.  I must say this : After reading what you say, I realize what I should have realized all along : that my “therory ” was on the stupid side. It lacks perspective.  You are right when you say it makes sense in ” a superficial way ” .
Actually, what I really had in mind ( and it must have been my subconscience mind ) was that old debate about which religion is right and which is wrong.  It irritates me no end when so many ” America is one big jerk ” kinds of people are always defending and making excuses for Islam and comparing it unfavorably to the other religions. Christianity especialy . That’s because there really is no good comparison . When you try to match Islam with the other religions of today Islam is the most problematic ( to say the least )

What has this got to do with good and bad ( like “should ’ and “shouldn’t “)? The religion that causes the most stress and pain to mankind is not acceptable. It’s..well..WRONG !  It’s not hard to figure out which faith is a formidable problen in these modern days . The beheaders have spoken for themselves . They are thier own worst enemies in that respect .  They certainly ARE our enemies, and this world should acknowledge that.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Dee - 20 November 2007 06:06 AM
gulp - 19 November 2007 06:15 PM

I wish I knew how to post a specific reply, but it seems I must just respond at the bottom of thread. I’m happy for both of your responses and I’ll start with Dee and then (forgot the name, but will soon see)....

Dee I like how you put that.  I am with you on those qualities of “should”....
But that is not the kind of “should” I am asking about.  I’m talking about the scientific should that Sam (and many of us) claim is the only “should” that rationality has reason to articulate.

We can study ants and talk about what they “should” do based on our understanding of ant behavior. We can study soil and talk about how it “should” react to weather based on our understanding of soil.  If we study babies we can say how they “should” act, again, based on our understanding. These are “shoulds” that we can talk about in a rational manner that makes space for evidence based conversations.

So we can imagine a lion tearing apart a smaller mammel.  It might look gross and mean or whatever, but with our reason in hand, we have no sense that this “shouldn’t” be taking place.  Can we extend this to humans, or are humans special?  Let’s imagine something that we find appaling with humans.  How about the way humans have justified murdering each other because of magical beliefs.  Do we have any reason to believe that those actions (and justifications) should not have happened?


Sometimes I watch Sam debate people and it seems that he is presuming that certain beliefs should not be held. Rather than looking at the fact of the belief (it is being held, obviously) as if he was watching the complicated behavior of ants, he seems to look at the belief as if it is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I see clearly the point he making between the content of the belief and the actiions it leads to.  But I’m wondering if there is an implicit “should” in Sam that implies that beliefs somehow stand outside the realm of natural phenomena….

This is not an arguement against his point that what we believe has consquences.  I’m more interested in what lives underneath the attempt to change beliefs. I’m curious if there are not certain magical notions motivating many of the arguements that we rationalists make.

gulp

Gulp and others who responded to my ideas about “should” etc.  I must say this : After reading what you say, I realize what I should have realized all along : that my “therory ” was on the stupid side. It lacks perspective.  You are right when you say it makes sense in ” a superficial way ” .
Actually, what I really had in mind ( and it must have been my subconscience mind ) was that old debate about which religion is right and which is wrong.  It irritates me no end when so many ” America is one big jerk ” kinds of people are always defending and making excuses for Islam and comparing it unfavorably to the other religions. Christianity especialy . That’s because there really is no good comparison . When you try to match Islam with the other religions of today Islam is the most problematic ( to say the least )

What has this got to do with good and bad ( like “should ’ and “shouldn’t “)? The religion that causes the most stress and pain to mankind is not acceptable. It’s..well..WRONG !  It’s not hard to figure out which faith is a formidable problen in these modern days . The beheaders have spoken for themselves . They are thier own worst enemies in that respect .  They certainly ARE our enemies, and this world should acknowledge that.

Me again : regarding my words in the “America is one big jerk ” kinds of people are always defending and making excuses for Islam and comparing it unfavoribly to other religions ” : make that “favorably ” not “unfavorably ”
  Sorry .

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Posted: 20 November 2007 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Hi Dee,

I actually think that what you wrote in your first posts stands strong. It seems like you put down a very clear set of criteria in terms of morality.  Yes, you can always find a counter-example to any moral proposition, but in terms of just a gut level depiction of what most people in this forum seem to use as guiding principals, I’d say you were right on.

The Christian bible makes clear that you MUST kill people who don’t acknowledge it. That is just as intense as anything anywhere else.  I’d say that the factors that determine if a particular group of people act upon the most base aspects of their “sacred” texts has little to do with the content of those texts.  This is an area where I find Sam’s arguements to be at their most incomplete….gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 02:15 PM

Hi Dee,

I actually think that what you wrote in your first posts stands strong. It seems like you put down a very clear set of criteria in terms of morality.  Yes, you can always find a counter-example to any moral proposition, but in terms of just a gut level depiction of what most people in this forum seem to use as guiding principals, I’d say you were right on.

That’s false.  If you can find a counter-example, that only means that you’ve inadequately formulated the moral rule with the necessary exceptions.  The fact that I can kill in self-defense is not a couter example to the rule against murder.  Rather, the rule against killing, needs to be qualified.

The Christian bible makes clear that you MUST kill people who don’t acknowledge it. That is just as intense as anything anywhere else.  I’d say that the factors that determine if a particular group of people act upon the most base aspects of their “sacred” texts has little to do with the content of those texts.  This is an area where I find Sam’s arguements to be at their most incomplete….gulp

That’s complete and utter bull ... quote me the verse (in other words, provide evidence) that says that the Christian Bible makes clear that you MUST kill peoplen who don’t acknowledge it.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I’m not mad at you!  I’m talking about the quote Sam has used in each of his books. I’ll find it after work.  It is when God says that if you come across a person who does not acknowledge Him you should not simply ignore him but you should kill him….

We are in agreement as far as I can tell in terms of counter examples.  I was merely pointing to the fact that any proposoition can warrent further qualification. That in no way means that it will necessarily warrant such qualification.  Growing up my family had a rule that we must not stay out later than 11 PM on a friday night.  This only requird a few qualifications, however, if I had been a different type kid it may have required hundreds!!!

I agree with you that a well formulated moral maxim will be so considered because it is adequetly qualified, according to the standards of those who wish to practice it…
gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 04:03 PM

I’m talking about the quote Sam has used in each of his books. I’ll find it after work.  It is when God says that if you come across a person who does not acknowledge Him you should not simply ignore him but you should kill him….

I don’t think there’s such a verse in the Bible (maybe the Koran), but produce what you think says it and we can take it from there ...

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Posted: 20 November 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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I’ll find it, but in the meantime enjoy God’s decree in

Deut 23:1

If you have “The End of Faith” God’s quote about killing anybody who does recognize him is right there.  Sam points out that if were to follow the bible we would have to kill our friend when she tells us about her new found love for Yoga…gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 05:54 PM

I’ll find it, but in the meantime enjoy God’s decree in

Deut 23:1

If you have “The End of Faith” God’s quote about killing anybody who does recognize him is right there.  Sam points out that if were to follow the bible we would have to kill our friend when she tells us about her new found love for Yoga…gulp

End of Faith is at home ... but Mr. Harris gets a lot wrong in that book.  Just because one has reads the Bible doesn’t mean one has given a thoughtful and informed critique of religion.  Provide the cite when you find it, and we’ll discuss ...

In any event, I don’t see what’s problematic about Deut 23:1:  “A man must not take his father’s woman. He must not pervert that which is private to his father.”

True, 23:4-7 relates to not seeking peace with the Ammonites of the Moabites, but I note the following:  (1) no more of those guys, (2) the prohibition would only apply to Jews, and (3) a commandment not to appease evil, is not problematic at all.

Interestingly, several verses later we find the common sense advice:  “You must designate a place outside the camp to use as a lavatory.  You must also keep a spike with your weapons, so that when you have to sit down to relieve yourself, you will first dig a hole with it, and then sit down, [and finally,] cover your excrement.” 

Now you’d think this point obvious.  And yet if you ever spent time talking to a peace corp volunteer who has worked in Africa, some of those kids spend a great deal of time trying to explain to the natives the importance of not shitting where you eat.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 01:13 AM

Thanks Publias,

I agree with the basic distinction you are making and appreciate your examples very much.

I’m talking about the “should” that you might hear if you are watching an ant colony with an ant specialist.  As you watch a particular group of ants engaged in a particular behavior, the specialist might say something like,

“Now, soon, The X ant should begin doing such and such to the Y ant.”

Or he might scratch his head and say,

“Interesting, the ants shouldn’t be doing X until this other process has taken place…perhaps it is because…..”

This is what I mean by the scientific “should”.  It is a should that remains completely removed from moral presumptions because it assumes that natural law runs the show.

The sense of should that you’re using here is not about what one ought to believe.  The observer in your example already has a belief.  The “should” in your example is a bit of a sleight of hand, as is evidenced by the term that follows “begin.”  You could re-write the proposition your expressing better as “I predict that X”.  A prediction about what should happen isn’t using the word should in a normative way, but a predictive way, which is in fact a descriptive way.  A normative statement (should, ought, must) is prescrptive.  It seeks to guide, recommend or obligate thought or action, not to describe it.

But you can use this predictive sense of should in non-scientific contexts.  I predict that no one in my office tomorrow will show up to work naked tomorrow.  (What’s interesting is that I can only predict this, not merely based on peoples past behavior, but because of what I know about the norms that structure that behavior, including norms of modesty, etc.)

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Posted: 20 November 2007 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I’m sorry: it’s 23:23:1

It says that he whos testicals are wounded or whos penis is cut off may not enter the house of the lord.  My father was a urologist, so I always got a kick out of that one.

but more seriously, I also appreciate your larger point and want to make clear that I am very aware the the bible and the koran are filled with common advice that often looks strange on the surface. In the context of this discussion, I’m only focusing on the fact that the bible makes the case for murder in extreme ways as do other religious texts.  And I also know and appreciate that apologists for any religious text can do a wonderful job contexualizing even the most blatently vicious passages.  I’ll get the quote, but more important I’ll look at your response to my other comments…gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Publius - 20 November 2007 06:54 PM
gulp - 20 November 2007 01:13 AM

Thanks Publias,

I agree with the basic distinction you are making and appreciate your examples very much.

I’m talking about the “should” that you might hear if you are watching an ant colony with an ant specialist.  As you watch a particular group of ants engaged in a particular behavior, the specialist might say something like,

“Now, soon, The X ant should begin doing such and such to the Y ant.”

Or he might scratch his head and say,

“Interesting, the ants shouldn’t be doing X until this other process has taken place…perhaps it is because…..”

This is what I mean by the scientific “should”.  It is a should that remains completely removed from moral presumptions because it assumes that natural law runs the show.

The sense of should that you’re using here is not about what one ought to believe.  The observer in your example already has a belief.  The “should” in your example is a bit of a sleight of hand, as is evidenced by the term that follows “begin.”  You could re-write the proposition your expressing better as “I predict that X”.  A prediction about what should happen isn’t using the word should in a normative way, but a predictive way, which is in fact a descriptive way.  A normative statement (should, ought, must) is prescrptive.  It seeks to guide, recommend or obligate thought or action, not to describe it.

But you can use this predictive sense of should in non-scientific contexts.  I predict that no one in my office tomorrow will show up to work naked tomorrow.  (What’s interesting is that I can only predict this, not merely based on peoples past behavior, but because of what I know about the norms that structure that behavior, including norms of modesty, etc.)

exactly!  I’m asking if there is any reason to apply non predictive language to human beliefs.  I understand that in everyday speach we will tend to say “should” when we often are talking in a more predictive manner.  But I’m interested if there is any justification or evidence that the fact of human beliefs (regardless of the content) warrent stepping outside of the predictive “should”.  We do not make such a cognitive gesture for any other segment of nature, but even scientists/atheists seem to have a strong conviction that humans warrent a different status…I’m wondering if there has ever been evidence put forth for such a conviction. gulp

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