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Does Morality Really Have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?
Posted: 05 November 2012 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]  
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logicophilosophicus - 05 November 2012 05:10 AM

Is morality “to do with” happiness, pleasure, well-being? That is a different question from “is it SOMETHING to do with…”

From a philosophical perspective, I have always been suspicious of this style of definition. It crept in big style in the last few decades, with politicians in particular saying things like: “Democracy is ABOUT freedom. Taxation is ABOUT accountability. Justice is ABOUT retribution.” Such statements given in lieu of definition have rhetorical power but are hopelessly ambiguous.

So I assume the original question means, roughly, is happiness the key issue in morality. I am certain that it isn’t, simply because I make many moral decisions which do not affect my own or anyone else’s happiness. Many people do. Read Book II of Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” for many examples (and then check how popular the book still is today). Of course, there is a fallacious argument - fallacious because it is circular - which says that anyone making an unpleasant moral choice gains some form of satisfaction, so he is, REALLY, motivated by happiness. (Remember the masochistic who liked a freezing cold shower every morning - so he had a hot bath…)

However, what I do is, from your point of view, subjective, and my true motivation is private and inaccessible; so here is a simple case (an everyday example, not a contrived special case) which should serve instead:

There is much discussion about a badger cull here in England (to suppress the spread of bovine tuberculosis). American grey squirrels are intensively culled to protect our native red squirrel which has been driven extinct in all but the northernmost counties of England. Foxes are regularly culled as a major predator on small livestock. The interesting aspect is that even those who accept the necessity for such culls generally condemn any “sporting” method. This is notably the case with foxes, where the legal method - shooting - is acknowledged by the RSPCA to lead to more suffering than traditional hunting: the moral judgment here is that the act is regrettably necessary but the enjoyment of the act is unacceptable. (The Puritans banned bear-baiting 350 years ago, not because it was cruel to bears, but because audiences enjoyed it…) Should we insist that those who carry out the culls must be distressed? That would be a reasonable paraphrase of the moral view commonly expressed.

Whatever your answer, the evidence is clear that moral judgments can be directed against the happiness or enjoyment of other people.


Your analysis is correct. Why *should* we think that to be moral, one must have no enjoyment? Its bass ackwards. Where did this idea come from? Immanuel Kant. He got morality wrong. And most of the world now follows his lead.


If it makes me happy, then its bad. Ridiculous!


Imagine what many people think about tv. Its fun, so its immoral. Ice cream tastes good, so it *must* be bad for you.


It tastes bad? Oh then it must be good for me.


Immanuel Kant was way wrong. Ayn Rand got it right. See her book _The Virtue of Selfishness_.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]  
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All meaning whatsoever is derived through the relation of subject and object and is the property of a conscious subject, all meaning is thus subjective. Morality is a social construct of a populations collective subjective experience and concerns, it is the happiness and welfare of all members of the collective as biologic subjects. If one were to ask of a moral proposition, does it lessen or increase the suffering of the collective and/or the individual, the answer, the meaning would be biologically determined both collectively and individually. The physical world is utterly meaningless,  the concept of morality is in the management / or control of the physical world as object and its relations with the biological subject, The fact the other individuals/biological subjects, also play a role as objects to the individual, is a consideration in the management of the objects of the physical world. So, yes, morality has to do with the welfare and happiness of our biology in the form of its welfare, happiness and in its security.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]  
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boagie - 05 November 2012 10:19 AM

All meaning whatsoever is derived through the relation of subject and object and is the property of a conscious subject, all meaning is thus subjective. Morality is a social construct of a populations collective subjective experience and concerns, it is the happiness and welfare of all members of the collective as biologic subjects. If one were to ask of a moral proposition, does it lessen or increase the suffering of the collective and/or the individual, the answer, the meaning would be biologically determined both collectively and individually. The physical world is utterly meaningless,  the concept of morality is in the management / or control of the physical world as object and its relations with the biological subject, The fact the other individuals/biological subjects, also play a role as objects to the individual, is a consideration in the management of the objects of the physical world. So, yes, morality has to do with the welfare and happiness of our biology in the form of its welfare, happiness and in its security.


Does your theory explain how a person should make choices? Not just the goal, but the process.


By what process does your theory say that a person should figure out which option is the best option (the one he will choose)?

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Posted: 05 November 2012 10:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]  
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[quote boagie
All meaning whatsoever is derived through the relation of subject and object and is the property of a conscious subject, all meaning is thus subjective. Morality is a social construct of a populations collective subjective experience and concerns, it is the happiness and welfare of all members of the collective as biologic subjects. If one were to ask of a moral proposition, does it lessen or increase the suffering of the collective and/or the individual, the answer, the meaning would be biologically determined both collectively and individually. The physical world is utterly meaningless,  the concept of morality is in the management / or control of the physical world as object and its relations with the biological subject, The fact the other individuals/biological subjects, also play a role as objects to the individual, is a consideration in the management of the objects of the physical world. So, yes, morality has to do with the welfare and happiness of our biology in the form of its welfare, happiness and in its security.


Does your theory explain how a person should make choices? Not just the goal, but the process.


By what process does your theory say that a person should figure out which option is the best option (the one he will choose)?


Rami Rustom,

Excellent point of clarification, Choices are made on the basis of the self interest of ones own being. If it is entirely of self interest and apposed to the self interest of others, you can see, where it would not pass muster with the collective sensibilities. With all meaning being biologically dependent, the process of choosing what is in an individuals best self interest is reached through the consideration of ones own biological welfare, This does not mean that the subject following this biological process always makes the wisest of decisions, a specially, if his security is dependent upon the protection of the collective, that is, the collective biological self interest. In other words the process is not infallible, and if the collective consideration is consistently unconsidered by a subject,  the subject may just find his liberty limited to a small cell.  As to your concern for the term process, process is essentially what you are, and a mind boggling complexity it is. In more concrete terms the process can be considered as the discerning of the relations between ones self and those of the physical world as object and as to their/objects ability in serving ones best interest.

[ Edited: 05 November 2012 12:32 PM by boagie]
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Posted: 05 November 2012 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]  
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boagie - 05 November 2012 10:57 AM

Excellent point of clarification, Choices are made on the basis of the self interest of ones own being. If it is entirely of self interest and apposed to the self interest of others, you can see, where it would not pass muster with the collective sensibilities.


Why would one’s self-interest be opposed with other people’s self-interest?


If two people are going to interact with each other, what is stopping them from coming to an agreement, such that both of them get what they want?

.

boagie - 05 November 2012 10:57 AM

With all meaning being biologically dependent, the process of choosing what is in an individuals best self interest is reached through the consideration of ones own biological welfare, This does not mean that the subject following this biological process always makes the wisest of decisions, a specially, if his security is dependent upon the protection of the collective, that is, the collective biological self interest.


But the “collective” doesn’t have a self-interest. The collective is a collection of people, each one with his own self-interests. There is not such thing as *the* collective self-interest.

.

boagie - 05 November 2012 10:57 AM

In other words the process is not infallible, and if the collective consideration is consistently unconsidered by a subject,  the subject may just find his liberty limited to a small cell.  As to your concern for the term process, process is essentially what you are, and a mind boggling complexity it is. In more concrete terms the process can be considered as the discerning of the relations between ones self and those of the physical world as object and as to their/objects ability in serving ones best interest.


Note sure what that means. Maybe it’ll clear up for me after you address the other two things I’m confused about.

 

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Posted: 05 November 2012 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]  
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LPM - 15 March 2008 03:52 PM

personally, morality is nothing to do with happiness - I think morality is a Christian invention and superstition about how we should live

I thought Sam even demonstrated this in one of his books by examining the 10 Commandments and showing they aren’t concerned with happiness as we see it

you could re-define morality as values that maximise happiness or reduce suffering, but I doubt you’ll find any universal values because people enjoy themselves in different ways


A theory of morality has to do more than that. It has to be applicable to every single situation. Its about how one should solve his problems. How to decide on and create values. How to figure out one’s goals.


Religions have cookie cutter moral codes, ready-made for people to use without thinking. But they are not flexible. They are inconsistent. They are general rules of thumb that fail in lots of situations.


A moral code is rigid. Whats needed is a moral theory, one that corresponds with reality, not myth. A moral theory is flexible. Flexible enough to apply to *every* situation a person can find himself in. It requires a great deal of mental effort. It requires reason, and only reason.


Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is the best moral theory we have to date.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]  
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Rami Rustom,

“Why would one’s self-interest be opposed with other people’s self-interest?

Perhaps the other person has something you would like to have, morality says you cannot take it from him forcefully and consider yourself to be a moral person. Different cultures have somewhat different moralities, something similar to the fact that many cultures have somewhat similar mythologies, that they then call religions


“If two people are going to interact with each other, what is stopping them from coming to an agreement, such that both of them get what they want?”

Essentially you have just described a collective agreement, a social contract, morality is a social contract between the individual and the society he lives within.


“But the “collective” doesn’t have a self-interest. The collective is a collection of people, each one with his own self-interests. There is not such thing as *the* collective self-interest.”


What do you think the laws of your society represent? What do you consider the society you live within, if not a collective? Remember all meaning is subjective, therefore of necessity morality is a subjective expression, an extension of your biology into the world of objects.

.

boagie - 05 November 2012 10:57 AM

In other words the process is not infallible, and if the collective consideration is consistently unconsidered by a subject,  the subject may just find his liberty limited to a small cell.  As to your concern for the term process, process is essentially what you are, and a mind boggling complexity it is. In more concrete terms the process can be considered as the discerning of the relations between ones self and those of the physical world as object and as to their/objects ability in serving ones best interest.


;
‘Not sure what that means. Maybe it’ll clear up for me after you address the other two things I’m confused about.


It is not at all surprising that you might find my above statements confusing, probably some of the terminology and concepts are new to you. Just take it one question at a time, if you need me to expand upon a particular concept or idea.

[ Edited: 05 November 2012 02:30 PM by boagie]
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Posted: 05 November 2012 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]  
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boagie - 05 November 2012 02:18 PM

“Why would one’s self-interest be opposed with other people’s self-interest?”


Perhaps the other person has something you would like to have, morality says you cannot take it from him forcefully and consider yourself to be a moral person. Different cultures have somewhat different moralities, something similar to the fact that many cultures have somewhat similar mythologies, that they then call, religions


You told me *that* its bad to impose your will against another person’s will. I’m asking *why* would it even happen.


People should not impose their will on others. They should cherish freedom.

boagie - 05 November 2012 02:18 PM

“If two people are going to interact with each other, what is stopping them from coming to an agreement, such that both of them get what they want?”


Essentially you have just described a collective agreement, a social contract, morality is a least in part, a social contract between the individual and the society he lives within.

No I haven’t. I described a mutual agreement between two people. It could work with a few people too. But it can’t work with everybody. Why not? Because everybody can’t talk to everybody. Everybody can’t come to an agreement. Mutual agreements can only come about when the parties *talk* to each other and discuss their agreement about a specific interaction.


In the case of the social contract, lets say the USA. Everybody here is interested in the freedom of speech. We all agree that we should be able to say whatever we want without legal consequences. We’ve built it into our laws. Although, there are exceptions. If you threaten the President, you’ll be jailed quickly.

boagie - 05 November 2012 02:18 PM

“But the “collective” doesn’t have a self-interest. The collective is a collection of people, each one with his own self-interests. There is not such thing as *the* collective self-interest.”


What do you think the laws of your society represent? What do you consider the society you live within, if not a collective?


Remember all meaning is subjective, therefore of necessity morality is a subjective expression, an extension of your biology into the world of objects.


But I have self-interests that are not represented by the collective self-interest. And so do you. So how are those going to be treated? When we interact with each other, we discuss our preferences related to the specific interaction. And we come to an agreement such that we both get what we want, hence our self-interests are consistent with respect to that interaction. Neither of us imposed our will on the other.

.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]  
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You need to ponder this a little more before proceeding. Here is a quote from Nietzsche, which should clarify the relationship between societal morality and the individual.  “Morality and autonomy/freedom of the individual are mutually exclusive,’’  Let me know later what you make of this quote.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]  
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boagie - 05 November 2012 02:43 PM

You need to ponder this a little more before proceeding. Here is a quote from Nietzsche, which should clarify the relationship between societal morality and the individual.  “Morality and autonomy/freedom of the individual are mutually exclusive,’’  Let me know later what you make of this quote.


Its false.


Morality explains how a person should choose. The idea of individual freedom is involved in the process of choosing. For example, I should not impose my will on others against their will. This is a moral statement that addresses individual freedom. This statement contradicts your quote. Do you agree?

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Posted: 05 November 2012 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]  
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Rami Rustom - 05 November 2012 02:55 PM
boagie - 05 November 2012 02:43 PM

You need to ponder this a little more before proceeding. Here is a quote from Nietzsche, which should clarify the relationship between societal morality and the individual.  “Morality and autonomy/freedom of the individual are mutually exclusive,’’  Let me know later what you make of this quote.


Its false.


Morality explains how a person should choose. The idea of individual freedom is involved in the process of choosing. For example, I should not impose my will on others against their will. This is a moral statement that addresses individual freedom. This statement contradicts your quote. Do you agree?

Hi Rami,

The meaning of the quote is this, an individual cannot claim full autonomy if he lives in a society and allows societal morality to govern his behaviors. One gives up a certain degree of autonomy in order to reap the benefits of belonging to that society, one of which is the security of belonging and the protection of the law. Nietzsche used a metaphor to express this, an individual that operates only out of his own nature, is likened to, a wheel that rolls from its center, belonging to society demands compliance, you can only belong to this society if you keep a moral contract with it, meaning the societal morality of whatever society you happen to belong to. In this sense morality and autonomy are mutually exclusive.  In the wilderness you can behave strictly out of your own impulses, and that would be total autonomy. In isolation morality would cease to have any meaning whatsoever, for what indeed would it refer to. this is where morality is a social construct comes in, without which, civilization itself could not exist.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]  
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boagie - 05 November 2012 03:26 PM
Rami Rustom - 05 November 2012 02:55 PM
boagie - 05 November 2012 02:43 PM

You need to ponder this a little more before proceeding. Here is a quote from Nietzsche, which should clarify the relationship between societal morality and the individual.  “Morality and autonomy/freedom of the individual are mutually exclusive,’’  Let me know later what you make of this quote.


Its false.


Morality explains how a person should choose. The idea of individual freedom is involved in the process of choosing. For example, I should not impose my will on others against their will. This is a moral statement that addresses individual freedom. This statement contradicts your quote. Do you agree?

Hi Rami,

The meaning of the quote is this, an individual cannot claim full autonomy if he lives in a society and allows societal morality to govern his behaviors. One gives up a certain degree of autonomy in order to reap the benefits of belonging to that society, one of which is the security of belonging


I don’t know what “security of belonging” means. What do you mean by that?

boagie - 05 November 2012 03:26 PM

and the protection of the law. Nietzsche used a metaphor to express this, an individual that operates only out of his own nature, is likened to, a wheel that rolls from its center, belonging to society demands compliance, you can only belong to this society if you keep a moral contract with it, meaning the societal morality of whatever society you happen to belong to.


Ok.

boagie - 05 November 2012 03:26 PM

In this sense morality and autonomy are mutually exclusive.  In the wilderness you can behave strictly out of your own impulses, and that would be total autonomy.


Thats not true. Animals routinely impose their will on eachother. Carnivores eat other animals, animals that don’t want to be eaten.

boagie - 05 November 2012 03:26 PM

In isolation morality would cease to have any meaning whatsoever, for what indeed would it refer to. this is where morality is a social construct comes in, without which, civilization itself could not exist.


I agree that we should all live with each other, where each of us has a social contract with society. Thats what our laws are for. And these laws should be very limited. The laws should protect individuals from having their freedom trampled on by others who would infringe on their freedom.


But morality is much bigger than just laws. Morality explains how each person should make decisions in every possible situation that they could be exposed to. Our laws don’t do that. They only come into play in *certain* situations.

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Posted: 06 November 2012 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]  
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@ Rami Rustom

You misunderstood me. The remark about Puritans was just an aside. The point of my post was that moral judgments are often based on criteria other than optimising happiness. Marcus Aurelius thought we had a duty to understand humanity and the cosmos: I think anyone posting here demonstrates that sense of philosophical duty. It has nothing to do with biological well-being or neurological happiness…

@ Boagie

...nor with your version of morality, which does not tally with reality.

A necessary (though not sufficient) definition of morality is the making of choices DESPITE natural inclination. Any contrary definition does not attempt to explain morality, only to explain it away.

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Posted: 06 November 2012 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]  
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logicophilosophicus - 06 November 2012 01:32 AM

@ Rami Rustom

You misunderstood me. The remark about Puritans was just an aside. The point of my post was that moral judgments are often based on criteria other than optimising happiness. Marcus Aurelius thought we had a duty to understand humanity and the cosmos: I think anyone posting here demonstrates that sense of philosophical duty. It has nothing to do with biological well-being or neurological happiness…


Right. Happiness is not a function of biological well-being or neurological whatever. Happiness is a function of one’s ideas (which includes his values, preferences, goals, etc), and his achieving those.


Morality is about how to decide. And the main goal is freedom. This allows everyone to achieve happiness without being hindered by others.

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Posted: 06 November 2012 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]  
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@ Rami Rustom

“Happiness is not a function of biological well-being or neurological whatever. Happiness is a function of one’s ideas (which includes his values, preferences, goals, etc), and his achieving those. Morality is about how to decide. And the main goal is freedom. This allows everyone to achieve happiness without being hindered…”

“Happiness” is superfluous in this description. The OP implies that happiness is the basis for moral values. If happiness is a function of those values, then the argument is circular.

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