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standard of morality
Posted: 25 September 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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If you think that whether a moral claim is true depends on a person’s desires, hopes, beliefs, dreams, etc. (a claim that you have endorsed), then you believe that morality is subjective, regardless of what you call yourself.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 25 September 2007 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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waltercat - 25 September 2007 02:28 PM

If you think that whether a moral claim is true depends on a person’s desires, hopes, beliefs, dreams, etc. (a claim that you have endorsed), then you believe that morality is subjective, regardless of what you call yourself.

I have not endorsed that claim. In fact, I would endorse the opposite claim, that we need to adjust our desires, hopes, beliefs and dreams to objective reality.

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 02:43 PM
waltercat - 25 September 2007 02:28 PM

If you think that whether a moral claim is true depends on a person’s desires, hopes, beliefs, dreams, etc. (a claim that you have endorsed), then you believe that morality is subjective, regardless of what you call yourself.

I have not endorsed that claim. In fact, I would endorse the opposite claim, that we need to adjust our desires, hopes, beliefs and dreams to objective reality.

You said this:

[quote author=“Saul”]And you need to use your own independant judgment to decide what IS good for you.

This certainly sounds like an endorsement of the view that each person gets to decide what is right and what is wrong.  But the idea that we get to decide what is good just amounts to the view that what is good for us depends on what we believe or desire or hope, etc.  At least I can’t see any other way of taking the claim.

Now, perhaps you meant to say, “And you need to use your own independent judgment to discover what is good.”

I think the word ‘discover’ implies that there is some objective fact of the matter (out there, as it were) that you find out about (in the same way that we discover scientific truths).  But the word ‘decide’ implies that each of us gets to determine, for ourselves, what the truth is.

Maybe I am just trying to be the language police.  I’ll cop to that.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 02:43 PM
waltercat - 25 September 2007 02:28 PM

If you think that whether a moral claim is true depends on a person’s desires, hopes, beliefs, dreams, etc. (a claim that you have endorsed), then you believe that morality is subjective, regardless of what you call yourself.

I have not endorsed that claim. In fact, I would endorse the opposite claim, that we need to adjust our desires, hopes, beliefs and dreams to objective reality.

The question, of course, is how we determine just what “objective reality” actually is.  Even our best science depends on assumptions and we need to assess the validity of those assumptions.  In addition, when expressing in language we have to realize that we are already using something that is remote from reality as it is.  All we can ever get is a current best guess as to what is actually real.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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waltercat - 25 September 2007 03:00 PM

You said this:

[quote author=“Saul”]And you need to use your own independant judgment to decide what IS good for you.

This certainly sounds like an endorsement of the view that each person gets to decide what is right and what is wrong.  But the idea that we get to decide what is good just amounts to the view that what is good for us depends on what we believe or desire or hope, etc.  At least I can’t see any other way of taking the claim.

Now, perhaps you meant to say, “And you need to use your own independent judgment to discover what is good.”

Then you missed the part where I said: “Maybe I shouldn’t have said “decide”, but “figure out”, because it is reason that is used to do so.”

Go back to post #4 of this thread. Thats where I said that. Maybe if you had read a bit more carefully, we might not have had this confusion.

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 03:24 PM

Go back to post #4 of this thread. Thats where I said that. Maybe if you had read a bit more carefully, we might not have had this confusion.

Ya, I read it and even responded to it.  Here is what you said:

sigh…

Are you unable to interpret the second statement in the context of the first?

What I CLEARLY meant was that each person needs to decide for himself (or herself, do you hear me Talha777?) what will serve his own life and give him happiness.

2 is not inherently subjective, it is PARTICULAR to the specific person.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said “decide”, but “figure out”, because it is reason that is used to do so.

In general, people need food, clothing, and shelter. Specifically, you need to decide where to eat, what foods you like, do you have any special dietary needs, what looks good on you, what will protect you from today’s weather the best, what kind of home you want, how much of your income to spend on a house, or an appartment, wether or not to take out a loan, and how much, and so on.

Life as the standard is a general principle. Deciding for yourself is the implementation.

People need rewarding careers not only to earn a living, but for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. But what job you get is determined specifically by your abilities, temperament, and what you personally find rewarding.

I have to repeat that the above did not clear up anything.  It did not clear up anything then, and it does not now.

The statement, “2 is not inherently subjective, it is PARTICULAR to the specific person” is so vague as to be essentially meaningless.  I could not make head or tail of it then and I cannot make head or tail of it now.

It sounded to me then that you did not understand the meaning of ‘subjective’ so I gave the definition.  Then you claimed that my definition was wrong.  Several posts later, you seem to be accepting my definition of ‘subjective’ but are now denying that you ever claimed that morality is subjective.  It’s fine for you to claim that,  but you are wrong to think that you never gave the impression that you believed that morality is subjective.  To the extent that “it is particular to the person” can be given a coherent meaning, it certainly sounds as if you are saying that whether a moral claim is true depends on what a particular person decides is true for them.

If there was confusion, it was caused by your poorly chosen words and your determination to claim that you were disagreeing with me about the meaning of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective.’

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 02:02 PM

It implies that “satisfying one’s desires” automatically means “willfully interfering with others’ desires”.

I disagree. The meaning I’ve always gotten from “selfish” was that the person deliberately chose a method for satisfying his desires that willfully interfered with others’ desires. Especially when there were alternative methods that did not cause that interference. I suspect that most Americans get the same meaning. My sense is that rational people know that it’s possible to satisfy one’s desires without harming others, and that the person who does that is not being selfish.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Carstonio - 25 September 2007 03:48 PM
SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 02:02 PM

It implies that “satisfying one’s desires” automatically means “willfully interfering with others’ desires”.

I disagree. The meaning I’ve always gotten from “selfish” was that the person deliberately chose a method for satisfying his desires that willfully interfered with others’ desires. Especially when there were alternative methods that did not cause that interference. I suspect that most Americans get the same meaning. My sense is that rational people know that it’s possible to satisfy one’s desires without harming others, and that the person who does that is not being selfish.

I think I am speaking Eglish, but somehow what I am saying doesn’t get through. Its as if I am a fish trying to explain water to one of those fanciful baloon beings some have speculated might inhabit gas giants.

Yes, Carstonia, I understand what you mean, and what meaning you get from other people’s use of the word “selfish”. I get the same thing. I am saying that that is a symptom or a cause of something wrong with our culture, that it implies that acting on your self-interest necessarily means ignoring or violating that of others.

Why use the word “selfish” to talk about harming other people? Acting in your self-interest is usually the motive for what most people do, wether good or bad. Or their actions might be supposedly altruist, but result in destructive consequences (You know, the road to hell and all that). In fact, many people often do the wrong thing out of supposedly altruistic motives, and are called “selfish”, because an underlying motive could be to make themselves feel good for doing good things. Either way, why not just call their behavior harmful, destructive, thoughtless, or inconsiderate? Why not use those words? Why use “selfish”, linking it to self-interest, if not in an attempt to create the kind of package-deal I described in order to discredit the idea of rational self-interest?

In fact, why not coin some word for causing people harm out of overtly altruist motives? It happens all the time, hence that saying about the road to hell, but there is no word the people use specifically for it.

I have had the word “selfish” used about me a couple of times. Both times, it was because I failed to act in a way that would be considerate of the needs of some friend of mine. It happened because I wasn’t paying attention, or didn’t stop to think. I wasn’t acting in my self-interest. In fact, I failed to act selfishly. The person who I mistakenly offended or neglected was a FRIEND. I value his friendship and want to maintain it. Seeing my friend struggle with a heavy object causes me discomfort, BECAUSE he is my friend. It is in my self-interest to help. Not helping meant that I failed to serve my own self-interest. In what way could this be called selfish? Because it was the result of my failing to think, not because of my self-interest, the proper word would have been “thoughtless” or “inconsiderate”, but not “selfish”.

Why do you need to use the word in such a way, if not to make that package-deal? There are other words that would work much better. Thoughtless, inconsiderate, uncaring, cruel, mean, vicious… Lots of other words.

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Here is Ayn Rand’s own answer to the kind of objections and questions raised by Carstonio, from her Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness

The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: “Why do you use the word ‘selfishness’ to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?”
  To those who ask it, my answer is: “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.”
————————————————————————————
  It is not a mere semantic issue nor a matter of arbitrary choice. The meaning ascribed in popular useage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.
  In popular useage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.
—————————————————————————————-
  The ethics of altruism has created the image of the brute,  as its answer [to the question of wether self-interest is good or evil], in order to make men accept two inhuman tenets:(a) that any concern with one’s own interests is evil, regardless of what those interests might be, and (b) that the brute’s activities are in fact  to one’s own interest…

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Carstonio - 25 September 2007 10:44 AM

The Christian position is that humans need God to keep them in line. Without a divine authority figure, the doctrine says, humans will always follow impulses that lead them to harm themselves and others.

Who taught you this?  We don’t just need God to keep us in line - we need God period. What child doesn’t need its parents? Why wouldn’t we want to have a relationship with our Father? Perhaps we are incomplete without that relationship, and that incompleteness is what causes self-destructive tendencies to manifest.

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Posted: 26 September 2007 02:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 25 September 2007 10:31 PM

Who taught you this?  We don’t just need God to keep us in line - we need God period. What child doesn’t need its parents? Why wouldn’t we want to have a relationship with our Father? Perhaps we are incomplete without that relationship, and that incompleteness is what causes self-destructive tendencies to manifest.

Then why are believers overrepresented in prison? For some reason it is those who believe in God that exhibit more of these self-destructive tendencies.

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 26 September 2007 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 25 September 2007 10:31 PM

Who taught you this?  We don’t just need God to keep us in line - we need God period. What child doesn’t need its parents? Why wouldn’t we want to have a relationship with our Father? Perhaps we are incomplete without that relationship, and that incompleteness is what causes self-destructive tendencies to manifest.


The data of reality just aren’t really important when you consider an article of faith/doctrine, are they?

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 26 September 2007 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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I’ve never noticed that the fear of god deters many people from doing some decidedly nasty things. But a mandate from god always seems to be a justification to do just such nasty things.

Anyone remember “The Blues Brothers”? Remember all the damage done in that movie in the name of a “mission from God”?

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“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.”

- George Sutherland, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1921.

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Posted: 26 September 2007 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 25 September 2007 10:31 PM

Who taught you this?  We don’t just need God to keep us in line - we need God period.

You were arguing in another thread that people need accountability to God, or else they would pursue their own desires at the expense of eothers.

Bruce Burleson - 25 September 2007 10:31 PM

What child doesn’t need its parents? Why wouldn’t we want to have a relationship with our Father? Perhaps we are incomplete without that relationship, and that incompleteness is what causes self-destructive tendencies to manifest.

No one knows that deities exist. All we have are claims that deities exist, and there is no sensory data or evidence to support the claims. So it’s impossible to have a relationship to such a being. It’s like having a relationship to a character in a novel.

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Posted: 26 September 2007 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 07:28 PM

Acting in your self-interest is usually the motive for what most people do, wether good or bad. Or their actions might be supposedly altruist, but result in destructive consequences (You know, the road to hell and all that). In fact, many people often do the wrong thing out of supposedly altruistic motives, and are called “selfish”, because an underlying motive could be to make themselves feel good for doing good things. Either way, why not just call their behavior harmful, destructive, thoughtless, or inconsiderate?

No argument there.

SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 07:28 PM

Why use “selfish”, linking it to self-interest, if not in an attempt to create the kind of package-deal I described in order to discredit the idea of rational self-interest?

I reject the idea of a deliberate conspiracy to discredit rational self-interest. Instead, I suspect most people simply don’t consciously connect the word “selfish” to its root. The word’s negative connotations may simply have arisen over time. Two hundred years from now, most people may not know that “pimp” originally meant a man who exploits prostitutes for financial gain.

SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 07:28 PM

I have had the word “selfish” used about me a couple of times. Both times, it was because I failed to act in a way that would be considerate of the needs of some friend of mine. It happened because I wasn’t paying attention, or didn’t stop to think.

Hypothetically, you could have not been paying attention because you had a thought that popped into your head that distracted you for a moment. And in the time it took you to discard the thought, you lost the thread of the conversation. The friend may have assumed that you found your own thoughts more interesting than what he had to say.

SaulDeOhio - 25 September 2007 07:28 PM

I wasn’t acting in my self-interest. In fact, I failed to act selfishly. The person who I mistakenly offended or neglected was a FRIEND. I value his friendship and want to maintain it. Seeing my friend struggle with a heavy object causes me discomfort, BECAUSE he is my friend. It is in my self-interest to help. Not helping meant that I failed to serve my own self-interest.

This is merely a guess - I can’t imagine the average person consciously making the connection with his self-interest at that moment. Instead, I suspect the average person makes that connection later, when reflecting on the incident.

[ Edited: 26 September 2007 11:53 AM by Carstonio]
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