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Does Morality Really Have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?
Posted: 16 March 2008 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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LPM - 17 March 2008 12:27 AM

ok, so I’m curious, after what I’ve said, what reasons/evidence you have for thinking that there are objective moral standards?

When I say that it is wrong to torture infants for fun, I believe that I am doing more than simply stating a personal preference. 

It is a fact that torturing infants causes pain.  And it is a fact that when a child is tortured for fun this pain is undeserved. 

I believe that a normal adult human, with fully functional cognitive and perceptive capacities, can observe that such a situation would be unjust.  That is, we can just observe that torturing infants is wrong. 

I have heard people claim that they cannot observe that torturing children is wrong, but I believe I have good reason to believe that such people are either joking, confused, or just trying to win an argument.

Please note:  Observing that torturing infants is wrong is not identical to be disgusted by it; it is not identical to being affected emotionally by seeing it.  Rather, it is directly intuiting (via a combination of perceptual and cognitive capacities) that such a situation is morally unacceptable, that someone who engages in that kind of behavior is doing something morally revolting.  Again, this observation is direct; it requires only fully functional perceptual abilities, a modicum of reason, and an interest in unbiased observation.

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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: 16 March 2008 11:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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waltercat - 17 March 2008 02:21 AM

When I say that it is wrong to torture infants for fun, I believe that I am doing more than simply stating a personal preference.

I can’t help but think you’re caught up in the “won’t somebody think of the children” moral hysteria

I don’t have a problem with children being tortured, for example the Spartans used to toss away the children that weren’t strong enough to defend Sparta and they died of exposure (as also happened at other times in history, like the middle ages) - surely there was ‘unjust’ pain inflicted upon the children by that tradition, yet that worked for them and I don’t find the practice repellant at all within the parameters of their culture

infanticide still occurs today (and not only in humans - gorillas being another example), so there is a basis for it in nature amongst non-human animals too

if that’s the case, what external influence would have made humans change their mind if not an alternative human opinion that became the new prejudice of acceptable behavior?

I can see maybe the moral outrage exists in enjoying yourself while hurting a minor, like exposing a child to death in the manner of the Spartans for fun rather than more pragmatic concerns - although then I believe the outrage lies not in the act itself but in the somewhat sadistic pleasure acquired by the adult, so maybe it’s immoral to enjoy yourself too much I don’t know!

I fail to see how (despite the cool, sterile synonyms used to describe the process in your last paragraph) you can determine something is wrong without using your emotions, emotions which are adaptable (like a man in the slaughterhouse becomes immune to his job of killing animals, while for some people killing cows for meat would be unthinkable) - if what we determine to be right and wrong is adaptable between people, what makes you think your special little example of torturing children for fun is an exception apart from what seems to be only a gut feeling you have?

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Posted: 17 March 2008 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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LPM - 17 March 2008 03:15 AM

I don’t have a problem with children being tortured,

It is hard to know what to say to something like this.  It reminds me of the point that Hitchens often makes about fundamentalists:

When one is confronted by views such as these, the only thing one need do is to underline them.


In any event, our own personal aversion (or lack thereof) to baby-torturing is not at issue (as I tried to indicate in my most recent post).  What matters is whether child-torturing (or, more generally, causing children to suffer needlessly) is morally acceptable.  And, from what you say below, it appears that you agree that there is something morally untoward about it:

surely there was ‘unjust’ pain inflicted upon the children by that tradition

So, if we can agree that the pain was unjustly afflicted, then we are agreeing that there are objective moral standards (standards, in this case, of justice).  So it appears that even though you are not personally averse to baby-torturing, you at least agree that it is morally problematic.  And since establishing that has been my aim, we can now rest assured that we are in agreement:

There is at least one objective moral standard:  Causing innocent children to suffer needlessly is unjust.

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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: 17 March 2008 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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waltercat - 17 March 2008 01:33 PM
LPM - 17 March 2008 03:15 AM

I don’t have a problem with children being tortured,

It is hard to know what to say to something like this.

Well, since talk is cheap, I don’t think you can elevate its value by trying to tell us how hard it is to know what to say at a time like this.

In other words (words! yes!) ratifying (with words! yes! words!) that torturing children is wrong does exactly what to stop children being tortured?

Let me express myself more plainly, if I can. Convincing anyone to mouth the words (yes! words) that you want them to speak plus a roll of quarters will buy anyone enough chewing gum to keep his mouth busy enough to avoid speaking nonsense.

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Posted: 17 March 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Salt Creek - 17 March 2008 02:51 PM

Well, since talk is cheap, I don’t think you can elevate its value by trying to tell us how hard it is to know what to say at a time like this.

In other words (words! yes!) ratifying (with words! yes! words!) that torturing children is wrong does exactly what to stop children being tortured?

Let me express myself more plainly, if I can. Convincing anyone to mouth the words (yes! words) that you want them to speak plus a roll of quarters will buy anyone enough chewing gum to keep his mouth busy enough to avoid speaking nonsense.

If the issue was what are the best means of preventing the torture of children, then you would have a fine point.  As it stands, however, this is nothing but a non-sequitor.

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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: 17 March 2008 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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waltercat - 17 March 2008 01:33 PM

So, if we can agree that the pain was unjustly afflicted, then we are agreeing that there are objective moral standards (standards, in this case, of justice).  So it appears that even though you are not personally averse to baby-torturing, you at least agree that it is morally problematic.  And since establishing that has been my aim, we can now rest assured that we are in agreement:

There is at least one objective moral standard:  Causing innocent children to suffer needlessly is unjust.

you’re just playing with synonyms with your use of “unjust” - justice isn’t timeless

if people were to kill their children by exposure now, that behaviour would be considered unjust, but it wasn’t in the past

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Posted: 17 March 2008 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Jefe - 17 March 2008 10:58 AM

But your example uses a scenario that automatically causes harm to others.  There are plenty of rewarding ways to enjoy oneself without causing harm to others.

Really? Do you have any evidence to back up this assertion?
How about some examples?

there are rewarding ways to enjoy oneself without causing harm, but think about the ruthlessness of the business world where you benefit from smashing others - so much enjoyment comes at other peoples’ expense

on your second comment: I’ve given examples throughout my posts in this thread as I’ve been discussing this very thing with ‘waltercat’ - infanticide, which was widely practiced in history until people converted to Christianity, being an example

[ Edited: 17 March 2008 01:11 PM by LPM]
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Posted: 17 March 2008 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Jefe - 17 March 2008 05:23 PM

What an odd way of phrasing that.  This statement makes it seem as though you attribute the decline in global infanticide with the onset of christianity.

if infanticide was a tradition in a culture, then Christian missionaries came in and converted everyone and told them infanticide was a sin so they stopped, who would you blame/credit for the fall in infanticide?

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Posted: 17 March 2008 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Jefe - 17 March 2008 05:26 PM

Ok, now you’re sliding away from a discussion of ethical morality and how it may pertain to happiness and suffering, and moving into questions of corporate ethics.  Corporate ethics have historically been based on the premise that profit is the most important consideration, and indeed many large company practices could be deliberately demonstrated to be unethical and non-moral in nature. This is not a surprise, and is somewhat tangential to the topic at hand.

i don’t believe it’s tangential, it’s just a specific example of personal enjoyment being derived from vanquishing opponents

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Posted: 17 March 2008 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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I don’t see that any objective morality has been found, what I see is moral relativism. I view moral relativism as consensus, consensus changes as people change, people evolve (in theory for the better)therefore there is reason to believe that consensus moves in the same direction. In which case people who torture babies today can be viewed as evolutionarily challenged or genetically defective. Unfortunately for them, while the consensus has moved past torturing babies for fun, it hasn’t moved past killing them for fun, at least I haven’t. smile

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Posted: 18 March 2008 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Jefe - 18 March 2008 10:28 AM

Today, infanticide is still most commonly seen in areas of severe poverty.

Indeed, infanticide is an effective means of preventing suffering where starvation is the likeliest fate of an infant. Vasectomy is preferable, as it prevents all the suffering associated with childbirth. Of course, many women like the state of being pregnant. And everybody likes doing what is necessary to conceive, even when conception is precluded. Happiness and suffering are perfectly intertwined in the production of infants, and is the main reason religion has so much useless stuff to say on the subject of sexuality.

[ Edited: 18 March 2008 08:05 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 18 March 2008 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Jefe - 18 March 2008 12:21 PM

is this still a fuzzy question?

What is more emotionally devastating? Being told that having children is not in the cards for you, or watching those children, once born, starve to death? People may learn to play the percentages a little better, but then there’s that bumper sticker that goes something like:

Always remember that you are a unique individual, just like everyone else.

Why fertility is not self-limiting by a means test is more than a little about the ego and the wish for immortality. We can confront this and flee in despair, but no wringing our hands about suffering, then.

Right now, the “morality” of so-called “developed nations” is largely about making one’s main aim the piling up of as much money in one place as possible, while allowing to charity only what the traffic will bear. In the sense of trying to reduce the amount of suffering, you need to ask those people what they actually consider to be “suffering”. This is the point about “morality” being relative, again. One way to find out more about that is to present people with choices like that (not literally, but as research). I am not an advocate of choosing infanticide over sterilization. Few people actually believe they may be making that choice.

[ Edited: 18 March 2008 09:26 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 18 March 2008 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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LPM - 17 March 2008 05:04 PM
waltercat - 17 March 2008 01:33 PM

So, if we can agree that the pain was unjustly afflicted, then we are agreeing that there are objective moral standards (standards, in this case, of justice).  So it appears that even though you are not personally averse to baby-torturing, you at least agree that it is morally problematic.  And since establishing that has been my aim, we can now rest assured that we are in agreement:

There is at least one objective moral standard:  Causing innocent children to suffer needlessly is unjust.

you’re just playing with synonyms with your use of “unjust” - justice isn’t timeless

if people were to kill their children by exposure now, that behaviour would be considered unjust, but it wasn’t in the past

Wasn’t CONSIDERED unjust.  In the past.

But something’s being considered unjust (or just) is different from its actually being unjust.

It is a timeless truth that causing unnecessary and undeserved pain to infants is unjust.

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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: 18 March 2008 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Jefe - 18 March 2008 10:28 AM

Did they?  Or are there examples of cultures ending infanticide without the help of Christian Missionaries

http://historymedren.about.com/library/weekly/aa112200d.htm

either way, whatever the external stimulus may be, that’s where the morality comes from

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Posted: 18 March 2008 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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waltercat - 18 March 2008 02:08 PM

Wasn’t CONSIDERED unjust.  In the past.

But something’s being considered unjust (or just) is different from its actually being unjust.

It is a timeless truth that causing unnecessary and undeserved pain to infants is unjust.

what do you even mean by unjust? do you mean immoral? wink

the only way you can have such a timeless truth of justice or morality is with a god, as Dostoevsky pointed out

people send kids down mines to work in confined spaces - why is the conditions endured by the children or infants any more horrendous than an adult? at this point in history children are considered so precious by many, and nothing gets people outraged and hysterical like hurting a child, and I think your constant reference to children is simply an expression of this transient morality

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