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Does Morality Really Have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?
Posted: 13 March 2008 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I think it does, but many have criticised Sam Harris for not making the point for why he believes this to be so. To be sure, I don’t think I’ve heard him do more than assert this. So I’m quite interested in what Harris’ response to this weakness in his worldview is.

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Posted: 14 March 2008 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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BryanAJParry - 13 March 2008 05:54 PM

I think it does, but many have criticised Sam Harris for not making the point for why he believes this to be so. To be sure, I don’t think I’ve heard him do more than assert this. So I’m quite interested in what Harris’ response to this weakness in his worldview is.

How about being a little more explicit about what you take the weakness to be.

It is hardly a weakness to not have argued for something that every rational person believes.

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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: 14 March 2008 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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waltercat, your post is a little odd to me. In my rather short post, the first thing I said is that I agree with Harris, but many don’t. raspberry Hence, my question stands. I’m not entirely sure how I can make my question plainer.

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Posted: 14 March 2008 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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BryanAJParry - 14 March 2008 03:27 PM

waltercat, your post is a little odd to me. In my rather short post, the first thing I said is that I agree with Harris, but many don’t. raspberry Hence, my question stands. I’m not entirely sure how I can make my question plainer.

You could start by listing some of the people who disagree that morality has to do with questions of happiness and suffering.  As far as I can tell, the claim that morality has something to do with happiness is about as close to a universal truism as I can think of.

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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: 14 March 2008 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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jefe, I have asked Harris: no response wink

waitercat, not everyone agrees morality has to do with Qs of happiness/suffering. Just go to the richarddawkins.net forum for that. just because something is held by general convention to be true doesn’t make it true. I’m interested in Harris’ justification.

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Posted: 14 March 2008 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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BryanAJParry - 14 March 2008 04:09 PM

jefe, I have asked Harris: no response wink

waitercat, not everyone agrees morality has to do with Qs of happiness/suffering. Just go to the richarddawkins.net forum for that. just because something is held by general convention to be true doesn’t make it true. I’m interested in Harris’ justification.

Well if you think that it is really a hole in Harris’ world view that he has not justified his belief that morality has something to do with happiness and suffering (which is distinct from the view that morality has everything to do with happiness and suffering), then you need to demonstrate that there is something odd or peculiar about that particular belief.  And saying that somebody over at the Dawkins forum disagrees with the belief is not the same as showing that it is peculiar or unjustified.

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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: 14 March 2008 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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waltercat - 14 March 2008 04:12 PM
BryanAJParry - 14 March 2008 04:09 PM

jefe, I have asked Harris: no response wink

waitercat, not everyone agrees morality has to do with Qs of happiness/suffering. Just go to the richarddawkins.net forum for that. just because something is held by general convention to be true doesn’t make it true. I’m interested in Harris’ justification.

Well if you think that it is really a hole in Harris’ world view that he has not justified his belief that morality has something to do with happiness and suffering (which is distinct from the view that morality has everything to do with happiness and suffering), then you need to demonstrate that there is something odd or peculiar about that particular belief.  And saying that somebody over at the Dawkins forum disagrees with the belief is not the same as showing that it is peculiar or unjustified.

Hmm, okay, I genuinely don’t know what’s going on here. I have said TWICE, EXPLICITLY, that I AGREE WITH HARRIS.

Also, I don’t think you’re following my basic argument. Some people have made the point that the assertion that morality is to do with Qs of happiness/suffering, as Harris asserts, need to be justified. this is a valid point these people make. I’m merely curious WHAT his justifications are. I genuinely don’t follow why you are incapable of following this rather simple point. smile

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Posted: 14 March 2008 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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accidental double post: can’t delete it

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Posted: 14 March 2008 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Jefe - 14 March 2008 04:14 PM
BryanAJParry - 14 March 2008 04:09 PM

jefe, I have asked Harris: no response wink

I hope you don’t mean by posting a topic in this thread.
That’s not the best way to get a direct response from Sam.

Why on earth would you assume that??

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Posted: 14 March 2008 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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BryanAJParry - 14 March 2008 04:25 PM

Hmm, okay, I genuinely don’t know what’s going on here. I have said TWICE, EXPLICITLY, that I AGREE WITH HARRIS.

Also, I don’t think you’re following my basic argument. Some people have made the point that the assertion that morality is to do with Qs of happiness/suffering, as Harris asserts, need to be justified. this is a valid point these people make.

But this is exactly what I am questioning.

Let me put it this way:

It is OBVIOUS that morality has something to do with happiness and suffering.  Completely obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than a second.  For example, if we think about moral standards, it is natural to think about such things as that it is wrong to cause needless suffering just for fun.  So . . . morality does have something to do with suffering.

Now, if someone wants to dispute this claim, which, I repeat, seems perfectly obviously true, then that someone needs to do more than just say that the claim needs to be justified. Such a person, contradicting an obvious and nearly universally acknowledge point as he is, must show that this seemingly obvious point is not so obvious and that it in fact needs justification.

Now, though you have said that you agree with Harris (and thus with most of the rest of humanity) that morality has something to do with questions of happiness and suffering, you have also indicated that this claim requires justification.  My response to you is:  Prove it.  Prove that this obvious belief (that morality involves concerns about happiness and suffering) is something that needs to be justified.

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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: 15 March 2008 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Waltercat, this is the way I understand your position. Tell me if I misunderstand you.
You seem to be saying that if there is something which appears obviously true to the vast majority of people, then those who dispute it have no right to dispute it, ask questions, or ask for the majority to spell out its reasons.

First, many things were once or are still held by almost all to be true. Doesn’t mean they are true.

Two, the questioning of even fundamental assumptions is crucial, for it can firm up our beliefs and understanding if nothing else.


You are asking for willful ignorance, and that is foolish and ignorant.

Frankly, you can say how it is obvious as much as you want, but I’m not really interested in what you think. I’m asking what SAM HARRIS thinks; how does HE justify his claims. And yes, he is making claims, and therefore by definition he needs to justify them, which he doesn’t (so far as I have seen: hence this thread).

Bryan

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Posted: 15 March 2008 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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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

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Posted: 15 March 2008 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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BryanAJParry - 15 March 2008 05:47 PM

Waltercat, this is the way I understand your position. Tell me if I misunderstand you.
You seem to be saying that if there is something which appears obviously true to the vast majority of people, then those who dispute it have no right to dispute it, ask questions, or ask for the majority to spell out its reasons.

Yes, you obviously misunderstand my position.  And it is a shame that you have decided to be so arrogant about your misunderstanding. 

Here is what I said:

Now, if someone wants to dispute this claim, which, I repeat, seems perfectly obviously true, then that someone needs to do more than just say that the claim needs to be justified. Such a person, contradicting an obvious and nearly universally acknowledge point as he is, must show that this seemingly obvious point is not so obvious and that it in fact needs justification.

So, the above directly contradicts your ridiculous idea that I am claiming that people cannot ask questions.  Of course people can ask questions, but when those questions suggest that something that appears for all the world to be an obvious truth, then the questioner needs to do more than say,  “I think that this obvious truth is really false.  Prove that I am wrong.”  (and YES, Galileo did much more than say, “Hey, maybe the earth really isn’t flat.  Prove that it is.”).

First, many things were once or are still held by almost all to be true. Doesn’t mean they are true.

And this non-sequitor is supposed to prove what, exactly?

You are asking for willful ignorance, and that is foolish and ignorant.

Obviously not.  I am in fact only insisting that one’s questions be well-thought-out and interesting and not simply knee-jerk tom-foolery.

[ Edited: 15 March 2008 05:27 PM by waltercat]
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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: 15 March 2008 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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waltercat,

I’m not being arrogant. I’m trying to find out Harris’ views. You, on the other hand, are blinkered. So I’m leaving this forum.

Cheers,

Bryan

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Posted: 15 March 2008 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iq1WzuYlbwY

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Posted: 15 March 2008 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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waltercat - 14 March 2008 04:35 PM

It is OBVIOUS that morality has something to do with happiness and suffering.  Completely obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than a second.  For example, if we think about moral standards, it is natural to think about such things as that it is wrong to cause needless suffering just for fun.  So . . . morality does have something to do with suffering.

if morality is what’s right and wrong, then pick an example, like abortion, and ask people whether it’s right or wrong on the basis of happiness/suffering; a variety of valid arguments for and against abortion could be made - you’d essentially be measuring people’s prejudices

doesn’t that seem obvious?

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