2 of 9
2
Does Morality Really Have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?
Posted: 15 March 2008 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1568
Joined  2006-03-02
LPM - 15 March 2008 09:57 PM

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?

So, I think I am missing your point.

Yes.  People disagree about some very important issues.  But on other issues, you will no doubt find agreement.  Don’t you agree? (for example, most people will agree that it is wrong to cause a child to suffer needlessly and senselessly).

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 March 2008 10:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2927
Joined  2006-12-17

Copied these over from the e-list Complexity Digest, which gives short excerts describing items of interest in complexity research.  These seem to relate to morality, whether or not it relates only to happiness/suffering.

01. Cooperation, Punishment And Revenge In Economics And Society , Science
Daily

Excerpts: Research from The University of Nottingham has shed new light on the
way in which people co-operate for the common good—and what happens when
they don’t.  (..) economists studied the extent to which some people will
sacrifice personal gain to benefit the wider public, while ‘freeloaders’ try to
take advantage of their generosity. Marked national differences arose when
freeloaders were punished for putting their own interests ahead of the common
good. And whether they accepted their punishment or retaliated in kind depended
on what kind of society they lived in, the researchers found.

* Cooperation, Punishment And Revenge In Economics And Society, 08/03/10,
ScienceDaily


_________________________________________________________________

01.01. Behavior: Punishment and Cooperation , Science

Excerpts: (...) university students in democratic societies with advanced
market economies show different social behavior from that exhibited by students
in more traditional societies based on authoritarian and parochial social
institutions. Their results suggest that the success of democratic market
societies may depend critically on moral virtues as well as material interests,
so the depiction of civil society as the sphere of “naked self-interest” is
radically incorrect.  The standard view holds that human nature has a private
side in which we interact morally with a small circle of intimates and a public
side in which we behave as selfish maximizers.

* Behavior: Punishment and Cooperation, Herbert Gintis , 08/03/07, DOI:
10.1126/science.1155333, Science : Vol. 319. no. 5868, pp. 1345 - 1346

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 March 2008 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
waltercat - 16 March 2008 01:42 AM

So, I think I am missing your point.

Yes.  People disagree about some very important issues.  But on other issues, you will no doubt find agreement.  Don’t you agree? (for example, most people will agree that it is wrong to cause a child to suffer needlessly and senselessly).

on the question of children I think, like abortion, it’s fairly arbitrary: children used to be expendable, whereas now they’re considered by many to be the most precious thing in the world

this could easily change again - morality remains arbitrary and just another expression of prejudice

you seem (from what I’ve read) to look at morality from the point of view that you should be able to ‘convert’ anyone to a single moral view based on analysis of happiness and suffering - I disagree

if morality on the other hand is arbitrary it’s almost pointless to talk about

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1568
Joined  2006-03-02
LPM - 16 March 2008 02:37 AM

on the question of children I think, like abortion, it’s fairly arbitrary: children used to be expendable, whereas now they’re considered by many to be the most precious thing in the world

Surely you will grant that there is a difference between considering something to be so and it actually being so.

Perhaps (perhaps!!) some (some) cultures used to think that some children were expendable.  But that some people believed that some children were expendable does not imply that it was acceptable to actually treat children as if they were expendable.

 

you seem (from what I’ve read) to look at morality from the point of view that you should be able to ‘convert’ anyone to a single moral view based on analysis of happiness and suffering

Perhaps you need to read more.  I have not been interested here (on this forum) to show that people are convertable.  Indeed I think that conversion is rare and it is extraordinarily unlikely that people will ever agree on a singe moral view.  But that is really beside the point.  At least it is beside the point that I have been interested in, namely, that there are objective moral standards (meaning that there are moral standards that apply to everyone regardless of our beliefs, desires, or intentions).

So, please consider:

You and I may disagree over whether it is acceptable to torture innocent puppies.  But the fact that we disagree does not imply that there is no objective standard of behavior (vis a vis the treatment of innocent puppies) that we are both subject to.

In other words, even though we disagree about whether puppy-torturing is acceptable, that disagreement has no bearing on the issue of whether, in fact, it is morally acceptable to torture puppies. 

My friend Tom believes that it is morally acceptable to torture puppies.  Does that mean that it really is acceptable for him to torture puppies?  Of course not.  Whether it is acceptable or not presumably has nothing to do with what he believes about it.

In no other realm of inquiry do people claim that one’s beliefs have anything to do with the truth of a claim.  For example, My friend Bob believes that astronauts have never walked on the moon.  Does that mean that for him, astronauts did not walk on the moon?  Of course not.  Whether or not astronauts have actually walked on the moon has nothing to do with what Bob believes about it?

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
waltercat - 16 March 2008 05:18 PM

Whether or not astronauts have actually walked on the moon has nothing to do with what Bob believes about it?

the fact is that you’re using the word “moral” to classify behaviour in terms of happiness and suffering (or, “enjoyment”), which is entirely subjective, and then using an analogy based on scientific fact (man walking on the moon) to explain it

it’s as if you think you could apply scientific inquiry to music to determine the best music (say, JS Bach) and thus declare Elvis fans ‘wrong’

if I enjoy myself and someone incidentally suffers as a result of it, it really depends how ‘virtuous’ I am (within my own culture) whether I feel remorse and guilt, or not - so it’s only people’s prejudices that cast me as right or wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1568
Joined  2006-03-02
LPM - 16 March 2008 05:34 PM

the fact is that you’re using the word “moral” to classify behaviour in terms of happiness and suffering (or, “enjoyment”), which is entirely subjective, and then using an analogy based on scientific fact (man walking on the moon) to explain it

it’s as if you think you could apply scientific inquiry to music to determine the best music (say, JS Bach) and thus declare Elvis fans ‘wrong’

if I enjoy myself and someone incidentally suffers as a result of it, it really depends how ‘virtuous’ I am (within my own culture) whether I feel remorse and guilt, or not - so it’s only people’s prejudices that cast me as right or wrong

I am going to invite you to demonstrate that morality is radically subjective and/or arbitrary in the way that you suggest.  Thus far, you have provided no reason for thinking so.

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
waltercat - 16 March 2008 07:23 PM

I am going to invite you to demonstrate that morality is radically subjective and/or arbitrary in the way that you suggest.  Thus far, you have provided no reason for thinking so.

if you define morality as what’s right and wrong based on happiness and suffering, then thieves breaking into an insured jewellers at night and stealing everything may be moral - the thieves are happy and the jeweller suffers, but if, quantitatively (however you wish to measure enjoyment), the thieves enjoy themselves more than the insured jeweller suffers, then it must be moral - indeed, in some societies in the past theft was an admirable skill and encouraged

so if morality is based on happiness and suffering, objectively, then the only way to determine the morality of an act, using your definition, is by some kind of complex (and perhaps impossible) ‘pleasure balance’

again, with a public execution (which has been immoral in some places some of the time) one person is killed to the delight of a crowd - it could be considered moral on the basis of happiness and suffering

and because of the fact that you, within your culture, may find public execution repellant while others have rejoiced at it, can’t be attributed to more than your own prejudice - if you consider it to be an objective observation of an immoral act then that’s simply a faith you have

if the standards of right and wrong (and consequently ways we procure enjoyment) are changing with time and differ with location, then morality as you define it must also change: real morality is just a codified way of life that changes with location and time

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-10-13

Is it not simply a tautology?

I mean you could argue a good axe is one that cuts down trees well. Its a tautology. How would you argue otherwise? The only objection you could form is that you take the word axe to mean something different.

Whats so special about morality that it gets this weird point of view that its such a special case.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2007-10-13

“is by some kind of complex (and perhaps impossible) ‘pleasure balance’”


-what does it being complex have to do with anything? How would you decide if an axe is a good axe…? By some complex almost impossible algorythm that takes into acount every possible outcome and every possible tree. Everything is complex, its the nature of the universe.

Again why is morality so different that it desserves these observations about other fields?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  805
Joined  2007-08-28

“Does Morality Really Have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?”

I think there is a lot of coincidental overlap. That hardly qualifies as a “universal truism”.

We don’t know why exactly mama birds bring worms home to their nestlings. But we do know that the strongest nestlings will get the most worms, and the weakest may eventually die.

In primitive human groups, all women take care of all children equally. I think some primates may be like this, too. This prevents the bird scenario, but is it morality or evolution? In other words, is morality merely the self-preservation instinct that has grown beyond the individual and into the group—a tribe or clan or whatever?

We are amazed by the formations of migrating geese, and how individuals seem to take turns at the lead. They seem to be sharing responsibility, but if one individual lags behind, does the group circle back to look for it?

Consider the schools of fish in which vast numbers of individuals turn this way and that in perfect unison. If a big fish lurches into the school, these same individuals scatter. They don’t turn to launch a coordinated defense—the group merely dissolves.

Primitive humans and proto-humans seem to consider the welfare of the group, perhaps even above the welfare of the individual. At some point human groups crossed over from leaving the weak and wounded behind in the face of danger, or for the need to move on for whatever reason, for the good of the group as a whole, to the more noble concept of “no man left behind”.

Perhaps the group could only be happy if no individual was suffering. I think this is probably the root of what has been handed down to us as morality. At this stage, which could have lasted for quite a long time, what was good for a group in one specific area was probably good for a group in an entirely different area.

Somewhere, somewhen, tribes became societies, and morality became abstract. And here we are, discussing torturing puppies and punishing rape victims.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1568
Joined  2006-03-02
LPM - 16 March 2008 08:38 PM

if you define morality as what’s right and wrong based on happiness and suffering, then thieves breaking into an insured jewellers at night and stealing everything may be moral - the thieves are happy and the jeweller suffers, but if, quantitatively (however you wish to measure enjoyment), the thieves enjoy themselves more than the insured jeweller suffers, then it must be moral - indeed, in some societies in the past theft was an admirable skill and encouraged

so if morality is based on happiness and suffering, objectively, then the only way to determine the morality of an act, using your definition, is by some kind of complex (and perhaps impossible) ‘pleasure balance’

again, with a public execution (which has been immoral in some places some of the time) one person is killed to the delight of a crowd - it could be considered moral on the basis of happiness and suffering

and because of the fact that you, within your culture, may find public execution repellant while others have rejoiced at it, can’t be attributed to more than your own prejudice - if you consider it to be an objective observation of an immoral act then that’s simply a faith you have

if the standards of right and wrong (and consequently ways we procure enjoyment) are changing with time and differ with location, then morality as you define it must also change: real morality is just a codified way of life that changes with location and time

Your mind is moving much too fast.  Time to slow down.

If you recall, this thread began with questions about the observation that:

Morality has something to do with questions of happiness and suffering.

Acknowledging that this is a valid observation is a long way from acknowledging that morality has only to do with happiness and suffering.  We can acknowledge the obvious point that morality is concerned, at least in part, with human happiness and suffering without having to jump to the conclusion that these exhaust the concerns of morality.

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 07:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2807
Joined  2005-04-29
BryanAJParry - 13 March 2008 05:54 PM

[Does morality really have to do with questions of happiness/suffering?]

I think it does, but many have criticized 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.

Morality can be seen as a natural, biological phenomenon. It’s a crucial cultural component of social animals, and is describable in scientific terms. On the other hand, “What it has to do with” is completely up in the air, luring the poet and psycho-theorist to put things together.

 Signature 

Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
MarcoTenshi - 16 March 2008 09:24 PM

“is by some kind of complex (and perhaps impossible) ‘pleasure balance’”


-what does it being complex have to do with anything? How would you decide if an axe is a good axe…? By some complex almost impossible algorythm that takes into acount every possible outcome and every possible tree. Everything is complex, its the nature of the universe.

Again why is morality so different that it desserves these observations about other fields?

I don’t know what point you’re making. If morality has something to do with happiness and suffering, what makes something moral is entirely subjective, unlike what makes an axe effective. A lot of the time my happiness is dependent upon someone else’s suffering - does that mean my behaviour is right or wrong, or effective or ineffective? It makes no difference to me as long as I maximise my enjoyment.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
waltercat - 16 March 2008 11:22 PM

Your mind is moving much too fast.  Time to slow down.

If you recall, this thread began with questions about the observation that:

Morality has something to do with questions of happiness and suffering.

Acknowledging that this is a valid observation is a long way from acknowledging that morality has only to do with happiness and suffering.  We can acknowledge the obvious point that morality is concerned, at least in part, with human happiness and suffering without having to jump to the conclusion that these exhaust the concerns of morality.

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 March 2008 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-15
Jefe - 16 March 2008 09:53 PM

You seem to be confusing the notion of narcissistic self-indulgence with what has been termed as “based on happiness and suffering” - or presenting the position as such.  I think you are making an obvious and avoidable mistake with this confused position.

what is this notion of “narcissistic self-indulgence”? I’m simply making a link between people enjoying themselves and people being happy

the way you enjoy yourself is entirely dependent on prejudices or preconceits, and these differ between people and differ between societies

if you want to be objective about morality, you’ll end up with Nature, like the ‘organic itinerary’ of humans

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 9
2
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed