Argument against The Moral Landscape
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13-06-2013, 10:07 PM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 09:54 PM)nach_in Wrote:  
(13-06-2013 09:44 PM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  I'm feeling suddenly combative and engaged Evil_monster

he makes it so easy it make you want to feed him... It's like a cute annoying kitten :3

I prefer to think of him as a fly.


Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Breathe; Pink Floyd

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13-06-2013, 10:08 PM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 09:32 PM)theword Wrote:  
(13-06-2013 09:28 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Your keen observational skills are fantastic!
sad but true

You are doing well. Stick around. Thumbsup

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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13-06-2013, 10:14 PM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 10:07 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  
(13-06-2013 09:54 PM)nach_in Wrote:  he makes it so easy it make you want to feed him... It's like a cute annoying kitten :3

I prefer to think of him as a fly.

we could do experiments with him Evil_monster

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14-10-2013, 09:54 AM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 10:07 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  My problems with the theory:

1. I don't know how premise 1 could be justified. Also, it ignores the fact that there is a state in which all sentient life on Earth perishes, and that there are several ways in which this could occur which would not pass through a single state of "The Worst Possble Misery for Everyone". I would argue that it is at least worth considering that sentient life existing in "The Worst Possble Misery for Everyone" would be morally better than having no sentient life exist, as the first option at least allows for moral action to take place, as opposed to being morally neutral. If this is true, then the "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone" would, in fact, not be the worst possible state, and thus not what we should be avoiding.

2. The theory is consequential and, therefore, suffers odd consequences when extreme cases are considered. A good example of this would be the following. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the carrying capacity of Earth in a future state is 10 billion people, and that exactly 10 billion people live. Also assume that colonizing other planets is out of the question. Now, there is a pregnant woman about to give birth. The birth of this child would push Earth past its carrying capacity, and thus lower the state of overall well-being for all sentient creatures. Should the infant be killed? Should someone be killed in order to make room? These seem morally reprehensible; however The Moral Landscape would advocate for one of the options.
I dont think your argument holds.
1. You cannot argue that the is no point X just because there exists a line that does not go through it. You are arguing that the non-existence of any sentient being is the "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone". Therefore, by your argument, there exists a "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone", so Harris is right.

Your argument evokes the question of whether an entity can have a state of well-being that is less well-being of the state of non-existence. Can it be better that a child not be born than that child be born into a state of extreme suffering? Presumably rational people who choose euthanasia are deciding that non-existence is a better state of well-being than their current state of existence.

2. Your argument merely states that there exists moral dilemmas, even if harris is right. Even if the well-being of a sentient being is a perfectly known measured quantity, there are still questions. Is an action that adds 1 to my well-being but subtracts 1 from yours a moral action? You give an example of a moral question that is not answered by the ability to define and measure well-being.

----------- Wanna try my argument against Harris's "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone" argument?------------

If there exists a "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone" then, at that point, are gay's permitted to marry?
If the answer is "Yes" you can reduce the well-being of certain Gays by denying them that right.
If the answer is "No" you can reduce the well-being of certain Christians by granting Gay's that right.
Therefore whatever the answer, you can reduce the well-being below the "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone". Therefore such a state is impossible.

This merely illustrates that people have different views on what constitutes well-being including evaluating their own well-being based on what others do. That is to say, morality is subjective.
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14-10-2013, 09:59 AM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 09:10 PM)nach_in Wrote:  I always thought that trying to find simple but universal moral laws is kind of arrogant. Give me a case by case basis ethics and we can start talking...
How is that different from trying to find every continent on earth, or every element that exists, or mapping the whole universe, or searching a grand unified field theory? Aren't they all equally arrogant? If there exists "universal moral laws", should we try to find them?

(I don't believe they exist, but that's another argument!)
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14-10-2013, 11:33 PM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
Pure consequentialism with no regard to long term societal ramifications doesn't really stand, but most moral systems will at some level rest upon principals of minimising harm and maximising happiness. Science can objectively assess specific policy frameworks to determine their effects on harm and happiness, both in the long term and the short term. As such, it has a role to play in developing our moral frameworks.

There may be no absolute best or absolute worst society, but I think we can safely postulate that there exist societies that substantially differ in levels of happiness and suffering, and as such are comparable by objective means. I don't feel there is any need to take Harris's argument any further or any less far than that.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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14-10-2013, 11:58 PM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 09:22 PM)theword Wrote:  they are the gods of their own world.... it's all about them, themselves, their own homosexual lusty feelings to sodomize.

It's not only about sodomy. What about the rusty trombone or just salad tossing (if you have wrist fatigue)? Why always sodomy, sodomy, sodomy? What about dykes that just want to prawn wrestle, fist and eat muff?
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15-10-2013, 12:02 AM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(14-10-2013 09:59 AM)postorm Wrote:  
(13-06-2013 09:10 PM)nach_in Wrote:  I always thought that trying to find simple but universal moral laws is kind of arrogant. Give me a case by case basis ethics and we can start talking...
How is that different from trying to find every continent on earth, or every element that exists, or mapping the whole universe, or searching a grand unified field theory? Aren't they all equally arrogant? If there exists "universal moral laws", should we try to find them?

(I don't believe they exist, but that's another argument!)

Well, if they exist then of course, but first we should try to find whether they exist or not, at least a good hint in that direction. We do have more evidence that supports the idea that universal moral laws don't exist, that's why I think that trying to make a universal moral code is an exercise in futility

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15-10-2013, 12:22 AM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(13-06-2013 10:07 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  Seeing how it is one of the most commonly referenced secular morality books, and I have given it lip service as a jumping off point for moral research, I feel compelled to post an argument against Sam Harris' system of scientific morality.

I read Harris book and watched the lecture at the time the book was published (~2011) so it isn't all fresh on my mind but I share your appraisal and have a few concerns of my own which I posted elsewhere but which I'll repeat.

I think Harris' project is somewhat confused in that it conflates axiology and normative ethical theory. Scientific insight can produce an objective axiology, i.e. we can potentially arrive at a knowledge of how best human subjective well-being can be enhanced. But that will not automatically give us a normative ethical system. Harris appears to be relying on some form of consequentialism that looks like some hybrid utilitarianism which he hasn't explained or justified. Even if we accept Harris' nascent axiology the matter of how it is to be used with reference to a normative ethical system remains open.

The other problem I have with Harris' argument is that I suspect that it is question begging. Is there a good reason to equate the peaks of the subjective well-being landscape with the morally good? Is that what we mean by good and right? Is that what we want the good and the right to mean?

I also have trouble reconciling Harris conception of moral responsibility with his determinism.
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15-10-2013, 01:20 AM
RE: Argument against The Moral Landscape
(14-10-2013 09:54 AM)postorm Wrote:  1. You cannot argue that the is no point X just because there exists a line that does not go through it. You are arguing that the non-existence of any sentient being is the "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone". Therefore, by your argument, there exists a "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone", so Harris is right.

I understood ER differently. For the sake of argument assume we have a unit of measure: aggregate subjective well-being (ASWB). A planet with no sentient beings measures 0 ASWB; the lowest point on the moral landscape measures -100 ASWB; the highest point on the moral landscape measures 100 ASWB. -100 < 0 so by Harris' account no life is to be preferred to life at the lowest point of the moral landscape.

Quote:Your argument evokes the question of whether an entity can have a state of well-being that is less well-being of the state of non-existence. Can it be better that a child not be born than that child be born into a state of extreme suffering? Presumably rational people who choose euthanasia are deciding that non-existence is a better state of well-being than their current state of existence.

Yes that works on the individual level but fails at the aggregate because there may be some individual in the population that can do something to move the population to a higher point in the moral landscape, e.g. discovers a cure for a widespread disease. A strict application of Harris' calculus suggests that the ailing population should be allowed to perish as this will move us from the negative integers towards zero.

Quote:2. Your argument merely states that there exists moral dilemmas, even if harris is right.

I think ER is suggesting that Harris' calculus of value is flawed.

Quote:Even if the well-being of a sentient being is a perfectly known measured quantity, there are still questions. Is an action that adds 1 to my well-being but subtracts 1 from yours a moral action?

Yes, that is a problem of Bentham's hedonic calculus. To the extent that Harris relies on utilitarianism he also inherits its problems.

Quote:----------- Wanna try my argument against Harris's "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone" argument?------------

If there exists a "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone" then, at that point, are gay's permitted to marry?
If the answer is "Yes" you can reduce the well-being of certain Gays by denying them that right.
If the answer is "No" you can reduce the well-being of certain Christians by granting Gay's that right.
Therefore whatever the answer, you can reduce the well-being below the "Worst Possible Misery for Everyone". Therefore such a state is impossible.

The moral landscape represents the aggregate of human well-being does it not? If so the effect of gay marriage on aggregate well-being will depend on the number of homosexuals vs. the number of Christians and the number of sympathisers with each cohort. That will necessarily admit of an answer although I don't know what that is. If Christians and their sympathisers are numerically superior then the lowest point of the moral landscape will be one where homosexual marriage is permitted.

Quote:This merely illustrates that people have different views on what constitutes well-being including evaluating their own well-being based on what others do.

Yes and that doesn't adversely effect Harris' theory because he is measuring aggregate well-being and that is a matter of objective measure (or aspires to be). Subjective things can be measured objectively. In a room of people we can test them with a scale such as HAM-D to determine their mood. Let's assume that we have a device that directly measures ASWB: every citizen has an implant that transmits its reading to a central stations that determines the aggregate. Assume our world population is people distributed as follows:
* 90% opposed to gay mariiage
* 10% supportive of gay marriage
If gay marriage is currently prohibited and ASWB is 70 then the leaglisaion of gay marriage will reduce ASWB (the precise amount will depend on the importance of the issue to each person).
Given the same population of people the lowest possible ASWB (-100) i.e. the worst possible situation for the largest number of people will be one in which gay marriage is legal.

Quote:That is to say, morality is subjective.

That conclusion doesn't follow from your premises.
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