Poll: Where do you stand ethically/morally?
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Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
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02-06-2012, 01:39 AM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
Personally, the moral system i follow is closer to a utilitarian/consequentialist position then anything else. Morality must be defined in relation to a goal in order to escape Hume's Is/Ought distinction and i propose the only worthy goal would be conscious well being. Theists often say that god is the objective standard for morality which is necessarily flawed. If you pose god as your moral standard, you become stuck in the quagmire that is the Euthyphro dilemma. If God's commands are good by definition then morality is arbitrary and not necessarily within humanities best interest to follow. This leaves morality still completely subjective to God's will. It also leads to the question of why ought we follow God's will. If we follow God's will because it causes harm to us not to, then we are again operating on utilitarian principles just within a different context and god being seen as "separate" or "apart" from natural existence would be unnecessary. The concept of God as a being in and of itself would cease to be as useful as a description of God as an environment to understand in order to survive. It also falls victim to a Sophist philosophy of "might makes right." Simply because the ultimate power holds my life in his hands, i now ought follow him.
Also, Posing God just pushes the problem of morality back a step, to where it falls victim to Hume in the same way. God is, what ought I to do? There are surely goals to be posed within this system to achieve different outcomes, but not follow logically from an is statement. I can see two objections to this. First is that a theist would try to explain away God with god by positing that since God is the creator of the universe, her creations are naturally endowed with purpose similar to a artist and a painting. This however (and correct me if i'm wrong) is begging the question. You can't pose God to answer your premise of God supporting objective morals. On a last note addressing the other half of the Dilemma, if God only commands that which is good, then he's obviously subject to some other power in existence and thus just as expendable as us.
I do however disagree with people who paint fairness as a necessarily component of morality and ethics. While i defiantly don't think they are mutually exclusive, i think its prudent to note that there are some situations where it may be more ethical to be slightly/horrendously unfair if the goal of ethics is the well being of conscious creatures whether that be increasing well being or decreasing anti-well being. Anyway, those are some quick thoughts, just joined the forum and have been loving it. Peace
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02-06-2012, 03:39 AM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 01:39 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Personally, the moral system i follow is closer to a utilitarian/consequentialist position then anything else. Morality must be defined in relation to a goal
This is consistent with amoralism except we wouldn't call it morality.

Taking actions towards a clear and specific chosen goal isn't morality, it is not based on definitions of wrong and right. It merely focuses on improving the chances of that goal occurring.

A goal of "conscious well being" would be pretty decent at the micro level.
I feel if basing it at the macro level of an operational society it would need to be "functional and stable society" simply because dysfunctional or unstable society will seriously impact "conscious well being". The reverse is also true, if you don't respect "conscious well being" of members of society then your society will become dysfunctional and unstable.

Respecting these will increase our chances of survival.

BTW, I loved your post
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02-06-2012, 10:00 AM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2012 10:38 AM by TrulyX.)
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 01:39 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Morality must be defined in relation to a goal in order.

You're confusing morality with ethics.

Ethics can be defined in relation to a goal.

Morality, if it is to exist, has to be universal and absolute.

Ethics can be applied to morality, and is the overall philosophical field where morality comes from, but there is a distinction that has to be made between the two.

Ethics question how people should act/behave overall, in certain situations, etc.

Morality, on the other hand, has to do with what is right or wrong, good or bad universally.

EDIT: Sorry, I was misinterpreting what you meant. I didn't see the part about Hume's Is/Ought, I was just skimming through, sorry. The goal of morality as it relates to that, is morality. The reason I draw a line between morality, specifically, and ethics, in general, is because other parts of ethics do need a relative goal to be based off of i.e. if you ask the question "how a person ought to live life or behave in life", you must first answer the question "what is the purpose of their life". Some tend to conclude that life is "what you make it", therefore it would be relative to their personal life goals and based off of those. Morality is, however, a governing construct of behaviors that is meant to draw an absolute/universal distinction of what is right or wrong/good or bad. If it is to exist, that has to stand. It is, in the same way, as math and language, meant to be a construct, based on some experience, to help bring together meta-physics with physics. You derive a meta-physical construct that can be applied to your perceived reality to make sense of and understand the physical, and in the case of language, more than the others, maybe give rise to addition, obtainable or unobtainable (if that makes sense; if not, reasonable empirical-based beliefs) knowledge.

(01-06-2012 09:28 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Great, so I would expect that you think your morality is the correct one and everyone else's in the world's is wrong.

First of all, who said that I think there is truth to moral propositions? Even if I did, who said I think my view is correct? Also, even if I thought my view was correct, besides people who don't think morality had truth, who necessarily would be disagreeing, without just being mistaken (including myself, if I accept truth)? And what are all of these different views on what is moral, not ethical, but moral; even some, if not most, people who prefer to apply consequential ethical theories to morality, see a contradiction to their rational intuition when it results in murder, rape, dishonesty, torture, etc. being labeled moral by their applied ethical theories. Also, even serial killers/murders and rapist will find that their actions are immoral: they, in certain cases, are aware that they might be acting immorally but choose to do so anyway; they allow their ethical egoism or egoism in general to override their moral beliefs.

I was just saying that it was just like mathematics. Two people might solve a difficult problem and come to different conclusions, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a correct conclusion. The correct conclusion is an absolute, universal one regardless of peoples abilities to understand it. Also, you can know math, certain parts, such as 2+2, fairly easily; barely anyone questions whether or not that is within the realm of possible knowledge.

Morality, if it is to exists, falls into the same category of knowledge.

Quote:The rules of our society, our governing laws are mostly in place for survival. In order to create a stable and functional society. Some people look to put their belief in morality into law, because they think they know what is right and what is wrong. If this is their focus and if you agree with morality then you cannot possible argue against it. Who is to say your sense of morality is better than the morality of your government?

First argument is self-defeating. If we needed law for survival, how would we have ever evolved to the point where we would be able to form civilized law based society? The fact is we survived for a good part of our history without complicated law structures. Other animals also survive without law. Laws are put in place to protect peoples rights, or what they believe to be rights, for whatever reason, you're correct on that, but it is not to ensure their survival. We don't need laws to ensure survival. We would have already needed to do a good job at surviving in order to get to the point were we could develop brains capable of rationalizing survival and law, which I pointed out in my earlier post.

I can argue against someones moral belief in the same way I can argue with someone who says something blue is green. If they are color blind, it could just be the case that they are mistaken. I could be mistaken also. Another situation would be a math problem, like I pointed out. Have you ever gotten a math problem wrong and a teacher marked it incorrect? Have you ever gotten a problem correct and they marked it incorrect and you challenged them? Even if morality isn't to the point where we can know (like math), or are able to know, what is right or wrong, we can still challenge that belief. You being on this site already shows you take part in something similar to what you are opposing. I am an atheist, and if you're not trolling, you are too. We have a belief on something we don't know (assuming you don't have powers I don't). I'm not saying you do, but I tend to challenge the practicality of people who hold the opposing belief.


Quote: There are millions of human beings fighting for their survival each and every day.

I'm talking as a species. We are no where near extinction. If all of those people died, I'm pretty sure we could continue reproducing and prospering as a species.

Quote:Huh? When have I ever said that religion is morality?

Hence I have a problem with the belief that some religious people have in their brand of religious morality.

...threatens my survival

You did just called it a brand of "religious morality"; however, I wasn't trying to indicate that you were doing it specifically, just that you can't do it logically. The Euthyphro dilemma makes any belief in religious based morality wrong. They can't believe it's moral because God says so; that would make them have to accept that morality doesn't exist (like you). The only solution is that morality is independent of God.

For one, people wrote the religious texts (not God(s)), and most religious people are aware of that. Also, a fair amount of religious people are aware that the morality in the Bible, and other texts, opposes their rational intuition of what they believe is right or wrong. A fringe group hates gays. A fringe group are Jihadists. A fringe group wanted slaves, into the modern era. You get the point: most religious people realize that what is in their holy books contradicts some of what they believe is right and wrong. It's the old, "if God told you to kill your only child" argument. It shows the majority of the religious are in fact, what you called, benign. They cherry pick, a lot of them, they only pick parts that support a mainstream view of what is right and wrong i.e. murder is wrong, rape is wrong, torture is wrong, abuse/assault is wrong, dishonesty is wrong, etc, etc; I was pointing out that those are similar to 2+2, majority of people agree with those as universal moral truths, could damn near everyone be wrong, hell yes, but that isn't the point.

Last point: survival doesn't require rationalization. Survival doesn't need a system 2 part of the brain to rationalize and analyze a situation, your instinctive part of your brain will just react; not all things that survive rationalize. If you feel that your survival is threatened, the fact that you are rationalizing about it, is going to defeat that argument/point of view. When you question that religious based morality (or I guess now we have to distinguish it as: what a small number of them believe is morality), or a belief in it based on belief in morality, in general, is "threatening your survival", you are working against yourself, and also, you're bitching. If it was threatening your survival, you'd either already be dead, or already have responded, you would definitely not be thinking about it (also look at what I first pointed out about why we even have the ability to question such things). Given that, if you don't believe in morality, you have nothing to be opposed to other than a preference. It's like the elementary school student at lunch saying, "Ewww, you like broccoli" when another kid eats his/her lunch. Who cares if they don't like gays or don't like you? They like blue, you like red, so what??? If you start questioning things, it's going to come off as if you do think, deep down, that there is a right and wrong. I wasn't/am not saying that your claim to not accepting truth in moral propositions isn't the case, I was just pointing out how you would be coming off; that's also what I was referring to as being bitchy.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
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02-06-2012, 11:15 AM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 03:39 AM)Stevil Wrote:  
(02-06-2012 01:39 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Personally, the moral system i follow is closer to a utilitarian/consequentialist position then anything else. Morality must be defined in relation to a goal
This is consistent with amoralism except we wouldn't call it morality.

Taking actions towards a clear and specific chosen goal isn't morality, it is not based on definitions of wrong and right. It merely focuses on improving the chances of that goal occurring.

A goal of "conscious well being" would be pretty decent at the micro level.
I feel if basing it at the macro level of an operational society it would need to be "functional and stable society" simply because dysfunctional or unstable society will seriously impact "conscious well being". The reverse is also true, if you don't respect "conscious well being" of members of society then your society will become dysfunctional and unstable.

Respecting these will increase our chances of survival.

BTW, I loved your post
I'm not talking about a goal as something to be achieved, rather to get get you out of the trap of drawing ought's from is's. I can give all the facts in the world about ways in which human beings prosper or flourish but that still doesn't give any credence logically to how one ought to act. It is by defining a goal ontologically subjective goal for morality, such as "the well being of conscious creatures" that can be measured and tested in objective ways within the moral system. It is thus in relation to the goal of our human moral system, that we can issue moral ought and ought nots without getting beat over the head with "well without god how can you say that i'm actually wrong. You can't have morals without god"
By conscious well being i'm not limiting my definition to micro events. I'm talking about overall cultural, familial, socio-economic and every other conceivable state of being which could influence human flourishing. Though i would be make note of something. Societies don't suffer, people within societies suffer. It is of no good to preserve a society at the net loss of well being to its citizens.
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02-06-2012, 11:29 AM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 10:00 AM)TrulyX Wrote:  
(02-06-2012 01:39 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Morality must be defined in relation to a goal in order.

You're confusing morality with ethics.

Ethics can be defined in relation to a goal.

Morality, if it is to exist, has to be universal and absolute.

Ethics can be applied to morality, and is the overall philosophical field where morality comes from, but there is a distinction that has to be made between the two.

Ethics question how people should act/behave overall, in certain situations, etc.

Morality, on the other hand, has to do with what is right or wrong, good or bad universally.

EDIT: Sorry, I was misinterpreting what you meant. I didn't see the part about Hume's Is/Ought, I was just skimming through, sorry. The goal of morality as it relates to that, is morality. The reason I draw a line between morality, specifically, and ethics, in general, is because other parts of ethics do need a relative goal to be based off of i.e. if you ask the question "how a person ought to live life or behave in life", you must first answer the question "what is the purpose of their life". Some tend to conclude that life is "what you make it", therefore it would be relative to their personal life goals and based off of those. Morality is, however, a governing construct of behaviors that is meant to draw an absolute/universal distinction of what is right or wrong/good or bad. If it is to exist, that has to stand. It is, in the same way, as math and language, meant to be a construct, based on some experience, to help bring together meta-physics with physics. You derive a meta-physical construct that can be applied to your perceived reality to make sense of and understand the physical, and in the case of language, more than the others, maybe give rise to addition, obtainable or unobtainable (if that makes sense; if not, reasonable empirical-based beliefs) knowledge.

(01-06-2012 09:28 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Great, so I would expect that you think your morality is the correct one and everyone else's in the world's is wrong.

First of all, who said that I think there is truth to moral propositions? Even if I did, who said I think my view is correct? Also, even if I thought my view was correct, besides people who don't think morality had truth, who necessarily would be disagreeing, without just being mistaken (including myself, if I accept truth)? And what are all of these different views on what is moral, not ethical, but moral; even some, if not most, people who prefer to apply consequential ethical theories to morality, see a contradiction to their rational intuition when it results in murder, rape, dishonesty, torture, etc. being labeled moral by their applied ethical theories. Also, even serial killers/murders and rapist will find that their actions are immoral: they, in certain cases, are aware that they might be acting immorally but choose to do so anyway; they allow their ethical egoism or egoism in general to override their moral beliefs.

I was just saying that it was just like mathematics. Two people might solve a difficult problem and come to different conclusions, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a correct conclusion. The correct conclusion is an absolute, universal one regardless of peoples abilities to understand it. Also, you can know math, certain parts, such as 2+2, fairly easily; barely anyone questions whether or not that is within the realm of possible knowledge.

Morality, if it is to exists, falls into the same category of knowledge.

Quote:The rules of our society, our governing laws are mostly in place for survival. In order to create a stable and functional society. Some people look to put their belief in morality into law, because they think they know what is right and what is wrong. If this is their focus and if you agree with morality then you cannot possible argue against it. Who is to say your sense of morality is better than the morality of your government?

First argument is self-defeating. If we needed law for survival, how would we have ever evolved to the point where we would be able to form civilized law based society? The fact is we survived for a good part of our history without complicated law structures. Other animals also survive without law. Laws are put in place to protect peoples rights, or what they believe to be rights, for whatever reason, you're correct on that, but it is not to ensure their survival. We don't need laws to ensure survival. We would have already needed to do a good job at surviving in order to get to the point were we could develop brains capable of rationalizing survival and law, which I pointed out in my earlier post.

I can argue against someones moral belief in the same way I can argue with someone who says something blue is green. If they are color blind, it could just be the case that they are mistaken. I could be mistaken also. Another situation would be a math problem, like I pointed out. Have you ever gotten a math problem wrong and a teacher marked it incorrect? Have you ever gotten a problem correct and they marked it incorrect and you challenged them? Even if morality isn't to the point where we can know (like math), or are able to know, what is right or wrong, we can still challenge that belief. You being on this site already shows you take part in something similar to what you are opposing. I am an atheist, and if you're not trolling, you are too. We have a belief on something we don't know (assuming you don't have powers I don't). I'm not saying you do, but I tend to challenge the practicality of people who hold the opposing belief.


Quote: There are millions of human beings fighting for their survival each and every day.

I'm talking as a species. We are no where near extinction. If all of those people died, I'm pretty sure we could continue reproducing and prospering as a species.

Quote:Huh? When have I ever said that religion is morality?

Hence I have a problem with the belief that some religious people have in their brand of religious morality.

...threatens my survival

You did just called it a brand of "religious morality"; however, I wasn't trying to indicate that you were doing it specifically, just that you can't do it logically. The Euthyphro dilemma makes any belief in religious based morality wrong. They can't believe it's moral because God says so; that would make them have to accept that morality doesn't exist (like you). The only solution is that morality is independent of God.

For one, people wrote the religious texts (not God(s)), and most religious people are aware of that. Also, a fair amount of religious people are aware that the morality in the Bible, and other texts, opposes their rational intuition of what they believe is right or wrong. A fringe group hates gays. A fringe group are Jihadists. A fringe group wanted slaves, into the modern era. You get the point: most religious people realize that what is in their holy books contradicts some of what they believe is right and wrong. It's the old, "if God told you to kill your only child" argument. It shows the majority of the religious are in fact, what you called, benign. They cherry pick, a lot of them, they only pick parts that support a mainstream view of what is right and wrong i.e. murder is wrong, rape is wrong, torture is wrong, abuse/assault is wrong, dishonesty is wrong, etc, etc; I was pointing out that those are similar to 2+2, majority of people agree with those as universal moral truths, could damn near everyone be wrong, hell yes, but that isn't the point.

Last point: survival doesn't require rationalization. Survival doesn't need a system 2 part of the brain to rationalize and analyze a situation, your instinctive part of your brain will just react; not all things that survive rationalize. If you feel that your survival is threatened, the fact that you are rationalizing about it, is going to defeat that argument/point of view. When you question that religious based morality (or I guess now we have to distinguish it as: what a small number of them believe is morality), or a belief in it based on belief in morality, in general, is "threatening your survival", you are working against yourself, and also, you're bitching. If it was threatening your survival, you'd either already be dead, or already have responded, you would definitely not be thinking about it (also look at what I first pointed out about why we even have the ability to question such things). Given that, if you don't believe in morality, you have nothing to be opposed to other than a preference. It's like the elementary school student at lunch saying, "Ewww, you like broccoli" when another kid eats his/her lunch. Who cares if they don't like gays or don't like you? They like blue, you like red, so what??? If you start questioning things, it's going to come off as if you do think, deep down, that there is a right and wrong. I wasn't/am not saying that your claim to not accepting truth in moral propositions isn't the case, I was just pointing out how you would be coming off; that's also what I was referring to as being bitchy.
Your distinction between ethics and morality is well met. I haven't encountered that semantic difference before and going forward i will make sure to use my words more carefully. I would say however i don't think morality has to be by definition universal because, and i'm probably misinterpreting your definition, it seems to me that morality is just the sum total of ethical/non ethical actions. Whether something is good or bad, isn't universal because those terms are meaningless without defining a goal. Something is good because X or something is bad because Y. You need a major premise to complete any thinkable morale syllogism, and the minor premise will always be subjective in its ontology because of the Is/Ought distinction. (example following)

All acts that decrease the net well being of conscious creature(s) are bad

Murder decreases the net well being of conscious creature(s)
It is bad to murder a conscious creature
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02-06-2012, 06:16 PM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2012 06:26 PM by TrulyX.)
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 11:29 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Your distinction between ethics and morality is well met. I haven't encountered that semantic difference before and going forward i will make sure to use my words more carefully. I would say however i don't think morality has to be by definition universal because, and i'm probably misinterpreting your definition, it seems to me that morality is just the sum total of ethical/non ethical actions. Whether something is good or bad, isn't universal because those terms are meaningless without defining a goal. Something is good because X or something is bad because Y. You need a major premise to complete any thinkable morale syllogism, and the minor premise will always be subjective in its ontology because of the Is/Ought distinction. (example following)

All acts that decrease the net well being of conscious creature(s) are bad

Murder decreases the net well being of conscious creature(s)
It is bad to murder a conscious creature

Yes, and there is a reason why, like I pointed out, ethical theories are applied to morality. What you did in your above example was applying an ethical theory to what is right and wrong i.e. morality. The big question(s) is/are: "what is moral/what is morality"; "what is morally good/bad"; "what is morally right/wrong"? That is/are the meta-ethical question(s) you are attempting to answer above with an ethical theory and basically, when addressing morality, everyone else is trying to answer as well. That's what makes it philosophy and what makes up meta-ethics and metaphysics. We are arguing over how to define morality and relating terms.

You are applying an ethical theory to morality by defining morality with that ethical theory.

In you case you did leave out a premise. I guess I could say you are begging the question because you have yet to establish what is moral. Adding to the argument you get:

- Morality is what is right/wrong and good/bad

- Moral right/wrong and good/bad is determined by the increase/decrease, respectively, in net well being of conscious creature(s).

- Therefor, whatever increase net well being of conscious creatures is moral and whatever decreases is immoral.

That is basically a consequential ethical theory similar to the Utilitarian argument with well being, as oppose to overall happiness, and of conscious creatures; I think Utilitarianism might have assumed only conscious creatures would have happiness (not sure).

Problems are the same as all consequential theories and theories in general:
1) Denying your specific definition of morality an opponent can always say you are begging the question.
2) The argument is circular, I think. Depending on how you define circular, it can potential be circular. Which can lead to the first problem.
3) How can you measure the consequences?
4) Is it practical to apply a theory that can only allow for a moral determination based on consequences? Most people give Hume (a guy you pointed out) credit for the problem with induction. How can you say it can ever be known what will result from an action?
5) Moving on with 3, I could raise questions like "what is well-being"? Can that be accurately measured?
6) Still on the same, how can you measure "net"? What's the well-being decrease of the dead person? How much will the murderer increase well-being?

That's all I can think of, but you get the point.


I guess I have to reveal my hand here. There is a reason why Immanuel Kant credited David Hume with awakening him from "dogmatic slumber". I'm not personally a philosopher, a philosophy major, nor do I read philosophical works: I took 2 philosophy classes in the 2 years I went to college before dropping out (intro, and intro to ethics, both only 100 level), and I only read portions of limited amounts of work during those classes. Despite that, however, and though I may not be the most credible person to be saying this, in my humble opinion David Hume's (one of the greatest philosophers and intellects in history) greatest contribution to philosophy was awakening Immanuel Kant.

There are certain things that certain people have done that you can only look at and wonder, damn. Even if every idea that came from Kant's philosophy was complete absurdity and wasn't worth the paper it was written on, I'd still revere it as one of the great accomplishments in human history. As far as any human who has ever dedicated their lives to a field, Kant, as a philosopher, ranks at the top, in my personal opinion. Like I said, I'm not very credible on the issue, but that's how I feel.

How that applies to this is obvious. From Kant's metaphysics to his actual theory on morality i.e. the categorical imperative and his groundwork on morality, I think his ideas, even if they are all wrong and complete bullshit, even if morality has no truth, the ideas are simply amazing, magnificent.

He established a metaphysical view that allowed for morality first of all, while a lot of philosophers took the idea of metaphysics and pissed on it and throw it out of the window; probably for good reason I should point out.

One top of that he defined morality in a way that wasn't consequential, fell extremely close to intuition, he based it off of rational intuition, he had an idea of good being a good will, and you can take a moral action, apply it to the theory and come with an answer without having to actually experience the situation i.e. it actually provides a practical answer to the problem.

He even went a step further to try and make being moral an obligation and made the idea of being immoral a logical contradiction based on his theory. To me, and I can't say this with any amount of certainty, but he took his moral view or ethics on his view of morality and made it into an ethics of everyone is obligated to act moral. I think, if that was his goal, is a complete overreach, but it's still amazing.

Look at the first categorical imperative. That kind of, even taking into account you can argue against it, slaps egoism and utilitarianism in the face hard. Any idea of an act, such as murder or dishonesty, which is allowed, and seemingly encouraged, by the other theories, and yes, I do understand they can deny the premise of his conclusion of what is moral and say it's question begging, and yes, they can say that their theory, if followed correctly, would work similarly (which wouldn't technically be known given the consequential basis for those theories), but the ideas would still be allowed under the theories and are deemed completely contradictory by Kant. So basically, under his theory, morality is not only defined in a rational and intuitive way, it is also defined in such a way that it sucks in any theory based on happiness and self-interest, by kind of implying that if certain actions were allowed, which could be allowed under those theories, they would be contradictory and have to use his theory to increase happiness and self interest. Again, yes, you can say, you are not allowed to play by your own rules or force people to accept your premise to reach a conclusion, but it's still cool how that would work (the idea behind it), in certain situations.

I personally like the second imperative. Even though, I think, Kant would have tried to argue both are the same, I think the first is too cloudy, and like I said, it might be an overreach at trying to define morality and come up with an ethical theory to complement it (maybe vice versa) and make an obligation to it in the same step. I think he came with the second to better define morality and goodness and then, once he realized he might have been considered wrong, tried to reconcile the two and play it off. Either way, even in the case where morality isn't a truth, I applaud the effort.

Kant's view basically allows morality to be a construct in which people have inherent value and personal rights which should, he might say ought, not be infringed upon. He set it up through his metaphysical views, and based the idea off rationality and intention. On the rationality, a good will, and moral duty, which meant based on intention of actions, he then encompassed, described, and defined morality based on the categorical imperative. We don't have to guess based on abstract consequential based theories, and it's God independent (even though people to this day think God has to tell you). It also gives us moral groundwork to allow incorporation of other ethical theories. Kantianism + Utilitarianism sounds similar to a constitution based democracy/democratic-republic. You have a government where the rights of individuals are protected, in most cases, and you, at the same time, allow the majority to rule the direction of the country. The criminal/civil law of the land is based on Kantianism, and the economical, fiscal, public policy, is based on Utilitarianism. Kantianism gives "unalienable rights" (which includes blacks and women, despite historical mistakes) and allows for people to be personally protected from wrong doings based on a majority rule (e.g. slavery), basically morality, yet Utilitarianism allows "we the people" the majority, overall, the "pursuit of happiness" and a guide for government action, basically government ethics. It allows for a stand alone moral theory to answer the question of how people ought to act morally. You still can, however, follow another ethical theory, in a certain situation where a different question arises e.g. "how you ought to live", while still having an idea of what is right or wrong morally that is separate from you ethics.

Despite people getting confused interpreting the imperatives and some problems with them when applied to certain matters, confusing it with being similar to the golden rule, defining morality and ethics differently than I would, not wanting to be considered immoral, and having a problem with understanding that once morality is broken, and if it is broken, there has to be, or can be, reconciliation (that's how I, I'm probably incorrect in doing so, distinguish morality and moral justice) there isn't much problem with the theory. The only real problems I can actually think of is a theory of justice and misinterpreting the imperatives.

Again, yes anyone can disagree. Yes, it could be the case that morality is complete bullshit. Yes, you can claim all theories are circular and/or beg the question. Yes you can reach different metaphysical conclusions. Yes you can reach different conclusions on meta-ethics and definitions. Yes you can come up with different theories on knowledge and types of knowledge. All in all however, that is the beauty and magnificence of philosophy. Agreeing to disagree is a great part of philosophy. Disagree on something fundamental is at the core of philosophy, but without questioning and answering philosophically, where would we be as humans? We have to keep the conversations up, we have to keep the arguments going, we have to keep asking questions, and we have to keep attempting to answer and trying to achieve answers.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
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02-06-2012, 07:17 PM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 06:16 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  
(02-06-2012 11:29 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  Your distinction between ethics and morality is well met. I haven't encountered that semantic difference before and going forward i will make sure to use my words more carefully. I would say however i don't think morality has to be by definition universal because, and i'm probably misinterpreting your definition, it seems to me that morality is just the sum total of ethical/non ethical actions. Whether something is good or bad, isn't universal because those terms are meaningless without defining a goal. Something is good because X or something is bad because Y. You need a major premise to complete any thinkable morale syllogism, and the minor premise will always be subjective in its ontology because of the Is/Ought distinction. (example following)

All acts that decrease the net well being of conscious creature(s) are bad

Murder decreases the net well being of conscious creature(s)
It is bad to murder a conscious creature

Yes, and there is a reason why, like I pointed out, ethical theories are applied to morality. What you did in your above example was applying an ethical theory to what is right and wrong i.e. morality. The big question(s) is/are: "what is moral/what is morality"; "what is morally good/bad"; "what is morally right/wrong"? That is/are the meta-ethical question(s) you are attempting to answer above with an ethical theory and basically, when addressing morality, everyone else is trying to answer as well. That's what makes it philosophy and what makes up meta-ethics and metaphysics. We are arguing over how to define morality and relating terms.

You are applying an ethical theory to morality by defining morality with that ethical theory.

In you case you did leave out a premise. I guess I could say you are begging the question because you have yet to establish what is moral. Adding to the argument you get:

- Morality is what is right/wrong and good/bad

- Moral right/wrong and good/bad is determined by the increase/decrease, respectively, in net well being of conscious creature(s).

- Therefor, whatever increase net well being of conscious creatures is moral and whatever decreases is immoral.

That is basically a consequential ethical theory similar to the Utilitarian argument with well being, as oppose to overall happiness, and of conscious creatures; I think Utilitarianism might have assumed only conscious creatures would have happiness (not sure).

Problems are the same as all consequential theories and theories in general:
1) Denying your specific definition of morality an opponent can always say you are begging the question.
2) The argument is circular, I think. Depending on how you define circular, it can potential be circular. Which can lead to the first problem.
3) How can you measure the consequences?
4) Is it practical to apply a theory that can only allow for a moral determination based on consequences? Most people give Hume (a guy you pointed out) credit for the problem with induction. How can you say it can ever be known what will result from an action?
5) Moving on with 3, I could raise questions like "what is well-being"? Can that be accurately measured?
6) Still on the same, how can you measure "net"? What's the well-being decrease of the dead person? How much will the murderer increase well-being?

That's all I can think of, but you get the point.


I guess I have to reveal my hand here. There is a reason why Immanuel Kant credited David Hume with awakening him from "dogmatic slumber". I'm not personally a philosopher, a philosophy major, nor do I read philosophical works: I took 2 philosophy classes in the 2 years I went to college before dropping out (intro, and intro to ethics, both only 100 level), and I only read portions of limited amounts of work during those classes. Despite that, however, and though I may not be the most credible person to be saying this, in my humble opinion David Hume's (one of the greatest philosophers and intellects in history) greatest contribution to philosophy was awakening Immanuel Kant.

There are certain things that certain people have done that you can only look at and wonder, damn. Even if every idea that came from Kant's philosophy was complete absurdity and wasn't worth the paper it was written on, I'd still revere it as one of the great accomplishments in human history. As far as any human who has ever dedicated their lives to a field, Kant, as a philosopher, ranks at the top, in my personal opinion. Like I said, I'm not very credible on the issue, but that's how I feel.

How that applies to this is obvious. From Kant's metaphysics to his actual theory on morality i.e. the categorical imperative and his groundwork on morality, I think his ideas, even if they are all wrong and complete bullshit, even if morality has no truth, the ideas are simply amazing, magnificent.

He established a metaphysical view that allowed for morality first of all, while a lot of philosophers took the idea of metaphysics and pissed on it and throw it out of the window; probably for good reason I should point out.

One top of that he defined morality in a way that wasn't consequential, fell extremely close to intuition, he based it off of rational intuition, he had an idea of good being a good will, and you can take a moral action, apply it to the theory and come with an answer without having to actually experience the situation i.e. it actually provides a practical answer to the problem.

He even went a step further to try and make being moral an obligation and made the idea of being immoral a logical contradiction based on his theory. To me, and I can't say this with any amount of certainty, but he took his moral view or ethics on his view of morality and made it into an ethics of everyone is obligated to act moral. I think, if that was his goal, is a complete overreach, but it's still amazing.

Look at the first categorical imperative. That kind of, even taking into account you can argue against it, slaps egoism and utilitarianism in the face hard. Any idea of an act, such as murder or dishonesty, which is allowed, and seemingly encouraged, by the other theories, and yes, I do understand they can deny the premise of his conclusion of what is moral and say it's question begging, and yes, they can say that their theory, if followed correctly, would work similarly (which wouldn't technically be known given the consequential basis for those theories), but the ideas would still be allowed under the theories and are deemed completely contradictory by Kant. So basically, under his theory, morality is not only defined in a rational and intuitive way, it is also defined in such a way that it sucks in any theory based on happiness and self-interest, by kind of implying that if certain actions were allowed, which could be allowed under those theories, they would be contradictory and have to use his theory to increase happiness and self interest. Again, yes, you can say, you are not allowed to play by your own rules or force people to accept your premise to reach a conclusion, but it's still cool how that would work (the idea behind it), in certain situations.

I personally like the second imperative. Even though, I think, Kant would have tried to argue both are the same, I think the first is too cloudy, and like I said, it might be an overreach at trying to define morality and come up with an ethical theory to complement it (maybe vice versa) and make an obligation to it in the same step. I think he came with the second to better define morality and goodness and then, once he realized he might have been considered wrong, tried to reconcile the two and play it off. Either way, even in the case where morality isn't a truth, I applaud the effort.

Kant's view basically allows morality to be a construct in which people have inherent value and personal rights which should, he might say ought, not be infringed upon. He set it up through his metaphysical views, and based the idea off rationality and intention. On the rationality, a good will, and moral duty, which meant based on intention of actions, he then encompassed, described, and defined morality based on the categorical imperative. We don't have to guess based on abstract consequential based theories, and it's God independent (even though people to this day think God has to tell you). It also gives us moral groundwork to allow incorporation of other ethical theories. Kantianism + Utilitarianism sounds similar to a constitution based democracy/democratic-republic. You have a government where the rights of individuals are protected, in most cases, and you, at the same time, allow the majority to rule the direction of the country. The criminal/civil law of the land is based on Kantianism, and the economical, fiscal, public policy, is based on Utilitarianism. Kantianism gives "unalienable rights" (which includes blacks and women, despite historical mistakes) and allows for people to be personally protected from wrong doings based on a majority rule (e.g. slavery), basically morality, yet Utilitarianism allows "we the people" the majority, overall, the "pursuit of happiness" and a guide for government action, basically government ethics. It allows for a stand alone moral theory to answer the question of how people ought to act morally. You still can, however, follow another ethical theory, in a certain situation where a different question arises e.g. "how you ought to live", while still having an idea of what is right or wrong morally that is separate from you ethics.

Despite people getting confused interpreting the imperatives and some problems with them when applied to certain matters, confusing it with being similar to the golden rule, defining morality and ethics differently than I would, not wanting to be considered immoral, and having a problem with understanding that once morality is broken, and if it is broken, there has to be, or can be, reconciliation (that's how I, I'm probably incorrect in doing so, distinguish morality and moral justice) there isn't much problem with the theory. The only real problems I can actually think of is a theory of justice and misinterpreting the imperatives.

Again, yes anyone can disagree. Yes, it could be the case that morality is complete bullshit. Yes, you can claim all theories are circular and/or beg the question. Yes you can reach different metaphysical conclusions. Yes you can reach different conclusions on meta-ethics and definitions. Yes you can come up with different theories on knowledge and types of knowledge. All in all however, that is the beauty and magnificence of philosophy. Agreeing to disagree is a great part of philosophy. Disagree on something fundamental is at the core of philosophy, but without questioning and answering philosophically, where would we be as humans? We have to keep the conversations up, we have to keep the arguments going, we have to keep asking questions, and we have to keep attempting to answer and trying to achieve answers.
Holy Hell batman you gave me a load to sort through. I'll try and word my response at least half as intelligibly as you worded yours. I'm an amateur wading into these fields and just starting my third year as an undergrad in philosophy and i haven't composed a sorted answer myself to many of the dilemma's of consequentialism but i'll give you my base thoughts in response to your problems.

1. If one seeks to objectify a morale system, how do you not beg the question? Like i'm not sure of how to escape the Is/Ought distinction without just biting the bullet so to speak. I'm not really seeking a objective morale system nor claim to, i just say that i can't think of better subjective goal (basically a place to pick your self up by the philosophical bootstraps) then the well being of conscious creatures. I also think that having a subjective goal such as that is a strength of consequentialism when compared to theistic or non theistic deontology because it has no possibility of being completely subjugated by universal Morales that don't actually have a correlation to our well being. If such objective Morales were to exist i'd think it'd be of the utmost importance that we not follow them.

2. The answer would be on the same line as answer 1 really.

3,5,6 Ah the most infamous objection. I think there's much to be said with the difficulties of measuring or quantifying human well being. I've been toiling away in my free time on trying to design a metric, and it hasn't given any meaningful results as of yet. There are many strange situations within a utilitarian ethic that could be designed as such. Say you are aiming for the highest average well being. It would be then preferred to have one person existing alone at the highs of Ecstasy then any number of other individuals at lower states of well being. I think there's a way to properly design a metric out there to address all of these concerns though i haven't found one yet. I can however offer some apologetics offered in the name of consequentialism on this point. Sam Harris says that human well being is like human health. We don't really have a well defined definition of health. A person's main goal in life could be to vomit continuously for as long as possible yet we don't abandon healthcare because someone's view of health differs. Well being would be as such, that it incorporates our knowledge of health, psychology, anthropology and anything else that offers us insights into how human-kind exists successfully. While there would be small distinctions that would be really hard to figure out, there are obviously more ways to exist in suffering then in well being and on a macroscopic scale these judgement would be easy and at least within the system of ethics, backed by objective research and data. Harris's book the Morale Landscape really does a nice job explaining the macroscopic points of consequentialism, why its necessary in comparison to its forerunners and why the common objections need not impede it though i think it lacks a actual, nitty gritty metric that can be of use.

You are a better philosopher then you give yourself credit for. Kantian ethics interests me greatly and i have a little pet undeveloped train of thought that involves combining Kantian and Utilitarian ethics. I understand that they are harshly opposed, and Kant developed his philosophy to directly counter Hume's skepticism, but i think that Kant Categorical Imperative has something useful to say about states of human well being. Like if you could rationalize the use of the Categorical Imperative on a microscopic scale using a utilitarian macroscopic model, which would then use a metric to balance the well being of individuals against the possible well being of macroscopic social systems in individuals that inhabit it.

As for Kant as a philosophy i think there's a simple beauty in the way he went about his thinking, even if it is wrong (and somewhat scary when you think about the universal implications of his ethics) I haven't done hardly any primary reading of him, and only glanced over his Critique of Pure Reason though my feelings on him seem to be something like this. He is a magnificent counterpoint to Hume. Like Kant's philosophy wasn't so much a philosophy developed from scratch but mainly as a counter agent to Hume's skepticism and the way Kant dissects so many of our ideas and implications of reason are quite breath-taking. If only i had time to really delve into the primary material, i have a very long reading list from The Republic and Nicomachean Ethics to Summa Contra Gentiles and a proper reading of Kant.

Btw, thanks for this discourse, it's been the highlight of my dull weekend.
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02-06-2012, 10:57 PM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2012 11:04 PM by Stevil.)
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 11:15 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  It is thus in relation to the goal of our human moral
system, that we can issue moral ought and ought nots without getting beat over
the head with "well without god how can you say that i'm actually wrong.
You can't have morals without god"

Morals don’t have a goal. I don’t even think ethics has a goal.
Ethics is a grouping of related morals such as information is a grouping of related data.
Business ethics, medical ethics, legal ethics…

Morals imply some sort of universal knowledge of right and wrong. If person A states that action B is immoral then they are suggesting
that others ought to agree that B is immoral. This is different from a personal opinion where a person might simply state that action B is non consistent with
their own personal values.

Problem is there is no universal definer of right and wrong. Even if there was, there doesn’t seem to be any way people can have knowledge
of this universal rights and wrongs.

Religious morality is law rather than morality, it is enforce by coercion, in that the believers believe there will be eternal punishment for transgressors.

The laws of society are not morality, they define the rules of our society and enforce these via coercion in that transgressors get punished via financial or liberty means.

Morality is more of the concept of knowing what is right and wrong and acting morally without any repercussions, but simply because it is
the correct thing to do.

I am of the opinion that there are no absolute rights and wrongs. There is no purpose to being a moral agent, a champion, or enforcer of
morality. Morality doesn’t exist. It is merely a belief system, similar to free will, morality is an illusion.

So where does that leave us, if we ditch the concept of morality?

How can we suggest that we want rules within our society?

The answer is to act selfishly, to want survival of the self as opposed to survival of the species. I don’t want people in my society being
able to murder, because I don’t want to be murdered, I don’t want people in society being able to rape, because I don’t want to be raped. I am willing to
give up my ability to murder and to rape as a trade off of for stopping others being able to do this to me.

I don’t want people is society being oppressed, as I see this creates danger for my own survival, oppression causes conflict and mortal
danger. I also don’t want people being able to oppress me.

I don’t need morality, I just want to survive. I don’t want a government defining laws based on some magical mythical morality, I want laws
based on what improves my own chances for survival.
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02-06-2012, 11:29 PM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 10:57 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(02-06-2012 11:15 AM)MrEchidna Wrote:  It is thus in relation to the goal of our human moral
system, that we can issue moral ought and ought nots without getting beat over
the head with "well without god how can you say that i'm actually wrong.
You can't have morals without god"

Morals don’t have a goal. I don’t even think ethics has a goal.
Ethics is a grouping of related morals such as information is a grouping of related data.
Business ethics, medical ethics, legal ethics…

Morals imply some sort of universal knowledge of right and wrong. If person A states that action B is immoral then they are suggesting
that others ought to agree that B is immoral. This is different from a personal opinion where a person might simply state that action B is non consistent with
their own personal values.

Problem is there is no universal definer of right and wrong. Even if there was, there doesn’t seem to be any way people can have knowledge
of this universal rights and wrongs.

Religious morality is law rather than morality, it is enforce by coercion, in that the believers believe there will be eternal punishment for transgressors.

The laws of society are not morality, they define the rules of our society and enforce these via coercion in that transgressors get punished via financial or liberty means.

Morality is more of the concept of knowing what is right and wrong and acting morally without any repercussions, but simply because it is
the correct thing to do.

I am of the opinion that there are no absolute rights and wrongs. There is no purpose to being a moral agent, a champion, or enforcer of
morality. Morality doesn’t exist. It is merely a belief system, similar to free will, morality is an illusion.

So where does that leave us, if we ditch the concept of morality?

How can we suggest that we want rules within our society?

The answer is to act selfishly, to want survival of the self as opposed to survival of the species. I don’t want people in my society being
able to murder, because I don’t want to be murdered, I don’t want people in society being able to rape, because I don’t want to be raped. I am willing to
give up my ability to murder and to rape as a trade off of for stopping others being able to do this to me.

I don’t want people is society being oppressed, as I see this creates danger for my own survival, oppression causes conflict and mortal
danger. I also don’t want people being able to oppress me.

I don’t need morality, I just want to survive. I don’t want a government defining laws based on some magical mythical morality, I want laws
based on what improves my own chances for survival.
I never said morals had to be necessarily universal. To the contrary, i'm arguing the for morality to exist, you have to first define a subjective goal such as the well being of conscious creatures, then develop objective tests and ways to formulate a morale system within it. I use the term morale system simply to denote what one ought to do. You are right to observe that there are no absolute right or wrongs, or as i would put it context independent rights/wrongs. This "no absolute morality" is the same as i see it it David Hume rightly saying that you cannot draw what you ought to do from what is. That is why you introduce the subjective "goal" so as to pick yourself up by the philosophical boot straps" and get working on a morale system. The beautiful thing about it is, we all have some sense of this morale system within our intuition. You mentioned the golden rule (do unto others) which is a great principle to work from. Though its only as good as the person speaking the statement. Someone who i can't remember restated it saying "Do unto others 20% better then you would have them do unto you to correct for subjective error and bias. I also agree with your assertions that free will is an illusion. Though i disagree vehementally about morality. Even if there exists no absolute morality (which i agree on) humans do definatly at the very least have an internal system of "ought" which we opporate on to maintain our social structures. There are simply some behaviors which aren't conducive to a prosperous society, such as everyone being as selfish as possible in every situation. I'm arguing for a utilitarian based morality, which does in essence only exist to further human well being, not some mythical morality, and this system of Morales would be only as useful as its benefit to humanity. No more, no less. It seems like we're arguing for the same overarching idea except you have a different formulation of the same overarching grounding for a morale system.
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03-06-2012, 03:37 AM
RE: Moral Philosophy: Where do you stand?
(02-06-2012 11:29 PM)MrEchidna Wrote:  I never said morals had to be necessarily universal.
I never meant to say or imply that you did. I understand what you are saying, I agree with what you are saying. The difference between you and me is a semantic difference. I wouldn't call what you are describing a morality. Other than that my position is very closely aligned with yours.
Quote:I also agree with your assertions
that free will is an illusion. Though i disagree vehementally about
morality. Even if there exists no absolute morality (which i agree on)
humans do definatly at the very least have an internal system of "ought"
which we opporate on to maintain our social structures.
This is why I would call morality an illusion. It appears very much so, in some circumstances that we all mostly agree with some social rights and wrongs. I don't think this originates with being in tune with the cosmos, a cosmic intelligent designer or the Human DNA. I think this stems from natural law and an understanding that if we behave in certain ways then our society will react negatively towards us, therefore we need to behave in a socially acceptable manner.
Quote:I'm
arguing for a utilitarian based morality
This sounds interesting and you have motivated me to research this more. Thank you.
Quote:It seems like we're arguing for the same overarching
idea except you have a different formulation of the same overarching
grounding for a morale system.
Yes, if it came to a vote on laws we would probably vote for most of the same ones. Our main difference is semantic.
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