Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
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02-02-2014, 05:48 AM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
A nice chart to work with:

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A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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02-02-2014, 06:02 AM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 05:40 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Degrees of objectivity in morality are based on how common or different our values and reasoning are. Humans generally share a significant subset of values and therefore there is a substantial objectivity of morality within our species, however our values and reasoning are at least somewhat species-dependent.
Well, re-defining "objective" to mean "based on a consensus" is hardly helpful to this discussion, in my view, because it only muddies the waters.

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02-02-2014, 06:50 AM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 06:02 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(02-02-2014 05:40 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Degrees of objectivity in morality are based on how common or different our values and reasoning are. Humans generally share a significant subset of values and therefore there is a substantial objectivity of morality within our species, however our values and reasoning are at least somewhat species-dependent.
Well, re-defining "objective" to mean "based on a consensus" is hardly helpful to this discussion, in my view, because it only muddies the waters.

If our values are somewhat species dependent then there can be a degree of objectivity. There will be muddy waters, but like Sam Harris makes the case in "the moral landscape" there will be some objective criteria for human flourishing which we can objectively assess for evidence - hardly an original work as one can go back to Aristotle & Plato and find similar criteria.
Just because some waters are muddy it doesn't mean that there is no clear water.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence -
David Hume


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02-02-2014, 07:07 AM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
For values of objective where objective = Independent of a particular mind.

To require "infinite" objectivity is to render the term inapplicable in any context I can think of.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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02-02-2014, 07:13 AM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 05:42 AM)Baruch Wrote:  ...
A society composed of psychopathic individuals basing ethics on an ethical egoism ...

Dunno why but JP Morgan popped into my head.

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02-02-2014, 12:14 PM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(02-02-2014 03:21 AM)Stevil Wrote:  1. A moral agent is an entity which has the ability to make choices and also has knowledge of right and wrong.
How do you determine that an individual is capable of making choices (i.e. that its ability to choose freely isn't limited by mental illnesses, for instance)?
This is a great question and is quite a dilemma.
However, for the purposes of this thread I am not trying to resolve the "how to" but instead I am looking to define the "what".

Given my criteria 1 this would mean an animal such as a burying beetle would probably not meet the criteria of being a moral agent because I doubt it would be concerned about the rightness or wrongness of its actions and quite possibly it wouldn't know the distinction even if it were concerned.

If we take as a given that humans are able to make choices and are able to attain knowledge of right and wrong then I could suggest that a mentally ill person could be assessed by a psychiatric professional in order to assess whether they are capable of being a moral agent.

Another case to consider is that of an amoralist (moral nihilist, moral skeptic). They self proclaim to have no knowledge of right and wrong.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  In case you're not suggesting that we are born with it innately, how do you determine that an individual has knowledge of right and wrong?
Again another good "how to" question.
Maybe one way to determine could be to ask them.
Another way could be to observe their behaviour and intelligently assess.

But the key thing is that an agent cannot make a moral decision if they don't know the difference between right and wrong.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(02-02-2014 03:21 AM)Stevil Wrote:  3. Moral judgement is made with the distinction of actions/choices between "right" and "wrong"
How do you assess the existence of morally gray areas, given this dichotomy?
I am not trying to assess whether morality is objective or subjective, I am only trying to describe the qualifying criteria of moral events.
If the person making the action is capable of making a distinction between their available options as per which is right and wrong (in their own opinion) then they are making a moral judgement.
An observer can also make a moral judgement however it won't always be the case that the actor and the observer both make the same moral judgement regarding the same event.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(02-02-2014 03:21 AM)Stevil Wrote:  4. Moral obligation means that a moral agent is bound in their behaviours to do the "right" thing.
I don't understand what this statement is supposed to mean due to its vague wording. Do you care to elaborate?
Moral obligation means that we ought to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing. If there was no moral obligation then what is the point in making moral judgements?
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02-02-2014, 12:22 PM (This post was last modified: 02-02-2014 11:44 PM by Stevil.)
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 04:46 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Two immediate thoughts are:
1. Are "right" and "wrong" being expressed as variables (comparatives) or absolutes (ends of a measurable scale)?
It is upto the moral agent to decide that for themselves. What is important is just that there is a distinction between right and wrong.

(02-02-2014 04:46 AM)DLJ Wrote:  If they are variables, what determines the threshold of rightness and wrongness on this continuum ... consensus, culture, the individual?
It is upto the moral agent to decide that for themselves. We don't all need to agree on whether morality is a consensus, culture or individual thing.

(02-02-2014 04:46 AM)DLJ Wrote:  In other words, I have a problem with #5. in that we still can have conflicting normative statements between different groups, societies or individuals.
I have big issues with normative statements as well.
But, without normative statements, do we have morality?
If i can't say what others ought to do, if i can't even say what I ought to do, then do I have a moral belief?

(02-02-2014 04:46 AM)DLJ Wrote:  2. "Coercion" needs more thought...
On one extreme there is physical force and the other extreme there is gentle persuasion.
A worker could be 'coerced' to follow health and safety rules that he/she does not personally agree with.
And what about survival pressure? Is that considered 'coercion'?
What is important is that the agent has had an ability to make choice.
If I pull a gun on a person and tell them to slap their wife and this person then slaps their wife I then would say that they did not act immorally because they were under extreme duress and didn't really have a choice.

(02-02-2014 04:46 AM)DLJ Wrote:  We can behave in what would normally be regarded as an immoral way if under extreme survival pressure.
I can list many actual examples if needed.
Yes, please do.

Edit: But, I think we need to be consistent here.
When under extreme survival pressure the agent does something which would normally be considered immoral, but they weren't in a normal situation, so do we still judge this choice/action as being immoral or is it disqualified from the moral landscape?
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02-02-2014, 12:45 PM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 05:18 AM)Baruch Wrote:  My stab at defining morality is as per below
"Morality is the distinction between right and wrong given an event caused by a moral agent with prior knowledge of right and wrong and having been in a situation where a choice was freely made (without coercion)."

There is also something circular in your definitions.
"Right & wrong" already presuppose morality or are part of what your trying to define. (somewhat equivocating but not defining)

You have also loaded the definition with a Kantian deontology without clearly defining "right & wrong", "freely chosen" & "prior knowledge."

The "right & wrong" will be hard to define without becoming circular or becoming a digital binary distinction without any mixtures of both or a continuum.
I am not trying to define right and wrong. We can leave that for each moral agent to define for themselves, be it their emotions, divine command, humanism etc. The important thing is that they have a distinction between right and wrong.
But this distinction on its own is not morality, there are other criteria that must also be met.
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02-02-2014, 10:56 PM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 12:14 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  How do you determine that an individual is capable of making choices (i.e. that its ability to choose freely isn't limited by mental illnesses, for instance)?
This is a great question and is quite a dilemma.
However, for the purposes of this thread I am not trying to resolve the "how to" but instead I am looking to define the "what".

Given my criteria 1 this would mean an animal such as a burying beetle would probably not meet the criteria of being a moral agent because I doubt it would be concerned about the rightness or wrongness of its actions and quite possibly it wouldn't know the distinction even if it were concerned.

If we take as a given that humans are able to make choices and are able to attain knowledge of right and wrong then I could suggest that a mentally ill person could be assessed by a psychiatric professional in order to assess whether they are capable of being a moral agent.

Another case to consider is that of an amoralist (moral nihilist, moral skeptic). They self proclaim to have no knowledge of right and wrong.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  In case you're not suggesting that we are born with it innately, how do you determine that an individual has knowledge of right and wrong?
Again another good "how to" question.
Maybe one way to determine could be to ask them.
Another way could be to observe their behaviour and intelligently assess.

But the key thing is that an agent cannot make a moral decision if they don't know the difference between right and wrong.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  How do you assess the existence of morally gray areas, given this dichotomy?
I am not trying to assess whether morality is objective or subjective, I am only trying to describe the qualifying criteria of moral events.
If the person making the action is capable of making a distinction between their available options as per which is right and wrong (in their own opinion) then they are making a moral judgement.
An observer can also make a moral judgement however it won't always be the case that the actor and the observer both make the same moral judgement regarding the same event.

(02-02-2014 04:00 AM)Vosur Wrote:  I don't understand what this statement is supposed to mean due to its vague wording. Do you care to elaborate?
Moral obligation means that we ought to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing. If there was no moral obligation then what is the point in making moral judgements?
Thank you for answering my questions. It appears like we're approaching this matter from two related, but nonetheless different angles. While I'm more interested in the practical aspects of morality, you seem to be more concerned with its theoretical side (nothing wrong with that, of course). I think I'll observe the discussion for now to see where it's going. Smile

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02-02-2014, 11:34 PM
RE: Morality - seeking consistency via qualifying criteria
(02-02-2014 10:56 PM)Vosur Wrote:  Thank you for answering my questions. It appears like we're approaching this matter from two related, but nonetheless different angles. While I'm more interested in the practical aspects of morality, you seem to be more concerned with its theoretical side (nothing wrong with that, of course). I think I'll observe the discussion for now to see where it's going. Smile
Hopefully, at some point, the theoretical side is confirmed or corrected by observations made on the practical side.
Also, hopefully the theoretical side can guide us with regards to where to look on the practical side.

Just like theoretical and experimental physics.

But thanks for your contributions and thanks for letting me know why you are no longer actively participating.
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