My attempt to define the moral landscape
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28-10-2014, 03:41 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(28-10-2014 01:08 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  on a inquisitive level, I'm questioning why you find there to be a desire for a logically consistent answer.
I'm just attempting to pin down the bare basics of what can be considered a morally significant event. If we can't even define bare basics for the "moral" concept then this concept is worthless and adds no value other than to produce confussion. Also without a consistent definition then how can we avoid the mental gymnastics on holding onto conflicting definitions depending on the situation we are applying it to?
Personally, I'm not ready to throw my hands in the air running around screamming, "It's all too hard, It's impossible, It can't be done!"
We can at least try to document some basic boundaries can't we?
I think there are some clear boundaries (low hanging fruit):
We don't accuse a rock of being immoral for erroding in a stream. We don't accuse a burying beetle of being immoral for eating its young. So it seems obvious that we need a definition of a moral agent. Would you agree that you need a moral agent in order to have a morally significant event?
So what is a moral agent?
Is it:
a) - an actor that makes choices between right and wrong?
b) - an actor that "understands the effects of its actions on others"?
I would contend that it is a) not b) as b) has no relvancy with regards to right and wrong and morality is all about right and wrong. For example I understand that if I win a race the loser may be sad that they didn't win. This however does not mean that it is immoral for me to win a race.

With regards to a) - an actor that makes choices between right and wrong.
The conclusion is that the actor has a choice and is not coerced and that the actor has knowledge of right and wrong and is freely choosing wrong over right.

This is just basic stuff. Would you disagree with any of the above?
(28-10-2014 01:08 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  I think there are common base moral values than generally people value. They happen to value them to different degrees though, and these make judging them on any consistent encompassing scale overly problematic. I don't think morality is in anyway limited to the idea of "good" or "wrong" but are viewed as "better" or beneficial understandings.
"better" in terms of what?
For example, I would say it is better to read a science book and learn something rather than to read a gossip magazine to discover which celebrities have visible cellulite. However this doesn't mean that I think it is immoral to read a gossip magazine.
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29-10-2014, 11:46 AM (This post was last modified: 29-10-2014 01:12 PM by cjlr.)
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 10:26 AM)cjlr Wrote:  A beetle cannot understand the effects of its actions on others.

A human can.

I, uh, I'm rather sure you were already aware of that.

(this is of course not amenable to binary reductivism, trivial though it is to distinguish between "human being" and "sea sponge")
Morality is much more than simply "understanding the effects of actions on others"

According to you, perhaps.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Morality is belief in right and wrong and making a choice between right and wrong.

I fail to see the distinction there as particularly meaningful.

Absent an objective universal morality - a thing I do not think exists, and I am fairly sure you do not think exists either - then it is clearly understood that the matter is subjective.

The concept then may refer to a common or collective process but the particulars must be defined only at an individual level, in an individual's decision making process.
(or, if you wish to be pedantic as you so clearly do, that which informs a certain class of decision)

Nonetheless - recalling my earlier example - I still fail to understand your continued obsession with an absolute and binary conception of "right" and "wrong".
(which I would once again ask that you define before using)

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Humans are not special. To establish a human as a moral agent you need to establish the qualifying criteria. Your criteria above has nothing to do with morality.

I provided no qualifying criteria above. Humans are self-evidently special, in that no other species I am aware of has such conversations as this.

I find your crusade to sum up all of moral philosophy in a handful of simplistic pronouncements quixotic at best. I have no particular desire to compose a lecture series to you, so you'll have to forgive me terseness to what I see as poorly chosen questions.
(you are also free not to forgive me that, but it will make this conversation more difficult)

A good starting point would be to build on what I said earlier, in that a practical definition of morality arises from one's appreciation of the effects of one's actions on others. There is no hard and fast line to distinguish binary presence/absence of a theory of mind or other moral bases.
(consider, for example, the animal behavioural studies tracking moral impulses and acts in various other species - which I would actually welcome your addressing; you must surely find use of the word "moral" to be problematic, but do you have additional commentary to offer on the topic?)

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 10:26 AM)cjlr Wrote:  Define "torture".

I'm too lazy to answer that question in detail. How we should treat other animals is a hell of a topic in its own right.
You're deflecting.

Hardly. I am requesting clarification.

The more well-defined your questions, the easier it is for others to provide the plain and simple answers you desire.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Its clear that your definition of a moral act is invalid...

You mean my simplified, slightly facetious, provided-for-sake-of-discussion definition isn't the be-all and end-all of all moral philosophy?

I'm shocked. Shocked, stevil!

Well; maybe not that shocked.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Most people would consider it immoral to torture a puppy even though they would consider the puppy as not being a moral agent.

A dog is not a beetle and a dog is not a human. If those are the continuum endpoints, the dog exists between them.
(remember how I said it was not a yes/no question?)

Dogs trigger our sense of empathy (I use the word "our" loosely), and as such their condition and treatment engenders a response from us.

If you want a better answer, ask a better question.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 10:26 AM)cjlr Wrote:  My goodness that took a while to establish.

Your endless circles about what people "should" do is then irrelevant; this is what people actually do.
Mischaracterisations again.
I haven't made any statements as to what people should do.

I find no other way to charitably interpret your repeated statements as to what people "can't" do, when what they "can't" do is rather something they can and do do all the time.

Notwithstanding that I'm quite certain your entire answer to the question of "how should people treat each other" cannot be summed up in the words "no comment". So there's that.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Do you understand what philosophy is?

Of course not. Just ask ol' Lumi.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Its an endeavor to explore logical consistency given certain axioms (in this case morality) and the logical consequences of that.

Philosophy is far more than that.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 10:26 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I reject that as a disingenuous formulation.

Having no opinion on the flavour of a given spice does not mean you can claim no knowledge of taste.

You may actively find something neutral by your own standards, but you are not passively unable to form opinions.
I find everything to be morally neutral. I find all moral statements to be non-sensical. You might want to google the definition of Moral nihilism.

This must then necessarily be according to your understanding of morality, which you've not yet provided a good definition of, despite this thread...

That you were so indignant when suggested to be lacking empathy would indicate to me that you do possess empathy. This among other things I have repeatedly referred to - for convenience - as "moral bases" or "moral impulses". In that sense it trivially follows that you do possess morals, insofar as acting in accordance to such impulses can be called morality

Such usage, then, employs "morality" to refer to concrete, empirical phenomena in human interaction, which you certainly possess as much as anyone. You furthermore self-evidently possess means by which you come to decisions (I shall give you the credit not to raise the tedious and irrelevant-to-this-discussion matter of free will, for the time being); beginning from the idea of not just "how will this , in terms of what acts you should or should not perform of those open to you.
(I realize you don't like the word "should"; I do not see any way to describe decision making processes without it)

I reiterate that your evident pursuit of some nebulous "more coherent" or "more consistent" definition (?) or standard (??) remains entirely unclear to me, in motivation, in goals, in methodology...

Coherent definitions of moral nihilism I have encountered are indistinguishable from purely consequentialist morality in any case. To deny the intrinsic, the inherent, or the objective is of no consequence if no one is seriously affirming them.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  But your are also deflecting here.

Hardly.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Let's say I had a belief that eating dolphins is immoral. This does not mean that I should consider recreational sex as immoral. One does not begat the other.

Indeed. Relevance?

That one is capable - much that "capable" is not a great word, suggesting as it does volition - of forming moral judgements does not imply that all acts must fall to one side or the other of the scales.

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  If I am not knowingly making a choice between right and wrong then I am not a moral agent...

I don't remember defining the term thus. Nor even you doing so...

(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ... I am not choosing wrong, I am not being immoral.

Well, yes, if you insist on binary reductivism in all spheres. I rarely find that productive.

Engaging in a behaviour is making a choice, and judging an act neutral is a judgement.

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29-10-2014, 11:48 AM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(28-10-2014 03:41 PM)Stevil Wrote:  We can at least try to document some basic boundaries can't we?
I think there are some clear boundaries (low hanging fruit):
We don't accuse a rock of being immoral for erroding in a stream. We don't accuse a burying beetle of being immoral for eating its young. So it seems obvious that we need a definition of a moral agent. Would you agree that you need a moral agent in order to have a morally significant event?
So what is a moral agent?
Is it:
a) - an actor that makes choices between right and wrong?
b) - an actor that "understands the effects of its actions on others"?
I would contend that it is a) not b) as b) has no relvancy with regards to right and wrong and morality is all about right and wrong. For example I understand that if I win a race the loser may be sad that they didn't win. This however does not mean that it is immoral for me to win a race.

With regards to a) - an actor that makes choices between right and wrong.
The conclusion is that the actor has a choice and is not coerced and that the actor has knowledge of right and wrong and is freely choosing wrong over right.

This is just basic stuff. Would you disagree with any of the above?

It's hardly basic, friend; it's meaningless. Until you've adequately defined "right" and "wrong", the understanding of which must be foundational to all of the above...

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29-10-2014, 12:34 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 11:46 AM)cjlr Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  If I am not knowingly making a choice between right and wrong then I am not a moral agent...

I don't remember defining the term thus. Nor even you doing so...
It's all there in the OP.
At one stage you even agreed with the premises in the OP.

But then you go off and try to water it all down, try to suggest that it just about opinions and may not necessarily have anything to do with wrong and right. You agree that a choice between wrong and right needs to be made, but then again you water it down and suggest that no choice is necessary. You suggest that it has to be in the context of a moral agent causing harm to another moral agent but then again you claim that the victim can be a dog which may or may not be a moral agent.

You don't even have a consistent definition. Its all just twists and turns.
You insist I have moral beliefs even though I inform you that I don't. You conflate emotions with moral beliefs. It's laughable.

Anyway, thanks for participating. I don't think we can take this further if you are not willing to accept ANY useful definition and stick to that definition.
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29-10-2014, 12:37 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 11:46 AM)cjlr Wrote:  
(28-10-2014 12:48 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ... I am not choosing wrong, I am not being immoral.

Engaging in a behaviour is making a choice, and judging an act neutral [i]is[/b] a judgement.
Just to clarify

I don't ever even ask the question "is this moral or not?"
Moral questions are non nonsensical and irrelevant to me. Hence I term everything morally neutral, no judgement necessary.
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29-10-2014, 12:39 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 11:46 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I don't remember defining the term thus. Nor even you doing so...
It's all there in the OP.
At one stage you even agreed with the premises in the OP.

But then you go off and try to water it all down, try to suggest that it just about opinions and may not necessarily have anything to do with wrong and right. You agree that a choice between wrong and right needs to be made, but then again you water it down and suggest that no choice is necessary. You suggest that it has to be in the context of a moral agent causing harm to another moral agent but then again you claim that the victim can be a dog which may or may not be a moral agent.

You don't even have a consistent definition. Its all just twists and turns.
You insist I have moral beliefs even though I inform you that I don't. You conflate emotions with moral beliefs. It's laughable.

Anyway, thanks for participating. I don't think we can take this further if you are not willing to accept ANY useful definition and stick to that definition.


You have NO moral beliefs ? Naaaa..... Everyone has some moral beliefs.

When I want your opinion I'll read your entrails.
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29-10-2014, 01:03 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 12:39 PM)WitchSabrina Wrote:  You have NO moral beliefs ? Naaaa..... Everyone has some moral beliefs.

I don't believe in morality.
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29-10-2014, 01:07 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 12:37 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 11:46 AM)cjlr Wrote:  Engaging in a behaviour is making a choice, and judging an act neutral is a judgement.
Just to clarify

I don't ever even ask the question "is this moral or not?"
Moral questions are non nonsensical and irrelevant to me. Hence I term everything morally neutral, no judgement necessary.

Do you ask the question "how does this affect me?"

Do you ask the question "how does this affect others?"

(do you ask the question "do I care?" about either of the aforementioned?)

Do you acknowledge your own empathy? Do you acknowledge your other behavioural impulses?
(you're a big fan of punitive justice, IIRC...)

You've constructed some definition of "morality", yes. I still don't know where you got it or why, nor even exactly what you mean by it, but you're very insistent that you don't recognise your own construct. Okay; that's all well and good.

It does not follow from that that no other possible definition applies to you.

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29-10-2014, 01:12 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 11:46 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I don't remember defining the term thus. Nor even you doing so...
It's all there in the OP.

The OP where I pointed out to you that your key terms remained completely undefined themselves?

You know that's how this conversation started, right?

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  At one stage you even agreed with the premises in the OP.

I said they were a reasonable starting point. Because sure, why not. They are still not adequately defined. Hence my requests for you to, you know, define them, and my offering of some preliminaries to that end myself.

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  But then you go off and try to water it all down, try to suggest that it just about opinions and may not necessarily have anything to do with wrong and right.

Because you provided no definitions for "right" or "wrong", I took them to refer to a personal, subjective, contextual understanding - the only sense it which I find it reasonable to say they exist, if indeed even then. I in fact suggested to you that you might prefer to say better or worse, as in more or less (personally) preferable. You did not pursue that.

But now you're dismissing that as "just about opinions"...

Okay, then, but as opposed to what? How are they anything but opinions?

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You agree that a choice between wrong and right needs to be made...

Not that I can recall. Refresh my memory, would you?

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ... but then again you water it down and suggest that no choice is necessary.

Choice between what? By whom? In what context?

Presupposing as I do that for the purposes of this discussion human beings do make choices, I am interested in the why of it.

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You suggest that it has to be in the context of a moral agent causing harm to another moral agent...

I did not say "harm". I said "effect". I was very clear that I did not consider that end of a definition but the beginning of one.

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ... but then again you claim that the victim can be a dog which may or may not be a moral agent.

No, I said I find your question insufficiently defined.

What I did say was that overly simplistic binary definitions (either 100% or 0% moral agent) were, in my experience, useless.
(I still await your comments on any of the numerous studies investigating "moral" behaviour in other species - I feel that would be relevant. A dog has more agency than a beetle, and a chimp more than a dog; would you agree?)

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You don't even have a consistent definition.

What is inconsistent with anything I have expressed? Genuinely curious now.

Let us then grant, for the sake of this post, that I have been "inconsistent".

Is it possible to be consistent in the sense that you desire? How would you know? How would you deal if it weren't?

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Its all just twists and turns.
You insist I have moral beliefs even though I inform you that I don't. You conflate emotions with moral beliefs. It's laughable.

I conflated nothing. I literally provided for you the sense in which I was using the word, as distinct from whatever other sense you might have had in mind.

If my usages and definitions are not consistent with yours then that is hardly my problem.
(not that it's yours either; it's precisely what gives us something to talk about)

(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Anyway, thanks for participating. I don't think we can take this further if you are not willing to accept ANY useful definition and stick to that definition.

"Useful definitions", huh?

Remember when I offered what I said was an empirical definition? A descriptive definition? To me that would seem far more useful than some ephemeral fleeting pipe dream of absolute theoretical consistency...

Anyway, you still have not defined the key terms in the statements in your OP. How useful, then, are those statements?

You repeatedly have assigned to me positions and views I have not stated and do not hold. How useful is that?

But wait! Before you get all pissy about things, can I just say how cute it is when you pretend to solicit comments and reject any and all alternative viewpoints out of hand?

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29-10-2014, 08:15 PM
RE: My attempt to define the moral landscape
(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  It's all there in the OP.

The OP where I pointed out to you that your key terms remained completely undefined themselves?

You know that's how this conversation started, right?
You have had issues with lack of definition for:
right and wrong
coercion
undue coercion

What I have mapped out is a basic level of what I think is important in the moral landscape.

What I haven't done is to attempt to define what is right or wrong because I accept that this is a belief which is subjective to the moral actor (who happens to also be the moral judge).
This actor assesses their own options and may make a choice partially based on their own moral beliefs. What is important is that they are making a choice between what they consider to be right or wrong. I'm not looking to validate or define what right and wrong ought to be for them.
It might be that they believe it is wrong to harm other sentient creatures, or it might be that they believe it is wrong to cause pain to any animal, or maybe they think it is wrong to disobey their god, or maybe they think it is wrong to do something that is not in their self interest. It is really upto the moral actor to define that for themselves, it's their own belief after all.

Same thing for (undue) coercion. It's upto the moral actor to decide for themselves whether they are coerced or not. And whether that level or coercion alieviates them from their own belief in moral obligation. What is important to this thread is that most people do believe that coercion is a significant factor with regards to judging moral accountability.



(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  But then you go off and try to water it all down, try to suggest that it just about opinions and may not necessarily have anything to do with wrong and right.

Because you provided no definitions for "right" or "wrong", I took them to refer to a personal, subjective, contextual understanding - the only sense it which I find it reasonable to say they exist, if indeed even then.
I'd agree with this. A personal subjective understanding.

But from this position, how can you pass moral judgement on someone else?
Surely the best you can do is "If I was them, If I was in that situation, then I would have choosen X because I believe Y is wrong."
But really, if you were that other person, if you had lived their life, you would have made the same choices as they made, because you would have had the same beliefs as them.



(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  I in fact suggested to you that you might prefer to say better or worse, as in more or less (personally) preferable. You did not pursue that.
Yeah, I made a comment on this, remember, I said I thought it was better to read a science book rather than read a gossip magazine, but that I didn't think it was immoral to read a gossip magazine.
The problem with the suggestion of "better" or "worse" is that there is no moral context. Moral decisions are between things that are believed to be good or bad.

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  Okay, then, but as opposed to what? How are they anything but opinions?
Moral beliefs are a subset of opinions. They come with more qualifying criteria than what other opinions are subject to.

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You agree that a choice between wrong and right needs to be made...

Not that I can recall. Refresh my memory, would you?
OK, Let's take a look at my first three premises
Quote:1. A moral agent is an entity which has the ability to make choices and also has knowledge of right and wrong.
2. Morality is regarding actions made via choice by a moral agent where moraly significant alternatives are present.
3. Moral judgement is made with the distinction of actions/choices between "right" and "wrong"

You have stated that you don't have a problem with the premises
(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  At one stage you even agreed with the premises in the OP.

I said they were a reasonable starting point. Because sure, why not.

So if you don't like one or all of these premise, then lets talk about them. Which one do you disagree with? Why do you disagree with it/them?

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ... but then again you water it down and suggest that no choice is necessary.

Choice between what? By whom? In what context?
You've said that my participating in recreational sex can be judged by my neighbor as being immoral even though I did not choose between right and wrong.


(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You suggest that it has to be in the context of a moral agent causing harm to another moral agent...

I did not say "harm". I said "effect". I was very clear that I did not consider that end of a definition but the beginning of one.

You said
(24-10-2014 02:29 PM)cjlr Wrote:  But just to indulge you, I'll offer you the starting point for an answer: a moral act, by a moral actor, is an act which affects the well-being of another moral actor.
"causing harm" or "affects the well-being", I guess it is debatable whether this has the same meaning. But anyway the point being that most people would consider torturing a puppy to be immoral, even if they were in the forest with no other people around to witness it.

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  What I did say was that overly simplistic binary definitions (either 100% or 0% moral agent) were, in my experience, useless.
(I still await your comments on any of the numerous studies investigating "moral" behaviour in other species - I feel that would be relevant. A dog has more agency than a beetle, and a chimp more than a dog; would you agree?)
No I wouldn't agree. I have no moral beliefs, I don't believe in moral obligation, how am I to conclude that a chimp has more moral obligation than a dog?

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(29-10-2014 12:34 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You don't even have a consistent definition.

What is inconsistent with anything I have expressed? Genuinely curious now.

Let us then grant, for the sake of this post, that I have been "inconsistent".

Is it possible to be consistent in the sense that you desire? How would you know? How would you deal if it weren't?
I don't think it is possible to come up with a consistent definition of morality that would satisfy a person who wants morality. I have tried to work one out though, genuinly tried, but I find it all either requires changing definitions (mental gymnastics) or cancels out in the end.

The conclusion I have come to is that morality is a belief system. That I am an individual and I cannot hold others to my own beliefs. That I can't insist on having a moral society and then complain if I disagree with the morals the society leaders are forcing on me. I can't insist that my morals are the right ones to force onto society.

Once I personally cast away my moral beliefs, I then found the idea of moral obligation to be silly, the idea of worrying about whether some act is moral to be silly.

But of course I had to replace it with something. I had to find a way to describe why I don't go around stealing and killing etc. I guess in a way it is how religious people may wonder how a person can be good without god. A moral believer might wonder how a person can be "good" without moral beliefs.

(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  If my usages and definitions are not consistent with yours then that is hardly my problem.
(not that it's yours either; it's precisely what gives us something to talk about)
It's not about your definitions being inconsistent with mine. It's about your definitions being too broad. So broad that they don't focus on morality.
Emotions do not equate to moral beliefs.
If I have a negative emotional reaction to something, it doesn't mean that something was immoral.
(29-10-2014 01:12 PM)cjlr Wrote:  can I just say how cute it is when you pretend to solicit comments and reject any and all alternative viewpoints out of hand?
I've rejected some of your statements by showing examples of how your definition doesn't hold. e.g. torture of puppies, should I drink water...

I think it is great that you have tried here. I have just found your definitions lacking of necessary boundaries. Trying to equate morality to emotions or to opinions, I think there are some clear boundaries that can beyond such a broad definition.
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