Secular Morality
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18-08-2012, 11:28 AM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 11:01 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 10:38 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Hey, Red. I agree with what you say about the Utilitarian model and I can why you mention it but I didn't get the same message from the vid. Admittedly I'm a layman when it comes to this stuff.

Well, keep in mind that I kinda do this for a living...

The video closes with this:-
"If morality for you has nothing to do with the pursuit of maximising well being... if it truly has no stake whatsoever in actualising an ideal circumstance in this life or the next... then what fucking good is it?"

Kantians would object to that. Virtue ethicists would object to that. Utilitarians would not object to that.

I'm not a utilitarian... so I objected to that. Smile

I did keep that in mind. As I said, I'm a layman (I've merely glanced at the John Stuart Mill's tome (though the word that popped into my head at the end of the vid was Consequentialism)) so could you give me something in words of one syllable re. Kant etc.

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18-08-2012, 11:28 AM
RE: Secular Morality
If morals come from a higher power then they've ignored many of them, such as cut your wife's hand off if she accidently touches your junk hen your fighting someone.

Bury me with my guns on, so when I reach the other side - I can show him what it feels like to die.
Bury me with my guns on, so when I'm cast out of the sky, I can shoot the devil right between the eyes.
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18-08-2012, 11:39 AM (This post was last modified: 18-08-2012 11:43 AM by Azaraith.)
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 09:48 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 09:24 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  Fairly easy to debunk that.

Oh really? You wouldn't enjoy being a philosophy student. Smile

Probably not. I dislike arguments based solely on opinions Wink

(18-08-2012 09:48 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 09:24 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  You're doing unnecessary harm by handing the criminal over to the mob. A judicial system to use evidence and reason to determine guilt in a crime is necessary to prevent unnecessary harm to be done to an innocent person.

You refuse to hand him over. There's a gun-fight and you die. The town loses its law-keeper. The prisoner also dies. You manage to kill 3 of the townsfolk before you lose your own life. They have families. The loss of income means that the widows end up selling their bodies in order to survive. Some of their children starve to death. Meanwhile, the town's loss of a sheriff sees an increase in violent crime. It is eventually quelled when your replacement arrives, but the damage has been done.

The man was guilty (which was why the townsfolk were determined to hang him). Your argument against capital punishment is a moot one, as he would have been hanged if found guilty (by 12 other townsfolk).

Or you could have handed him over... and, afterwards, when tempers had calmed, explained (in detail) why it can never happen again. That the judicial system is an important ingredient in a civilised society and they they, themselves, might end up as the prisoner in a future event.

There are different ways of handling the situation... but the utilitarian would argue that the greater good is achieved by handing the prisoner over. The happiness of 50 people outweighs the happiness of an individual.

This is also true in a similar thought experiment regarding the Roman Colosseum. Thousands of Romans are made happy by the death of one man. Ergo, it is acceptable (to a utilitarian) for that to happen... happiness is a maths calculation. Lots of slightly happy people outweigh one very unhappy person. Utilitarianism doesn't allow for personal liberties.

Re: your sheriff scenario, that's ridiculous. The sheriff and the people are responsible for their actions / what they do, how a scenario plays out beyond that is not a moral matter. If the sheriff was hit by a car and died, it would have the same effect - him walking/being hit isn't an immoral act.

Re: the Colosseum, that's also ridiculous - I regard morality as a "do no harm" issue, not a happiness weighed against harm issue. In the case of the Colosseum, people are being harmed, which makes it immoral in my view. I don't care who gets a jolly off of it, happiness has shit to do with morality. If the whole "happy weighed against harm" shit is a definition of utilitarian morality, then it's a utilitarian morality I don't buy into - I never claimed to be a Utilitarianist or whatever anyway, I don't need some professor or "philosopher" to define ethics for me.

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18-08-2012, 11:46 AM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 11:28 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I did keep that in mind. As I said, I'm a layman (I've merely glanced at the John Stuart Mill's tome (though the word that popped into my head at the end of the vid was Consequentialism)) so could you give me something in words of one syllable re. Kant etc.

I'm not a fan of Kant, so (to anyone that is) please excuse this attempt at explaining his views.

To Kant, nothing came above the good will. The good or bad was never about the consequences. It was always about the intent that preceded the consequences, regardless of what the end results were. Treat people as an end.. and never as a means.

By which, any action that is carried out is not moral unless it is difficult for you to do. If you have a happy cheerful woman who spends her life helping other people... Kant would say that she was not working from a morally good will. She was just doing what came naturally to her. If a miserable old bastard went against everything he believed in to help someone... then he was acting for the moral good. For Kant, that was what made someone morally praiseworthy.

And, as I've mentioned elsewhere, every action must be universifiable. You cannot lie, because if everyone lied, life would not be bearable. Promises would never be kept... life would turn to shit. So lying was strictly verbotten. Under any circumstances. Ever.

This was termed the categorical imperative. If you ever stop to ask "yes, but what if...?" (if the circumstances seem unreasonable) you are using a conditional imperative. Kant hated conditions.

When his critics first read his work and questioned this aspect of his theory, Kant wrote a strongly-worded reply, the wording of which was something like "The presumed right to lie". (This is all from memory, so excuse any gaffs)

In this bit of writing, he gave an example of you witnessing a person running in fear from a mad axeman. When the axeman reaches you and asks where his potential victim went... you must tell him the truth. "She went that-a-way"

I really don't like Kant.
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18-08-2012, 11:53 AM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 11:39 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  Re: your sheriff scenario, that's ridiculous. The sheriff and the people are responsible for their actions / what they do, how a scenario plays out beyond that is not a moral matter.

For utilitarians it certainly is a moral matter. They're consequentialists, so everything that happens afterwards matters. It's kinda what they do... and the thought experiment was created by critics of utilitarianism precisely in order to show flaws in that ethos.
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18-08-2012, 12:03 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 11:53 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 11:39 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  Re: your sheriff scenario, that's ridiculous. The sheriff and the people are responsible for their actions / what they do, how a scenario plays out beyond that is not a moral matter.

For utilitarians it certainly is a moral matter. They're consequentialists, so everything that happens afterwards matters. It's kinda what they do... and the thought experiment was created by critics of utilitarianism precisely in order to show flaws in that ethos.

Perhaps in that ethos, but not mine. Perhaps I need a new name, eh? How about "DoNoHarmism?" I don't buy into pretty much any organized "think this way" categories... I've read up a little on Utilitarianism as opposed to my own beliefs and it does seem silly. But I didn't claim to be one Wink Nor do I think that the guy in the video is really a Utilitarianist - I didn't get that vibe as much.

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18-08-2012, 12:04 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 11:46 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 11:28 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I did keep that in mind. As I said, I'm a layman (I've merely glanced at the John Stuart Mill's tome (though the word that popped into my head at the end of the vid was Consequentialism)) so could you give me something in words of one syllable re. Kant etc.

I'm not a fan of Kant, so (to anyone that is) please excuse this attempt at explaining his views.

To Kant, nothing came above the good will. The good or bad was never about the consequences. It was always about the intent that preceded the consequences, regardless of what the end results were. Treat people as an end.. and never as a means.

By which, any action that is carried out is not moral unless it is difficult for you to do. If you have a happy cheerful woman who spends her life helping other people... Kant would say that she was not working from a morally good will. She was just doing what came naturally to her. If a miserable old bastard went against everything he believed in to help someone... then he was acting for the moral good. For Kant, that was what made someone morally praiseworthy.

And, as I've mentioned elsewhere, every action must be universifiable. You cannot lie, because if everyone lied, life would not be bearable. Promises would never be kept... life would turn to shit. So lying was strictly verbotten. Under any circumstances. Ever.

This was termed the categorical imperative. If you ever stop to ask "yes, but what if...?" (if the circumstances seem unreasonable) you are using a conditional imperative. Kant hated conditions.

When his critics first read his work and questioned this aspect of his theory, Kant wrote a strongly-worded reply, the wording of which was something like "The presumed right to lie". (This is all from memory, so excuse any gaffs)

In this bit of writing, he gave an example of you witnessing a person running in fear from a mad axeman. When the axeman reaches you and asks where his potential victim went... you must tell him the truth. "She went that-a-way"

I really don't like Kant.

Ok. Much appreciated.
And when, above, I said "etc." I was being lazy. Can you give me the Virtue Ethics summary too? Presumably you don't mean the 7 catholic virtues.

So far Bentham/Mill beats Kant but I'm still anticipating something that I can instinctively relate to.

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18-08-2012, 12:22 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 12:04 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Ok. Much appreciated.
And when, above, I said "etc." I was being lazy. Can you give me the Virtue Ethics summary too? Presumably you don't mean the 7 catholic virtues.

You have access to Google, yeah? Dodgy

Well... virtue ethics is very old (Ancient Greeks) but has seen a resurgence in recent years... in part, due to a frustration with both Kantianism (deontology) and utilitarianism. These are regarded as the 3 mainstream forms of secular morality, however there are a lot of "4th ways" out there. Including my own.

To summarise, virtue ethics is about finding the Aristotelian golden mean; which is the mid-point between two opposing vices. e.g. between cowardice and fool-hardy bravery, there is the mean point (equidistant between the two) that is the virtuous path to take.

It essentially boils down to the avoidance of extremes and a happy route in the middle of the road which is the path of virtue. You shouldn't be greedy, as that's a vice, but you shouldn't give all of your possessions away so that you cannot survive, as that is also a vice. Don't be greedy, but don't be overly generous.

I'm not a fan of virtue ethics as it presupposes that there is a reason to be virtuous... almost as if you are being judged and that you should care that you're being judged.

In a world dominated by virtue ethics, where nobody lives to the extremes, we wouldn't have The Doors or Jimmy Hendrix (or the self-destructive Amy Winehouse).

It would all be Justin Beiber.

Kill me now.
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18-08-2012, 12:25 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 09:48 AM)Red Celt Wrote:  
(18-08-2012 09:24 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  Fairly easy to debunk that.

Oh really? You wouldn't enjoy being a philosophy student. Smile

(18-08-2012 09:24 AM)Azaraith Wrote:  You're doing unnecessary harm by handing the criminal over to the mob. A judicial system to use evidence and reason to determine guilt in a crime is necessary to prevent unnecessary harm to be done to an innocent person.

You refuse to hand him over. There's a gun-fight and you die. The town loses its law-keeper. The prisoner also dies. You manage to kill 3 of the townsfolk before you lose your own life. They have families. The loss of income means that the widows end up selling their bodies in order to survive. Some of their children starve to death. Meanwhile, the town's loss of a sheriff sees an increase in violent crime. It is eventually quelled when your replacement arrives, but the damage has been done.

The man was guilty (which was why the townsfolk were determined to hang him). Your argument against capital punishment is a moot one, as he would have been hanged if found guilty (by 12 other townsfolk).

Or you could have handed him over... and, afterwards, when tempers had calmed, explained (in detail) why it can never happen again. That the judicial system is an important ingredient in a civilised society and they they, themselves, might end up as the prisoner in a future event.

There are different ways of handling the situation... but the utilitarian would argue that the greater good is achieved by handing the prisoner over. The happiness of 50 people outweighs the happiness of an individual.

This is also true in a similar thought experiment regarding the Roman Colosseum. Thousands of Romans are made happy by the death of one man. Ergo, it is acceptable (to a utilitarian) for that to happen... happiness is a maths calculation. Lots of slightly happy people outweigh one very unhappy person. Utilitarianism doesn't allow for personal liberties.

You set up a situation with some unknowns. It's unknown how the mob would react to reason and maybe a few shots fired in the air. It's unknown whether or not the man is guilty or not. It's unknown who would die in a shoot out. It's unknown what crime the man is accused of and or why the mob has formed.
Then you describe the mobs behavior in terms of things they now know. They KNOW he is guilty (and that's why they want to hang him). Does this mob also KNOW that the rule of law is important ? Do they KNOW that if he's guilty, he'll be judged as such and sentenced. You are randomly giving a mob knowledge that they didn't have in the beginning of the story and you only give them traits that you want them to have. You only give the outcomes that you want to happen. You are the creator of this story from beginning to end. The people in the story have no free will. They are puppets to your whim.

How about this instead - Here are my puppets
You refuse to hand him over. There is a gun fight and someone is shot in the leg. The crowd disperses and goes home. The man is brought to the judge and is found not guilty. The rule of law is preserved.

The next day a gun slinger comes to town, kills the sheriff and 4 other people. One of the persons killed by a stray bullet happened to be the man who had been found guilty.
The town folk are solidified in holding up the rule of law and they bring down the gun slinger before another shot is fired and he is judged by the rule of law for his actions.

In both our scenarios the same number of people die, but's it's how the people lived that will create the most harmony and less harm for a society.
In your scene, people acted with immoral intentions in trying to kill a man whom they didn't know was guilty or not. A society built upon mob rule will not last. It will collapse in on itself.

Upholding the rule of law is important, even if some people die in the process because it's that rule of law that will help to sustain a peaceful society for the long run.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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18-08-2012, 12:34 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(18-08-2012 12:25 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  You set up a situation with some unknowns. It's unknown how the mob would react to reason and maybe a few shots fired in the air. It's unknown whether or not the man is guilty or not. It's unknown who would die in a shoot out. It's unknown what crime the man is accused of and or why the mob has formed.

Thought experiments are deliberately left with lots of unknowns. Only the relevant parts are known.

I went on to provide a possible outcome purely because some people were rejecting the idea that the prisoner be handed over without allowing for some of the possible consequences. That is all.

It may well have ended up the way you suggested.

I'm not a utilitarian, partly because the consequences of an action are unknown. Further to this, when do you stop allowing for the consequences? Actions that might have taken place in an unknown 1800s town could still be having consequences today... and tomorrow... making consequentialism a nonsense way of determining what is the right or wrong action to take.
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