The point of studying ethics
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20-07-2017, 01:49 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(20-07-2017 01:41 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  
(20-07-2017 01:18 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  ... I think it's absolutely useful to scientifically investigate common preferences in a society. The results would be completely objective and would be very useful concerning law making for example.

You're joking, right? There's nothing scientific or objective about preferences. They are slippery things that can and do change (I might prefer something different tomorrow than I do today), and people can and do lie about them. Polling people about their preferences might tell you something, but there's no way it can ever be "completely objective".
"85 percent of US population prefer X over Y when they are asked about it in a study conducted in 2017/1/1"

It's a completely objective proposition and it can be a basis for law making in the year 2017. You are talking about absolute propositions. Scientific propositions also change. It seems there are no absolute propositions.
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20-07-2017, 02:00 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(20-07-2017 01:49 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  
(20-07-2017 01:41 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  You're joking, right? There's nothing scientific or objective about preferences. They are slippery things that can and do change (I might prefer something different tomorrow than I do today), and people can and do lie about them. Polling people about their preferences might tell you something, but there's no way it can ever be "completely objective".
"85 percent of US population prefer X over Y when they are asked about it in a study conducted in 2017/1/1"

It's a completely objective proposition and it can be a basis for law making in the year 2017. You are talking about absolute propositions. Scientific propositions also change. It seems there are no absolute propositions.

No, it might be useful, but it can't be "completely objective" because the expressed preferences are extremely subjective. Do you even know what the words "objective" and "subjective" mean?

Also, the bare fact that I "prefer X over Y" ignores the strength of that preference. If 85% of the people just barely prefer X, but the other 15% strongly prefer Y, then things aren't so clear. Also, on some questions (for example, the morality of abortion), I couldn't even give a yes or no answer. It's a complex issue, as are most moral issues. It's usually not possible to boil them down to a black and white choice between X and Y.
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20-07-2017, 06:46 PM (This post was last modified: 20-07-2017 07:18 PM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(20-07-2017 02:00 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  
(20-07-2017 01:49 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  "85 percent of US population prefer X over Y when they are asked about it in a study conducted in 2017/1/1"

It's a completely objective proposition and it can be a basis for law making in the year 2017. You are talking about absolute propositions. Scientific propositions also change. It seems there are no absolute propositions.

No, it might be useful, but it can't be "completely objective" because the expressed preferences are extremely subjective. Do you even know what the words "objective" and "subjective" mean?

Also, the bare fact that I "prefer X over Y" ignores the strength of that preference. If 85% of the people just barely prefer X, but the other 15% strongly prefer Y, then things aren't so clear. Also, on some questions (for example, the morality of abortion), I couldn't even give a yes or no answer. It's a complex issue, as are most moral issues. It's usually not possible to boil them down to a black and white choice between X and Y.

Quote:Do you even know what the words "objective" and "subjective" mean?
I think I know. But it's important how you frame a proposition to see wether it is subjective or objective. "Lying is bad" is clearly a subjective proposition, but if we say that "X answers yes to the question: is lying bad?" this is clearly an objective proposition. Here it is not clear what "bad" means, it's entirely subjective, but that piece of information is describing a simple reality, hence it is objective.

I think you are misunderstanding what I'm trying to say. I personally think any idea of morality is incoherent and nonsensical, since good/bad/right/wrong lie in the realm of fantasy. I didn't say that we can have some morality based on social sciences.

The proposition I mentioned is a very clear proposition about the objective reality. It is simply describing the result of an actual study. It means it's objective. Drop the "completely" objective if you wish to. The subjective part would be when someone tries to infer some moral truths from it. I think it is not possible and every attempt to derive some sort of morality from this data, or any sort of data would be a failure.

Scientific propositions describe some aspect of objective reality. Here, we are describing how people of America responded to a question in the year 2017, which is clearly an aspect of reality. We don't interpret it, we just state it. Interpretations are subjective, but the mere statement, which is just a raw data is objective.
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21-07-2017, 02:12 AM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 02:42 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
I looked into the dictionary, and I found something interesting:

ethics |ˈeTHiks|
pl.noun
[usually treated as plural] moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity

morality |məˈralədē|
noun (plural moralities)
principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

right |rīt|
adjective
morally good, justified, or acceptable

Circular definitions. I'm wondering isn't the mere fact that a definition of a word is logically flawed, enough for a rational person to stop using the word?

A more interesting question would be, what happens if we remove these nonsensical words from the humans terminology. Let's assume tomorrow we will wake up and there is no such thing as good/bad/right/wrong how will it affect individuals and societies as a whole?

I personally think all conflicts are as a result of some delusion, and getting over the delusion of morality (which is still persisting, even after religion is getting weaker day by day) will be a big step forward to less conflict.
A believes X is right
B believes X is wrong
=> A and B are in conflict.
Once the whole notion of morality is removed, the conflicts will also resolve. Since the conflict is over a delusion, it will never be resolved until the delusion is removed.

A and B are in conflict because A think his God is better, B think his God is better. This will resolve only when the delusion is removed. I think it's the same with ethics.
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21-07-2017, 04:54 AM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 05:04 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
They are circular if you don't go on to define what you mean, and on what scale you mean. At face value, they do look circular, yes. So it requires additional definitions which relate to reality somehow. Even if the dictionary doesn't state this, it's well known and agreed. Things could be clearer, I agree.

Each person can define "good" and "bad" however they want. So it's subjective, as we've already agreed. Subjective does mean useless, at least to most people. As I've already said, if you find discussion of subjective subjects useless, you may as well abandon such discussions. That doesn't mean everyone has to do the same. It doesn't make them delusions, because most people own their moral judgements. You could argue that someone who thinks morality is inherent to reality is deluded.

They are essentially shorthand. Instead of saying, "the judgement of how good or bad an action is" each time, I can say "morality".

If we discarded this language, we'd most likely come up with new language for the same thing. Everyone does have their own morality, whether you talk about it or not (or they have a complete lack of morality, usually accompanying a lack of empathy). You seem to require that everyone agrees on what is good and bad, or else it's useless. This is a false dichotomy, and your own issue. You've made this point several times now so I won't respond to it again if you repeat it.

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
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21-07-2017, 05:13 AM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 05:26 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 04:54 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  They are circular if you don't go on to define what you mean, and on what scale you mean. At face value, they do look circular, yes. So it requires additional definitions which relate to reality somehow. Even if the dictionary doesn't state this, it's well known and agreed. Things could be clearer, I agree.

Each person can define "good" and "bad" however they want. So it's subjective, as we've already agreed. Subjective does mean useless, at least to most people. As I've already said, if you find discussion of subjective subjects useless, you may as well abandon such discussions. That doesn't mean everyone has to do the same. It doesn't make them delusions, because most people own their moral judgements. You could argue that someone who thinks morality is inherent to reality is deluded.

They are essentially shorthand. Instead of saying, "the judgement of how good or bad an action is" each time, I can say "morality".

If we discarded this language, we'd most likely come up with new language for the same thing. Everyone does have their own morality, whether you talk about it or not (or they have a complete lack of morality, usually accompanying a lack of empathy).

No, I'm not suggesting people shouldn't talk about it. It would be irrational to make such claims, since there is no way to justify that people should do something or shouldn't do something. I'm suggesting a rational person shouldn't talk about it. Since a rational person has justification for everything he/she does and says.

I'm interested to know your opinion about this. How can talking about something absolutely indefinite be logically justified?, don't you think a person who doesn't utter indefinite propositions is more rational than a person who does that? an example can be helpful to show how you think it's rational to talk about ethics. If that's your position. I don't really think "personal definitions" can help. it will defeat the purpose of definition, which is ought to be not personal, so things can be talked about clearly.

Quote:If we discarded this language, we'd most likely come up with new language for the same thing.
That's a possibility. But my idea is that since morality is inherently delusional (it does not correspond to anything in the objective reality), it is transient. It cannot survive in the long run, like all other delusional concepts that are disappearing as we move forward in time.
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21-07-2017, 05:37 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
This is what I'm trying to convey:
Quote:What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.
Ludwig Wittgenstein
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21-07-2017, 08:10 AM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 08:21 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
Let's get some logic and analysis up in here to deal with this "preferences" business.

Imagine we could conduct a survey of every human alive today. We ask them questions like these:

1) Would you prefer to feel happy?
2) Would you prefer to minimise your own suffering?
3) Would you prefer to have freedom?
4) Would you prefer to be able to continue to live?

I would predict that 95%+ of people would answer "yes" to most or all of these (and similar) questions. That has been on all my experience throughout my life. If anyone wants to question that, be my guest.

So assuming this is the case, we now have three main options:

1) Try and maximise peoples' preferences so that people get as much of what they want as possible
2) Not care and just see what happens
3) Try and minimise people's prefences

So although these are all originally prefences, we can now objectively try and work on factual data. Which of these options should we pick?

Seeing as we're only sure about having this one life, and life itself along with its preferences appears to be all that really matters, it seems logical to try and maximise this potential. Of course, if you truly couldn't care less about anyone or anything, then I'm not going to be able to convince you to care. But unless you actively want to see people not have their preferences fulfilled, then you may as well go along with option 1, right? What does it matter to you?

Even if you don't care about anyone else, do you care about yourself? Did you answer "yes" to most of the initial questions? If you did, then it makes sense that you'd also want to pick option 1. You never know when you will be in a vulnerable position, and society will be the one that decides whether you get back on track or fall down. If you don't care, then you shouldn't be bothered by such a decision.

Coming back to this strange point about religion, and future lives and such, a society in which preferences are being maximised protects your freedoms too. You can do whatever religious stuff you want. The only restriction is that you can't force it onto other people. And again, if you care about your own happiness, then you shouldn't want a society where people can trample over yours because your beliefs are unpopular. So if your God or whatever demands that you victimise other people well... if you want your way, you have to give others their way too. One day you could be in the minority and you'll be being victimised. Your God is a prick too and it would be very selfish of you to screw over other people just to get what you want. And of course, there's no guarantee you're even going to get it. No guarantee anyone is. Or even any scientific reason to think so, at all. (For someone who demands objectivity at all points, just inserting speculation about future lives doesn't seem to fit.)

So in conclusion, most people can get what they want out of life by cooperating and building a society where everyone looks out for each other and people aren't bullied for being different. This would be a secular, humanist style society. This would give the greatest number of people the chance to fulfil their preferences, as far as I'm concerned. And if that isn't a goal worth pursueing, then I don't know what is.

(For the few people who would actually stand against this... can't please everyone. Best we can do is please most people.)

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21-07-2017, 12:18 PM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 01:36 PM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 08:10 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  Let's get some logic and analysis up in here to deal with this "preferences" business.

Imagine we could conduct a survey of every human alive today. We ask them questions like these:

1) Would you prefer to feel happy?
2) Would you prefer to minimise your own suffering?
3) Would you prefer to have freedom?
4) Would you prefer to be able to continue to live?

I would predict that 95%+ of people would answer "yes" to most or all of these (and similar) questions. That has been on all my experience throughout my life. If anyone wants to question that, be my guest.

So assuming this is the case, we now have three main options:

1) Try and maximise peoples' preferences so that people get as much of what they want as possible
2) Not care and just see what happens
3) Try and minimise people's prefences

So although these are all originally prefences, we can now objectively try and work on factual data. Which of these options should we pick?

Seeing as we're only sure about having this one life, and life itself along with its preferences appears to be all that really matters, it seems logical to try and maximise this potential. Of course, if you truly couldn't care less about anyone or anything, then I'm not going to be able to convince you to care. But unless you actively want to see people not have their preferences fulfilled, then you may as well go along with option 1, right? What does it matter to you?

Even if you don't care about anyone else, do you care about yourself? Did you answer "yes" to most of the initial questions? If you did, then it makes sense that you'd also want to pick option 1. You never know when you will be in a vulnerable position, and society will be the one that decides whether you get back on track or fall down. If you don't care, then you shouldn't be bothered by such a decision.

Coming back to this strange point about religion, and future lives and such, a society in which preferences are being maximised protects your freedoms too. You can do whatever religious stuff you want. The only restriction is that you can't force it onto other people. And again, if you care about your own happiness, then you shouldn't want a society where people can trample over yours because your beliefs are unpopular. So if your God or whatever demands that you victimise other people well... if you want your way, you have to give others their way too. One day you could be in the minority and you'll be being victimised. Your God is a prick too and it would be very selfish of you to screw over other people just to get what you want. And of course, there's no guarantee you're even going to get it. No guarantee anyone is. Or even any scientific reason to think so, at all. (For someone who demands objectivity at all points, just inserting speculation about future lives doesn't seem to fit.)

So in conclusion, most people can get what they want out of life by cooperating and building a society where everyone looks out for each other and people aren't bullied for being different. This would be a secular, humanist style society. This would give the greatest number of people the chance to fulfil their preferences, as far as I'm concerned. And if that isn't a goal worth pursueing, then I don't know what is.

(For the few people who would actually stand against this... can't please everyone. Best we can do is please most people.)

Since my point is this: "A rational person does not talk about ethics", I will respond from the perspective of a rational person to clarify my point. A rational person is someone who can justify everything he does or says with definite propositions.

Quote:1) Would you prefer to feel happy?
2) Would you prefer to minimise your own suffering?
3) Would you prefer to have freedom?

happiness/suffering/freedom are not less ambiguous than morality itself. They are equally in the subjective realm. Two persons can feel happiness and suffering in the same situations due to their different subjective experiences. A person can feel free in a prison cell, a king can feel being in bondage.

I think a rational person does not have any answer to these questions. Everything that he says will be an indefinite proposition, and therefore undesirable for the rational person, so he wouldn't answer.

I think a rational person does not use these words, he/she has realized they are all delusions (not corresponding to anything in the objective reality).

Quote:4) Would you prefer to be able to continue to live?
Unlike the first three questions, this one can mean something for a rational person. He would answer: Yes. If you ask him why? he would answer: "There are enough evidences that show survival is the natural tendency of all organisms"

Quote:1) Try and maximise peoples' preferences so that people get as much of what they want as possible
2) Not care and just see what happens
3) Try and minimise people's prefences
Which of these options should we pick?
Let us be clear, by preferences you mean preferences about four subjects:
- Happiness
- Suffering
- Freedom
- Survival

A rational person is aware that there is no way to attain true knowledge about the first three preferences. Because when someone says "I want to be happy" it is not clear what they mean. They can refer to very different things. An artist see his happiness in a very different way compared to a politician. It's the same with suffering and freedom.

Therefore the rational person does not have any position regarding the others preferences about the first three subjects. Because those preferences are not anything meaningful for him.

However survival is something definite for him. A rational person is also not selfish. Because the notion of self is itself ambiguous, people identify their selves with different things, a body, a soul, mind, brain, etc. therefore the rational person has also realized that self resides in the subjective realm also, and it is equally subjective as other notions that he has already rejected.

Therefore in the eye of the rational person all are equal. So he would try to maximize the chance of survival for everyone, he doesn't give any priority in that regard. In his eyes his chance of survival is equally important as anyone else. If he has to choose between two lives, he would act spontaneously without any justification. Some might think it will be a violation of his rationality, but he can justify why it is impossible to have justifications in these situations.

So he would pick number 1, but he dismisses the first three preferences and accepts only the preference to survive.

A rational person will try to maximize the chance of survival for all. Without any notion of morality/good/bad/right/wrong/happiness/suffering/freedom/etc.

The rational person doesn't have any position about secular/non-secular issue also. Because these notions are relevant to religion and religion is something indefinite. There might be some religions in the future or in the past that can somehow help survival. He doesn't know any way to justify if it is the case or not in general and about all possible religions. So he wouldn't answer this question also. But he is interested to listen to justifications about specific religions and why they might help or disturb survival.

ETA: I think I was not accurate regarding survival. I assumed "the survival of the species" to be correct, so the rational person becomes completely selfless. As opposed to "the survival of the fittest" which results selfishness. A rational person can be completely selfless or completely selfish according to which form of survival is supported by stronger evidences. I personally don't know which one is more popular in the scientific community right now. In case the rational person decides to be selfish, his self would be merely his body, not the conscious thoughts which create the experience of the individual self in the mind.
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21-07-2017, 01:24 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(20-07-2017 01:18 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  I think you are right. I was asking about opinions. What's your opinion? How can talking about something indefinite make sense?
Sure. People talk about the weather all the time, for example. Smile

Quote:I think it is not the case. Ethics is a philosophical investigation into what is right and what is wrong.
That is what the study of ethics is.

And notions of "right" and "wrong" spring from moral ideas, ultimately. "Ethics" is throwing those moral ideas out in the world, and seeing what other people think about them. And hence the "investigation into what is right and what is wrong".

Quote:It's about playing infinite language games about something that is inherently indefinite. What you describe here would be part of social sciences and I think it's absolutely useful to scientifically investigate common preferences in a society. The results would be completely objective and would be very useful concerning law making for example.
I agree, except about the "completely objective" part.
Very little in the social sciences is completely objective.

Also, I am very wary of dismissing any kind of discussion as "language games". It like the comment one sometimes hears in an argument where someone will dismissively say "that's just semantics", as if that somehow invalidates the argument.
Language -- and semantics -- are fundamental; they're the basis of how we communicate, and communication is the basis of how we socialize. Even if the topic of a particular discussion is indefinite, how we talk about it can give us valuable insights into how our own minds work, and how our society functions -- or disfunctions, as the case may be.

--
Dr H

"So, I became an anarchist, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
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