The point of studying ethics
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21-07-2017, 01:27 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(20-07-2017 02:00 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  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.

Also, how people answer depends -- often heavily -- on how the question is asked.

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21-07-2017, 01:30 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 02:12 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  I looked into the dictionary, and I found something interesting:
[...]
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?
Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive.

They're just a snapshot of how most people happen to be using the word at the time the dictionary was written.

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21-07-2017, 01:37 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 05:13 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  I'm interested to know your opinion about this. How can talking about something absolutely indefinite be logically justified?
We are human beings, not Vulcans.

Quote: don't you think a person who doesn't utter indefinite propositions is more rational than a person who does that?
Nah. "Rational" basically just means "having the ability to reason." It says nothing about the mode, method, or quality of the reasoning.

It is possible to have a rational discussion -- in the sense of a semantically valid and internally consistent conversation -- about all manner of things, including the real, the imaginary, and even the absurd. Some people have, in fact, made careers of it.

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21-07-2017, 01:45 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 01:27 PM)Dr H Wrote:  
(20-07-2017 02:00 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  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.

Also, how people answer depends -- often heavily -- on how the question is asked.

Thanks. That occurred to me after I posted, but I was too lazy to go back and add that point.

He (nosferatu) seems to be focusing on the fact that the report of the result of the poll/survey is objective, but the poll/survey itself is as subjective as can be, so it doesn't establish any "truth" about people's preferences. Many people will not bother to respond at all, and those who do might answer with less than the full truth, for a variety of reasons (including the one you brought up).

As for nosferatu's definition of a "rational person", give me a break. A rational person tries to use reason (rather than "feels") in his/her thinking and decision-making processes, but nobody (not even Mr. Spock) is completely successful at that, and ethical issuess by their vary nature are not amenable to the kind of black/white thinking that he considers rational. That doesn't mean we can't discuss them.
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21-07-2017, 02:16 PM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2017 02:35 PM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
I'm not trying to say we shouldn't discuss ethics. That's what I'm doing right know, it would be absurd to discourage something that I myself am doing and in general I think I have no privilege to claim people should or shouldn't do something. I'm putting forward this proposition "A rational person doesn't talk about ethics". I gave a definition of a rational person.

I'm aware that humans are not rational in general and almost never absolutely rational. But I think rationality is usually preferable for people in this forum. So I think what I'm talking about is somehow relevant.

(21-07-2017 01:37 PM)Dr H Wrote:  We are human beings, not Vulcans.
That's an important point. I tried to make it clear that I'm talking about a rational person who happens to be absolutely rational. I'm sorry if I was not clear that I'm not trying to generalize my point to all human beings. I certainly have no privilege to claim that everyone should always prefer rationality.

(21-07-2017 01:37 PM)Dr H Wrote:  Nah. "Rational" basically just means "having the ability to reason." It says nothing about the mode, method, or quality of the reasoning.

It is possible to have a rational discussion -- in the sense of a semantically valid and internally consistent conversation -- about all manner of things, including the real, the imaginary, and even the absurd. Some people have, in fact, made careers of it.
My definition of rationality has a bit more than that. By rational person I mean someone who manages to maintain internal consistency and clarity in what he says AND what he says is based on factual evidences.

Quote:I agree, except about the "completely objective" part.
What is the difference between completely objective and objective? Is there something like a spectrum of objectivity? I think Thoreauvian also had some sort of "semi-objectivity" in mind when he was talking about his objective morality. I'm interested to know how you see it.
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22-07-2017, 10:43 PM (This post was last modified: 22-07-2017 10:47 PM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
I was thinking about this some more...

Either we try and protect people from being trampled by other people, or we let them trample. Which is better for maximizing people's preferences?

In the first way, people of all beliefs can feel safe. Safety generally leads to happiness. In the second way, people will be paranoid about ill treatment and bullying which could occur at any time. This will cause fear, reducing happiness. Bullying causes suffering of various kinds. At the extreme, bullying results in death.

So what is gained? The people who really want to bully others, for whatever reason, get that preference fulfilled. That's just one preference, whereas they could still get all the others while society preserves happiness throughout if they are stopped from doing this. That seems to me like a bad trade-off. And they're not even guaranteed to fulfill this preference. People might fight back successfully, or the person might get bullied themselves.

Another point about studying ethics in general is, I suppose, about looking ahead at (perhaps) unexpected results of today's practices. Maybe things that seem like a good idea in the short term will leave us in a bad position in the future, and it may be too late to do anything about it after a certain point.

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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23-07-2017, 05:00 AM (This post was last modified: 23-07-2017 05:12 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(22-07-2017 10:43 PM)Robvalue Wrote:  I was thinking about this some more...

Either we try and protect people from being trampled by other people, or we let them trample. Which is better for maximizing people's preferences?

In the first way, people of all beliefs can feel safe. Safety generally leads to happiness. In the second way, people will be paranoid about ill treatment and bullying which could occur at any time. This will cause fear, reducing happiness. Bullying causes suffering of various kinds. At the extreme, bullying results in death.

So what is gained? The people who really want to bully others, for whatever reason, get that preference fulfilled. That's just one preference, whereas they could still get all the others while society preserves happiness throughout if they are stopped from doing this. That seems to me like a bad trade-off. And they're not even guaranteed to fulfill this preference. People might fight back successfully, or the person might get bullied themselves.

Another point about studying ethics in general is, I suppose, about looking ahead at (perhaps) unexpected results of today's practices. Maybe things that seem like a good idea in the short term will leave us in a bad position in the future, and it may be too late to do anything about it after a certain point.

Quote:Either we try and protect people from being trampled by other people, or we let them trample. Which is better for maximizing people's preferences?
I think it depends on the context. For example, If 95% of a population have a very extreme belief and the other 5% don't have that belief, you should let the 95% to bully the 5%. Because overall your population will be more satisfied. This is a pretty stable system, since the 5% will always remain in minority and can be always bullied by the majority. In case somehow the minority got stronger, you can stop the other group to bully them, since it is no longer desirable and will result in chaos. But the this sort of balance is clearly not stable, one group will soon be in minority, you will wait until a group is in minority, and you will again let the majority to bully them.

In fact I think it is always the case, the minority are somehow bullied directly or indirectly by the majority. For example in a secular country, a very dedicated muslim might feel very insecure, because for example he has no control over his children and he feels that the society is "stealing" his children. No matter how much he tries, his son/daughter will have sex in high school, which he considers a very grave sin and he always feels he will be ashamed before his God in the day of judgement because of his children.
Note: premarital sexual relationship is forbidden in Abrahamic religions.

I think in general it's the case in all ecosystems. The minority are bullied by the majority, and it makes sense, because this is the way to "maximize the preferences" as you put it.

I have the idea that the moral systems and social structures have never truly changed, it just changes appearance. The essence is the same. Unless we come to accept that humans are still evolving, which doesn't seem to be the case. We are essentially the same human beings as those in 5000 years ago and the fact that we have more power to manipulate nature doesn't make us essentially different, other than making us more arrogant, hence the ever increasing destruction of nature.

Another example is war, which has only changed forms throughout the history (cold war, cyber war, etc.). But it's always the same thing.
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24-07-2017, 07:51 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(21-07-2017 02:16 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  My definition of rationality has a bit more than that. By rational person I mean someone who manages to maintain internal consistency and clarity in what he says AND what he says is based on factual evidences.
That's more than simply rational. That's being rational and having verifiable validity (ie., real world evidence).

But one can also have a rational discussion about, say, the necessary anatomy of unicorns, in the context of a fantasy novel about a world that has unicorns.

Quote:What is the difference between completely objective and objective? Is there something like a spectrum of objectivity? I think Thoreauvian also had some sort of "semi-objectivity" in mind when he was talking about his objective morality. I'm interested to know how you see it.
I was quoting from your post when I used that phrase.

In truth, "completely objective" is redundant.
It's a phrase akin to "full extent" or "absolutely certain".

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25-07-2017, 04:43 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(24-07-2017 07:51 PM)Dr H Wrote:  
(21-07-2017 02:16 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  My definition of rationality has a bit more than that. By rational person I mean someone who manages to maintain internal consistency and clarity in what he says AND what he says is based on factual evidences.
That's more than simply rational. That's being rational and having verifiable validity (ie., real world evidence).

But one can also have a rational discussion about, say, the necessary anatomy of unicorns, in the context of a fantasy novel about a world that has unicorns.

Quote:What is the difference between completely objective and objective? Is there something like a spectrum of objectivity? I think Thoreauvian also had some sort of "semi-objectivity" in mind when he was talking about his objective morality. I'm interested to know how you see it.
I was quoting from your post when I used that phrase.

In truth, "completely objective" is redundant.
It's a phrase akin to "full extent" or "absolutely certain".

Quote:But one can also have a rational discussion about, say, the necessary anatomy of unicorns, in the context of a fantasy novel about a world that has unicorns.
Fine, I'm saying talking about morality is like talking about unicorns and you are saying we can still have a rational talk about unicorns. I think your point it correct, I will state my propositions as: "an objective and rational person does not talk about ethics". I think it's more accurate, thanks for your notice.

But I think we can claim that "a rational (merely rational) person does not make moral judgements"
That's because moral judgements are inherently inconsistent which goes against rationality. They presuppose subjectivity and objectivity at the same time.
When we say "X is wrong in a specific context" we are clearly implying that there is something "objectively undesirable about X", but a rational person is aware that "there is nothing objectively undesirable about anything", therefore he never makes moral judgements. What do you think about this latter claim?
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25-07-2017, 04:10 PM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(25-07-2017 04:43 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  Fine, I'm saying talking about morality is like talking about unicorns and you are saying we can still have a rational talk about unicorns. I think your point it correct, I will state my propositions as: "an objective and rational person does not talk about ethics". I think it's more accurate, thanks for your notice.
Thank you for clarifying; I still disagree with the proposition.

A lot of people in pretty much every human society are quite concerned with ethics and various points of ethics. Even if one classifies all of them as "irrational", that doesn't preclude someone else, studying the society from within or without, from having a rational discussion about the "irrational" beliefs of the society (ie. ethics), in an effort to better understand the society's functioning.

Indeed, I don't see this as different in essence from a hard atheist (like myself) studying comparative religion (which I do), in an effort to understand the motivations and actions of the religious believers who surround me in the culture in which I happen to be embedded. Studying religion doesn't make me a "theist", any more than studying ethics makes someone "irrational".

Quote:But I think we can claim that "a rational (merely rational) person does not make moral judgements"
That's because moral judgements are inherently inconsistent which goes against rationality. They presuppose subjectivity and objectivity at the same time.
Moral judgments are inherently subjective; that does not neatly set them up as "against rationality".

The idea of rationality itself is a human concept, and therefore a subjective construct in itself.


Quote:When we say "X is wrong in a specific context" we are clearly implying that there is something "objectively undesirable about X",
We are? I don't think so. If it's in a specific context, then the only implication is there is something undesirable about X in that context. That is not an objective claim. It leaves open the possibility that the undesirability might not be a property of X, but a property of the context.

Quote:but a rational person is aware that "there is nothing objectively undesirable about anything", therefore he never makes moral judgements. What do you think about this latter claim?
I have a little trouble with the phrase "objectively undesirable". "Undesirable," stems from the root "desire", and desire is about as subjective as you can get. In effect, the phrase says that something is 'objectively subjectively not wanted', and I'm not quite sure what that would mean.

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