The point of studying ethics
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27-07-2017, 03:10 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2017 07:47 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(26-07-2017 11:37 PM)Robvalue Wrote:  
(26-07-2017 04:08 PM)whateverist Wrote:  (Again, to guard against having it snipped..) you make me wonder why you say say this:


I think it is actually telling, since whatever else we may be we are certainly not entirely rational. Our actual lived experience would make very little sense if that were so .. your own being a case in point. Obviously moral concerns (not of the abstract academic variety you seem to prefer) are a universal aspect of our humanity (apart from the rare pathological exception).

Rationality is a mode we can access for periods of time and it's been useful. But the needs we serve when in that mode are not decided there. There are some brute facts about who we are and what we seek which are more basic and absolutely essential. Truly without those, there would be no objective which rationality could serve.

Nosferatu, I have admired the energy and efforts you have made in this discussion. I just wonder if you're operating on a different conception of what we are and the place of rationality. Don't get me wrong, I'm neither anti-rational nor pro irrational. It is only a matter of correctly appraising our own nature. Perhaps you have a VulcanXhuman-ity in mind in this discussion?

I'm wondering how he manages to interact with humans without making any moral judgements.

You don't even have to directly interact. Every time you put a piece of rubbish in a bin instead of throwing it on the floor in public, you're making a moral judgement. Even deciding not to get involved in a situation is a moral judgement.

Like you say, he's either just using completely different language to describe the same thing; or else he truly doesn't understand how/why people can care about anyone but themselves. Maybe he has no empathy. That's not an insult, some people just don't, for one reason or another. And for them, morality just reduces to pragmatism. So for him, morality may not apply.

But the fact remains that most of us do care, it's demonstrable. We've evolved that way. And it is a rational way to behave, because treating others well has an impact on them treating you well in return. So it is pragmatic, even if we're driven by instincts that make us feel good simply for doing a moral act. If you act like a selfish prick, there will be negative consequences for you. And unless you don't even care about yourself, that matters.

Of course we're not entirely logical, we have emotions. Someone can call emotions "irrational" if they want, but it's rather pointless. Emotions ultimately drive us. Without them, they'd be no point in ever doing anything. Mere rationality cannot tell us what to do. We must develop goals, and our emotions guide us.

I think you are misunderstanding my point. The reason might be that you are imposing some negativity to the word "irrational". There is nothing wrong with irrationality and I think I never implied irrationality is undesirable.

Quote:Someone can call emotions "irrational" if they want,
It's not a matter of "calling something irrational". Rationality is pretty clear, whatever that does not conform to rationality is irrational. However, I'm not implying there is anything wrong with irrationality. Someone can act based on intuition, emotion, revelation, etc. all are fine. But it doesn't change the fact that they are irrational.

Quote:You don't even have to directly interact. Every time you put a piece of rubbish in a bin instead of throwing it on the floor in public, you're making a moral judgement.
I think you don't have to make morel judgements. A rational agent must be consistent. Therefore he most be fully committed to social norms that he has implicitly accepted by living in a society. So he never throws a piece of rubbish on the floor, because that would be inconsistent and therefore irrational. He cares about his consistent behavior, that's enough for him to be committed to all sorts of "accepted behavior". He doesn't need any moral judgements.

Quote:Like you say, he's either just using completely different language to describe the same thing; or else he truly doesn't understand how/why people can care about anyone but themselves
I actually think absolute rationality makes sense for everyone. As I explained before, a rational agent is driven by a single reason that has been given to us naturally, survival. The only things that is scientifically justified to exist within all living organisms.

The rational agent cares about survival of all. He is not concerned about himself as long as he is in good health, which means he is mentally very strong and can endure hardship. He would be in all sorts of different campaigns to save the lives of others as much as he can for example. Yes, he doesn't care about "freedom of speech" for example, but I think the rational agent will be perceived by others as a very good and compassionate human being, because he is investing all he has in saving the lives of all. Many people are dying every day and I think it IS irrational (not bad or wrong, just irrational) that most of us do almost nothing or very little about it. Instead we are concerned about all sorts of things that we are not sure what they even mean, like "our happiness". Again, I emphasis I'm not implying there is anything wrong with it. That's the way most people are and that's it.
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27-07-2017, 03:53 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 03:10 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  I think you are misunderstanding my point. The reason might be that you are imposing some negativity to the word "irrational".

Actual definition of word irrational does not show it as something positive.

Quote:There is nothing wrong with irrationality

So there was nothing wrong with arresting people and sending them to GULags on trumped charges? Cause that's how irrationality looks.

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27-07-2017, 04:08 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(26-07-2017 10:46 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  ...
In fact I'm trying to see whether morality is within the boundary of rationality or not, I'm trying to use reason to find the limits of reason concerning morality.
...

This depends upon the scope of 'morality'.
Is it a meta-category for a number of processes?
Is it one process?
Is it a subset of one process?

If it's the perception of wrong-doing (unfairness, injustice, disgust etc.) i.e. event detection / event correlation against the 'belief'-baseline alone, then reason is not involved.

If the scope includes the (fight, flight, freeze) response which is purely instinctive i.e. animalistic (utilising the hippocampus circuitry) then reason is not involved.

But if it also includes the rationale (cognition) for the action or inaction, then obviously reason is also within scope.

'Reason' is the 'justification' process / circuitry evolved to persuade / encourage a course of action / inaction. First to persuade oneself and later to persuade others (hence the development of language).

(26-07-2017 11:37 PM)Robvalue Wrote:  ...
Every time you put a piece of rubbish in a bin instead of throwing it on the floor in public, you're making a moral judgement.
...

I disagree. This may illicit a 'disgust' alert but it's not in the same category (of the same significance) as something like abuse.

But of course, this also depends upon how one defines the scope of morality.

Consider

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27-07-2017, 06:12 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 04:08 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(26-07-2017 10:46 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  ...
In fact I'm trying to see whether morality is within the boundary of rationality or not, I'm trying to use reason to find the limits of reason concerning morality.
...

This depends upon the scope of 'morality'.
Is it a meta-category for a number of processes?
Is it one process?
Is it a subset of one process?

If it's the perception of wrong-doing (unfairness, injustice, disgust etc.) i.e. event detection / event correlation against the 'belief'-baseline alone, then reason is not involved.

If the scope includes the (fight, flight, freeze) response which is purely instinctive i.e. animalistic (utilising the hippocampus circuitry) then reason is not involved.

But if it also includes the rationale (cognition) for the action or inaction, then obviously reason is also within scope.

'Reason' is the 'justification' process / circuitry evolved to persuade / encourage a course of action / inaction. First to persuade oneself and later to persuade others (hence the development of language).

(26-07-2017 11:37 PM)Robvalue Wrote:  ...
Every time you put a piece of rubbish in a bin instead of throwing it on the floor in public, you're making a moral judgement.
...

I disagree. This may illicit a 'disgust' alert but it's not in the same category (of the same significance) as something like abuse.

But of course, this also depends upon how one defines the scope of morality.

Consider

I'd call it a moral judgement because I'm considering how my actions affect others, even if it's in a small way.

Also much of our rubbish is a hazard to wildlife, so I'm considering that too. If I was being selfish, I'd just throw my rubbish anywhere.

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27-07-2017, 06:18 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 06:12 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  ...
I'd call it a moral judgement because I'm considering how my actions affect others, even if it's in a small way.

Also much of our rubbish is a hazard to wildlife, so I'm considering that too. If I was being selfish, I'd just throw my rubbish anywhere.

So by this metric, a 'preference' won't be classified as 'moral' if there is no impact on anyone except oneself.

Do you perceive a threshold (do you make a distinction) between a social faux pas and a breach of an ethical code and a breach of a moral code and if so, what is it?

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27-07-2017, 06:44 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2017 06:49 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 06:18 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(27-07-2017 06:12 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  ...
I'd call it a moral judgement because I'm considering how my actions affect others, even if it's in a small way.

Also much of our rubbish is a hazard to wildlife, so I'm considering that too. If I was being selfish, I'd just throw my rubbish anywhere.

So by this metric, a 'preference' won't be classified as 'moral' if there is no impact on anyone except oneself.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

However, it may not have an immediate impact, but may affect future situations. For example, it would be moral to educate yourself about something so that you are better placed to make good decisions which will affect others.

Quote:Do you perceive a threshold (do you make a distinction) between a social faux pas and a breach of an ethical code and a breach of a moral code and if so, what is it?

Hmm, well if I commit a faux pas merely with the intention of upsetting people, then I'd call that immoral. But morality is certainly not binary, and it would be like -0.000001 on the morality scale between -1 and 1. It could be worse if I'm aware my actions will cause very specific upset which could then lead to further undesirable consequences.

If however I have no idea I'm even comitting a faux pas, then it's not a moral consideration. Or I may have balancing factors, for which I consider any minor upset feelings a worthwhile balance.

And of course, whatever rating I gave my own action would be my own opinion and anyone could give their rating of it too. But I think it's very important to take into account the intentions and knowledge of the person. Merely focusing on outcomes misses the whole point of morality.

You wouldn't normally bother calling a faux pas for deliberate upset immoral because it's so minor, but it's the same principle.

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27-07-2017, 07:55 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2017 08:22 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 04:08 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(26-07-2017 10:46 PM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  ...
In fact I'm trying to see whether morality is within the boundary of rationality or not, I'm trying to use reason to find the limits of reason concerning morality.
...

This depends upon the scope of 'morality'.
Is it a meta-category for a number of processes?
Is it one process?
Is it a subset of one process?

If it's the perception of wrong-doing (unfairness, injustice, disgust etc.) i.e. event detection / event correlation against the 'belief'-baseline alone, then reason is not involved.

If the scope includes the (fight, flight, freeze) response which is purely instinctive i.e. animalistic (utilising the hippocampus circuitry) then reason is not involved.

But if it also includes the rationale (cognition) for the action or inaction, then obviously reason is also within scope.

'Reason' is the 'justification' process / circuitry evolved to persuade / encourage a course of action / inaction. First to persuade oneself and later to persuade others (hence the development of language).

(26-07-2017 11:37 PM)Robvalue Wrote:  ...
Every time you put a piece of rubbish in a bin instead of throwing it on the floor in public, you're making a moral judgement.
...

I disagree. This may illicit a 'disgust' alert but it's not in the same category (of the same significance) as something like abuse.

But of course, this also depends upon how one defines the scope of morality.

Consider

Quote:But if it also includes the rationale (cognition) for the action or inaction, then obviously reason is also within scope.
I think this point was brought up previously by Dr H, we can have a rational talk about unicorns also, The latest version of the claim about morality was about "A rational and objective agent" so the objectivity of the person is involved too. Someone who is not concerned about supporting his claims by evidences can claim all sort of moral judgements, because they are ultimately subjective, as long as he can maintain internal consistency in what he says, he would be rational. "I think you are wrong because that's my definition of wrong" this is actually rational, but not objective.

So, morality can be within the reach of reason, but if objectivity is also a condition, it would be out of reach, I think.
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27-07-2017, 08:08 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2017 08:23 AM by nosferatu323.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 03:53 AM)Szuchow Wrote:  
(27-07-2017 03:10 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  I think you are misunderstanding my point. The reason might be that you are imposing some negativity to the word "irrational".

Actual definition of word irrational does not show it as something positive.

Quote:There is nothing wrong with irrationality

So there was nothing wrong with arresting people and sending them to GULags on trumped charges? Cause that's how irrationality looks.
Quote:Actual definition of word irrational does not show it as something positive.
Words can mean different things, but I think the way it was used in this discussion is neither positive nor negative. It simply means not logical. Acting merely based on emotion, inspiration, intuition is certainly not logical, but there is nothing negative about these things in general, I think.

Quote:So there was nothing wrong with arresting people and sending them to GULags on trumped charges? Cause that's how irrationality looks.
I think by a specific example about a situation where irrationality is undesirable you cannot infer that irrationality is undesirable in general. Morality is context-dependent. As I said every time someone acts based on merely empathy, for example, he is being irrational. But that's not necessarily wrong.
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27-07-2017, 08:37 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 08:08 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  Words can mean different things, but the way I used it is neither positive nor negative. It simply means not logical.

It's you take on word irrational that simply means not logical, others aren't bound to agree with your word usage.

Quote:Acting merely based on emotion, inspiration, intuition is certainly not logical, but there is nothing negative about these things in general, I think.

Acting incoherently hardly can be called positive.

Quote:I think by a specific example about a situation where irrationality is undesirable you cannot infer that irrationality is undesirable in general.

I think that you don't see that I shown your words to be false there is nothing wrong with irrationality is untrue statement. Or are you willing to claim that sending people to GULags on trumped charges isn't wrong? Even if wrong in this case would mean sub-optimal use of resources.

Were you to write irrationality isn't always damaging/bad then I could agree but if nothing is wrong with irrationality then nothing is wrong with irrational things like GULags.

Quote:Morality is context-dependent. As I said every time someone acts based on merely empathy, for example, he is being irrational. But that's not necessarily wrong.

Morality may be context-dependent but one can't defend Soviet practices without looking like a fool given that GULags were economically unsustainable and imprisoning not guilty people isn't how you nurture trust in government.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

Mikhail Bakunin.
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27-07-2017, 08:57 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(27-07-2017 06:44 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  
(27-07-2017 06:18 AM)DLJ Wrote:  So by this metric, a 'preference' won't be classified as 'moral' if there is no impact on anyone except oneself.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

However, it may not have an immediate impact, but may affect future situations. For example, it would be moral to educate yourself about something so that you are better placed to make good decisions which will affect others.
...

Leaving aside the implicit value judgement of what is "good", "good decisions" rely upon access to data/information and also a analytical capability i.e. "thinking tools" - to me, the latter is 'intelligence'.

On that basis, gaining education relates to improving capability/maturity of processes that enable wisdom rather than being an attribute of morality. Otherwise being stupid (unintelligent) would be immoral.

(27-07-2017 06:44 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  
(27-07-2017 06:18 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Do you perceive a threshold (do you make a distinction) between a social faux pas and a breach of an ethical code and a breach of a moral code and if so, what is it?

Hmm, well if I commit a faux pas merely with the intention of upsetting people, then I'd call that immoral. But morality is certainly not binary, and it would be like -0.000001 on the morality scale between -1 and 1. It could be worse if I'm aware my actions will cause very specific upset which could then lead to further undesirable consequences.

If however I have no idea I'm even committing a faux pas, then it's not a moral consideration. Or I may have balancing factors, for which I consider any minor upset feelings a worthwhile balance.

And of course, whatever rating I gave my own action would be my own opinion and anyone could give their rating of it too. But I think it's very important to take into account the intentions and knowledge of the person. Merely focusing on outcomes misses the whole point of morality.

You wouldn't normally bother calling a faux pas for deliberate upset immoral because it's so minor, but it's the same principle.

OK, so it appears we have a continuum and also a context-dependency ... which means we can answer the question of "is every breach of a threshold a morality-event?" with a confident "No".

What then classifies an emotion-triggering event as moral as opposed to simply a social mistake or irritation or merely a preference?

And also, how important or serious or intense does it have to be to invoke an action as opposed to just generating mild disapproval (e.g. anguish or pain that we put up with (up with which we put) vs. a trigger event)?

Take this example:
Preference question - Do you like being rich?
Social question - Can a society with a large gap between rich and poor function successfully?
Moral question - Is it OK to let the poor starve?

Or as statements;
Preference statement - I like being rich.
Social statement - Income inequality is the engine of the Murikan Dream.
Moral statement - It is OK to let the poor starve.

It intrigues me that the latter statement will stimulate an emotion (perhaps anger) in one context but in another context will be the start of a healthy discussion ...
- A new person joins TTA and posts "It is OK to let the poor starve." in the politics or Atheism/Theism section and will be decried and neg-repped.
- But you or I could write the same thing in the Philosophy section and there would be a good discussion on the ethics of Ayn Randian self-interest or the pros and cons of a 'Darwinian' society. And no one gets neg-repped.

(27-07-2017 07:55 AM)nosferatu323 Wrote:  ...
This point was brought up previously by Dr H, we can have a rational talk about unicorns also, The final version of the claim about morality was about "A rational and objective agent" so the objectivity of the person is involved too. Someone who is not concerned about supporting his claims by evidences can claim all sort of moral judgements, because they are ultimately subjective, as long as he can maintain internal consistency in what he says, he would be rational. "I think you are wrong because that's my definition of wrong" this is actually rational, but not objective.

So, morality can be within the reach of reason, but if objectivity is also a condition, it would be out of reach.

You'd have to give me your idea of the scope of the morality-process before I can comment on the relevance of 'objectivity' but it strikes me as trivially true that "objective agent" (and "objectivity of the person") is an oxymoron.

Consider

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