The point of studying ethics
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16-07-2017, 04:47 AM (This post was last modified: 16-07-2017 04:50 AM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 04:07 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  There is no point. Ethics and morality are an illusion. Even if they weren't NO ONE behaves morally or ethically.

For example, is it ethical to travel the world and/or eat at fancy restaurants when that money could be used to save lives of children who will die if they don't receive very basic healthcare?

Is it ethical to buy a fancy car, or even a car at all while there are people who don't even have clean water to drink?

We all cherry pick our ethics. We help our friends, who might help us in return, and we might help a few impoverished, but we don't behave in a manner that we all would describe as ethical.

Eating at a fancy restaurant is no different than walking away from a drowning child in a shallow pond, yet we all do it.

If you are a high-paid executive, your job may require you to travel the world and eat with clients at fancy restaurants. You may give money to children's charities, money you wouldn't have without your job.

If you buy a fancy car, you are employing people who can pay their taxes for clean water, among other necessities.

If you give money to starving people, you may just prolong their suffering. They may live long enough to have children, then everyone may die of starvation at a later date.

Presently, over-population is largely driving climate change, which means helping people today may be hurting even more people tomorrow.

In other words, ethics are not that simple. That's why we discuss them.
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16-07-2017, 05:02 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
They are an illusion, but we cherry pick them?

Of course none of us ever live up to any sort of ideal. Not even our own. We're fallible humans. That doesn't mean it's all or nothing. It doesn't mean we can't try.

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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16-07-2017, 07:16 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
My point is that there are no right/wrong answers to moral/ethical questions.

Is it ethical for a fat man to engorge himself while the man next door is starving to death? How about if the starving man is on the other side of the globe? Is there a certain distance when it becomes ethical?

At what point in human fetus development is it ethical to terminate a fetus's life, if it's ever ethical?

There are no answers to these types of questions, there is only preference.

My question you guys is, if we know that there are no right/wrong answers to these types of questions, then why pretend that there is? Why not just call ethics and morals exactly what they are, which is preferences?
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16-07-2017, 07:22 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
When people say they are studying morality and ethics, they are actually just studying preferences.

We can prefer that people behave nicely towards each other, but there is no evidence that they actually should.
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16-07-2017, 07:46 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 07:16 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  My point is that there are no right/wrong answers to moral/ethical questions.

Is it ethical for a fat man to engorge himself while the man next door is starving to death? How about if the starving man is on the other side of the globe? Is there a certain distance when it becomes ethical?

At what point in human fetus development is it ethical to terminate a fetus's life, if it's ever ethical?

There are no answers to these types of questions, there is only preference.

My question you guys is, if we know that there are no right/wrong answers to these types of questions, then why pretend that there is? Why not just call ethics and morals exactly what they are, which is preferences?

Your point seems paradoxical, since you are taking a strong moral stand to condemn ethics.

Distance is indeed relevant if the fat man has no immediate opportunities to give his food directly to other people. He may have no knowledge of his neighbor's problems.

We don't get the choices we want. If a fetus is diagnosed as suffering from a defect which will kill it within months of birth, it could reduce suffering all around to abort it.

The difficulty of ethical questions doesn't mean there aren't better and worse answers, even if there are no perfect answers.

So I don't see ethical questions as matters of preference but as matters of priorities. Some priorities should override others, even personal preferences.
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16-07-2017, 08:02 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 07:16 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  My point is that there are no right/wrong answers to moral/ethical questions.

Is it ethical for a fat man to engorge himself while the man next door is starving to death? How about if the starving man is on the other side of the globe? Is there a certain distance when it becomes ethical?

At what point in human fetus development is it ethical to terminate a fetus's life, if it's ever ethical?

There are no answers to these types of questions, there is only preference.

My question you guys is, if we know that there are no right/wrong answers to these types of questions, then why pretend that there is? Why not just call ethics and morals exactly what they are, which is preferences?

Quote:My question you guys is, if we know that there are no right/wrong answers to these types of questions, then why pretend that there is? Why not just call ethics and morals exactly what they are, which is preferences?
I think authorities need to pretend morality is something beyond personal preferences so they can control the behavior of individuals in human societies. Otherwise everyone will realize they might have different preferences and every one would behave according to his/her personal preferences. This would result in a chaos. This is not good for the well-being of our social structures.

It seems we haven't found an honest way to form stable societies, there is always lots of deceit involved.
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16-07-2017, 08:26 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
"Preferences" removes all gravity from the discussion. Preferences is a word used to describe things with essentially no consequence.

"Ethics" is the discussion of matters that do have consequences. There's no need to conflate the two. Most of us have a conscience, which makes us care about those consequences. Some people don't, and to them, ethics must seem like empty talk indeed.

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16-07-2017, 08:54 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 08:26 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  "Preferences" removes all gravity from the discussion. Preferences is a word used to describe things with essentially no consequence.

"Ethics" is the discussion of matters that do have consequences. There's no need to conflate the two. Most of us have a conscience, which makes us care about those consequences. Some people don't, and to them, ethics must seem like empty talk indeed.

That's right, but those consequences are also a matter of "personal preference". For example, I am a religious fanatic and I think I should do anything to convert people so they can have a good eternal life, you are a secularist and you think you should do anything to help people with their freedom of choice. We have totally different moral values. You see, it ultimately falls to the personal preferences, I think there is no more real substance in it.
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16-07-2017, 09:01 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 07:46 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Your point seems paradoxical, since you are taking a strong moral stand to condemn ethics.

I'm not taking a moral stand to condemn ethics. I just think that when people talk about ethics, they are actually only talking about preferences.

(16-07-2017 07:46 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Distance is indeed relevant if the fat man has no immediate opportunities to give his food directly to other people. He may have no knowledge of his neighbor's problems.

You're missing my point real bad here.

For the sake of discussion though, we'll assume that the fat man knows about the starving people on the other side of the planet, and he is also aware that instead of engorging himself, he could eat a moderate meal, and send the balance as a donation that would feed starving people, but rather than do that he decides to engorge himself.

I think it's fair to say that virtually all Americans are aware that there are starving people on this planet. Are fat Americans behaving unethically by engorging themselves?

(16-07-2017 07:46 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  We don't get the choices we want. If a fetus is diagnosed as suffering from a defect which will kill it within months of birth, it could reduce suffering all around to abort it.

What about for reasons of convenience. Is it ethical for a mother to abort a fetus simply because she doesn't want to be inconvenienced carrying the baby to term?

(16-07-2017 07:46 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  The difficulty of ethical questions doesn't mean there aren't better and worse answers, even if there are no perfect answers.

So I don't see ethical questions as matters of preference but as matters of priorities. Some priorities should override others, even personal preferences.

I don't see these questions as all that difficult, but then again I think the answers are only a matter of personal preference. As far as I can tell, there is no duty or obligation for me to skip my vacations and use that time/energy/money to help people who will otherwise die. I don't see any evidence that "some priorities should override others".
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16-07-2017, 10:03 AM
RE: The point of studying ethics
(16-07-2017 07:22 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  When people say they are studying morality and ethics, they are actually just studying preferences.

We can prefer that people behave nicely towards each other, but there is no evidence that they actually should.

Even though we are both nihilists, this 'preference' notion has jarred with me ever since you first mentioned it two years ago. I spent christmas/new year trying to work out why and think I've sussed it.

And ... I'm just going to leave that hanging for now. But here's a clue...

[Image: ITIL-v3-Event-managmeent.jpg]

Big Grin

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