Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
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13-05-2013, 04:07 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 02:41 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  You know, I'd disagree with this notion. I'd say that the moment when a gun is against our neck -- actually or metaphorically -- is what truly reveals the content of our morality. Certainly, the presence of physical threat changes the context of morality. Actions which might be appalling in another scenario, such as attacking and killing a law enforcement officer, can become acceptable or even virtuous in the context of said officer rounding up Jews for the Nazis. In that sense, the everyday morality can be ignored, because morality is relative to circumstance, and these circumstances are not everyday. And it's also why I couched the original post in qualifiers like "most acts of false witness, most of the time, are shitty things to do."

But it also indicates the strength with which you hold your convictions. It's easy enough to save a life when doing so requires only that you drop five bucks in a charity jar or give a pint to the Red Cross/Crescent. That says good things about your morality. But someone being willing, or not willing, to risk their own life to save someone else's? That says much, much more.

The problem with this position is that assumes morality in all human action. Essentially, it is arguing that 2+2=4 is grammatically incorrect. In reality, it is neither grammatically incorrect nor correct, because it has nothing to do with grammar.

Once the gun is in your neck, you are not a moral actor. That means your actions are amoral. They're math in a grammar class. If you kill a cop who's beating an innocent man to death, you're not a moral actor. And, the costume the killer is wearing is irrelevant. He is only a man, performing an immoral act and you are acting in third party self defense. Same with charity... you can choose to give charity or physically risk your life to save someone elses. You're not a moral actor in either decision, because you are not bound by moral rules to help everyone who is in need.

A moral rule is either universally applicable to all people at all times and in all places or, it is an opinion. Thus, if we make up a moral rule that says "You must always help everyone you find in harms way, then everyone who is confined to a wheelchair becomes immoral every time someone next to them falls down... simply because they can't pick them up.

A good rule of thumb for moral rules is the coma test. If you want to impose a moral rule on someone (or if they impose one on you) ask yourself if a man in a coma could remain moral with this rule in place. Another good rule of thumb test is to extract the principle (rule) and reverse it.

Obviously, if giving to charity is a moral rule, a man in a coma cannot be moral. Likewise, a man in a coma cannot protect his wife from an attacker. And thus... defending others can not be a moral rule. Likewise, if the parent says it's moral to hit his child because the child's brain is not capable of understanding negotiation (see Tony Blair), then the elderly parent should expect his adult children to hit him when his doddering old brain causes him to leave the stove on.

Objective morality isn't terribly difficult to calculate but it is so fucking hard to understand, especially after having been raised in a society that uses morality against the innocent.


Quote:Regarding Thou Shalt Not Kill: This is a pretty big translation error, and "Thou shalt not murder" is a better translation. (Among many of the questionable translations in King James.) This is because there are distinctions held, even in the Bible, between rightful and wrongful killing, implying that not all killing is forbidden. For example, killing in warfare was permissible by Biblical standards, and so was, say, killing sheep for their mutton. As murder is wrongful killing, "thou shalt not murder" is a moral imperative by truism. Of course, this simply shifts the the question to what types of killing are and aren't murder. The commandment against stealing is similarly a moral truism, IMO. Wrongfully taking something from someone is, well, wrong, but what makes one type of taking wrongful and another type of taking permissible?

Agreed here with one exception. When we include animals in morality, we create a lot of interesting problems to solve. We can't tell a lion it is immoral to kill us and we can't tell a man it is immoral to kill a sheep. When we apply morality to killing other than humans, we must also take that to its logical conclusion and include plant matter. If the moral rule is, killing anything for any reason other than self defense is immoral, we will all either starve to death or be forever immoral. And if we draw the line at something other than our unique cognition, then we must also provide a valid reason for that line.

And to clarify, I'm not advocating cruelty to animals. Just pointing out a dilemma.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. - Chinese Proverb
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13-05-2013, 09:06 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 04:07 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  
(13-05-2013 02:41 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  You know, I'd disagree with this notion. I'd say that the moment when a gun is against our neck -- actually or metaphorically -- is what truly reveals the content of our morality. Certainly, the presence of physical threat changes the context of morality. Actions which might be appalling in another scenario, such as attacking and killing a law enforcement officer, can become acceptable or even virtuous in the context of said officer rounding up Jews for the Nazis. In that sense, the everyday morality can be ignored, because morality is relative to circumstance, and these circumstances are not everyday. And it's also why I couched the original post in qualifiers like "most acts of false witness, most of the time, are shitty things to do."

But it also indicates the strength with which you hold your convictions. It's easy enough to save a life when doing so requires only that you drop five bucks in a charity jar or give a pint to the Red Cross/Crescent. That says good things about your morality. But someone being willing, or not willing, to risk their own life to save someone else's? That says much, much more.

The problem with this position is that assumes morality in all human action. Essentially, it is arguing that 2+2=4 is grammatically incorrect. In reality, it is neither grammatically incorrect nor correct, because it has nothing to do with grammar.

Once the gun is in your neck, you are not a moral actor. That means your actions are amoral. They're math in a grammar class. If you kill a cop who's beating an innocent man to death, you're not a moral actor. And, the costume the killer is wearing is irrelevant. He is only a man, performing an immoral act and you are acting in third party self defense. Same with charity... you can choose to give charity or physically risk your life to save someone elses. You're not a moral actor in either decision, because you are not bound by moral rules to help everyone who is in need.

A moral rule is either universally applicable to all people at all times and in all places or, it is an opinion. Thus, if we make up a moral rule that says "You must always help everyone you find in harms way, then everyone who is confined to a wheelchair becomes immoral every time someone next to them falls down... simply because they can't pick them up.

A good rule of thumb for moral rules is the coma test. If you want to impose a moral rule on someone (or if they impose one on you) ask yourself if a man in a coma could remain moral with this rule in place. Another good rule of thumb test is to extract the principle (rule) and reverse it.

Obviously, if giving to charity is a moral rule, a man in a coma cannot be moral. Likewise, a man in a coma cannot protect his wife from an attacker. And thus... defending others can not be a moral rule. Likewise, if the parent says it's moral to hit his child because the child's brain is not capable of understanding negotiation (see Tony Blair), then the elderly parent should expect his adult children to hit him when his doddering old brain causes him to leave the stove on.

Objective morality isn't terribly difficult to calculate but it is so fucking hard to understand, especially after having been raised in a society that uses morality against the innocent.


Quote:Regarding Thou Shalt Not Kill: This is a pretty big translation error, and "Thou shalt not murder" is a better translation. (Among many of the questionable translations in King James.) This is because there are distinctions held, even in the Bible, between rightful and wrongful killing, implying that not all killing is forbidden. For example, killing in warfare was permissible by Biblical standards, and so was, say, killing sheep for their mutton. As murder is wrongful killing, "thou shalt not murder" is a moral imperative by truism. Of course, this simply shifts the the question to what types of killing are and aren't murder. The commandment against stealing is similarly a moral truism, IMO. Wrongfully taking something from someone is, well, wrong, but what makes one type of taking wrongful and another type of taking permissible?

Agreed here with one exception. When we include animals in morality, we create a lot of interesting problems to solve. We can't tell a lion it is immoral to kill us and we can't tell a man it is immoral to kill a sheep. When we apply morality to killing other than humans, we must also take that to its logical conclusion and include plant matter. If the moral rule is, killing anything for any reason other than self defense is immoral, we will all either starve to death or be forever immoral. And if we draw the line at something other than our unique cognition, then we must also provide a valid reason for that line.

And to clarify, I'm not advocating cruelty to animals. Just pointing out a dilemma.

If I'm understanding your definition of "moral actor" correctly (and I'm not sure that I am), it is an individual engaged in making a decision with moral significance, or a person who can be considered constrained or compelled by a moral rule (which would make the choice of whether or not to follow that rule such a decision).

In this case, why can't someone at gunpoint be considered to be a moral actor?

Also, why the insistence on moral absolutes? Can we not have moral weights instead, where multiple conflicting moral rules are in play but one set can be gauged as outweighing the others?

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13-05-2013, 09:52 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 09:06 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  If I'm understanding your definition of "moral actor" correctly (and I'm not sure that I am), it is an individual engaged in making a decision with moral significance, or a person who can be considered constrained or compelled by a moral rule (which would make the choice of whether or not to follow that rule such a decision).

That's correct, with the exception of the words compel and constrain. For one, they're synonymous and two, valid moral rules don't compel to action, they restrain action. In other words, a moral rule can't create a positive obligation. This is an important (albeit admittedly pedantic) point of contention, since a man in a coma cannot oblige positive obligations.

Quote:In this case, why can't someone at gunpoint be considered to be a moral actor?

Because there is no choice in coercion. I understand that there is an actual, objective choice between giving away the secret of where a Jew is, telling an untruth with respect to that question or using fight or flight. However, no sane individual would ever call up a Nazi and tell them the location of a Jew in order that he could go kill the Jew. The objective choices that exist within the coercion of having a gun to one's neck only exist because the gun is there... and the gun is there only because of the choices the Nazi made, not because of the choices the victim made. The victim did not voluntarily enter into an agreement to play "find the Jew" and therefore, he has no choice. And because of that, he cannot be considered a moral actor.

Quote:Also, why the insistence on moral absolutes? Can we not have moral weights instead, where multiple conflicting moral rules are in play but one set can be gauged as outweighing the others?

Occam's razor. The KISS principle. Or perhaps more apropos... common law.

A simple list of objective moral rules is far easier to delineate & enforce (either legally or through ostracization) than are a web of overlapping opinions. They also allow for greater individual liberty while still informing those who want to be moral and defining those who do objective and demonstrable harm to others.


If I've not convinced you, I'm very interested in hearing your rebuttal because that was a thought provoking query.

Consider

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14-05-2013, 12:40 AM (This post was last modified: 14-05-2013 12:47 AM by Reltzik.)
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
We're wandering afield of the OP, but what the hey, been doing that since the first reply.

Also, I get the sense that you are subscribing to a model or definition of morality as laid out by a particular philosopher. If so, which one?

(13-05-2013 09:52 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  That's correct, with the exception of the words compel and constrain. For one, they're synonymous and two, valid moral rules don't compel to action, they restrain action. In other words, a moral rule can't create a positive obligation. This is an important (albeit admittedly pedantic) point of contention, since a man in a coma cannot oblige positive obligations.

Maybe I shoulda wrote restrain instead of constrain there. That said, I don't draw all that much of a distinction, as most compulsions can be rephrased as restraints, and vice versa. For example, you pass by 17th story window and see a man outside, trapped on the exterior ledge, grip slipping and about to fall, trying desperately to find purchase or get the window open. You may, without any risk or inconvenience to yourself and others, open the window and thus save his life. Some would say you are morally compelled to do so. This proposed moral compulsion (the actual validity of which I'm not touching upon) can be rephrased as a restraint: You are not allowed to simply let him die. Similarly: A requirement to speak out is a restraint from remaining silent, and a compulsion to remain silent is a restraint from speaking.

I'd also propose that morality impacts and depends on decisions between perceived courses of action (including inaction). The man in a coma has no course of action other than to just lie there while the man scrambles to get in to his hospital window, so no choice or decision is possible. Similarly, if I realize that the window is locked and beyond my ability to open, I may be excused for not making the attempt, because it is not a viable course of action. Or maybe I do not realize that the window CAN open, and thus while opening the window is a viable action, it is not an option which I have perceived.

(13-05-2013 09:52 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  Because there is no choice in coercion. I understand that there is an actual, objective choice between giving away the secret of where a Jew is, telling an untruth with respect to that question or using fight or flight. However, no sane individual would ever call up a Nazi and tell them the location of a Jew in order that he could go kill the Jew. The objective choices that exist within the coercion of having a gun to one's neck only exist because the gun is there... and the gun is there only because of the choices the Nazi made, not because of the choices the victim made. The victim did not voluntarily enter into an agreement to play "find the Jew" and therefore, he has no choice. And because of that, he cannot be considered a moral actor.

"I'm sure as shit not going back [to prison]." "Oh, they put a gun on you, you'll go." "They put a gun on you, you still have a choice." -- Jack and Buddy, Out of Sight (Argumentative value somewhat undercut by a later scene, but not actually undermined.)

"You know, it's funny, I was thinking about what you said, that the preeminent truth of our age is that you cannot fight the system. But if, as you say, the truth is fluid, that the truth is subjective, then maybe you can fight the system. As long as just one person refuses to be broken, refuses to bow down." "But can you win?" "Every time I say 'no.'" -- Sheridan and his interrogator, Babylon 5.

I'll leave aside the question of just how sane or insane Nazi sympathizers and collaborators were. Let's look at the choice of a person held at gunpoint by the Nazis and ordered to cough up the location of some Jews. To simplify the analysis, let's further say that there are only two options (without any of the myriad and clever "third options" normally present in real-life dilemmas): Promptly, honestly, and without deception divulge the location of the Jews, or stay mum and be executed. The interrogated still has a choice. It's not a choice as to whether to be in the game of "find the Jew", that decision was made by the Nazis, but it IS a choice about what move to make in the game, even if the choice of moves (speak or don't) and their respective consequences have been dictated by someone else. As the perceived outcomes change due to the presence of the gun, so too does the moral calculus which depends on those outcomes change, but there is still a decision to be made. Very strong moral arguments could be made for either option. IMO, it's only when there is no meaningful choices available -- as in the case of the comatose man -- that moral agency is lost.

(13-05-2013 09:52 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  Occam's razor. The KISS principle. Or perhaps more apropos... common law.

A simple list of objective moral rules is far easier to delineate & enforce (either legally or through ostracization) than are a web of overlapping opinions. They also allow for greater individual liberty while still informing those who want to be moral and defining those who do objective and demonstrable harm to others.

Occam's Razor and KISS are only good philosophies if they don't simplify beyond the point of reason, and to assume that any two moral rules will never come into conflict does exactly that. Identifying the "right thing" when faced with only one moral imperative (or restraint) is one thing, but doing the right thing when faced with multiple conflicting imperatives is another. Does a parent steal bread, or let his children starve? Either choice (theft or neglect) can be considered immoral in isolation, but real-world choices do not exist in isolation. In this example and many others, they are set against one another, and one is either paralyzed into inaction (which, I suggest, is a choice in itself, so long as an alternative exists) or must weigh the two options to judge the lesser of evils. While having a fixed list may be technically easier to delineate and enforce, it oversimplifies the problem space and leads to a world full of Javerts. One might make matters even easier to delineate and enforce by simply saying everyone is immoral and deserves death, yet this is hardly a pragmatic view of morality. (Feel free to jump in here, KC.) Simple ease of delineation and enforcement is not the sole factor of consideration.

I do not see a list of absolutes as offering greater liberty versus weighed considerations. Frankly, both would seem to restrict liberty. Yet one would do so absolutely, and the other only by degrees. For example, let's say we have a value (be it a rule or a weighting) of "You will do nothing that may contribute to another person's death." As an absolute, this will include things like driving a car (there's a chance of a fatal collision), going to a bar (which may entail ill-chosen words, a brawl, and a death), taking the last piece of bread at a restaurant ([insert choice of scenario here]).... pretty much anything. As a weighting, though, we may gauge how likely each scenario is, and give little weight to those which are unlikely. It also handles the case of conflicting moral imperatives, which a list of absolutes does not.

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14-05-2013, 08:53 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(14-05-2013 12:40 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  We're wandering afield of the OP, but what the hey, been doing that since the first reply.

Also, I get the sense that you are subscribing to a model or definition of morality as laid out by a particular philosopher. If so, which one?

What fun is there in staying on topic? And if the OP complains... well, he should have been so interesting as us. Tongue

Not a definition of morality, a methodology of testing moral rules called Universally Preferable Behavior. It was written by Stefan Molyneux and it loosely resembles Kant's Categorical Imperatives.

Quote:Maybe I shoulda wrote restrain instead of constrain there. That said, I don't draw all that much of a distinction, as most compulsions can be rephrased as restraints, and vice versa. For example, you pass by 17th story window and see a man outside, trapped on the exterior ledge, grip slipping and about to fall, trying desperately to find purchase or get the window open. You may, without any risk or inconvenience to yourself and others, open the window and thus save his life. Some would say you are morally compelled to do so. This proposed moral compulsion (the actual validity of which I'm not touching upon) can be rephrased as a restraint: You are not allowed to simply let him die. Similarly: A requirement to speak out is a restraint from remaining silent, and a compulsion to remain silent is a restraint from speaking.

I'd also propose that morality impacts and depends on decisions between perceived courses of action (including inaction). The man in a coma has no course of action other than to just lie there while the man scrambles to get in to his hospital window, so no choice or decision is possible. Similarly, if I realize that the window is locked and beyond my ability to open, I may be excused for not making the attempt, because it is not a viable course of action. Or maybe I do not realize that the window CAN open, and thus while opening the window is a viable action, it is not an option which I have perceived.

That's fine, but as I said before, when you make moral rules that include positive obligations, you remove choice and by default, you make certain people immoral simply because they do not have choice. As for the flag pole scenario... is the man hanging on for dear life a moral actor? Should he kick the window in and if so, has he violated the property of the window's owner?

Quote:"I'm sure as shit not going back [to prison]." "Oh, they put a gun on you, you'll go." "They put a gun on you, you still have a choice." -- Jack and Buddy, Out of Sight (Argumentative value somewhat undercut by a later scene, but not actually undermined.)

"You know, it's funny, I was thinking about what you said, that the preeminent truth of our age is that you cannot fight the system. But if, as you say, the truth is fluid, that the truth is subjective, then maybe you can fight the system. As long as just one person refuses to be broken, refuses to bow down." "But can you win?" "Every time I say 'no.'" -- Sheridan and his interrogator, Babylon 5.

I'll leave aside the question of just how sane or insane Nazi sympathizers and collaborators were. Let's look at the choice of a person held at gunpoint by the Nazis and ordered to cough up the location of some Jews. To simplify the analysis, let's further say that there are only two options (without any of the myriad and clever "third options" normally present in real-life dilemmas): Promptly, honestly, and without deception divulge the location of the Jews, or stay mum and be executed. The interrogated still has a choice. It's not a choice as to whether to be in the game of "find the Jew", that decision was made by the Nazis, but it IS a choice about what move to make in the game, even if the choice of moves (speak or don't) and their respective consequences have been dictated by someone else. As the perceived outcomes change due to the presence of the gun, so too does the moral calculus which depends on those outcomes change, but there is still a decision to be made. Very strong moral arguments could be made for either option. IMO, it's only when there is no meaningful choices available -- as in the case of the comatose man -- that moral agency is lost.

Of course there is choice. There's still no moral agency in duress.

Quote:Occam's Razor and KISS are only good philosophies if they don't simplify beyond the point of reason, and to assume that any two moral rules will never come into conflict does exactly that. Identifying the "right thing" when faced with only one moral imperative (or restraint) is one thing, but doing the right thing when faced with multiple conflicting imperatives is another. Does a parent steal bread, or let his children starve? Either choice (theft or neglect) can be considered immoral in isolation, but real-world choices do not exist in isolation. In this example and many others, they are set against one another, and one is either paralyzed into inaction (which, I suggest, is a choice in itself, so long as an alternative exists) or must weigh the two options to judge the lesser of evils. While having a fixed list may be technically easier to delineate and enforce, it oversimplifies the problem space and leads to a world full of Javerts. One might make matters even easier to delineate and enforce by simply saying everyone is immoral and deserves death, yet this is hardly a pragmatic view of morality. (Feel free to jump in here, KC.) Simple ease of delineation and enforcement is not the sole factor of consideration.

Who said absolute moral rules can't overlap or that one cannot be subjugated to another? Also, I looked up Javert. Since I don't read fiction or watch movies, those references might as well be in Greek... which I don't speak. Smile So for future reference, I can't get a point you're making through references to movies or fictional characters... most of the time. Sorry, if that makes things more difficult.

I do not see a list of absolutes as offering greater liberty versus weighed considerations. Frankly, both would seem to restrict liberty. Yet one would do so absolutely, and the other only by degrees. For example, let's say we have a value (be it a rule or a weighting) of "You will do nothing that may contribute to another person's death." As an absolute, this will include things like driving a car (there's a chance of a fatal collision), going to a bar (which may entail ill-chosen words, a brawl, and a death), taking the last piece of bread at a restaurant ([insert choice of scenario here]).... pretty much anything. As a weighting, though, we may gauge how likely each scenario is, and give little weight to those which are unlikely. It also handles the case of conflicting moral imperatives, which a list of absolutes does not.

The reference to liberty is based on the knowledge that throughout history, evil men have used ethics to subjugate good men. Think of how the clergy have historically used the morass of religious morals against their oft illiterate flocks. Think about the hundreds of thousands of federal laws in the US today. Every single one of them can be redacted down to the question of violation of the property rights of another human being. Those that can't be shown as property rights violations are unjust and only serve as a vehicle of subjugation.

It's simple... if the rule is Thou shall not murder, I know exactly what I can't do. If it's Thou shall not kill, except here and here and here and sometimes here, except with the third here it's only on the second Thursday of odd months when the moon is in the waxing phase....

And to be pedantic again... Occam's razor and KISS are principles, not philosophies. Confused

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14-05-2013, 11:27 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(14-05-2013 08:53 AM)bbeljefe Wrote:  What fun is there in staying on topic? And if the OP complains... well, he should have been so interesting as us. Tongue

Well that's not going to happen. There's no way that the OP is more interesting than me.

Quote:Not a definition of morality, a methodology of testing moral rules called Universally Preferable Behavior. It was written by Stefan Molyneux and it loosely resembles Kant's Categorical Imperatives.

Found the book (or excerpts of it, not sure if it's complete) online, but it's gonna take me a bit to read up on it. Care to summarize so that I'm up to speed enough for this conversation?

Quote:That's fine, but as I said before, when you make moral rules that include positive obligations, you remove choice and by default, you make certain people immoral simply because they do not have choice. As for the flag pole scenario... is the man hanging on for dear life a moral actor? Should he kick the window in and if so, has he violated the property of the window's owner?

In the scenario I was painting, the man trapped on the ledge doesn't have the option of kicking the window open, due, let's say, to having not enough room to work with and the certainty that such an attempt will lead to him overbalancing and falling. If the man DID have the option to kick open the window or not, and realized it, he would become a moral actor. In my perspective, regardless of whether the window is kicked in or simply opened without the owner's perspective, the property of the window's owner HAS been violated, but this violation could well be outweighed by the value of preserving a life. And it would be a strange morality that decided that the property rights of the windows owner superseded the life of the trapped man, or that a third party, restrained from violating those property rights, was barred from acting to rescue the imperiled man.

Quote:Of course there is choice. There's still no moral agency in duress.

If we're defining moral agency as choosing between courses of action with an eye towards the restraints (or arguably compulsions) of a moral code, then why not? Cannot a person who is being threatened still keep to that code, in the face of undesirable consequences?

Quote:Who said absolute moral rules can't overlap or that one cannot be subjugated to another? Also, I looked up Javert. Since I don't read fiction or watch movies, those references might as well be in Greek... which I don't speak. Smile So for future reference, I can't get a point you're making through references to movies or fictional characters... most of the time. Sorry, if that makes things more difficult.

Well, the film quotes should've been pretty easy to get out of context, they're basically cases of people exercising a freedom of choice even when under extreme duress. Inspector Javert is an example of a character who dealt in moral (actually, legalistic) absolutes, who gives little consideration to mitigating circumstances.

It's okay if absolute moral rules overlap. But if they conflict, you're either in a damned-either-way scenario, or one must be subjugated to another. And in the latter case, they are no longer absolutes. I should have point out that you already seem to have introduced a caveat in the Nazi example. Telling Nazis where Jews are hiding is immoral... except when you've got a gun to your head. Prioritizing some rules over others sets up exactly the "only on the second Thursday of odd months with a waxing moon" scenario you decry here.

Quote:The reference to liberty is based on the knowledge that throughout history, evil men have used ethics to subjugate good men. Think of how the clergy have historically used the morass of religious morals against their oft illiterate flocks. Think about the hundreds of thousands of federal laws in the US today. Every single one of them can be redacted down to the question of violation of the property rights of another human being. Those that can't be shown as property rights violations are unjust and only serve as a vehicle of subjugation.

It's simple... if the rule is Thou shall not murder, I know exactly what I can't do. If it's Thou shall not kill, except here and here and here and sometimes here, except with the third here it's only on the second Thursday of odd months when the moon is in the waxing phase....

I find it curious that you draw on the federal laws of the US as an example to support your position, when those often compel (rather than restrain) action.

Certainly the concept of morality has been abused, with grotesque interpretations advanced, implemented, and carried out to horrific effect. That doesn't render all notions of morality flawed, though; that is a hasty generalization.

I'm strongly opposed to the notion that all rights are property rights. My perspective of the concept of property is that it is an instinctual or social construct rather than an absolute, and thus a poor axiomatic basis for morality. Furthermore, it breaks down pretty badly when dealing with non-excludable goods (things which are impractical or impossible to control access to, such as air or ideas), and especially when those goods are used in a rivalrous manner (their use by one party makes them unusable by others; goods which are both rivalrous and non-excludable are common goods). The idea of property-based rights has never, that I have seen, been able to address the commons.

As an example, let us say that I and my neighbor both use the air around us; neither one of us can be said to have it as our property. I certainly have no certificate of ownership, and neither does she, and in any event such ownership would be impossible to delineate and enforce without putting all the air in the world into cans or hermetically sealed domes or some-such. I have no real right to restrict her use of air, nor she mine. In a sense, our use is rivalrous, in that we each pull oxygen from it and replace it with carbon dioxide, and make that oxygen unavailable for the other's use. This is just fine by most moral or ethical standards. Now let's say that she additionally uses the air to output waste gasses from a new factory that she builds on her land. I have no property rights to restrict her use of the air. Yet if these fumes are extremely toxic, and I'm forced to breathe the same air she is polluting, the presence of the pollutants are a real risk to my livelihood. She has polluted the air, which is NOT my property, and my property cannot be said to have been violated. She has done nothing directly to my person, or my land, or my home, and frankly any move to restrict her use of the air would not be supported by any property right, and I do not (under a property-rights paradigm) have the right to restrict her use of the air. She has simply utilized unclaimed resources over which NO ONE can claim property, in a manner rivalrous to my own use of them. Yet if the result is the poisoning of the entire neighborhood, then I would think most moral codes would condemn her pollution.

And finally, with regard to the comatose man, I will repeat that my view of morality is in regards to decisions made between multiple perceived and viable courses of action or inaction, in light of their perceived consequences. The comatose man does not have multiple courses of action and cannot make a decision, and therefore is not a moral agent. The same is NOT a given of someone with a gun to their head. It MAY be, if, say, panic and hysteria have reduced her to an unthinking state, but it is far from a given.

Warning Labels: Long-winded. Twisted sense of humor (including puns, literalisms, absurdisms, all complicated by sarcasm and deadpan delivery). Contrarian. Do not combine with high quantities of sugar, acid (corrosive or hallucinogenic), or people who take themselves too seriously.
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14-05-2013, 04:22 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(10-05-2013 01:54 PM)PleaseJesus Wrote:  Lying falls into an interesting place for me. It's the one command that may be broken and not to the detriment of one's self or another.

For example, if Nazis ask me if I'm hiding Jews, I will lie. This prevents (hopefully) the Nazis from adding to their sin by killing more, saves the Jewish people in hiding, etc.

However, here's where big faith (trust) plays its part. Corrie Ten Boom's family did tell Nazis when asked, "We will not lie. They are here, and God will protect them." The Nazis brought the family from hiding to prison for the evening and that night, a jail break set them free and they fled the city!

My point with this anecdote is obeying God always is good. I can see your points about this being legal witness (we ask you to swear before God what you saw). Note carefully that Jesus was placed under this oath before the High Priest, "We adjure you, are you the Messiah?" "I am. It is as you say. You will see the Son of Man descending with angels..." and this testimony was made after He was silent, as a lamb to slaughter. The command to bear true witness by an authority of the Jewish people triggered the statement that taken for blasphemy led to the crucifixion... and salvation for mankind.

Thank you.

I love how your absolute moral law boils down to relativism.

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The atheist is a man who destroys the imaginary things which afflict the human race, and so leads men back to nature, to experience and to reason.
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14-05-2013, 11:02 PM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(13-05-2013 04:07 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  The problem with this position is that assumes morality in all human action. Essentially, it is arguing that 2+2=4 is grammatically incorrect. In reality, it is neither grammatically incorrect nor correct, because it has nothing to do with grammar.

.... okay, I tried to restrain myself from this level of pedantry, and I succeed for a while, but then I kept looking at it and I started developing this TWITCH.

Mathematics has its own grammar (aka syntax). "2+2=4" is grammatically correct. "17 = ) 2 ( + !" is not.

Warning Labels: Long-winded. Twisted sense of humor (including puns, literalisms, absurdisms, all complicated by sarcasm and deadpan delivery). Contrarian. Do not combine with high quantities of sugar, acid (corrosive or hallucinogenic), or people who take themselves too seriously.
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15-05-2013, 08:55 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(14-05-2013 11:02 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  
(13-05-2013 04:07 PM)bbeljefe Wrote:  The problem with this position is that assumes morality in all human action. Essentially, it is arguing that 2+2=4 is grammatically incorrect. In reality, it is neither grammatically incorrect nor correct, because it has nothing to do with grammar.

.... okay, I tried to restrain myself from this level of pedantry, and I succeed for a while, but then I kept looking at it and I started developing this TWITCH.

Mathematics has its own grammar (aka syntax). "2+2=4" is grammatically correct. "17 = ) 2 ( + !" is not.

Agreed. That certainly wasn't among my more well thought out of metaphors. Sadcryface

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. - Chinese Proverb
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15-05-2013, 09:51 AM
RE: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
(14-05-2013 11:27 AM)Reltzik Wrote:  Found the book (or excerpts of it, not sure if it's complete) online, but it's gonna take me a bit to read up on it. Care to summarize so that I'm up to speed enough for this conversation?

I'm sorry. Here. The book is free and available in three text and formats plus MP3. UPB is a methodology used to determine the validity of moral claims. Valid claims are universal. Those that cannot be performed by all people at all times, everywhere, cannot be useful moral rules. Thou shall not rape is a valid moral rule because everyone everywhere can not rape at all times. Though shall rape is not a valid moral rule because everyone everywhere can not rape at the same time. Another rule of thumb test is two men in a room. If you and I are locked in a room together, we cannot both rape one another at the same time but we can both not rape one another at the same time.

Quote:In the scenario I was painting, the man trapped on the ledge doesn't have the option of kicking the window open, due, let's say, to having not enough room to work with and the certainty that such an attempt will lead to him overbalancing and falling. If the man DID have the option to kick open the window or not, and realized it, he would become a moral actor. In my perspective, regardless of whether the window is kicked in or simply opened without the owner's perspective, the property of the window's owner HAS been violated, but this violation could well be outweighed by the value of preserving a life. And it would be a strange morality that decided that the property rights of the windows owner superseded the life of the trapped man, or that a third party, restrained from violating those property rights, was barred from acting to rescue the imperiled man.

Should the trapped man make it into the apartment safely, he has indeed committed a property violation. However, that doesn't mean the man who owns the property is allowed to shoot him. Unless, of course, the man didn't know why the intruder was in his house.

In reality, the man who was saved would explain himself and the man whose window he broke would likely offer him a seat and a cold can of beer. Or perhaps a glass of cabernet sauvignon, if it was a nice apartment complex. Tongue

Quote:If we're defining moral agency as choosing between courses of action with an eye towards the restraints (or arguably compulsions) of a moral code, then why not? Cannot a person who is being threatened still keep to that code, in the face of undesirable consequences?

We're not defining moral agency in that manner. I'm defining it is when a person is in a situation where there is voluntary choice. If you stick a gun to Richard Dawkins neck and force him to recite every known instance of hominids in ascending order and he fails.... do you call him a crappy biologist? I would hope not. To think that a person should be held morally accountable while in duress is a bit sadistic, to say the least.

And yes, I'm quite ready for another metaphor correction. Big Grin

Quote:Well, the film quotes should've been pretty easy to get out of context, they're basically cases of people exercising a freedom of choice even when under extreme duress. Inspector Javert is an example of a character who dealt in moral (actually, legalistic) absolutes, who gives little consideration to mitigating circumstances.

I'm not arguing that one can't exercise choice while under duress. I'm arguing that it is unjust to hold him to account for those decisions made under duress. You seem to be arguing for mitigating circumstances and I agree. What could be called a mitigating circumstance if not a gun to the neck?

Quote:It's okay if absolute moral rules overlap. But if they conflict, you're either in a damned-either-way scenario, or one must be subjugated to another. And in the latter case, they are no longer absolutes. I should have point out that you already seem to have introduced a caveat in the Nazi example. Telling Nazis where Jews are hiding is immoral... except when you've got a gun to your head. Prioritizing some rules over others sets up exactly the "only on the second Thursday of odd months with a waxing moon" scenario you decry here.

Technically, calling up the Nazis and volunteering the location of some Jews is by all means immoral. Enter the gun and the moral consideration vanishes. After all, the man with the gun to his neck may have just witnessed the Nazi murdering a family of six with bullets to the neck. Does that not inform his decision? Should it not?

But yes, there are indeed some instances where moral rules will conflict. And the fewer there are, the less that will happen. KISS, in action.

Quote:I find it curious that you draw on the federal laws of the US as an example to support your position, when those often compel (rather than restrain) action.

Why would I not use an example of often abused arbitrary relative moral dictates as proof that arbitrary relative moral dictates are abused and confusing?

Quote:Certainly the concept of morality has been abused, with grotesque interpretations advanced, implemented, and carried out to horrific effect. That doesn't render all notions of morality flawed, though; that is a hasty generalization.

I don't understand what you mean here. Are you under the impression that I've claimed all moral rules are invalid? Or all moral systems are invalid?

Quote:I'm strongly opposed to the notion that all rights are property rights.

All rights stem from self ownership, which is the most important property right we have. Do you argue that you own your body?

Quote:My perspective of the concept of property is that it is an instinctual or social construct rather than an absolute, and thus a poor axiomatic basis for morality.

It's a human construct. Thus, it is an instinctual absolute that you own your body and the fruits of your body's labor. If you doubt this, ask a toddler to give you his sucker. He won't be confused as to who owns it.

As for the social nature of rights (property or otherwise), in the absence of society, we have no need of rights. If you're a man on a desert island, there is no one to violate your property rights and no need of them whatever.

So ultimately, you're arguing that you don't like water because it is always so wet when you drink it.

Quote: Furthermore, it breaks down pretty badly when dealing with non-excludable goods (things which are impractical or impossible to control access to, such as air or ideas), and especially when those goods are used in a rivalrous manner (their use by one party makes them unusable by others; goods which are both rivalrous and non-excludable are common goods). The idea of property-based rights has never, that I have seen, been able to address the commons.

As an example, let us say that I and my neighbor both use the air around us; neither one of us can be said to have it as our property. I certainly have no certificate of ownership, and neither does she, and in any event such ownership would be impossible to delineate and enforce without putting all the air in the world into cans or hermetically sealed domes or some-such. I have no real right to restrict her use of air, nor she mine. In a sense, our use is rivalrous, in that we each pull oxygen from it and replace it with carbon dioxide, and make that oxygen unavailable for the other's use. This is just fine by most moral or ethical standards. Now let's say that she additionally uses the air to output waste gasses from a new factory that she builds on her land. I have no property rights to restrict her use of the air. Yet if these fumes are extremely toxic, and I'm forced to breathe the same air she is polluting, the presence of the pollutants are a real risk to my livelihood. She has polluted the air, which is NOT my property, and my property cannot be said to have been violated. She has done nothing directly to my person, or my land, or my home, and frankly any move to restrict her use of the air would not be supported by any property right, and I do not (under a property-rights paradigm) have the right to restrict her use of the air. She has simply utilized unclaimed resources over which NO ONE can claim property, in a manner rivalrous to my own use of them. Yet if the result is the poisoning of the entire neighborhood, then I would think most moral codes would condemn her pollution.

The problem of the commons is very easily dealt with. You claim the factory hasn't harmed your body as a result of its pollution. I would argue that it has indeed caused you direct and serious harm. All we need to prove this is a sample of the air, proof it's coming from the factory and proof that the toxins in it are harmful. No one has to own the air.

Not to tangent again but a good example of this problem and how the state makes it worse is the industrial revolution. When factories started popping up all over the countryside and then began to pollute the farms around them, groups of farmers complained that the factory owners should make restitution to them for their damaged crops. I would argue that never has a common law jury existed that wouldn't rule in favor of the farmers. However, the mercantilists who owned the factories paid a lot of money in taxes and they were clearly among the same aristocratic class as the judges in America's new law courts. So there was no common law jury to hear these cases and the state ruled in favor of the mercantilists in almost every suit.
/tangent

Quote:And finally, with regard to the comatose man, I will repeat that my view of morality is in regards to decisions made between multiple perceived and viable courses of action or inaction, in light of their perceived consequences. The comatose man does not have multiple courses of action and cannot make a decision, and therefore is not a moral agent. The same is NOT a given of someone with a gun to their head. It MAY be, if, say, panic and hysteria have reduced her to an unthinking state, but it is far from a given.

I don't think I should revisit this topic as I think I explained my position well above. If not, I'm happy to elaborate.

EDIT to the last comment... who gets to decide the level of duress?

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. - Chinese Proverb
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