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Three Arguments on Moral Realism

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  • Smug DucklingSmug Duckling Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Not really. "Not True" and "False" are different operations in logic. My favorite example is a person's being alive, dead, and undead. A dead person is not alive, but not undead either. Because, you know, then they'd be zombies.

    Not so much, at least in classical logic. In classical logic "P is true" is just "P." "P is not true" and "P is false" are both represented by "~P." Furthermore, "~~P" is equivalent to "P" (so not not-P is the same as P). In your example of death, life, and undeath, if all three are possible then none are binary possibilities, so they cannot be represented by a single predicate. Similarly to how you can't use a single predicate to denote whether a shape is a square, circle, or triangle. It can only report two values, and there are more than two options.

    There are other systems, but from what I understand they are generally of limited interest.

    There's no problem with the system of logic. You are simply erroneously confusing "dead" with "not alive". "Dead" can only be used that way because in reality, "alive" and "dead" are the only two possibilities. Under a system (such as in a zombie movie) in which "alive", "dead", and "undead" are all possibilities for the state of creatures, then "dead" would not be conveniently defined as "not alive".

    Your argument is that under the assumptions

    (1) "dead" is equivalent to "not alive"
    (2) "alive", "dead", "undead" are possible states of creatures

    We have

    "not alive" is equivalent to ("dead" OR "undead") (by assumption (2)), which is obviously different than "dead", contradicting assumption (1).

    You're saying that this means that classical logic cannot handle this situation. I'm saying that the real problem is that assumption (1) is false.

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  • L*2*G*XL*2*G*X Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    So what you are saying is that nobody has ever thought of anything new?

    I really doubt that's what you are saying.

    Pretty much. Most philosophy can be boiled down to the difference between parmenides and heraclitus

    Change vs. Unity and the problem of the one and the many. Lots of abstraction and complication has arisen since then, and Descartes introduced subjectivity, but all philosophers are in discussion with eachother over the same questions.

    Man, I hate to always be disagreeing with you Poldy, it feels kind of like kicking a well-meaning puppy. However, I pretty much disagree with you on this one. While there are some issues that may have persisted from antiquity, there are absolutely new questions that have arisen, and at the very least old problems have been given significantly new treatments.

    Consider the field of philosophy of science. Back then they simply didn't have the scientific foundation to raise the philosophical questions that we consider today. Or the field of philosophy of mind--our knowledge of the function of animals, the mechanics of the brain, and the possibility of incredible turing machines all have philosophical implications that the ancients had no grasp on.

    This is not to mention the concrete leaps forward made in logic and mathematics. For instance, how Kant's "existence is not a predicate" line pretty much killed the ontological argument entirely.

    The problem with the advances in logic is that they have a spectacular impact on our perception of philosophy, but little on actual philosophy.

    Even in this thread I can see people getting strung up in debating logic. At the heart of the matter of morality lies observable behavior. Observing this old behaviour from our new perspectives will gain more understanding than trying to get an edge over eachother in a mathematical arena where really, its unlikely anyone here has the intelligence to understand the state of the art.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Based on what I've learnt, I'd say (this is kind of off the top of my head, intuition if you will, so I'm not claiming it true just throwing it out there: its probably the first time I've put my opinion in on this) this is the way morals probably work if everything I know isn't mistaken or mislearnt. Keep in mind, this is not a 1,2,3 or anything. If anything you'd prolly have multiple causal lines going between each step in a giant flowchart of motherfucking confusing.

    Evolution guides which morals get accepted by the process of those people with favoured moral tendencies having a higher chance of getting to pass on their genes, because they are more likely to attract mates consistently.

    Societal reasoning can guide how one develops morals in childhood, in that you can sit down as an adult and work out what could be a good morale, then teach it to your children. You can also pick up what would be a good moral through social reasoning and social learning. Watching what others do, and repeating it. No critique of the moral in question has to happen for this circumstance. You can teach a child to react correctly to a moral before they can properly reason it through, for example.


    i thought of something when reading this. you apppear to imply that the morals we have are derived because our specific set of morals gave a net + in an evolutionary sense. (and there was more besides that but i want to concentrate on this). it would seem then that you should be able to argue that our morals are actually locked in to our species - that if we were to evolve again in the same way it is likely we would end up with the same set of morals.

    so then i started thinking about klingons (i dont even like star trek...) and other possible alien or terrestrial societies that were supposed to have evolved an entirely different set of social values (to simplify, valueing strength, courage, intelligence, etc) but have in most cases have been describes as having the same set of basic human morals (don't kill, rape etc) is this an accurate depiction of other cultures or is it just humanizing aliens in order to make a more empathic story.

    basically could aliens and humans ever share a common moral system and if so, is that common ground universal or universally probable for all or most sentient life?

  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Based on what I've learnt, I'd say (this is kind of off the top of my head, intuition if you will, so I'm not claiming it true just throwing it out there: its probably the first time I've put my opinion in on this) this is the way morals probably work if everything I know isn't mistaken or mislearnt. Keep in mind, this is not a 1,2,3 or anything. If anything you'd prolly have multiple causal lines going between each step in a giant flowchart of motherfucking confusing.

    Evolution guides which morals get accepted by the process of those people with favoured moral tendencies having a higher chance of getting to pass on their genes, because they are more likely to attract mates consistently.

    Societal reasoning can guide how one develops morals in childhood, in that you can sit down as an adult and work out what could be a good morale, then teach it to your children. You can also pick up what would be a good moral through social reasoning and social learning. Watching what others do, and repeating it. No critique of the moral in question has to happen for this circumstance. You can teach a child to react correctly to a moral before they can properly reason it through, for example.


    i thought of something when reading this. you apppear to imply that the morals we have are derived because our specific set of morals gave a net + in an evolutionary sense. (and there was more besides that but i want to concentrate on this). it would seem then that you should be able to argue that our morals are actually locked in to our species - that if we were to evolve again in the same way it is likely we would end up with the same set of morals.

    so then i started thinking about klingons (i dont even like star trek...) and other possible alien or terrestrial societies that were supposed to have evolved an entirely different set of social values (to simplify, valueing strength, courage, intelligence, etc) but have in most cases have been describes as having the same set of basic human morals (don't kill, rape etc) is this an accurate depiction of other cultures or is it just humanizing aliens in order to make a more empathic story.

    basically could aliens and humans ever share a common moral system and if so, is that common ground universal or universally probable for all or most sentient life?

    There is almost no polite way I could answer this post.

    So I'm just going to say: "leave me out of this"

    I don't want my name ascribed to the forthcoming discussion.

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    There's no problem with the system of logic.

    That's what I was saying--but you're quoting me as if to correct me, and so now I'm confused.

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    L*2*G*X wrote: »
    Even in this thread I can see people getting strung up in debating logic.

    I don't think that formal logic is at all necessary or appropriate to this debate: I only brought it up because Poldy said that there's been no advance in philosophy since antiquity. The most obvious way in which that's false is in reference to advances in logic. It was an aside.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Based on what I've learnt, I'd say (this is kind of off the top of my head, intuition if you will, so I'm not claiming it true just throwing it out there: its probably the first time I've put my opinion in on this) this is the way morals probably work if everything I know isn't mistaken or mislearnt. Keep in mind, this is not a 1,2,3 or anything. If anything you'd prolly have multiple causal lines going between each step in a giant flowchart of motherfucking confusing.

    Evolution guides which morals get accepted by the process of those people with favoured moral tendencies having a higher chance of getting to pass on their genes, because they are more likely to attract mates consistently.

    Societal reasoning can guide how one develops morals in childhood, in that you can sit down as an adult and work out what could be a good morale, then teach it to your children. You can also pick up what would be a good moral through social reasoning and social learning. Watching what others do, and repeating it. No critique of the moral in question has to happen for this circumstance. You can teach a child to react correctly to a moral before they can properly reason it through, for example.


    i thought of something when reading this. you apppear to imply that the morals we have are derived because our specific set of morals gave a net + in an evolutionary sense. (and there was more besides that but i want to concentrate on this). it would seem then that you should be able to argue that our morals are actually locked in to our species - that if we were to evolve again in the same way it is likely we would end up with the same set of morals.

    so then i started thinking about klingons (i dont even like star trek...) and other possible alien or terrestrial societies that were supposed to have evolved an entirely different set of social values (to simplify, valueing strength, courage, intelligence, etc) but have in most cases have been describes as having the same set of basic human morals (don't kill, rape etc) is this an accurate depiction of other cultures or is it just humanizing aliens in order to make a more empathic story.

    basically could aliens and humans ever share a common moral system and if so, is that common ground universal or universally probable for all or most sentient life?

    There is almost no polite way I could answer this post.

    So I'm just going to say: "leave me out of this"

    I don't want my name ascribed to the forthcoming discussion.

    man... i was actually hoping you would respond since it was a derivation of your statement.

    it wasn't a true 'universal morals' question but more of a 'universal sentient species morals' one.

    i think you can avoid the gobblygook by simply tying it down to sentient species instead of everything and anything alive. of course i could be wrong.

  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Based on what I've learnt, I'd say (this is kind of off the top of my head, intuition if you will, so I'm not claiming it true just throwing it out there: its probably the first time I've put my opinion in on this) this is the way morals probably work if everything I know isn't mistaken or mislearnt. Keep in mind, this is not a 1,2,3 or anything. If anything you'd prolly have multiple causal lines going between each step in a giant flowchart of motherfucking confusing.

    Evolution guides which morals get accepted by the process of those people with favoured moral tendencies having a higher chance of getting to pass on their genes, because they are more likely to attract mates consistently.

    Societal reasoning can guide how one develops morals in childhood, in that you can sit down as an adult and work out what could be a good morale, then teach it to your children. You can also pick up what would be a good moral through social reasoning and social learning. Watching what others do, and repeating it. No critique of the moral in question has to happen for this circumstance. You can teach a child to react correctly to a moral before they can properly reason it through, for example.


    i thought of something when reading this. you apppear to imply that the morals we have are derived because our specific set of morals gave a net + in an evolutionary sense. (and there was more besides that but i want to concentrate on this). it would seem then that you should be able to argue that our morals are actually locked in to our species - that if we were to evolve again in the same way it is likely we would end up with the same set of morals.

    so then i started thinking about klingons (i dont even like star trek...) and other possible alien or terrestrial societies that were supposed to have evolved an entirely different set of social values (to simplify, valueing strength, courage, intelligence, etc) but have in most cases have been describes as having the same set of basic human morals (don't kill, rape etc) is this an accurate depiction of other cultures or is it just humanizing aliens in order to make a more empathic story.

    basically could aliens and humans ever share a common moral system and if so, is that common ground universal or universally probable for all or most sentient life?

    There is almost no polite way I could answer this post.

    So I'm just going to say: "leave me out of this"

    I don't want my name ascribed to the forthcoming discussion.

    man... i was actually hoping you would respond since it was a derivation of your statement.

    it wasn't a true 'universal morals' question but more of a 'universal sentient species morals' one.

    i think you can avoid the gobblygook by simply tying it down to sentient species instead of everything and anything alive. of course i could be wrong.

    Look. There's no way I can answer this. Absolutely any logical extrapolation has an equally likely counterpoint. You can only resolve these kinds of things through testing them empirically, something that would be impossible to do without actually finding a species.

    I have no interest in stuff not based on experimentation.

    I appreciate that it interests you, but I wont, ever, talk about this kind of thing. I'll leave it up to you fine gentlemen, alright.

    edit: That came off snappier than I intended, it's late night here and I have a headache from still being a bit sick from some damn bug. Sorry.

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    zakkiel wrote: »
    Then you're not interested in addressing the argument from evolution. Which makes me kind of curious about why you brought it up.

    The 'argument from evolution' which I was originally responding to is due to Darthmix, Qingu, LorenMichael and such. They are all materialists, and they all think that human reason is, in general, compatible with materialism. So they think they are presenting an argument for why moral reasoning is problematic in a way that other forms of reasoning are not. This was the argument which I was responding to.

    You, however, are an idealist. You are presenting an argument for why human reason is, in itself, incompatible with materialism. Hence, since all reasoning is supposedly incompatible with materialism, so too would moral reasoning be. This was the argument which I was not responding to.

    Their 'argument from evolution' is not your 'argument from evolution.' Maybe I'll get on to talking about yours later, however, the fact that my response to theirs doesn't also cover yours at the same time is no failing on my part.

    (Edit: footnote--Loren is a hard determinist and so I'm not sure exactly what he would say in response to this argument)

  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

    Materialism claims that all the things that exist are material things. I was using it interchangeably with 'physicalism.' Here's a good explanation of the terms from the SEP, a great online resource.
    Spoiler:

  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Now that's going to be handy whenever Podly talks to me about anything ever.

    Including what he had for breakfast.

    Also, I am a physicalist, by that definition.

    I'm just not an essentialist.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

    Materialism claims that all the things that exist are material things. I was using it interchangeably with 'physicalism.' Here's a good explanation of the terms from the SEP, a great online resource.
    Spoiler:

    The problem with that is that does not include abstraction, and yet it necessarily needs it. For example, for materialism to work, it has to treat time as an analogy. It substitutes temporality (our experiencing of time) for time. Also, if you are materialist, you say that "being" is nothing other than subsistence, with which I very hardily disagree.

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

    Materialism claims that all the things that exist are material things. I was using it interchangeably with 'physicalism.' Here's a good explanation of the terms from the SEP, a great online resource.
    Spoiler:

    The problem with that is that does not include abstraction, and yet it necessarily needs it. For example, for materialism to work, it has to treat time as an analogy. It substitutes temporality (our experiencing of time) for time. Also, if you are materialist, you say that "being" is nothing other than subsistence, with which I very hardily disagree.

    From what I can see, ideas, the "artificial" as you sometimes call it, all that is the domain of the idealist - all this can be integrated into the physicalist mindset simply by suggesting that they are the result of physical events in the brain. "Justice" for example may not have an external physical existence, but it certainly exists in the configuration of chemicals and impulses that resides in our skulls.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

    Materialism claims that all the things that exist are material things. I was using it interchangeably with 'physicalism.' Here's a good explanation of the terms from the SEP, a great online resource.
    Spoiler:

    The problem with that is that does not include abstraction, and yet it necessarily needs it. For example, for materialism to work, it has to treat time as an analogy. It substitutes temporality (our experiencing of time) for time. Also, if you are materialist, you say that "being" is nothing other than subsistence, with which I very hardily disagree.

    From what I can see, ideas, the "artificial" as you sometimes call it, all that is the domain of the idealist - all this can be integrated into the physicalist mindset simply by suggesting that they are the result of physical events in the brain. "Justice" for example may not have an external physical existence, but it certainly exists in the configuration of chemicals and impulses that resides in our skulls.

    No, you misunderstand my use of the term "substance." Substance is not the only thing which exists. Substance is a term handed down to us from Aristotle and the Scholastics, which is the way of speaking of some being that exists per se, with no aid by anything other than itself. I do not think that being is an idea. I think that being, time, and space are existential structures that truly exist as objects of reality.

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    What's the definition of materialism in this context MrMister?

    Materialism claims that all the things that exist are material things. I was using it interchangeably with 'physicalism.' Here's a good explanation of the terms from the SEP, a great online resource.
    Spoiler:

    The problem with that is that does not include abstraction, and yet it necessarily needs it. For example, for materialism to work, it has to treat time as an analogy. It substitutes temporality (our experiencing of time) for time. Also, if you are materialist, you say that "being" is nothing other than subsistence, with which I very hardily disagree.

    From what I can see, ideas, the "artificial" as you sometimes call it, all that is the domain of the idealist - all this can be integrated into the physicalist mindset simply by suggesting that they are the result of physical events in the brain. "Justice" for example may not have an external physical existence, but it certainly exists in the configuration of chemicals and impulses that resides in our skulls.

    No, you misunderstand my use of the term "substance." Substance is not the only thing which exists. Substance is a term handed down to us from Aristotle and the Scholastics, which is the way of speaking of some being that exists per se, with no aid by anything other than itself. I do not think that being is an idea. I think that being, time, and space are existential structures that truly exist as objects of reality.

    You didn't write "substance," you wrote "subsistence." :P

    So to further define the idea of substance: you are suggesting that being, time and space do not exist as substance?

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    So to further define the idea of substance: you are suggesting that being, time and space do not exist as substance?

    If you want a much better response than what I am going to give, you can look up Heidegger's critique of Descartes' notion of substance in A History of the Concept of Time, specifically, the section of how the Tradition passed over Worldhood. It's the genesis of the deconstructive technique, and it's thoroughly enjoying. However, a more basic answer is that a substance is something which is subsistent. If we say this, then there really can be no answer, because everything seems to be infinitely divisible. The chair that I sit on is truly not subsistent, because at any moment it could, theoretically have all its molecules scatter to opposite ends of the universe. Likewise, it's particles do not exist per se, because they are both constantly switching with their environment aaaaaand composed of much smaller particles. (I'm writing a paper right now that deals with, in part, how Descartes may be considered the original string theorist.) This is why most philosophers of his time said that the only true substance was God, because only God can exist of his own accord. If we consider what I had just mentioned, it seems like time, space, and being are, perhaps the ONLY substances with which we interact.

    I however, reject the tradition of substances. As a phenomenologist, I pick up the banner started by Husserl: To the things themselves!

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    It is entirely possible that time and space are finitely divisible, and that we click through them in infinitesimally small increments like a three-dimensional grid, and that either that substance constitutes our material existence, or it acts as a vessel for whatever fundamental substance matter is reduced to. I have read this theory or something resembling it from a few sources of scientific philosophy.

    But as you say, you reject the tradition of substances, as I recall from your enjoyment of what's-his-face and his idea of "things" perduring through time.

    I am suggesting that even if one buys into substances from a physicalist perspective, there is plenty of room for a determinist-style integration of abstraction, ideas, and "things" as opposed to "stuff."

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    It is entirely possible that time and space are finitely divisible, and that we click through them in infinitesimally small increments like a three-dimensional grid, and that either that substance constitutes our material existence, or it acts as a vessel for whatever fundamental substance matter is reduced to. I have read this theory or something resembling it from a few sources of scientific philosophy.

    But as you say, you reject the tradition of substances, as I recall from your enjoyment of what's-his-face and his idea of "things" perduring through time.

    I am suggesting that even if one buys into substances from a physicalist perspective, there is plenty of room for a determinist-style integration of abstraction, ideas, and "things" as opposed to "stuff."

    Regarding the first proposition of time: that would not be a separate part of time, but rather a mode with which we interact.

    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

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  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

    It is important, but MrMister already addressed it (I believe it was him):

    Materialism in that sense is not really contemporary, because there are many physical aspects of reality that are not matter per se, such as gravity. Most material-thinking people see this and fall under the category of "physicalist" now.

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  • PodlyPodly good moleman to youRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

    It is important, but MrMister already addressed it (I believe it was him):

    Materialism in that sense is not really contemporary, because there are many physical aspects of reality that are not matter per se, such as gravity. Most material-thinking people see this and fall under the category of "physicalist" now.

    Wouldn't Einstein's notion of gravity actually be materialist?

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  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

    It is important, but MrMister already addressed it (I believe it was him):

    Materialism in that sense is not really contemporary, because there are many physical aspects of reality that are not matter per se, such as gravity. Most material-thinking people see this and fall under the category of "physicalist" now.

    Wouldn't Einstein's notion of gravity actually be materialist?

    The idea that mass distorts space-time to produce an attractive force?

    It depends if you consider Einstein's definition of space-time to include the property of being "matter."

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  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

    It is important, but MrMister already addressed it (I believe it was him):

    Materialism in that sense is not really contemporary, because there are many physical aspects of reality that are not matter per se, such as gravity. Most material-thinking people see this and fall under the category of "physicalist" now.

    So why aren't we using a modern definition of materialism exactly?

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  • zakkielzakkiel Registered User
    edited December 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Regarding the latter parts: As is my understanding, the difference between the two is that a physicalist says that everything that is comes from the physical construction of reality, whereas the materialists say that everything that is is matter. There is quite a big difference.

    Um... that really doesn't sound like that big of a difference actually.

    It is important, but MrMister already addressed it (I believe it was him):

    Materialism in that sense is not really contemporary, because there are many physical aspects of reality that are not matter per se, such as gravity. Most material-thinking people see this and fall under the category of "physicalist" now.

    Wouldn't Einstein's notion of gravity actually be materialist?

    The idea that mass distorts space-time to produce an attractive force?

    It depends if you consider Einstein's definition of space-time to include the property of being "matter."

    This is the sort of nonsensical question physicalism causes people to ask. You could view space and time as being properties of matter or imagine a rubber sheet or whatever you want. The only difference between the two positions is the pictures you have in your head; it has nothing to do with reality.

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  • zakkielzakkiel Registered User
    edited December 2008
    MrMister wrote: »

    Their 'argument from evolution' is not your 'argument from evolution.' Maybe I'll get on to talking about yours later, however, the fact that my response to theirs doesn't also cover yours at the same time is no failing on my part.

    (Edit: footnote--Loren is a hard determinist and so I'm not sure exactly what he would say in response to this argument)

    I would actually like to hear from them as to whether their argument from evolution is your argument from evolution because I kind of doubt it. But suppose we grant you your version, for the sake of the game.

    You tacitly concede in your first post that social beliefs are inheritable - that the general moral opinion in one generation will be determined by the moral opinion of the preceding generation. This is the critical assumption of the argument you present and you do nothing to refute it. In other words, you accept that most people will hold moral beliefs not because they reason them out but because they were taught them as children. Now, one could still believe that such opinions are steered over time by moral pioneers, people with better access to moral facts. Unfortunately, you've conceded entirely the idea that moral opinions will conform to selective pressures. So then: if our moral opinions are in fact moral, it is because the objective moral facts dictated by reason miraculously coincide with those practices which are optimal for the survival and expansion of society. But why would any person swallow such an implausible, not to say saccharine, coincidence?

    Your refusal to deal with the big problems of physicalism and moral realism suggests that you just don't have any confidence that you could satisfactorily answer them. Set aside my objections - I believe Incenjucar is still waiting for you to provide some evidence to believe in moral realism, which is a fair request since it is the teeth of the argument from queerness (to which your response is an appalling equivocation of the word "nihilism").

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Just to check.

    Is there an interactionist theory of morality in philosophy?

    That is to say is there any philosopher out there saying there's no one causal line, that people can both intuistically judge and reason as well, and that these things can interact upon one another in a manner unique to the individual?

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Moridin wrote: »
    Incenjucar wrote: »

    I'm still waiting for evidence of morals.

    Me too.

    I asked in the first reply to the thread :(

    Well, how you feel will, of course, depend on what you count as "evidence for morals." However, I will walk you through my line of reasoning and let you see what you decide. In this post I will focus on why I do not agree with nihilism. In a later post I may focus on why I think that various relativist or anti-realist theories of morality entail nihilism.

    First off, it is extremely uncontroversial that a certain action can be the best action for accomplishing a certain end. For instance, if I want to get an A on the test then I should study. This is sometimes referred to as a hypothetical imperative: it governs how I should act given that I want to accomplish another thing. It is also relatively uncontroversial that a certain state of affairs can be better for a certain person. For instance, it is better for me to have the winning lottery ticket than to have cancer. In fact, both of these things seem to be presumed by the fact that we take actions to attain goals. How do I explain reaching for my water cup except by reference to the fact that it's better for me to be sated than to be thirsty and the most effective way to sate myself is to drink water?

    What is more controversial, and what is at issue here, is whether an action or a state of affairs can be simply best simpliciter. That is to say, whether a state of affairs can be better than another without referencing a single person: perhaps, instead, by reference to all people at once. Similarly, whether an action can be best not merely in reference to a single goal, but simply best. As I am speaking, a nihilist is someone who rejects both of these ideas, and claims that the only way that an action or state of affairs can be best is in relation to a specific goal or a specific person. This is the position which I think is untenable.

    Consider again the hypothetical imperative: if I want to get an A I should study. That tells me how best to achieve a particular goal. But there is another question that it cannot answer: namely, what goals should I pursue? For instance, presumably it is up to me whether I want to try for an A, or whether I instead want to coast by with a C. I could, for instance, instead take up the goal of stealing Gungnir from Odin in final fantasy 3. This question, one which we are constantly confronted with in life, is one which the nihilist is forced to reject as meaningless. The nihilist may accept that studying is the best way to obtain an A, and that job-leveling my thief is the best way of stealing Gungnir, however, they leave me with no mechanism for deciding which of these is itself the better goal.

    One could object here that they do have a mechanism for settling this question. Namely, I could decide the question based on the aforementioned criteria of whether getting an A or getting Gungnir is better for myself. But then I am still left with the question of: should I do what is best for myself, or should I instead do something that is better for someone else? This is, again, a question that we are often faced with in real life. For instance, do I visit my friend in the hospital or do I finish my honors thesis on time? One is better for me, and one is better for her: which should I do? The nihilist claims that there is no rational resolution to this question, and indeed, that it must be meaningless. There is simply no fact about which I should do.

    The evidence from life that I mentioned earlier is that everyone engages in this sort of reasoning about what to do and that in ordinary contexts everyone acknowledges it as meaningful. So everyone should reject nihilism, because it implies that this reasoning that everyone engages in and acknowledges as meaningful is, in fact, confused and meaningless.

    Furthermore, there is no real alternative. How else are we supposed to proceed through life except by reasoning in this way? The nihilist can make various responses here: for instance, the nihilist could say that people do not actually reason about what is best except by reference to themselves--that everyone just does what they want, whether it be motivated by hedonism, guilt, or some mix of the two. Hence, there is no need for a model of what is best outside of reference to an individual person in order to explain ordinary reasoning. However this position, also known as psychological egoism, is extremely unpersuasive, and if true is likely only true trivially and by definition. It also exemplifies a theme that I suspect will be common to all the nihilist responses: the theme of rejecting the whole scheme of self-conceptualization wherein we are making rational decisions about what we should do. Because the nihilist thinks there is no rational answer to the question of what we should do, they instead have to replace the reasoning process with some sort of agency-denying process such as "I do what my desire/culture/whatever makes me do." But again, any sort of response along these lines will still be inadequate to help me when I am confronted by decisions in my everyday life, because in essence all responses along these lines will deny that there exists such thing as a decision in my everyday life. Hence, they are useless.

    And that is why I am not a nihilist.

  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    You know why these arguments kind of baffle me? It's the approach many people take.

    Any philosophy which holds there is a single best case or single way about which humans morally reason flies in the face of evidence that has actually measured how we make moral judgements.

    Similarly, any logic that holds to a single scenario, or tries to find a single logical point, or prove a single logical truth, is again, flying in the face of the evidence that we do not do just decide one way, we use a combination of multiple different strategies.

    All that do this are equally simplistic and lacking in their ability to predict behaviors, or even what judgements people make. It may be that we use all of them at some point, or that there can be a situation where one applies and another does not.

    Why do so many of you guys think you can find the one answer that underlies it all? Real life isn't that simple, it never is. What makes you think this will be?

    You guys should be looking at it from a holistic type view. Rather than trying to prove or disprove any one theory, you should be trying to see how people actually decide, then look at which philosophies match which different decision making strategy. Otherwise, I'm sorry to say, you run the risk of going off on a wild goose chase, arguing semantics, or just going around in circles. For centuries.

    Unless I've misread you wrong MrMonroe and you are talking about how we should make decisions? Because some of those examples seemed to me to be using how people make decisions as evidence for the validity of any one should value judgement.
    In which case it's not evidence, people use lots of different values. You can't get an answer from that.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    MrMister wrote: »
    For instance, do I visit my friend in the hospital or do I finish my honors thesis on time? One is better for me, and one is better for her: which should I do? The nihilist claims that there is no rational resolution to this question, and indeed, that it must be meaningless. There is simply no fact about which I should do.

    There are a huge number of variables here, and indeed, based on your very vague information, there is no obvious optimal situation here. Further, being "selfish" can result in huge penalties, whether from guilt or social punishment. That said, I would agree that there isn't a "right" thing to do here. This is where you weigh your values and make your predictions and then roll the dice to see if you judged the results of your decision correctly. Many people will agree with your decision and many people will disagree with it and none of them will have anything to back it up but their own personal values.
    The evidence from life that I mentioned earlier is that everyone engages in this sort of reasoning about what to do and that in ordinary contexts everyone acknowledges it as meaningful.

    Argument ad populum?
    So everyone should reject nihilism, because it implies that this reasoning that everyone engages in and acknowledges as meaningful is, in fact, confused and meaningless.

    Argument ad populum.
    Furthermore, there is no real alternative.

    False.
    How else are we supposed to proceed through life except by reasoning in this way? The nihilist can make various responses here: for instance, the nihilist could say that people do not actually reason about what is best except by reference to themselves--that everyone just does what they want, whether it be motivated by hedonism, guilt, or some mix of the two. Hence, there is no need for a model of what is best outside of reference to an individual person in order to explain ordinary reasoning.

    Humans are not self-contained entities. We're as much a superorganism as not.
    However this position, also known as psychological egoism, is extremely unpersuasive,

    Your ability to be persuaded does not determine reality. See: Creationists
    and if true is likely only true trivially and by definition.

    So it's true but only in reality?
    It also exemplifies a theme that I suspect will be common to all the nihilist responses: the theme of rejecting the whole scheme of self-conceptualization wherein we are making rational decisions about what we should do.

    The difference here is that a nihilist should do what is required to meet a goal, whereas your goal is always to do what is moral. The difference being that a nihilist's goal is going to be based on something that can be shown to exist (generally), whereas you still have no evidence of what IS moral. It's like having a treasure map that is just a map with no directions and no evidence that there is treasure.
    Because the nihilist thinks there is no rational answer to the question of what we should do, they instead have to replace the reasoning process with some sort of agency-denying process such as "I do what my desire/culture/whatever makes me do."

    The reasoning process is simply "how do I fulfill my values" instead of "how do I fulfill the universe's values." A nihilist can at least show some evidence of their values, though they may not understand them fully.
    But again, any sort of response along these lines will still be inadequate to help me when I am confronted by decisions in my everyday life, because in essence all responses along these lines will deny that there exists such thing as a decision in my everyday life. Hence, they are useless.

    And that is why I am not a nihilist.

    This is one of the reasons people have religion, and why they cling so desperately to it. You need something to be true, so you demand that it must be, even though you still have no evidence of it whatsoever. You are clapping your hands for Tinkerbell.

    --

    Morninglord: I'm not suggesting that there is one answer. I am suggesting that there is NOT an answer. Shit just is and you deal with it as best you can with the methods you have. One of the biggest practical problems with morals is that they are generally described as absolute, when absolutes are so very rare in the world, as you italicized so fully. Thankfully, people usually have more flexible and varied systems, and will utilize systems they learn from others, and throw the different perspectives at an issue until they are satisfied with the outcome, revising as neccessary.

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Incidentally peoples judgements and values can be heavily affected and manipulated by social forces.

    So you can't treat people as individuals. You can't even treat them as people who should be individuals. These forces can override rationality (even forewarned and forearmed rationality) and in many cases seem to diffuse self identity. The process is called deindividuation.

    So you have to take that into account when deciding your shoulds.

    It's a bummer but a single person can't just be reduced down to a logical function, removed from the social network around them, and then judged individually. Systems of thought that do this are really primitive and aren't supported by the social psychology literature.

    These are just some constructive criticisms I could think of. I'm not saying you should stop thinking about it, I'm saying you need to integrate this into how you do.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    It's a bummer but a single person can't just be reduced down to a logical function, removed from the social network around them, and then judged individually. Systems of thought that do this are really primitive and aren't supported by the social psychology literature.

    Yes. This kind of thing is why I try to reserve some measure of judgement regarding Bible Thumpers. Many of them genuinely believe they are working toward saving me from my own folly. They can still go fuck themselves, but I do what I can to remind myself that they're not themselves being malicious in that belief.

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Riots as well.
    There's good evidence for certain elements of social functioning to be ingrained. You find them universally, they're divorced from culture.

    It could be that a lot of elements of common morality have a truth based on these social processes. The thing is, if they do, this doesn't give them any further validity. It might be that repaying a favour is a universal moral, but if it's based on a social process rather than reason (which it clearly is, education, etc has little effect on the obligation to "repay a favour") then this just means it should be critiqued rather than held axiomatic. Why? Because people can use it to manipulate you. The obligation to repay a favour doesn't mean equal size or value of the favour needs to be returned, it just means you need to repay. People can do a small favour, ask for a larger one, and it can often affect decision making.

    This kind of moral can be detrimental in certain situations, while useful in others. The universality of a moral in no way excuses it from critique, otherwise we are just giving up and declaring ourselves helpless animals.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Certainly. The notion that innate human behavior is automatically ethical implying that the infectiousness of yawning is moral is rather amusing, though.

    --

    The exchange of benefits is an incredibly complex thing that varies highly between cultures and contexts. Sometimes repaying a favor will be upsetting to a person, because they were after emotional satisfaction from having given without compensation.

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    It is amusing.

    It's not one I made though. I'm not saying innate behavior -> always leads to morality.

    Certainly studying the right way to act can -> lead to innate behavior in the population if it becomes accepted -> leads to morality.

    There's no way I'm saying infectious yawning is a moral, it's not a license to think of ridiculous stuff.

    I'm saying take what are commonly thought of as morals, then look at behavior. If you see a link with social processes, then that's a clue the moral probably needs to be critiqued.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Repaying a favour is a common moral.

    See above.

    You can seriously insult people by repaying their favours.

    --

    Ridiculous though the notion may be, it's no more ridiculous than the moral conclusions that are actually made, since they have equal evidence behind their claim.

    People like to think that a lot of reality is ridiculous, after all.

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    It's irrelevant, it's just an example of the concept. If it's wrong because I picked a bad example, so be it. The concept is sound.

    I'm basically saying universally true doesn't increase validity of a moral. I'm trying to point out that in some cases you can critique them, that they shouldn't be held axiomatic.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    I'm basically saying universally true doesn't increase validity of a moral.

    Agreed.

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  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Ridiculous though the notion may be, it's no more ridiculous than the moral conclusions that are actually made, since they have equal evidence behind their claim.

    Good point. I didn't see this since I was thinking of it from the other direction.

    ---

    Also goddamit wait a few minutes till after I post, I'm impulsive and need to review what I've written sometimes to make sure I've worded it right. Preview isn't always enough. :(

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  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    For instance, do I visit my friend in the hospital or do I finish my honors thesis on time? One is better for me, and one is better for her: which should I do? The nihilist claims that there is no rational resolution to this question, and indeed, that it must be meaningless. There is simply no fact about which I should do.

    I would agree that there isn't a "right" thing to do here. This is where you weigh your values and make your predictions and then roll the dice to see if you judged the results of your decision correctly. Many people will agree with your decision and many people will disagree with it and none of them will have anything to back it up but their own personal values.

    ...

    The reasoning process [of the nihilist] is simply "how do I fulfill my values" instead of "how do I fulfill the universe's values." A nihilist can at least show some evidence of their values, though they may not understand them fully.

    How does the nihilist choose her values? For instance, in the example given, how does the nihilist choose whether she values comforting her friend or finishing her thesis more? Or do you think it is not possible to choose what one values? Because that was precisely the question I was raising, and you haven't addressed it.

    You have said "I do what I value" without explaining why you value any particular thing over any other.
    and if [psychological egoism is] true [it] is likely only true trivially and by definition.

    So it's true but only in reality?

    Allow me to give you a little primer on what it is for something to be trivially true.

    Psychological egoism is only clearly true if you define what someone wants to do as the thing that they do. But in that case it's obvious that everyone does what they want, because they are defined as the same thing: "everyone does what they want" becomes a completely non-empirical truth that is a function of how we use language rather than how we actually behave.

    In that case, "everyone does what they want" becomes like "all bachelors are unmarried" rather than "people in situations of diffused responsibility tend not to act to help strangers." The last one describes an actual, independent feature of the world we live in, whereas the first two just extrapolates from a definition.

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