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All my atheist morals

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    YarYar Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Ketherial wrote:
    no, i've stated time and again, that i am absolutely uninterested in how much or little joy is created. as ive stated before (against claims of impossibility), i would choose various other "virtues" over positive consciense experience in any number of situations, as a principle and regardless of joy related consequences (assuming it were possible to know such consequences).
    And as I've always responded, when you distill the virtue to that point, it becomes utterly meaningless. When you categorically remove all context from sacrifice, it is not anything we can agree on as good. Sacrifice removed from what it causes is simply destruction. That's an even worse one than patience. It is only good in what it achieves. And no, not what you're thinking, more below.

    I've never really pushed too hard you on why you think sarcifice is good by itself. We were there a few pages ago - happiness is understood as a positive thing in and of itself completely regardless of any circumstance or context. Virtue is positive only because we believe it to usually create more happiness and less sorrow on the whole.

    Now, for the next four paragraphs, keep in mind I am not talking about judging someone. I'm also not talking about how people should go about making moral decisions. I'm only talking about comparing good vs bad outcomes and experiences:

    A man might be "happy" as he goes on a killing spree. Obviously the circumstances in that instance of happiness changes how we view (or "judge") the larger context of what's going on. But nevertheless, by itself and isolated from those circumstances, the happiness alone is still recognizable as a positive conscious experience, a good thing, an enjoyable thing. We still all recognize that this man is experiencing something that feels good.

    Happiness does not require that it be justified or balanced. Retain the exact same happiness but replace the circumstances with, say, killing virtual enemies in a video game, which is likely an entirely neutral result that itself isn't really anything "good," and nevertheless the inherent goodness in him being happy makes the larger context a good thing. On the other hand, bring back the idea that he is on a real-life killing spree: In that case, his happiness in and of itself is still a positive thing, he's still experiencing a positive sensation that any of us would recognize as a good thing, but it is grossly overshadowed by the pain and sorrow and what-not that he wrought. It is the net balance of his joy and others' sorrow. Regardless of how you rotate the circumstances around this happiness to make the larger context good or bad, the happiness by itself is a relatively good thing.

    The same is not true of sacrifice. Isolated from circumstances, whether a man is sacrificing himself to save his village, or sacrificing his marriage to play more Magic the Gathering, the existence of the "sacrifice" by itself and isolated from any context is entirely neutral. There is nothing positive about it that we can perceive.

    The sacrifice is only justified by the circumstances. Sacrificing his life to save his village, good. Sacrificing his marriage to play more Magic, probably bad (you can imagine worse examples if you want). In those cases, there is nothing inherently positive about the existence of sacrifice (again, I'm not talking about judging the person), it is only the larger circumstances and whether or not they appear to be a net positive joy for all that leads us to appreciate the goodness of it.

    The above is why joy is inherently good as an axiom, and sacrifice is only good as it relates to joy. Now, as I respond to your next part, I'm talking about how we go about achieving the maximum good, how we best effect joyous outcomes, how we make moral decisions, and how we might judge people's decisions. Because when we talk about processes for making moral decisions, or about how we should evaluate someone's decision with the intent of judging that person, we are talking about a different thing than we are talking about judging the results of that decision as good or bad results.
    Ketherial wrote:
    obviously, ive been thinking about this quite a bit and i think these are really the points where we fundamentally differ.
    The fundamental difference is your inability to conceive of anything being "good" unless that goodness is defined primarily in terms of judging person's role in creating it. To me, judging an outcome as good may or may not always be related exactly to how we judge the conscious choices that went into effecting the outcome.
    Ketherial wrote:
    by basing a moral system on what we agree is simply an experience, you are necessarily subjecting morality to human perception. however, although you subject morality to perception, which is necessarily limited, you are unwilling to restrict such perception to any specific subject (person or even current society as a whole). as such, you are creating a strange paradoxical starting point: the joyfulness of all humanity across all time and lives.
    If we're talking real-world as opposed to theroretical, I'm willing to restrict it to the largest scale that we are reasonably capable of perceiving (which seems to be a moving target as mankind progresses, which again makes it theoretically infinite).

    There might be a planet on the other side of the universe where, by some quantum coincidence, the citizens all experience unholy terror and pain every time I scratch my nose. At some point, we have to be talking about the world we're reasonably capable of knowing or imagining. But you better believe that if I had any reasonable notion that said planet did exist, I'd do my best never to scratch my nose again.
    Ketherial wrote:
    the reason i find this to be objectionable is because you are attempting to make a normative claim based on an unproven, unprovable empirical claim: x is moral because it will maximize joy through all lives and time and hence we should do x.
    At some point our reason and consensus and beliefs and perceptive abilities do restrain us. Do you really believe African Americans would be better off still in slavery? Does society as a whole seem to believe it? If not, I can't really accept that from you as a sincere challenge.
    Ketherial wrote:
    yet, even if i were to accept your empirical claim, i find it problematic that the claim only works as a whole, but often fails when applied to specific circumstances. because what may be best for the whole, what may cause the most joy for the entirety of human lives across time, may not be best or cause the most joy for any specific individual at any specific moment. it may even end a particular individual's life (e.g. sacrifice).

    if sacrifice (or any variable) is valuable only as a vehicle which causes more joy, then shouldnt we necessarily not value sacrifice when it fails to cause more joy? your answer to this is seems to be: we recognize sacrifice as valuable because it is a powerful tool for causing joy, even though there are situations in which it fails to do so. hence, we value sacrifice on principle because we believe that in the long run across lives and time, sacrifice does empirically create more joy.
    Do you believe that it doesn't? Does society as a whole? It is because we believe, based on reason, history, experience, perception, that it does as a rule create a happier existence in the largest scale we can imagine
    Ketherial wrote:
    but my question then is, if we were able to do the math, if we were able to calculate the empirical answer, "was more joy caused?" would we nevertheless value the principle of sacrifice? if we calculated all of the joys and sorrows that resulted from sacrifice and came out with a net negative, would that mean then, that all sacrifices were actually immoral?
    Let me make sure I understand the question: if we were omniscient beings, would sacrifice still be a virtue reagardless of circumstance? Of course not. If we were omniscient beings, the very notion of morality is tossed against the wall and slides down said wall in a sticky mess.

    More specifically (and I think I answered this in one of my first posts), if humans had the ability to calculate the total net happiness and sadness of every decision beforehand, according to a universally agreed-upon recognition of relative happiness, then it would be immoral to do anything other than that which one knew generated the most happiness, and yes, sacrifice would lose all meaning as a virtue.

    If instead we only had the ability to calculate total net results after they happened, then we'd judge a decision based on what would reasonably have been the most likely to create the best outcome. And since we don't have the precog ability in this case, adhering to virtues like sacrifice, even when we don't see the immediate value, still might be what would most likely have achieved the desired result, even if it didn't this time.

    Hypotheticals are nice for isolating certain concepts. However, I generally frown on any hypothetical that requires agents to have omniscience or omnipotence and then asks us to judge those agents (as hypotheticals so often do). It's impossible to judge an all-knowing deity with human morality.
    Ketherial wrote:
    does what youre saying really boil down to: at the end of time, how much chemical x was created (regardless of whether or not we can measure it)?
    If you choose to, you can reduce any human quality or endeavor to just a series of electrical or chemical reactions. That isn't a lot of fun or a valid criticism of anything.

    Yar on
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