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Moral Relativism

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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    Oh it has to be wrongful now? Because before you were saying it had to be unlawful. Changing your definitions to better suit your argument, standard practice in philosophy.

    ViolentChemistry on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    Assume we have some base quality that is accepted as inarguably Good or Bad.

    It is for another discussion, but the ones generally used are that suffering is bad; satisfaction and joy are good. Those are the most basic good and bad that are possible, and all good and all bad come back to those in some fashion, over some timeframe.

    If you do believe that, then beyond that there is no relativism in morality any moreso than there is realtivism in human reason. You may think killing your infertile wife is morally acceptable, but we can reason that you are wrong, that your practice of wife-killing creates more suffering than does my system of criminalizing such a thing. There are a number of ways we can go about this reasoning, and we are not omniscient and hence we don't necessarily have the one true correct answer to any situation. Somewhere in the future or on another planet there may be someone who can out-reason me and show that my system of laws is less moral than whatever he's got going on. But this is why I say that morality is no more relative than is our capacity to reason.

    So long as we can agree on some assumed qualities that are inherently good or bad (such as joy or suffering), then the idea that morals are all just a cultural thing is completely false.

    See, I guess what doesn't jive for me is the implication that we've ever been at pains to define base qualities like that before we impose moral rules on ourselves; I don't think we went around deciding that joy was inherantly good or suffering was bad before we decided to ban murder. Morality doesn't follow from any belief about the inherant value of joy. Those articulations come after the fact, and are really just over-simplifications of our circumstance, which is complicated and can't really be reduced to a set of abstractions like happiness = good or suffering = bad. We understand intuitively that we should live together in social groups, and that we should have food, and that strangers should not suddenly appear in our tent to kill us and our family. These assumptions come naturally to us, in the same way the mouse assumes that he should eat the cheese. He doesn't need any inherant qualities to decide that the world in which he eats the cheese is preferable to the world in which he doesn't.

    darthmix on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    If a killing is murder, it has to be considered wrongful, which means you just said that everybody agrees that wrongful killings are wrong, or, in other words, immoral things are immoral. Thank you for defining synonyms for us.

    That's.... not quite what I said. I said that every society has a concept of wrongful killing, which isn't quite the tautology you make it out to be. There's nothing that says a society has to say death is ever immoral. Do all societies have a concept of the wrongful death of plants? No. Yet they have a concept of wrongful death of people. This is relevant.
    Also, many societies allow the causal of suffering of others for personal benefit to be acceptable. Look at modern capitalism. The question is how much you value the continuation of the familial line.

    To an extent, sure. Almost every action has, as its consequence, the net suffering of others. You bought a carton of eggs? Why didn't you buy the ramen and give the remainder to starving families in Africa? 12 children just starved to death because of you, jerk.

    So yes, societies generally allow people to live their lives and pursue their own happiness without obsessing over exactly who they're hurting at every step. Yet societies also tend to draw lines. The fact that they do so is, again, relevant.

    Why is it even the case that all human societies seem to have moral systems in place? There's nothing compelling them to do so.

    I think, when you start to look at the details of all of societies' moral systems, you start to see similarities. I don't believe this is mere happenstance, but rather that these systems are as they are because they must be. Because they wouldn't work any other way for us as we are.
    I would also point out the case study of the man who lost the ability to feel emotion and therefor was unable to make decisions, as he couldn't value anything.

    And?
    Also, dolphins are evil bastards who have been documented torturing and killing other dolphins and porpoises for the hell of it, and the military is currently finishing the development of a transmitter than essentially sticks large groups of people in a microwave.

    Again: and?

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    Richard_DastardlyRichard_Dastardly Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Also, dolphins are evil bastards who have been documented torturing and killing other dolphins and porpoises for the hell of it, and the military is currently finishing the development of a transmitter than essentially sticks large groups of people in a microwave.

    I wouldn't necessarily call the dolphins evil, since they probably don't act with any malicious intent. For them, the life of a non-familial dolphin or a porpoise has no intrinsic value. I would view it in the same sense as children burning ants under a magnifying glass. Sure, they're torturing living creatures for the enjoyment of it, but since ants have little value, and humans have no ability to feel empathy towards them, the act is neither immoral nor evil.

    And, the microwave thing is actually a pretty humane way of dispersing crowds. The alternative? Rubber bullets, live rounds or an army of police in riot gear.

    Richard_Dastardly on
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    saggiosaggio Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Animals aren't moral agents, and they aren't moral agents because they aren't rational agents. We have no way of really discerning the mental lives of, say, dolphins anymore than we are able to discern the mental life of my cat. We can observe some behaviors, but we really have no way of accessing or communicating with animals beyond very, very basic gestures and instinctual social behaviors.

    Although with humans we still can't access one another's mental lives directly (beetle in the box, etc), we can make reasonable assumptions based on a number of things we can outwardly observe, the most notable being sophisticated language use. I can reasonably assume when I am interacting with someone who can use language in a sophisticated manner that their mental life is similar enough to mine to allow me to make a judgment regarding their status as a rational, and thus moral, agent.

    The key here is that when a person is judged by his peers to be a rational agent, there is an assumption that they will have a decent decision making model, to the degree that they aren't simply creatures of instinct or habit; that, due to their cognitive abilities, they will be able to reasonably and rationally weigh options and come to a decision, outside of simple instinct based responses (fight-or-flight, etc). That's not to say that they will be particularly good, or that these decisions will be free from coercion or bias or anything like that - no, the important bit is that a person will be able to make reasonable decisions, even if they don't necessarily choose to. A chimp or a dolphin can't choose to make a reasonable decision anymore than my cat. I'm not going to hold it against them, but I'm not going to consider them rational agents either.

    Once we've established that a number of people are rational, then we are free to build ourselves a moral system that any rational agent would be bound to, based on the simple notion that it would be irrational not to buy into this system, once all of the eventualities have been shown. Alternatively, we could build ourselves a defense of the common morality that seems to exist regardless of philosophy - people keep mentioning that no matter where you go, people are going to have issues with killing someone without good reason.

    Another thing to consider outside from reason is the notion of autonomy and responsibility. For most moral systems, one must be autonomous for there to be any sort of moral culpability. It's very hard, if not impossible, to be autonomous if you lack reason, but you can still be reasonable and lack autonomy (prisoners, for example).

    Most notable moral systems throughout history are based on assumptions that the moral agents that are going to be bound to those systems are going to be so because they are rational, and because they possess the necessary autonomy. Doesn't matter which system, from the classical big two of Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism (in all of its forms) to more contemporary systems like Hare's universal prescriptivism, or G.E. Moore's intuitionism, all deal with these concepts in one form or another, and it would due us all well if we took a cue from them.

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    YarYar Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    Oh ye gods I agree with Yar.

    There is a moral law of the universe, and we can reason our way towards it by studying the natural effects of our actions. It's not some law decided by Yahweh that is permanent and unvarying by circumstance (killing is good sometimes) and that says that you can't have butt sex, it's just the simple fact that actions have consequences. The universe doesn't care what you do, it just hands you your rape-corn after you sow the seeds.
    Yes, exactly. This isn't anthromorphopotomato-izing (sp?) anything. Do I require God to reason mathematics to be an "underlying fabric" of the universe? Inasmuch as we can assume integers exist, we can reason all kinds of true and false relations among them and watch them take hold in the universe around us. Same goes for morality.
    darthmix wrote: »
    See, I guess what doesn't jive for me is the implication that we've ever been at pains to define base qualities like that before we impose moral rules on ourselves; I don't think we went around deciding that joy was inherantly good or suffering was bad before we decided to ban murder.
    That seems unbelievable to me that you would think that way. That people were just like, "hey, let's randomly ban things!" 'Why?" "I dunno, just pick some stuff and we'll say you can't do it!" Obviously the root of law and order and society and morality is and has always been a reasoned struggle over the sufferings of existence.
    darthmix wrote: »
    Morality doesn't follow from any belief about the inherant value of joy.
    Sure it does. Much of it is intuitive and does not need to be consciously and discretely reasoned out before one can understand morality, though. Again, with a mathematics example - one can easily learn integers and arithmetic without ever studying college-level discrete math and set theory and the axioms of extensionality and comprehension and Russell's Paradox. Those articulations come after the fact. But they are nevertheless the logical basis that we intuitively knew without ever documenting.
    darthmix wrote: »
    Those articulations come after the fact, and are really just over-simplifications of our circumstance, which is complicated and can't really be reduced to a set of abstractions like happiness = good or suffering = bad.
    Why can't they? What moral reasoning could you possibly have that isn't aimed at reducing suffering or achieving happiness? The intuitive understandings you mentioned are intuitive for these very reasons and none other.

    Yar on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    So yes, societies generally allow people to live their lives and pursue their own happiness without obsessing over exactly who they're hurting at every step. Yet societies also tend to draw lines. The fact that they do so is, again, relevant.

    Why is it even the case that all human societies seem to have moral systems in place? There's nothing compelling them to do so.

    I think, when you start to look at the details of all of societies' moral systems, you start to see similarities. I don't believe this is mere happenstance, but rather that these systems are as they are because they must be. Because they wouldn't work any other way for us as we are.
    I'm a late-comer, this might have been covered, or even internalized into your argument, but:

    You can say the exact same thing about any biologically-evolved structure common to a large class of organisms. Morals, like phylogeny, evolve through natural selection—but they also provide a common base of experience for everyone in that class.

    Mammals are quadrupeds and not quintapeds because quadrupeds are the ones that survived natural selection. All human societies have laws punishing random killing because such societies are the ones that survived natural selection. It's possible to conceive of a quintaped; it's possible to conceive of a society where random killing was allowed—and the only reason such things do not exist today is because there is no way for them to successfully evolve (yet).

    Qingu on
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    MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    Oh ye gods I agree with Yar.

    There is a moral law of the universe, and we can reason our way towards it by studying the natural effects of our actions. It's not some law decided by Yahweh that is permanent and unvarying by circumstance (killing is good sometimes) and that says that you can't have butt sex, it's just the simple fact that actions have consequences. The universe doesn't care what you do, it just hands you your rape-corn after you sow the seeds.
    Yes, exactly. This isn't anthromorphopotomato-izing (sp?) anything. Do I require God to reason mathematics to be an "underlying fabric" of the universe? Inasmuch as we can assume integers exist, we can reason all kinds of true and false relations among them and watch them take hold in the universe around us. Same goes for morality.

    The idea that mathematics is represented in the universe as opposed to the other way around is so infuriating to me, and people who treat mathematics as some sort of perfect, flawless truth anger me greatly. The universe is the way it is and we've created a way of describing it that usually works pretty darn good.

    However, I know exactly what you are getting at and I agree.

    MrMonroe on
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    Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    So yes, societies generally allow people to live their lives and pursue their own happiness without obsessing over exactly who they're hurting at every step. Yet societies also tend to draw lines. The fact that they do so is, again, relevant.

    Why is it even the case that all human societies seem to have moral systems in place? There's nothing compelling them to do so.

    I think, when you start to look at the details of all of societies' moral systems, you start to see similarities. I don't believe this is mere happenstance, but rather that these systems are as they are because they must be. Because they wouldn't work any other way for us as we are.
    I'm a late-comer, this might have been covered, or even internalized into your argument, but:

    You can say the exact same thing about any biologically-evolved structure common to a large class of organisms. Morals, like phylogeny, evolve through natural selection—but they also provide a common base of experience for everyone in that class.

    Mammals are quadrupeds and not quintapeds because quadrupeds are the ones that survived natural selection. All human societies have laws punishing random killing because such societies are the ones that survived natural selection. It's possible to conceive of a quintaped; it's possible to conceive of a society where random killing was allowed—and the only reason such things do not exist today is because there is no way for them to successfully evolve (yet).

    I thought the reason creatures didnt have 5 legs was because there was no need for a fifth leg. it didnt add to stability, balance or speed and was just another extremety to pump blood to. had there been a need for that extra leg, we may all have an arm sprouting from our stomachs.

    we do however pass moral judgement on things that haven't even happened yet by extrapolating the circumstances using our imaginations. for a bad example, most people think that nuclear war would be very bad despite the fact that we've never had one. this is why people argue for absolute good and absolute evil because we have a concept of wether or not an action is positive or negative despite not actually taking that action or ever having had someone else take that action.

    Dunadan019 on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    So yes, societies generally allow people to live their lives and pursue their own happiness without obsessing over exactly who they're hurting at every step. Yet societies also tend to draw lines. The fact that they do so is, again, relevant.

    Why is it even the case that all human societies seem to have moral systems in place? There's nothing compelling them to do so.

    I think, when you start to look at the details of all of societies' moral systems, you start to see similarities. I don't believe this is mere happenstance, but rather that these systems are as they are because they must be. Because they wouldn't work any other way for us as we are.
    I'm a late-comer, this might have been covered, or even internalized into your argument, but:

    You can say the exact same thing about any biologically-evolved structure common to a large class of organisms. Morals, like phylogeny, evolve through natural selection—but they also provide a common base of experience for everyone in that class.

    Mammals are quadrupeds and not quintapeds because quadrupeds are the ones that survived natural selection. All human societies have laws punishing random killing because such societies are the ones that survived natural selection. It's possible to conceive of a quintaped; it's possible to conceive of a society where random killing was allowed—and the only reason such things do not exist today is because there is no way for them to successfully evolve (yet).

    I thought the reason creatures didnt have 5 legs was because there was no need for a fifth leg. it didnt add to stability, balance or speed and was just another extremety to pump blood to. had there been a need for that extra leg, we may all have an arm sprouting from our stomachs.

    Basically, it's because the mutations resulting in a fifth leg were of no benefit to the creatures and also may have been linked to other mutations that were actively harmful, and so there was no evolutionary reason for those mutations to be passed on.

    ElJeffe on
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    Richard_DastardlyRichard_Dastardly Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    Oh ye gods I agree with Yar.

    There is a moral law of the universe, and we can reason our way towards it by studying the natural effects of our actions. It's not some law decided by Yahweh that is permanent and unvarying by circumstance (killing is good sometimes) and that says that you can't have butt sex, it's just the simple fact that actions have consequences. The universe doesn't care what you do, it just hands you your rape-corn after you sow the seeds.
    Yes, exactly. This isn't anthromorphopotomato-izing (sp?) anything. Do I require God to reason mathematics to be an "underlying fabric" of the universe? Inasmuch as we can assume integers exist, we can reason all kinds of true and false relations among them and watch them take hold in the universe around us. Same goes for morality.

    I disagree that there is any sort of moral law in the universe. Our morals, however complex they may be, evolved along with us because we are social creatures. Other social animals, like primates, wolves, lions etc, all have a basic sense of "morality" required to maintain a funtioning pack/pride/whathaveyou. Humans have just had more time to refine, ponder, and build upon our natural moral insticts since we can spent so much of our time on activities not involving the gathering of food or defending of territory.

    Richard_Dastardly on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    The idea that mathematics is represented in the universe as opposed to the other way around is so infuriating to me, and people who treat mathematics as some sort of perfect, flawless truth anger me greatly. The universe is the way it is and we've created a way of describing it that usually works pretty darn good.

    Platonic ideals aren't exactly an unheard of concept, you know. Certainly shouldn't be "infuriating" to you.

    ElJeffe on
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    Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    So yes, societies generally allow people to live their lives and pursue their own happiness without obsessing over exactly who they're hurting at every step. Yet societies also tend to draw lines. The fact that they do so is, again, relevant.

    Why is it even the case that all human societies seem to have moral systems in place? There's nothing compelling them to do so.

    I think, when you start to look at the details of all of societies' moral systems, you start to see similarities. I don't believe this is mere happenstance, but rather that these systems are as they are because they must be. Because they wouldn't work any other way for us as we are.
    I'm a late-comer, this might have been covered, or even internalized into your argument, but:

    You can say the exact same thing about any biologically-evolved structure common to a large class of organisms. Morals, like phylogeny, evolve through natural selection—but they also provide a common base of experience for everyone in that class.

    Mammals are quadrupeds and not quintapeds because quadrupeds are the ones that survived natural selection. All human societies have laws punishing random killing because such societies are the ones that survived natural selection. It's possible to conceive of a quintaped; it's possible to conceive of a society where random killing was allowed—and the only reason such things do not exist today is because there is no way for them to successfully evolve (yet).

    I thought the reason creatures didnt have 5 legs was because there was no need for a fifth leg. it didnt add to stability, balance or speed and was just another extremety to pump blood to. had there been a need for that extra leg, we may all have an arm sprouting from our stomachs.

    Basically, it's because the mutations resulting in a fifth leg were of no benefit to the creatures and also may have been linked to other mutations that were actively harmful, and so there was no evolutionary reason for those mutations to be passed on.

    well yeah, my point is that there is no reason to have a fifth leg just like there is no reason to have a stance on alien-human intermarriage... and yet people still have moral stances on it.

    Dunadan019 on
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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    The mathematics analogy doesn't work anyway. Mathematics aren't an inherent characteristic of the universe, they're an imperfect system we made up to measure, explain and predict events in our universe that we have gradually adjusted and expanded over thousands of years by comparing them against empirically measurable data.

    ViolentChemistry on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    I thought the reason creatures didnt have 5 legs was because there was no need for a fifth leg. it didnt add to stability, balance or speed and was just another extremety to pump blood to. had there been a need for that extra leg, we may all have an arm sprouting from our stomachs.

    Basically, it's because the mutations resulting in a fifth leg were of no benefit to the creatures and also may have been linked to other mutations that were actively harmful, and so there was no evolutionary reason for those mutations to be passed on.
    This is my point, though. Morals are the same way. Jeffe, you are (apparently) arguing that the existence of common morals across cultures speaks to some sort of objective moral truth. I am arguing that the nature of such an "objective moral truth" is fundamentally identical to the nature of "widespread quadruped locomotion in mammals."

    It's simply what has evolved. It is, perhaps, a reflection of the unique architecture and makeup of the universe during the time which it evolved, and there are certainly reasons why such morals have evolved. But its truth isn't internal to the moral system itself—it's a result. And it could change.

    Edit: one way it could change is if we ever do meet aliens. Then morals about human-alien marriage will certainly evolve, and the ones that promote the most stable and profitable social arrangements will win out in the end, just like with vertebrate legs.

    Qingu on
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    ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    Oh it has to be wrongful now? Because before you were saying it had to be unlawful. Changing your definitions to better suit your argument, standard practice in philosophy.

    His word, not mine.

    Also, if it works with the former word AND the latter word, I don't see why I can't use either. Now, let me repeat the thing that you seemed to be having trouble with earlier: the truth of premises has nothing to do with validity. If I were to say that because all relatives of H. G. Wells are vampires and George W. Bush is related to H. G. Wells, George W. Bush is a vampire, it would be a valid argument.

    Scalfin on
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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Oh it has to be wrongful now? Because before you were saying it had to be unlawful. Changing your definitions to better suit your argument, standard practice in philosophy.

    His word, not mine.

    Also, if it works with the former word AND the latter word, I don't see why I can't use either. Now, let me repeat the thing that you seemed to be having trouble with earlier: the truth of premises has nothing to do with validity. If I were to say that because all relatives of H. G. Wells are vampires and George W. Bush is related to H. G. Wells, George W. Bush is a vampire, it would be a valid argument.

    The truth of premises has everything to do with the validity of claims that rest solely upon those assumptions.

    ViolentChemistry on
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    Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    Edit: one way it could change is if we ever do meet aliens. Then morals about human-alien marriage will certainly evolve, and the ones that promote the most stable and profitable social arrangements will win out in the end, just like with vertebrate legs.



    my point is that people have morals about circumstances that may or may not ever happen.

    Dunadan019 on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    darthmix wrote: »
    See, I guess what doesn't jive for me is the implication that we've ever been at pains to define base qualities like that before we impose moral rules on ourselves; I don't think we went around deciding that joy was inherantly good or suffering was bad before we decided to ban murder.
    That seems unbelievable to me that you would think that way. That people were just like, "hey, let's randomly ban things!" 'Why?" "I dunno, just pick some stuff and we'll say you can't do it!" Obviously the root of law and order and society and morality is and has always been a reasoned struggle over the sufferings of existence.
    What I'd argue is that the root of law and order and society and morality has always been a society's reasoned struggle to continue itself, in the same way that an animal's existence consists largely of the (mostly unreasoned) struggle to continue itself. Joy and suffering are factors in that struggle, to the extent that lots of suffering will select a culture for chaos and collapse, while joy and fulfillment tend to help it thrive. But as organisms we knew how to exist before we knew how to feel pleasure or pain; pleasure and pain developed as one way of receiving feedback from our environment about how well our survival was going. And I think they still, as we live in society and construct our morality, occupy a kind of subordinate status to our desire to be, to continue. I'm not comfortable equating the desire to exist with a desire for happiness or pleasure; to the extent that morality helps us to be happy, it helps us to be, but it doesn't provide us a reason for being. I'm not sure that the desire to be is a resoned desire, or even that we need a reason to be.
    darthmix wrote: »
    Those articulations come after the fact, and are really just over-simplifications of our circumstance, which is complicated and can't really be reduced to a set of abstractions like happiness = good or suffering = bad.
    Why can't they? What moral reasoning could you possibly have that isn't aimed at reducing suffering or achieving happiness? The intuitive understandings you mentioned are intuitive for these very reasons and none other.
    I'm reminded of cultures who have arrived at the belief that all life is suffering, but who've nevertheless developed a moral framework from that idea oriented toward some kind of healthy continuation for their culture and society, some hope to collect wisdom and pass it on, etc. I wouldn't put it past human cultures - just as I wouldn't put it past animals - to slog on in the absence of happiness, or any hope of happiness, or even after they've forgotten any concept of happiness. The habit of existence seems to me to preceed happiness, and morality appears to be a kind of social survival adaptation oriented toward our survival as society, with happiness being one tool we might use to achieve that.

    darthmix on
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    ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    I thought the reason creatures didnt have 5 legs was because there was no need for a fifth leg. it didnt add to stability, balance or speed and was just another extremety to pump blood to. had there been a need for that extra leg, we may all have an arm sprouting from our stomachs.

    Basically, it's because the mutations resulting in a fifth leg were of no benefit to the creatures and also may have been linked to other mutations that were actively harmful, and so there was no evolutionary reason for those mutations to be passed on.
    This is my point, though. Morals are the same way. Jeffe, you are (apparently) arguing that the existence of common morals across cultures speaks to some sort of objective moral truth. I am arguing that the nature of such an "objective moral truth" is fundamentally identical to the nature of "widespread quadruped locomotion in mammals."

    It's simply what has evolved. It is, perhaps, a reflection of the unique architecture and makeup of the universe during the time which it evolved, and there are certainly reasons why such morals have evolved. But its truth isn't internal to the moral system itself—it's a result. And it could change.

    Edit: one way it could change is if we ever do meet aliens. Then morals about human-alien marriage will certainly evolve, and the ones that promote the most stable and profitable social arrangements will win out in the end, just like with vertebrate legs.

    It could be argued that non-quadruped locomotion was superior, but that superiority led to dominance, leading to specialization, which then became disadvantageous when a meteor hit. It could also be advanced that something better than the advantage the other had over quadrupeds, thereby giving the quadrupeds a net advantage.

    Scalfin on
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    ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    darthmix wrote: »
    See, I guess what doesn't jive for me is the implication that we've ever been at pains to define base qualities like that before we impose moral rules on ourselves; I don't think we went around deciding that joy was inherantly good or suffering was bad before we decided to ban murder.
    That seems unbelievable to me that you would think that way. That people were just like, "hey, let's randomly ban things!" 'Why?" "I dunno, just pick some stuff and we'll say you can't do it!" Obviously the root of law and order and society and morality is and has always been a reasoned struggle over the sufferings of existence.
    What I'd argue is that the root of law and order and society and morality has always been a reasoned struggle to continue itself, in the same way that an animal's existence consists largely of the (mostly unreasoned) struggle to continue itself. Joy and suffering are factors in that struggle, to the extent that lots of suffering will select a culture for chaos and collapse, while joy and fulfillment tend to help it thrive. But as organisms we knew how to exist before we knew how to feel pleasure or pain; pleasure and pain developed as one way of receiving feedback from our environment about how well our survival was going. And I think they still, as we live in society and construct our morality, occupy a kind of subordinate status to our desire to be, to continue. I'm not comfortable equating the desire to exist with a desire for happiness or pleasure; to the extent that morality helps us to be happy, it helps us to be, but it doesn't provide us a reason for being. I'm not sure that the desire to be is a resoned desire, or even that we need a reason to be.
    darthmix wrote: »
    Those articulations come after the fact, and are really just over-simplifications of our circumstance, which is complicated and can't really be reduced to a set of abstractions like happiness = good or suffering = bad.
    Why can't they? What moral reasoning could you possibly have that isn't aimed at reducing suffering or achieving happiness? The intuitive understandings you mentioned are intuitive for these very reasons and none other.
    I'm reminded of cultures who have arrived at the belief that all life is suffering, but who've nevertheless developed a moral framework from that idea oriented toward some kind of healthy continuation for their culture and society, some hope to collect wisdom and pass it on, etc. I wouldn't put it past human cultures - just as I wouldn't put it past animals - to slog on in the absence of happiness, or any hope of happiness, or even after they've forgotten any concept of happiness. The habit of existence seems to me to preceed happiness, and morality appears to be a kind of social survival adaptation oriented toward our survival as society, with happiness being one tool we might use to achieve that.

    Couldn't it be argued that killing one's infertile wife is continually (closest thing to continuity I can find) advantageous, even though our society holds it to be immoral?

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    MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    Oh ye gods I agree with Yar.

    There is a moral law of the universe, and we can reason our way towards it by studying the natural effects of our actions. It's not some law decided by Yahweh that is permanent and unvarying by circumstance (killing is good sometimes) and that says that you can't have butt sex, it's just the simple fact that actions have consequences. The universe doesn't care what you do, it just hands you your rape-corn after you sow the seeds.
    Yes, exactly. This isn't anthromorphopotomato-izing (sp?) anything. Do I require God to reason mathematics to be an "underlying fabric" of the universe? Inasmuch as we can assume integers exist, we can reason all kinds of true and false relations among them and watch them take hold in the universe around us. Same goes for morality.

    I disagree that there is any sort of moral law in the universe. Our morals, however complex they may be, evolved along with us because we are social creatures. Other social animals, like primates, wolves, lions etc, all have a basic sense of "morality" required to maintain a funtioning pack/pride/whathaveyou. Humans have just had more time to refine, ponder, and build upon our natural moral insticts since we can spent so much of our time on activities not involving the gathering of food or defending of territory.

    Yes, our morals are subjective. However, depending on circumstance, the universe works in a theoretically predictable way. Thus certain things done in certain circumstances always have the same outcome, and it is reasonable for us to fit our moral ideas inside of that structure.

    I'm not saying the universe cares, only that it operates in such a way that will tend to force us to evolve our moral codes into something that works best inside the universe, much in the same way that our bodies evolved within the confines of what could be called the physiological laws of the universe.

    MrMonroe on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Couldn't it be argued that killing one's infertile wife is continually (closest thing to continuity I can find) advantageous, even though our society holds it to be immoral?

    The trouble is that human society is different enough from a state of nature that strict darwinian logic is no longer reliable. If society condones my murder of my infertile wife, what should other infertile women in society think? They will correctly observe that society will not protect them. For them, the social contract is then null, and their commitment to participate in the society is void. Gradually the culture is destabilized and oriented toward failure. So, to avoid this, we affirm the individual's right to life (regardless of her reproductive capacity) as a way of securing her commitment to participate in the society in a healthy way.

    darthmix on
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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    Yes, our morals are subjective. However, depending on circumstance, the universe works in a theoretically predictable way. Thus certain things done in certain circumstances always have the same outcome, and it is reasonable for us to fit our moral ideas inside of that structure.

    No, we can't. The two concepts are not analogous. A system designed to explain physical phenomena is a fundamentally different critter from a system designed to dictate the behavior of rational agents.
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    I'm not saying the universe cares, only that it operates in such a way that will tend to force us to evolve our moral codes into something that works best inside the universe, much in the same way that our bodies evolved within the confines of what could be called the physiological laws of the universe.

    In what way does the universe require us to have any morals at all, let alone evolving ones? You're conflating ambition with the universe, which is wierd.

    ViolentChemistry on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    This is my point, though. Morals are the same way. Jeffe, you are (apparently) arguing that the existence of common morals across cultures speaks to some sort of objective moral truth. I am arguing that the nature of such an "objective moral truth" is fundamentally identical to the nature of "widespread quadruped locomotion in mammals."

    It's simply what has evolved. It is, perhaps, a reflection of the unique architecture and makeup of the universe during the time which it evolved, and there are certainly reasons why such morals have evolved. But its truth isn't internal to the moral system itself—it's a result. And it could change.

    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm saying that a moral system that is a product of our evolution is, for all intents and purposes, absolute with respect to our species. If it's not possible for an intelligent species to evolve without a moral system that closely resembles our own, it may also be absolute across all species (though I'm not really arguing that). That "killing is bad" isn't a universal concept in the same way that "2+2=4" is a universal concept, that doesn't invalidate what I'm saying.

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    Richard_DastardlyRichard_Dastardly Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Couldn't it be argued that killing one's infertile wife is continually (closest thing to continuity I can find) advantageous, even though our society holds it to be immoral?

    The trouble is that human society is different enough from a state of nature that strict darwinian logic is no longer reliable. If society condones my murder of my infertile wife, what should other infertile women in society think? They will correctly observe that society will not protect them. For them, the social contract is then null, and their commitment to participate in the society is void. Gradually the culture is destabilized and oriented toward failure. So, to avoid this, we affirm the individual's right to life (regardless of her reproductive capacity) as a way of securing her commitment to participate in the society in a healthy way.

    That depends on the society/age in which the infertile women lives. There were times and places when the murder of a woman because of her infertility, unfaithfulness, witchery, etc, wasn't frowned upon in that particular culture. Just as, in ancient Rome, the killing of a slave wasn't the least bit immoral. When a culture gives no value to a particular thing, then the harm done to it wouldn't be considered immoral.

    Richard_Dastardly on
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    ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Couldn't it be argued that killing one's infertile wife is continually (closest thing to continuity I can find) advantageous, even though our society holds it to be immoral?

    The trouble is that human society is much more complicated than a state of nature, it operates according to different rules, so strict darwinian logic is no longer reliable. If society condones my murder of my infertile wife, what should other infertile women in society think? They will correctly observe that society will not protect them. For them, the social contract is then null, and their commitment to participate in the society is void. Gradually society is destabilized and oriented toward failure. So, to avoid this, we affirm the individual's right to life (regardless her reproductive capacity) as a way of securing her commitment to participate in the society in a healthy way.

    But then there are those societies that let you kill an infertile wife, thereby showing that the weight between the social contract and the continuation of the line are relative to the person doing the weighing.

    Scalfin on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm saying that a moral system that is a product of our evolution is, for all intents and purposes, absolute with respect to our species. If it's not possible for an intelligent species to evolve without a moral system that closely resembles our own, it may also be absolute across all species (though I'm not really arguing that). That "killing is bad" isn't a universal concept in the same way that "2+2=4" is a universal concept, that doesn't invalidate what I'm saying.
    Yes, but I think you should hedge a little bit more.

    It's not merely "absolute" relative to our species—it's also "absolute" relative to the particular circumstances that surround our species' time on earth. Those circumstances can change, and if you're like me and you believe in the Singularity, then you'd think they can change pretty fast, and pretty soon.

    It also means there's no inherent value to any given moral code, no matter how universal—a moral's value (just like an appendage's) is determined by its applicability to its circumstances.

    Qingu on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm saying that a moral system that is a product of our evolution is, for all intents and purposes, absolute with respect to our species. If it's not possible for an intelligent species to evolve without a moral system that closely resembles our own, it may also be absolute across all species (though I'm not really arguing that). That "killing is bad" isn't a universal concept in the same way that "2+2=4" is a universal concept, that doesn't invalidate what I'm saying.
    Yes, but I think you should hedge a little bit more.

    It's not merely "absolute" relative to our species—it's also "absolute" relative to the particular circumstances that surround our species' time on earth. Those circumstances can change, and if you're like me and you believe in the Singularity, then you'd think they can change pretty fast, and pretty soon.

    It also means there's no inherent value to any given moral code, no matter how universal—a moral's value (just like an appendage's) is determined by its applicability to its circumstances.

    I tend not to divorce morals from circumstances, anyway. Any given moral dictum is tied to a specific set of circumstances. Killing is bad, except in self defense, unless you can save yourself via non-violence, unless it's Tuesday, not counting Mardi Gras, and so on. So yeah, circumstances affect things.

    ElJeffe on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    But notice that you, and I, are quick to recognize this behavior as fundamentally creepy.

    False. I recognize this behavior as creepy because I was trained to be creeped out by it, just like some people are trained to be creeped out by snakes and spiders while I -adore- them. And I promise you there are some things about me that would creep you out, and there are some things about you that would creep me out, because while we're both Westerners and thus trained in a similar manner, our backgrounds are not identicle and so our opinions vary. And guess what? All those things I listed? To someone, either now, or in the past, it was normal. More of those behaviors are normal to modern people than you would like to be aware of.
    We understand instantly that it does not work, and that it should not be encouraged.

    No. We are taught by our parents "Don't bite your cousin!" And then later people assume that this teaching makes it some kind of law of the universe. And then some people reject it.
    How did we arrive at this understanding? Maybe the absolute force of morality, which exists objectively in the universe and permeates all reality, is whispering it in our ears.

    Okay, see, here you are, creeping me out. My background tells me that this is a sign of insanity. What does yours tell you?
    I can't prove that that's not happening. But it seems a lot more likely that people have simply been clever enough to recognize that raping each other and sticking one another in microwaves just can't be tolerated if we want to have a working society and live our lives in relative happiness. And they've used culture to pass that wisdom along to us.

    Yes. Behavior that reduces a species' ability to survive tends to be weeded out if it is significant enough. However, surplus population allows for continued unhealthy behavior, and other factors can override selection, such as sexual selection or simply raping enough people that you pass your genes on before they burn your ass.

    And some things are just neutral and people react to it because reacting is what people do.

    Incenjucar on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Couldn't it be argued that killing one's infertile wife is continually (closest thing to continuity I can find) advantageous, even though our society holds it to be immoral?

    The trouble is that human society is different enough from a state of nature that strict darwinian logic is no longer reliable. If society condones my murder of my infertile wife, what should other infertile women in society think? They will correctly observe that society will not protect them. For them, the social contract is then null, and their commitment to participate in the society is void. Gradually the culture is destabilized and oriented toward failure. So, to avoid this, we affirm the individual's right to life (regardless of her reproductive capacity) as a way of securing her commitment to participate in the society in a healthy way.

    That depends on the society/age in which the infertile women lives. There were times and places when the murder of a woman because of her infertility, unfaithfulness, witchery, etc, wasn't frowned upon in that particular culture. Just as, in ancient Rome, the killing of a slave wasn't the least bit immoral. When a culture gives no value to a particular thing, then the harm done to it wouldn't be considered immoral.

    And yet we consider it immoral, retroactively, in no small part because we've learned from the experience of societies that have practiced slavery and indiscriminate killing, and observed the manner in which these activities contribute to corruption and violence and cultural failure. The fact that societies once practiced these things, and that many still do, demonstrates that human culture is a work in progress. But even in those cultures, examine why they practice slavery, and why they condoned killing slaves from time to time: to keep them in line, to further facilitiate the continuation of their system. In cultures that oppress, there is always the understanding that these practices are somehow good for the whole; they're mistaken about which practices are helpful, but they still share our intuitive understanding that moral practice is mean to serve some common good.

    darthmix on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm saying that a moral system that is a product of our evolution is, for all intents and purposes, absolute with respect to our species. If it's not possible for an intelligent species to evolve without a moral system that closely resembles our own, it may also be absolute across all species (though I'm not really arguing that). That "killing is bad" isn't a universal concept in the same way that "2+2=4" is a universal concept, that doesn't invalidate what I'm saying.
    Yes, but I think you should hedge a little bit more.

    It's not merely "absolute" relative to our species—it's also "absolute" relative to the particular circumstances that surround our species' time on earth. Those circumstances can change, and if you're like me and you believe in the Singularity, then you'd think they can change pretty fast, and pretty soon.

    It also means there's no inherent value to any given moral code, no matter how universal—a moral's value (just like an appendage's) is determined by its applicability to its circumstances.

    I tend not to divorce morals from circumstances, anyway. Any given moral dictum is tied to a specific set of circumstances. Killing is bad, except in self defense, unless you can save yourself via non-violence, unless it's Tuesday, not counting Mardi Gras, and so on. So yeah, circumstances affect things.
    Alright, then we're in agreement. Let's make out.

    Qingu on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Slavery is working out pretty well for the chocolate industry.

    Incenjucar on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Slavery is working out pretty well for the chocolate industry.

    Lots of things can seem to work out really well in the short term. Morality is oriented toward the long term, toward the survival and continuation and general health of the culture at the broadest level. And ultimately, if a nation practices slavery, it finds itself with a big chunk of people who've got no reason to invest themselves in the society's well-being. There's an inherant, constant antagonism and tension in the master-slave relationship whose corrosive effect is not limited to the master and slave; the slave inevitably sees the entire society as his oppressor, and the rest of society inevitably sees the slave and - despite the culture's best effort to divide people along class and racial lines - begins to question the best interests of the larger society. This can manifest itself in all sorts of ways - rebellion against the culture, or a tendency of people to withdraw, keep their heads down, jelously guard their own self-interests. But one way or another people withdraw from the society, cancel their investment in it, and over time the society is the worse for that. The actual dynamics by which this happens are very complicated and take a very long time, but happily we're not asked to remember all of them. Instead, our culture has collected its experience and expressed it to us as a simple moral axiom: slavery is wrong. And we go from there.

    darthmix on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Roaming the streets, waving his mod gun around.Moderator, ClubPA Mod Emeritus
    edited November 2008
    Qingu wrote: »
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    I tend not to divorce morals from circumstances, anyway. Any given moral dictum is tied to a specific set of circumstances. Killing is bad, except in self defense, unless you can save yourself via non-violence, unless it's Tuesday, not counting Mardi Gras, and so on. So yeah, circumstances affect things.
    Alright, then we're in agreement. Let's make out.

    I would, but in my ecstasy I may accidentally erupt into carols, and we know that wouldn't go well. ;-)

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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    darth, do you know how long slavery has been going on?

    Exactly when is it supposed to stop working enough for people to give it up?

    A few weeks before the sun envelops the earth?

    Incenjucar on
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    ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    darth, do you know how long slavery has been going on?

    Exactly when is it supposed to stop working enough for people to give it up?

    A few weeks before the sun envelops the earth?

    Besides that, I'm pretty sure non-slave societies have been around just as long, so we have yet to find out which way is the modern.

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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    darth, do you know how long slavery has been going on?

    Exactly when is it supposed to stop working enough for people to give it up?

    A few weeks before the sun envelops the earth?
    I don't know much about the chocolate industry. But I think, economically, slavery has the deck stacked against it in the long term. I think that slavery would have died out in America without the civil war because, quite simply, an industrial economy could easily out-compete it.

    Why does slavery only exist in backwards fucked up countries like Ghana and Saudi Arabia? If these countries hope to become relevant, their economies will have to evolve, and that means getting rid of slavery.

    Qingu on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    darth, do you know how long slavery has been going on?

    Exactly when is it supposed to stop working enough for people to give it up?

    A few weeks before the sun envelops the earth?

    There is no guarantee that it will ever stop, just as there's no guarantee that murder or rape will ever stop. I'm not suggesting that society will always be successful in bettering itself; I'm only saying that we recognize certain behaviors as inherantly destructive, and that our moral condemnation of them proceeds from that recognition. Societies that fail to recognize them will continue to practice them and continue to suffer for them. There is no promise that a society which fails will be replaced by a better one; that's up to us.

    darthmix on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Who the fuck is this "we."

    Incenjucar on
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