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"Because we can," ethics in scientific experiments

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Posts

  • LoserForHireXLoserForHireX Registered User regular
    poshniallo wrote: »
    I am not so sure societies with slavery were 'thriving'. They certainly persisted for quite some time, so they were fairly stable. That doesn't mean they were more stable than societies without slavery - just that they were able to stay stable in a world where everyone had slavery. And certainly stability is not our only metric of 'lack of distress'. I think that viewing societies with strong inequality - slave-owning, apartheid, misogynist etc - as in some way harmonious is merely to ignore the oppressed. It is entirely possible to suffer in silence, and when your people are not allowed access to the materials and methods of recording your history, that silence can be misread by other societies.

    I don't agree. It's very reasonable to assert that for a long time Greece, Rome, and Egypt were all thriving societies. They built themselves up quite well. They thrived for a long time before ceasing to, and the problem with them thriving was never the issue of slavery. Granted slavery was much different in those societies than say in the American South. But the point remains.

    "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to give into it." - Oscar Wilde
    "We believe in the people and their 'wisdom' as if there was some special secret entrance to knowledge that barred to anyone who had ever learned anything." - Friedrich Nietzsche
  • redxredx I(x)=2(x)+1 whole numbersRegistered User regular
    psyck0 wrote: »
    Ask any pain specialist in the world whether pain is subjective and they will say yes. I am really surprised there is any debate about this.

    By the way, here is the most widely accepted definition of pain from the international association for the study of pain:
    an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage

    The last bit, "described in terms of such damage", acknowledges that people can feel extremely severe and crippling pain while having very minimal or no tissue damage. Proof positive that it is subjective.

    Err... that's proof positive that pain responses don't necessarily correlate to actual damage. Often the minimal or non-existent tissue damage is causing objective nerve responses that the brain is responding to. That doesn't really prove the subjectivity of pain. Even referred pain(which that last bit covers as well) is generally caused by objectively measurable nerve signals.

    A better example of the subjectivity of pain would be use of mirror boxes to treat phantom limb pain patients.

    This machine kills threads.
  • psyck0psyck0 Registered User regular
    OK, if you're going to go that route, art is also objective. I could sit down and stimulate the right part of someone's brain and get "objective nerve responses" that cause them to like that art. I could make everyone like the same art.

    Subjectivity comes in when people can interpret stimuli differently. That can happen anywhere between the sensory receptor and the brain. Saying that you can bypass the sensory receptor to cause objective pain is meaningless.

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  • redxredx I(x)=2(x)+1 whole numbersRegistered User regular
    psyck0 wrote: »
    OK, if you're going to go that route, art is also objective. I could sit down and stimulate the right part of someone's brain and get "objective nerve responses" that cause them to like that art. I could make everyone like the same art.

    Subjectivity comes in when people can interpret stimuli differently. That can happen anywhere between the sensory receptor and the brain. Saying that you can bypass the sensory receptor to cause objective pain is meaningless.

    I'm pretty clearly not saying that based on my mention of phantom limb pain. The signal in the nerves could actually be measured and replicated, this would likely lead to repeatable but totally subjective interpretations within the brain. Like, it would be meaningful to talk about the signals from n pain receptors of strength x being transmitted to the brain. It is not meaningful to talk about how the brain interprets those. That thing we can count is objective, but it doesn't mean anything with regard to the person's subjective experience.

    This machine kills threads.
  • PLAPLA The process.Registered User regular
    Yeah, there definitely are certain celltypes for detecting certain damages. What happens with those reports in the post-office is another matter.

  • Harry DresdenHarry Dresden Registered User regular
    Thanks for the reply! I think this all makes sense, but what seems to be missing is an accounting the mechanism that makes people follow your moral judgement. It seems to me that people will only follow moral requirements to the extent that they accept them (which I think will be based on them being requirements people agree with for their own reasons) or because they are imposed on them by the majority. And so this brings me back to my original question of what additional content something being a "moral" judgement or requirement brings that is not already included in the concept of a judgement or requirement.

    By quoting morality are you saying you don't believe in the concept?

  • LucidLucid Registered User regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    @spacekungfuman

    On my phone in an airport, so I must be brief. When you ask what value a moral claim can have it strikes me as the wrong question. I think some moral claims are simply true, and the practical use to which they can be put is irrelevant to that. A parallel: I have no idea whether the fact that fermats last theorem is true is useful for anything at all, but it is still a fact either way. Same with the historical fact that I drank sparkling water this morning. Useful to no one, but still a fact as much as any other.

    The question of what moral claims could mean in abscence of motivational impact is I think better than what value they could have. There is some conceptual connection between morality and action insofar as it tells us how we ought to behave. But the extent to which it must necessarily motivate us to follow it all on its own is very controversial. Some people do indeed accept the view that it is always necessarily motivating. But even they tend to only hold that to be true for the person who makes the judgment (aka, I judge i ought to phi, so then I am motivated to phi). But this is compatible with making moral judgments you know no one else will follow.

    Thanks for the reply! I think this all makes sense, but what seems to be missing is an accounting the mechanism that makes people follow your moral judgement. It seems to me that people will only follow moral requirements to the extent that they accept them (which I think will be based on them being requirements people agree with for their own reasons) or because they are imposed on them by the majority. And so this brings me back to my original question of what additional content something being a "moral" judgement or requirement brings that is not already included in the concept of a judgement or requirement.

    I'm not sure exactly what you mean by the last question, but it sounds interesting. Elaborate?

    I was curious about this question as well.

    (also, SKFM, I apologize for missing out on replying earlier. I think MrMister more than adequately covered the follow up though)

  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    poshniallo wrote: »
    I am not so sure societies with slavery were 'thriving'. They certainly persisted for quite some time, so they were fairly stable. That doesn't mean they were more stable than societies without slavery - just that they were able to stay stable in a world where everyone had slavery. And certainly stability is not our only metric of 'lack of distress'. I think that viewing societies with strong inequality - slave-owning, apartheid, misogynist etc - as in some way harmonious is merely to ignore the oppressed. It is entirely possible to suffer in silence, and when your people are not allowed access to the materials and methods of recording your history, that silence can be misread by other societies.

    I don't agree. It's very reasonable to assert that for a long time Greece, Rome, and Egypt were all thriving societies. They built themselves up quite well. They thrived for a long time before ceasing to, and the problem with them thriving was never the issue of slavery. Granted slavery was much different in those societies than say in the American South. But the point remains.

    What I'm saying is that the other societies these famous societies did well in comparison to were also slavers. So that when we say 'thriving' all we are saying is that these slaving societies were successful in comparison to some other slaving societies. We aren't comparing them to non-slaving societies.

    Secondly, while I absolutely understand that Greece, Rome etc were more successful than their peers, I hesitate to call that 'thriving' when so many of their members were treated so poorly. We used to say South Africa was a tremendously successful society, until black rights got to the point when white people started to care about what was happening under apartheid. While there is a conventional idea that Rome etc were great societies, I think that if we could see them today, rather than through the filter of historians who did not place as much focus on slaving as I would, we would not use such a positive term.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • tinwhiskerstinwhiskers Registered User regular
    poshniallo wrote: »
    poshniallo wrote: »
    I am not so sure societies with slavery were 'thriving'. They certainly persisted for quite some time, so they were fairly stable. That doesn't mean they were more stable than societies without slavery - just that they were able to stay stable in a world where everyone had slavery. And certainly stability is not our only metric of 'lack of distress'. I think that viewing societies with strong inequality - slave-owning, apartheid, misogynist etc - as in some way harmonious is merely to ignore the oppressed. It is entirely possible to suffer in silence, and when your people are not allowed access to the materials and methods of recording your history, that silence can be misread by other societies.

    I don't agree. It's very reasonable to assert that for a long time Greece, Rome, and Egypt were all thriving societies. They built themselves up quite well. They thrived for a long time before ceasing to, and the problem with them thriving was never the issue of slavery. Granted slavery was much different in those societies than say in the American South. But the point remains.

    What I'm saying is that the other societies these famous societies did well in comparison to were also slavers. So that when we say 'thriving' all we are saying is that these slaving societies were successful in comparison to some other slaving societies. We aren't comparing them to non-slaving societies.

    Secondly, while I absolutely understand that Greece, Rome etc were more successful than their peers, I hesitate to call that 'thriving' when so many of their members were treated so poorly. We used to say South Africa was a tremendously successful society, until black rights got to the point when white people started to care about what was happening under apartheid. While there is a conventional idea that Rome etc were great societies, I think that if we could see them today, rather than through the filter of historians who did not place as much focus on slaving as I would, we would not use such a positive term.

    Well yes if you redefining thriving to have some sort of slaving component, they wouldn't look as good...If I redefine orange to mean macintosh all sorts of comparisons suddenly become valid.

  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    poshniallo wrote: »
    poshniallo wrote: »
    I am not so sure societies with slavery were 'thriving'. They certainly persisted for quite some time, so they were fairly stable. That doesn't mean they were more stable than societies without slavery - just that they were able to stay stable in a world where everyone had slavery. And certainly stability is not our only metric of 'lack of distress'. I think that viewing societies with strong inequality - slave-owning, apartheid, misogynist etc - as in some way harmonious is merely to ignore the oppressed. It is entirely possible to suffer in silence, and when your people are not allowed access to the materials and methods of recording your history, that silence can be misread by other societies.

    I don't agree. It's very reasonable to assert that for a long time Greece, Rome, and Egypt were all thriving societies. They built themselves up quite well. They thrived for a long time before ceasing to, and the problem with them thriving was never the issue of slavery. Granted slavery was much different in those societies than say in the American South. But the point remains.

    What I'm saying is that the other societies these famous societies did well in comparison to were also slavers. So that when we say 'thriving' all we are saying is that these slaving societies were successful in comparison to some other slaving societies. We aren't comparing them to non-slaving societies.

    Secondly, while I absolutely understand that Greece, Rome etc were more successful than their peers, I hesitate to call that 'thriving' when so many of their members were treated so poorly. We used to say South Africa was a tremendously successful society, until black rights got to the point when white people started to care about what was happening under apartheid. While there is a conventional idea that Rome etc were great societies, I think that if we could see them today, rather than through the filter of historians who did not place as much focus on slaving as I would, we would not use such a positive term.

    Well yes if you redefining thriving to have some sort of slaving component, they wouldn't look as good...If I redefine orange to mean macintosh all sorts of comparisons suddenly become valid.

    My point is that when you say a society is thriving or doing well, often we define that by the lives of the most powerful or the average. But I think that's short-sighted, and that mirrors current debates in the US, where people think the US is doing great because some people are doing very well. You can find lots of people rating nations by the number of millionaires rather than by the absence of poverty. You can find lots of people saying the US has the best medical care in the world, as long as you're rich. But many others, including perhaps your President, are thinking that's not actually a good metric.

    I think that these attitudes today, along with even less egalitarian attitudes by commentators it the past, have given us a one-sided picture of some of the Great Empires of the past. Thriving is a word that can bog us all down in semantic debate, so I'll go with 'healthy' or 'doing well'. I think we should be re-assessing that word based on the lives of slaves and the lowest members of society. We should be assessing historical and current cultures based on the experiences and simple numbers of the homeless, imprisoned and impoverished more than the powerful.

    And, sorry to have gotten so OT, we should be assessing our ethics based on those hurt by them, not just those helped by them. Whether those are babies or rats.

    poshniallo on
    I figure I could take a bear.
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  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    @MrMister @Lucid

    Sorry for the delayed response. The way I see it, when people are presented with a rule they will follow it if they believe it is a good rule which comports with their views of the world and what they want it to be, or if others think the rule should be followed and will punish transgressions. I don't see what adding morality as a dimension apart from "things people agree with" or "fear of punishment.". If people already agree or fear, then they have a reason to act, and so adding an extra gloss of morality seems like a post hoc rationalization for a course of action they would already take. If people are not otherwise motivated to act, and morality is not just acting as a synonym for motivation or fear, then saying something is or is not moral should not be motivating. So to me it seems that morality is only meaningful to the extent that what is moral coincides with what we are already inclined to do, which is another way of saying that morality is created by humans, and since all humans cannot agree on any one thing, morality is necessarily subjective.

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  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    @poshniallo @CptHamilton

    You're right that if you include moral forms of appraisal in what counts as a social flourishing then slaveholding societies will not count as flourishing. I'm totally fine with that. But such a move would undermine the argument Hamilton is giving, if I understand it correctly. I read him as trying to give a pre-moral, pragmatic concept of a flourishing society, and then claiming that notion of a flourishing society can ground the particular status we give to humans over other animals. If he were instead to admit of flourishing as being an already morally loaded notion, then his argument would be obviously and unhelpfully circular: in that case, the animal rights proponent would just reject the idea that societies which prey on non-human animals count as flourishing.

    I have severe doubts about the pragmatic argumentative strategy, as I've described it here, ones which go beyond just the specifics of the animals rights case. First, I just doubt that there is any not-already-morally-loaded notion of flourishing that will do a good job of matching up with what we normally take the morally salutary societies to be--that is why I brought up slavery. On most non-moral metrics of flourishing, slave-owning societies have been able to do fine; so why think non-moral metrics of flourishing match up particularly well with moral ones? And if they come apart, why would we care about this non-moral metric, rather than caring about the moral one? One could dispute this, though, as Hamilton has done, by arguing that the historical record, on suitable analysis, actually yields a non-moral metric of flourishing which condemns those slave-owning societies. But I think there is anyway a deeper problem. Two terms which are extensionally equivalent (cover the same objects) might nonetheless have different meanings; although 'has a heart' and 'has a kidney' refer to all the same animals (it turns out everything that has a heart has a kidney) the two expressions nonetheless have different meanings. Even if one is able to gin up a non-moral metric of flourishing which happens to apply to all the societies we take to be morally salutary and none of the ones we don't, that extensional equivalence does not guarantee that the non-moral metric captures the meaning of what it is to be morally salutary. In particular, I don't think that the non-moral metric, taken alone, is going to be able to explain why these societies are fitting to desire, even if it happens to apply to all and only the ones which are in fact fitting to desire. Compare: I suppose I gave a list of all the true sentences in English. Then 'is true' and 'is on this list' would be extensionally equivalent; but only the former description ('is true') would be able to explain why some particular statement is worth believing (as opposed to 'is on a list I wrote'). Similarly, even if there was a non-moral description of social flourishing which matched up with all the actually morally salutary societies, only the moral description ('is just,' etc.) would be able to explain why those societies are worth pursuing.

    So it strikes me that the whole project of trying to 'ground' the social order of society in pragmatic concerns is a mistake. If the pragmatic concerns one gives are already loaded with moral content, then the exercise is pointless; one has not gotten any further than one already started. But, on the other hand, if the pragmatic concerns do not smuggle in any already-moral content, then they will be unable to explain why the social order they pick out is actually desirable. So either way, grounding the social order in pragmatic rather than moral concerns doesn't work.

    Footnote:
    I suspect that the truth example is incoherent. It could be fixed, but I didn't bother because the refined presentation would not affect the point.

    Finally, Hamilton, I think that the problem with your claims about minds is that when taken to their natural conclusion they undermine our capacities to attribute mental states even to other humans. There's no one else who has the exact same brain that I do, in terms of the arrangement of the meat. So even if I assume my meat must always go with a mental life, that doesn't get me to the conclusion that my brother's meat does the same. So how could I know he has a mind? As far as I can tell, the only relevant similarity metric I could use to conclude my brother's meat is relevantly similar is that of functional organization--the way we recognize a piece of brain-stuff as a neuron, for instance, is in terms of the functional role it plays in the the brain (not on the basis of it's irrelevant intrinsic properties, like color or whatnot; our neurons could be different in those ways without it mattering to our congnition). But if this is so, then the extreme skepticism you're raising about functional criteria for mentality would apply just as much to other people as to animals and other non-human systems.

    MrMister on
  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    My objection to the idea is more that the society isn't really doing as well as we think, because quite a lot of the people aren't doing well at all. It's not really a moral thing, more just saying that an empire can spread its borders, and the rich of a society can be very happy, while the society isn't actually doing well because there are hordes of slaves etc whose plight no-one notices and who make up the bulk of the society.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • PLAPLA The process.Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    -
    @MrMister @Lucid

    Sorry for the delayed response. The way I see it, when people are presented with a rule they will follow it if they believe it is a good rule which comports with their views of the world and what they want it to be, or if others think the rule should be followed and will punish transgressions. I don't see what adding morality as a dimension apart from "things people agree with" or "fear of punishment.". If people already agree or fear, then they have a reason to act, and so adding an extra gloss of morality seems like a post hoc rationalization for a course of action they would already take. If people are not otherwise motivated to act, and morality is not just acting as a synonym for motivation or fear, then saying something is or is not moral should not be motivating. So to me it seems that morality is only meaningful to the extent that what is moral coincides with what we are already inclined to do, which is another way of saying that morality is created by humans, and since all humans cannot agree on any one thing, morality is necessarily subjective.

    And our justification for still opposing the subjective motivations of others in favour of our own subjective motivations is simply that our own motivations are our motivations precisely by being the ones which motivate ourselves.
    It is tautological, but we do care more about what we care more about, rather than what others care more about.
    You could call it "moral favouritism", if you really wanted.

    I say because a justification is often requested for such positions. But it isn't a very elaborate or noble justification; it's just kind of what is there.

    Edit: It's possible to be motivated by invalid logic or unsound premisses, which would serve to undermine the motivation, I suppose.

    PLA on
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    poshniallo wrote: »
    My objection to the idea is more that the society isn't really doing as well as we think, because quite a lot of the people aren't doing well at all. It's not really a moral thing, more just saying that an empire can spread its borders, and the rich of a society can be very happy, while the society isn't actually doing well because there are hordes of slaves etc whose plight no-one notices and who make up the bulk of the society.

    In that case, then the considerations in the second paragraph are relevant. I'm not sure that there's a non-moral reading of "doing well" that is relevant to which societies are worth having.

    MrMister on
  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    poshniallo wrote: »
    My objection to the idea is more that the society isn't really doing as well as we think, because quite a lot of the people aren't doing well at all. It's not really a moral thing, more just saying that an empire can spread its borders, and the rich of a society can be very happy, while the society isn't actually doing well because there are hordes of slaves etc whose plight no-one notices and who make up the bulk of the society.

    In that case, then the considerations in the second paragraph are relevant. I'm not sure that there's a non-moral reading of "doing well" that is relevant to which societies are worth having.

    You're quite right - I suppose what I was talking about is a different stage of the moral calculation, is all. Just arguing about what happens in a society rather than what that means. It's a pet hate of mine when people describe oppressive societies positively by ignoring the feelings of the oppressed, such as people saying homophobia is considered OK in Iran...of course the gay people don't think it's OK.

    I think every normative claim has a moral component - I never understand what people mean when they say 'I don't care about ethics but we should totally do this'. Ethics is more pervasive than we think, and ethics has been sadly tarred with some brush that makes many people hesitant to say, 'this is the moral thing to do here'. I was just focusing on this one point and not expressing myself clearly.

    I do think that one of the reasons baby-experimenting is wrong is that it would cause massive distress and violence. It's not the only reason, of course, and although it doesn't apply to animals, doesn't mean animal experimentation or abuse is OK either.

    I mentioned it because it's a lot less disputable than some of the other reasons baby-abuse is wrong.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    poshniallo wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    poshniallo wrote: »
    My objection to the idea is more that the society isn't really doing as well as we think, because quite a lot of the people aren't doing well at all. It's not really a moral thing, more just saying that an empire can spread its borders, and the rich of a society can be very happy, while the society isn't actually doing well because there are hordes of slaves etc whose plight no-one notices and who make up the bulk of the society.

    In that case, then the considerations in the second paragraph are relevant. I'm not sure that there's a non-moral reading of "doing well" that is relevant to which societies are worth having.

    You're quite right - I suppose what I was talking about is a different stage of the moral calculation, is all. Just arguing about what happens in a society rather than what that means. It's a pet hate of mine when people describe oppressive societies positively by ignoring the feelings of the oppressed, such as people saying homophobia is considered OK in Iran...of course the gay people don't think it's OK.

    I think every normative claim has a moral component - I never understand what people mean when they say 'I don't care about ethics but we should totally do this'. Ethics is more pervasive than we think, and ethics has been sadly tarred with some brush that makes many people hesitant to say, 'this is the moral thing to do here'. I was just focusing on this one point and not expressing myself clearly.

    I do think that one of the reasons baby-experimenting is wrong is that it would cause massive distress and violence. It's not the only reason, of course, and although it doesn't apply to animals, doesn't mean animal experimentation or abuse is OK either.

    I mentioned it because it's a lot less disputable than some of the other reasons baby-abuse is wrong.

    :^: to all of this, but most especially the bolded

    MrMister on
  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    poshniallo wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    poshniallo wrote: »
    My objection to the idea is more that the society isn't really doing as well as we think, because quite a lot of the people aren't doing well at all. It's not really a moral thing, more just saying that an empire can spread its borders, and the rich of a society can be very happy, while the society isn't actually doing well because there are hordes of slaves etc whose plight no-one notices and who make up the bulk of the society.

    In that case, then the considerations in the second paragraph are relevant. I'm not sure that there's a non-moral reading of "doing well" that is relevant to which societies are worth having.

    You're quite right - I suppose what I was talking about is a different stage of the moral calculation, is all. Just arguing about what happens in a society rather than what that means. It's a pet hate of mine when people describe oppressive societies positively by ignoring the feelings of the oppressed, such as people saying homophobia is considered OK in Iran...of course the gay people don't think it's OK.

    I think every normative claim has a moral component - I never understand what people mean when they say 'I don't care about ethics but we should totally do this'. Ethics is more pervasive than we think, and ethics has been sadly tarred with some brush that makes many people hesitant to say, 'this is the moral thing to do here'. I was just focusing on this one point and not expressing myself clearly.

    I do think that one of the reasons baby-experimenting is wrong is that it would cause massive distress and violence. It's not the only reason, of course, and although it doesn't apply to animals, doesn't mean animal experimentation or abuse is OK either.

    I mentioned it because it's a lot less disputable than some of the other reasons baby-abuse is wrong.

    Why ought those in power care about the well being or happiness of the slaves or the poor though, apart from any fear that the plight of the worst off will lead to direct or indirect harms (inckuding psychologicak damage to the powerful if seeing suffering upsets them) against those in power?

    I would prefer a society where everyone was happy, but I do not desire that society enough to sacrifice or compromise my social or financial situation. On the other hand, the idea of sick children or cats being put to sleep both upset me greatly, so I sacrifice some of my wealth to help them. In this case, "prefer" is a minor concern but it takes more than that to make me willing to incur a cost to satisfy that preference. If I was to say "a moral society would care for the poor" that statement would be equivalent to saying I prefer such a society, and in my mind, would add nothing to the discussion, since we have already determined that I am not motivated to incur a cost to create that society, since the plight of the poor ultimately is not a sufficient concern to cause me to act. I could say that it is immoral to let sick children go without medical care, but again, I am already motivated to act to alleviate this situation, does the moral qualifier add?

    @mrmister - I hope you will have the chance to reply to this and my earlier post.

    7zh9uu9etcor.jpg
    Chanus wrote:
    It's been a butt come true! I get to work with the absolute best boobs in the business. What more could a money ask for? Kids, aim for the freeloaders !

    @chanus
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    @MrMister @Lucid

    Sorry for the delayed response. The way I see it, when people are presented with a rule they will follow it if they believe it is a good rule which comports with their views of the world and what they want it to be, or if others think the rule should be followed and will punish transgressions. I don't see what adding morality as a dimension apart from "things people agree with" or "fear of punishment.". If people already agree or fear, then they have a reason to act, and so adding an extra gloss of morality seems like a post hoc rationalization for a course of action they would already take. If people are not otherwise motivated to act, and morality is not just acting as a synonym for motivation or fear, then saying something is or is not moral should not be motivating. So to me it seems that morality is only meaningful to the extent that what is moral coincides with what we are already inclined to do, which is another way of saying that morality is created by humans, and since all humans cannot agree on any one thing, morality is necessarily subjective.

    In order for your third sentence to make sense as following your second, we have to read the second sentence as claiming that people will only follow a role out of either fear of the consequences or non-moral agreement with it (otherwise morality would not be a separate dimension or extra gloss; it would be included right there in the grounds for agreement). As such, I imagine that the sort of picture you're getting at is one where people agree with a rule insofar as they see it as furthering what they conceive of as their essentially personal projects. But I would dispute that picture. Sometimes people follow rules not because they conceive of them as advantageous from a personal perspective, but rather because they see them as morally required; they have thoughts with explicitly moral contents, like, "it would be wrong to lie on this job application," and then as a consequence they refrain from lying on that job application. Furthermore, ascribing this moral belief is not merely a redescription of some essentially non-moral motivational tendency (it is not shorthand for 'they are disinclined toward lying'), rather, they are in possession of a genuine belief about an objective matter of fact--this comes out clearly in the fact that moral beliefs are responsive to reasons for and against, whereas inclinations are not. If I say "slavery is justifiable in extreme circumstances" it is appropriate to engage in argument, and to potentially change your mind if I am sufficiently persuasive. If I say "I am inclined toward eating fish" it is not. This difference is explained by the fact that genuine moral thoughts are not mere expressions of preference.

    You seem to think that there is something wrong with the idea of a thought with genuinely moral content--a thought with the (schematically represented) content that φ-ing is morally impermissible, rather than the content that I dislike φ, I won't let you φ, society punishes φ, or whatnot (this is especially apparent in your more recent post). And, to be fair, many people have similar reservations. I do not think, however, that those reservations are good. We should allow that we have thoughts with contents that go beyond disliking φ, or fearing φ; sometimes our thoughts are actually about the rightness and wrongness of φ-ing. There is no reason--at least, none that has impressed me yet--to think that those categories must really be shorthand for something else.

    Edit: an analogy--I might think "my brother is a better chess player than his opponent." A betterness-skeptic might then respond: "what you mean by that is that your brother will win this match!" But I should not assent to this paraphrase. I mean that my brother is a better player, but being a better player is fully compatible with losing any given match. My brother being a better player is also compatible with me having no confidence at all that he will win this match--perhaps he is drunk, or has made a blunder, or whatnot. So I should resist if someone attempts to paraphrase my claim into an expression of confidence. Rather, I had a thought that was about exactly what I said it was about: who was a better player. Unless there are some decisive reasons to think that the idea of a better player is incomprehensible, we should resist any paraphrase at all; I said what I said and meant what I meant. It is, in my view, the same way when I say that φ-ing is morally required. I mean that it is morally required, and not anything else.

    MrMister on
  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    @MrMister @Lucid

    Sorry for the delayed response. The way I see it, when people are presented with a rule they will follow it if they believe it is a good rule which comports with their views of the world and what they want it to be, or if others think the rule should be followed and will punish transgressions. I don't see what adding morality as a dimension apart from "things people agree with" or "fear of punishment.". If people already agree or fear, then they have a reason to act, and so adding an extra gloss of morality seems like a post hoc rationalization for a course of action they would already take. If people are not otherwise motivated to act, and morality is not just acting as a synonym for motivation or fear, then saying something is or is not moral should not be motivating. So to me it seems that morality is only meaningful to the extent that what is moral coincides with what we are already inclined to do, which is another way of saying that morality is created by humans, and since all humans cannot agree on any one thing, morality is necessarily subjective.

    In order for your third sentence to make sense as following your second, we have to read the second sentence as claiming that people will only follow a role out of either fear of the consequences or non-moral agreement with it (otherwise morality would not be a separate dimension or extra gloss; it would be included right there in the grounds for agreement). As such, I imagine that the sort of picture you're getting at is one where people agree with a rule insofar as they see it as furthering what they conceive of as their essentially personal projects. But I would dispute that picture. Sometimes people follow rules not because they conceive of them as advantageous from a personal perspective, but rather because they see them as morally required; they have thoughts with explicitly moral contents, like, "it would be wrong to lie on this job application," and then as a consequence they refrain from lying on that job application. Furthermore, ascribing this moral belief is not merely a redescription of some essentially non-moral motivational tendency (it is not shorthand for 'they are disinclined toward lying'), rather, they are in possession of a genuine belief about an objective matter of fact--this comes out clearly in the fact that moral beliefs are responsive to reasons for and against, whereas inclinations are not. If I say "slavery is justifiable in extreme circumstances" it is appropriate to engage in argument, and to potentially change your mind if I am sufficiently persuasive. If I say "I am inclined toward eating fish" it is not. This difference is explained by the fact that genuine moral thoughts are not mere expressions of preference.

    You seem to think that there is something wrong with the idea of a thought with genuinely moral content--a thought with the (schematically represented) content that φ-ing is morally impermissible, rather than the content that I dislike φ, I won't let you φ, society punishes φ, or whatnot (this is especially apparent in your more recent post). And, to be fair, many people have similar reservations. I do not think, however, that those reservations are good. We should allow that we have thoughts with contents that go beyond disliking φ, or fearing φ; sometimes our thoughts are actually about the rightness and wrongness of φ-ing. There is no reason--at least, none that has impressed me yet--to think that those categories must really be shorthand for something else.

    If I can borrow from your earlier post, I think when someone says they are behaving in a certain way because it is moral that they are speaking in terms of the "list" of true statements you described. They have a personal list of "moral" rules to follow BECAUSE they are on the list of moral rules, and a variety of social pressures, shame, and the satisfaction of being what one considers a "moral" person all act together to motivate one to follow the list. To demonstrate otherwise, I think you would need to identify something which is viewed as moral but which a person would not choose to do otherwise (there is no enjoyment), and which is done wholly in private, without any societal pressure to so act or recriminations if one did not so act. The closest thing I can think of is a private religious ritual followed by someone who does not get any pleasure from following his religion or fear punishment on earth or afterwards for failing to observe. Unless we can demonstrate that people actually follow morality in these zero benefit (even the benefit of feeling good about being moral) zero fear situations, I don't see how morality can be demonstrated as having independent existence from all our other motivations, in which case it seems to me that morality can always be reduced to those other motivations.

    In your lying example, the statement that "lying is immoral" entails so many practical considerations, from the fear of being found out to the general fear that if people regularly lie then trust will break down in society to the happiness that comes from being a "good" person who tells the truth. I would argue that even a Kantian who refuses to lie under any circumstances is still pursuing nonmoral ends like a fear of trust being lost and the self satisfaction of being good.

    I don't see why the susceptibility to change impacts this discussion. I may be disinclined to eat broccoli and then have someone prepare it in a way that I like and change my mind, and it seems that the exact same process would be at work in your slavery example. People change their preferences all the time in response to new information and experiences, so I don't see why there would be a requirement that something be factual for it to be changed by reasoned argument. Thoughts are more complex than language, and so "I don't like broccoli" most likely really means "I have eaten and not enjoyed broccoli and based on those experiences I have no desire to eat it anymore and am not interested in trying it in the future," an opinion which I think is suseptible to change through new information and experience, as long as it is not held so fundamentally that the holder refuses to even entertain the possibility of change.

    7zh9uu9etcor.jpg
    Chanus wrote:
    It's been a butt come true! I get to work with the absolute best boobs in the business. What more could a money ask for? Kids, aim for the freeloaders !

    @chanus
  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    @mrmister - I am interested to hear your take on my last post. This is an interesting conversation.

    7zh9uu9etcor.jpg
    Chanus wrote:
    It's been a butt come true! I get to work with the absolute best boobs in the business. What more could a money ask for? Kids, aim for the freeloaders !

    @chanus
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    @mrmister - I am interested to hear your take on my last post. This is an interesting conversation.

    The semester has just started and I am quite busy figuring shit out and finishing up various summer projects, so I may not be able to get to it for a bit. But I will see if I can find time!

  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    MrMister wrote: »
    So it strikes me that the whole project of trying to 'ground' the social order of society in pragmatic concerns is a mistake. If the pragmatic concerns one gives are already loaded with moral content, then the exercise is pointless; one has not gotten any further than one already started. But, on the other hand, if the pragmatic concerns do not smuggle in any already-moral content, then they will be unable to explain why the social order they pick out is actually desirable. So either way, grounding the social order in pragmatic rather than moral concerns doesn't work.

    This seems a bit circular to me. I'm not arguing that a flourishing society is desirable; desire is an inherently subjective and individual idea. Can the human race desire something as one body? We can broadly say that they do, or say that they do on average, but I don't think the ascribed desirability of any particular act or outcome on a scale involving more than several people can really be seen as anything other than shorthand.

    With a few edge-case exceptions, animals instinctively 'want' to live and to reproduce. They're pretty much the only things that you can uniformly say about animal species and have them apply to everything. Beyond that baseline, humans are social animals. Social animal behavior encourages group cohesion and the shared prosperity of the pack/tribe/whatever. Humans are at the extreme end of the social animal scale, probably thanks to our general lack of anatomical defenses, long gestation period, and even longer period of functional uselessness before we can provide for ourselves.

    All higher animals are capable, to one extent or another, over overriding instinctive behaviors on the basis of environment, past experience, etc. Hence the near-infinite examples of humans behaving in manners decidedly counter to group prosperity, avoiding reproduction, or against their natural urge to survive. But, generally, I think we can say that humans, as a group, 'want' to live, multiply, and get along with one another. There's no moral imperative there; it's what we are hard-wired by millions of years of evolution to do. Any human society can be judged on a purely amoral scale of prosperity simply in terms of how well it enables its members to live longer, have more children, and keep one another from pissing in their neighbor's cornflakes.

    We can bring in things like quality of life and overall happiness and, I think, look at them without invoking morality, but I'm pretty sure that my historical record argument holds up purely without a dependency on morality and just on the basis of the three axis of biological success above. Human societies are objectively more successful in proportion to the subset of all humans which they consider to be equal citizens.

    To the extent that we can think of a society as a single meta-organism, government seems like a reasonable analog to the higher brain functions of any organism with a capability for operant conditioning. The individual drives and foibles of single humans, or of groups of humans (which appear to have a natural tendency toward exclusive behavior once they reach a certain size), are smoothed over by the government, ensuring the larger group's success despite itself.

    The government may not have any capability for moralistic behavior or desire, but it seems, to me, to have an imperative toward behavior that enables its citizens to fulfill their instinctive individual (or group) needs. I don't think governments or cultures are sufficiently analogous to organisms to consider them as acting in a fashion that ensures their own pseudo-biological prosperity, but I think that we can look at their actions from an exterior perspective and say that this law or that decision had a beneficial or detrimental impact on the 'health' of the culture. Speaking strictly amorally, laws that promote the welfare of non-humans may actually be beneficial to humanity in the long term, but there isn't any evidence I'm aware of indicating this to be the case.

    Which isn't to say that we shouldn't include morality in the lawmaking process, but any appeal to morality has to be tempered with the amoral needs of the culture creating the laws. Whether it's more moral to spare the lives of rats or not, a group of social animals that sacrifices its members in favor of non-members isn't a group that's going to survive long in competition with more group-selfish rivals. We could obviously extend this argument to "What about the group that's only inclusive of White people" or whatever, but that's where my whole "history shows that the more-inclusive people tend to win, biologically speaking" argument comes in.
    MrMister wrote: »
    Finally, Hamilton, I think that the problem with your claims about minds is that when taken to their natural conclusion they undermine our capacities to attribute mental states even to other humans. There's no one else who has the exact same brain that I do, in terms of the arrangement of the meat. So even if I assume my meat must always go with a mental life, that doesn't get me to the conclusion that my brother's meat does the same. So how could I know he has a mind? As far as I can tell, the only relevant similarity metric I could use to conclude my brother's meat is relevantly similar is that of functional organization--the way we recognize a piece of brain-stuff as a neuron, for instance, is in terms of the functional role it plays in the the brain (not on the basis of it's irrelevant intrinsic properties, like color or whatnot; our neurons could be different in those ways without it mattering to our congnition). But if this is so, then the extreme skepticism you're raising about functional criteria for mentality would apply just as much to other people as to animals and other non-human systems.

    I don't think I actually agree with the bold statement. Neurons are a particular sort of structure, with specific, intrinsic properties. Two arbitrary human brains are, from a physical standpoint, fairly close to identical and are, at the least, significantly more identical to one another than they are to even a chimp or bonobo brain. Both in terms of size and structure, despite being composed of largely the same stuff.
    (Edit: In order to say definitively that other sorts of structures can behave equivalently to our neurons we'd have to first find another structure that fulfilled its basic function and then either find a being whose brain contains them and is capable of telling us about it, or replace someone's neurons with these new things and see if they can tell the difference.)

    You and I have nigh-identical hardware, from an anatomical perspective, and I know that I have a mind, so it seems reasonable to conclude that you have one too. Barring dualistic mumbo-jumbo, anyway. A chimp brain is a good deal more similar to a human one than a rat brain; is it similar enough that a chimp also has a mind? I don't know. I have my own experience to tell me that I have one, and I can walk up and ask you if you have one, but I can't ask a chimp. Obviously we could then bring in zombies and whatnot to say that simply asking you whether or not you have a mind isn't sufficient proof, but, as I said up-thread, I'm not sure I see a worthwhile difference between a thing that acts as though it believes it has a mind and a thing which 'actually does' have one.

    Now, things that have behaviors which we attribute to mindfulness but which are incapable of expressions regarding their own possession (or lack thereof) of a mind are something else. A mouse acts as though it has desires, but are they the desires of a thinking mind or the 'desires' born of biological compulsion? Does Google's AI know what a cat is, in any fashion, or does it just respond to some form of input by producing--via entirely mindless process--an abstract representation of a cat?

    I'm honestly okay going either way on it. I don't have any inherent bias toward some things being mindless and others mindful or toward there being no such thing as a 'mind' beyond our hardware's experience of itself. But I don't think we're capable, from a technical perspective, of answering the question. And while I will be the first to admit that I'm not terribly well-read philosophically, I've never seen an argument that seems to address why some things should have a mind and others not.

    Hofstadter talked about the mind being a thing that experiences itself and implies that this is inevitable for a sufficiently complex, self-referential system. Wolfram presented a fairly half-assed but not entirely unconvincing argument that there is an upper limit on systemic complexity; that beyond a certain point of ineraction, adding more components or more degrees of freedom doesn't actually make a system any more complicated. I don't think either of their arguments are necessarily self-evident and they're both mathematicians rather than philosophers, but taken together they seem to imply that, to the limits of our ability to talk about the experiences of things other than ourselves, anything beyond a certain point of complexity is going to have something akin to our experience of mind. I honestly don't know what that means from a moral perspective.

    CptHamilton on
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