Is there anything objective about morality?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:27 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Then you have turned your whole argument upside down. Bison act as they do because they are programmed to do so.
Not "Bison" as a whole, but rather individual bison do that because they are "programmed" to do so, each in their own way. In that, they are like people, who also do what they do because (since intellect is just high level programming), they are "programmed", each in their own way, to do so. And this programming (in humans or bison) is the basis for all behavior, including building rocketships and going on murderous rampages.

I also agree that the relevent difference between bison and humans is intellectual capacity, which allows for more complex behavior, and better developed morals.

I also agree that morals allow us to live together in harmony. Questions such as the burning building one I posed above may just be a side-effect of the driving force: "do I want to live with people who think this way?" (or put in the meme-propagative form, "how do I want people I live with to behave?")

I agree that evolutionary forces in social animals may well be what gave rise to morals in the first place, and as such, the origins of morals could well be considered objective. The existence of morals could also be considered objective by the same reasoning. I'll buy that.

Some moral systems (depending on the society and circumstances in which they are implemented) may well advance peace and prosperity and help humanity continue better than others. Even objectively better (once you select a measure: number of humans? Diversity of humanity? Number of planets subjugated?... but now you have to subjectively pick a measure, which throws mustard into the whole thing).

I don't think that "the only problem that counts" is to continue humanity for as long as possible. But that's also a subjective opinion.

The thing about it is that "objectively better at..." and "objectively better period." are two different kinds of things. Showing the first does not imply the second.

That's where we differ.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jul 01, 2015 3:10 pm UTC

ucim wrote:I don't think that "the only problem that counts" is to continue humanity for as long as possible. But that's also a subjective opinion.
I'm all wore out with this. It doesn't matter if you agree with that or not. You forebears did or they wouldn't have produced you. And you must if you choose to have kids. And even if you choose not to reproduce like me, it doesn't matter because enough will so that the next generation is produced. The only reason we are here for this discussion is because that is true. And if it ceases being true no one will exist to argue the point.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jul 01, 2015 3:28 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:And you must if you choose to have kids.
No, I can choose to have kids without thinking that "the only problem that counts" is to continue humanity for as long as possible, same as I can choose to drive to Alabama without thinking that "increasing global warming is the only problem that counts".

But either way, it's an "is", not an "ought". And yeah, looks like an impasse.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jul 01, 2015 4:30 pm UTC

Impasse might describe it. But to a point there lies the fun of it.
ucim wrote:No, I can choose to have kids without thinking that "the only problem that counts" is to continue humanity for as long as possible, same as I can choose to drive to Alabama without thinking that "increasing global warming is the only problem that counts".

But you do realize that if you had kids, you made that choice, even if it wasn't consciously, don't you? The end result is precisely the same. And even for people like me who opt out can't change the overall result.

Spoilered because it is just me musing.
Spoiler:
But maybe you don't. It has always amazed me that people here and elsewhere are surprised, that when two breeders get together and have sex, that a child is occasionally produced. I mean that is what sex does. It doesn't care what you think. It can't care if the RNG in the sky causes all your precautions to fail. Go figure.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 01, 2015 4:55 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Then I'm sure you can put my argument into words as an argument against natural selection. Go ahead.


You're worrying quite a lot about the thing I described as incidental, and not about...the main point of the argument.

But, if you care that much, they also are extremely reluctant to accept natural selection as an originating point, due to it's lack of emotion, feeling, caring about us, whatever. It's like there's a blind spot in human mentality where we *have* to attribute human emotion to things in order to give them weight or importance. Or at least, that seems to be a rather popular approach. Folks feel it necessary to personify everything, and even language is constructed to support such behavior. Even those folks who intellectually understand perfectly well that evolution does not *want* anything may use such language casually because it's an easy way to convey ideas. It is true that reality is not like a human, and so forth...but this does not diminish it's importance or relevance in any way. You can "declare" whatever other things you wish, but when conflict occurs, reality sort of trumps your ideas.

Also, they have a thing about a theory originating with natural selection being recursive. Because natural selection selects for the most fit, and the most fit are defined by who are selected for. Morality can, in this frame of mind, be described as a subset of fitness. Is it recursive? In a sense. In exactly the same sense as evolution due to natural selection is.

Tyndmyr wrote:Talking about the morality of the day/night cycle doesn't really make sense.
Correct. For the same reason, talking about the morality of gravity or natural selection is equally inane. It just is.


Morality derives from natural laws. This is different than claiming that those natural laws somehow HAVE a morality. Natural selection does not have a morality. We use morality to describe our actions with regards to our continued survival and well being given those natural laws.

This is why killing a dude is a moral choice, and playing baseball is not. The former pretty dramatically impacts someone's survival/well being. Look at pretty much ANY moral/philosophical example. Trolley argument, whatever. To play baseball or not would make a poor example. Deciding who lives and who dies is...well, utterly routine as an example of a moral decision.

I don't have to convince the world that natural selection is related to morality. Everyone already accepts that it is, and acts accordingly.

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:I don't think that "the only problem that counts" is to continue humanity for as long as possible. But that's also a subjective opinion.
I'm all wore out with this. It doesn't matter if you agree with that or not. You forebears did or they wouldn't have produced you. And you must if you choose to have kids. And even if you choose not to reproduce like me, it doesn't matter because enough will so that the next generation is produced. The only reason we are here for this discussion is because that is true. And if it ceases being true no one will exist to argue the point.


*shrug* Agreement is not actually necessary. It happens regardless.

Also, having kids personally isn't the only portion of natural selection. Maybe you choose to instead work on tech to better the lives of those related to you, more or less. Humans have embraced tool-use pretty hardcore, so for us, natural selection gets a wee bit more complicated. The possibility of intentionally selecting genes for our descendents, for instance, is pretty nifty.

Continuing/improving humanity isn't *just* baby-making.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jul 01, 2015 5:09 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:But you do realize that if you had kids, you made that choice, even if it wasn't consciously, don't you? The end result is precisely the same.
Yes. But even if it was conscious, the reason I would have kids is not "to help ensure the survival of the species". Nor would it be "to give myself big college bills". Even though those are two likely outcomes.

And I don't feel any moral imperitive to have kids, nor can I think of any reason involving morality that I should encourage other people to do so.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 01, 2015 5:17 pm UTC

The rabbit does not contemplate the fate of the species before having bunnies, either. And yet, they do. So it often is with humans.

And having kids, caring for kids, the well being of kids pretty routinely fall under moral decisions as described by humans.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jul 01, 2015 6:16 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:But you do realize that if you had kids, you made that choice, even if it wasn't consciously, don't you? The end result is precisely the same.
Yes. But even if it was conscious, the reason I would have kids is not "to help ensure the survival of the species". Nor would it be "to give myself big college bills". Even though those are two likely outcomes.

And I don't feel any moral imperitive to have kids, nor can I think of any reason involving morality that I should encourage other people to do so.

Jose
Now, this is where we really differ. These aren't your goals, these are the result of system functionality. I don't care why you think you have kids(and this is the source of the subjectivity), because it is demonstrable that why you think you do something and the functionality that drives it are two separate things. And you don't need to urge your fellow denizens to do anything, system functionality does it for you. It doesn't have to be a 100 percent successful to work, so the fact that their are no little morriswalters out there is meaningless to anybody but me.(and perhaps some of the people I drive crazy around here)

I don't know that I buy into the moral imperative. Using this definition from the Wikipedia entry on the moral imperative,
A moral imperative is a principle originating inside a person's mind that compels that person to act.
I would have to say that it seems to fit the point, but we attribute it not to the functional compulsion, but to our rationalization of it.

Anyway I give you point, set and match, because in terms of what you seem to hold to, you are correct. However I'm holding on to a higher level imperative which I believe is absolutely objective. And that's my story and I'm sticking with it. :lol:
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:01 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The rabbit does not contemplate the fate of the species before having bunnies, either. And yet, they do. So it often is with humans.
So morality doesn't actually exist, is your position?

Or is morality something that applies equally to rabbits and humans?

In either case, there seems to be a pretty big disconnect between what people mean when they talk about morality and whatever it is that you're talking about, which seems to be some kind of evolutionary account.

But if "superior" is to be understood in an evolutionary sense, evolution at what level? The genes that influence a behavior, or the group, or the species? Why?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:36 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The rabbit does not contemplate the fate of the species before having bunnies, either. And yet, they do. So it often is with humans.
So morality doesn't actually exist, is your position?


Morality is a term used by humans to discuss a subset of decisions and actions they make. It's a human term, but those actions are not exclusive to humanity.

Yeah, the rabbit may not have a lengthy debate over if they should have another kid or not, but they still have another bunny or not. So, if a human happens to accidentally a baby, it's really not any different in practice from the bunnies.

Or is morality something that applies equally to rabbits and humans?

In either case, there seems to be a pretty big disconnect between what people mean when they talk about morality and whatever it is that you're talking about, which seems to be some kind of evolutionary account.

But if "superior" is to be understood in an evolutionary sense, evolution at what level? The genes that influence a behavior, or the group, or the species? Why?


This is an excellent question, and strictly speaking, all of them are true. Individual genes are merely a mechanism for how evolution happens. Epigentics, social behavior, etc are also mediums in which this happens.

We probably do not yet have sufficient data to state with certainty the best method of optimizing for our future. It seems likely to involve a combination of methods, but in terms of specifics, it's a bit sparse. Obviously, more data is needed.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:46 pm UTC

More data can help you optimize, but it can't tell you what it is you're optimizing for. You will need thinking (and hopefully the realization that your entire program is rooted in a deeply flawed understanding of evolution.)
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:26 pm UTC

doogly wrote:More data can help you optimize, but it can't tell you what it is you're optimizing for. You will need thinking (and hopefully the realization that your entire program is rooted in a deeply flawed understanding of evolution.)
I'm not Tyndmyr but you aren't optimizing for anything. You have some state you want to achieve, but no idea what that state is. Morals are cut and try. We tried slavery, we tried locking women down, we tried making gays criminal. We do this and find out it doesn't work. We discard it and try something else.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Dark567 » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

Wading through all this, I've only seen brief allusions to Error Theory, but it not explicitly stated.

The moral error theorist thinks that although our moral judgments aim at the truth, they systematically fail to secure it. The moral error theorist stands to morality as the atheist stands to religion. Noncognitivism regarding theistic discourse is not very plausible (though see Lovin 2005); rather, it would seem that when a theist says “God exists” (for example) she is expressing something that purports to be true. According to the atheist, however, the claim is untrue; indeed, according to her, theistic discourse in general is infected with error. The moral error theorist claims that when we say “Stealing is wrong” we are asserting that the act of stealing instantiates the property of wrongness, but in fact nothing instantiates this property (or there is no such property at all), and thus the utterance is untrue. (Why say “untrue” rather than “false”? See section 4 below.) Indeed, according to her, moral discourse in general is infected with error.


In effect moral statements are similar to statements like "Dark567 is the king of the USA". Which presupposes there is a king of the USA, when there isn't one. In the same way "murder is wrong" assumes there is a property of wrongness(and associated with it, morality).
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:31 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:We probably do not yet have sufficient data to state with certainty the best method of optimizing for our future.
More data might tell you the best method of that after you have defined "optimizing" and "our future".

(Doogly already addressed the "optimizing" part but you also need to decide what you mean by "our". Is it your own descendants? Is it the descendants of your subgroup of humans (whichever group that is)? Is it H. sapiens sapiens? Is it all current and potential sapient life?)
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Quercus » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:50 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
doogly wrote:More data can help you optimize, but it can't tell you what it is you're optimizing for. You will need thinking (and hopefully the realization that your entire program is rooted in a deeply flawed understanding of evolution.)
I'm not Tyndmyr but you aren't optimizing for anything. You have some state you want to achieve, but no idea what that state is. Morals are cut and try. We tried slavery, we tried locking women down, we tried making gays criminal. We do this and find out it doesn't work. We discard it and try something else.

All of those work perfectly fine for your goal of the continuation of humanity. Slavery is an excellent economic solution (speaking purely in terms of economics) - it has been for thousands of years and continues to be so today. Certain ways of subjugating women lead to a much increased reproductive rate (the most direct example is denying access to contraception and abortion). If you killed every gay person tomorrow, and continued killing them in every new generation it would be extremely unlikely to substantially impact the chances of humanity surviving.

Morality is the name we give to the fact that we (hopefully) find these things abhorrent despite the fact that they would either benefit, on have little impact on, the survival of the species.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:28 am UTC

Quercus wrote:All of those work perfectly fine for your goal of the continuation of humanity.
Really, and you know that how? First fire seems to be two million years ago. First homo sap maybe 200,000 years? Early days don't you think.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:52 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:Wading through all this, I've only seen brief allusions to Error Theory, but it not explicitly stated.


I think the charitable interpretation of many of the posts in this thread would be as asserting some form of Error Theory (the closest we've come to actual arguments for non-objective morality is fumbling towards some version of Mackie's Argument from Queerness).

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Quercus » Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:29 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Quercus wrote:All of those work perfectly fine for your goal of the continuation of humanity.
Really, and you know that how? First fire seems to be two million years ago. First homo sap maybe 200,000 years? Early days don't you think.

Fair enough, but that argument cuts both ways -we equally don't know that say, slavery, doesn't work for the continuation of humanity.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:02 am UTC

Quercus wrote:
morriswalters wrote:
Quercus wrote:All of those work perfectly fine for your goal of the continuation of humanity.
Really, and you know that how? First fire seems to be two million years ago. First homo sap maybe 200,000 years? Early days don't you think.

Fair enough, but that argument cuts both ways -we equally don't know that say, slavery, doesn't work for the continuation of humanity.
That would indeed be the case. But in the main, don't know is don't know. If morals serve any purpose other than a popularity contest of what we feel about things we'll stumble on it or we'll kill ourselves off.(current money seems to be on the latter)

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Quercus » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:38 am UTC

Okay, if we take as given:

a) The only problem that counts in a moral sense is the continuation of humanity (or intelligence, or life, or whatever)

b) We do not know the impact of slavery upon the continuation of humanity (etc...)

Do you therefore hold to the conclusion that we have insufficient information to judge the moral status of slavery?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:11 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:Okay, if we take as given:

a) The only problem that counts in a moral sense is the continuation of humanity (or intelligence, or life, or whatever)

b) We do not know the impact of slavery upon the continuation of humanity (etc...)

Do you therefore hold to the conclusion that we have insufficient information to judge the moral status of slavery?

Not at all. But that is how I feel about it. Not anything I can know. On slavery in particular, tell me exactly what it is about slavery the makes it so morally reprehensible? Is it the condition of servitude, the loss of choice, the lack of rights?

The rest of this is random musing.
Spoiler:
The whole back and forth here has been about subjectivity versus objectivity. What you or I believe based on our internal moral predilection, based on some combination of upbringing and exposure to what everyone else thinks. If that is all that there is, then morality is effectively a whim influenced by some combination of crowd think and mommy and daddy. If it serves some purpose on a level above that, then what happens to any individual may be less important than what may happen to all individuals going forward. But I don't have anyway of knowing that. But that doesn't mean that it isn't true. And there may be advantages to believing that it is.

Forgetting for a moment about half witted examples of suffering in hell, or living forever, with each of us having 50 virgins. Consider a world where we simply live. And were we can solve enough problems that with hard work we can all live well, in terms of, food and the basics, while having time to look around and gather information without feeling the urge to do something about what we find. No matter how you add up pain and pleasure, if we keep the ball bouncing for 200 million years then even if the sum total of joy and despair break even, the sums of both will be greater by far, then what we have had to this point.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 02, 2015 3:23 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:We probably do not yet have sufficient data to state with certainty the best method of optimizing for our future.
More data might tell you the best method of that after you have defined "optimizing" and "our future".

(Doogly already addressed the "optimizing" part but you also need to decide what you mean by "our". Is it your own descendants? Is it the descendants of your subgroup of humans (whichever group that is)? Is it H. sapiens sapiens? Is it all current and potential sapient life?)


The goals, also, are affected by available data. For instance, the ability to simply not die would be kind of awesome. The ability to have healthier descendents is also awesome. Evolutionarily speaking, both are advantageous, if the former is even possible. Which is MORE advantageous, and what level of each is more cost effective to acheive is problematic to determine without perfect information.

The grand goal is there, but lacking perfect information, we are not wholly certain about the path to acheiving it. This includes sub-goals.

Sure, you can roughly approximate a lot. Survival of self is usually very important, along with well being, etc. Survival of descendents. Survival of related people. Survival of ideas. No doubt with perfect information you could determine the relative importance of each sub-goal, but we do not have that.

Quercus wrote:Okay, if we take as given:

a) The only problem that counts in a moral sense is the continuation of humanity (or intelligence, or life, or whatever)

b) We do not know the impact of slavery upon the continuation of humanity (etc...)

Do you therefore hold to the conclusion that we have insufficient information to judge the moral status of slavery?


First, we must acknowledge that we never have perfect information. So, we have to make interim judgements while seeking additional information. This really isn't unique to this morality. It's really sort of a cousin to forms of utilitarianism, so you're going to see very similar decision making. As you get better information, you realize that a past action you were taking was wrong. You just didn't know it at the time.

Best information available shows slavery as bad for humanity. It's not a good utilization of human resources. Slavery is inherently connected with denying choice to individuals, and concentrating that choice in a few people. Basically, all of the efficiency problems of centralized planning can be applied to slavery.

Yes, slavery has been economically good for the slave-OWNERS. That is not quite the same as being good for humanity's future, or being an excellent economic solution in general. A more efficient system will, over the long term, result in a greater net benefit for all. Our wealthiest societies today are not slave owning societies, so it appears deeply unlikely that slavery is ideal for storing wealth. It looks like you can essentially get the benefits without many of the downsides simply by offering wages.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:59 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The goals, also, are affected by available data. For instance, the ability to simply not die would be kind of awesome. The ability to have healthier descendents is also awesome. Evolutionarily speaking, both are advantageous, if the former is even possible. Which is MORE advantageous, and what level of each is more cost effective to acheive is problematic to determine without perfect information.
What possible information could objectively distinguish between them, though? You keep copping out and saying "we'd need more information to decide" without ever even outlining what such information might in theory look like, let alone what specific conclusions we could then draw from it.

What is "evolutionarily speaking" in the first place? Evolution is a thing that happens, like gravity. What is "advantageous", gravitationally speaking?

The grand goal is there, but lacking perfect information, we are not wholly certain about the path to acheiving it.
What is the grand goal? You're not just remaining agnostic about the subgoals and path toward achieving it, you've continuously failed to describe it at all.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:03 pm UTC

Morality is related to a concept called "fairness". Suppose (to amplify one of these stupid trolley problems - note that I'm not actually asking the question but meta-asking it) the choice is between killing Frank or allowing humanity to go extinct. (He happens to be innocently in the way of some butterfly effect that delays a critical WWIII message). Suppose you have perfect information.

Is it moral to kill Frank?

In answering the question from a strict "greatest good for greatest number" it would not only be moral, but required. However, it certainly is not fair, any more than slavery is fair.

Morality enters into it as a counter to "Tough cookies, life ain't fair Frank. BLAM!" Whatever you're doing, if you don't at least weigh the fairness aspect of it, you are not doing morality. You are just doing utility.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 02, 2015 5:35 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Morality is related to a concept called "fairness".
Right. Life isn't particularly fair. It certainly isn't a zero sum game. And while I see the connection your making, moral questions are things that occur because of imperfect knowledge. And fairness, if defined the way most people do, is intrinsically impossible.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:54 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:And while I see the connection your making, moral questions are things that occur because of imperfect knowledge. And fairness, if defined the way most people do, is intrinsically impossible.
In my scenario, there is perfect knowledge. Are you saying that therefore morality does not enter into the decision to be made? That fairness doesn't enter into this decision?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:44 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:And while I see the connection your making, moral questions are things that occur because of imperfect knowledge. And fairness, if defined the way most people do, is intrinsically impossible.
In my scenario, there is perfect knowledge. Are you saying that therefore morality does not enter into the decision to be made? That fairness doesn't enter into this decision?

Jose
You tell me what fair means.
ucim wrote:choice is between killing Frank or allowing humanity to go extinct
The way you have stated it implies shoot Frank, as he dies even if you don't. Assuming Frank is human. The question should be what would Frank say if given the choice. That's your question if you want to know the answer. Would he be willing to die. It wouldn't be fair but would he think it was worth the price? Fairness implies some kind of balance. What good does it do Frank to be the last man of Earth?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:54 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:The way you have stated it implies shoot Frank, as he dies even if you don't.
We all die eventually. Frank lives out his normal life, as do all the people around him. However, humanity goes extinct within a hundred years. Or, you shoot him and humanity continues on for tens of thousands of years.

I'm not asking the question. I'm asking whether morality or fairness enters into your answer, given perfect knowledge of the outcomes of either choice.

morriswalters wrote:You tell me what fair means.
I'm using a layman's interpretation; that one should not injure another for reasons that are not the other's fault. In this case it's not Frank's fault that the demise of humanity can be averted by preventing what are otherwise innocent actions on his part. (i.e. driving slowly enough to be caught in a red light, or just quickly enough to miss it, halfway to an appointment that has nothing to do with humanity)

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 03, 2015 12:08 am UTC

ucim wrote:I'm not asking the question. I'm asking whether morality or fairness enters into your answer, given perfect knowledge of the outcomes of either choice.
No, not in the way that does for you, and it should be obvious why.
ucim wrote:I'm using a layman's interpretation; that one should not injure another for reasons that are not the other's fault. In this case it's not Frank's fault that the demise of humanity can be averted by preventing what are otherwise innocent actions on his part. (i.e. driving slowly enough to be caught in a red light, or just quickly enough to miss it, halfway to an appointment that has nothing to do with humanity)
I asked you before, what would Frank do if he knew. In a my moral world Frank would eat the bullet because he would know that the it wasn't about him.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:00 am UTC

Morality should be considered from two perspectives: intent and outcome. You guys all arguing over what type of outcomes are considered good, but I don't think there has been much talk about intent.

I think what Ucim was saying is that Frank did not intentionally jeopardize humanity, so it is not his fault that humanity is in danger. Hence, it would be unfair to isolate him. Morriswalters claims that a moral Frank would accept his death, implying that Frank would intentionally choose to die (versus unintentionally putting himself in a position to die).
Of course there's also intent from the killer's side: While the person would intentionally cause Frank to die, the reason for causing Frank's death is not to make Frank die, but to save humanity.

I would argue that intent is more important than outcome. After all, machines and nature can create outcomes, but we don't assign morality to them. Instead of looking for the ultimate "goal" to pursue, we should look for the ultimate "way of thinking" to adhere to.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:36 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:I'm not asking the question. I'm asking whether morality or fairness enters into your answer, given perfect knowledge of the outcomes of either choice.
No, not in the way that does for you, and it should be obvious why.
Well, that's where we differ, because for me morality and fairness does. For me, that's what morality is about. Not about survival of the species, but about fairness, and that because it is what creates the kind of world I would want to live in, and the kind of people I want to be around.

morriswalters wrote:I asked you before, what would Frank do if he knew.
Does it matter?

If it does, then the moral action becomes "whatever the victim would want" (or maybe its opposite). If it doesn't, then don't cloud the issue with that question.

Cradarc wrote:Instead of looking for the ultimate "goal" to pursue, we should look for the ultimate "way of thinking" to adhere to.
Well put.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 03, 2015 2:12 am UTC

@Cradarc
I'm not asking the question. I'm asking whether morality or fairness enters into your answer, given perfect knowledge of the outcomes of either choice.
This is the question. It isn't about outcome or intent. I am the agent who will pull the trigger and I have perfect knowledge. If I know the world will end and I kill Frank to prevent that, the the question is, should I care that Frank is innocent? But I don't have perfect knowledge. And I can't balance the scales. If the world ends at the moment I don't shoot Frank, he dies anyway. If the wait is a hundred years then what about the lives that start after I make my decision? Frank is never the only actor. He is the only actor we look at. In this context fairness is meaningless.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby krogoth » Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:56 am UTC

Since the title is "is there anything objective about morality" I suppose I've come to agree, there may be some objectivity to an instance of moral questioning. One right answer. However I always seem to come back to thinking there is always subjectivity to it as well.
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It may be objectively moral, to do something without harm or with the minimum harm, it may be subjectively moral to do the same thing, or to even do the opposite. It may be objectively immoral to kill/eat animals with pain receptors. It can be subjectively moral to kill/eat animals. All people have a standard of behavior they adhere to, If a community thinks actions are detrimental to the community the community will try to deter it.

Personal morals are subjective, they are different between people. Group morals are subjective, they are different between groups. Unless and until we discover/have a universal scale for morals, we will always have to weight up the options on a subjective level.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:39 pm UTC

krogoth wrote:It may be objectively immoral to kill/eat animals with pain receptors. It can be subjectively moral to kill/eat animals.
Or maybe this isn't a moral question at all. Maybe it is about accepting limits. Maye fishing for cod isn't immoral, but taking all of the cod for this generation is.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 05, 2015 11:27 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote: Maybe fishing for cod isn't immoral, but taking all of the cod for this generation is.
Well, what about from the cod's position?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:43 am UTC

Something will eat the cod. And of course the cod will eat something else. Because that is how it works. But as long as cod live as a species than why would it matter if any one cod got ate. You could say that about humans. 7 billion more or less, what is a million here or a million there?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:14 am UTC

... and if you say it about humans, what difference does it make if I shoot you? You're gonna die anyway.

I eat fish, and meat, and don't feel guilty about it. But certainly the inflicting of pain and/or death on an animal (including people) does have moral and ethical aspects. Morality is a continuum, but it is often presented as a boolean: "Is it moral to..." That leads to what I consider to be errors in thinking about it.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:02 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Cradarc wrote:Instead of looking for the ultimate "goal" to pursue, we should look for the ultimate "way of thinking" to adhere to.

Well put.


And would you agree that this way of thinking would look something like reflective equilibrium?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:07 am UTC

ucim wrote:... and if you say it about humans, what difference does it make if I shoot you? You're gonna die anyway.
Quite a lot to me personally. In the overall scheme of things, zero. Of the civilizations that we are aware of, how many of the individuals that comprised those civilizations can you name? All that turned out that had any meaning in that cycle was the children of the following generations. Certainly day to day morality is subjective. 7 billion and counting, how could it be otherwise. You make it all about 1 person, and it would have to be. But if you treat all life as having value, even as you consume that cod, the eventually you find a point where things are as "fair" as they can be and we don't whack people just because we can.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:32 pm UTC

When determining how fair something is, how is the cod weighed against the human? Is there an objective way to do that?
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