Objectivity in ethics

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salima
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 05:45 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81813 wrote:
I have to question the degree to which action is taken as a result of choice and consciously weighing up all of these factors. In practise, nobody acts like this, do they? I think the basis of 'skilled action' is acting with attention. I had a teacher once who used to say 'to know what you are doing is wisdom'. His idea was that we are usually acting out inner conflicts or hidden memories without the least awareness that we are doing it. Then we get surprised that things 'don't work out'. Krishnamurti would always say 'choiceless awareness is the ground of freedom' - seeing things as they are without choosing, without justification or condemnation. Freedom of choice might be highly over-rated as a basis for freedom. Choice is generally driven by desire and desire itself is the source of frustration. We are sold this idea by modernity because it suits the economy to equate freedom with choosing what you like.


but choiceless means actionless, doesnt it? 'choiceless awareness'
sounds like what a rock is doing to me. it may make for freedom but there is no growth or creativity or even expression involved. freedom to make ethical choices comes from awareness-perhaps if we were totally aware we would find less choices are advisable or necessary.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 06:41 pm
@deepthot,
Interesting question that, where freedom lies. I certainly enjoy expressing myself here on this most interesting and diverse forum. I also play jazz piano pretty well and write music. I practise Buddhist meditation also, and don't experience any conflict between these facets of existence. The ethical choice I try to make is to observe the Buddhist precepts and free myself of my various unwholesome habits. Like giving up smoking and drinking. But I don't believe the point of the 'choiceless awareness' teaching is to become passive like a rock or inanimate object. It is so as to attain equanimity and a certain detachment from one's emotionality. In doing this passion in the sense of moodiness and emotionality is replaced by compassion - but there is no absence of feeling, quite the contrary.
 
salima
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 07:02 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81826 wrote:
Interesting question that, where freedom lies. I certainly enjoy expressing myself here on this most interesting and diverse forum. I also play jazz piano pretty well and write music. I practise Buddhist meditation also, and don't experience any conflict between these facets of existence. The ethical choice I try to make is to observe the Buddhist precepts and free myself of my various unwholesome habits. Like giving up smoking and drinking. But I don't believe the point of the 'choiceless awareness' teaching is to become passive like a rock or inanimate object. It is so as to attain equanimity and a certain detachment from one's emotionality. In doing this passion in the sense of moodiness and emotionality is replaced by compassion - but there is no absence of feeling, quite the contrary.


the most freedom i have found in life is being here in india among people who understand me and behave like me! that is all relative of course, but maybe now that i understand it is ok to be me i wouldnt have a problem hiding who i am and knowing i was still me if i have to go somewhere else where behaving like me is inappropriate. 'freedom' is not something i think of very often-but the main freedom is freedom to be one's true self, which cannot happen until we recognize our own true self. i should say recognize, experience and actualize it-wonder how long that will take?

but passion for me is an unbridled enthusiasm, which i would have to put into music and enjoying all the aesthetics and grieving etc-to me it is not moodiness, but using emotions almost as going to a movie-becoming immersed in the plot, and disengaging when it becomes either too powerful or too boring, but retaining something to take back and incorporate into your intellect and daily life as a means of relating to others and situations. passion-emotions-are the spice of life for me. i am very fond of all spices and chilly peppers and prepared to deal with the side effects!
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 07:07 pm
@deepthot,
well if I come to India (which in not entirely outside the realms of possibility - I deal every day with co-workers in Hyderabad) I should certainly like to visit!
 
salima
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 01:09 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81832 wrote:
well if I come to India (which in not entirely outside the realms of possibility - I deal every day with co-workers in Hyderabad) I should certainly like to visit!


absolutely! you need to see the real india, not the tourist stuff. i was just looking up poisonous snakes, since we have been having snakes lately-i think there are four in america, or was it ohio...anyway, i thought if i could recognize them (the locals cant) i would be safer. turns out there are about 60 kinds of poisonous ones out of the 270 varieties. yep, just kill 'em all i guess, that works for me.
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 12:20 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81775 wrote:
Yes. The gradual approximation and refinement of our scientific theories indicates our incomplete understanding of the universe and its physical laws. This is completely consistent with the existence of an objective, mind-independent reality.


Well, on that, we agree. The question becomes, is it even theoretically possible to arrive at a "final answer", or are we merely pawing at reality with our formulae like a teenager trying to undo a bra?

Next question: if we live in a non-deterministic universe (that is, if free will exists), then how can a predictive physical or moral model could ever have it "exactly right"? Is free will not, perhaps, an x factor that torpedoes the whole project?
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 02:30 pm
@Grimlock,
Grimlock;81928 wrote:
Well, on that, we agree. The question becomes, is it even theoretically possible to arrive at a "final answer", or are we merely pawing at reality with our formulae like a teenager trying to undo a bra?


This largely depends on what it means for scientific theories to have "final answers," in your view. In the meantime, I'll assume you're suggesting that a scientific theory must admit of exceptionless regularity (i.e., no anomalies or counterinstances) in order for it to be considered "final." In theory, I think it is possible to gain knowledge of this sort. For example, Newtonian Physics was in some respects superseded by Einsteinian Relativity, but the advances made in Relativity were only possible because they retained precise Newtonian predictions and approximations, which still hold at the macroscopic level. Should this process of retention and refinement between theories persist, then perhaps, with time, a final answer will be given. If our scientific theories do give approximately true descriptions of a mind-independent reality, as I believe they do, then perhaps science is closing the epistemic gap between our knowledge and the final answers. Then again, perhaps we already do have the final answer in some places, partly because it is not a necessary condition of a physical law that it admit of exceptionless regularity. In other words, many physical laws are ceteris-paribus generalizations. Consider the following statement: "smoking causes cancer." Phrased as an exceptionless regularity, this statement cannot be true, because we have counterinstances of smokers who have lived and died without ever contracting cancer. But if we say instead "ceteris-paribus, smoking causes cancer," this generalization is true, if incomplete. Perhaps this isn't too convincing. But either way, I think we have good reason to be optimistic about getting physical laws right (assuming I have correctly assumed what you mean by "final answer"). Lastly, it is worth mentioning that if we insist on certainty as a precondition for knowledge, then we can only know the most trivial truths (like the momentary contents of one's thoughts).

Grimlock;81928 wrote:
Next question: if we live in a non-deterministic universe (that is, if free will exists), then how can a predictive physical or moral model could ever have it "exactly right"? Is free will not, perhaps, an x factor that torpedoes the whole project?


Your underlying assumption here is that free-will is only compatible with an indeterministic universe. Compatibilist philosophers believe you can reconcile free-will (properly understood) with determinism. One such view is defended in Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves. But if one restricts the definition of free-will to its libertarian locution, i.e., "the ability to do otherwise," and if one insists that only an indeterministic universe is compatible with libertarian free-will, then whether you could have an accurate predictive model depends on what you believe is really at stake if indeterminism is true.

But consider: does free-will require freedom from causality itself? Compatibilists answer in the negative. At any rate, it's definitely food for thought.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 04:33 pm
@Grimlock,
Grimlock;81928 wrote:
Well, on that, we agree. The question becomes, is it even theoretically possible to arrive at a "final answer", or are we merely pawing at reality with our formulae like a teenager trying to undo a bra?


If everything is constantly changing, then I would guess no.

However, why should this be a concern. It is matter of living with uncertainty.

Science comes up with paradigms, that seem to be sufficient for a while to describe what is going on. Then someone comes along, and creates a completely different paradigm shift, e.g. Newton, Einstein, Bohr/Heisenberg, etc. These were not refinements. The theories represented a total upheaval of previous views, however each had a paradigm that seem to adequately describe for that period of time.

I think, however, that as a matter of exploring human relationships, people insist on paying for certainty. This is why I got paid when I was a consultant. So professionals and non-professionals dress themselves in certainty in order to make their service/product worthwhile (e.g. warranties of service).

Scientists box themselves in a corner by claiming to have laws while at the same time engaging in constant discussions and disagreements about the problems with the laws and how to address the uncertain relationships within those laws. This as far as I can tell permeates all science but especially biological/medical because of the massive disparity between the desire for certainty and the inability to understand what it is that is being described (the human body/mind).

As an explorer of the universe, I am comfortable with uncertainty. In fact I love the fact that things are not static but are constantly changing. It adds a lot of flexibility to myself and the world I live in.

However, as a professional, I professed the same certainty as every other professional, in the quest of satisfying my clients and earning my keep. It is the inconsistency within oneself.

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 04:57 pm
@deepthot,
While it is true in the larger context that new discoveries completely change the overall 'paradigm', it is nevertheless also the case that Newton's laws all still hold in the macroscopic domain. Nothing that has been discovered on the quantum level changes that. So there are undoubtedly laws that will work 100% of the time. If you're plotting a moonshot or an artilllery shell trajectory these laws will always get results. And if you didn't know them, you couldn't do either. It is not as if subsequent discoveries have disproved Newton's laws - they have just shown that there is a limit to their range of applicability.

One of the attitudes typical of modernity, however, is that the new always supersedes the old. So we feel obliged to continually throw out conventional wisdom to make way for the new persepective. This is great in some respects, but totally misleading in others. It is one of the main reasons moderns are so prone to nihilism, subjectivism and relativism. 'Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold'. I find this kind of 'anything goes, truth is what you make it, I can change my view at any time' very unsatisfying. It is so pliable that it is shapeless and formless. It can be any view for any situation. It is like trying to create a chisel out of plasticene. At the end of the day, I believe there really is a 'right view' which does not derive its veracity from our individual assent. To all intents and purposes, then, I agree that this is objective, except that the inherent duality of the word bothers me.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 05:14 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81953 wrote:
I find this kind of 'anything goes, truth is what you make it, I can change my view at any time' very unsatisfying.


Yes, that is why you and others keep looking for a Truth. It never comes, but there is no reason not to keep looking for it. I love looking for it, but at the same time I am quite comfortable that it is no where to be found in the past, in the present, and most probably in the future. But if it so happens that it does come then Game Over.

jeeprs;81953 wrote:
It is so pliable that it is shapeless and formless.


That is the way the marble was before Michelangelo sculpted the Statue of David, and that is the the paint was before Di Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. I think being both and artist and and a scientist allows one to be more aware and comfortable with the uncertainty and malleability of the universe.

jeeprs;81953 wrote:
It can be any view for any situation. It is like trying to create a chisel out of plasticene. At the end of the day, I believe there really is a 'right view' which does not derive its veracity from our individual assent. To all intents and purposes, then, I agree that this is objective, except that the inherent duality of the word bothers me.


Yes, we can believe what we wish. That is the beauty of thought and the human consciousness. It is malleable enough to go wherever one wishes.

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 05:39 pm
@deepthot,
From the viewpoint of non-dualism: the reason that science doesn't give a 'final answer' is because no specific object has a real identity or essence. There is no ultimately real thing or particle because everything is created according to conditions and is composed of parts. Their identity is derivative, not absolute, and things are empty of own-being. This view does not dispute scientific law. It just recognises that there are limits to knowledge.

---------- Post added 08-09-2009 at 10:54 AM ----------

T.R.V. Murti The Central Philosophy of Buddhism explains the Madhyamika philosophy from which this argument is drawn in more detail.

---------- Post added 08-09-2009 at 11:04 AM ----------

Quote:
Yes, we can believe what we wish. That is the beauty of thought and the human consciousness. It is malleable enough to go wherever one wishes.


Like plasticene. Or, better still, Silly Putty (tm).
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 07:25 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81958 wrote:
Their identity is derivative, not absolute, and things are empty of own-being. This view does not dispute scientific law. It just recognises that there are limits to knowledge.


The difference as I see it can be as simple as the difference between "I know" and "I think I know" and "I don't know".

I know I never know, and most of the time I don't know, but sometimes I think I know, and sometimes I act as if I know - because that is all part of existing.

jeeprs;81958 wrote:
... Like plasticene. Or, better still, Silly Putty (tm).


Silly Putty (tm) is lots of fun - amazingly so. Smile

Rich
 
deepthot
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 07:54 pm
@deepthot,
Becausse Ethics is deffernt from Physics, objectivity for Ethics is different than objectivity in Physics. In both fields, however, (relatively nearly) universal agreement determines what is to called 'a fact', and what is not.

Hence, I do not see the issue of "objectivity in ethics" as being a serious problem. As for what philosophers have been teaching is "objectivity", this is based upon their experience with physical science and is thus not that relevant in the Ethics domain.

I define "objectivity" as Extrinsic truth," and "truth" as "valuable knowledge." "Knowledge" itself may be understood as signifying awareness of processes or events in relation to one another. Extrinsic truth correlates with the Correspondence Theory of Truth. For many good reasons this should be named: Objectiivity.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 07:56 pm
@deepthot,
Hang on Rich...you have edited that quote you attributed to me so that is says something I did not actually say. I did write both phrases but not in the way that you have presented it. I am saying your analogy of the plasticity of thought is like plasticene or silly putty. Not that the Non-dualist view of the lack of substantial identity is like that. Please separate them to as not to misrepresent the view I presented.

---------- Post added 08-09-2009 at 11:59 AM ----------

Quote:
universal agreement


The difference is, in physics, you have a measurement in terms of mass, velocity, and so on. The only scope for disagreement is the interpretation of the meaning of a measurement. The measurement itself is against a ruler, or a scale, or some other kind of external criteria. Whereas with ethical judgements, all you have is agreement.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 08:23 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81982 wrote:
The difference is, in physics, you have a measurement in terms of mass, velocity, and so on.


In physics, you have theories. People agree with the theories if they provide reasonable approximations of observable phenomenon. However, the theories change all of the time and universal agreement is always hard to find, and even if there is universal agreement, it is only because no one has found anything better at the moment.

Within physics there is the big conundrum that Relativity and Quantum Mechanics cannot be unified:

Quantum mechanics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Quote:
Even with the defining postulates of both Einstein's theory of general relativity and quantum theory being indisputably supported by rigorous and repeated empirical evidence and while they do not directly contradict each other theoretically (at least with regard to primary claims), they are resistant to being incorporated within one cohesive model. ...

Gravity is negligible in many areas of particle physics, so that unification between general relativity and quantum mechanics is not an urgent issue in those applications. However, the lack of a correct theory of quantum gravity is an important issue in cosmology and physicists search for an elegant "Theory of Everything".

In addition, there is the whole issue of what Quantum Mechanics equations are describing:

Since its inception, the many counter-intuitive results of quantum mechanics have provoked strong philosophical debate and many interpretations. Even fundamental issues such as Max Born's basic rulesprobability amplitudes and probability distributions took decades to be appreciated.
So what physics has are some great mathematical equations that predict behavior but are not unified, and lots of disagreement about what these mathematical equations are describing. In reality, they are not that much ahead of anyone else in understanding the stuff of the universe - just great at predicting certain actions. If one strays from physics into other sciences, we get even more ambiguity and unpredictability.

In general, I would say, I don't get the sense that anyone really knows, though for the sake of living in this world and appealing to the desire for people to know, people say they know. Certainty within uncertainty - I think.

Rich

---------- Post added 08-08-2009 at 09:41 PM ----------

deepthot;81981 wrote:
Becausse Ethics is deffernt from Physics, objectivity for Ethics is different than objectivity in Physics. In both fields, however, (relatively nearly) universal agreement determines what is to called 'a fact', and what is not. .


I thought that this has been debated since the dawn of philosophy.

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 10:15 pm
@richrf,
richrf;81978 wrote:
I know I never know, and most of the I don't know, but sometimes I think I know, and sometimes I act as if I know - because that is all part of existing.



"I know I never know" is self-refuting.

Btw, why do you sign your name at the end of each of your posts? We know you're written them.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 10:23 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;82005 wrote:
"I know I never know" is self-refuting.


And that is the way it is. Interesting isn't it? But you left out the rest of the statement. It gets even crazier. Like a dream where someone is flying. It doesn't make logical sense, but the mind doesn't care. It still thinks it. Happens all of the time in life.

New Mysterianism;82005 wrote:
Btw, why do you sign your name at the end of each of your posts? We know you're written them.


Yes.

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 11:32 pm
@deepthot,
Quote:
In physics, you have theories. People agree with the theories if they provide reasonable approximations of observable phenomenon. However, the theories change all of the time and universal agreement is always hard to find, and even if there is universal agreement, it is only because no one has found anything better at the moment.


At risk of beating my head against a wall here :brickwall: - the argument you keep stating is that because theories are subject to change, or because science doesn't appear to deliver us an absolute truth, therefore the facts, such as they are, have no validity other than what we provide them. What you state in every thread, in regards to every topic, is more or less along the lines of 'well we don't know anything for certain. Theories are always changing and so there is no reason to pick one instead of the other. Really I don't know [and therefore nobody else can, either, seems to be the inference]. But that is OK, I am happy with change, change is good, it is good to be flexible and to admit we really don't know anything for certain. You never know what new fact might turn up tomorrow and we will all have to change our views about everything.'

Please tell me if this depiction of your position is incorrect and if I have got it wrong I will gladly take it all back.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 11:43 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82026 wrote:
'well we don't know anything for certain.


Yep, that is about it.

For example:

jeeprs;82026 wrote:
What you state in every thread,


People using statements as if they are facts when they should really be using statements of beliefs. Are you certain of what you just stated?

jeeprs;82026 wrote:
Theories are always changing


And also being debated.

jeeprs;82026 wrote:
and so there is no reason to pick one instead of the other.


Never said or thought this. I think I said the opposite in some previous thread. Sooner or later people make a decision and go with it. But it is easier to change direction if one isn't anchored into the ground.

jeeprs;82026 wrote:
You never know what new fact might turn up tomorrow and we will all have to change our views about everything.


Yes, it seems like everyone is discovering new things every day. So called facts come and go. People on death row are exonerated all the time. Evidence is not all that it is cut out to be.

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 12:01 am
@deepthot,
Fair enough - thanks for clearing that up. I take back the statement 'no reason to pick one instead of the other' which I accept was not correct.

My attitude to the 'objectivity in ethics' question is somewhat different.

We do indeed discover new things every day, but I believe that there are some things that will never change.
 
 

 
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