Objectivity in ethics

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richrf
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 12:08 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82031 wrote:
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.


Hi,

Thanks for clearing things up.

As for your belief that some things never change. Can you give me an example? Thanks.

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 12:26 am
@deepthot,
Actually at the time I wrote it was thinking of the first song on the Royal Scam by Steel Dan - Kid Charlemagne. This was actually about Owsley, who was the first guy to figure out how to synthesize acid in commercial quantities in the Bay area. He got busted, big time. It was really a song about the ending of the whole Haight Ashbury scene.

Quote:
All those day-glo freaks who used to paint their face
They've joined the human race
Some things will never change.


Don't know why that came to mind.

On a more serious note, the idea that truth is infinitely changeable and elastic actually does not provide much of a foothold in the difficult terrain of philosophy. Everything is just a viewpoint, something to consider, but it doesn't really matter. But anyway it is your perogative and I'm glad you enjoy it. You show a lot of enthusiasm and introduce a lot of interesting material.

Cheers and all the best.

(I have moved the video clip I had put here to my blog, completely off topic)
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 12:37 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82034 wrote:
On a more serious note, the idea that truth is infinitely changeable and elastic actually does not provide much of a foothold in the difficult terrain of philosophy.


Hi,

This is a problem that philosophers should examine more closely. Eastern philosophies, for example, approach these issues in quite a different manner.

I believe we do not have nearly enough skepticism in our culture. Lots of people get burned very badly because they believe the facts. Whether it be, stocks and home prices always go up, or Iraq was behind 9/11 and is developing nuclear capabilities, or you are going to die within 7 months.

Lots of people purporting to have the facts, the evidence, the truth - and no one questioning them. Most people being too embarrassed, too meek, or not informed enough to set their own direction. So they defer when they might instead be questioning. Just another way to approach life - and a very practical one at that.

I bought the first Steely Dan album when it first came out at Rolling Stones Records in Chicago. Smile

Rich
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 01:04 am
@deepthot,
Now onto more important business: science provides us with physical models of reality which attempt to describe what is and predict what will be based on parameters that we set. The "should" statements in science are purely arbitrary, like, "this rocket should fly to the moon", and yet without them, science is useless, as it cannot provide it's own goals, only describe how to achieve them. Science, itself, functions only as a black box - it needs external value definitions in order to be useful.

Even if we had some "proven" formula that governed all of morality, what good would that formula be without some goal to inform it? And how are we to determine the normative goals which give your grand moral formulae life, motion and purpose? We are coming up on Hume's still-unsolved "is-ought" dilemma here.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 01:56 am
@deepthot,
Quote:
Eastern philosophies, for example, approach these issues in quite a different manner.


Interesting you should say that. In actual fact, there was an Ancient Greek school, called Phyrronism, which is often thought to be the same as skepticism. But it is subtly different.

Quote:


Source. Interestingly, a recent book has made the claim that Phyrronism was actually a Greek adaption of Madhyamika Buddhism, mentioned above, by its founder, who travelled to India with Alexander the Great.

It is interesting to reflect on how the nature of skepticism has changed since then. This form of skepticism was actually a method of spiritual training where 'epoche' corresponds with the Buddhist 'nirodha' (which literally means 'cessation') and 'ataxia' with 'nibbana' (ending of suffering, tranquility). So the ancient Greeks, in common with the Buddhists, believe that our understanding of reality is distorted by (among other things) 'clinging to judgements and opinions' - hence the suspension of judgement. It should be understood, however, that this method was originated within the normative framework of Buddhist teaching.

Nowadays skepticism is taken to mean 'Scientists think ESP is superstitious,' and so on. The meaning has actually changed completely, in that scientists are, on the whole, 'naive realists', as distinct from either Phyrronists or Buddhists who have a completely different view of the matter.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 09:34 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82042 wrote:
Source. Interestingly, a recent book has made the claim that Phyrronism was actually a Greek adaption of Madhyamika Buddhism, mentioned above, by its founder, who travelled to India with Alexander the Great.I


Hi,

It appears that many of the early Greek philosophers were probably influenced by Eastern thought. For example, Heraclitus lived in an important city on the trade route to the Asia.

jeeprs;82042 wrote:
Skepticism must be careful to avoid self-contradiction, because the rule that everything is susceptible to doubt may itself be susceptible to doubt.


I think we can be less hard on ourselves. I think we can be aware of and learn to live with our self-contradictions and every day inconsistencies, as we seek to explore our world and live in it at the same time. Carefulness is something that is also there, but maybe not to be too careful. Gotta enjoy life a little also.Smile

Thanks for bringing to my attention this idea about the history of skepticism. It is very interesting. A different way to approach life and quite a different perspective.

Rich
 
ValueRanger
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 10:11 am
@richrf,
richrf;82095 wrote:
skepticism

Rooted in the law of opposites. What is unique and adds value, about you in your space and time, is also in flux with the consistent margin of error.

The minus and plus of phi.

In order for space and time to persist, there must be a counterbalancing force to momentum, which is a scalar Ratio of itself (compare to electrostrong containing electroweak in the set).

Phi, pi, and so on, in mathematical progressions that are the underpinnings of Form/Topology.

All reality is built upon this golden equation, and is why sustainable ethics integrates shifting weaknesses and strengths, through the give-and-take of value exchange progressions.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 11:05 am
@richrf,
richrf;82032 wrote:
Hi,

Thanks for clearing things up.

As for your belief that some things never change. Can you give me an example? Thanks.

Rich

Sure. There will always be stupid people. And those unable to think their way out of a paper bag.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 11:13 am
@ValueRanger,
Hi ValueRanger,

Well, your posts are challenging. But what the heck, let me try it out. What's life without challenges?

ValueRanger;82099 wrote:
Rooted in the law of opposites.


OK. Ethics are rooted in the resolution of opposites. I can go with this, since everything seems to be rooted in opposites. [Heraclitus, Daoism, Hegel]

ValueRanger;82099 wrote:
What is unique and adds value, about you in your space and time, is also in flux with the consistent margin of error.


Uniqueness and value add is in flux within some constraints. OK.

ValueRanger;82099 wrote:
The minus and plus of phi.


Here you seem to be referring to the Golden Ration or Pythagoras and Euclid. I have always found this ration fascinating in itself, and there may be validity in using this ratio as a paradigm for observing events in the world. I sometimes use it in stock market analysis.

ValueRanger;82099 wrote:
In order for space and time to persist, there must be a counterbalancing force to momentum, which is a scalar Ratio of itself (compare to electrostrong containing electroweak in the set).


OK. There are counterbalancing forces that work opposite of each other to maintain space and time, which is related to the Golden Ration.

ValueRanger;82099 wrote:
Phi, pi, and so on, in mathematical progressions that are the underpinnings of Form/Topology.

All reality is built upon this golden equation, and is why sustainable ethics integrates shifting weaknesses and strengths, through the give-and-take of value exchange progressions.


Yes, I have read of this point of view. However, it would be helpful if you might simply your perspective so that it is more easily understood by people such as myself who may not be able to follow what you are trying to get at. Do you believe Ethics can be modeled as an expanding Golden Ratio? How can one use this concept in daily life? Thanks.

Rich
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 01:48 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81027 wrote:


"Have you ever seen evil? You may think so. Perhaps only in films, if you're lucky. But what have you really seen? Two persons, perhaps, one with a rifle, hauling a child out of her home and pushing her to her knees. Soldiers are nearby, laughing and encouraging their comrade. The one with the rifle casually lifts it to the chest of the little girl. You hear a noise. The girl falls in a heap. Blood leaks from her body. The soldiers move on, buoyant, looking for another victim. You inwardly experience something you call "moral outrage," but so what? What you in fact saw wasn't evil, dear friend. For you could provide a full empirical description of all the actions of such a scene, and never once mention evil. You'd mention the position of the rifle and his victim, the soldier's words, the way he manhandled his victim, her look of fear, the impact of the bullet, etc. You don't need to cite the "evil" of the action to completely explain what happened. All the explanatory work can be done without it. The girl didn't die because of evil--she died because of a bullet to her chest, plain and simple. You have to mention that to explain her death, but you don't have to mention evil at all."

Because reference to the moral quality of the interaction above is optional, it isn't required. And Occam's Razor tells us that, therefore, we have no good reason to believe that the moral features are real. Don't multiply entities beyond necessity, right? No evil, just the facts. Moral skeptics capitalise on this and allege that either evil is nonexistent, or that evil is a human construct. There is no such thing as objective evil, or badness, or wrongdoing, or for that matter goodness, or kindness, or compassion. If evil exists at all, it is only as a result of our projecting onto a value-free world our emotional repugnance at actions that, taken in themselves, are entirely morally neutral. Wilful murder, the epitome of "vice," can be wholly described without reference to any moral vocabulary. So Occam's Razor and the scientific outlook support moral skepticism in denying ethical objectivism.

If you've made it this far, you may be wondering why the heck I'm still an ethical objectivist. I certainly haven't even begun to build a case for ethical objectivism, but have instead presented the strongest challenges marshalled by its opposition, moral skepticism. Morality is in real danger of being cut out from the ontological inventory. I don't believe in gods or trolls or unicorns. Indeed I've never laid eyes on them, and I have never needed to rely on them in order to explain anything in my experience. Perhaps I should take my leave of moral facts for the very same reasons?

No. There is one way out for the ethical objectivist, but it is the hard way, and it will require copious amounts of philosophical ingenuity:

Ethical objectivists must reject the claim that something exists only if there is an explanatory need that it fulfills.

As I stated previously, moral facts aren't necessary to explain anything, but they may exist for all that. There are at least three arguments objectivists can rely on to defend the counter-claim that something can exist without fufilling some explanatory need. However, these arguments are truly awesome to behold, so I will save them for a later time.



I shall address you with no appeal to Occham's Razor, rather I will assert that moral claims have no value beyond showing emotive states and incurring emotive states borrowing my approach from A.J. Ayer.

Lets look at the proposition "Vandalism is wrong"; what does it actually say? From the empiricist standpoint, it carries the same value as someone saying "Vandalism!" in a disapproving or horrified tone of voice. It names an action and expresses disapproval of such an action. In the same way, claiming that "Murder is Evil" adds nothing to the word "Murder" but the emotional attitude of the speaker/writer towards the action. Evil, Wrong, Bad, Good, Right are all emotive modifiers designed for the twofold purpose of expressing an emotive stance and incurring said stance in the reader/listener.

In viewing these words as emotive, we make no objective claim to their truth or falsity and avoid the trappings of Subjectivism (which itself boils down to sociology and so can not be considered a moral philosophy). I will present here the argument by A.J. Ayer against subjectivism:" We reject the subjectivist view that to call an action right, or a thing good, is to say that it is generally approved of, on the grounds that it is not self-contradictory to assert that some things or actions that are generally approved of are wrong. " From Language Truth and Logic 1946, Dover Books.

So if all moral claims are reduced to emotive modifiers, the Objectivist claims become incoherent, as truth claims no longer sensibly apply.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 04:52 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;82129 wrote:
We reject the subjectivist view that to call an action right, or a thing good, is to say that it is generally approved of, on the grounds that it is not self-contradictory to assert that some things or actions that are generally approved of are wrong. "


Hi,

I do not see any issue in saying that something is considered good, when one or more people call it such. I guess the more people that come to this consensus, the more general appeal it has. But this consensus can change.

In the same manner, something can be considered bad, (e.g. the women's right to vote), until the consensus changes (consensus is often levered by power). The ebb and flow of moral and ethical conduct. I think it is fine to suggest these opinions flow from emotion. Emotion plays a giant role in human conduct.

Rich
 
ValueRanger
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 04:59 pm
@richrf,
richrf;82105 wrote:
simpl[if]y

Yes, and no.

Delegation, or, layered hierarchies, are stubborn phenomenon.

While Atlas failed at holding up all other points in space and time, I might reincarnate to be the oppositional parasite.

Why exclude the middle so? Is it really necessary for such extreme vacillations? Yes, layered ethics, like Proportionate sequitur, is just...

And very much a human choice.
 
deepthot
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 08:28 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82031 wrote:
...t I believe that there are some things that will never change.



Would you be so kind as to name one of those things for us. After all, "never" is a long time !!!
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 09:11 pm
@deepthot,
http://www.philosophyforum.com/blogs/new-mysterianism/418-moral-objectivism-part-v-regress-argument-humes-ought-thesis.html
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 09:38 pm
@deepthot,
Hi Deepthot

I am trying to remember the context...oh yeah, Richrf basically says 'things are always changing therefore any statement is as likely as any other to be true' or something like that. Heraclitus and Taoism. So I was saying, there are some constants, 'some things never change'.

For example: humans are fundamentally selfish. They are born that way, and in some respects survival seems to demand it. It is a very deep characteristic of the human psyche. Probably it is from evolutionary psychology. This goes for humans anywhere - ancient or modern, east or west. Cultures try various means to ameliorate or accomodate this tendency but it is very hard to overcome.

There are many other undesirable elements of 'human nature' that are pretty well constant. Jealously, craving, avarice - I am pretty sure if you could survey human populations anywhere, in any time period, you would find a lot of these core tendencies. I'm pretty sure you would find some of them amongst chimps and gorillas.

This is not to say that these can't be changed, or that some societies are not better at dealing with them than others. But they run deep. It's 'human nature'.

Given that this is so, it is not surprising that the 'core ethical teachings' of many of the religious traditions are very similar in respect to dealing with these aspects of human nature. The Mosaic tradition has the parable of 'the fall'. Buddhists and Hindus allegorise the human condition as a condition marred by ignorance, avidya. And the 'Golden Mean' - Do Unto Others - has been independently devised in many different traditions in response to the human condition.

So I really think there are perennial issues, and likewise a perennial philosophy, if you will, which addresses them. This does not prevent us from re-discovering or re-creating them as new for each generation. But even so - some things will never change.
 
salima
 
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 12:38 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82224 wrote:
Hi Deepthot

I am trying to remember the context...oh yeah, Richrf basically says 'things are always changing therefore any statement is as likely as any other to be true' or something like that. Heraclitus and Taoism. So I was saying, there are some constants, 'some things never change'.

For example: humans are fundamentally selfish. They are born that way, and in some respects survival seems to demand it. It is a very deep characteristic of the human psyche. Probably it is from evolutionary psychology. This goes for humans anywhere - ancient or modern, east or west. Cultures try various means to ameliorate or accomodate this tendency but it is very hard to overcome.

There are many other undesirable elements of 'human nature' that are pretty well constant. Jealously, craving, avarice - I am pretty sure if you could survey human populations anywhere, in any time period, you would find a lot of these core tendencies. I'm pretty sure you would find some of them amongst chimps and gorillas.

This is not to say that these can't be changed, or that some societies are not better at dealing with them than others. But they run deep. It's 'human nature'.

Given that this is so, it is not surprising that the 'core ethical teachings' of many of the religious traditions are very similar in respect to dealing with these aspects of human nature. The Mosaic tradition has the parable of 'the fall'. Buddhists and Hindus allegorise the human condition as a condition marred by ignorance, avidya. And the 'Golden Mean' - Do Unto Others - has been independently devised in many different traditions in response to the human condition.

So I really think there are perennial issues, and likewise a perennial philosophy, if you will, which addresses them. This does not prevent us from re-discovering or re-creating them as new for each generation. But even so - some things will never change.


but if you make a list of things which will never change and add those things you mentioned, 'selfish, jealous, craving, greedy' you would have to also put on the list that human nature has an apparent inbred wish or will to overcome them-which is why societies develop doing the things they do to try and replace those tendencies, which is why parents try to teach their children ethics, etc. because if that is not human nature too, then what is it?

i dont think it makes much sense to imagine a being would be struggling to become something it is not-i think human beings have been struggling all these ages just to become what they really are. and maybe that is one of the things that will never change.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 12:57 pm
@richrf,
richrf;82163 wrote:
Hi,

I do not see any issue in saying that something is considered good, when one or more people call it such. I guess the more people that come to this consensus, the more general appeal it has. But this consensus can change.

In the same manner, something can be considered bad, (e.g. the women's right to vote), until the consensus changes (consensus is often levered by power). The ebb and flow of moral and ethical conduct. I think it is fine to suggest these opinions flow from emotion. Emotion plays a giant role in human conduct.

Rich


The point was only to show that it is not contradictory to say that an action is wrong when it is generally approved of but you disagree. This is because the source of its rightness or wrongness does not come from general opinion, but personal emotive stances. Now, an action may be outlawed because of the general emotive stance towards it, but some may still think it to be a good action. Thus defining good as 'what is generally approved of' is not sensible.
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 06:31 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;82359 wrote:
The point was only to show that it is not contradictory to say that an action is wrong when it is generally approved of ..


I think the issue is a matter of making it all of one thing or another, instead of looking at human relationships and individual decisions as a matter of unity or entanglement.

Louisa Gilder writes: "An time two entities interact, they entangle."

As in individual we interact with others, in both small and large groups and we create rules. We can adopt them and obey them, we can disobey them, we can adopt them but still not believe them, etc. We can think something is wrong, because we change our mind. Chances are there will be others that will agree and together we form new rules. Or we can adopt a personal code that is different from anyone else's.

Whatever direction one chooses to take, it is still entangled and influenced by all that surrounds. Decisions are usually not made in a vacuum. From the moment we are born, we are influenced and continue to be influenced. We can call something wrong, but in relationship to something we have learned by interacting. It is almost impossible to find the cause. It seems to be all too entangled.

Likewise to say it is simply emotive, I believe, totally ignores all of the influences that got a person to the point where the emotion shows. There is a long history of relationships and experiences with others that got the person there. People do not live in a vacuum, and their choices seem to be influenced by all that surrounds them.

Rich
 
 

 
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