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fast
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 10:07 am
I'm interested in having a better understanding of the different kinds of shoulds.

If the law prohibits an action, then (generally speaking, at least) we shouldn't do what the law prohibits. We should, for the most part, obey the law. I guess we can call that the legal should.

If a person is hurting from a very recent personal injury and is in need of help, and if we can help, then (barring ridiculous debate), we should, within reason, do what we can to help. I guess we can call that the moral good. Not doing so may be wrong.

If a gentleman holding boxes needs assistance opening a door, there may be no moral imperative to assist, (so, not doing so wouldn't be wrong, morally speaking), but doing so is still the right thing to do. We should help the man. I guess we can call that the good manners should.

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of roller coaster to add to our theme park, we decide, especially considering both costs and safety, that we should go with our first choice instead of the other choices. We should go with our first choice. I guess we can call that the decision should.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 10:31 am
@fast,
It seems like the legal should is a combination of the moral and decision shoulds.

Nice example of how we can get tripped up over a word.
 
fast
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 10:43 am
@Jebediah,
[QUOTE=Jebediah;121205]It seems like the legal should is a combination of the moral and decision shoulds.

Nice example of how we can get tripped up over a word.[/QUOTE]

The evil judge looked down on me and was quite explicit when he said, "I don't care about what's right and wrong; I care only about what is legal and what is not." He judged that I should have done just what the law said, and my moral reasoning for what I done fell on deaf ears, as in his view, no moral reasoning would mitigate, let alone exculpate, me from my legal responsibility.

All I did was cross the double yellow line to keep from hitting the little girl that ran out in the street. I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was the moral thing to do. I thought that I did just as any reason person should do. But legally speaking, I should not have crossed the yellow line.

[all hypothetical by the way]

Should I have crossed the yellow line? Well, I suppose that depends on what is meant by "should." If we are talking about the moral should, then of course the answer is yes, but the word is ambiguous, and the speaker may not be using the word, "should" in the moral sense, and if the speaker is using the word in the legal sense, then the answer need not be the same.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 04:22 pm
@fast,
Nice thoughts Fast.

I'd also like to add clarification on the legal aspect you began with. Know that within Ethics, what is Legal and what is Ethical may not have anything to do, one with the other. Ideally, perhaps, laws are ethical and spur ethical behavior. But this too is slippery; for since ethics vary from person to person, who's shall we follow?

Not to waxe too pedantic here, but I feel strongly about this: Philosophy:Ethics looks beyond laws to identify not only what are the different systems of right and wrong, but more importantly the "why". A healthy understanding of the different means of discerning right and wrong being one of the goals (leading, ideally, to a better understanding within the philosopher of why people do or don't do what they will - and perhaps ultimately insight as to their own systems of right and wrong).

I suppose I share this because when I first looked into the issue, I was very much mistaken. To me, what was right was what was lawful. I realized over time that this was due to my upbringing; that to obey was right. Ethics goes deeper to discover the whys and foundations of varying concepts of right and wrong.

Hope this adds well...
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 05:19 pm
@fast,
fast;121203 wrote:
I'm interested in having a better understanding of the different kinds of shoulds.



I believe it is more common to phrase the question using the term "ought". From an ordinary dictionary for the entry "ought":

Quote:
-auxiliary verb
  1. (used to express duty or moral obligation): Every citizen ought to help.
  2. (used to express justice, moral rightness, or the like): He ought to be punished. You ought to be ashamed.
  3. (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.): You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.
  4. (used to express probability or natural consequence): That ought to be our train now.
    -noun
  5. duty or obligation.
Ought Definition | Definition of Ought at Dictionary.com

Very often, philosophers distinguish between a practical or pragmatic version and moral or ethical version of "ought" (Kant expresses this as a difference between a hypothetical imperative and a categorical imperative) such as:
[INDENT][INDENT]
If you want to go to the store, then you ought to get into the car.

You ought to refrain from killing people randomly.

[/INDENT][/INDENT]
In the first, there is a goal that one has, and so the "ought" is simply about the means to achieve that goal (or end). This is a pragmatic sort of ought, which implies no moral or ethical obligation.

In the second, it is a typical claim in ethics, which is supposed to apply to everyone, regardless of their particular goals.


Looking at your examples:

fast;121203 wrote:
If the law prohibits an action, then (generally speaking, at least) we shouldn't do what the law prohibits. We should, for the most part, obey the law. I guess we can call that the legal should.



What one would say about that will depend upon how one views the relationship between law and morality. But the way you have worded it ("We should, for the most part [emphasis added], obey the law"), suggests that you are really discussing a moral ought, as it is not absolutely binding; if it were a "legal ought" (if there were such a thing), one would think that one ought to always obey the law, just as morally one ought to always do what is morally right. Of course, you might be discussing a practical ought, as it generally will get one more of what one wants to obey the law (as in, "if you want to stay out of prison, then you ought not commit crimes").

Your later post does not change this:

fast;121209 wrote:


The evil judge looked down on me and was quite explicit when he said, "I don't care about what's right and wrong; I care only about what is legal and what is not." He judged that I should have done just what the law said, and my moral reasoning for what I done fell on deaf ears, as in his view, no moral reasoning would mitigate, let alone exculpate, me from my legal responsibility.

All I did was cross the double yellow line to keep from hitting the little girl that ran out in the street. I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was the moral thing to do. I thought that I did just as any reason person should do. But legally speaking, I should not have crossed the yellow line.

[all hypothetical by the way]

Should I have crossed the yellow line? Well, I suppose that depends on what is meant by "should." If we are talking about the moral should, then of course the answer is yes, but the word is ambiguous, and the speaker may not be using the word, "should" in the moral sense, and if the speaker is using the word in the legal sense, then the answer need not be the same.



For the law to function well, it must be that whatever action is punishable, is specified in law in advance. Thus, the question of whether or not a particular action is morally correct is not the issue when in a court of law being charged with something; that is an issue that is relevant to legislators making the law in the first place. In a court, the task is simpler: Did the person violate the law? If it is determined to be so, then the person is punished in accordance with the law, and if it is not determined to be so, then the person is let go. It would be ridiculous for a court to examine whether or not the law is as it should be in every case; every law would forever be up for grabs, without having consistency from one court to the next.

However, your specific example is inaccurate. You can cross a yellow line on some occasions, and if you have not run into anyone as a result, or caused anyone else to have an accident, avoiding running over a little girl is likely going to get you out of trouble for merely crossing over a painted line. Indeed, failing to try to avoid running over people, when it is possible to do so, is illegal in most places.


fast;121203 wrote:
If a person is hurting from a very recent personal injury and is in need of help, and if we can help, then (barring ridiculous debate), we should, within reason, do what we can to help. I guess we can call that the moral good. Not doing so may be wrong.



That seems a fairly standard sort of example of a moral obligation.


fast;121203 wrote:
If a gentleman holding boxes needs assistance opening a door, there may be no moral imperative to assist, (so, not doing so wouldn't be wrong, morally speaking), but doing so is still the right thing to do. We should help the man. I guess we can call that the good manners should.



I have never heard of anyone coming up with a "good manners should". But let us look a bit deeper: Why have good manners? I suspect that there will be lurking in the underbrush some morals in support of this, which will be less important than, say, a prohibition on killing him for no reason, but is still a moral ought. It seems to me to really be like your example of a moral should, where you are helping someone in need.


fast;121203 wrote:
After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of roller coaster to add to our theme park, we decide, especially considering both costs and safety, that we should go with our first choice instead of the other choices. We should go with our first choice. I guess we can call that the decision should.



This seems like the practical or pragmatic ought. You think about what goals you have (saving money, being safe, etc.), and select the best means to achieve those goals.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:29 pm
@fast,
fast;121203 wrote:
I'm interested in having a better understanding of the different kinds of shoulds.

If the law prohibits an action, then (generally speaking, at least) we shouldn't do what the law prohibits. We should, for the most part, obey the law. I guess we can call that the legal should.

If a person is hurting from a very recent personal injury and is in need of help, and if we can help, then (barring ridiculous debate), we should, within reason, do what we can to help. I guess we can call that the moral good. Not doing so may be wrong.

If a gentleman holding boxes needs assistance opening a door, there may be no moral imperative to assist, (so, not doing so wouldn't be wrong, morally speaking), but doing so is still the right thing to do. We should help the man. I guess we can call that the good manners should.

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of roller coaster to add to our theme park, we decide, especially considering both costs and safety, that we should go with our first choice instead of the other choices. We should go with our first choice. I guess we can call that the decision should.


"You should not make a left turn on red"

"Why not?"

Because it is against the law (illegal). This is a categorical "should". It does not depend on what you want. You should obey the law whether or not you want to do so.

"You should eat your vegetables."

"Why?"

"Because vegetables are a part of a healthful diet". (If you want to be healthy, then you should eat your vegetables".). This is a hypothetical "should". It depends on what you want.

The moral "should" is like the legal "should". It is a categorical "should".
 
fast
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 09:29 am
@kennethamy,
The word, "ought" is ambiguous; it has more than one meaning. From Pyrrho's post, we can see that the dictionary reports that the word, "ought" has five different meanings.

In addition to the fact that the word, "ought" has multiple meanings, we learn from Kennethamy's post that there are at least two different kinds of "shoulds": 1) The categorical "should," and 2) The hypothetical "should."

The categorical "should" is independent of wants, and the hypothetical "should" is dependent on wants.

I sometimes use the terms, "should" and "ought" interchangeably, but I don't know enough to know when it's not appropriate to do so.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 09:35 am
@fast,
fast wrote:

The word, "ought" is ambiguous; it has more than one meaning. From Pyrrho's post, we can see that the dictionary reports that the word, "ought" has five different meanings.


Not to be a stickler, but doesn't that dictionary show the word has five senses, not five meanings. It still means the same thing in every example, doesn't it?

Quote:

The categorical "should" is independent of wants, and the hypothetical "should" is dependent on wants.


I like this distinction. I'm going to have to think more about this.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 09:38 am
@fast,
fast;121526 wrote:
The word, "ought" is ambiguous; it has more than one meaning. From Pyrrho's post, we can see that the dictionary reports that the word, "ought" has five different meanings.

In addition to the fact that the word, "ought" has multiple meanings, we learn from Kennethamy's post that there are at least two different kinds of "shoulds": 1) The categorical "should," and 2) The hypothetical "should."

The categorical "should" is independent of wants, and the hypothetical "should" is dependent on wants.

I sometimes use the terms, "should" and "ought" interchangeably, but I don't know enough to know when it's not appropriate to do so.


"Should" is the conditional of "shall". "Ought" is not. But we often do not make that distinction; just as we often (very often) do not distinguish between "shall" and "will".

---------- Post added 01-21-2010 at 10:39 AM ----------

Zetherin;121527 wrote:




I like this distinction. I'm going to have to think more about this.


It is the distinction Kant makes between the conditional and the categorical, "ought".
 
fast
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 09:41 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;121527 wrote:
Not to be a stickler, but doesn't that dictionary show the word has five senses, not five meanings. It still means the same thing in every example, doesn't it?
Beats the hell out of me. Since it was numbered, I figured they were meanings. Had it been lettered, I would have thought they were senses.

For example
1
2
3a
3b
4
5

I would interpret that to be five meanings where one meaning had two senses.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 09:56 am
@fast,
fast;121530 wrote:
Beats the hell out of me. Since it was numbered, I figured they were meanings. Had it been lettered, I would have thought they were senses.

For example
1
2
3a
3b
4
5

I would interpret that to be five meanings where one meaning had two senses.


Maybe I ought to say that the five numbered examples weren't illustrating different definitions of the same word. Maybe those are five meanings.

(Here I've replaced "meaning" with "definition" and then replaced "sense" with "meaning").
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 12:39 pm
@fast,
Well, to add a bit to what ken has already said, which i approve off.

The legal 'should' presupposes what is right and what is wrong. For example the rule that people (meaning the unauthorised persons) are not (ideally) allowed or desired to cross the yellow line because there is a treat to justice when the investigation is underway. The restriction is ideal.

But more than legal restrictions, human values includng moral and survival instincts supercedes all other values whether based on traditional norms or legislative resolutions.

The judge in the hypothetical example may be legally right, but he is morally wrong to disregard the circumstances, and therefore Justice i sneither seen to be done nor done at all. Thats the reason why some say, that 'law, sometimes makes an ass of itself'.
 
fast
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 08:47 am
@Jackofalltrades phil,
[QUOTE=Jackofalltrades;121592]The legal 'should' presupposes what is right and what is wrong. [/QUOTE]I don't think that I agree with that.

If the law says I should report runaway slaves, then I should do so, legally speaking, even if it may be wrong to do so, morally speaking. That I should do so legally speaking isn't to say that I should do so, morally speaking, so the legal "should" doesn't presuppose what you say it does.

Or at least that is what I'm thinking.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 09:19 am
@fast,
fast;121769 wrote:
I don't think that I agree with that.

If the law says I should report runaway slaves, then I should do so, legally speaking, even if it may be wrong to do so, morally speaking. That I should do so legally speaking isn't to say that I should do so, morally speaking, so the legal "should" doesn't presuppose what you say it does.

Or at least that is what I'm thinking.


In that case, the legal "should" would presuppose right and wrong. I would presuppose wrong. But the legal "should" "Keep off the grass" has nothing to do with right and wrong. There is an important distinction between: malum in se (wrong in itself) and malum prohibitum (prohibited wrong, wrong because prohibited). Stepping on the grass is, malum prohibitum, not malum in se.

Malum in se - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 09:42 am
@fast,
fast;121769 wrote:
I don't think that I agree with that.

If the law says I should report runaway slaves, then I should do so, legally speaking, even if it may be wrong to do so, morally speaking. That I should do so legally speaking isn't to say that I should do so, morally speaking, so the legal "should" doesn't presuppose what you say it does.

Or at least that is what I'm thinking.



Yeah...... thats the difficulty between a minority opinion against the majority opinion. It is assumed that the majority or the powerful opinion puts its might behind a particular rule. This needs to be followed by the minority even if the minority things it is 'wrong' according to their morals, religion, social norms, customary practices or traditional laws.

Your moral sense is not binding on the state. Because that becomes subjective.

If in your example, you have not reported about the runaway slave, you have to face the consequences even if the slave happens to be your friend, lover or father.

The fact that you are at liberty to do whatever your conscience says to do is quite universal psycological norm. Although you are bound by law, you are still free by volition and conscience not to follow a law, which you think is unjust or cruel. State expects you to follow rules, but you can reject it and face the consequence and the brute force of the state.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 09:46 am
@Jackofalltrades phil,
Jackofalltrades;121791 wrote:
Yeah that the difficulty between minority opinion against the majority opinion. It is assumed that the majority or the powerful opinion puts the might behind a particular rule. This needs to be foolowed by the minority even if the minority things it is 'wrong' according to their morals, religion, social norms, customary practices or traditional laws.

Your moral sense is not binding on the state. Because that is subjective.

If in your example, you have not reported about the runaway slave, you have to face the consequences even if the slave happens to be your friend, lover or father.

The fact that you are at liberty to do what your conscience says it always universal. You are not bound to follow law, you are so obliged.



It may be that you have a moral obligation to obey the law, don't you think? Read Plato's, Crito or Mark Twain's, Huckleberry Finn.
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 09:53 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;121792 wrote:
It may be that you have a moral obligation to obey the law, don't you think? Read Plato's, Crito or Mark Twain's, Huckleberry Finn.


A slight correction was made to my post.

Yeah, thats nice..... two morals may clash. One is an obligation towards the state, the other towards your conscience. Threfore, in a democratic set-up the state is often on the other side of litigations.
 
fast
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 10:04 am
@Zetherin,
[QUOTE=Zetherin;121531]Maybe I ought to say that the five numbered examples weren't illustrating different definitions of the same word. [/QUOTE]It is different definitions, and it's of the same word, but note that things are not always as they seem.

For example, consider the word, "chair" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

[INDENT]1 a: a seat typically having four legs and a back for one person b: electric chair -used with the
2 a: an official seat or a seat of authority, state, or dignity b: an office or position of authority or dignity c: professorship <holds a university chair>d:chairman 1
3: a sedan chair
4: a position of employment usually of one occupying a chair or desk; specifically: the position of a player in an orchestra or band
5: any of various devices that hold up or support
[/INDENT]As we can see, there are at least five different definitions for the same word. It is not five different words each with a definition.

However, the above only accounts for one single entry. The dictionary also has a second entry for the word, "chair":




1: to install in office
2chiefly British: to carry on the shoulders in acclaim <we chaired you through the market place - A. E. Housman>
3: to preside as chairman of



Here again, we have a single word with three different definitions.

But, let's compare the first definition in the first entry to the first definition in the second entry:

1 a: a seat typically having four legs and a back for one person b: electric chair -used with the
1: to install in office

That is not an example of a single word with two different definitions; yes, it's two different definitions, but it's not for the same word; hence, each entry is a separate word--at least that's how I interpret it.


---------- Post added 01-22-2010 at 11:21 AM ----------


[QUOTE=kennethamy;121779]In that case, the legal "should" would presuppose right and wrong. I would presuppose wrong. But the legal "should" "Keep off the grass" has nothing to do with right and wrong. There is an important distinction between: malum in se (wrong in itself) and malum prohibitum (prohibited wrong, wrong because prohibited). Stepping on the grass is, malum prohibitum, not malum in se.

Malum in se - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/QUOTE]

I don't want to argue against your point; you make a fine point. There's just something that doesn't sit right with me when you say the legal "should" presupposes right and wrong.

Maybe I should say whether or not it presupposes right and wrong depends in part on whether or not we are using "right" and "wrong" in the moral sense or not. If I mean "right" and "wrong" in the moral sense, then what I said is correct: The legal "should" does not presuppose right and wrong. Is that better?

In light of that distinction, I will say that the legal "should" does presuppose right and wrong--just not in the moral sense. After all, if it's the case that I should not do something, then it's wrong to do that something, but that it's wrong to do something doesn't necessarily mean I am using "wrong" in the moral sense.

In other words, it's an issue of ambiguity.

---------- Post added 01-22-2010 at 11:32 AM ----------

[QUOTE=Jackofalltrades;121791]If in your example, you have not reported about the runaway slave, you have to face the consequences even if the slave happens to be your friend, lover or father. [/QUOTE]That's because I have done something wrong. If I would have done what I should have done, then I would not of had to face the consequences.

The problem (I think) is that those who believe it's morally wrong to follow the law in that instance will disagree with what I have said, but that's because they do not recognize that "should" and "wrong" are being used in a sense that is not moral.

In other words, when I said, "That's because I have done something wrong," I do not mean I have done something immoral. Instead, I mean I have done something illegal. When I said, "If I would have done what I should have done," others are apt to misinterpret "should" as being in the moral sense.

It's as if people's default understanding is that I'm using the words in a moral sense unless I otherwise make explicit that I am not using those terms in a moral sense.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 04:17 pm
@fast,
fast;121800 wrote:
There's just something that doesn't sit right with me when you say the legal "should" presupposes right and wrong.


I don't think I said that it presupposes moral right and wrong. I believe in positive law.

Positive Law: Austin and Kelsen
 
Sam I Am phil
 
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 07:28 pm
@Jackofalltrades phil,
Jackofalltrades;121795 wrote:
A slight correction was made to my post.

Yeah, thats nice..... two morals may clash. One is an obligation towards the state, the other towards your conscience. Threfore, in a democratic set-up the state is often on the other side of litigations.


Kohlberg's stages of moral development, obviously relative to some amount of subjective input, would imply that the highest level of development is when man follows his own personal moral systems above those of the state when there is a conflict between the two. This vein of thinking would support civil disobedience.
Some people, especially those with a lot of faith in democratic systems and positive law might find this extreme and too subject to individual beliefs. After all, Kohlberg's highest levels imply that the individual is acting on personal morals focused on the "greater good," but in the words of Charles Fried, "most evil is done in the name of a greater good."
 
 

 
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