The problem with debating morality

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Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 10:56 am
To reach any conclusions about morality we have to be able to talk in the abstract. But we also have to tie it down to something concrete.

The problem is, when we discuss in abstraction we use reasoning, but when we try and make it concrete (i.e. apply it in some useful way) it becomes the sort of thing our instincts will make a judgment on. But our instinct ignores the little qualifiers that thought problems include in order to hone in on the issue.

If you are trying to debate whether the ends justify the means, you will quite rightly ask or be asked to provide an example. Let's say you do, and you go with the classic "Man's wife is dying, he has no money, he robs drug store for medicine". In the abstract, one would rationally argue that it is better to save a life than to not steal. But instinctively, we know that they choice is really between stealing, and finding another solution, that the person who robbed the store had other options.

Now maybe the thought problem includes lots of qualifiers and reaches the point where it is truly one action or the other. This creates two problems:

1) Our instinct is already biased against it.
2) It is now so convoluted that one could argue it never occurs in reality


The solution? I can't think of a particular form of argument that would work perfectly well for morality. I would say:


  • Be aware of your instincts and what is driving them
  • Be aware that if you are convinced of an abstract moral rule it could be because of an instinctual bias
  • Most of all, you just have to take the time to think about it, and question every piece of it. This is the hardest, but I've been in arguments before where I wouldn't take a 2nd look at my preconception. You just end up arguing semantics and missing the broader perspective.

As a starter. But this is hardly a solution. There has to be a better way...




 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 11:16 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;124692 wrote:
To reach any conclusions about morality we have to be able to talk in the abstract. But we also have to tie it down to something concrete.

If you are trying to debate whether the ends justify the means, you will quite rightly ask or be asked to provide an example. Let's say you do, and you go with the classic "Man's wife is dying, he has no money, he robs drug store for medicine".




It may be true that your concrete example may show that in this particular case, the end would justify the means. But suppose my example were that his wife wanted a vanilla ice-cream cone, so he steals, at the point of a gun, the ice-cream. Now, that would be a case when the end does not justify the means, don't you agree. So, isn't the answer to the question whether the ends justify the means that it depends on the end, and it depends on the means? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not. There is no general answer to that question, for it is too abstract.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 01:30 pm
@Jebediah,
It is always difficult to apply an ethical "rule" meant to apply generally to a range of instances to specific cases one by one, especially if each is considered in isolation. One of the reasons for this is that most "rules" are seldom stated so as to include all the conditions and provisos that one would expect; they become rough and ready "rules of the thumb" and like these, are expected to be suspended under a broad range of actual conditions.

Generally, discussions about practical morality hinge on a single, unique, but often extreme case, as if one wanted to "prove the rule by the exception" when what is really needed is a much larger list of cases,that would serve to clarify when the rule was appropriate to be applied, when another rule of a higher or lower order was to be used, or when the instance was so ambiguous and multi-layered that a choice about which rule, out of several appropriate, to use would be a matter of individual interpretation.

"Thou shalt not kill" for example, seems both imperative to the logical mind, as well as grounded for some people in the most direct commandment of a supreme being. But then there seem to be generally allowed exceptions, such as the "right" of self-preservation; and even this exception seems to have its own subset of conditions (one must truly believe one's life is in immediate peril, one must have no less forceful means at one's disposal, and so on).
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 03:22 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;124692 wrote:
To reach any conclusions about morality we have to be able to talk in the abstract. But we also have to tie it down to something concrete.

The problem is, when we discuss in abstraction we use reasoning, but when we try and make it concrete (i.e. apply it in some useful way) it becomes the sort of thing our instincts will make a judgment on. But our instinct ignores the little qualifiers that thought problems include in order to hone in on the issue.

If you are trying to debate whether the ends justify the means, you will quite rightly ask or be asked to provide an example. Let's say you do, and you go with the classic "Man's wife is dying, he has no money, he robs drug store for medicine". In the abstract, one would rationally argue that it is better to save a life than to not steal. But instinctively, we know that they choice is really between stealing, and finding another solution, that the person who robbed the store had other options.

Now maybe the thought problem includes lots of qualifiers and reaches the point where it is truly one action or the other. This creates two problems:

1) Our instinct is already biased against it.
2) It is now so convoluted that one could argue it never occurs in reality


The solution? I can't think of a particular form of argument that would work perfectly well for morality. I would say:


  • Be aware of your instincts and what is driving them
  • Be aware that if you are convinced of an abstract moral rule it could be because of an instinctual bias
  • Most of all, you just have to take the time to think about it, and question every piece of it. This is the hardest, but I've been in arguments before where I wouldn't take a 2nd look at my preconception. You just end up arguing semantics and missing the broader perspective.
As a starter. But this is hardly a solution. There has to be a better way...





Let me see if I can clarify your problem. First, there is the definition, which is impossible to nail down because moral reality is full of infinites...

Second, Morality is based upon emotion, and emotional connectedness, first and foremost with ones family, and then with ones gentile group...For this reason, what is moral for one in relation to ones group, as morals as morals are a form of relationship, is not necessarily moral in regard to all other groups...

Third; the desire to rationalize morality is in search of a universal morality, but as the reference above to morality in relation to ones group suggests, morality has its milieu... If the milieu is destroyed as it was, in Rome, and Greece for example, then there is no culture or community to support morality, and the whole society feeds on itself until it caves in...The wise men know what is missing and they try to replace natural morality based upon natural relationships with a reasoned morality based upon a universal relationship...Ask: Can we have law without justice???Justice is moral, is it not; but the desire to control behavior without giving to each his due is common...

Fourth: There is no hypothetical morality, and people should not waste time finding one..If what is moral can never be clearly defined, then the same is true of the immoral... To rationalize morality requires a fixed form, and this is nonsense because the most moral people were primitives, and morality would never have served their purpose if it did not leave them essentially free in their own actions...As one English jurist said: There are no imaginary cases...Hypotheticals shine on a light on stupidity, and not on morality...Moral actions are the actions of moral people...That is what we should seek; but only consider how law works against communiites, and families which are the source of morality... There is no point in trying to rationalize morality which is naturally a result of emotional attachments, and is in most respects irrational...Morality is learned before all other knowledge, or not learned at all...Morality cannot be taught, nor rationalized...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 03:51 pm
@Fido,
Fido;124751 wrote:
.Morality is learned before all other knowledge, or not learned at all...Morality cannot be taught, nor rationalized...


How can something be learned, but not taught? That is a contradiction? Not very clarifying.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 04:00 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;124695 wrote:
It may be true that your concrete example may show that in this particular case, the end would justify the means. But suppose my example were that his wife wanted a vanilla ice-cream cone, so he steals, at the point of a gun, the ice-cream. Now, that would be a case when the end does not justify the means, don't you agree. So, isn't the answer to the question whether the ends justify the means that it depends on the end, and it depends on the means? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not. There is no general answer to that question, for it is too abstract.


Yes, I agree with this, and with what jgweed said as well.

But the purpose of debating morality is presumably to be better able to determine whether something is moral or not. Fido seems to be promoting the idea that morality is instinctual and that talking about it serves no purpose, I disagree.

Is the process of debating whether the ends justify the means helpful? Surely just saying "sometimes" doesn't help us.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 04:18 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;124760 wrote:
Yes, I agree with this, and with what jgweed said as well.

But the purpose of debating morality is presumably to be better able to determine whether something is moral or not. Fido seems to be promoting the idea that morality is instinctual and that talking about it serves no purpose, I disagree.

Is the process of debating whether the ends justify the means helpful? Surely just saying "sometimes" doesn't help us.


I think it helps us. It reminds us that there is no general answer to that question, since it depends on the particular means, and the paticular end. I thought you said that you agreed with this. When it is known what is involved, then, perhaps the answer can be found. Aren't you the one who said that morality could not be answered in abstraction? (The Nazis used to say that they "think with their blood". Now, that is really instinctual thinking). And, we all know how well that kind of thing turned out.
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 04:51 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;124758 wrote:
How can something be learned, but not taught? That is a contradiction? Not very clarifying.

It is the first thing that a child learns, who his friends aree....To teach Morality, it must be understood, as with all thing taught, the reason behind it, and there must be some reason to it, and while I can agree that there is some reason for it, there is little objectively reasonable to it...

Consider, that when one risks life to save life there is little rational and much irrational in the behavior and motivation...How would you teach irrationality???
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 05:39 pm
@Fido,
Fido;124781 wrote:
It is the first thing that a child learns, who his friends aree....To teach Morality, it must be understood, as with all thing taught, the reason behind it, and there must be some reason to it, and while I can agree that there is some reason for it, there is little objectively reasonable to it...

Consider, that when one risks life to save life there is little rational and much irrational in the behavior and motivation...How would you teach irrationality???


What has that to do with it?
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 3 Feb, 2010 06:38 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;124793 wrote:
What has that to do with it?

When you teach math, for example, you teach the logical relationship between math and reality, that what is done in one can be reflected in the other...If there were no logical relationship, math could not be taught except as a mystery, or a cult... The basis of morality exists, in a sense, noted by the op, in instinct...We bond, and yet we socialize in order to strengthen our social bonds, and we are moral, when we are moral in relationship to a certain group and opposed to others...Morality is the social expression of a prelogical, or irrational feeling between people with a common element in their character...
 
PappasNick
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 04:23 pm
@Fido,
Fido;124803 wrote:
Morality is the social expression of a prelogical, or irrational feeling between people with a common element in their character...


Can you say more about what this common element in their character might be? I can imagine it might be, for instance, concern for others. But then I can imagine it might be, for instance, something common only to all those of a certain nation or regime. I'd appreciate it if you, or anyone, can expand on this.
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 05:20 pm
@Jebediah,
IMO keeping your morality would be to respect others' life, liberty, and as much as i hate to say it, property. These are the most fundamental values that when violated becomes a moral discrepancy. Therefore any violation of these rights would be a violation of our fundamental moral code, anything else, could theoretically be argued.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 09:34 pm
@Yogi DMT,
Yogi DMT;147992 wrote:
IMO keeping your morality would be to respect others' life, liberty, and as much as i hate to say it, property. These are the most fundamental values that when violated becomes a moral discrepancy. Therefore any violation of these rights would be a violation of our fundamental moral code, anything else, could theoretically be argued.


But, as you yourself say, this is in "your own opinion". Now, of course, that does not mean that you are not right. You may be. What you say may be true. But if what you say is to be lifted from being "your own opinion", you have to present reasons for believing it is true. Otherwise, it remains only your own opinion.
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:00 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;148051 wrote:
But, as you yourself say, this is in "your own opinion". Now, of course, that does not mean that you are not right. You may be. What you say may be true. But if what you say is to be lifted from being "your own opinion", you have to present reasons for believing it is true. Otherwise, it remains only your own opinion.


Are you just looking to argue for the sake of it? That's exactly what i said, it's my opinion, no need for you to comment.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:05 pm
@Yogi DMT,
Yogi DMT;148062 wrote:
Are you just looking to argue for the sake of it? That's exactly what i said, it's my opinion, no need for you to comment.


I thought this forum was for discussion, not for the publication of opinions for people to take or leave. Why should anyone be interested in your opinion when you do not back it up?
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:09 pm
@Jebediah,
SO what you should have said was, "Well why do you believe that?". Not just restate over and over again that i gave my opinion that's pretty obvious. There are better approaches to finding out why i have such an opinion than just stating that what i wrote is my opinion, because that is what i originally said in the first place.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:13 pm
@Yogi DMT,
Yogi DMT;148068 wrote:
SO what you should have said was, "Well why do you believe that?". Not just restate over and over again that i gave my opinion that's pretty obvious. There are better approaches to finding out why i have such an opinion than just stating that what i wrote is my opinion, because that is what i originally said in the first place.


But isn't it only your opinion unless you support it?
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:22 pm
@Jebediah,
Again yes, again that's what i said, now your just being annoying.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:39 pm
@Yogi DMT,
Yogi DMT;148075 wrote:
Again yes, again that's what i said, now your just being annoying.


Sorry if I keep asking the obvious, but I am not a mind-reader.
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Sat 3 Apr, 2010 10:47 pm
@Jebediah,
It's my opinion YES, i stated that. Now if you want to know why i came to that conclusion either ask or please stop being a smartass.
 
 

 
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