justice is a universal principle

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Re: justice is a universal principle

#321  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 27, 2017 5:53 pm

surreptitious57 wrote:I think problems arise when words have either multiple meanings or multiple interpretations. The solution to such ambiguity
is an easy one. When one is using any such word they must define it as rigorously as possible and then stick to the definition
equally as rigorously even if everyone else is using a totally different definition. Dictionaries are descriptive not prescriptive
and deviation is inevitable. This is why clarity of definition is so important in serious discourse and even discourse in general


Well, in this case, one conversation is being conducted by academic ethicists. We can have a conversation about something else, too, and there's no rule that we're not allowed to reinvent the whole of philosophy from scratch, the rational skeptic way™. I want no part of that, but there you go.

I'm not convinced academic ethicists know what they're talking about, and it's probably too much trouble to try to work it out with the sort of people I'm most likely to encounter here. Where's Tracer Tong when you really need him?
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#322  Postby surreptitious57 » Sep 27, 2017 6:33 pm

In an ideal world words would simply have single definitions that were crystal clear and universally understood
But such a linguistic Utopia does not and never will exist and so we have to deal with the consequences of this
Language is a human invention so will always be less than perfect and this truth simply must be acknowledged
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#323  Postby archibald » Sep 28, 2017 7:45 am

surreptitious57 wrote:Simon Blackburn thinks there are different mental states. The objective one that deals with facts about the observed world and the desire one that deals with how we wish to interpret that world. And values fall into the latter category. And I agree with this because it separates knowledge from values and treats them as entirely different domains. Which is what they are.


I wonder if there actually are two different types of mental state (one for objectivity/rationality and the other for desire/emotion) which would warrant us treating knowledge and values as entirely different domains. If I were to guess, I'd say that there is a lot of overlap and integration, especially in a massively complicated, parallel-processing, possibly connectionist rather than modular brain like ours. As such, I wonder if that distinction isn't largely artificial and possibly unscientific and non-empirical, a bit like Freud's ego and id.

Perhaps a word which combines the two (knowledge and values) might be wisdom? By some definitions, this word entails both knowledge and good judgement, which may also start to bridge the traditional, supposed divide between description and prescription. To me, this is what seems to be at the heart of what Sam Harris is saying. And I agree it feels bold and controversial, but I still warm to it, not least because it offers a pragmatic way forward, even if not perfect.

Lawrence Krauss, it seemed to me, was not really talking in the same way as Harris. I think Krauss might easily have conceded that science only affects and informs morality without doing any prescribing (and I think he explicitly did so at around 1:28, I think). I'm not even sure Science is necessarily the best word for Harris to use, although to be fair he clarifies that it's just shorthand for the sort of empirically-based reasoning involved in science in its broadest definition.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#324  Postby archibald » Sep 28, 2017 8:22 am

zoon wrote:For example, I think you and I agree that we can say for practical purposes that there is just and unjust behaviour, and that the unjust behaviour is wrong and to be disapproved or punished, and we are both happy that all this behaviour (both the unjust and the retributively just) is compatible with evolutionary theory, but nobody is deriving either the specific sense of justice or the content of particular decisions from what we know of evolutionary theory.


Sam Harris (I seem to have started referencing him very frequently recently, lol, I think I am trying to adopt his stance and see how far it goes) would say (did say, in that video I think) that we have 'flown the perch' of evolution. This itself may be something of an overstatement, especially given that imo (and his) we haven't flown the perch of determinism, but in a general sense it seems difficult to take the stance that we are as trapped by evolved predispositions as, say, other animals seem to be. So in that sense, I think we have to accord a role to autonomy and reasoning (allowing that our reasoning is imperfect and will probably never be truly rational in the way often suggested by some philosophers seeking, for example, to identify different mental states) even if it's not truly freely-willed, but just involves something we might call 'increased degrees of freedom'.

Yes, I think I am coming around to being more of a pragmatist, largely, I think by listening to you. I still have reservations, similar to those I expressed in the free will thread, that pragmatism involves fudges which run the risk of not grasping the nettle of 'truth' (and thereby evading the sometimes unpalatable consequences, such as for example that we don't have free will) but that said, it may be, as I think you have said more than once, that we simply don't know enough yet to call for radical changes to the way we go about things, and that until we do (know more) we might have to be pragmatic, in the meantime, whether it involves fudge or not.

Possibly I am also warming to moral realism, in some of its weaker guises, now that I am, like you, better aware of the varieties, and so now I'm wondering, like you it seems, if there is any substantial disagreement between you and spinozasgalt.

One criticism of Sam (there I go again) Harris' apparently morally-realistic thesis is that it's perhaps too radical for the same reason as I gave above, that we don't know enough yet via science for it to step into the role of prescription. I accept this, but can't help thinking that he isn't at least holding the stick at the correct end nonetheless and as such I warm to his ideas while thinking they might in some ways be a tad too....simplistic, or ahead of their time. In other ways I think they are timely, and arguably overdue. The traditional view that morality is not a domain where science can prescribe might just be a cultural relic to some extent and I still think that morality can be and is being scientified (if thats a word). It's not entirely unlike the similar argument made by Dawkins among others that science and religion aren't non-overlapping magisteria either.

But regarding possible limitations, for example, he struggles a bit, I think, when it comes to envisaging how science could prescribe, as in how this would pragmatically play out in society. He has to introduce caveats to say that science can only prescribe in an advisory capacity, which then slightly weakens the strong claim that science - in the broad sense he means - can tell us right from wrong. Perhaps it can, to an extent, tell us, but only in the role of a wise uncle, which seems to relegate it back to being informational only. It seems to me that there will always be room for something quite unscientific, that something being cultural agreement, which may boil down to a popularity contest. To say otherwise seems too dictatorial, and may be what makes many people worried about what Sam Harris is saying, because they imagine futuristic dystopias not unlike 'Brave New World' and so on. But I think he knows that, considers it a straw man, and tries to deal with it (by connecting 'telling' with 'advising' rather than 'instructing' or 'dictating') but that he has to pragmatically accept that there is also merit in saying that what is right and wrong is also what is deemed, in a relativistic sense, to be right and wrong, subjectively, by hoomans, along the lines of what surreptitious57 is saying.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#325  Postby archibald » Sep 28, 2017 10:47 am

Cito di Pense wrote:
archibald wrote:
Laters. Consider not evading questions put to you, old chap. Then maybe I'll have some reason to take you more seriously.


What? You mean this...

archibald wrote:
It's in the definition of Moral Realism I posted.


Do recall what you posted:

archibald wrote:
http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_ ... alism.html

This is what I understand to be the basis for moral realism.


And here's what I found on that website:

http://www.philosophybasics.com/general_faq.html

This website was created as a personal project by Luke Mastin. He has no official training in philosophy and this site is intended as an entry level resource by a laymen for the layman.


So what it looks like to me is that you hunted around on the webZ unitl you found a definition you thought you could use (in your layman-like innocence) to prosecute your dimwitted straw man attack on "ethical realism".

Next time you want to complain that somebody isn't answering a question you put to them, consider that the reason might be that your question was based on so much fucking idiotic legalistic wrangling and manipulation that it were best to leave it until you threw your inevitable tantrum over its having been ignored. Still want to take part in the conversation, Arch? Any time you think you're ready. I love the smell of your shit-stained rhetorical wrangling in the morning. It smells like... desperation.


I don't mind having posted a duff definition (if that's what it was, because ad-homming the source doesn't necessarily imply that) because I was merely putting my neck on the block by trying to clarify something that was being talked about in the absence of agreed definitions. If the definition doesn't represent what moral realism is, at least to some, my bad.

As for your trying to somehow connect that to your not being willing to answer questions, all I can say is nice try. Better luck with your next non-sequitur perhaps.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#326  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 28, 2017 11:56 am

archibald wrote:
I don't mind having posted a duff definition (if that's what it was, because ad-homming the source doesn't necessarily imply that) because I was merely putting my neck on the block by trying to clarify something that was being talked about in the absence of agreed definitions. If the definition doesn't represent what moral realism is, at least to some, my bad.

As for your trying to somehow connect that to your not being willing to answer questions, all I can say is nice try. Better luck with your next non-sequitur perhaps.


Was this your question?

archibald wrote:
I've told you why not smoking is a moral issue in the light of what follws from a particular moral premise.

Now it's your turn to tell me how it's not a moral issue.


That's an effective way to dump ethical realism, finally put it to bed for the purposes of this conversation. I hope you know that's what you were doing, at least by now. It would be nice to say that smoking is a moral issue in light of some premise or other. What if the premise is ungrounded and doesn't capture any facts? It would not be that difficult to go into some song and dance about public health that obscures all the ways that the provision of health care is not entirely founded on the well-being of the patients, and I guess I'd say that's why I don't think smoking is a moral issue. I don't think smoking is what produces inequities in healthcare. It's not that I want to say it's not a moral issue; it's that I don't want to say anything much about it at all. Likewise for murder and mayhem. It's not that I'm discouraged by social sanctions; it's that I don't find mayhem sufficiently entertaining, and this comforts me, because I think I am rather like most people in this respect. Stuff the normative predispositions fraught with layers of evolutionary development unless you can show that's how I arrived at my determination of what's entertaining, rather than what isn't.

I hope you see what the problem is. Maybe this is the kind of substantive disagreement that ethicists use to claim that moral realism can only survive as a kind of abstract theoretical game. I don't want to defend moral realism, but I do want some set of criteria for declaring that ethical statements cannot refer to facts. This might do the job, because if the moral premise doesn't fly, then then the actual 'shoulds' won't, either - giving us layers and layers of ethical statements hoping to get to the foundational. If people didn't disagree about what constitutes wellbeing, then everything would be hunky-dory, but people don't even agree that it's a foundation for ethics.

I don't know where that leaves any discussion of ethics or morals. I don't see a space for discussing it at all, if we are to assume something is a moral issue and then have to go about showing somehow that it isn't if we disagree. That's a bad scene, and almost makes it look as if all ethical statements contain absolutes from the perspective of someone making such statements. Hence it is, as I'm sure you agree, better to make no moral pronouncements at all. Romansh will also be glad to hear that. Zoon, probably not so much.

Ethical realism is the only system I would permit to motivate my ethical statements, and it is with some relief that I would accept that it isn't a viable system. I just wanted to, you know, make sure.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#327  Postby archibald » Sep 28, 2017 3:05 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:That's an effective way to dump ethical realism, finally put it to bed for the purposes of this conversation. I hope you know that's what you were doing, at least by now.


No, actually, I don't. I thought that I was, in fact, starting to embrace moral realism, one version of it at least. But then, I freely admit I'm still not all that clear what it is, despite having read this or that article. It could be that I need to do a survey of current metaethical thinking on this but (a) I don't have time and (b) all the different thinkings might just confuse me. If the people referring to it here could say what they mean by it, that would have been a big help.

Cito di Pense wrote:It would be nice to say that smoking is a moral issue in light of some premise or other. What if the premise is ungrounded and doesn't capture any facts?


The premise (human wellbeing) is only grounded in an assumption. that human wellbeing is 'good'. That it seems to accord with both evolution and what most humans appear to strive for is why it seems like a reasonable starting point.

Cito di Pense wrote:I It would not be that difficult to go into some song and dance about public health that obscures all the ways that the provision of health care is not entirely founded on the well-being of the patients, and I guess I'd say that's why I don't think smoking is a moral issue. I don't think smoking is what produces inequities in healthcare. It's not that I want to say it's not a moral issue; it's that I don't want to say anything much about it at all.


I think you're talking there about the details and complications. Whatever model we choose, there will be complications.

Cito di Pense wrote:Likewise for murder and mayhem. It's not that I'm discouraged by social sanctions; it's that I don't find mayhem sufficiently entertaining, and this comforts me, because I think I am rather like most people in this respect. Stuff the normative predispositions fraught with layers of evolutionary development unless you can show that's how I arrived at my determination of what's entertaining, rather than what isn't.


I can't help you to be interested in the topic, but......my scenario where you were supposed to respond to PC Archibald was meant to trap you (in the nicest possible way) into admitting that you are not really, despite all your declarations of general disinterest, an uninterested party at all. Either that or you don't want police to help you.

Cito di Pense wrote:I hope you see what the problem is. Maybe this is the kind of substantive disagreement that ethicists use to claim that moral realism can only survive as a kind of abstract theoretical game. I don't want to defend moral realism, but I do want some set of criteria for declaring that ethical statements cannot refer to facts. This might do the job, because if the moral premise doesn't fly, then then the actual 'shoulds' won't, either - giving us layers and layers of ethical statements hoping to get to the foundational. If people didn't disagree about what constitutes wellbeing, then everything would be hunky-dory, but people don't even agree that it's a foundation for ethics.

I don't know where that leaves any discussion of ethics or morals. I don't see a space for discussing it at all, if we are to assume something is a moral issue and then have to go about showing somehow that it isn't if we disagree. That's a bad scene, and almost makes it look as if all ethical statements contain absolutes from the perspective of someone making such statements. Hence it is, as I'm sure you agree, better to make no moral pronouncements at all. Romansh will also be glad to hear that. Zoon, probably not so much.

Ethical realism is the only system I would permit to motivate my ethical statements, and it is with some relief that I would accept that it isn't a viable system. I just wanted to, you know, make sure.


Actually, no, I don't (yet) see what the problem is. I could be being dimwitted. Or, you might not have explained yourself well yet. It could be either or both of those things. :)
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#328  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 28, 2017 5:54 pm

archibald wrote:I think you're talking there about the details and complications. Whatever model we choose, there will be complications.


I'm thinking that complications are all we have. Home security system installation is a thriving business. We might well define a sense of well-being in terms of the sense that we don't worry constantly about being mugged or having our homes broken into while we're away. Some people are more prone to worrying than others, and I don't think morality helps with that, so my well-being derives a great deal from not being prone to anxiety or over-estimating risk.

I would tell PC Archibald that I'm mildly interested, and strive not to flout the law by jaywalking or tossing my sweets wrappers onto the pavement in his presence. I'm waiting to hear just how the rule of law implies ethical principles precede it in some way, or why the rule of law does not reach everywhere all the time.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#329  Postby surreptitious57 » Sep 28, 2017 6:28 pm

archibald wrote:
surreptitious57 wrote:
Simon Blackburn thinks there are different mental states. The objective one that deals with facts about the observed world and the desire one that deals with how we wish to interpret that world. And values fall into the latter category And I agree with this because it separates knowledge from values and treats them as entirely different domains

I wonder if there actually are two different types of mental state ( one for objectivity / rationality and the other for desire /
emotion ) which would warrant us treating knowledge and values as entirely different domains. If I were to guess I would say that there is a lot of overlap and integration especially in a massively complicated parallel processing possibly connectionist rather than modular brain like ours. As such I wonder if that distinction is not largely artificial and possibly unscientific and non empirical a bit like Freuds ego and id

The left hemisphere of the brain primarily deals with logic while the right hemisphere primarily deals with emotion. So the
processing of information and the desired outcome with regard to that information are conducted in different regions even
though the corpus callosum does allow for communication between the two hemispheres. Now the fundamental difference
between information and desire is that factual information cannot be manipulated for facts are non falsifiable and as such
independent of subjective interpretation. Where as emotional responses are purely subjective and do not even have to be
grounded in rationality with regard to the information that they are responding to. As these functions seem to be entirely
different to each other they should be treated as separate domains. Which generally they are as the distinction between
the logical and emotional or objective and subjective is well understood
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#330  Postby archibald » Sep 28, 2017 9:30 pm

surreptitious57 wrote:The left hemisphere of the brain primarily deals with logic while the right hemisphere primarily deals with emotion.


I'm not really sure of that. If one googles 'brain hemisphere myth' one finds a lot of stuff like this:

"It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right".
https://www.livescience.com/39373-left- ... -myth.html


"Scientists have long known that the popular left brain/right brain story doesn’t hold water. Here’s why. First, the sweeping characterizations of the two halves of the brain miss the mark: one is not logical and the other intuitive, one analytical and the other creative."
http://ideas.time.com/2013/11/29/there- ... in-divide/


"The idea that people rely predominantly on either a rational, logical, “left-brained” cognitive style or a more creative, abstract, “right-brained” style is one of the more prevalent neuro-myths, believed by approximately 80 percent of educators around the world. A recent empirical study examined this neuromyth using current sophisticated neuroimaging methods. Jared Nielsen and colleagues directly tested the hypothesis that individuals have stronger left- or right-hemispheres, and--as would be predicted by every practicing neuroscientist--failed to find evidence for hemispheric dominance."

http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/8/2-1




The amygdala, I believe, is often associated with processing emotions, and yet I understand there is an amygdala in each hemisphere:

"In one study, electrical stimulations of the right amygdala induced negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. In contrast, stimulation of the left amygdala was able to induce either pleasant (happiness) or unpleasant (fear, anxiety, sadness) emotions."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#331  Postby surreptitious57 » Sep 29, 2017 12:18 am

archibald wrote:
I understand there is an amygdala in each hemisphere

I did not know that there was an amygdala in each hemisphere. I thought there was only one and that it was responsible
for fear and nothing else. I also thought happiness depended upon the levels of serotonin and dopamine within the brain
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#332  Postby archibald » Sep 29, 2017 7:56 am

surreptitious57 wrote:
archibald wrote:
I understand there is an amygdala in each hemisphere

I did not know that there was an amygdala in each hemisphere. I thought there was only one and that it was responsible
for fear and nothing else. I also thought happiness depended upon the levels of serotonin and dopamine within the brain


I'm no expert either, but I have had this discussion before with someone on another forum, and I came away thinking that the idea that the two hemispheres had different roles was largely a myth, and even that the brain was modular enough for us to identify specific locations for specific functions was itself overstated and simplistic, albeit accurate to a degree.

They both intuitively seem, on the face of it, like common sense, but may not be the way the brain operates.

As far as I know, the theory that the brain is modular (has specific regions for different functions) is called Locationism and the theory that it isn't is called Connectionism (where for example the same neuron may be participating in one function one second and some other function the next, multi-tasking neurons I suppose), with the latter being more the 'in' theory these days or at least 'the new kid on the block'. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd guess that it's complicated and that there is overlap and criss-crossing and that we don't ever think fully in either 'mode' (rational or emotional).

This is one reason I am not sure about philosophers talking about different, distinct 'modes' of thinking.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#333  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 29, 2017 8:34 am

archibald wrote:As far as I know, the theory that the brain is modular (has specific regions for different functions) is called Locationism and the theory that it isn't is called Connectionism (where for example the same neuron may be participating in one function one second and some other function the next, multi-tasking neurons I suppose), with the latter being more the 'in' theory these days or at least 'the new kid on the block'. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd guess that it's complicated. Lol. And that there is overlap and criss-crossing and that we don't ever think fully in either 'mode' (rational or emotional).


I just wish we could get our stories straight about this stuff. That problem must be due to something having to do with brains. If you can't locate your 'isms' then maybe there shouldn't be any. Oh, look. I said "shouldn't". It's idiomatic; don't get me wrong.

You know very well why people keep talking about this stuff in this way. But that has to do with brains. Oh, fuck me sideways with a frozen badger. If you believe it, though, can you call yourself a 'modularist' or 'locationist'? Oh, those isms.

It used to be that people just believed in God. Now they can believe in locationism, too, because the two haven't been shown to be mutually inconsistent. If you don't like my view, ask John Platko.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#334  Postby archibald » Sep 29, 2017 8:53 am

Well, at least those two isms are isms within neuroscience, which has scalpels and brain scanners and a decent methodology.

It's philosophical isms that I am less sure of. :)
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#335  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 29, 2017 8:55 am

archibald wrote:Well, at least those two isms are isms within neuroscience, which has scalpels and brain scanners and a decent methodology.

It's philosophical isms that I worry more about. :)


They are still 'isms' and don't have any referents that allow you to pick one or the other or even a player to be named later. The kind of neuroscience surr is talking about is an ism. It's 'neuroscientism'. I mean, there's always a player to be named later, but he's not playing for your club at the moment. Or, if he is, he soon won't be.

Maybe that's just another of my misgivings in talking about ethics. Some people use it to expose their neuroscientism. How hard do you have to work to show that brain activity is responsible? Knock yourself out, as I like to say. The ideology of the comatose. It's the next big thing in neuroscientism. Platko knows what I'm talking about, here.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#336  Postby archibald » Sep 29, 2017 9:08 am

Yeah, well. Arguably the core question (supposedly) in the whole debate about morality is whether you can or can't get an ought from an is, and those that think you can't are holding to what was said by some bloke who lived and died a life saturated by religious influences without knowing comparatively damn all about science, or specifically biology, let alone evolution, of which he could never have even heard.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#337  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 29, 2017 9:13 am

archibald wrote:Yeah, well. Arguably the core question (supposedly) in the whole debate about morality is whether you can or can't get an ought from an is, and those that think you can't are holding to what was said by some bloke who lived and died without knowing comparatively damn all about science, or specifically biology, let alone evolution, of which he could never have even heard. Plus, Hume's experience was saturated by religious influences.


I agree. I just don't want to make any critical decisions using pseudoscience when my gut feeling will probably do just as well. Trot out the statistics and prove me wrong. I'm not seeking the situation where everyone is happy; I'm seeking the situation where everyone is well-informed, so explain how neuroscience informs me in the way I ask to be informed. Being well-informed does not necessarily lead to happiness, as getting a cancer diagnosis illustrates.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#338  Postby archibald » Sep 29, 2017 9:19 am

Cito di Pense wrote:I agree. I just don't want to make any critical decisions using pseudoscience when my gut feeling will probably do just as well. Trot out the statistics and prove me wrong. I'm not seeking the situation where everyone is happy; I'm seeking the situation where everyone is well-informed, so explain how neuroscience informs me in the way I ask to be informed.


By pseudoscience I assume you mean philosophy. :evilgrin:

Or, if you mean the so-called 'softer sciences'......they is what they is and they may have a long ways to go, but in the meantime we are stuck with them.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#339  Postby archibald » Sep 29, 2017 9:20 am

Cito di Pense wrote:I'm not seeking the situation where everyone is happy; I'm seeking the situation where everyone is well-informed, so explain how neuroscience informs me in the way I ask to be informed. Being well-informed does not necessarily lead to happiness, as getting a cancer diagnosis illustrates.


I think you are asking for too much. We's stuck in a situation where we have to make ethical decisions. There are only better or worse ways (in the pragmatic sense) to go about trying to cope with that.
Last edited by archibald on Sep 29, 2017 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#340  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 29, 2017 9:21 am

archibald wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:I'm not seeking the situation where everyone is happy; I'm seeking the situation where everyone is well-informed, so explain how neuroscience informs me in the way I ask to be informed. Being well-informed does not necessarily lead to happiness, as getting a cancer diagnosis illustrates.


I think you are asking for too much.


I know I am. Sue me in the World Court. What you're looking for is some proposition that will change my attitude, not some opinion that I'm asking for too much. If you don't want to change my attitude, why don't you want to?
Last edited by Cito di Pense on Sep 29, 2017 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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