justice is a universal principle

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Re: justice is a universal principle

#361  Postby surreptitious57 » Sep 29, 2017 2:23 pm

Philosophy is perfect for conducting thought experiments [ the Trolley Problem or Prisoners Dilemma for example ] but when
it comes to the mechanics of how the brain works this is the preserve of neuroscience. But it might be that neither discipline
will ever be able to crack the hard problem and fully explain how subjective conscious experience actually comes to be. And
what exacerbates this more so is the fact that subjective experiences are absolutely unique to every individual. And also the
particularly intractable problem of using the brain to understand the brain. Maybe the machines of the future will help there
A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE : IT DOES NOT WORK UNLESS IT IS OPEN
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#362  Postby zoon » Sep 29, 2017 9:52 pm

archibald wrote:
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.

My view on determinism and ethics comes in 2 parts, and I think both parts are essential to ethics as we know it:

1. All the evidence is that we are fully determinate mechanisms (with the usual caveats, e.g. quantum indeterminacy doesn’t count here).

2. We don’t, so far, know in any useful detail how those mechanisms actually work.

I think our ignorance of our brain mechanisms is essential to morality as it currently operates because if, or when, neuroscience enables people to predict and modify brains routinely with something approaching the accuracy and detail of modifying a car engine, then social life will be very different in ways we cannot easily predict from here, and that would include the way morality works, if morality’s still there at all. In that respect, I’m agreeing with people who say that in the end determinism is incompatible with moral realism: I’m saying that it’s only while we remain functionally indeterminate because of our ignorance of brain mechanisms, that we still use morality in its current form.

Meanwhile, I agree with your doubts about people like Sam Harris when they try to claim that science at this stage would be expected to have a major effect on the actual practice (rather than the background) of ethics. So far, science has given us very little new information about how our social lives operate in terms of basic science, that is, in terms of the actual brain mechanisms. Neuroscience is still grappling with the basics of brain function, never mind the massive self-reflexive complexities of human social behaviour. As you say, it’s not a good idea to underestimate the effect of scientific discoveries either, but I don’t think I would want to revolutionise ethics on a scientific basis for the time being. Wise uncle sounds good.

Looking at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on moral realism, it does mention some philosophers who are suggesting moral realism is compatible with scientific causality. I’ve been looking at a paper by one of them, Stephen Finlay, and I think his approach is similar to mine, though of course much more thought through. He suggests that basic moral assumptions, e.g. “Suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people” are in the end demands that the audience should share the same concern as the speaker. This is like my view, though I was emphasising the threat which underlies a “demand”. I don’t think it’s the same as Sam Harris’ view, because I think he sets a single normative value as basic, the “well-being of conscious creatures”, rather than taking the more descriptive line, including the various basic moral assumptions that people tend to have such as “people ought to look after their health” or “people ought to avoid irrationality”. I don’t think Sam Harris even attempts to show why scientific evidence tells us that the “well-being of conscious creatures” is a paramount value (and I would guess rather few people in practice take it as their paramount value), which is worrying if the main claim of the book is that science can give us moral values. It’s a fighting try at tackling the question.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#363  Postby zoon » Sep 29, 2017 10:05 pm

This post gives the Stanford definition of moral realism(s), and also an outline (extremely simplified and quite probably inaccurate) of the metaethical theory of a current moral realist (Stephen Finlay) who claims that this theory is compatible with the scientific view of the world. I think Prof Finlay is making similar claims to mine. He suggests that a basic moral claim such as: “Innocent people should not be caused to suffer” is in the end a demand that the audience should share the speaker’s concern, and I think that a “demand” implies a threat if the demand is not complied with.

Regarding the definition of moral realism, the Stanford article on moral realism says that moral realists take moral claims to be stating facts of which some are true, but there are a number of different kinds of moral realism. It mentions Stephen Finlay as a moral realist who supports a naturalistic account of moral realism, that is, one which is entirely compatible with the claims of science.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy wrote:Taken at face value, the claim that Nigel has a moral obligation to keep his promise, like the claim that Nyx is a black cat, purports to report a fact and is true if things are as the claim purports. Moral realists are those who think that, in these respects, things should be taken at face value—moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true. That much is the common and more or less defining ground of moral realism (although some accounts of moral realism see it as involving additional commitments, say to the independence of the moral facts from human thought and practice, or to those facts being objective in some specified way).

As a result, those who reject moral realism are usefully divided into (i) those who think moral claims do not purport to report facts in light of which they are true or false (noncognitivists) and (ii) those who think that moral claims do carry this purport but deny that any moral claims are actually true (error theorists).

It is worth noting that, while moral realists are united in their cognitivism and in their rejection of error theories, they disagree among themselves not only about which moral claims are actually true but about what it is about the world that makes those claims true. Moral realism is not a particular substantive moral view nor does it carry a distinctive metaphysical commitment over and above the commitment that comes with thinking moral claims can be true or false and some are true.

.......................

....a significant motivation for anti-realism about morality is found in worries about the metaphysics of moral realism and especially worries about whether moral realism might be reconciled with (what has come to be called) naturalism. It is hard, to say the least, to define naturalism in a clear way. Yet the underlying idea is fairly easy to convey. According to naturalism, the only facts we should believe in are those countenanced by, or at least compatible with, the results of science. To find, of some putative fact, that its existence is neither established by, nor even compatible with science, is to discover, as naturalism would have it, that there is no such fact. If moral realism requires facts that are incompatible with science (as many think it does) that alone would constitute a formidable argument against it.
....................

Pursing a different response to Moore's Open Question Argument, others have defended the possibility of a successful semantic analysis reducing moral claims to claims expressible in entirely naturalistic terms (Jackson 1998, Finlay 2014). Accordingly, they argue that the openness Moore points to, such as it is, is compatible with a correct semantic analysis—albeit not obvious—showing that moral facts are nothing over and above natural facts.


Stephen Finlay, in his 2008 paper "Oughts and Ends" here, puts forward "end relational theory" to give an ultimately non-normative account of normative "ought" terms. He proposes that "ought" sentences imply a shared concern for unstated goals, for example, when someone says "Citizens ought not to condone their government‘s practicing torture", the audience will understand this to mean something like: "[In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people], citizens ought not to condone their government‘s practicing torture". When it comes to the basic ought sentences, of which the example is here: "suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people", Finlay suggests that an "ought" statement is effectively a demand, it's using a tautology: "[In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people], suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people" to function as a rhetorical device, like saying "it is what it is". The demand is that the audience share the concern of the speaker. I think this is a more sophisticated version of what I'm saying, that in the end moral "ought" statements function as threats, because a demand implies a threat, and the clear operational threat in most moral speech is that of disapproval or worse sanctions from the community.

The three examples quoted below of basic ethical “ought” statements which Finlay puts forward all, as he says, assume a basic altruism. The practical point is that this rhetorical demand that people should share the concern "that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people" is only going to work in the real social world if most people do in fact share this basic altruistic concern. (There will be other concerns at work, the use of the "ought" statement is to bring this one to the fore.) This is where modern evolutionary theory does not get in the way, there's no incompatibility between, on the one hand, the theory and experimental results of modern evolutionary theory and, on the other hand, the predisposition to object to suffering being inflicted on innocent people which is required for Stephen Finlay's proposal to work in practice. The older evolutionary theory, that natural selection can only programme us to be self-interested, was a hefty road block to a naturalistic account of ethics like this one, because it was unable in principle to account for altruistic predispositions. The modern evolutionary theory doesn't need to state that any particular altruistic predisposition evolved, it's only the compatibility in principle which is vital for a naturalistic account of ethics. I'm quoting from the paper below, my additions are in double brackets:
Stephen Finlay (2008 Oughts and Ends) wrote:
I shall propose a theory of the semantics of ‗ought‘, consisting of six theses, which I call
the end-relational theory. This theory is reductive or broadly naturalistic, decomposing "ought" into a complex of nonnormative terms or concepts, and is thus a "cognitivist" account, although it has a significant expressivist or noncognitivist element. There are many reasons for wanting such a reductive analysis, but I shall not address them here;
……………………………..
(20‘) [In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people] Citizens ought not to
condone their government‘s practicing torture;
(21‘) [In order that he preserves his health] Grover ought to brush his teeth more often;
(22‘) [In order that you avoid irrationality] You ought not to believe a contradiction.
These sentences are all plausibly true; might they also be plausible interpretations of what someone might mean to assert on some particular occasion of uttering (20)-(22) ((Statements 20 - 22 are the statements above without the square bracketed parts))? It is highly unlikely that every use of (20)-(22) is elliptical for (20‘)-(22‘), but there are indefinitely many alternative ends, providing plausible interpretations of these other utterances. I suggest that if (20)-(22) are not true in virtue of their relation to these specified or alternative ends, then it is not immediately obvious that and how they are true at all. On the hypothesis that (20)-(22) are elliptical for claims like those expressed by (20‘)-(22‘), there is a ready explanation available for their special practical significance. In each case, the end is something that we find important or that matters to us (assuming a basic altruism).

.....................

However, in paradigms of categorical use this presupposition ((that the audience shares the implied concern)) is false; there are no plausible candidates for a relevant end that matters both to speaker and audience. What is an audience to make of a speech act that presupposes a context that transparently does not obtain?
Here we encounter a rhetorical device. To speak in a way that supposes something to be true of your audience that is clearly controversial or false is a way of expressing a demand that it be true of them; consider "In this family, we do not belch at the dinner table!" and "You will come here!" By categorical use of "ought", therefore, a speaker expresses the demand that his audience share his concern for the relevant end, and consequently for the behaviour at issue.
On the supposition that the end-relational theory is correct, therefore, a speaker may through categorical use of "ought" (omitting specification of a non-shared end) express, by virtue of these conversational principles, the demand that his audience have concern for that end and that they act accordingly. I propose:
Sixth Thesis: Categorical uses of ‘ought’ are rhetorical uses of the endrelational
‘ought’ based on ellipsis.
On this proposal, the characteristic features of categorical use are understood largely as the expressivists suggest, but as a pragmatic rather than the semantic function of "ought". I shall now suggest that categorical uses of "ought" are constituted by not one, but a family of different rhetorical uses, falling into two categories. In one, the audience can identify the end despite its not being in (the forefront of) the context.36 In the other, they are unable to identify any relevant end.
An audience may be able to identify an appropriate end despite its being missing from
the (foreground of the) shared context in at least the following three ways. First, the end might be discernable from the speaker‘s own known concerns. Second, a categorical use of "ought" can invoke a social institution based on this rhetorical device, whereby there are certain ends that are socially "expected" of agents: a morality. Where such an institution exists, an audience is able to glean from content and categorical use of an ought-sentence that it assumes qualification by these moral ends. In my view this is often what happens when we make moral claims.


My third suggestion offers a preliminary answer to the problem of ultimate ends, previously set aside.
((
Some examples of ultimate moral ends were brought up earlier:
(23) Suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people;
(24) Grover ought to preserve his health;
(25) You ought to avoid irrationality.
))
Ought-propositions concerning ultimate ends may be merely a limiting case for the end-relational theory, because we can generate trivially true end-relational interpretations of (23)-(25) as the following tautologies:
(23‘) [In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people,] Suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people;
(24‘) [In order that he preserves his health,] Grover ought to preserve his health;
(25‘) [In order that you avoid irrationality,] You ought to avoid irrationality
These interpretations may seem quite implausible. While (23‘)-(25‘) are trivial, (23)-(25) seem to be potentially relevant, informative, and even important for communicative purposes.
However, if the real conversational function of uttering (23)-(25) is to demand motivation towards the relevant ends (or at least the prescribed behaviour) rather than to convey their semantic content, then their significance is quite compatible with their being tautologous. We often find that communicative purposes can be served by asserting tautologies: consider "A fact is a fact" and "It ain‘t over till it‘s over". With regard to the communication problem, tautologies may present an advantage. If the relevant ends aren‘t salient in any other way, there may be a default assumption that the intended end is identical with the "means". This interpretation of (23)-(25) is admittedly speculative...........
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#364  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 29, 2017 10:38 pm

The puzzling fact is that moral prescriptions like the one you cite (suffering of innocent people) are either not actually effective (which is why people keep issuing them, presumably) or else are being issued superfluously.

The realistic picture (the one saturated with evolutionary sauciness) is that very few people disagree with the prescription, in principle at least, so it represents some kind of fact, the way such tautologies go. An additional point is that, if it has been effective, then it only gets issued because it feels good to issue such statements.

I'd hate to think that issuing moral prescriptions is just some sort of endorphin-charged entertainment, wouldn't you? Perhaps if you got out more, you'd either confirm that the world is a nasty place in spite of your assumptions about evolutionary saturation, or else it's jim-dandy, and you can stop worrying about our ignorance of brain mechanism. Or maybe it's neither, and that's why it gets issued, but that either puts a bit of a damper on evolutionary saturation or concludes that the saturation is made of endorphins.

Or maybe your suggestion is that the hearing the constant din of moral prescriptions issued is what gives people the predisposition to agree with them. I don't know what you call that; if that's not your suggestion, what is? This is the problem with beliefs; you only hear people say what they believe, and they could be lying.

My sense of things is that the ethics branch of ev psych and neuroscience is talking the kind of bollocks that makes for an endorphin-charged entertainment of pretending to understand a problem that is purported to be important to us. When I want to be entertained in that way, I watch a Bruce Willis "Die Hard" episode.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#365  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 30, 2017 7:32 am

surreptitious57 wrote:And also the particularly intractable problem of using the brain to understand the brain. Maybe the machines of the future will help there


It's not just intractable for the human brain simply sitting there cogitating, with its thumb up its ass. It's computationally intractable, too. To know what I mean by that, you'll have to learn something about the kinds of algorithms that run on computers. Even if you use a whole computer (processor) to model the state of a single neuron, you need a lot of these, and they have to communicate with each other at some rate of data transmission. The speed of light is finite, and is smaller in a material medium than in a vacuum. Don't forget to include the hormonal imbalances. There's this old computer geek joke about unsophisticated people who propose big ideas, referring to such people as "vacuum tubes".
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#366  Postby archibald » Oct 02, 2017 12:34 pm

zoon wrote:My view on determinism and ethics comes in 2 parts, and I think both parts are essential to ethics as we know it:

1. All the evidence is that we are fully determinate mechanisms (with the usual caveats, e.g. quantum indeterminacy doesn’t count here).

2. We don’t, so far, know in any useful detail how those mechanisms actually work.

I think our ignorance of our brain mechanisms is essential to morality as it currently operates because if, or when, neuroscience enables people to predict and modify brains routinely with something approaching the accuracy and detail of modifying a car engine, then social life will be very different in ways we cannot easily predict from here, and that would include the way morality works, if morality’s still there at all. In that respect, I’m agreeing with people who say that in the end determinism is incompatible with moral realism: I’m saying that it’s only while we remain functionally indeterminate because of our ignorance of brain mechanisms, that we still use morality in its current form.


It's true, I think, that if we ever became able to fully predict each other, it would change things dramatically. But as when we discussed free will, I'm again not sure if we would need to get that far in order to modify the way we think about either free will or ethics in the meantime. We could (and there are cases which could be/are made for why we should) gradually change our approach to both anyway. Belief in free will could weaken (arguably is already happening) and morality could become more the domain of science (arguably is already happening).

zoon wrote:Meanwhile, I agree with your doubts about people like Sam Harris when they try to claim that science at this stage would be expected to have a major effect on the actual practice (rather than the background) of ethics. So far, science has given us very little new information about how our social lives operate in terms of basic science, that is, in terms of the actual brain mechanisms. Neuroscience is still grappling with the basics of brain function, never mind the massive self-reflexive complexities of human social behaviour. As you say, it’s not a good idea to underestimate the effect of scientific discoveries either, but I don’t think I would want to revolutionise ethics on a scientific basis for the time being. Wise uncle sounds good.

Looking at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on moral realism, it does mention some philosophers who are suggesting moral realism is compatible with scientific causality. I’ve been looking at a paper by one of them, Stephen Finlay, and I think his approach is similar to mine, though of course much more thought through. He suggests that basic moral assumptions, e.g. “Suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people” are in the end demands that the audience should share the same concern as the speaker. This is like my view, though I was emphasising the threat which underlies a “demand”. I don’t think it’s the same as Sam Harris’ view, because I think he sets a single normative value as basic, the “well-being of conscious creatures”, rather than taking the more descriptive line, including the various basic moral assumptions that people tend to have such as “people ought to look after their health” or “people ought to avoid irrationality”. I don’t think Sam Harris even attempts to show why scientific evidence tells us that the “well-being of conscious creatures” is a paramount value (and I would guess rather few people in practice take it as their paramount value), which is worrying if the main claim of the book is that science can give us moral values. It’s a fighting try at tackling the question.


Yes, it is a fighting try (and I've just bought the book) but I suspect, like you that it's a bit premature. I'm hoping Sam Harris realises this and is essentially just arguing for more input from what he calls science and not proposing that we make drastic changes right this instant. So far, in anything I've heard from or read by him, he does seem aware of this limitation, such as when he talks of at least asking the right questions, even if we don't currently know the answers, or looking in what he calls the right places, even if we currently can't find answers in them. He is essentially arguing that there appears to be something akin to an unwarranted NOMA approach to ethics on the part of both scientists and philosophers, and I tend to agree with him that it's unwarranted in principle, for somewhat similar reasons to when I agreed with Dawkins when he questioned the NOMA standpoint when it came to science and religion.

And I think that the aspect he may be weakest on is what I've been calling the popularity contest aspect, what you refer to as the audience's agreement (which does, as you say, often involve a threat of sanctions, of varying degrees of severity). This is an area where science in its current form may be least able to make prescriptions that go beyond advice, not least given that political science (along with psychology and sociology) are still comparatively fledgling and prone to uncertainty and unreliability, riddled as they seem to be with the vagaries of human capriciousness and other complexities.

As to your last point, Sam Harris does attempt to justify taking human wellbeing as paramount, on the basis that it's what everybody strives for and largely what evolution has made us to do. When you say that few people in practice take it as their paramount value, what do you have in mind?
Last edited by archibald on Oct 02, 2017 12:52 pm, edited 14 times in total.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#367  Postby archibald » Oct 02, 2017 12:36 pm

zoon wrote:Stephen Finlay, in his 2008 paper "Oughts and Ends" here, puts forward "end relational theory" to give an ultimately non-normative account of normative "ought" terms. He proposes that "ought" sentences imply a shared concern for unstated goals, for example, when someone says "Citizens ought not to condone their government‘s practicing torture", the audience will understand this to mean something like: "[In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people], citizens ought not to condone their government‘s practicing torture". When it comes to the basic ought sentences, of which the example is here: "suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people", Finlay suggests that an "ought" statement is effectively a demand, it's using a tautology: "[In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people], suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people" to function as a rhetorical device, like saying "it is what it is". The demand is that the audience share the concern of the speaker. I think this is a more sophisticated version of what I'm saying, that in the end moral "ought" statements function as threats, because a demand implies a threat, and the clear operational threat in most moral speech is that of disapproval or worse sanctions from the community.

The three examples quoted below of basic ethical “ought” statements which Finlay puts forward all, as he says, assume a basic altruism. The practical point is that this rhetorical demand that people should share the concern "that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people" is only going to work in the real social world if most people do in fact share this basic altruistic concern. (There will be other concerns at work, the use of the "ought" statement is to bring this one to the fore.) This is where modern evolutionary theory does not get in the way, there's no incompatibility between, on the one hand, the theory and experimental results of modern evolutionary theory and, on the other hand, the predisposition to object to suffering being inflicted on innocent people which is required for Stephen Finlay's proposal to work in practice. The older evolutionary theory, that natural selection can only programme us to be self-interested, was a hefty road block to a naturalistic account of ethics like this one, because it was unable in principle to account for altruistic predispositions. The modern evolutionary theory doesn't need to state that any particular altruistic predisposition evolved, it's only the compatibility in principle which is vital for a naturalistic account of ethics. I'm quoting from the paper below, my additions are in double brackets:
Stephen Finlay (2008 Oughts and Ends) wrote:
I shall propose a theory of the semantics of ‗ought‘, consisting of six theses, which I call
the end-relational theory. This theory is reductive or broadly naturalistic, decomposing "ought" into a complex of nonnormative terms or concepts, and is thus a "cognitivist" account, although it has a significant expressivist or noncognitivist element. There are many reasons for wanting such a reductive analysis, but I shall not address them here;
……………………………..
(20‘) [In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people] Citizens ought not to
condone their government‘s practicing torture;
(21‘) [In order that he preserves his health] Grover ought to brush his teeth more often;
(22‘) [In order that you avoid irrationality] You ought not to believe a contradiction.
These sentences are all plausibly true; might they also be plausible interpretations of what someone might mean to assert on some particular occasion of uttering (20)-(22) ((Statements 20 - 22 are the statements above without the square bracketed parts))? It is highly unlikely that every use of (20)-(22) is elliptical for (20‘)-(22‘), but there are indefinitely many alternative ends, providing plausible interpretations of these other utterances. I suggest that if (20)-(22) are not true in virtue of their relation to these specified or alternative ends, then it is not immediately obvious that and how they are true at all. On the hypothesis that (20)-(22) are elliptical for claims like those expressed by (20‘)-(22‘), there is a ready explanation available for their special practical significance. In each case, the end is something that we find important or that matters to us (assuming a basic altruism).

.....................

However, in paradigms of categorical use this presupposition ((that the audience shares the implied concern)) is false; there are no plausible candidates for a relevant end that matters both to speaker and audience. What is an audience to make of a speech act that presupposes a context that transparently does not obtain?
Here we encounter a rhetorical device. To speak in a way that supposes something to be true of your audience that is clearly controversial or false is a way of expressing a demand that it be true of them; consider "In this family, we do not belch at the dinner table!" and "You will come here!" By categorical use of "ought", therefore, a speaker expresses the demand that his audience share his concern for the relevant end, and consequently for the behaviour at issue.
On the supposition that the end-relational theory is correct, therefore, a speaker may through categorical use of "ought" (omitting specification of a non-shared end) express, by virtue of these conversational principles, the demand that his audience have concern for that end and that they act accordingly. I propose:
Sixth Thesis: Categorical uses of ‘ought’ are rhetorical uses of the endrelational
‘ought’ based on ellipsis.
On this proposal, the characteristic features of categorical use are understood largely as the expressivists suggest, but as a pragmatic rather than the semantic function of "ought". I shall now suggest that categorical uses of "ought" are constituted by not one, but a family of different rhetorical uses, falling into two categories. In one, the audience can identify the end despite its not being in (the forefront of) the context.36 In the other, they are unable to identify any relevant end.
An audience may be able to identify an appropriate end despite its being missing from
the (foreground of the) shared context in at least the following three ways. First, the end might be discernable from the speaker‘s own known concerns. Second, a categorical use of "ought" can invoke a social institution based on this rhetorical device, whereby there are certain ends that are socially "expected" of agents: a morality. Where such an institution exists, an audience is able to glean from content and categorical use of an ought-sentence that it assumes qualification by these moral ends. In my view this is often what happens when we make moral claims.


My third suggestion offers a preliminary answer to the problem of ultimate ends, previously set aside.
((
Some examples of ultimate moral ends were brought up earlier:
(23) Suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people;
(24) Grover ought to preserve his health;
(25) You ought to avoid irrationality.
))
Ought-propositions concerning ultimate ends may be merely a limiting case for the end-relational theory, because we can generate trivially true end-relational interpretations of (23)-(25) as the following tautologies:
(23‘) [In order that suffering not be inflicted on innocent people,] Suffering ought not to be inflicted on innocent people;
(24‘) [In order that he preserves his health,] Grover ought to preserve his health;
(25‘) [In order that you avoid irrationality,] You ought to avoid irrationality
These interpretations may seem quite implausible. While (23‘)-(25‘) are trivial, (23)-(25) seem to be potentially relevant, informative, and even important for communicative purposes.
However, if the real conversational function of uttering (23)-(25) is to demand motivation towards the relevant ends (or at least the prescribed behaviour) rather than to convey their semantic content, then their significance is quite compatible with their being tautologous. We often find that communicative purposes can be served by asserting tautologies: consider "A fact is a fact" and "It ain‘t over till it‘s over". With regard to the communication problem, tautologies may present an advantage. If the relevant ends aren‘t salient in any other way, there may be a default assumption that the intended end is identical with the "means". This interpretation of (23)-(25) is admittedly speculative...........


That paper looks interesting and I hope to find the time to read it soon. Thanks for posting.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#368  Postby archibald » Oct 03, 2017 12:51 pm

archibald wrote:That paper looks interesting and I hope to find the time to read it soon. Thanks for posting.


Read it now and am half-thinking, 'there's an hour of my life I'll never get back', in that the writer seemed to take about 30 pages to say what (a) might have been said in 4 and (b) roughly what Sam Harris already said (with the possible exception of the audience/popularity thing). :)
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#369  Postby zoon » Oct 03, 2017 6:14 pm

archibald wrote:
archibald wrote:That paper looks interesting and I hope to find the time to read it soon. Thanks for posting.


Read it now and am half-thinking, 'there's an hour of my life I'll never get back', in that the writer seemed to take about 30 pages to say what (a) might have been said in 4 and (b) roughly what Sam Harris already said (with the possible exception of the audience/popularity thing). :)

Sorry about that :oops: , I have to admit I found myself getting more lost the second time I tried to work out what he was saying, and I’m far from clear now. In my post, I was picking up the parts that suited me, I was using him as an example of a philosopher who was saying that moral realism and science are compatible. It’s true that Sam Harris is also saying very firmly that they are compatible (in which I think I agree with him), and he’s a lot clearer than Finlay, but perhaps because he’s so much clearer I find I don’t agree with him on a somewhat central point. Sam Harris says, I think, that the single aim of moral action (which comes down to all actions other than mistakes of one kind or another) is to maximise the wellbeing of conscious creatures. Actually, I think in “The Moral Landscape” he then waffles between saying we ought to care as much about all other creatures as ourselves (which is utilitarianism, and I don’t see how it could work), and saying we ought to care about our own wellbeing, which is egoistic consequentialism*, and a very different beast, more like Social Darwinism. The usefulness of any ethical system, I should have thought, is to provide some guidance between those two very different poles, rather than failing to address the point that they are different. This is where I’m happier with ethicists like Stephen Finlay, who come down in the end to the moral predispositions that we find we have, such as that suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people, and that people should act to preserve their health and should avoid irrationality. Traditional ethicists (or at any rate, some of them) merely stated firmly that these basic ethical predispositions are rational, while I think they are evolved, but I agree with those traditionalists that ethics is a somewhat messy business, based largely on a number of separate predispositions which we happen to find in ourselves. Sam Harris gives what looks like a simpler answer, but I think it relies too heavily on a vagueness at the centre, whether he expects us to care about the wellbeing of all sentient creatures equally or not, and if not, how much we should care about the others. I’m probably being too dismissive of “The Moral Landscape”, I suppose my version of ethics also comes down to a single idea, to keep the local community flourishing (which in the modern world is the global community), and it’s a distinctly less uplifting idea than the wellbeing of all conscious creatures.
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*Quoting Wikipedia on Utilitarianism here
Wikipedia wrote:Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility. "Utility" is defined in various ways, usually in terms of the well-being of sentient entities. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action. Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as egoism, utilitarianism considers the interests of all beings equally.


Edited to add: I managed to miss your post #366 above. Your question was:
As to your last point, Sam Harris does attempt to justify taking human wellbeing as paramount, on the basis that it's what everybody strives for and largely what evolution has made us to do. When you say that few people in practice take it as their paramount value, what do you have in mind?

What I had in mind was the point that's made against utilitarianism, which states that we should take each person's wellbeing equally into account, not putting ourselves or our family first. This is, probably, clearly unrealistic? - some communes have tried it, but it doesn't seem to last long. I agree that Sam Harris doesn't say this part of the time, his specific examples do tend to be about people thinking for themselves and their children, but this is where I don't think he's even beginning to tackle the real tension in much, perhaps most, moral thinking, which is between how much for myself and my immediate family, versus how much for the community in general. He speaks as though everybody focusing on their own wellbeing is the same thing as everyone looking after everyone else's wellbeing equally with their own, but in fact they require us to take very different actions. At any rate, that's where my reading of the book finds a problem. (Another vagueness is that sometimes he's talking about all sentient beings, and sometimes about humans, these would again imply very different courses of action.)
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#370  Postby romansh » Oct 03, 2017 6:51 pm

archibald wrote:
In fact in might go further and say that you could also leave both morals and ethics in using the same, essentially pragmatic and empirical approach, and end up saying that we do need all three (morals, ethics and justice), just not, perhaps, in the way that they are traditionally conceived of.

And just to try to throw an amicable spanner in what I'm guessing part of your response might be (about your aspiring to amoralism, with which I have no issue and which I broadly admire)......can I ask the question, is deciding to be morally neutral or if you like taking a tolerant and accepting stance on something (eg homosexuality, when one is not a homosexual oneself) not in itself still a moral decision? :mrgreen:

To me this thread is closely linked with the subject of free will ... sorry Cito

I have desires, wants ... wills if you like. These as far as I can tell are products of prior causes. No sensible person would argue against this, I think. Do I control these desires? I feel I do, but I don't think so. To keep vaguely on topic I could say the same of morals. Why would I take up an inaccurate model (that I can't help but find inaccurate) in navigating my immediate bit of the universe? The only argument that makes sense to me would be evolution has provided me a "short cut" to making choices regarding my behaviours and perhaps those of others? Is this short cut infallible? No. Is the identifying behaviour that will likely lead to successful implementation of my desires infallible? No. For some reason that escapes me I have elected the latter route.

I don't see this as a neutral moral stance. It is also related to the colour thread. Morality like colour exist as concepts as do the luminiferous ether, unicorns etc. I don't have to believe in them. But I can use them.

Not sure I answered your question?
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#371  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2017 4:15 am

zoon wrote:Sam Harris says, I think, that the single aim of moral action (which comes down to all actions other than mistakes of one kind or another) is to maximise the wellbeing of conscious creatures


It's just easier said than done. Which gets back to what I said about the pleasures of making sepulchral pronouncements. It's also easier said than done to adopt an 'evidence-based approach' to solving social problems. I'm not saying we should stop trying, but discussions of morality from that perspective are little more than marketing the social sciences. I'm not saying the social sciences are completely ineffective, only that you have to do a lot of politicking to argue that they're cost-effective in solving particular problems, especially in areas like this. Discussions of morality throw caution to the winds as far as cost is concerned. No problem is too small.

Go ahead, try to find an evidence-based approach to "the well-being of sentient organisms". It sounds good on paper, but in practice it means collecting armloads of statistics using the dull, rusty scalpel of survey research. Neuroscience? Remember what I said about computational intractability. It's survey research dressed up with pretty, brightly-colored images of brain scans. Later for you, pal.

zoon wrote:This is where I’m happier with ethicists like Stephen Finlay, who come down in the end to the moral predispositions that we find we have, such as that suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people, and that people should act to preserve their health and should avoid irrationality.


Easier said than done. But yeah, it looks good on paper, and convinces you that you've argued your way to a conclusion. But soft! It's the assumption you started with! Surprise! Oops, sorry. No surprises in circular reasoning, although it fools some people (like, say, Finlay) into thinking they did some heavy intellectual lifting. Still, hours of your life you won't get back if you thought a golden treasure awaited.

Do you think the people Stephen Paddock was shooting at were innocent? Sure, they were innocent of causing Stephen Paddock enough personal aggravation to shoot at them in particular. Oh, wait. You're not justified in shooting people just because they aggravate you, but you are if they are already shooting at you. Write me a dissertation on self-preservation. The lesson here is not to give yourself away by using the word 'innocent', which is a religious reference (see terms like "slaughter of innocents"). Use the legal term "not guilty".
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#372  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2017 6:36 am

romansh wrote:
To me this thread is closely linked with the subject of free will ... sorry Cito

I have desires, wants ... wills if you like. These as far as I can tell are products of prior causes. No sensible person would argue against this, I think. Do I control these desires? I feel I do, but I don't think so. To keep vaguely on topic I could say the same of morals. Why would I take up an inaccurate model (that I can't help but find inaccurate) in navigating my immediate bit of the universe? The only argument that makes sense to me would be evolution has provided me a "short cut" to making choices regarding my behaviours and perhaps those of others? Is this short cut infallible? No. Is the identifying behaviour that will likely lead to successful implementation of my desires infallible? No. For some reason that escapes me I have elected the latter route.


The question I have for you is how much effort you want to put into documenting the obvious and at the same time pretending that you're doing some thinking. Or, maybe that's not your aim, and you just want to make friendly noises at fellow primates.

When you talk about 'inaccuracy', make sure you have a target with respect to which you're going to assess accuracy.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#373  Postby archibald » Oct 04, 2017 8:12 am

zoon wrote:Sorry about that :oops: , I have to admit I found myself getting more lost the second time I tried to work out what he was saying, and I’m far from clear now. In my post, I was picking up the parts that suited me, I was using him as an example of a philosopher who was saying that moral realism and science are compatible. It’s true that Sam Harris is also saying very firmly that they are compatible (in which I think I agree with him), and he’s a lot clearer than Finlay, but perhaps because he’s so much clearer I find I don’t agree with him on a somewhat central point. Sam Harris says, I think, that the single aim of moral action (which comes down to all actions other than mistakes of one kind or another) is to maximise the wellbeing of conscious creatures. Actually, I think in “The Moral Landscape” he then waffles between saying we ought to care as much about all other creatures as ourselves (which is utilitarianism, and I don’t see how it could work), and saying we ought to care about our own wellbeing, which is egoistic consequentialism*, and a very different beast, more like Social Darwinism. The usefulness of any ethical system, I should have thought, is to provide some guidance between those two very different poles, rather than failing to address the point that they are different. This is where I’m happier with ethicists like Stephen Finlay, who come down in the end to the moral predispositions that we find we have, such as that suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people, and that people should act to preserve their health and should avoid irrationality. Traditional ethicists (or at any rate, some of them) merely stated firmly that these basic ethical predispositions are rational, while I think they are evolved, but I agree with those traditionalists that ethics is a somewhat messy business, based largely on a number of separate predispositions which we happen to find in ourselves. Sam Harris gives what looks like a simpler answer, but I think it relies too heavily on a vagueness at the centre, whether he expects us to care about the wellbeing of all sentient creatures equally or not, and if not, how much we should care about the others. I’m probably being too dismissive of “The Moral Landscape”, I suppose my version of ethics also comes down to a single idea, to keep the local community flourishing (which in the modern world is the global community), and it’s a distinctly less uplifting idea than the wellbeing of all conscious creatures.


I didn't have a problem with Finlay, I just found myself agreeing with him very readily early on. What I thought he was making a case for was essentially that we can get oughts from is's, because in the end, all oughts (bar an explanation for them which he rejects, namely that oughts exist independently or as truly objective absolutes) are conditioned by end-related qualifiers, such as 'if you don't want to go to prison, you ought not to commit murder' and others reduce to tautologies ('in order to comply with the law, one should comply with the law'). He accepts, I think, that the regress of justifications can only ever stop at an agreed or assumed or subjective place.

To me, it was very much the same as Sam Harris, with the previously mentioned addition in Finlay's case (highlighted by you) that politics/popularity/audience concerns are a major factor.

As for Harris starting to talk about how we ought to treat other conscious or sentient creatures, I haven't got to that bit of the book yet, so can't comment. I agree that at first sight, it doesn't seem to naturally follow from his major premise (the wellbeing of humans) unless perhaps, there is a way to link the wellbeing of the rest of the planet to our wellbeing (which I think there is). But as I say, I haven't heard Harris on this yet.




zoon wrote:
As to your last point, Sam Harris does attempt to justify taking human wellbeing as paramount, on the basis that it's what everybody strives for and largely what evolution has made us to do. When you say that few people in practice take it as their paramount value, what do you have in mind?

What I had in mind was the point that's made against utilitarianism, which states that we should take each person's wellbeing equally into account, not putting ourselves or our family first. This is, probably, clearly unrealistic? - some communes have tried it, but it doesn't seem to last long. I agree that Sam Harris doesn't say this part of the time, his specific examples do tend to be about people thinking for themselves and their children, but this is where I don't think he's even beginning to tackle the real tension in much, perhaps most, moral thinking, which is between how much for myself and my immediate family, versus how much for the community in general. He speaks as though everybody focusing on their own wellbeing is the same thing as everyone looking after everyone else's wellbeing equally with their own, but in fact they require us to take very different actions. At any rate, that's where my reading of the book finds a problem. (Another vagueness is that sometimes he's talking about all sentient beings, and sometimes about humans, these would again imply very different courses of action.)


Ah, I see better now what you were saying. I agree that not prioritising our own (individual or family) wellbeing does seem unrealistic and I agree that there is a tension between personal and social issues and that this is arguably the major tension in morality, and that it's arguably inevitable, especially for a social species. And one could add that it's a tension which the blind forces of nature (be they evolutionary or otherwise) solve very readily. Whatever blend works, survives, by and large. Which brings us back to the topic of Game Theory.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#374  Postby zoon » Oct 04, 2017 8:13 am

romansh wrote:
I have desires, wants ... wills if you like. These as far as I can tell are products of prior causes. No sensible person would argue against this, I think. Do I control these desires? I feel I do, but I don't think so. To keep vaguely on topic I could say the same of morals. Why would I take up an inaccurate model (that I can't help but find inaccurate) in navigating my immediate bit of the universe? The only argument that makes sense to me would be evolution has provided me a "short cut" to making choices regarding my behaviours and perhaps those of others? Is this short cut infallible? No. Is the identifying behaviour that will likely lead to successful implementation of my desires infallible? No. For some reason that escapes me I have elected the latter route.

I don't see this as a neutral moral stance. It is also related to the colour thread. Morality like colour exist as concepts as do the luminiferous ether, unicorns etc. I don't have to believe in them. But I can use them.

Not sure I answered your question?

We could use the same argument on every last one of our desires? They are all evolutionary short cuts to the ultimate drive to maximise the representation of our genes in the next generation. For example, wanting to eat tasty food is an evolved short cut to gaining the nutrients which will help me help my genes. It would be somewhat weird, though, to fixate explicitly on my genes’ fate as the ultimate factor in all my decisions. I think it’s an interesting fact that that’s how all my desires originated, and it could perhaps be a tie-breaker if I had a decision in the balance, but in general I weigh my desires against each other.

All our basic desires probably evolved, both the self-interested and the not so self-interested. I think I can say that other things being equal, I would prefer that innocent people in my community should not suffer. Which is an evolved desire, alongside my desire that my next meal should be reasonably tasty. It’s not that one is a short cut and the other is a real desire; either they are both really short cuts to my genes’ flourishing, or they are both really desires, depending on how I’m looking at them. If they happened to conflict, I might weigh them against each other, and either might win, but most of the time they aren’t in conflict, at least as far as my fairly elastic conscience is concerned. I was taking Stephen Finlay’s example of a moraI desire that most people have (link in my post #363 above, a more or less unreadable paper). He was taking it as basic, I’m assuming with him that it’s one you probably share? I might not be prepared to do much about the suffering of innocent people beyond supporting the taxes towards the welfare state, or perhaps signing a petition opposing a regime’s torturing innocents (Finlay’s example), but even that’s something. I’m more likely to support doing something for the innocent sufferers if the other non-suffering people in the community are joining in. It probably does help my genes, but that would not be the motivation, any more than it’s my motivation for eating a good meal or staying healthy.

(Just adding the point that either of those predispositions could be overridden by others as a result of further thinking through, a community may be too poor to do much about suffering, or we may have to keep to a restricted diet for health.) I’m using “basic” desire as one that comes at the end of a chain of reasoning explaining why someone has acted in a certain way, or why they should act in a certain way.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#375  Postby archibald » Oct 04, 2017 8:23 am

zoon wrote:I suppose my version of ethics also comes down to a single idea, to keep the local community flourishing (which in the modern world is the global community), and it’s a distinctly less uplifting idea than the wellbeing of all conscious creatures.


I agree that it's less uplifting than the wellbeing of all sentient creatures, and unless I later agree that Harris has justified the latter without compromising his major premise, I'll have no problem agreeing with you that he would seem to have gone 'softly idealistic'.

But......

Haven't you arguably gone soft too? Why the community as your single idea. What about Zoon? :)

The way I tend to try to resolve some of the tensions is by making a loose list in order of priorities. First, me. Then family, then other humans, then the planet. Obviously, there has to be flexibility when playing each of these cards in any given scenario. I might for example risk my own life to save the planet in a dire emergency in order that my family can survive.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#376  Postby archibald » Oct 04, 2017 8:59 am

Stephen Paddock is a good example to cite (or rather the actions of Stephen Paddock are) if we are talking about better ways to approach and justify moral judgements in the ways that have been put forward (by Sam Harris, Finlay, etc).

Because whatever the inevitable flaws and complications, those approaches are better than what we are hearing on the TV, that we are dealing with 'pure evil'.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#377  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2017 10:01 am

archibald wrote:Stephen Paddock is a good example to cite (or rather the actions of Stephen Paddock are) if we are talking about better ways to approach and justify moral judgements in the ways that have been put forward (by Sam Harris, Finlay, etc).

Because whatever the inevitable flaws and complications, those approaches are better than what we are hearing on the TV, that we are dealing with 'pure evil'.


Obviously, moral judgements do not stop people like Stephen Paddock. Perhaps we believe that moral judgements somehow prevent a higher frequency of such events, but this depends on assessing the probabilities of stuff that didn't happen. What kind of sampling scheme helps with that? In order to test the effectiveness of a remedy, you have to withhold it for some sample. Can we do that? No, I don't think so. Better to just shut the fuck up. Stephen Paddock is no longer an issue, which is just a part of why I brought up his case.

Do moral judgements ensure that perpetrators like Paddock will off themselves, saving the cost of a trial? No, I don't think so in this case, either, but that's nothing compared with the cost to the families and friends of his victims.

We don't know what to do to prevent such events. Having a dialog about morality may calm some people down, but I'm pretty calm to begin with. While I don't approve of what Paddock did, I'm pretty dispassionate about it, since my passion could do nothing to change the course of history. To believe otherwise is to believe in the value of passion. I don't think Paddock's crime was one of passion; he made very careful preparations. The noise that comes up in threads like this one only serves to marginalize people who aren't passionate about moral issues. It could be that Paddock somehow felt marginalized. I don't know. Maybe he was just nuts.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#378  Postby zoon » Oct 04, 2017 11:03 am

archibald wrote:
zoon wrote:I suppose my version of ethics also comes down to a single idea, to keep the local community flourishing (which in the modern world is the global community), and it’s a distinctly less uplifting idea than the wellbeing of all conscious creatures.


I agree that it's less uplifting than the wellbeing of all sentient creatures, and unless I later agree that Harris has justified the latter without compromising his major premise, I'll have no problem agreeing with you that he would seem to have gone 'softly idealistic'.

But......

Haven't you arguably gone soft too? Why the community as your single idea. What about Zoon? :)

The way I tend to try to resolve some of the tensions is by making a loose list in order of priorities. First, me. Then family, then other humans, then the planet. Obviously, there has to be flexibility when playing each of these cards in any given scenario. I might for example risk my own life to save the planet in a dire emergency in order that my family can survive.

Yes, I could put more emphasis on the way most working moral systems expect, and to some extent require, people to look after themselves and their own families first - most of them are much as you describe. It's so obvious, and so clearly in line with evolutionary theory, that it can tend to be overlooked. One of the features of human moral systems that distinguishes human behaviour from that of most non-human animals is the greater concern for members of the community who are not immediate family, so it's that aspect of morality which tends to get most of the discussion. I'm not making such an effort as Sam Harris to give morality a single focus, so some more evolved predispositions thrown into the mix don't worry me? As you say, it's probably time I was more specific, though my main argument in this thread is only that ordinary working ethical systems, which do include predispositions to care for people outside immediate family, are not incompatible with evolutionary theory. Sam Harris is, I think, making a much stronger claim about science and morality, he's saying that science can tell us to change the way most of us think about what is moral, namely: we ought to care about the wellbeing of sentient creatures. He stresses that this is a clear and simple claim, but I think it isn't, because morality is usually more about which sentient creatures we should care about, how the competing claims of community, self, and immediate family are expected to be resolved into reasonably coherent plans of action. I think he barely addresses that point head on, but rather utilises strategic vagueness; sometimes he talks as though morality requires us to care about all sentient creatures equally, and sometimes he implies that thinking only about one's own wellbeing is quite enough for his morality. You will probably be reading The Moral Landscape more carefully than I have, I may be misjudging it. Rambling again, but I don't need to point that out.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#379  Postby romansh » Oct 04, 2017 3:33 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
The question I have for you is how much effort you want to put into documenting the obvious and at the same time pretending that you're doing some thinking. Or, maybe that's not your aim, and you just want to make friendly noises at fellow primates.

Based on our post counts ... we joined this forum at about the same time ... about ten percent of the effort you are making.
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Re: justice is a universal principle

#380  Postby romansh » Oct 04, 2017 4:34 pm

zoon wrote:We could use the same argument on every last one of our desires? ...

Yes. This to me means I have a need (desire will wish etc) to treat this sort of conversation with care. There is some degree of recursion in it.

If we define some morality ... do no harm or even do a little bit of "good". I get it. But I suspect we live in a "zero sum" universe. Sure by working together etc we can achieve more. But are we taking resources from some other third party or perhaps borrowing from the future. eg chopping down trees to build houses.

I am trying to think of some desire I carry out that is not considered moral. My morality and desires have an amazing good correlation. It is amazing what post hoc justification will do.

But yes we can define certain actions as moral or immoral (even perhaps morally neutral), but if we don't believe in free will, is there not just a little cognitive dissonance in taking some "ultimate" [Galen Strawson] responsibility for the "good" or "bad" we might do?
"That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!"
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romansh
 
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