Moral Blindness in the Name of “Tolerance”

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Re: Moral Blindness in the Name of “Tolerance”

#21  Postby Beatsong » Dec 21, 2010 1:06 am

I also have a major problem with this,:

There are girls getting their faces burned off with acid at this moment for daring to learn to read, or for not consenting to marry men they have never met, or even for the “crime” of getting raped. The amazing thing is that some Western intellectuals won’t even blink when asked to defend these practices on philosophical grounds.

I think he's full of shit, and I would challenge him to name one widely respected, published western intellectual who morally defends people throwing acid in girls' faces for these reasons.

This is a disturbingly common lie in arguments like this: the idea that anybody who isn't a rabid thoughtless muslim-hater must be in favour of every atrocity carried out in some muslim countries.

Harris isn't a friend of G.W.Bush by any chance, is he? :lol:
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Re: Moral Blindness in the Name of “Tolerance”

#22  Postby Ecce Feles » Dec 21, 2010 2:04 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:
Take food preferences for example, and suppose that most people are Preference Relativists (that is, we believe that there is no universally accepted form of "tasty" and "yucky"). Sam Harris is saying that if we assume there is no objective measure here, then all of us who enjoy chocolate ice cream cannot try to convince people who have lived their entire lives eating tree bark that they should try chocolate ice cream. In the real world, these Preference Relativists will probably say something like, "What the fuck are you eating tree bark for? Try this instead".

Actually I think he would be concerned that the tree bark eating people would just say "nah, I'm good", so he wants a sure fire way to make them switch to chocolate ice cream :grin:

I'm still not sure what to make of it, but he does make some points that I find very interesting. The argument about wellbeing is persuasive enough, but even if we agree that morality is means of improving wellbeing, much like medicine is means of improving health, can science reliably define wellbeing? It can barely define health I'm afraid :shifty: He assumes that there is no dispute over what it means to be healthy, but it's all too often defined as being exactly the same as most other people, physically and mentally, when in fact being different doesn't necessarily mean you're ill.

But on some things about what constitutes health we can agree (being gay means being different and healthy, having lung cancer means being different and ill), so maybe we can agree on some very basic definition of wellbeing? (Scientifically speaking, not as a popular consensus.)
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Re: Moral Blindness in the Name of “Tolerance”

#23  Postby Thommo » Dec 21, 2010 5:20 am

The repugnant conclusion:

I remember in a philosophy thread someone brought up this, I think it's a major stumbling block for Harris and his aspiration of a scientific morality.

To take a simple example, suppose that Harris actually did all that science and prepared all those definitions, that he takes as an article of faith are possible. So he comes up with a function H for happiness, so I can, say, brain scan Mr. Samsa and say, ok he's got a happiness of 27, but if I give him free chocolate pie for life he'll have a happiness of 28, or whatever other ludicrously implausible (on the grounds of computational feasability) scenario Harris thinks we will come up with.

Now, Harris suggests that it is obvious that we should simply maximise ΣH and that this is the definitive measure of morality, which of course flings itself blindly onto the repugnant conclusion.

Suppose I object. Suppose I say "bollocks Sam", it's obvious we should maximise Σ(H2). Which flings itself rather less onto the repugnant conclusion.

Who is to decide who is correct? How does science even theoretically address this difference of opinion? What about other values of x in Σ(Hx)?

Of course this is premised on assuming that Harris has done what probably amounts to hundreds of years of hard science and reached exactly the conclusion he expects (which science generally does not) and somehow overcome a seemingly insoluble issue of computational infeasability (brainscanning every human and possibly animal and computing some happiness value for them given any possible set of conditions) and overlooking the fact that he's talking about animal well being as measured by human well being.
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Re: Moral Blindness in the Name of “Tolerance”

#24  Postby Someone » Dec 21, 2010 6:00 am

The idea that conservatives have superior morals to liberals is a little like the idea in America that Republicans are for fiscal responsibility. It's a talking point in absolute contradiction to reality. The woman Harris supposedly talked to 1) probably doesn't even exist; 2) if she does exist, she most likely didn't say anything like what's reported; 3) if she did say something close to what's reported, she was probably taken entirely out of context; and 4) if she wasn't taken out of context, she probably was pulling Harris's leg because he's a shit.
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