On Morality

theotherguy
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On Morality

This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time. People on these forums, when presented with the argument from absolute morality by theists, generally retreat into moral conventionalism or moral subjectivism. They fall right into the trap of the theists. Moral conventionalism and moral subjectivism are VERY BAD ethical theories.

 

Here is a typical argument I often see on these forums:

Theist: "Well, if there is no god, then there are no absolute moral standards! Therefore, how can anyone be moral?"

Atheist 1 (conventionalist): "You're right. There are no absolute moral standards-- there are only the standards of society. We are moral because society tells us to be, and we must follow its mores and rules. Those are the standards we live by."

Atheist 2 (subjectivist): "You're right. There are no absolute moral standards-- only individual preference. We live by our feelings and preferences. Those are our moral standards."

Atheist 3 (genetic): "You're wrong. There is a moral standard. We have morals because of genetics. Those are the moral standards we live by."

 

All of these arguments fail, because they are completely arbitrary. I will attack Atheist 1's argument first:

Atheist 1 gives the conventionalist viewpoint. He believes that society provides moral standards. His argument is essentially this:

P1. Societies have different moral standards, which can change over time.

P2 (implied). The "right thing" is what a society says is right.

C. There are no objective moral standards, because every society has a different set of moral standards.

 

P2 is clearly false. Consider the same argument, but with "moral standards" replaced with scientific knowledge.

 

P1. Societies have different scientific knowledge. which can change over time.

P2 (implied). True  knowledge is  what each society says is scientific knowledge.

C. There is no truth, because every society has a different set of scientific facts.

 

ie. "In the stone age, people thought the world was flat. Now we think the world is round. Therefore, the world is both round and flat"

or "In ancient greece, they thought slavery was right. In America today, we think slavery is wrong. Therefore, slavery is neither right nor wrong."

 

The crux is, truth exists independent of a society's view on it. If moral standards existed, then what each society thought of the moral standard would have no bearing on the standard at all. Just because societies have different views on moral standards doesn't mean that objective, absolute moral standards do not exist.

 

Now I will attack the arguments of atheist 2 and 3.

Atheist 2's argument:

P1. People feel differently about certain actions. Some may like one action, and dislike another and find it repulsive.

P2. What is right is what each person feels is right.

C. There is no objective moral standard, because every person feels differently about different actions.

 

This argument fails for the same reason that the conventionalist argument fails. We have essentially reduced "society" to "individual," and here we have many different "micro-socieities" each with different standards. However, it is possible that an objective moral standard exists and that some people are simply wrong about them. P2 is false.

 

Atheist 3's argument:

P1. Genetics influences our feelings and behavior about certain events.

P2. What is right is what genetics tells us to do.

C. There is an objective moral standard, the standard of genetics.

 

Again, P2 is false. Genes simply affect our behavior, they do not tell us what is right, or what is true. Genetics answers the how and why of moral feelings. Genetics doesn't tell us what we ought to do.

 

If you believe in any of these ethical theories, I would suggest taking a philosophy or ethics class. The truth is, there is no dichotomy between theistic morality and moral subjectivism or conventionalism. These are not the only ethical theories in the world. There are other, objective, sometimes absolute, moral theories which are much better than any of these. And no, I'm not talking about utilitarianism, which is nearly as flawed as these arguments.

 


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theotherguy wrote:This is

theotherguy wrote:

This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time...

"This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time" I keep reading the EXACT same intro to tons of threads.


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theotherguy wrote:People...,

theotherguy wrote:
People..., when presented with the argument ...by theists, generally retreat .... They fall right into the trap of the theists....

This is EXACTLY what I said in my thread "Why Atheists can't debate Creationism."

They fall into the trap of the Theist by accepting the Theist position that gods exist, regardless of the acceptance being hypothetical . Immediately, by that acceptance the Theist can make ANY absurd claims, and the Atheist looks like a moron, and has been by their acceptance that gods exist.

Still, I get the same oldignorant shit from ignorant Atheists.


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theotherguy wrote:If you

theotherguy wrote:

If you believe in any of these ethical theories, I would suggest taking a philosophy or ethics class. The truth is, there is no dichotomy between theistic morality and moral subjectivism or conventionalism. These are not the only ethical theories in the world. There are other, objective, sometimes absolute, moral theories which are much better than any of these. And no, I'm not talking about utilitarianism, which is nearly as flawed as these arguments.

 

Out of curiosity, what moral theories are you talking about, then?

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theotherguy wrote:If you

theotherguy wrote:

If you believe in any of these ethical theories, I would suggest taking a philosophy or ethics class. The truth is, there is no dichotomy between theistic morality and moral subjectivism or conventionalism. These are not the only ethical theories in the world. There are other, objective, sometimes absolute, moral theories which are much better than any of these. And no, I'm not talking about utilitarianism, which is nearly as flawed as these arguments.


Haha! Excellent. So which (of the many) frameworks of morality do think it would be best to argue from? You can just throw author's names or schools of thought: I'm not asking for an essay.



But I agree: there are stronger arguments to be made, philosophically speaking.

 

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treat2 wrote:theotherguy

treat2 wrote:
theotherguy wrote:
People..., when presented with the argument ...by theists, generally retreat .... They fall right into the trap of the theists....
This is EXACTLY what I said in my thread "Why Atheists can't debate Creationism." They fall into the trap of the Theist by accepting the Theist position that gods exist, regardless of the acceptance being hypothetical . Immediately, by that acceptance the Theist can make ANY absurd claims, and the Atheist looks like a moron, and has been by their acceptance that gods exist. Still, I get the same oldignorant shit from ignorant Atheists.


Maybe if you stopped insulting people, they'd listen to you. Just a thought.

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All or nothing

It's safe to say that no matter what position you take on the origins of morality, all of which will be deemed arbitrary. Morality is a word that is often thrown around, I think people get confused between what's socially unacceptable and impratical and the needless paranoid compulsive nature humans have. So we use this word 'morality' to cover everything. I think it is more likely that if morality isn't just another word for 'bad and we don't know why' its probably a mixture of all of these things. Stances on paedophilia have definatley changed over time and has became a moral issue due to societies ever changing attitudes and the sexual repression religion has been pinpointed for causing in the world, examples of; subjectivism, historical influence (possibly weak verification) and religious compulsion. Whereas something like murder has always been ok if there are rules (war, if you agree) an example of both a direct moral issue that has supposedly been around since the dawn of civilised man, compulsion and subjectivism depending on personal preference.

So we're screwed basically.   

"Faith means not wanting to know what is true"
(Friedrich Nietzsche)


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Gamage90 wrote:So we're

Gamage90 wrote:

So we're screwed basically.   


Never! Maybe you're just suggesting that we came up with this cultural concept of morality that doesn't actually apply. That would explain why it falls apart so easily.



Have we honestly considered that morality isn't just a doily we place over our disapproval? Societal disapproval is different from subjective disapproval, but that's not news. So we don't need to argue in that case that it's only society that determines disapproval. In the case of the subjective, we know that there is also society, so it's not only the subjective that determines disapproval, either.



We at the very least have a combination of different factors that govern our disapproval. Arguing that one is the exclusive answer -- as theotherguy points out -- is trivially wrong.

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theotherguy wrote:This is

theotherguy wrote:

This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time. People on these forums, when presented with the argument from absolute morality by theists, generally retreat into moral conventionalism or moral subjectivism. They fall right into the trap of the theists. Moral conventionalism and moral subjectivism are VERY BAD ethical theories.

Because the whole concept of morality is bull shit. If someone preaches morality they are basically saying "Do as say, not as I do" and "Give me something for nothing in return".

What is your definition of morality? A set of behavioral codes one should follow? Why? To get a benefit. For the theist it's heaven and not hell. For the atheist it must be some benefit received from society and others who follow the same code.

In other words a contract. The theists make contracts with invisible men living in the sky and call this morality. The rational person believes in making social contracts.

Morality is BS concept made up by the powerful and rich to cheat and get something for nothing. You're a sucker for falling for this concept. Theists are suckers for the morality scam just as they are suckers for the 'you'll get the reward after you die" scam.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC wrote:Because the whole

EXC wrote:

Because the whole concept of morality is bull shit. If someone preaches morality they are basically saying "Do as say, not as I do" and "Give me something for nothing in return".

What is your definition of morality? A set of behavioral codes one should follow? Why? To get a benefit. For the theist it's heaven and not hell. For the atheist it must be some benefit received from society and others who follow the same code.

In other words a contract. The theists make contracts with invisible men living in the sky and call this morality. The rational person believes in making social contracts.

Morality is BS concept made up by the powerful and rich to cheat and get something for nothing. You're a sucker for falling for this concept. Theists are suckers for the morality scam just as they are suckers for the 'you'll get the reward after you die" scam.

I suppose I left out my counter-argument. It was pretty late when I wrote this anyway.

Ethics is the philosophical study of "what we ought to do, and why." A basis for "morality" is called an ethical theory. Ethical theories are a sets of axioms that tell people how they should behave.

I have mentioned theistic morality, subjectivism and conventionalism. Theistic morality ("Divine Command&quotEye-wink is based on the axiom "There is a god, and what god says I should do, I should do." This ethical theory is flawed for many reasons, but the killer reason (posed by socrates, in fact) is that there are many gods in the world-- and each of them tell you to do different things. Many commands contradict each other, even in the bible. Accepting one of them is thus arbitrary-- a matter of preference. For Divine command the "what we ought do" is "what God tells us." And the "why" is "because God is mighty."

I have already covered subjectivism and conventionalism and why they are flawed.

From here there are many different ethical theories that fall into a few broad categories. Two of these categories are consequentialism and deontological ethics. Consequentialism deals with the consequences of an action, and examining them; while deontological ethics deals with the intentions of an action. Some ethical theories merge the two, and some are purely in one camp or another.

One purely consequentialist ethical theory is utilitarianism. Some of the axioms of utilitarianism are: "There is suffering and happiness. Whatever increases happiness and/or decreases suffering is good. Everyone's happiness and suffering is equal." The "what we ought do" of utilitarianism is "increase net happiness," and the "why" is simply "because it is better to be happy than to suffer." Different utilitarian theories offer different interpretations of "happiness" and "suffering." Utilitarianism has many flaws. For one, since it treats every person equally, it allows us to do math to set up some very evil scenarios. For instance, utilitarianism would allow us to publicly torture and execute someone for sport, since the net joy and entertainment derived from it would be greater than the suffering of the person being executed. The biggest problem with utilitarianism, in my opinion, is that it requires each agent to make calculations on data that the agent does not know or cannot know. Nobody knows the slightest detail about what will make their neighbor happy; often, you can't even know what will make you happy. Many times, people will make a decision that they think will make them happy (buy a new car, marry that woman, get that promotion,) and end up just as miserable, if not more miserable, than before. Therefore, since calculations based on utilitarianism are often impossible, it is not a workable ethical theory. In fact, all consequentialist theories suffer from this same flaw. Most of the time, it is simply impossible to judge what the consequences of your actions will be; so it would be unjust to punish someone for an consequence that could not have been forseen.

One purely deontological theory is Kantism. Immanuel Kant posited the following: "Everything has either price or dignity. Things that have price are given price by beings that can think and are rational. Things of price can be replaced by other things of equal price. Human beings can think and are rational. Human beings have no price; they have dignity. Things with dignity cannot be replaced or exchanged. We have an ethical duty to respect things of dignity." The "what we ought do" of Kantism is "respect human beings," and the "why" is "They provide value (price) and thus have dignity." Many things follow from these axioms. For instance, it becomes clear that sacrificing anybody for "the good of all" is an evil act, because all human beings are priceless, and no one human being can be exchanged for any other. The deontological nature of the theory also follows from this framework, because it provides for the idea of duty; that is, regardless of the consequences, we have a duty to respect human beings. That is, all of our actions should be done with the intent of respecting one another. One of the most evil things you can do , according to a Kantian framework, is to use another human being as a tool. A famous Kant quote is "Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will." In Kant's view, people who perform acts with an evil conscience do not even deserve to be happy. Kantism has flaws as well. For instance, it follows from Kantism that lying is always wrong, even if you were lying to save someone's life. It also follows from Kantism that you could exterminate all of humanity to maintain justice.

I believe that a good personal ethical theory should take from both consequentialism and deontologicalism. We should examine both the immediate consequences and the intent of our actions; and examine these in others before condemning them or praising them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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theotherguy wrote:Ethics is

theotherguy wrote:

Ethics is the philosophical study of "what we ought to do, and why." A basis for "morality" is called an ethical theory. Ethical theories are a sets of axioms that tell people how they should behave.

Science has revealed that free-will is probably an illusion. So what we 'ought' to do is meaningless and irrelevant to everything.

Science has revealed what people "do" is based on expectation of reward and/or punishment. And that this is based on conditioning, learning and genetic traits that produce neurological pathways in the brain.  So doesn't this make the study of ethics and morality a study of something that does not exist(i.e. BS)?

Then to study ethics, would really be the study of how a scam is pulled off. People who push a morality standard have to invent imaginary rewards and punishments and sell them to others. Then they get other to behave in favorable ways to themselves based on the expectation of a reward or escape from punishment.

So talk of ethical theories is meaningless. You should instead study neurology, game theory and psychology if you want to discover what people "do" and why. Leave the study of 'ethics' back in the dark ages of human understanding.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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theotherguy wrote:One purely

theotherguy wrote:

One purely consequentialist ethical theory is utilitarianism. Some of the axioms of utilitarianism are: "There is suffering and happiness. Whatever increases happiness and/or decreases suffering is good. Everyone's happiness and suffering is equal." The "what we ought do" of utilitarianism is "increase net happiness," and the "why" is simply "because it is better to be happy than to suffer." Different utilitarian theories offer different interpretations of "happiness" and "suffering." Utilitarianism has many flaws. For one, since it treats every person equally, it allows us to do math to set up some very evil scenarios. For instance, utilitarianism would allow us to publicly torture and execute someone for sport, since the net joy and entertainment derived from it would be greater than the suffering of the person being executed. The biggest problem with utilitarianism, in my opinion, is that it requires each agent to make calculations on data that the agent does not know or cannot know. Nobody knows the slightest detail about what will make their neighbor happy; often, you can't even know what will make you happy. Many times, people will make a decision that they think will make them happy (buy a new car, marry that woman, get that promotion,) and end up just as miserable, if not more miserable, than before. Therefore, since calculations based on utilitarianism are often impossible, it is not a workable ethical theory. In fact, all consequentialist theories suffer from this same flaw. Most of the time, it is simply impossible to judge what the consequences of your actions will be; so it would be unjust to punish someone for an consequence that could not have been forseen.

 

All moral theories are problematic. But utilitarianism is as defensible as any "good" moral theory. The flaws that you've pointed out are not flaws in utilitarianism because your examples make unrealistic assumptions about how the world works.

The adoption of public torture and execution for sport would probably make more people frightened than happy. But even if it made people happy it wouldn't necessarily be the best consequence. You'd be living in a society where if you're wrongly accused instead of going to jail and having an appeals process you would be killed. The actual societal impact overall would most likely be negative.

The real problem with your assessment though is that the principle of utility is more a guide for choosing rules, than individual acts. The idea that each individual action should be evaluated by referencing the principle of utility is a flaw in classical utilitarianism but not so much in rule-utilitarianism. As a rule, not torturing and murdering people for sport works pretty well. Of course there are usually exceptions to rules but as I said all moral theories are problematic.   

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EXC wrote:Science has

EXC wrote:

Science has revealed that free-will is probably an illusion.

Nonsense. I hope you're not getting into genetic determinism.l

EXC wrote:

So what we 'ought' to do is meaningless and irrelevant to everything.

Science has revealed what people "do" is based on expectation of reward and/or punishment. And that this is based on conditioning, learning and genetic traits that produce neurological pathways in the brain.  So doesn't this make the study of ethics and morality a study of something that does not exist(i.e. BS)?

Absolutely not. You are employing the "is-ought" fallacy. It doesn't matter to ethics if most people do things expecting reward or punishment. It doesn't matter  to ethics how people actually behave. Ethics is not the study of behavior. It is not the study of what is. It is the study of what ought to be. Science is descriptive. It can only tell us what is. Philosophy is normative, it seeks to tell us what should be. Ethics is supposed to give you a code of behavior, which you follow on the basis of reason. Science does not give you a code of behavior. Science just tells you how you will most likely behave, or why you behave in a certain way. Science measures physical qualities, while philosophy measures values.

Both are useful studies-- but each is attempting to answer a different question. Just because ethics is not in the realm of science (ie, it is not descriptive) does not mean it is not important. For instance, you couldn't answer "How ought this government be run?" without political philosophy or ethics. You couldn't answer the question "How might I punish this criminal?" without ethics. You could not ask "How might I best apply this scientific discovery?" without some kind of ethical theory.

No matter how much you deny it, you cannot escape the fact that you make ethical judgements based on reason in almost everything you do.

EXC wrote:

Then to study ethics, would really be the study of how a scam is pulled off. People who push a morality standard have to invent imaginary rewards and punishments and sell them to others. Then they get other to behave in favorable ways to themselves based on the expectation of a reward or escape from punishment.

So talk of ethical theories is meaningless. You should instead study neurology, game theory and psychology if you want to discover what people "do" and why. Leave the study of 'ethics' back in the dark ages of human understanding.

Not all ethical theories are based on reward and punishment. In fact, most are not.

Again, you're missing the point. Neurology, game theory, and psychology tell us how people behave. They tell us why people behave in certain ways. They do nothing to tell us how we should behave. They do nothing to tell us how we should treat other people. Game theory itself, if used to tell how you should behave in a certain way, is employing an ethical theory called ethical egoism. Any time you use science to justify an action, you are inherently inventing or using an ethical theory. You simply cannot go about rationally planning your own actions without some kind of ethical theory.


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Gauche wrote:All moral

Gauche wrote:

All moral theories are problematic. But utilitarianism is as defensible as any "good" moral theory. The flaws that you've pointed out are not flaws in utilitarianism because your examples make unrealistic assumptions about how the world works.

The adoption of public torture and execution for sport would probably make more people frightened than happy. But even if it made people happy it wouldn't necessarily be the best consequence. You'd be living in a society where if you're wrongly accused instead of going to jail and having an appeals process you would be killed. The actual societal impact overall would most likely be negative.

The real problem with your assessment though is that the principle of utility is more a guide for choosing rules, than individual acts. The idea that each individual action should be evaluated by referencing the principle of utility is a flaw in classical utilitarianism but not so much in rule-utilitarianism. As a rule, not torturing and murdering people for sport works pretty well. Of course there are usually exceptions to rules but as I said all moral theories are problematic.   

Rule utilitarianism reduces to act utilitarianism. Suppose that you have a rule that when broken, creates greater utility in a broad range of cases. (ie, lie to save someone's life is always better than telling the truth and letting them die); so, you could imagine a "sub-rule" which governs this case. However, within this case there are many other broad exceptions where breaking the rule might create greater utility, and so on. Eventually you are left with a sub-rule for every case--hence, you are left with act utilitarianism. If you do not make sub-rules in rule utilitarianism, then you are left with a flawed rule system, and would have to resort to act ultilitarianism anyway, simply giving weight to the rules. This is no different than act utilitarianism with a few heuristics.

Since act utilitarianism is unworkable, and rule utilitarianism reduces to act utilitarianism, then rule utilitarianism is only marginally better than act utilitarianism, giving you a few vauge "rules" which do not assist you in calculating utility.

 


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theotherguy wrote:Rule

theotherguy wrote:

Rule utilitarianism reduces to act utilitarianism. Suppose that you have a rule that when broken, creates greater utility in a broad range of cases. (ie, lie to save someone's life is always better than telling the truth and letting them die); so, you could imagine a "sub-rule" which governs this case. However, within this case there are many other broad exceptions where breaking the rule might create greater utility, and so on. Eventually you are left with a sub-rule for every case--hence, you are left with act utilitarianism. If you do not make sub-rules in rule utilitarianism, then you are left with a flawed rule system, and would have to resort to act ultilitarianism anyway, simply giving weight to the rules. This is no different than act utilitarianism with a few heuristics.

Since act utilitarianism is unworkable, and rule utilitarianism reduces to act utilitarianism, then rule utilitarianism is only marginally better than act utilitarianism, giving you a few vauge "rules" which do not assist you in calculating utility.

 

I'm aware of these objections. But it only makes rule utilitarianism as problematic as any set of rules that have exceptions like the legal system.

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theotherguy wrote:Atheist 2

theotherguy wrote:

Atheist 2 (subjectivist): "You're right. There are no absolute moral standards-- only individual preference. We live by our feelings and preferences. Those are our moral standards."

...

 

P2 is clearly false. Consider the same argument, but with "moral standards" replaced with scientific knowledge.

P1. Societies have different scientific knowledge. which can change over time.

P2 (implied). True  knowledge is  what each society says is scientific knowledge.

C. There is no truth, because every society has a different set of scientific facts.

ie. "In the stone age, people thought the world was flat. Now we think the world is round. Therefore, the world is both round and flat"

or "In ancient greece, they thought slavery was right. In America today, we think slavery is wrong. Therefore, slavery is neither right nor wrong."

That first one is a horrible, horrible, horrible analogy. You can't replace a completely subjective thing like morality with an objective one like scientific facts. A more truthful comparison would have been one person saying red is the prettiest color, and another saying it's blue. Are you gonna say only one of them is right?

Likewise with the slavery thing, there is absolutely nothing objectively moral or immoral about slavery, ancient greeks used their subjective individual preference to determine it's ok, most people today do the opposite.

All morality is necessarily ultimately subjective because there's nothing objective that in any way "tells us" how to behave. It really is just like everyone's favorite color, you can't tell someone they're wrong about it. The only reason people don't go around doing whatever they want is because they either intellectually understand that raping someone will end their own ass up in jail, which is not something they want to happen to them, or because their conscience compels them not to, which is again an ultimately selfish reason.

 


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Morality isn't a mere matter

Morality isn't a mere matter of individual preference. Moral judgments like other value judgments must be based on reasons, otherwise it's arbitrary.  Your conception of morality can't account for disagreement and taken to it's logical conclusion would suggest that in terms of morality each person is infallible, which is absurd.

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Gauche wrote:Morality isn't

Gauche wrote:

Morality isn't a mere matter of individual preference.

Yes it is, I trust you dont call your mom or someone about 200 times a day to make every decision for you? The only moral code that matters to anyone is the one they subjectively hold.

Quote:
Moral judgments like other value judgments must be based on reasons, otherwise it's arbitrary.

And because the "value" of the expected results of any action is completely subjective, there is no way a moral judgement can't be arbitrary. Even if we take an example as simple as killing someone or letting them live, our preferance for life is completely arbitrary.

Quote:
Your conception of morality can't account for disagreement and taken to it's logical conclusion would suggest that in terms of morality each person is infallible, which is absurd.

Or equally fallible. I'm gonna appeal to the favorite color example again. There is nothing objective you can point to that lets us determine which person's morality is better, in the way that you can put two people on a scale and objectively determine which one is heavier for example.

 


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 Quote:Atheist 3's

 

Quote:
Atheist 3's argument:

P1. Genetics influences our feelings and behavior about certain events.

P2. What is right is what genetics tells us to do.

C. There is an objective moral standard, the standard of genetics.

Who's making this argument?  It's stupid.

P1 is correct, but any damn fool ought to be able to figure out that every instinctive drive we have isn't "good."

Sheesh.  It's not rocket science, people.  Morality is a value judgment based on the specific environment surrounding a particular act.  We have a couple of very broad moral instincts -- Within "Us," be fair.  Protect us from them.  When you have more than enough, share.  If someone has shared with you, share back.  These are pretty much universal among humans, across cultures.  Also universal is the notion that direct intent is worse than collateral damage.  The Trolley Experiment demonstrates this very clearly.

Once you understand that, all you need to do is notice that these broad rules can manifest in quite a lot of different ways between cultures.  What is fair in America is not considered fair in Iran or China.  Who counts as "us" is substantially different across cultures.

In America, women are part of "Us," so we give them equal rights (more or less).  In Iran, they are not part of "us" and so they need to cover their whole bodies and have a male family member escort them to go out of the house.  It's the same instinct working in very different ways.

Once we realize how this works, we can begin taking other things science tells us and applying them to the basic principles.  Who should count as us?  Are there any scientific reasons why women should not be considered equally human with men?  What about blacks and whites?  Children?

Contrary to the philosophy deep-end-belly-floppers, we are quite obviously not stuck in some kind of existential morality crisis.  It's not always easy to make the fringes of an ethical system as neat and tidy as we'd like, but morality can most certainly be described and prescribed using science and genetics as a starting point.

 

 

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theotherguy wrote:All of

theotherguy wrote:

All of these arguments fail, because they are completely arbitrary. I will attack Atheist 1's argument first:

Atheist 1 gives the conventionalist viewpoint. He believes that society provides moral standards. His argument is essentially this:

P1. Societies have different moral standards, which can change over time.

P2 (implied). The "right thing" is what a society says is right.

C. There are no objective moral standards, because every society has a different set of moral standards. 

P2 is clearly false. Consider the same argument, but with "moral standards" replaced with scientific knowledge. 

P1. Societies have different scientific knowledge. which can change over time.

P2 (implied). True  knowledge is  what each society says is scientific knowledge.

C. There is no truth, because every society has a different set of scientific facts. 

ie. "In the stone age, people thought the world was flat. Now we think the world is round. Therefore, the world is both round and flat"

or "In ancient greece, they thought slavery was right. In America today, we think slavery is wrong. Therefore, slavery is neither right nor wrong." 

The crux is, truth exists independent of a society's view on it. If moral standards existed, then what each society thought of the moral standard would have no bearing on the standard at all. Just because societies have different views on moral standards doesn't mean that objective, absolute moral standards do not exist.

I disagree.

You cannot compare scientific knowledge to moral standards. Morality cannot be "absolute" or "exist" independent of humanity because without humans, there is no morality. There is no "truth" in morality because the concept doesn't even apply; morality is nothing more than a human abstraction. Good and evil are just vague terms that we apply to whatever we consider "bad," or "benevolent," or "harmful" etc.

Before we existed, the Earth was still round, and it still revolved around the sun, but nothing was moral or immoral. See, there's nothing "immoral" about a female praying mantis biting off the head of a male praying mantis after mating; that's just what they did. There's nothing "moral" about bats sharing their catch with each other; it's just reciprocal altruism. There's nothing "immoral" about a tornado; it's a rotating column of air. These concepts arose as we evolved into intelligent social animals; it granted us extra motivation to pursue what was beneficial for our in-group and avoid what was detrimental.

 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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theotherguy wrote:EXC

theotherguy wrote:

EXC wrote:

Science has revealed that free-will is probably an illusion.

Nonsense. I hope you're not getting into genetic determinism.l

Based on what?

Can you sight any scientific research that suggests free will is not an illusion? Because I can sight tons of studies that suggest that it is an illusion. I'd suggest reading this essay:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/free_will_why_we_don039t_have_it_and_why_that039s_good_thing

What do you disagree with in this argument?

theotherguy wrote:

Absolutely not. You are employing the "is-ought" fallacy. It doesn't matter to ethics if most people do things expecting reward or punishment. It doesn't matter  to ethics how people actually behave. Ethics is not the study of behavior. It is not the study of what is. It is the study of what ought to be.

If  an Ethicist accepts the science that all behavior is based on expectation of reward/punishment, what else is there to be discussed about what 'ought' to be done? Life is a game to maximize one's pleasure and minimize pain. The study of Ethics is like Alchemy. It's outmoded based on our modern understanding of how the mind works.

theotherguy wrote:

For instance, you couldn't answer "How ought this government be run?" without political philosophy or ethics.

You can play a game of Poker or Chess without philosophy or ethics. You have a goal, rules and expectation of how your opponent will respond. You can trade a Pawn for a Queen.

In the games of Politics which is a subset of the game of Life, everyone's goal is maximize pleasure/minimize pain. What gives us pleasure and pain is pretty much genetically determined. You can make trade offs for long term vs. short term just as in Chess. So I believe man's understanding of neuroscience and biology is suffiecient that we can dump the notion of a universal ethic.

The reason why politics and economics utterly fails to find solutions to human misery is that we have this illusory notion of what "ought" to be. For example, people believe we "ought" to have universal health care. But the concept of how it should work is completely detached for the reality of how the world works. The world does not conform to any one's notion of how it should work. So all discussions of politics devolve into an irrational ethical discussion of what 'ought' to be instead of a discussion of what works(i.e. how to play the game).

The ethists say we're philosophy and not science. And by doing so they can present theories for which there is no evidence and can not be tested for their validity. Sorry but that's BS to me.

theotherguy wrote:

You simply cannot go about rationally planning your own actions without some kind of ethical theory.

What is the ethical theory of a mouse running through a maze to get a piece of cheese? What is the ethical theory of a swine flu virus when it infects a new host? What is the ethic theory of claiming something is true(like free will) without any evidence?

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Manageri wrote:Yes it is, I

Manageri wrote:

Yes it is, I trust you dont call your mom or someone about 200 times a day to make every decision for you? The only moral code that matters to anyone is the one they subjectively hold.

If that's the case then how could you account for people who hold moral views that don't cater to their personal preferences? Lot's of people would prefer to steal instead of working because it's easier, but they don't think that stealing is moral just because they would prefer to steal.

Quote:

And because the "value" of the expected results of any action is completely subjective, there is no way a moral judgement can't be arbitrary. Even if we take an example as simple as killing someone or letting them live, our preferance for life is completely arbitrary.

It's not a matter of your preference for life. That's your error. When a person says that murder is immoral they're not making a statement about their attitude they're making a statement about murder.

Quote:

Or equally fallible. I'm gonna appeal to the favorite color example again. There is nothing objective you can point to that lets us determine which person's morality is better, in the way that you can put two people on a scale and objectively determine which one is heavier for example.

It's simple subjectivism, basically you're saying that when someone says that an action is immoral, or morally correct or good what they're really saying is that they approve or disapprove.

If I say that murder is immoral and you say that it's moral then we actually have a disagreement. If by saying that it's immoral what I actually meant was that I disapprove of it would you disagree? Of course not, you would agree that I disapprove. If simple subjectivism were correct there would be no disagreement, but there is a disagreement so it can't be correct.  

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EXC wrote:Based on what?Can

EXC wrote:

Based on what?

Can you sight any scientific research that suggests free will is not an illusion? Because I can sight tons of studies that suggest that it is an illusion. I'd suggest reading this essay:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/free_will_why_we_don039t_have_it_and_why_that039s_good_thing

What do you disagree with in this argument?

That argument, quite simply put, simply defines free will in the wrong way. I would argue that human will is "free enough." But I'm not going to get into that. If I were to put forth a counter-argument, it would be something like this (Daniel dennet lays out a very relevant and good counter-argument here, especially since he uses chess computes):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKLAbWFCh1E

EXC wrote:

If  an Ethicist accepts the science that all behavior is based on expectation of reward/punishment, what else is there to be discussed about what 'ought' to be done? Life is a game to maximize one's pleasure and minimize pain. The study of Ethics is like Alchemy. It's outmoded based on our modern understanding of how the mind works.

Again, ironically, you've just stated verbatim the ethical theory of hedonistic egoism. The ethicist would not have to accept such a position at all unless he was a hedonistic egoist. If human behavior is based on hedonism, so what? Why is it RIGHT to seek pleasure and avoid pain? Why SHOULD we follow these instincts? You have implied that we should. Since you have implied it, you are partaking in ethics.

Again, ethics (normative, not descriptive) does not seek to discover "how the mind works." It does not seek to discover how human beings actually act. If you want to make descriptive claims, go right ahead. That is what science is for. "People act according to pain and pleasure," great, that is a DESCRIPTIVE claim. However as soon as you start saying things like "life is a game to maximize one's pleasure and minimize pain" you are making a NORMATIVE claim, and that is in the realm of philosophy. In fact your statement is itself an axiom of an ethical theory.

EXC wrote:

You can play a game of Poker or Chess without philosophy or ethics. You have a goal, rules and expectation of how your opponent will respond. You can trade a Pawn for a Queen.

Yes, but you choose to follow the rules of poker or chess based on some ethical theory. You can trade a pawn for a queen, but you can't trade a human life for another without some serious ethical justification based on reason.

EXC wrote:

In the games of Politics which is a subset of the game of Life, everyone's goal is maximize pleasure/minimize pain. What gives us pleasure and pain is pretty much genetically determined. You can make trade offs for long term vs. short term just as in Chess. So I believe man's understanding of neuroscience and biology is suffiecient that we can dump the notion of a universal ethic.

Here you are again stating more axioms. You are in fact building an ethical theory. Why should people maximize pleasure and minimize pain? What gives you grounds to "dump the notion of a universal ethic?" Why should people trade long for short, and vice versa, and how? If you're to answer any of these questions, you will need to develop your ethical theory more. I think you will find it difficult to do without doing some ethical philosophy yourself.

EXC wrote:

The reason why politics and economics utterly fails to find solutions to human misery is that we have this illusory notion of what "ought" to be. For example, people believe we "ought" to have universal health care. But the concept of how it should work is completely detached for the reality of how the world works. The world does not conform to any one's notion of how it should work. So all discussions of politics devolve into an irrational ethical discussion of what 'ought' to be instead of a discussion of what works(i.e. how to play the game).

Yet you have just made a normative claim. You have just claimed that politics and economics "ought" to find solutions to human misery correct? You have also made the claim that the government ought to do "what works." You have just traded one "ought" for another. It is inescapable.

EXC wrote:

The ethists say we're philosophy and not science. And by doing so they can present theories for which there is no evidence and can not be tested for their validity. Sorry but that's BS to me.

Philosophical theories are not comparable to scientific theories. When dealing with the realm of normative claims, no measurements can be made. You can't compare data; so how can you collect evidence? The only way that philosophical theories can be upheld or discarded is on the basis of pure reason. Philosophical claims are considered valid if and only if they stand up to the critique of reason. That is, their premises and axioms must be sound, and they must not produce contradictions. If you believe philosophical theories are worthless then you might as well throw out mathematical theories as well. Mathematical theories are considered sound if their axioms can produce no contradictions. Like mathematics, philosophy is concerned with purely logical constructs, whose bearing on the real world has nothing to do with evidence, but with reason.

A mathematician, for example, does not continually stick together two and two objects and count them up to conclude that 2+2=4. Sure, the axioms of number theory are based on the initial observations of man, but they do not ultimately depend on them. Philosophy is very similar in this regard.

 

EXC wrote:

What is the ethical theory of a mouse running through a maze to get a piece of cheese? What is the ethical theory of a swine flu virus when it infects a new host? What is the ethic theory of claiming something is true(like free will) without any evidence?

The answer is, none of the first two are rational beings making ethical decisions. However, any number of ethical theories will categorize them in some way or another. The third is epistemology and not ethics.


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butterbattle wrote:I

butterbattle wrote:

I disagree.

You cannot compare scientific knowledge to moral standards. Morality cannot be "absolute" or "exist" independent of humanity because without humans, there is no morality. There is no "truth" in morality because the concept doesn't even apply; morality is nothing more than a human abstraction. Good and evil are just vague terms that we apply to whatever we consider "bad," or "benevolent," or "harmful" etc.

Before we existed, the Earth was still round, and it still revolved around the sun, but nothing was moral or immoral. See, there's nothing "immoral" about a female praying mantis biting off the head of a male praying mantis after mating; that's just what they did. There's nothing "moral" about bats sharing their catch with each other; it's just reciprocal altruism. There's nothing "immoral" about a tornado; it's a rotating column of air. These concepts arose as we evolved into intelligent social animals; it granted us extra motivation to pursue what was beneficial for our in-group and avoid what was detrimental.

I did not claim they existed. I merely claimed that if they did exist, what each society says about them is irrelevent to what they really are.

Actually, when we say something is "bad" or "good" in the ethical sense, we do not mean it is "harmful" or "benificial." If we say X is "bad" we mean "you shouldn't do X" and when we say Y is "good" we mean "you should do Y." Now, the reasons that you shouldn't do X and should do Y are explored by ethical theory. The tornado and praying mantis are rather undefined here, because neither really has much of a choice in what it does.

Again, ethics is not concerned with how people's moral sentiments arose or how people behave. It is concerned with how people should behave.

 


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Hambydammit wrote:Who's

Hambydammit wrote:

Who's making this argument?  It's stupid.

P1 is correct, but any damn fool ought to be able to figure out that every instinctive drive we have isn't "good."

Sheesh.  It's not rocket science, people.  Morality is a value judgment based on the specific environment surrounding a particular act.  We have a couple of very broad moral instincts -- Within "Us," be fair.  Protect us from them.  When you have more than enough, share.  If someone has shared with you, share back.  These are pretty much universal among humans, across cultures.  Also universal is the notion that direct intent is worse than collateral damage.  The Trolley Experiment demonstrates this very clearly.

Once you understand that, all you need to do is notice that these broad rules can manifest in quite a lot of different ways between cultures.  What is fair in America is not considered fair in Iran or China.  Who counts as "us" is substantially different across cultures.

In America, women are part of "Us," so we give them equal rights (more or less).  In Iran, they are not part of "us" and so they need to cover their whole bodies and have a male family member escort them to go out of the house.  It's the same instinct working in very different ways.

Once we realize how this works, we can begin taking other things science tells us and applying them to the basic principles.  Who should count as us?  Are there any scientific reasons why women should not be considered equally human with men?  What about blacks and whites?  Children?

Contrary to the philosophy deep-end-belly-floppers, we are quite obviously not stuck in some kind of existential morality crisis.  It's not always easy to make the fringes of an ethical system as neat and tidy as we'd like, but morality can most certainly be described and prescribed using science and genetics as a starting point.

Exactly. Use science and genetics as premeses for an ethical system; but if you start prescribing actions, you best have reasons to back it up; i.e. you best have an ethical theory. For instance, to answer the question of "who should count as us," you may provide evidence like, "women have the same or greater intelligence then men" through science, but to make the leap to "therefore, women should be treated as one of 'us,'" you have just made an ethical, philosophical statement.

The point I"m trying to make is that no matter what  justification you provide, some way or another you're going to wind up with an ethical theory that you must back up on the basis of a logical argument. You cannot simply say "this is how human beings behave," and feel like you've solved some kind of philosophical mystery. You'd be answering the completely wrong question. I feel like so many people who simply cite science when confronted with the theists' questions about morality fail to see this point.


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I think the problem that

I think the problem that seems to come up most with forming an objective standard of morality is the tendency to try to force it to appeal to one of these other more familiar arguments as a byline. We want objective morality to be simple elegant equation, and then we also want the ideals of consequentialism and conventionalism to fall out as the obvious solutions as well.

By imposing a non-rational standard on what will pass as a rational moral standard we fail before we begin.

An objective moral standard doesn't need to appeal to ideal consequentialism, ie the outcome of following the moral path doesn't necessarily need to be the best of all possible worlds.

Objective morality doesn't need to appeal to a conventionalist ideal or a genetic ideal, ie it doesn't need further anything or anybody.

All objective morality needs is a simple equation separating what is clearly and unambiguously within an individuals right to do, and what's left when you take that away from everything.

The easy definition then is one we already strive for conventionally in secular humanist society. Everything enacted under permission is morally sound, everything else is morally questionable.

We've just got to remember that a basis of morality doesn't need to conform to any specfic set of consequences or conventions. It just needs to determine right from wrong, who says the perfectly moral world has to be the one we want to live in?

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theotherguy wrote:I did not

theotherguy wrote:

I did not claim they existed. I merely claimed that if they did exist, what each society says about them is irrelevent to what they really are.

Actually, when we say something is "bad" or "good" in the ethical sense, we do not mean it is "harmful" or "benificial." If we say X is "bad" we mean "you shouldn't do X" and when we say Y is "good" we mean "you should do Y." Now, the reasons that you shouldn't do X and should do Y are explored by ethical theory. The tornado and praying mantis are rather undefined here, because neither really has much of a choice in what it does.

Again, ethics is not concerned with how people's moral sentiments arose or how people behave. It is concerned with how people should behave.

Okay, then, I think I mostly agree with you.

However, I still think the comparison to scientific knowledge was a poor analogy.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Gauche wrote:Manageri

Gauche wrote:

Manageri wrote:

Yes it is, I trust you dont call your mom or someone about 200 times a day to make every decision for you? The only moral code that matters to anyone is the one they subjectively hold.

If that's the case then how could you account for people who hold moral views that don't cater to their personal preferences? Lot's of people would prefer to steal instead of working because it's easier, but they don't think that stealing is moral just because they would prefer to steal.

Because they can't, their conscience compels them not to. It's just another way of avoiding personal pain. For example if I saw some 7 year old kid drop his wallet, I'd feel pretty bad if I didn't return it to him just so I can get whatever measly amount of cash was in it. Now if the person dropping the wallet was Ted Haggard, I guarantee you he'd never see it again. It's not even a logical process, I either feel bad about doing something or I don't. Whether or not you can force yourself to do otherwise depends on how strongly your conscience compels you. I think most people would also feel very differently about stealing from a billionaire or someone just as poor as them.

Quote:
Quote:

And because the "value" of the expected results of any action is completely subjective, there is no way a moral judgement can't be arbitrary. Even if we take an example as simple as killing someone or letting them live, our preferance for life is completely arbitrary.

It's not a matter of your preference for life. That's your error. When a person says that murder is immoral they're not making a statement about their attitude they're making a statement about murder.

Yet they only think it's immoral because they arbitrarily think it's better for people to be alive than dead. Even life is in no way objectively valuable. We think killing is bad because we are living things with a strong compulsion to survive, there is no logic involved there.

Quote:
Quote:

Or equally fallible. I'm gonna appeal to the favorite color example again. There is nothing objective you can point to that lets us determine which person's morality is better, in the way that you can put two people on a scale and objectively determine which one is heavier for example.

It's simple subjectivism, basically you're saying that when someone says that an action is immoral, or morally correct or good what they're really saying is that they approve or disapprove.

If I say that murder is immoral and you say that it's moral then we actually have a disagreement. If by saying that it's immoral what I actually meant was that I disapprove of it would you disagree? Of course not, you would agree that I disapprove. If simple subjectivism were correct there would be no disagreement, but there is a disagreement so it can't be correct.  

I think red is prettiest. You say blue is. I disagree with you. You disagree with me. We are both correct because the question itself is subjective, there can be no objectively truer answer to it. I think you'll agree with me this far? So really the issue is that I think morality is in the same category as favorite colors, but you dont.


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theotherguy wrote:That

theotherguy wrote:

That argument, quite simply put, simply defines free will in the wrong way. I would argue that human will is "free enough."

Would you agree that "humans can decide anything we want, we just can't decide what we want"?

theotherguy wrote:

Again, ironically, you've just stated verbatim the ethical theory of hedonistic egoism. The ethicist would not have to accept such a position at all unless he was a hedonistic egoist. If human behavior is based on hedonism, so what?

This is the only 'theory' that has tons of scientific evidence that indicates this is how all animals with a nervous system behave. All other 'theories' of behavior ultimately reduce down to this. For an ethicist to not accept this explanation would require him to ignore tons of scientific evidence to the contrary.

If we accept this a fact based on the evidence, more people and society can make decisions based on accurate instead of inaccurate information. Our common goal of each individual maximizing pleasure and survival could achieved.

theotherguy wrote:

Why is it RIGHT to seek pleasure and avoid pain? Why SHOULD we follow these instincts? You have implied that we should. Since you have implied it, you are partaking in ethics.

When one is waterboaded is it RIGHT to do and speak in ways to avoid pain? Why SHOULD they follow their instincts to avoid the intense misery? All questions of ethics are as silly as that. The only thought process the person being tortured engages in is should "I tell them the truth or make up a lie to end the torture"? Game strategy not ethics about right and wrong.

Again, I don't believe in free will, so I don't think we have any choice about seeking pleasure. We can receive new information and then decision making changes. I can change a computer database with updated information and it behaves differently. But the computer does not have a choice about what to do. It just follows it's programming.

theotherguy wrote:

Again, ethics (normative, not descriptive) does not seek to discover "how the mind works."

It seems like Ethics doesn't care how the mind works either. So it's like a study of physics in Alice in wonderland.

theotherguy wrote:

However as soon as you start saying things like "life is a game to maximize one's pleasure and minimize pain" you are making a NORMATIVE claim, and that is in the realm of philosophy. In fact your statement is itself an axiom of an ethical theory.

No, it's based upon this is what the science is telling us about animal behavior. One could observe a chess playing computer. One could observe after study that the computer is 'trying to always win a chess' or it is always 'trying to lose at chess'. This is the realm of science not philosophy.

It's obvious from neuroscience that the brain is always trying to follow a complex strategy to maximize pleasure/minimize pain. Neuroscience can identify the circuits and processes involved in creating the pleasure and pain sensations. Any other feelings you may have about how your brain or others work is simply a delusion. Obviously delusion is part of the pleasure/pain game, that's why we have religion and philosophy in the first place.

theotherguy wrote:

Yes, but you choose to follow the rules of poker or chess based on some ethical theory. You can trade a pawn for a queen, but you can't trade a human life for another without some serious ethical justification based on reason.

OK, since Chess isn't close enough to reality to qualify for 'ethical' decisions, what about virtual reality games like the SIMs? Seems like the 'ethical' decisions one makes are pretty close to real life. Did Pacman require any ethical decision making or only virtual reality simulators?

theotherguy wrote:

Here you are again stating more axioms. You are in fact building an ethical theory. Why should people maximize pleasure and minimize pain? What gives you grounds to "dump the notion of a universal ethic?"

Again, I don't believe we have a choice any more that a chess playing computer has a choice about what move to make. Information processing devices can complete their goal when they have accurate models of how things work.

Why do we have the notion of morality? It is a game strategy of some people to say to others 'you'll get a reward if you behave this way'. The problem is the reward is only imaginary(heaven with Jesus or you'll feel good about yourself), the behavior only benefits the people preaching a 'moral' standard. So the morality crusaders essentially get something for nothing, while fooling people into believing they are not hedonists.

A good strategy for the individuals pushing the morality? Perhaps in the short run. But like all scams, they are destructive to the group as a whole.

You can tell a child to behave so Santa will bring presents, then not deliver the presents Christmas morning. Or you can make a deal with the child to behave so you'll buy them a gift, then deliver on the gift. If the goal is maximize everyone's pleasure long run through trust and cooperation, what's a better strategy?

theotherguy wrote:

Why should people trade long for short, and vice versa, and how? If you're to answer any of these questions, you will need to develop your ethical theory more. I think you will find it difficult to do without doing some ethical philosophy yourself.

Poker players don't need an ethical philosophy to decide to play aggressive early or late in the game. Their brain is a computer making probability calculations based upon the information available.

theotherguy wrote:

Yet you have just made a normative claim. You have just claimed that politics and economics "ought" to find solutions to human misery correct? You have also made the claim that the government ought to do "what works." You have just traded one "ought" for another. It is inescapable.

If I say a coin flip 'ought' to land on heads 50% of the time, it's just an prediction of an outcome based on my understanding of how the world works. "Ought" in the case of politics and economics is my prediction of reduced firing of the neural pathways that produce misery sensations among most members of society.

I can claim that one 'ought' to capture the opponents Queen early in a chess game to improve chances of winning. I can make this claim without claiming that one ought to try to win or ought to even play chess. Nature has 'decided' that animals and humans are to be as you say egoistic hedonists that seek to survive.

We're all caught up to some extent in the illusion of free will. So if it seems that I'm saying 'ought' as if there is a universal arbiter of good, I'm not. I'm just presenting a new piece of information that I believe could change others decision making process to achieve a pleasure/pain goal.

 

theotherguy wrote:

Philosophical theories are not comparable to scientific theories. When dealing with the realm of normative claims, no measurements can be made.

Dead Wrong. Neuroscience has advanced to the point now where measurements can be made. We can do imaging of brain and see which areas are active and measure the level of activity when people are experiencing pleasure and pain. We can identify people that may engage in antisocial behaviors based on brain study. A psychologist can make observations as well.

So for instance a teenager may want to decide "Should I go into a career helping people or just making money". Neuroscience can scan their brain activity to see how active the pleasure centers in the brain are while they help people and spend money. Then make a prediction to help this person make a decision.

So there is no decision about what you call 'right and wrong' that is outside the realm of modern science. Ethics is an outmoded view based on a false assumption(free will).

theotherguy wrote:

The answer is, none of the first two are rational beings making ethical decisions. However, any number of ethical theories will categorize them in some way or another. The third is epistemology and not ethics.

So a virus infecting a host is making a free will decision? Is an RNA strand in a lab beaker that replicates 'deciding' to replicate? Is a rock rolling down a hill that 'decides' to keep rolling, making an ethical decision as well?

 

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Manageri wrote:Because they

Manageri wrote:

Because they can't, their conscience compels them not to. It's just another way of avoiding personal pain. For example if I saw some 7 year old kid drop his wallet, I'd feel pretty bad if I didn't return it to him just so I can get whatever measly amount of cash was in it. Now if the person dropping the wallet was Ted Haggard, I guarantee you he'd never see it again. It's not even a logical process, I either feel bad about doing something or I don't. Whether or not you can force yourself to do otherwise depends on how strongly your conscience compels you. I think most people would also feel very differently about stealing from a billionaire or someone just as poor as them.

Saying that people do what makes them feel good is different from saying that people do what they most prefer to do. Both arguments are horribly flawed, but they are actually different arguments and I'd appreciate if you'd pick one and stick with it.

Quote:

Yet they only think it's immoral because they arbitrarily think it's better for people to be alive than dead. Even life is in no way objectively valuable. We think killing is bad because we are living things with a strong compulsion to survive, there is no logic involved there.

Your argument isn't sound because the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. The premise is about what people believe and the conclusion concerns what is really the case. Even if it's true that people arbitrarily believe that life is valuable it doesn't follow that therefore life has no objective value.

Quote:

I think red is prettiest. You say blue is. I disagree with you. You disagree with me. We are both correct because the question itself is subjective, there can be no objectively truer answer to it. I think you'll agree with me this far? So really the issue is that I think morality is in the same category as favorite colors, but you dont.

You claim that the statements are subjective but you also claim there is a disagreement. If the statements are subjective there cannot be a disagreement because the statements are not concerning the colours red and bleu they are about our attitudes. So no, your point falls completely flat and you should learn what subjectivity is.

 

Also you should address my question and explain how your idea of simple subjectivism can account for disagreement unless you're conceding the point in which case simple subjectivism can't be correct.

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
H.P. Lovecraft


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Gauche wrote:Manageri

Gauche wrote:

Manageri wrote:

Because they can't, their conscience compels them not to. It's just another way of avoiding personal pain. For example if I saw some 7 year old kid drop his wallet, I'd feel pretty bad if I didn't return it to him just so I can get whatever measly amount of cash was in it. Now if the person dropping the wallet was Ted Haggard, I guarantee you he'd never see it again. It's not even a logical process, I either feel bad about doing something or I don't. Whether or not you can force yourself to do otherwise depends on how strongly your conscience compels you. I think most people would also feel very differently about stealing from a billionaire or someone just as poor as them.

Saying that people do what makes them feel good is different from saying that people do what they most prefer to do. Both arguments are horribly flawed, but they are actually different arguments and I'd appreciate if you'd pick one and stick with it.

You prefer doing things that you dislike? I don't see how those are different at all, unless you mean the separation between immediately likable things, like eating ice cream, and having to endure crap like going to work so that we can pay the rent. You do both those things for your own benfit, even though only one is something you'd prefer to do.

Quote:
Quote:

Yet they only think it's immoral because they arbitrarily think it's better for people to be alive than dead. Even life is in no way objectively valuable. We think killing is bad because we are living things with a strong compulsion to survive, there is no logic involved there.

Your argument isn't sound because the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. The premise is about what people believe and the conclusion concerns what is really the case. Even if it's true that people arbitrarily believe that life is valuable it doesn't follow that therefore life has no objective value.

Then please show exactly what this objective value of life is and how you measure it.

Quote:
Quote:
I think red is prettiest. You say blue is. I disagree with you. You disagree with me. We are both correct because the question itself is subjective, there can be no objectively truer answer to it. I think you'll agree with me this far? So really the issue is that I think morality is in the same category as favorite colors, but you dont.

You claim that the statements are subjective but you also claim there is a disagreement. If the statements are subjective there cannot be a disagreement because the statements are not concerning the colours red and bleu they are about our attitudes. So no, your point falls completely flat and you should learn what subjectivity is.

Also you should address my question and explain how your idea of simple subjectivism can account for disagreement unless you're conceding the point in which case simple subjectivism can't be correct.

Then give your definition of subjective because I'm completely fucking lost as to what is so entirely disagreeable about that.


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EXC wrote:Would you agree

EXC wrote:

Would you agree that "humans can decide anything we want, we just can't decide what we want"?

No, humans cannot decide anything they want. I can't decide to become invisible. I can't decide to implode the moon with my mind. There are certain limitations on will. I can decide to do anything that is within my power to do. And yes, deciding what you want can be pretty difficult.

EXC wrote:

This is the only 'theory' that has tons of scientific evidence that indicates this is how all animals with a nervous system behave. All other 'theories' of behavior ultimately reduce down to this. For an ethicist to not accept this explanation would require him to ignore tons of scientific evidence to the contrary.

I would love to argue against your ethical theory, if only you admit that it is indeed an ethical, not a scientific one. Unfortunately the statement you are making is "Animals behave according to pleasure and pain...therefore?" Therefore what? If we take this premise from face value, what follows? It doesn't follow that "life is a game of pleasure and pain," because this assumes that the GOAL of life is pleasure. Is this the goal that people should be seeking? Why? Even if all beings acted towards the end of pleasure, why is pleasure the most important thing? Are there some things more important than pleasure?

Try as you might, you are engaging in ethics, not science. Describe animal behavior all you like. All you will be doing is describing; making measurements-- you will not be making judgements. Science does not, and cannot judge. To judge requires philosophy.

EXC wrote:

If we accept this a fact based on the evidence, more people and society can make decisions based on accurate instead of inaccurate information. Our common goal of each individual maximizing pleasure and survival could achieved.

Why should this be our goal? Even if each individual wants to maximize pleasure, is this really what we ought to strive for? Would you want to live in a world of complete selfishness? What are some of the consequences of this? You are assuming many things not covered by scientific discovery. Your claim that our "common goal" is to maximize pleasure is in fact a philosophical claim. Not only is it a philosophical claim, it is the ethical theory of hedonistic egoism. Hedonistic egoism begins with the axioms "everyone seeks pleasure and avoids pain. The best action for me is to maximize my pleasure and minimize my pain. The best action for everyone else is to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain." This view was championed by Ayn Rand (although she wasn't quite as hedonistic.)

As soon as you move away from descriptive, "animals maximize pleasure and minimize pain," to normative, "we should maximize pleasure and minimize pain," you have entered the realm of philosophy.

 

EXC wrote:

When one is waterboaded is it RIGHT to do and speak in ways to avoid pain? Why SHOULD they follow their instincts to avoid the intense misery? All questions of ethics are as silly as that. The only thought process the person being tortured engages in is should "I tell them the truth or make up a lie to end the torture"? Game strategy not ethics about right and wrong.

Suppose you were being waterboarded, and you knew that your friends would be killed, and perhaps your country destroyed, if you told the truth. Furthermore, you knew that if you told te truth, your torturers would let you live as a free, and totally protetected man. Now you have an ethical problem. Do you tell the truth, to save yourself and secure your own pleasure and avoid your own pain, or do you tell a lie, prolonging the torture but saving your comrades? You can't answer this question without an ethical theory. Even if you use game theory, you are assuming the ethical theory of hedonistic egoism.

EXC wrote:

Again, I don't believe in free will, so I don't think we have any choice about seeking pleasure. We can receive new information and then decision making changes. I can change a computer database with updated information and it behaves differently. But the computer does not have a choice about what to do. It just follows it's programming.

Great. So if people follow programming, why punish anybody? Why blame anybody for anything? Afterall, everoyne was programmed--destined-- to pursue the path they did, so what's the point? Your free will argument is an axiom in your ethical theory. It is not scientific. You may use science to make this axiom claim, but anything that follows from it will be philosophy on your part.

EXC wrote:

It seems like Ethics doesn't care how the mind works either. So it's like a study of physics in Alice in wonderland.

Not exactly. Scientific facts are used time and time again as premises in ethics. Ethics treats the mind as a black box. It is not neuroscience. It is not psychology. Ethics may use facts from neuroscience or psychology to make claims and arguments. This is no different from any other philosophical argument based on science. You may make arguments for or against god in philosophy, using scientific facts. You will not be doing science, you will be doing philosophy. In the same way, you can make arguments based on scientific facts towards an ethical theory-- but you will still not be doing science.

If an ethical philosophy is contrary to scientific facts, then it can be totally invalidated by those facts. However, if there is no contradiction with fact, (ie, making a descriptive statement that isn't true,) then there is no conflict here. I cannot stress this more. Philosophy attempts to answer questions which science is physically incapable of answering. Science cannot tell you how to live. It can only give you facts-- and what you make of those facts is philosophy.

EXC wrote:

No, it's based upon this is what the science is telling us about animal behavior. One could observe a chess playing computer. One could observe after study that the computer is 'trying to always win a chess' or it is always 'trying to lose at chess'. This is the realm of science not philosophy.

It's obvious from neuroscience that the brain is always trying to follow a complex strategy to maximize pleasure/minimize pain. Neuroscience can identify the circuits and processes involved in creating the pleasure and pain sensations. Any other feelings you may have about how your brain or others work is simply a delusion. Obviously delusion is part of the pleasure/pain game, that's why we have religion and philosophy in the first place.

Again, your argument is essentially:

P1. "The brain functions in such and such a way"

C. Therefore....?

Your science begins and ends at P1. To get to C, you need some kind of philosophy. You need some kind of logical deduction before you can start making claims about how humanity should behave or how governments should work. You have made many claims about games, and playing games to maximize pleasure. In the real world, people and animals may be employed in such a game, but why should they participate? What is wrong about someone, in your opinion, who enjoys pain? What is wrong with someone who enjoys bringing pain to others? Would the world be a better place if everyone maximized their pleasure? Why would it be better? Why should we want to live in a world in which everyone has the most pleasure possible, over other worlds?

EXC wrote:

OK, since Chess isn't close enough to reality to qualify for 'ethical' decisions, what about virtual reality games like the SIMs? Seems like the 'ethical' decisions one makes are pretty close to real life. Did Pacman require any ethical decision making or only virtual reality simulators?

Considering the fact that the Sims and pacman have such small and limited "brains," their capacity for rational thought is quite low. However, you could make ethical arguments towards your treatment of them, since they do process some information. If simulations were close enough to reality, you'd start to see some real ethical problems with the killing and torturing of virtual agents. This is a hot topic in philosophy, as a matter of fact, and it will probably get hotter as computers begin to compete in power with the human brain.

Ethics is always in the realm of rational beings. You can only partake in ethics if you understand deductive and inductive logic. Pacman cannot. The sims cannot, therefore, they lack ethics.

EXC wrote:

Again, I don't believe we have a choice any more that a chess playing computer has a choice about what move to make. Information processing devices can complete their goal when they have accurate models of how things work.

And in fact, a perfect computer would play chess perfectly. However, the chess computer is following a very well defined set of paramaters. It can't suddenly decide, "hey, you know what? I think I'll let the other guy win. He deserves a break!" (altough my chess bot does do this occasionally). Humans don't have to follow such silly rules as "maximize pleasure" if they don't really want to. You could model a human brain on a very powerful chess computer playing a billion chess games at once, which doesn't have to give a damn about winning if it doesn't want to.

EXC wrote:

Why do we have the notion of morality? It is a game strategy of some people to say to others 'you'll get a reward if you behave this way'. The problem is the reward is only imaginary(heaven with Jesus or you'll feel good about yourself), the behavior only benefits the people preaching a 'moral' standard. So the morality crusaders essentially get something for nothing, while fooling people into believing they are not hedonists.

While this is true in some cases (I believe this is probably how religion gets about), it is not necessarily true. I can seek to do the right thing even if it ultimately harms me--and I know it. I can choose, voluntarily, to do the right thing merely because it is RIGHT, not because I expect a reward. If you do the right thing only because you expect a reward or fear punishment, you are no better than the theists who expect damnation or salvation. You should reason about the situation you are in, reason about the actions you are taking, and come to a conclusion on what you should do. I would really like to attack your hedonistic egoism, but you must first admit that you are playing in the realm of philosophy, not science.

EXC wrote:

A good strategy for the individuals pushing the morality? Perhaps in the short run. But like all scams, they are destructive to the group as a whole.

Here you are endorsing hedonistic utilitarianism, rather than egoism. Why is what is good for the group as a whole the right thing?

EXC wrote:

You can tell a child to behave so Santa will bring presents, then not deliver the presents Christmas morning. Or you can make a deal with the child to behave so you'll buy them a gift, then deliver on the gift. If the goal is maximize everyone's pleasure long run through trust and cooperation, what's a better strategy?

How about: don't lie to your children, because they deserve more respect as human beings than that? Don't lie to them to secure your own pleasure, because your pleasure doesn't override theirs? These are much better reasons than the hedonistic "strategies" you endorse. Your children are not pawns. They are not your tools. To use them in any way would be, in my ethics, evil.

 

EXC wrote:

Poker players don't need an ethical philosophy to decide to play aggressive early or late in the game. Their brain is a computer making probability calculations based upon the information available.

So people SHOULD play life like a poker game? Is this what you are suggesting? That's an ethical philosophy, afterall.

EXC wrote:

If I say a coin flip 'ought' to land on heads 50% of the time, it's just an prediction of an outcome based on my understanding of how the world works. "Ought" in the case of politics and economics is my prediction of reduced firing of the neural pathways that produce misery sensations among most members of society.

Now you're just playing with semantics. So it really doesn't matter to you what the government does? Would to world be better, or worse, if the goverment chose to maximize the pleasure of its citiziens, rather than maximizing the pain?

EXC wrote:

I can claim that one 'ought' to capture the opponents Queen early in a chess game to improve chances of winning. I can make this claim without claiming that one ought to try to win or ought to even play chess. Nature has 'decided' that animals and humans are to be as you say egoistic hedonists that seek to survive.

Okay, then you've made the claim, "if you want to win, you should capture the opponents queen early." Great. Now explain to me why I should try to win.

EXC wrote:

We're all caught up to some extent in the illusion of free will. So if it seems that I'm saying 'ought' as if there is a universal arbiter of good, I'm not. I'm just presenting a new piece of information that I believe could change others decision making process to achieve a pleasure/pain goal.

Your "no free will" premise is very bothersome. So you must go through life like an automaton, right? Letting everything come at you, and only acting with your instincts? Is this how you've decided to live? If not, why not? If so, why? Surely you must agree that at any given moment, I am not FORCED to choose what gives me the most pleasure. Say I am holding a gun to my leg. I know that if I shoot myself I will not die, but will experience a great amount of pain and suffering. I know that afterwards, my life will be much more miserable than before, and I will gain no pleasure form having done it. I conceivably could shoot myself. I could conceivably not shoot myself. If my goal was to avoid pain, I wouldn't shoot myself. However, if my goal was to shoot myself in the leg, I would most certainly shoot myself in the leg. Are you saying that it is impossible for me to do so? Or are you just saying that I SHOULDN'T do so? Or are you saying I shouldn't do so, GIVEN that I should avoid pain? If you were in this situation, what would you do? Why or why not?

 

Say I am out in the wilderness, nobody knows I am here, and I am with a man that everyone thinks is dead, and who nobody would ever find if something were to happen to him. Suppose I get a kick out of shooting people. Suppose this gives me such a great pleasure, that it will change my life forever and give me pleasing, happy feelings at all times. I know that if I shoot the man, I will live freely and happily and be able to go back home with no consequences whatsoever. If I don't shoot the man, nothing happens, but I miss the opportunity for this highly pleasurable act. Should I shoot him? Why or why not? To avoid the oughts, if YOU were in this situation, what would you do? Why or why not?

EXC wrote:

Dead Wrong. Neuroscience has advanced to the point now where measurements can be made. We can do imaging of brain and see which areas are active and measure the level of activity when people are experiencing pleasure and pain. We can identify people that may engage in antisocial behaviors based on brain study. A psychologist can make observations as well.

I did not claim the brain couldn't be measured. I claimed the the rightness or wrongness of an action is unmeasurable.

EXC wrote:

So for instance a teenager may want to decide "Should I go into a career helping people or just making money". Neuroscience can scan their brain activity to see how active the pleasure centers in the brain are while they help people and spend money. Then make a prediction to help this person make a decision.

Well of course, but only if the teenager decides first that his goal in life is to maximize his own pleasure, and that this is the thing he "should" do. But alas, that requires philosophy.

EXC wrote:

So there is no decision about what you call 'right and wrong' that is outside the realm of modern science. Ethics is an outmoded view based on a false assumption(free will).

I am beginning to see that I will have to attack your foolish false premise that free will is nonexistent before we can go any further. I will do this later.

EXC wrote:

So a virus infecting a host is making a free will decision? Is an RNA strand in a lab beaker that replicates 'deciding' to replicate? Is a rock rolling down a hill that 'decides' to keep rolling, making an ethical decision as well?

I think you misunderstood what I said. I said, specifically, that the virus was not making a decision. RNA is not deciding anything, and neither is a rock. None of them are subject to ethics. If you feel people are in no more control of their own actions than a virus, a strand of RNA, or a rock, then you are in some serious trouble. Do you believe that you are no more to blame than your own actions than a falling rock? Suppose you killed someone for pleasure. Is this the same as a rock killing someone due to gravity? Was it an unforunate accident, or a murder? How are these equatable?

A rock cannot suddenly fly against gravity to avoid killing someone. A human being can restrain himself out of respect. The level of will which can be exerted by human beings as compared to rocks is orders of magnitude greater. If human will is not perfectly free, so what? It is free enough that we can be held accountable for our own actions. We have some deterministic traits, of course, and the universe is as a whole deterministic, it is true-- but the predictive qualities of the universe, with all its chaotic variables-- is so close to randomness that if any one thing were only slightly different, then the outcome of a whole series of events could be completely different as well. There are many similarly conceivable worlds in which we could live. In one of these worlds, you could kill someone. In another world, you could restrain yourself. The basis on which we judge your action is not based purely on what actually occured, but whether, in under SIMILAR circumstances, you COULD have acted any differently. I highly encourage you to watch that Daniel Dennet talk that I posted earlier.


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Manageri wrote:You prefer

Manageri wrote:

You prefer doing things that you dislike? I don't see how those are different at all, unless you mean the separation between immediately likable things, like eating ice cream, and having to endure crap like going to work so that we can pay the rent. You do both those things for your own benfit, even though only one is something you'd prefer to do.

I never said people prefer to do things they dislike. I said there's a difference between ones preferences, their moral values, and what makes them feel good. Gay sex feels good by all accounts but statistically speaking you probably don't prefer it. Infidelity feels good but you probably don't think it's morally correct. Sacrificing yourself to save others is moral but you wouldn't prefer it and it doesn't feel good.

So what are you saying exactly so that I can properly refute it? Are you claiming that people only do what they most prefer, or are you saying that people only do what makes them feel good?

Quote:

Then please show exactly what this objective value of life is and how you measure it.

Why? What would be the relevance exactly? To be honest you seem well on your way to denying the existence of objective value altogether so I'm assuming it would be a perfectly good waste of my time anyway.

I'm afraid you've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. A false dichotomy. Either there are moral facts in the same way that there are facts about houses, and cars, and computers; or our values are merely expressions of subjective feelings. Those things are not jointly exhaustive.

You've overlooked the critical fact that people don't just have feelings they also have reason. Leaving us with a third possibility, that moral judgments are true if they are backed by better reasons than the alternatives. Such truths are objective in the sense that they're true independently of what we might think or desire because you can't simply will that the weight of reason be on its side or against it.

Quote:

Then give your definition of subjective because I'm completely fucking lost as to what is so entirely disagreeable about that.

It's textbook, okay. Subjective statements are pertaining to ones perception of their own mental state. If statements about morality are just expressions of approval and disapproval then there are actually no disagreements about morality. If one person says "I approve of X" and another person says "I don't approve of X" They're not in disagreement because they've both only made statements about their own attitude. So that conception of ethics cannot account for the nature of moral evaluation.

 

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
H.P. Lovecraft


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Gauche wrote:You've

Gauche wrote:

 


You've overlooked the critical fact that people don't just have feelings they also have reason. Leaving us with a third possibility, that moral judgments are true if they are backed by better reasons than the alternatives. Such truths are objective in the sense that they're true independently of what we might think or desire because you can't simply will that the weight of reason be on its side or against it.

You said it better than I ever could. This is the whole point of philosophy. When people make normative claims, "It is better to do this, or that" or "It is better to believe X over Y" or even "X is better than Y," and they don't have reason to back it up, then they are merely stating a matter of trivial preference. When people believe there can be no reasonable debate about something, especially preferences, they have no other avenues of getting others to agree with them without the use of violence. The goal of philosophy is to eliminate bad arguments that qualify normative claims, and discover good arguments for qualifying normative claims, thus allowing for debate, rather than violence. The goal of ethics is to reduce moral arguments to arguments of reason, rather than of preference, so that men can arbitrate their disagreements with debate, rather than by killing each other.

It allows reason to arbitrate disputes, rather than willpower.


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theotherguy wrote:No, humans

theotherguy wrote:

No, humans cannot decide anything they want. I can't decide to become invisible. I can't decide to implode the moon with my mind. There are certain limitations on will. I can decide to do anything that is within my power to do. And yes, deciding what you want can be pretty difficult.

Isn't is possible to decide that if I could become invisible, I would? When someone has a spinal cord injury and becomes a paraplegic, the commands to move the legs still go out from the brain. Eventually the person learns that the legs don't respond and the commands stop going out. Are they still deciding to walk?

theotherguy wrote:

I would love to argue against your ethical theory, if only you admit that it is indeed an ethical, not a scientific one.

Seeing as how I think the fact that we don't have free will makes any discussion of ethics an exercise in fantasy, I don't see how it's possible. Where is there evidence to the contrary?

theotherguy wrote:

Unfortunately the statement you are making is "Animals behave according to pleasure and pain...therefore?" Therefore what? If we take this premise from face value, what follows?

You're right, nothing else follows. Because there is no evidence that anything else follows. There is only wild speculation and fantasy that anything else follows.

You are uncomfortable with this conclusion. It doesn't feel good, so people invent alternative explanations, when there is no evidence for them. But this is not being an objective observer.

The mind invents illusions and believes delusions to give our self comfort. Free will is an invention to comfort ourselves. Your mind invents dreams when you sleep to help you survive and function better. There are all kinds of illusionary things we perceive that aid in our fitness for survival.

theotherguy wrote:

It doesn't follow that "life is a game of pleasure and pain," because this assumes that the GOAL of life is pleasure. Is this the goal that people should be seeking? Why? Even if all beings acted towards the end of pleasure, why is pleasure the most important thing? Are there some things more important than pleasure?

What your calling non-pleasure seeking is still pleasure seeking just by other means.

For instance, people will say "My values have changed, I'm going to quit my job and join the peace core because I want to help people." But humans being social animals have an ability to derive pleasure from helping others, plus there is pleasure in new learning and new experiences. So everything gets mapped back to the pleasure/pain neural firing patterns.

Since people don't have free will, we can not make our goals either. New information presented to the brain can cause it to decide to seek pleasure in an alternative way. Such as helping others instead of partying, or it can cause us to delay our pleasure seeking.

theotherguy wrote:

To judge requires philosophy.

To judge requires free will. Therefore, that we can judge is another illusion.

theotherguy wrote:

Why should this be our goal? Even if each individual wants to maximize pleasure, is this really what we ought to strive for? Would you want to live in a world of complete selfishness?

Again nature produced this goal, not any one's free will. I don't have a choice. It's just an illusion or an act that someone is not behaving to maximize their pleasure. Didn't Mother Teresa get a lot of benefit from not being 'selfish'? Plus she had an expection of a lot of pleasure after death. Why was she not a hedonist? When she helped the poor, didn't this excite her pleasure centers?

theotherguy wrote:

Your claim that our "common goal" is to maximize pleasure is in fact a philosophical claim.

It's game strategy whereby individuals see a means of increasing their own pleasure via cooperation with others.

theotherguy wrote:

This view was championed by Ayn Rand (although she wasn't quite as hedonistic.)

She just got her kicks in different ways from other hedonists(i.e. all humans). Her activities to get her pleasure was thinking and writing. Other 'hedonists' choose religion or sex or booze as their drug of choice. Your drug of choice is philosophy, that's why you defend it so passionately.

Claiming not to be a hedonist is a product of human pride and arrogance, and ironically more proof that we are all hedonists.

theotherguy wrote:

Suppose you were being waterboarded, and you knew that your friends would be killed, and perhaps your country destroyed, if you told the truth. Furthermore, you knew that if you told the truth, your torturers would let you live as a free, and totally protected man. Now you have an ethical problem. Do you tell the truth, to save yourself and secure your own pleasure and avoid your own pain, or do you tell a lie, prolonging the torture but saving your comrades? You can't answer this question without an ethical theory. Even if you use game theory, you are assuming the ethical theory of hedonistic egoism.

Neurology and psychology would probably tell us that everyone would have their breaking point. The expectation of the absence of misery could be made to override expectation of pleasure derived from group loyalty. It's just a matter of how much strees one could endure. People could resist to a varying degree depending on their genetics and conditioning. Many people would choose suicide if the option was available.

theotherguy wrote:

Great. So if people follow programming, why punish anybody? Why blame anybody for anything?

A deterrent for one. To not do so would eventually harm the groups common pursuit of pleasure. Plus we get a sensation of satisfaction when revenge or justice is served. But the concept of justice is an illusion as well.

theotherguy wrote:

Again, your argument is essentially:

P1. "The brain functions in such and such a way"

C. Therefore....?

To go any further requires me to enter into wild speculation and fantasy. I stop being an objective observer. One then believes that illusion is real. Here's the difference between us:

I go to the magic show and understand that it's an illusion. I'm OK with it, I can play along with illusion and still be entertained. I want to understand how the magician does his tricks.

You go the show and wanting to believe the illusion are real. Believing that it's all magic makes you feel better so you force yourself to believe it's real just as everyone else does. Knowing how the tricks work bothers you because you enjoy the illusions so much.

theotherguy wrote:

And in fact, a perfect computer would play chess perfectly. However, the chess computer is following a very well defined set of paramaters. It can't suddenly decide, "hey, you know what? I think I'll let the other guy win. He deserves a break!" (altough my chess bot does do this occasionally).

There you go, the chess bot wasn't designed just to be good chess player, but a provider of pleasure for hedonists such as yourself.

theotherguy wrote:

Humans don't have to follow such silly rules as "maximize pleasure" if they don't really want to. You could model a human brain on a very powerful chess computer playing a billion chess games at once, which doesn't have to give a damn about winning if it doesn't want to.

You know the story of how a computer was finally able to beat the best chess player? It didn't win by being 'smarter'. It exhausted the human player. The computer could look so many moves ahead that the human just became too exhausted to continue. Just like torture scenario, crank up the pleasure or pain, and people will respond according to their hedonistic nature.

theotherguy wrote:

While this is true in some cases (I believe this is probably how religion gets about), it is not necessarily true. I can seek to do the right thing even if it ultimately harms me--and I know it. I can choose, voluntarily, to do the right thing merely because it is RIGHT, not because I expect a reward.

But, I'll feel good about doing the RIGHT thing, won't I? If I'm being a hedonist all the time, I'll feel bad. So I better stop being a hedonist so I can feel better about myself. You get a special gooey feeling by doing the 'right' thing. That's how you decide something is 'right'.

theotherguy wrote:

Here you are endorsing hedonistic utilitarianism, rather than egoism. Why is what is good for the group as a whole the right thing?

Group cooperation is often a scam. Look a patriotism. They are trying to create a good feeling as a reward. I should put country ahead of myself. It's often a way to get people to sacrifice for nothing in return. But we're programmed to look for way to cooperate with each other for the common good(i.e. pleasant sensations in the brain) that can trickle down to each individual.

theotherguy wrote:

These are much better reasons than the hedonistic "strategies" you endorse.

I'm not endorsing anything. I just stating how I believe things work. Since I don't believe people have a choice about anything, endorsing something would be meaningless.

What your doing here is playing the shame game. You are creating a punishment(shame) for behavior you deem as selfish and wrong. So I should go along with you and the social norms to avoid the punishment of being selfish. This only demonstrates that we are all hedonists. Since there is punishment for being 'selfish'.

You seem to think I should believe something only because if we don't hold onto the delusion, people will be hurt. That may be a valid argument in favor of self-delusion, but it's not a logical reason to believe something is true.

You seem to enjoy the delusion of believing you and others and not driven to act by pain/pleasure expectations.

I enjoy understanding how things really work.

theotherguy wrote:

So people SHOULD play life like a poker game? Is this what you are suggesting?

No, I'm say we all do play life like it's a kind of poker game. What you not getting is when I say we are only motivated to act out of pain/pleasure, this does not preclude acts of social cooperation, acts of charity, acts of kindness. They can produce pleasant sensations and in the long run help with ones desire to obtain pleasure. But their must be a sensation of pleasure instead of pain in the brain.

theotherguy wrote:

So it really doesn't matter to you what the government does?

What the government does can affect the sensations produced in my brain. When I see other people suffering, I have feeling of misery in my own mind. But my motivation is not help people directly. My motivation is to eliminate the negative sensations in my brain. So that's why even the most empathetic person you can imagine is really a hedonist. People like Mother Teresa are trying to create the illusion of not being a hedonist.

theotherguy wrote:

Okay, then you've made the claim, "if you want to win, you should capture the opponents queen early." Great. Now explain to me why I should try to win.

Again, you don't have free will to decide to win. Evolution has produced humans that derive pleasant sensation from playing games that involve strategy. We also derive pleasure from completing a complex tasks successfully. This feature aided in the survival of our ancestors. Not much else to say about "Why".

theotherguy wrote:

Your "no free will" premise is very bothersome. So you must go through life like an automaton, right? Letting everything come at you, and only acting with your instincts? Is this how you've decided to live? If not, why not? If so, why?

Well I can't decide anything without free will.

Just because I know that free will is an illusion doesn't mean I don't experience the illusion. You can look an an optical illusion and know that it's really an illusion, but you still experience it. Obviously having this illusion has aided in our survival.

Honestly, to know that free will is an illusion can cause a sensation of hopelessness. But it's one of those glass half full things. There are benefits to knowing the understand how things really work and not living out a delusion all time.

theotherguy wrote:

However, if my goal was to shoot myself in the leg, I would most certainly shoot myself in the leg. Are you saying that it is impossible for me to do so?

If your brain were to function such that you expected to get more pleasure from proving you could do it than pain from the shot, then yes it's possible. But in this case you would be delusional.

I watched the show 'Jackass', and asked why they do this. Humans derive pleasure from finding new things out and experimenting. So people have an inclination to say what would happen if I did this. In the case of someone that did this, one would say they have an impaired ability to understand fully the consequences of their action.

theotherguy wrote:

To avoid the oughts, if YOU were in this situation, what would you do? Why or why not?

In order to get into such a state of mind, it would require that I be kidnapped and then the use of lot psychotic drugs and brainwashing. So then, yes there probably is a scenario in which I would do it. But then would ME really be ME? I would have a very different brain function than the one I do now. Why? Because the decision making pathways would calculate that I would probably receive more pleasure than pain from the action of killing.

theotherguy wrote:

I did not claim the brain couldn't be measured. I claimed the the rightness or wrongness of an action is unmeasurable.

Because right and wrong don't exist. They are illusions. That is why they can't be measured.

theotherguy wrote:

I am beginning to see that I will have to attack your foolish false premise that free will is nonexistent before we can go any further. I will do this later.

Please do. I don't think your arguments can go anywhere unless you can undermine the overwhelming evidence that free will is a delusion.

The problem you have in proving that humans have free will is that either everything must have free will or nothing has free will. If humans have free will then so must a computer, chimpanzee, dog, mouse, ant, virus, RNA strand, rock, atom, etc... Good luck.

theotherguy wrote:

Do you believe that you are no more to blame than your own actions than a falling rock?

A human being can restrain himself out of respect.

blame is social punishment to produce pain is it not?

Respect is a reward to produce pleasure is it not?

 

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Gauche wrote:Quote:Then give

Gauche wrote:
Quote:

Then give your definition of subjective because I'm completely fucking lost as to what is so entirely disagreeable about that.

It's textbook, okay. Subjective statements are pertaining to ones perception of their own mental state. If statements about morality are just expressions of approval and disapproval then there are actually no disagreements about morality. If one person says "I approve of X" and another person says "I don't approve of X" They're not in disagreement because they've both only made statements about their own attitude. So that conception of ethics cannot account for the nature of moral evaluation.

My definition includes personal desires and opinions which can be weighed by others. I'm sorry if you find my use of the word wrong or confusing, english isn't my first language so I may have made mistakes, but I trust you can understand what I mean well enough.

Gauche wrote:

Manageri wrote:

You prefer doing things that you dislike? I don't see how those are different at all, unless you mean the separation between immediately likable things, like eating ice cream, and having to endure crap like going to work so that we can pay the rent. You do both those things for your own benfit, even though only one is something you'd prefer to do.

I never said people prefer to do things they dislike. I said there's a difference between ones preferences, their moral values, and what makes them feel good.

There really is no difference, you prefer doing the things you do because they make you feel good, and you follow your moral rules because they make you feel good. Or are you saying you feel like shit every time you make a choise you deem morally good? Do you just wanna kill yourself every time you help someone out without asking anything in return? Everything boils down to the same simple thing, you do what you do because you wanted to do it. The difference between eating ice cream and donating money to charity is simply a different kind of "pleasure" for yourself.

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Gay sex feels good by all accounts but statistically speaking you probably don't prefer it. Infidelity feels good but you probably don't think it's morally correct. Sacrificing yourself to save others is moral but you wouldn't prefer it and it doesn't feel good.

Gay sex isn't a moral issue in any way, and I have no choise in the fact my brain tells me not do it, so I do disagree that it would be an altogether enjoyable experience. Infidelity is only immoral, and sacrifice is only morally good if you have already arbitrarily chosen the pleasure of others in those situations to trump your own (or more likely your brain did that for you and you're completely helpless in "deciding" what you feel is right). At that point with the infidelity example it becomes an internal struggle in deciding between the pleasure of cheating on your partner or the pleasure of continuing having a relationship with her, assuming she will automatically know that you cheated of course. In most cases in the real world there's a good chance of not getting caught, which makes tons of people choose both pleasures. That raises the question whether cheating is actually immoral if your spouse doesn't find out, after all no one was hurt and the cheater did gain pleasure.


Quote:
So what are you saying exactly so that I can properly refute it? Are you claiming that people only do what they most prefer, or are you saying that people only do what makes them feel good?

There's no difference.

 

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Then please show exactly what this objective value of life is and how you measure it.

Why? What would be the relevance exactly? To be honest you seem well on your way to denying the existence of objective value altogether so I'm assuming it would be a perfectly good waste of my time anyway.

Since you have nothing to show for it I can't help but feel justified in my position.

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I'm afraid you've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. A false dichotomy. Either there are moral facts in the same way that there are facts about houses, and cars, and computers; or our values are merely expressions of subjective feelings. Those things are not jointly exhaustive.

You've overlooked the critical fact that people don't just have feelings they also have reason. Leaving us with a third possibility, that moral judgments are true if they are backed by better reasons than the alternatives. Such truths are objective in the sense that they're true independently of what we might think or desire because you can't simply will that the weight of reason be on its side or against it.

Those reasons are completely arbitrary. How do you define "better reasons"? The survival of mankind? Minimizing pain? Both are very basic ideas that you propably have some variant of in your ethical code, yet both are completely arbitrarily chosen. I could just as well say we should in fact kill everyone, and you cannot in any way show how my position is inferior except by appealing to your own emotions and subjective views. Of course IF you accept those premises of survival and minimizing pain as parts of your ethical system THEN you can start assigning objective values to actions depending on how well they do in regard to those ideas, but notice you first had to make a completely subjective choise about which premises to adopt. If we instead decide we ought to in fact wipe out the population, your objectively good actions can become objectively evil. There is no way to make any kind of moral statement without having subjectively chosen something as a desired outcome first.

 


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Manageri wrote:My definition

Manageri wrote:
My definition includes personal desires and opinions which can be weighed by others. I'm sorry if you find my use of the word wrong or confusing, english isn't my first language so I may have made mistakes, but I trust you can understand what I mean well enough.


It's not my first language either, but you're arguing in english so it would serve you well to familiarize yourself with the concept of subjectivity as it is understood in english speaking cultures. Which I can tell you is not significantly different from the whole of western culture.

Statements about your desires and opinions are statements about your own mental state, not about something else. "I like ice cream " is a statement about "I" not a statement about ice cream. So if you want to go with this conception of ethics you need to account for the fact that there are apparent disagreements concerning morality. Which if possible, probably would have been done a long time ago.

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There really is no difference, you prefer doing the things you do because they make you feel good, and you follow your moral rules because they make you feel good.


I abhor sophistry. I hope you're not in the atheist camp because you're using perfectly circular logic here. The idea that if a person willingly performs an act, then he derives personal enjoyment from it and therefore, people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment, is a circular argument. The conclusion is the same as the premise.

Of course it's true that all voluntary human acts are selfishly motivated if you define "voluntary" as selfish, because it's a plain tautology. It's a trivially true circular statement devoid of empirical content.

Let me ask you something. If what you say about human motivation is true and all acts are selfish, then what would it be like to encounter an unselfish act? You can't answer that question; because all imaginable behaviour is so indicated, no particular behaviour is described. What you're saying is empirically meaningless because it fails the simple test of falsifiability.

Quote:
Gay sex isn't a moral issue in any way, and I have no choise in the fact my brain tells me not do it, so I do disagree that it would be an altogether enjoyable experience.
 

Stop trying to move the goalpost. I didn't say it's "altogether enjoyable" I said it feels good. Either it feels good or it doesn't, and you either prefer what feels good or you don't. And either you're going to admit you don't always prefer what feels good or you're going to inject another suspect debate tactic or fallacy into the discussion to try and get out of this. My money is on the fallacy.

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Infidelity is only immoral, and sacrifice is only morally good if you have already arbitrarily chosen the pleasure of others in those situations to trump your own

Are you admitting that what people consider to be moral is not always what they most prefer or what feels good? Because if you are then that's the end of your argument. An argument is only sound if the premises are true and the conclusion follows from the premise.

Quote:
Since you have nothing to show for it I can't help but feel justified in my position.

I can't actually blame you for this. Had I, like you created my own definitions of the words "subjective" and "arbitrary", and denied the efficacy of man's ability to reason I may have come to the same conclusions you did.
Quote:
Those reasons are completely arbitrary. How do you define "better reasons"? The survival of mankind? Minimizing pain? Both are very basic ideas that you propably have some variant of in your ethical code, yet both are completely arbitrarily chosen. I could just as well say we should in fact kill everyone, and you cannot in any way show how my position is inferior except by appealing to your own emotions and subjective views.

I'm sorry, I never had to deal with this many fallacies in one discussion before. You've now jumped from a non-sequitur to a converse accident. The word "arbitrary" means based on individual preference rather than intrinsic nature. Basically you're saying that moral prohibitions on killing are based on individual preference of minimizing pain therefore morality is based on individual preference.

So immediately your argument must be rejected because it's an informal fallacy but it's wrong for several other reasons as well. The person in your hypothetical situation may provide reasons why we should minimize pain other than that it is their individual preference. Something isn't arbitrary once you've provided reasons.

Another problem for you is the concept of obligation. It is not our individual preference to fulfil our obligations. That's why they're called obligations. But people make moral decisions to keep their promises not because they want to but because they feel they ought to.   

All I'm telling you is what you'd read in any textbook about ethics. Your conception of morality (which is really a theory of human psychology that has more holes in it than my grandfather's osteoporitic bones) has been defunct for quite some time now as an empirical theory it commits a fallacy of converse accident, there are many apparently disconfirming instances, and if there are actually no disconfirming instance then it reduces to nothing more than the vacuous statement that "voluntary actions are voluntary". Don't believe me? Then do a google search for "psychological egoism".

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
H.P. Lovecraft


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I don't believe in free will

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Gauche wrote: Quote:There

Gauche wrote:


Quote:
There really is no difference, you prefer doing the things you do because they make you feel good, and you follow your moral rules because they make you feel good.


I abhor sophistry. I hope you're not in the atheist camp because you're using perfectly circular logic here. The idea that if a person willingly performs an act, then he derives personal enjoyment from it and therefore, people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment, is a circular argument. The conclusion is the same as the premise.

That's not my argument though. I've mentioned several times I believe you don't actually have a choise in what you think you ought to do. You do what your brain tells you to do, or like I tried to explain it, what "feels good" to you. You just ignored all that along with a bunch of other stuff to build this little strawman of yours.

Quote:
Of course it's true that all voluntary human acts are selfishly motivated if you define "voluntary" as selfish, because it's a plain tautology. It's a trivially true circular statement devoid of empirical content.

Let me ask you something. If what you say about human motivation is true and all acts are selfish, then what would it be like to encounter an unselfish act? You can't answer that question; because all imaginable behaviour is so indicated, no particular behaviour is described. What you're saying is empirically meaningless because it fails the simple test of falsifiability.

"Voluntary" is meaningless without free will. So are definitions of selfish and unselfish. Sure you can subjectively assign meanings to them, but I don't see the point.

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Quote:
Gay sex isn't a moral issue in any way, and I have no choise in the fact my brain tells me not do it, so I do disagree that it would be an altogether enjoyable experience.
 

Stop trying to move the goalpost. I didn't say it's "altogether enjoyable" I said it feels good. Either it feels good or it doesn't, and you either prefer what feels good or you don't. And either you're going to admit you don't always prefer what feels good or you're going to inject another suspect debate tactic or fallacy into the discussion to try and get out of this. My money is on the fallacy.

I said no. Sex that you don't want to participate in is called rape and I've never heard people describe the experience as "feeling good".

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Quote:
Infidelity is only immoral, and sacrifice is only morally good if you have already arbitrarily chosen the pleasure of others in those situations to trump your own

Are you admitting that what people consider to be moral is not always what they most prefer or what feels good? Because if you are then that's the end of your argument. An argument is only sound if the premises are true and the conclusion follows from the premise.

Not quite. You assume there can be no "pleasure" derived from being faithful or sacrificing yourself. When the brain is both the dispenser of pleasure and the decision making machine, there is no reason why it can't tell you that you should sacrifice yourself. It can do that by making that option seem more "pleasurable" than the alternative, and with pleasure here I mean doing the act itself will feel good, not that you expect to get some kind of pleasure after doing it.

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Since you have nothing to show for it I can't help but feel justified in my position.

I can't actually blame you for this. Had I, like you created my own definitions of the words "subjective" and "arbitrary", and denied the efficacy of man's ability to reason I may have come to the same conclusions you did.

A definition that I explained to you, it stopped being solely my problem at that point. Of course that has nothing to do with you refusing to even try to meet my challenge of explaining how moral decisions can be objective.


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Quote:
Those reasons are completely arbitrary. How do you define "better reasons"? The survival of mankind? Minimizing pain? Both are very basic ideas that you propably have some variant of in your ethical code, yet both are completely arbitrarily chosen. I could just as well say we should in fact kill everyone, and you cannot in any way show how my position is inferior except by appealing to your own emotions and subjective views.

I'm sorry, I never had to deal with this many fallacies in one discussion before. You've now jumped from a non-sequitur to a converse accident. The word "arbitrary" means based on individual preference rather than intrinsic nature. Basically you're saying that moral prohibitions on killing are based on individual preference of minimizing pain therefore morality is based on individual preference.

Yet I'm willing to bet you can't find a single moral statement that isn't based on personal preference. I'll give you an example.

"We shouldn't go around randomly killing people if we wan't to live in a society where we don't have to constantly fear for our lives"

This statement is objectively true, yet whether or not we think it's preferable to live in that kind of society is entirely subjective. Therefore if everyone does want to constantly live in fear, it becomes moral to randomly go around killing people, and that conclusion rests entirely on the preference of the people.

This is entirely falsifiable if your opinion that there are ultimately objective moral standards is true.


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Manageri wrote:That's not my

Manageri wrote:

That's not my argument though. I've mentioned several times I believe you don't actually have a choise in what you think you ought to do. You do what your brain tells you to do, or like I tried to explain it, what "feels good" to you. You just ignored all that along with a bunch of other stuff to build this little strawman of yours.


I assumed from the beginning that you think people don't have a choice. Isn't that what a person means when they say we only do what feels good? It's no less of a circular argument.
Quote:

"Voluntary" is meaningless without free will. So are definitions of selfish and unselfish. Sure you can subjectively assign meanings to them, but I don't see the point.


So, like I said all imaginable behaviour is indicated and no particular behaviour is described. What you're saying is empirically meaningless and unfalsifiable.
Quote:

I said no. Sex that you don't want to participate in is called rape and I've never heard people describe the experience as "feeling good".

Quote:
The review examines whether unsolicited or non-consensual sexual stimulation of either females or males can lead to unwanted sexual arousal or even to orgasm. The conclusion is that such scenarios can occur and that the induction of arousal and orgasm does not indicate that the subjects consented to the stimulation. A perpetrator’s defense simply built upon the fact that evidence of genital arousal or orgasm proves consent has no intrinsic validity and should be disregarded.


http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1353113103001536

Quote:

Not quite. You assume there can be no "pleasure" derived from being faithful or sacrificing yourself. When the brain is both the dispenser of pleasure and the decision making machine, there is no reason why it can't tell you that you should sacrifice yourself. It can do that by making that option seem more "pleasurable" than the alternative, and with pleasure here I mean doing the act itself will feel good, not that you expect to get some kind of pleasure after doing it.

You've just presented another false choice. Either fidelity feels good or infidelity feels good. They both feel good. That's why your argument sucks.

Quote:

A definition that I explained to you, it stopped being solely my problem at that point. Of course that has nothing to do with you refusing to even try to meet my challenge of explaining how moral decisions can be objective.

I already explained in what sense it is objective in post #32. You've already conceded that moral statements can be objective. So what's the challenge?
 


Quote:

Yet I'm willing to bet you can't find a single moral statement that isn't based on personal preference. I'll give you an example.

"We shouldn't go around randomly killing people if we wan't to live in a society where we don't have to constantly fear for our lives"

This statement is objectively true, yet whether or not we think it's preferable to live in that kind of society is entirely subjective. Therefore if everyone does want to constantly live in fear, it becomes moral to randomly go around killing people, and that conclusion rests entirely on the preference of the people.

This is entirely falsifiable if your opinion that there are ultimately objective moral standards is true.

What you're saying is completely vacuous because any moral judgment that a person could make, even if it's based on reasons and they would actually prefer to do something else would be personal preference according to you. To you, all that exists is personal preference. So all your saying is "people prefer what they prefer". So what! It's devoid of any empirical content.   

Sometimes the objection that  a moral standard is arbitrary is a fair objection and some insight may be gained from the objection. For example the Euthyphro dilemma. You've defined all possible human action as arbitrary.  Because all imaginable behavior is so denoted, no particular behavior is designated. There's no insight here. There's no empirical content whatsoever.

Do you realize that by using a rhetorical tautology you've precluded the possibility of contradictory evidence? Any objection that a person could raise would automatically be sucked in to the vortex of your circular reasoning. Your argument is like a black hole. Nothing can be seen beyond it because there's no empirical content in it, and any counter argument gets pulled in by its gravitational force and lost forever.
 

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
H.P. Lovecraft


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Gauche wrote: I assumed

Gauche wrote:

 

I assumed from the beginning that you think people don't have a choice. Isn't that what a person means when they say we only do what feels good? It's no less of a circular argument.

It's not an argument at all, it's just my assessment of it.

Quote:

I said no. Sex that you don't want to participate in is called rape and I've never heard people describe the experience as "feeling good".

Quote:
The review examines whether unsolicited or non-consensual sexual stimulation of either females or males can lead to unwanted sexual arousal or even to orgasm. The conclusion is that such scenarios can occur and that the induction of arousal and orgasm does not indicate that the subjects consented to the stimulation. A perpetrator’s defense simply built upon the fact that evidence of genital arousal or orgasm proves consent has no intrinsic validity and should be disregarded.

You can also drown me with coke and it'll taste good, doesn't mean I'm gonna think it's the greatest thing ever. Do you really expect a serious answer to this? You're focusing on the sexual sensation alone, completely disregarding the numerous negative feelings and trauma, which is silly. I also didn't see any victims describing the awesomeness of it. All you've shown is the sexual organs do their job whether we want them to or not.


Quote:
Quote:

Not quite. You assume there can be no "pleasure" derived from being faithful or sacrificing yourself. When the brain is both the dispenser of pleasure and the decision making machine, there is no reason why it can't tell you that you should sacrifice yourself. It can do that by making that option seem more "pleasurable" than the alternative, and with pleasure here I mean doing the act itself will feel good, not that you expect to get some kind of pleasure after doing it.

You've just presented another false choice. Either fidelity feels good or infidelity feels good. They both feel good. That's why your argument sucks.

Exactly where did I do that? All I said is you can go either way (obviously), which doesn't dictate that the other option has to be entirely unpleasant. Like I said, in most of these kinds of decisions it's about which option is more pleasurable.

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A definition that I explained to you, it stopped being solely my problem at that point. Of course that has nothing to do with you refusing to even try to meet my challenge of explaining how moral decisions can be objective.

I already explained in what sense it is objective in post #32. You've already conceded that moral statements can be objective. So what's the challenge?

I said if you accept a subjective standard, for example that killing is bad, then you can objectively state whether or not dropping a nuclear bomb on Sweden is bad. That conclusion is still totally dependant on the subjective statement, and is thus ultimately subjective. If this is what you mean by objective morality then I'm fine with it, I just really wouldn't label it that.

Quote:
Quote:

Yet I'm willing to bet you can't find a single moral statement that isn't based on personal preference. I'll give you an example.

"We shouldn't go around randomly killing people if we wan't to live in a society where we don't have to constantly fear for our lives"

This statement is objectively true, yet whether or not we think it's preferable to live in that kind of society is entirely subjective. Therefore if everyone does want to constantly live in fear, it becomes moral to randomly go around killing people, and that conclusion rests entirely on the preference of the people.

This is entirely falsifiable if your opinion that there are ultimately objective moral standards is true.

What you're saying is completely vacuous because any moral judgment that a person could make, even if it's based on reasons and they would actually prefer to do something else would be personal preference according to you. To you, all that exists is personal preference. So all your saying is "people prefer what they prefer". So what! It's devoid of any empirical content.

The underlined part is where the problem is. You have yet to show me how you can find a reason for doing something that isn't ultimately based on personal preference. We shouldn't murder people because...? This is where you enter an objective reason for why not.

 


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Manageri wrote:It's not an

Manageri wrote:

It's not an argument at all, it's just my assessment of it.

Well, then call it a statement. It's a circular statement.

Quote:

You can also drown me with coke and it'll taste good, doesn't mean I'm gonna think it's the greatest thing ever. Do you really expect a serious answer to this? You're focusing on the sexual sensation alone, completely disregarding the numerous negative feelings and trauma, which is silly. I also didn't see any victims describing the awesomeness of it. All you've shown is the sexual organs do their job whether we want them to or not.


It's not really amusing for me to watch you massage the definitions of the terms you use until they're ultimately reduced to circular statements that are true in the trivial sense that that's how you defined them.

So what "feels good" is not actually what feels good. What "feels good" is what you prefer to do that feels good if you actually do it. Of course if you define it that way then there's no difference between what you prefer, what feels good, and what you do because it's a tautology. But there's no reason to define it that way.

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The underlined part is where the problem is. You have yet to show me how you can find a reason for doing something that isn't ultimately based on personal preference. We shouldn't murder people because...? This is where you enter an objective reason for why not.

 

That's it? That's your point? First of all everyone knows that morality is subjective in the sense that people have their own personal moral beliefs and yours may differ from mine. You haven't made a new discovery here and that in no way proves that morality is merely a matter of preference.

 Did you really think that was a problem unique to moral knowledge? That's a problem that exists with human knowledge about almost anything including identity, number,  substance, the necessary existence and infinite extension of time and space, necessity, possibility and many other things. You can't show how, on empiricist foundations, we can construct an account of the ideas and beliefs and knowledge we have of those matters.   

 Even if it was taken for granted that there is no objective value it wouldn't follow logically that we should abandon subjective concerns or cease to want anything so what you're saying is truly not insightful.

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Gauche wrote:Quote:You can

Gauche wrote:

Quote:

You can also drown me with coke and it'll taste good, doesn't mean I'm gonna think it's the greatest thing ever. Do you really expect a serious answer to this? You're focusing on the sexual sensation alone, completely disregarding the numerous negative feelings and trauma, which is silly. I also didn't see any victims describing the awesomeness of it. All you've shown is the sexual organs do their job whether we want them to or not.

It's not really amusing for me to watch you massage the definitions of the terms you use until they're ultimately reduced to circular statements that are true in the trivial sense that that's how you defined them.

So what "feels good" is not actually what feels good. What "feels good" is what you prefer to do that feels good if you actually do it. Of course if you define it that way then there's no difference between what you prefer, what feels good, and what you do because it's a tautology. But there's no reason to define it that way.

If we're gonna talk about rape then I'm gonna talk about rape as a whole, not only the part that specifically deals with the sexual organs. For you to say that if it's possible to get sexual pleasure from it, then the whole thing is pleasurable, is ridicilous. It's like saying if I murder your entire family except for one person, the fact that you're glad at least one person was spared makes the whole thing a happy occurrence. Pleasure is not an on/off switch, there's nothing preventing you from experiencing several kinds of pleasure and displeasure at the same time.

Quote:
Quote:

The underlined part is where the problem is. You have yet to show me how you can find a reason for doing something that isn't ultimately based on personal preference. We shouldn't murder people because...? This is where you enter an objective reason for why not.

That's it? That's your point? First of all everyone knows that morality is subjective in the sense that people have their own personal moral beliefs and yours may differ from mine. You haven't made a new discovery here and that in no way proves that morality is merely a matter of preference.

You're the one claiming there's truly objective value in moral statements, it's up to you to prove it. If it's not just that then what is it?

 


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Manageri wrote:If we're

Manageri wrote:

If we're gonna talk about rape then I'm gonna talk about rape as a whole, not only the part that specifically deals with the sexual organs. For you to say that if it's possible to get sexual pleasure from it, then the whole thing is pleasurable, is ridicilous. It's like saying if I murder your entire family except for one person, the fact that you're glad at least one person was spared makes the whole thing a happy occurrence. Pleasure is not an on/off switch, there's nothing preventing you from experiencing several kinds of pleasure and displeasure at the same time.

You're missing the point. It's a plain tautology. There cannot be an exception because that's how you define it. If a man jumps on a grenade the fact that he jumped on it "proves" that he prefered to jump on it. That fact that he jumped on it "proves" that it felt good. It's true by definition and thus devoid of empirical content.

Quote:

You're the one claiming there's truly objective value in moral statements, it's up to you to prove it. If it's not just that then what is it?

 

"Truly objective"? Give me a fucking break. I've explained in what sense it is objective and in what sense it is subjective. You're making the bald claim that since it is in a sense subjective we can say nothing objective about it. It's a non-sequitur.



I see you've chosen to ignore the rest of my post why is that?


 

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I think some of your points

I think some of your points are valid. However, whatever points you did make were sugar coated in ethno-centrism. If you want to tell people to study philosophy and ethics, that is fair. But i think you should study up on anthropology and morality within different cultures. Id recommend reading France Boas and what became known as cultural relativism. 

For example, you said, America doesn't believe in slavery. You are a victim of American ethnocentric morality. America does believe and practice slavery. Whether that is in its prison system with forced labor or with its corporations employing the largest form of child slavery in history. 

You do not see this as slavery because your culture tells you its not slavery. All cultures are morally flawed and believe they are on the right path to moral truth.

 Science is amoral. Why are you using that in an argument about morality? Whichever culture is the most scientific advanced always uses their technology for their own interests. This was true for the Greek, Romans, British, and now America. When one says America is most scientifically advanced nation, one is saying nothing about their morality. In fact, some of the most scientifically advanced nations committed some of the worst atrocities (America included). 

You cannot determine morality without looking at the culture constricts around it. Cultures with high rapes tend to be patriarchies. Cultures with high crime have a lot of poverty. This is bad, right? yes and no... these cultures would argue that they make up for it in wealth, power, and individuality. Wealth, Power, and Individuality is good, right? But at what cost?

 


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Gauche wrote:You're missing

Gauche wrote:

You're missing the point. It's a plain tautology. There cannot be an exception because that's how you define it. If a man jumps on a grenade the fact that he jumped on it "proves" that he prefered to jump on it. That fact that he jumped on it "proves" that it felt good. It's true by definition and thus devoid of empirical content.

Yes, and completely compatible with what I said about not having a choise. Which actions you want to label as "preferred" or "feeling good" doesn't really interest me.

Quote:
Quote:
You're the one claiming there's truly objective value in moral statements, it's up to you to prove it. If it's not just that then what is it?

"Truly objective"? Give me a fucking break. I've explained in what sense it is objective and in what sense it is subjective. You're making the bald claim that since it is in a sense subjective we can say nothing objective about it. It's a non-sequitur.

Do you or do you not think there are things we all should do, or not do, whether or not we agree with them? Even if everyone suddenly decided that murdering others and getting murdered themselves is totally fine, including all the consequences, are you saying there's a reason we still shouldn't? If so, how do you determine these reasons?

Quote:
I see you've chosen to ignore the rest of my post why is that?

About moral knowledge? There is no such thing or there wouldn't be disagreements about what to do. We'd have textbooks in school about it, like we have about some of those other things you mentioned, but we don't because the way we gain knowledge about math or scientific endeavors cannot be used for moral knowledge.

Quote:
Even if it was taken for granted that there is no objective value it wouldn't follow logically that we should abandon subjective concerns or cease to want anything so what you're saying is truly not insightful.

I said no such thing.


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Manageri wrote:Yes, and

Manageri wrote:

Yes, and completely compatible with what I said about not having a choise. Which actions you want to label as "preferred" or "feeling good" doesn't really interest me.

Yeah, it's compatible in the trivial sense that it's circular. What you're saying is no different from when a theist says god exists because the bible says so and the bible is true because go wrote it.

Quote:
Do you or do you not think there are things we all should do, or not do, whether or not we agree with them? Even if everyone suddenly decided that murdering others and getting murdered themselves is totally fine, including all the consequences, are you saying there's a reason we still shouldn't? If so, how do you determine these reasons?

My beliefs are irrelevant. I don't believe in the "right thing to do" I believe in virtue. So in your nonsensical hypothetical example I'd believe that being an efficient killer and a fast runner were virtues.

Since you don't believe in choice, you should believe that the conditions of social living and people's desires to live and operate within them effectively are merely facts and therefore objective. But you must ignore the logical conclusions of your own statements to raise objections about moral statements not being objective.

What is relevant is that you have no answer to the fact that morality is in a sense objective. You even admit it yet you continue to spit out unreasonable nonsensical objections.

What is relevant is that the passage of time is essentially a subjective experience. Even two people who are sitting right next to each other experience it differently, yet they can still make objective statements about it.

Quote:

About moral knowledge? There is no such thing or there wouldn't be disagreements about what to do. We'd have textbooks in school about it, like we have about some of those other things you mentioned, but we don't because the way we gain knowledge about math or scientific endeavors cannot be used for moral knowledge.

There are textbooks about it. The subject is called ethics. And you should have studied it before having a discussion about it so that it could be an intelligent discussion from your end. I mean really, don't you think you should have at least a cursory understanding of a subject before you make bald claims about it?

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You know what? After

You know what? After this:

Manageri wrote:

About moral knowledge? There is no such thing or there wouldn't be disagreements about what to do.

I've decided that I'd rather not continue this discussion. You continually make arguments where the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. Does it follow that if there are disagreements about something then there is no knowledge about it? There are disagreements about everything, so according to your rationale we can't have knowledge period . So you can write a reply if you wish but I probably won't respond.

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EXC wrote:Isn't is possible

EXC wrote:

Isn't is possible to decide that if I could become invisible, I would? When someone has a spinal cord injury and becomes a paraplegic, the commands to move the legs still go out from the brain. Eventually the person learns that the legs don't respond and the commands stop going out. Are they still deciding to walk?

A decision, but an inneffectual one. That's actually a pretty interesting philosophical question. I would say that the "decision" is based on the intent of the person deciding, and not the outcome of their decision. If they intend to do something, and make a conscious effort to do it, then they have decided to do it.

EXC wrote:

Seeing as how I think the fact that we don't have free will makes any discussion of ethics an exercise in fantasy, I don't see how it's possible. Where is there evidence to the contrary?

You're right. I will argue against this.

EXC wrote:

You're right, nothing else follows. Because there is no evidence that anything else follows. There is only wild speculation and fantasy that anything else follows.

You don't need evidence for deduction. We have your premise from which nothing in ethical theory follows. You will need more premises to make something follow from it. Indeed, it would be "wild speculation and fantasy" to take your statement and then start making ethical claims, because any claim would be a non-sequiter.

EXC wrote:

You are uncomfortable with this conclusion. It doesn't feel good, so people invent alternative explanations, when there is no evidence for them. But this is not being an objective observer.

No, I am attempting to show you that stating reams of scientific evidence without a normative claim does not an ethical theory make.

EXC wrote:

What your calling non-pleasure seeking is still pleasure seeking just by other means.

For instance, people will say "My values have changed, I'm going to quit my job and join the peace core because I want to help people." But humans being social animals have an ability to derive pleasure from helping others, plus there is pleasure in new learning and new experiences. So everything gets mapped back to the pleasure/pain neural firing patterns.

Please. Don't pretend that the only reason people do ANYTHING is to seek pleasure or avoid pain. You have just created a non-falsifiable position. Any counter-example I throw at you, you will just say "Well, the person derived pleasure in such and such a way" without showing that the REASON the person did this action was to get pleasure. Pleasure is often an unintended side-effect. People do not do things single-mindedly--they may have many goals and many intentions.

EXC wrote:

Again nature produced this goal, not any one's free will. I don't have a choice. It's just an illusion or an act that someone is not behaving to maximize their pleasure. Didn't Mother Teresa get a lot of benefit from not being 'selfish'? Plus she had an expection of a lot of pleasure after death. Why was she not a hedonist? When she helped the poor, didn't this excite her pleasure centers?

Just because someone gets pleasure out of something, does not mean this is the reason they performed the act. Just showing that someone has gotten pleasure out of something does not show that this was their sole reason for seeking it.

EXC wrote:

It's game strategy whereby individuals see a means of increasing their own pleasure via cooperation with others.

Suppose we have a strategy whereby a member goes to such altrustic lengths as to commit suicide. How does this increase their pleasure?

EXC wrote:

She just got her kicks in different ways from other hedonists(i.e. all humans). Her activities to get her pleasure was thinking and writing. Other 'hedonists' choose religion or sex or booze as their drug of choice. Your drug of choice is philosophy, that's why you defend it so passionately.

I'm afraid you're using the wrong definition of hedonism. Hedonism, in the philosophical sense, is the assertion that "pleasure is good and pain is bad." That is, it holds that pleasure is an end in itself, and that all things are a means to that end. A hedonist is someone who makes this claim. Ayn rand did not make this claim -- she talked about some other nonsense about "value fulfillment." Her claims are not taken very seriously by philosophers-- but she was indeed vehemently against hedonists and particularly utilitarian hedonists.

EXC wrote:

Claiming not to be a hedonist is a product of human pride and arrogance, and ironically more proof that we are all hedonists.

"Claiming to not be a theist is a product of hate of god, and ironically more proof that atheists do not exist."

Does this fallacious reasoning sound familiar?

EXC wrote:

Neurology and psychology would probably tell us that everyone would have their breaking point. The expectation of the absence of misery could be made to override expectation of pleasure derived from group loyalty. It's just a matter of how much strees one could endure. People could resist to a varying degree depending on their genetics and conditioning. Many people would choose suicide if the option was available.

I'm not interested in what people would do in this situation. I am interested in what would be the right thing to do.

EXC wrote:

A deterrent for one. To not do so would eventually harm the groups common pursuit of pleasure. Plus we get a sensation of satisfaction when revenge or justice is served. But the concept of justice is an illusion as well.

You have a habit of claiming a lot of things are illusory.

EXC wrote:

To go any further requires me to enter into wild speculation and fantasy. I stop being an objective observer. One then believes that illusion is real. Here's the difference between us:

I go to the magic show and understand that it's an illusion. I'm OK with it, I can play along with illusion and still be entertained. I want to understand how the magician does his tricks.

You go the show and wanting to believe the illusion are real. Believing that it's all magic makes you feel better so you force yourself to believe it's real just as everyone else does. Knowing how the tricks work bothers you because you enjoy the illusions so much.

I am not asking you to go further with non-sequiters, I am asking you to reveal your hidden premises which allow you to make such bold claims.


EXC wrote:

You know the story of how a computer was finally able to beat the best chess player? It didn't win by being 'smarter'. It exhausted the human player. The computer could look so many moves ahead that the human just became too exhausted to continue. Just like torture scenario, crank up the pleasure or pain, and people will respond according to their hedonistic nature.

I think you're referring to Deep Blue beating Kasparov. Deep Blue did not exhaust Kasparov. Deep Blue simply did more calculations than him more quickly, tended not to make foolish "shallow" mistakes, and did not fall for Kasparov's gambits and ploys. Essentially, Deep Blue was a brute force machine that employed a full-width alpha-beta search to an insane depth. Kasparov, like all humans, tended to use heuristic methods to determine which move to make, and unforuntatley was unable to see all of the traps Deep Blue had set for him. Kasparov could search deeper than Deep Blue, but not wider. Human beings tend to be narrow chess searchers with a large depth. They do this by using "aspiration pruning," by selecting a few paths, and not bothering to consider others, while chess machines consider every possible option to a certain number of moves. This causes humans to be very prone to mistakes when something unexpected happens in play. The general strategy for beating a computer is to use wide, broad strategies and to play conservatively-- but in this day and age top-of the line chess

EXC wrote:

But, I'll feel good about doing the RIGHT thing, won't I? If I'm being a hedonist all the time, I'll feel bad. So I better stop being a hedonist so I can feel better about myself. You get a special gooey feeling by doing the 'right' thing. That's how you decide something is 'right'.

Even if I feel good about it, this doesn't mean I did the right thing just to feel good. I can determine what is right by using reasoning and logic and a sound set of ethical axioms. This turns moral questions into logical ones that can be worked out in the same way by anybody with the same axioms. It also turns moral dilemmas into debates which can be won by the individual with stronger reasoning. If I feel bad about doing the right thing, so be it. If I feel good, all the better. It is irrelevent.

EXC wrote:

Group cooperation is often a scam. Look a patriotism. They are trying to create a good feeling as a reward. I should put country ahead of myself. It's often a way to get people to sacrifice for nothing in return. But we're programmed to look for way to cooperate with each other for the common good(i.e. pleasant sensations in the brain) that can trickle down to each individual.

Okay, back to egosim. So the government is a tool to give YOU pleasure? Everyone else is a tool to service YOUR desires? How can you justify this arbitary placement of yourself on such a high pedestal? What makes you, or any individual, so special?

 

EXC wrote:

I'm not endorsing anything. I just stating how I believe things work. Since I don't believe people have a choice about anything, endorsing something would be meaningless.

What your doing here is playing the shame game. You are creating a punishment(shame) for behavior you deem as selfish and wrong. So I should go along with you and the social norms to avoid the punishment of being selfish. This only demonstrates that we are all hedonists. Since there is punishment for being 'selfish'.

You seem to think I should believe something only because if we don't hold onto the delusion, people will be hurt. That may be a valid argument in favor of self-delusion, but it's not a logical reason to believe something is true.

You seem to enjoy the delusion of believing you and others and not driven to act by pain/pleasure expectations.

I enjoy understanding how things really work.

I do not deny that this is how things work. I wouldn't be surprised if human beings in general tended to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It is almost certainly the case that we do so. However, I do not believe it is necessary that we do so at all times. I do not believe that seeking pleasure is inherently good or that pain is inherently bad. I also do not believe the contrary. We can use our reason to determine what we should and should not do, and this is a superior way of doing things. Reason is more reliable than automatic responses, and it allows us to deal with all sorts of situations in a reasonable, ethical way. If, using reason, I determine that seeking pleasure in a certain situation would be the wrong thing to do, then I would avoid seeking pleasure, in spite of my discontent. This gives human beings tremendous power of action and restraint. It allows us to overcome basic urges and to think deeply about our actions, their consequences, and their meanings. Pleasure and pain are simply  fast heuristics that evolution gave us to ensure our survival. We do not have to use a heuristic or obey it if we have sound reasons to do things instead.

 

EXC wrote:

No, I'm say we all do play life like it's a kind of poker game. What you not getting is when I say we are only motivated to act out of pain/pleasure, this does not preclude acts of social cooperation, acts of charity, acts of kindness. They can produce pleasant sensations and in the long run help with ones desire to obtain pleasure. But their must be a sensation of pleasure instead of pain in the brain.

Why must there be? This does not make sense at all. Are you implying that whenever anyone decides anything at all, it automatically shows that there is a sensation of pleasure in the brain? Why do you believe this is so? Even if it were so, why would this imply that the REASON the person did something was to obtain pleasure?

EXC wrote:

What the government does can affect the sensations produced in my brain. When I see other people suffering, I have feeling of misery in my own mind. But my motivation is not help people directly. My motivation is to eliminate the negative sensations in my brain. So that's why even the most empathetic person you can imagine is really a hedonist. People like Mother Teresa are trying to create the illusion of not being a hedonist.

Are you seriously implying that the ONLY motivation people have is to eliminate unpleasent sensations in their mind?

Suppose we have the following:

A trustworthy person demonstrates for you a fantastic machine which he claims can cause any sensation in your brain that you desire. It can stimulate any sense and produce any stimulus. It can also create and erase memories. While wearing it, you are supplied with food, water, and medicine, and never falter from good health. It is the only such machine in the world, and only the salesman knows how to build it. Suppose that the salseman, whom you trust completely to be honest for the sake of argument, offers you a deal. He says that he can hook you up to this fantastic machine for the rest of your life if only you would allow him to rape and murder your wife, children, and dog. If you do not comply, he will destroy the machine and never return. If you do comply, he will first hook you up with the machine, which will replicate for you the conditions of your life exactly, save for the fact that you do not remember getting hooked up to the machine. In this simulation that the machine produces, all will be identical to your life except you will be unbelievably, beatifically happy at all times. In addition, the salesman promises that the memory of his rape and murder of your family will be erased free of charge. There is no social consequence of making the deal, as you live on a secluded and unknown island that has only your family and the salseman.

Would you connect yourself to the machine? Why or why not?

EXC wrote:

Again, you don't have free will to decide to win. Evolution has produced humans that derive pleasant sensation from playing games that involve strategy. We also derive pleasure from completing a complex tasks successfully. This feature aided in the survival of our ancestors. Not much else to say about "Why".

That's how. Tell me why. Evolution made me want to win, so what? Why should I listen to my instinctual drive to win?

EXC wrote:

Please do. I don't think your arguments can go anywhere unless you can undermine the overwhelming evidence that free will is a delusion.

The problem you have in proving that humans have free will is that either everything must have free will or nothing has free will. If humans have free will then so must a computer, chimpanzee, dog, mouse, ant, virus, RNA strand, rock, atom, etc... Good luck.

Okay. Here it goes.

I claim that the universe is indeed deterministic, but that free will exists and is compatible with determinism.

I define free will as "The ability to make a decision about any given action in accorance with a will or desire, along with the ability to attempt such an action."

I define decision as "The act of taking stored information from some medium and producing a desire through computation. The act of choosing one action over another by these means."

I define desire as "The intention to perform an action."

Why this is not in conflict with determinism: Determinism merely states that all future events are determined by preceding ones absolutely, and that there is, at all possible moments, only one future. However, my definition of free will is not in conflict with this. There is no contradiction here. Even if there is only one possible future, the agent in question does not have to have full knowledge of the future. It only has an expection of what it intends the future to be, or believes the future to be. Even if the universe does not turn out like the agent expected, it can still make an attempt to influence the universe in acccordance with its will. In this way it does not have a freedom of action, but it does have a freedom of will.

Now, if you define will to also be deterministic (and it is,) then there is still no conflict here. If we consider the universe to be a simulation which we can run over and over, the agent will produce the same will, and attempt the same action in exactly the same way-- but this does not imply that its will is not free. It did exactly as what was expected. It took in information from the universe, processed it, decided that it wanted to attempt a particular action, and attempted it. If we re-run the simulation of the universe with slightly different starting paramaters, the agent may make another decision. However, this decision may not have anything to do with the immediate input of the person. Here is another corrally I will add:

An agent has free will if and only if it can come to a different decision based on the same input. That is-- if an agent is given identical input in two slightly different universes, it may perform a different action. ergo, an agent has free will if and only if its will is not solely determined by external input, but can be determined by internal states. I claim that such an agent is possible, and provide the human brain as an example. To use imprecise language, if a human brain is given exactly the same input in one universe and in another, save for the fact that in the other universe, there is one dead neuron in the brain that wasn't there before, the will of the brain may not be exactly the same.

Already we have ruled out ideal deterministic computer programs, deterministic finite automata, rocks, viruses, and atoms. Although computer programs and DFAs perform computations and make decisions based on input, their decisions will always be the same on the same input (again we are assuming the computer is ideal). Rocks, viruses, and atoms, take in and store no information, make no decisions, and always do the same thing with the same inputs from the external world.

Why free will exists:

I claim that free will exists because all of the pre-requisites are met by human beings. Human beings take in data from the environment as input, perform a calculation based on it, and decide which actions to take based on the information. Furthermore, human behavior is not bound entirely by input. Internal brain states contribute greatly to decisions. In slightly different universes, human behavior will be slightly different.

Why new evidence in neuroscience does not contradict this:

It was recently found that people could easily be given the illusion of free will by stimulating brain regions while asking them to say whether or not they felt the intention to perform an action which was specifically caused by the  electric stimulus. However, this does not imply that the person did not in fact will the action. The stimulus in their brain caused them to decide to perform one action or another. However, I did not say that they had to specifically cause one action or another. On the contrary, I only implied that they had to have an intention and a desire. The stimulus itself was of the machinery of the will and desire. By acting in accordance with the stimulus, the subjects were acting in accordance with their perceived will, and thus their actions were in accorance with free will. Just because the machinery of free will can be tampered with does not imply that the machinery does not exist, and under ordinary circumstances, the machinery would have functioned flawlessly. (and I assume this is the evidence you are referring to.)

 

What else has free will:

Anything with a nervous system capable of computation (yes, chimpanzees and dogs as you mockingly suggest). A sufficiently advanced parallel computer with physical components (ie, not ideal.)

 

 

 

 

 


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theotherguy wrote:Please.

theotherguy wrote:

Please. Don't pretend that the only reason people do ANYTHING is to seek pleasure or avoid pain. You have just created a non-falsifiable position. Any counter-example I throw at you, you will just say "Well, the person derived pleasure in such and such a way" without showing that the REASON the person did this action was to get pleasure. Pleasure is often an unintended side-effect. People do not do things single-mindedly--they may have many goals and many intentions.

Right and the goals and intentions often conflict. We are confronted with following a strategy of getting pleasure through social activities which reward us with respect and comfort from others and delayed satisfaction. You reward people that are 'unselfish' so that is the reward.

We can scan the brain and see the reward centers in the brain activate when people perform activities. Unselfish people get a reward for behaving in an empathetic way. How many times are we told we'll 'feel good' about doing the 'right thing'? Don't 'empathetic' people like Mother Teresa and President Obama get a reward for being perceived that way?

There are treatments for depression now which shut down the reward/punishment circuits in the brain. The downside is that they remove motivation.

All the world's a stage, and the act we are usually putting on is that we are not seeking to maximize reward/minimize punishment.

theotherguy wrote:

Just because someone gets pleasure out of something, does not mean this is the reason they performed the act. Just showing that someone has gotten pleasure out of something does not show that this was their sole reason for seeking it.

Can you give an example to back this claim?

theotherguy wrote:

Suppose we have a strategy whereby a member goes to such altrustic lengths as to commit suicide. How does this increase their pleasure?

It is the EXPECTATION of reward, not it's realization. That's why heaven and hell work as motivators. And as Pavlov's dogs experiment demonstrate the expectation of a reward is a reward in itself. The 9/11 hijackers had a high expectation of pleasurable sex with 72 virgins. This fantasy was a reward in itself.

theotherguy wrote:

I'm afraid you're using the wrong definition of hedonism. Hedonism, in the philosophical sense, is the assertion that "pleasure is good and pain is bad."

If something causes pleasure avoids pain, then an individual decides it is good.

You are saying we can assign a value of good to something apart from expectation of stimulation of the reward/punishment circuits in our brains. I say we can't.

If you say something is good, it is only because of expectation of reward. It feels good to you. There must be this correlation.

theotherguy wrote:

That is, it holds that pleasure is an end in itself, and that all things are a means to that end.

That's how the brain works, you shut down it's reward centers, the animal will loose motivation. There are no exceptions.

theotherguy wrote:

You have a habit of claiming a lot of things are illusory.

The mind is very inventive. Actually one could argue that everything is an illusion. Our brains create a map of how the works. We experience this mapping not the real world, so everything we experience is a kind of illusion. For instance, 'now' is an illusion. Everything we experience is something that happened in the past. You can only make decisions about the future.

Our memories are an altered version of reality. That's why they change over time and witnesses report the 'facts' differently.

You don't seem to want to look inside the 'black box' and see that the 'magic'(morality, free will, right and wrong) is all an illusion. An invention of society given to impressionable minds. You don't want to look backstage at the magic show. You don't want to see that the Wizard of OZ is just a little old man pulling a few levers.

theotherguy wrote:

I am not asking you to go further with non-sequiters, I am asking you to reveal your hidden premises which allow you to make such bold claims.

You accept that morality, right and wrong and free-will exist without any proof, without question. I don't. That's our difference. So you have the premises, not me.

We are conditioned by parents, society, religion, etc... to accept they are real from the day we are born. It is a way of controlling our behavior to conform in an acceptable way. I think all the evidence from science is indicating that they are inventions of people with hidden(selfish) motivations, that they don't really exist. 


theotherguy wrote:

Deep Blue did not exhaust Kasparov.

"I'm exhausted - I'm dead," Kasparov told reporters after the fourth game.

The exception of pleasure from beating the computer was overcome by the pain of exhaustion. The computer was not programmed to slow down if it expended too much energy as nature programmed Kasparov.

 

theotherguy wrote:

Even if I feel good about it, this doesn't mean I did the right thing just to feel good. I can determine what is right by using reasoning and logic and a sound set of ethical axioms.

And the reasoning will calculate that a particular decision will in the long run probably cause more pleasure that pain. It will activate the pleasure centers while avoiding pain.

It's just like chess, one can attack the King directly or delay and capture other pieces first. A novice player without a lot of chess reasoning ability won't understand this strategy.

Science has discovered that people have an emotional IQ. Intelligence and strategy about how to play the social games like being popular, respected and liked.


theotherguy wrote:

If I feel bad about doing the right thing, so be it. If I feel good, all the better. It is irrelevent.

But if you don't do the right thing, you'll feel guilty that you didn't do the right thing. And the guilt will cause stress(discomfort). So you can't avoid making a pleasure/pain decision.


theotherguy wrote:

Okay, back to egosim. So the government is a tool to give YOU pleasure? Everyone else is a tool to service YOUR desires? How can you justify this arbitary placement of yourself on such a high pedestal? What makes you, or any individual, so special?

That's why government doesn't work. People fall for the scam that politicians at their core are looking out for the folks. Just admit we are all selfish bastards at our core, then come up with a strategy that works from that starting point. Just realize that being selfish does not preclude empathy, charity and social harmony from activating rewards in our limbic systems.

I don't put anyone on a pedestal or think anyone is special. I'm just stating how things work. Because you don't like the consequences of something is not a reason to reject all the evidence behind it.


theotherguy wrote:

If, using reason, I determine that seeking pleasure in a certain situation would be the wrong thing to do, then I would avoid seeking pleasure, in spite of my discontent. This gives human beings tremendous power of action and restraint. It allows us to overcome basic urges and to think deeply about our actions, their consequences, and their meanings. Pleasure and pain are simply fast heuristics that evolution gave us to ensure our survival. We do not have to use a heuristic or obey it if we have sound reasons to do things instead.

You shut down the limbic system(our primitive brain), you shut down motivation. Then we can't reason that we should motivated to do something. The newer, more highly evolved reasoning functions can only help us figure strategies to obtain pleasure. They can't motivate us.


theotherguy wrote:

Why must there be? This does not make sense at all. Are you implying that whenever anyone decides anything at all, it automatically shows that there is a sensation of pleasure in the brain? Why do you believe this is so? Even if it were so, why would this imply that the REASON the person did something was to obtain pleasure?

There is an expectation of pleasure/avoidance of pain. The science pretty much reveals this. We can change to debating the science of this if you want. I can point to tons of studies that indicate this is the case.

When you shut down the reasoning parts of the brain, people make poor, non-delayed decisions about how to obtain pleasure. But the desire is still there. When the reward centers are shut down, motivation goes away, but they can still reason out solutions to a problem.

 

theotherguy wrote:

A trustworthy person demonstrates for you a fantastic machine which he claims can cause any sensation in your brain that you desire. It can stimulate any sense and produce any stimulus. It can also create and erase memories. While wearing it, you are supplied with food, water, and medicine, and never falter from good health. It is the only such machine in the world, and only the salesman knows how to build it. Suppose that the salseman, whom you trust completely to be honest for the sake of argument, offers you a deal. He says that he can hook you up to this fantastic machine for the rest of your life if only you would allow him to rape and murder your wife, children, and dog. If you do not comply, he will destroy the machine and never return. If you do comply, he will first hook you up with the machine, which will replicate for you the conditions of your life exactly, save for the fact that you do not remember getting hooked up to the machine. In this simulation that the machine produces, all will be identical to your life except you will be unbelievably, beatifically happy at all times. In addition, the salesman promises that the memory of his rape and murder of your family will be erased free of charge. There is no social consequence of making the deal, as you live on a secluded and unknown island that has only your family and the salseman.

In order to 'demonstrate' the machine, he would have to let me experience the pleasure. Otherwise I would not believe him. He would need to get me addicted. We see everyday people will do anything to get their fix if they are sufficiently addicted.

The closest analogy we have to this what happens with the drug epidemics like crack cocaine. People do abandon families they love to keep getting the high. Same thing with alcohol addiction, the alcoholics know their addiction is destroying their family, but they can't stop.

Science tells us that love is like a drug. So the fantastic machine would just have to be a better drug than what one gets from the family. It also tells us your view is outdated. People can't stop themselves when they have a strong addiction. That's why medicine now treats addictions with science not guilt.

theotherguy wrote:

Would you connect yourself to the machine? Why or why not?

I believe one would actually have to experience the machine in order to be conditioned to make such a decision. There must be a correlation between an action and pleasure, in other words an addiction process must take place. Just having someone tell me something(without extreme brainwashing) would not work, since I'm a skeptic.

But once someone is powerfully addicted to anything, they will do anything to get the fix. I don't have a choice, this is how the nerve cells would respond. The addiction process demonstrates we don't have free will. Then once I'm addicted, am I really the same person?

So if you were waterboaded repeatedly, could you resist telling your tortures information to prevent your country from being nuked?

theotherguy wrote:

That's how. Tell me why. Evolution made me want to win, so what? Why should I listen to my instinctual drive to win?

Stick your hand in a extremely hot fire. Why should you listen to your drive not to burn your hand?

theotherguy wrote:

To use imprecise language, if a human brain is given exactly the same input in one universe and in another, save for the fact that in the other universe, there is one dead neuron in the brain that wasn't there before, the will of the brain may not be exactly the same.

Right, but in order for there to be "one dead neuron in the brain that wasn't there before" there must be a different input(i.e. genetics and environmental factor). So it ends up being the same as changing the inputs.

There are reconfigurable computer chips that can change their processing hardware(i.e. neurons) based on inputs. So your argument is that a computer that is reconfigurable has free will but one that only runs software doesn't. So if I plug a memory card into my PC or upgrade the microprocessor, it has free will, otherwise no?

theotherguy wrote:

Furthermore, human behavior is not bound entirely by input. Internal brain states contribute greatly to decisions. In slightly different universes, human behavior will be slightly different.

And all internal brain states are a function of the inputs. In slightly different universes, inputs will be slightly different.

Then a heavy rock 'decides' to roll down a hill because it's internal core was full. But a light rock decides to stay put because it's internal state was not heavy. So rocks have free will?

There is a question of randomness at quantum levels producing variable results. But there is no indication that this would give rise to free will.

theotherguy wrote:

Anything with a nervous system capable of computation (yes, chimpanzees and dogs as you mockingly suggest). A sufficiently advanced parallel computer with physical components (ie, not ideal.)

At what level of hardware complexity does a computer switch from being non-freewill to freewill? How many MIPS are required? Is just 2 neurons good enough to be free will? What number of neurons?

What does computation speed have to do with free will? Can't I simulate the operation of a parallel computer on a non-parallel computer. If it takes a second or a week for two computers to make the same decision with the same data, how does this affect me calling one free-will and not the other?

So if I perceive that a computer computes something really fast I should call it free will? If it seems slow, the computer is non-freewill. Doesn't this just prove that freewill is a perception illusion?

 

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca