Moral facts

Gavagai
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Moral facts

A moral fact exists when, say, Jones performs an action that has the property of being wrong, and this action is wrong regardless of what anybody thinks.

Precisely put:

A moral fact F exists only if there is at least one property p, such that p is exemplified (or realized) by some event e, p is a moral property, and e's exemplification of p occurs independently of any relation p bears to human cognitive systems.

Is there anybody here who holds the belief that moral facts do not exist? If you do, why?


Thor
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Moral facts

I say universal moral facts don't exist not just because of my agnostic epistemology, but also because a quick look around shows us that different people hold compltely different morals. Find me just one 'immoral' action that no-one else thinks is right.

Having said that, I think morality can be treated as a personal analytic truth. That is to say, I safely say X is morally wrong simply because I am defining morality as what I personally think is right. However when you say "fact" I am infering that you mean "universally true".

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Archangel__7
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Moral facts

Alan_RRSdesigner wrote:
I say universal moral facts don't exist ... because a quick look around shows us that different people hold compltely different morals. Find me just one 'immoral' action that no-one else thinks is right.

Hi, Alan. I don't know how Gavagai here would advance the discussion, but I'd love to chime in here too if I may. It's somewhat out of order, but I think will follow a more readable path than if I had left it in its original order...

I think the strongest argument one might make from this is that there may exist no moral knowledge, but I don't know that this would secure the claim that therefore there are no moral facts. There are some people I might consider morally ignorant, but our lack of knowledge doesn't really answer the question as to whether moral facts do exist.

Alan_RRSdesigner wrote:
However when you say "fact" I am infering that you mean "universally true".

Or rather, if they exist, moral facts are that which are independent of one's notions of what is truly "moral"; or put differently, they are mind-independent.

Alan_RRSdesigner wrote:
Having said that, I think morality can be treated as a personal analytic truth. That is to say, I safely say X is morally wrong simply because I am defining morality as what I personally think is right.

So while people can and do consider moral values as grounded on the basis of individual subjectivity alone, is this a view you would personally espouse?


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Re: Moral facts

Gavagai wrote:
A moral fact exists when, say, Jones performs an action that has the property of being wrong, and this action is wrong regardless of what anybody thinks.

Precisely put:

A moral fact F exists only if there is at least one property p, such that p is exemplified (or realized) by some event e, p is a moral property, and e's exemplification of p occurs independently of any relation p bears to human cognitive systems.

Is there anybody here who holds the belief that moral facts do not exist? If you do, why?

Isn't a moral action actually an interaction? Person(s) X the Environment (or context)?

If so, how can we talk about morality without context?

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

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Moral facts

Quote:
Isn't a moral action actually an interaction? Person(s) X the Environment (or context)?

Todangst, it took me a while to understand what you were asking, but I think I finally have it in mind...

If I'm correct, what Gavagai is saying here is that if an action exemplifies the property of wrongness, it does so independently of whether or not human beings recognize it to be so.

An action is wrong not as a matter of categorical fabrication, but as a matter of consequence. The moral categories exist prior to human cognitive ability, and are therefore not dependent on them for their existence.


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Moral facts

That seems question begging to me, though. If you're going to say that moral categories are prior to human knowledge and that they are not dependent on human judgment or other human "approval," one has to ask "on what precisely do moral facts depend?" If they exist independently of humanity, how did they get there?

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Moral facts

God of course.


Samurai
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Moral facts

Heh, I was hoping that would be the answer...

Saying that moral laws come from god leads to a very sticky problem known as Euthyphro's Dilemma; in a nutshell, it goes something like this: "Does god command us to do good because it is good, or is something good because it is commanded by god?"

Either horn of the dilemma leads to conclusions that most theists--particularly proponents of the Divine Command Theory of ethics--wish to avoid. Let's take the second one first.

Suppose a particular action, say "curing babies of terminal diseases," is good because it is commanded by god; this means that god woke up one morning (so to speak) and decided "curing babies of terminal diseases shall be good" and then, supposedly, sent this decree down to earth so that we all might obey it--thou shalt cure babies of terminal diseases. So far so good (pun only partially intended), but here's where we run into a problem. If the moral status of this action rests solely on divine fiat, then there is no guarantee--beyond a belief that god is not capricious, a belief that seems to be rather unjustified based on a read through the Bible--that this moral status will remain consistent from day to day. The sun could rise tomorrow, and god might decide that just for today curing babies of terminal diseases is very bad, and anyone who does it or tries to do it is going to hell. Something seems intuitively wrong with this; adopting this horn of the dilemma forces you to accept that morality is nothing more than divine capriciousness--what is good today could be evil tomorrow (and vice-versa!), and what's more, we would have no way of knowing if a shift in moral status had occurred: god doesn't exactly publish "The Daily 10 Commandments."

By this point, theists are jumping up and down yelling "But god would never do something like that! God is good, and would never make curing babies of terminal diseases an evil act!" Not so fast. Take a look at the core of that statement: "god is good." What does that mean? If goodness is defined by whatever god wants it to be, then all you're saying that is "god is god" or, more accurately, "god is not self-refuting." God can't BE anything but good, because good is whatever god says it is! Thanks for the tautology. Adoption of the second horn, then, means that you must accept that you have no basis for believing that the moral rules you live by are valid any longer--you could be doing everything god hates by not going out and committing mass murder, and god would not necessarily have had to notify you of the paradigm shift; you also have to accept that moral rules have no real weight of their own, and that if god says so then killing kittens could be the key to heaven, and curing babies of terminal diseases could be a mortal sin. Unless you have some kind of privileged access to god's mind, then trying to live a moral life based on the rules of morality given in the bible is like trying to navigate a country based on a 3,000 year old map.

But what of the first horn of the dilemma? Surely all of this can be avoided simply by saying that god commands us to do good because it is good. This too leads to problems, though. Consider this: How do we know what is good? Because god tells us. How does god know what is good? He is omniscient and knows everything.

This might be true, but it also smells of question begging to me. God may know what is good because he knows everything, but that does not address the heart of the question: what makes something good? It cannot be anything under god's control, or we are launched back into the second horn of the dilemma, and are faced with all the problems therein; it must, therefore, be something independent of god. You probably see where I'm going with this already; if god knows what is good but cannot change it, then he is not truly omnipotent, as there are facts in the universe that are beyond his power to alter. What's more, it means that god's role vis a vis humanity is more that of a reporter than a lawgiver; he's not creating a moral code for us to follow, but simply passing on a preexisting set of rules for us to follow. But whom were these rules defined by? Not god, we've established that much, so whom? Are they simply facts of the universe, like physical laws? But god created the universe and (supposedly) set up those physical laws. But he can't have set up moral laws, or we're back to the second horn! We're forced to conclude that morality is prior to god, and that god has just told us about something by which even he is bound.

The easy conclusion to this horn, then, is that morality is not a divine command theory at all--god has simply reported the moral facts to us, not commanded them. If we could somehow figure out the moral facts on our own, we could dispense with god altogether--he'd be an unnecessary middleman--and live by the moral laws we'd discovered, much as we live with the physical laws we've discovered.

At last, my point: either way, you're screwed. Morality cannot be a divine command theory; it simply doesn't work, as it forces you to one of two very distasteful (at least for theists) conclusions.

Whew.

Samurai


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Moral facts

Are there methods for proving moral principles?
Are there rational methods for settling moral disputes?
Are there criteria that will limit the range or number of acceptable moral principles or moral systems?
Is there anything that we can call moral knowledge without gratuitously changing the meaning of the word 'knowledge'?


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*ahem*

maybe i'm waaaaay off base here, but instead of contemplating morality as some sort of cosmic law, is it not more logical to look at morality as a byproduct of the evolution of the animal survival instinct?
i.e. I see you beat Fred to death, and i see that Fred exhibits signs of a feeling i have learned to associate with pain, when i stub my toe, or prick my finger. I thusly come to the conclusion that i would not like to feel that pain should you decide to beat me to death tomorrow, and attempt to convince you not to do so.
i suppose the point is that morals are derived from empathy towards physical or emotional pain. no? eh? if i have no empathy, i don't give a shit whether or not it's wrong to beat you. i just do it.

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Archangel__7
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Moral facts

Samurai wrote:
Heh, I was hoping that would be the answer...

Saying that moral laws come from god leads to a very sticky problem known as Euthyphro's Dilemma...

Samurai,
I've written a little bit on Plato's Euthyphro here (See Section II).

DrFear,
I address some possible complications with a Naturalistic Evolutionary basis for ethics in the remainder of the paper.


Gavagai
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Moral facts

Thank you for the replies. My move from relativism (or broader moral anti-realism) to moral realism had to do, in part, with explanatory considerations. Consider some of our data: apparent moral progress and social reform, cross-cultural agreement on fundamental moral principles, cognitively significant moral discourse and reasoning, etc. The hypothesis of moral realism, i.e. that there are moral facts, seems to explain this data better than the hypothesis of anti-realism.

However, there are some puzzles that must be dealt with now, especially if we adopt a robust naturalism. The directionality of natural selection was such that human consciousness (fallibly) aligned itself with these pre-existing moral facts. Moreover, the inherent nature of moral facts themselves is deeply relavent for (indeed, appears intended for) interpersonal relationships and social interaction, e.g. torture of the innocent is wrong. This seems utterly surprising, given a thoroughgoing naturalistic framework.

Rude, offensive, irrational jackass.


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brazen cataclysmic brain-farting

ok, my first mistake was in assuming that these discussions operate on the foundation that god doesn't exist....

anyway, this "Bell" character clearly hasn't fully wrapped his brain all the way around the whole evolutionary moral order, and is thus inadequately or incompletely articulating his theories. i'm exhausted from reading at the moment, but i'll touch on a few of the more poignant topics from your essay:

1. archangel_7 writes: "... this writing simply does not give due attention to the whole range of thoughts that could be contributed on this side of the debate..." you've got that right. so in this you find some common ground with Bell. at several points you almost complete his explanations, but in lust to prove him wrong, fall short of taking into account all the factors in play on the human moral field, such as the situation of power of an individual, the "gang" factor, selective punishment, and, most flagrantly, empathy.

2. your assertion that the rules of the Occam game, taken quite literally, say that the simplest, not the least supernatural, explanation is the most likely is a bit off. well, hell, if ol' Occam intended supernatural explanations to be part of his razor, his point would be completely fucking moot, wouldn't it? absolutely every situation, problem, quandary, mystery, and riddle could be explained most simply by just saying "because God wills it." am i crazy? (don't answer that) it is my assertion that Occam's Razor assumes a natural universe.

3. archangel_7 writes: "The question of whether an atheist can be good without God is one which tends to rouse clamorous indignation. "Of course, we can," we are assured, "and we are in fact capable of better, for we do good for it's own sake!" 7 The indignation betrays that irrepressible intuition that true goodness is something that can be achieved."
This is all true, and it gave me a good chuckle, the indignance of atheists when challenged on morality, but you go on to imply that this incomplete assimilation into atheism, more a flaw of the human brain than a hole in atheism, somehow shows that morality without god would fail and people would stop doing good (you use unconditional love as an example). this is a good example of where you fail to take empathy into account. people DO commit acts of goodness selfishly, because empathically, being around others who are happy and feel good makes them feel happy and good also.
for example, being at a funeral where everyone is sobbing, grumbling, and scowling is depressing, even if you have no personal interest in the deceased. however, if the funeral is a celebration, as some folks are wont to do, and everyone is cheerful, bright, and generally in good spirits, you will walk away in good spirits as well. no? am i crazy? (pleeeaase don't answer that)

anyway, i think any other arguments i can make based on this particular essay will become somewhat redundant at this point, so i'll throw up on the floor and let someone else have it. cheers.

Fear out

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JB_Montag
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Moral facts

Quote:
maybe i'm waaaaay off base here, but instead of contemplating morality as some sort of cosmic law, is it not more logical to look at morality as a byproduct of the evolution of the animal survival instinct?
i.e. I see you beat Fred to death, and i see that Fred exhibits signs of a feeling i have learned to associate with pain, when i stub my toe, or prick my finger. I thusly come to the conclusion that i would not like to feel that pain should you decide to beat me to death tomorrow, and attempt to convince you not to do so.
i suppose the point is that morals are derived from empathy towards physical or emotional pain. no? eh? if i have no empathy, i don't give a shit whether or not it's wrong to beat you. i just do it.

You could simply state the "Golden Rule" here or the idea of reciprocity. I find that it is grounded more on self-intrest rather than empathy though, considering your first thought is to your own well being: You don't strike because you don't want to be struck.

The paper read yesterday, the earth exploded, nobody noticed the passing of this hapless planet.


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Moral facts

I agree with Dr. Fear here.

Morality should come from yourself.

I'm certain there is no god influencing my decisions.

Morality will come from how your brought up, If your parents teach you that stealing is OK, then you will be fine with that.
-is stealing wrong? yes.
-is stealing immoral? in my eyes, yes. To some, it might be the only way they have been taught to survive.

I base my morals on what I have been taught, what I'm learning, and attempting to not hurt anyone -phsyically or emotionally.

Nobody's morals should be simple, thats just the bottom line as for mine.

So ya, Im sure everyones morals are going to be different, and derived from ones self.

God is the omnimax creator by definition of major religions. If there is evidence that the religion is incorrect about the nature of reality, then there is evidence that the God the religion defines does not exist.


DrFear
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Moral facts

JB_Montag wrote:

You could simply state the "Golden Rule" here or the idea of reciprocity. I find that it is grounded more on self-intrest rather than empathy though, considering your first thought is to your own well being: You don't strike because you don't want to be struck.

i agree somewhat with the point of self-interest, but not with respect to selfishness. what one wants is subjective. also, remember not to confuse empathy with sympathy, it refers only to relating to the experience of another, or knowing what it feels like, i.e. i feel like you, not for you.
self-interest can be modified by many variables, for instance, the situation of power of an individual. we will modify my lame "Fred" example, simply because i'm too tired to come up with another. ok, wait, maybe if we just change his name to Steve...no...it will remain the Fred example...
anyway,
1) if Fred and i are on equal ground, just two humans, out on a plain, of equal height, weight, and musculature, with nothing to lose, and there is a single morsel of food between us: because our situations of power are even, we could be expected to weigh our options to the effect that if one of us attacks the other as a solution, we should expect an equal amount of damage to be inflicted upon both of us.
2) if Fred is 7 feet tall, 350 lbs., and i am 5 foot 115, and the same food situation is presented, i wouldn't dare attack, because i would surely be crushed. Fred, on the other hand, wouldn't hesitate to crush me and take his meal, because it is in his self-interest to do so, being the more powerful of us.

now you may say "well that's a terrible example...why then do modern moral codes not simply say 'might makes right'?" which is an excellent point. it's just that what everyone seems to fail to see, is that modern moral codes do say 'might makes right', just not as succinctly, and in each situation, different mights make different rights. we can continue with Fred...
3) if Fred is still 7 foot, 350 lbs., and i am still 5 foot, but i bring with me 30 humans of my same stature, we may now assault Fred in the hopes that none of us will bear the full brunt of Fred's retaliation. we secure the food. now what? well lots of things could happen, most of which involve theft and infighting, but in order to expedite the point, if i organized this group that brought down a superior foe and reaped the reward, i would want to maintain this group in order to maintain power over foes and the bounties of such power. if members of the group killing and stealing from each other was weakening the group, it would now be in our self-interests not to do these things in order to preserve ourselves.

alright, that completes the lame Fred example, let us never speak of it again. Smiling
now, to correlate, the morality of the Christian god says "thou shalt not kill" in one place, and then in many others says quietly "unless they don't believe what you believe, or if they betray you and stop believing what you believe."
The U.S. government adopts a 'legal' morality, in which people get together, say what is 'wrong', have a representative go to the government and legislate this wrongness into a law saying "don't do this, or you will be punished with that (presumably something 'right')." presumably, even when 'this'='that', as in the case of "first degree murder", which says it is wrong to plan and carry out the murder of an individual or individuals, punishable by the planned and carried out murder of you. so it's wrong if you do it, but not if the government, who says it's 'wrong', does it in return.
it's also not wrong for soldiers to do it, because they're the part of the government's gang that goes to other places, where people don't believe what we believe, and may not like us because we don't believe what they believe, so they must be our enemies, and it's ok to plan and carry out the murders of them too.
but there's also a 'group' in the U.S. that believes what the government believes is wrong. but they're not as big and not as strong, so what they believe is deferred to 'wrong'.
now this only deals with one facet of morality: the morality of killing. and as we see, you are right, JB, it is completely grounded in self-interest. but as i stated, one's self-interest can also be part of a group self-interest, and thus, empathy.

spentley wrote:
Nobody's morals should be simple

damn straight. nor could they be, given that so-called morality is as varied and complicated as any other facet of evolution, save that it is the basis for evolution of societies, rather than beings. what societies decide to label as 'right' or 'wrong' ultimately decides their individual power, their standing among other societies, and their place in history (read: longevity).

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JB_Montag
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Moral facts

Even at the individual it is good for the group. By serving my self intrest not to have conflict, I in turn cause no conflict.

I've been looking at the basic principles of capitalism also. A company in this case, lowering prices to attain market share, in turn causes competition to do like to retain market share. The consumer thus has lower prices.

I was wondering if this though, justifies violence? If a person attacks me, it's implicit that he does not mind a reciprocal attack, or greed, hate etc..

Any opinions would be much appreciated, as the cyclical nature of the idea brings about some pretty serious consequences, such as perpetual aggression.

The paper read yesterday, the earth exploded, nobody noticed the passing of this hapless planet.


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Moral facts

JB_Montag wrote:

I was wondering if this though, justifies violence? If a person attacks me, it's implicit that he does not mind a reciprocal attack, or greed, hate etc..

there are exceptions to the implicitness, but generally yes, it can be inferred that an attack is carried out in the face of reciprocity, but as i said, only after weighing the effects of said reciprocity on the self. simply, if i attack you and leave you alive, i expect you to retaliate, but i don't place any kind of negative value on your retaliation, i.e. i regard you as weak.
now, as for justification, the word justice implies universal, moral fact, that something is either bad, or good. and i'm saying that it is not universal, it is subjective. some cultures "justify" violence very easily, while others villify it completely.
i had mentioned in another thread that 'moral' is a bad word to use in the discussion of morality, simply because it is loaded, it implies too much, and it implies different things to different people.

JB_Montag wrote:
the cyclical nature of the idea brings about some pretty serious consequences, such as perpetual aggression.

i'm not sure what you mean by perpetual aggression, if it's something other than what's going on right now and has been going on since life began...there has never not been aggression, and it has always been my personal platform that there always will be aggression.
it's interesting to look at the big picture of human and animal behavior, with regard to the laws of motion, and you see that they apply not only to objects, but situations, emotions, and yes, acts of aggression.
physics tell us things tend to move towards equilibrium. pacifism is not equilibrium. but now i think i'm swinging a bit out of orbit....
get back, jack, on the fast track.
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Moral facts

Morality shouldn't be based on any subliminal pre-existant morals of family, and the people around your. Morality should be based off what you do to survive, because survival instinct is more powerful than any moral value. For example if murder is immoral and morality should hold true under any condition then self defense could be considered immoral. But in a life threatening situation where survival instinct tells you killing the man holding a knife to your throat is the only way to survive then morality should be dismissed, or at least the idea of killing being immoral. to kill lie cheat steal ect. ect. are completely nessisary in some survival situations and shouldnt be pushed off as immoral, however doing these things for greed and to for self gratification is not moral.
Bringing back Dr. Fear's good friend Fred,

Fred and I live in an abandoned house, we tend to keep to ourselves. One night Fred desides to steal my food, not to spite me, but because he needs food to surviv. now I am starving to death but I have survival on my mind, I know i can always steal it back but this may cause him to steal it back, that could bgo on for longer than i have because now i havent eaten in 4 days and counting. I realize that both of us cant possibly live for much longer someone has to eat the food, he thinks its his and i think its mine. so I find that the problem cannot be solved diplomatically, so i have no choice. I have to eat and he wont give up without a fight, soI come to the conclusion i MUST fight. does this make fighting moral? COMPLETELY! no matter how the situation is looked at some one will die. I decide its not going to be me so I kill fredd, not because I dont find Killing immoral but because i find survival more important than morality, so why not incorperate my survival instincts into my moral structure.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.-Karl Marx


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Moral facts

adaypastdead wrote:

Bringing back Dr. Fear's good friend Fred,

Noooooooooooooooooooo! lol

adaypastdead wrote:

soI come to the conclusion i MUST fight. does this make fighting moral? COMPLETELY! no matter how the situation is looked at some one will die. I decide its not going to be me so I kill fredd, not because I dont find Killing immoral but because i find survival more important than morality, so why not incorperate my survival instincts into my moral structure.

i think this is a good example of exactly how subjective the concept of morality is, how it can change rapidly given the situation, the clouding of the mind by emotion, the 'heat of the moment'. if you feel remorseful or guilty afterwards, what implications does that hold? did you not find killing immoral before, but seeing the reality of it has changed your view? or did you feel it was immoral, but there was no other way, so you lied to yourself and rationalized until you fooled yourself into feeling a moral goodness in the act?
i personally find killing to be 'moral' in a myriad of ways, and completely necessary to sustaining oneself as a living creature. but i've never killed anybody, and there is the possibility that i may live my entire life without doing so, so i really don't know how i feel, do i?
i've formed a strong moral opinion based on what i've seen and heard, without any real personal experience to back it up.

Fear is the mindkiller.


JB_Montag
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Moral facts

When speaking of self-interest, I'm speaking of the best possible outcome.
A non-zero game with no losers, for example:

In playing and trying to have fun there are two choices given. Dodgeball and ring around the rosie. Dodgeball is unbalanced as there are winners and losers. Albeit fun hitting someone with a ball, not fun for being on the wrong end of the throwing arm. Ring around the rosie, while not my favorite, insures a better outcome overall.

Perpetual aggresion, being any attempt to impose a zero-sum game, one which has winners and losers, causing a reciprocal reaction. Such as greed, violence, or to continue the example:

One child, we'll call him Fear, decides he would rather nail fat kids with the ball. (I figured you wouldn't mind) Disrupting the enjoyment of ring around the rosie. Nailing him with the ball is implicitly justified, then a cycle persues.

I bring this up for the simple fact of punishment of the offender. Although the retaliatory act is justified, what is proper punishment. Keeping in mind self interest for the best possible outcomes. That is what I wanted comment and thoughts on.

Giants and locked rooms:

Simply offer the meat up willingly, ingratiate and smile. Then bash the newly fattend carcas with a rock when they sleep. Makes a good meal for your fellow midgets Laughing out loud

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JB_Montag wrote: I bring

JB_Montag wrote:

I bring this up for the simple fact of punishment of the offender. Although the retaliatory act is justified, what is proper punishment. Keeping in mind self interest for the best possible outcomes. That is what I wanted comment and thoughts on.

sorry i've neglected this for so long.
so who gets the punishment. the instigator, the retaliator, or both?
this question is incomplete with regards to morality. punishment is precipitated by the breaking of a rule or law. rules and laws, while indicative of certain moral values, are not equivalent to such. justice is not an issue of morality, but of the rules and laws that point to the underlying morality.
if i, the instigator, don't find what i did wrong, then i feel injusticed by being punished.
if the establishment doesn't find my instigation to be wrong, and made no rule or law against it, and does nothing to punish me, then my victim feels injusticed.
and, if neither of us is punished for our cycle of retaliation, then it can be expected to continue.

Fear is the mindkiller.


jester700
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adaypastdead wrote:

adaypastdead wrote:

Bringing back Dr. Fear's good friend Fred,

Fred and I live in an abandoned house, we tend to keep to ourselves. One night Fred desides to steal my food, not to spite me, but because he needs food to surviv. now I am starving to death but I have survival on my mind, I know i can always steal it back but this may cause him to steal it back, that could bgo on for longer than i have because now i havent eaten in 4 days and counting. I realize that both of us cant possibly live for much longer someone has to eat the food, he thinks its his and i think its mine. so I find that the problem cannot be solved diplomatically, so i have no choice. I have to eat and he wont give up without a fight, soI come to the conclusion i MUST fight. does this make fighting moral? COMPLETELY! no matter how the situation is looked at some one will die. I decide its not going to be me so I kill fredd, not because I dont find Killing immoral but because i find survival more important than morality, so why not incorperate my survival instincts into my moral structure.

Given that survival is the most important point in that situation, does it follow that eating Fred's corpse is the best thing to do next? After all, after being forced to kill him, it'd be shameful to let him go to waste.


DrFear
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jester700 wrote: Given that

jester700 wrote:

Given that survival is the most important point in that situation, does it follow that eating Fred's corpse is the best thing to do next? After all, after being forced to kill him, it'd be shameful to let him go to waste.

yes. yes it would.

Fear is the mindkiller.