Monday, August 29, 2005

Why Be Moral?

See here.

A short rundown of many popular reasons and a number of explanations for why they fail or are incomplete. This is a major concern for both theists and atheists, the theists just haven't realized it yet. Metaethics is hard.

56 comments:

Godol Hador said...

Maybe from some clever philosophical/skeptical perspective you can 'prove' that the Theists have no basis. But that's irrelevant. At the end of the day the Theists believe they do have a basis for morality, and hence they act on it (hopefully more often than not). Whether in your logic they actually do have a basis or not is besides the point. They think they do and that's what counts. You think you (and they) don't, and that's what counts too. Which is better? Believing you have a basis for absolute morality and acting accordingly? Or thinking there is no basis for absolute morality and acting accordingly?

Orthoprax said...

GH,

There are other non-theistic objective moral codes out there. Kant's is one example.

"Which is better? Believing you have a basis for absolute morality and acting accordingly? Or thinking there is no basis for absolute morality and acting accordingly?"

Better? That's a subjective opinion, clearly. But there doesn't seem to be a reason why one can believe there is no basis for an objective morality and still act as if there were.

What it comes down to is instilling in people certain values and then through rational thought based on those values, people will act morally. If one values human life, it's unlikely that they're going to be committing any massacres.

Are such values irrational? Maybe externally, but I think anyone normal would like to live in a world where humans respect human life than not.

Jewish Atheist said...

godol, believing there is no basis for absolute morality does not cause acting immorally. It might seem like that's how it should be, but it doesn't hold up to reality. Your argument is as theoretical as Orthoprax's.

Enigma4U said...

Unlike humans, chimps do not waste time with philosophical discussions about where and how their morality evolved, yet they have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong. Without ever hearing of Moses, Jesus, Cicero or Kant, their behavior has all the earmarks of human ethics and reasoning; they use rudimentary moral judgement and social punishment as a tool to reign in errant behaviors in their social group, much like human societies do. See here for more on animal ethics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonhuman_animals_ethics

Anonymous said...

Orthprax,
Lets talk about Ethics first, so I'll rephrase your question to - Why be Ethical?
All ethics boils down to "doing unto others what you would have done to yourself" no?

When asking Why you are surely asking whats the logic, rationale, for X.

Let me then throw the ball in your court and ask you, What's the logic in diffrentiating between yourself and someone else?

You'll agree that when being an impartial arbiter between two parties you will claim that there is no logic to favour one over the other. So pray tell me how this changes when you yourself are one the litigants.

Some people counter the above by asking; Why be logical? Well to me that is somewhat a contradictory question. Remember "why" means 'what is the logic', so the question is something like; what's the logic in being logical. Which is an absurd question, for if by doing X you are being logical it is tautologically true that it's logical to do X and there's no room for asking what's the logic in being logical.

Somtimes I think of a person who only helps people who live on his block as having the same mentality as those posing the question of 'why be ethical. He too can ask "why should I help people who don't live on my block"? My answer (your answer too, I suspect) would be that there is no logic in diffrentiating between your block and the neighboring one. So now this 'block lover' would tell me that 'this is what I want period, do you have anything against that'? I would say, look, all I want is for you to admit that you are not being logical and that you are not entitled to ask the question of what's logical in block ethics. [doing unto other blocks as to your own.]

Anonymous said...

I know there is much more to it, but I just thought I would put out a feeler checking if you're at all interested in going further with this.

IMHO I think there is a clear and logical answer to the ethics enigma which in turn answers the question of meaning in life (not the usual answer)

Orthoprax said...

Enigma,

"Unlike humans, chimps do not waste time with philosophical discussions about where and how their morality evolved..."

Ok, fine. But even if morality is innate, how does it follow that we should necessarily follow it? If we fully followed our innate appetites for food, we wouldn't be very healthy.

We need a better reason than morality being "natural."

What bothers me especially are cases where being moral leads to disasterous consequences for you. Ones, for example, where you might end up dead for following your principles. Great, you were moral, but now your dead. Maybe foolish, maybe heroic. A judgement call.

Suppose, as a hypothetical, Israel was struck between committing mass murder of the Palestinians or face certain destruction. Is it better to be destroyed or would it be better to simply have a few dirty pages in the history books?

Suppose all of humanity had to face this choice. Is it noble to die for a cause? Or would you rather see humanity carry on, even as scoundrels?

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Lets talk about Ethics first, so I'll rephrase your question to - Why be Ethical?"

How is that a different question? Morality is the principles you hold, ethics is the system by which you apply them. How can we talk about the system before the principles?

"All ethics boils down to "doing unto others what you would have done to yourself" no?"

Maybe, but only if you first accept the value of other people. If you don't care about other people, then following that ethic would only be useful as far as it serves you.

"Let me then throw the ball in your court and ask you, What's the logic in diffrentiating between yourself and someone else?"

You are you and actually experience what happens to you. Other people don't. It would make sense, all things being equal, to care about yourself before others.

"You'll agree that when being an impartial arbiter between two parties you will claim that there is no logic to favour one over the other. So pray tell me how this changes when you yourself are one the litigants."

Because you're selfish and don't care about fairness. Why should you be fair?

"My answer (your answer too, I suspect) would be that there is no logic in diffrentiating between your block and the neighboring one."

Except that you live on your block and the better is the place where you live the better you will be. If you don't care about fairness and are just looking out for yourself then why be fair?

"IMHO I think there is a clear and logical answer to the ethics enigma which in turn answers the question of meaning in life (not the usual answer)"

I'm curious to see where you're going with this, but I don't think you've dealt with morality on the fundamental level I am here.

Ben Avuyah said...

I don't know if there is a deeper level to morality.

I do not think it came from a higher being, becuase of the myriad of contradictions that creates, aside from not believing in a higher being.

I do think it is societal collective behavior that that has evolved over time and acts as a glue for communities, and that is it.

As far as the reason to be moral, it is incumbent on us to realize that we only enjoy the benefits of society because of our own behavioral constrictions. Will this prevent someone without empathy or developed consideration of consequences from being evil when they really feel they won't get caught...no...but that is life.

Anonymous said...

Ortho,
For some, Morality is about sexual mores and ethics is the rest of the stuff. It was just meant to clear the air.

My point about ‘all ethics…” was trying to define the concept of ethics in a nutshell. It wasn’t about proving it, yet, so we’re in agreement there?

“You are you and actually experience what happens to you. Other people don't. It would make sense, all things being equal, to care about yourself before others”
I Disagree with this. You can very well experience other peoples pain and joy, it’s just a matter of focus (try a good work of fiction even and you’ll cry at characters pain etc.). Would you agree that if for some strange reason I zero in my focus on someone else’s pain and I simply don’t focus on my pain then I will automatically try to alleviate that persons pain without thinking about myself. so my argument again is, how is it logical to focus on one part of the picture namely yourself, over and above the other parts of the picture that you are confronted with. Can you please try to answer this question?

“but I don't think you've dealt with morality on the fundamental level I am here.”
A bit premature on your part taking into account my telling you that “there is much more to it”. Still in all let me tell it to you on a more fundamental level (I’ll try at least)

The essence of Man is Consciousness
Consciousness means awareness
Awareness is about identifying and defining Existence (regardless if existence is real or just in my head)
Action is a manifestation of my consciousness (imagine my mind having one and only one awareness, an awareness of my hand opening the door, in a case like this my hand will automatically do just that, after all I don’t know of any other option, right.)
I have no choice but to act out whatever I am dominantly conscious about due to the above statement.
When thinking about a negation, say, a broken chair, you have already thought about the positive aspect i.e. the Chair in its fullness.
Which according to # above requires you to already act out on it.
So all potentialities you think about will require you to act out on them. (That is why we act out to do all positive/potential on ourselves)
We happen to think about ourselves a lot simply because we are just confronted with our being quite a lot. (whatever comes up in your radar screen just grabs your attention and focus) so we end up thinking a lot about our own potentialities.
When we are confronted with two different awareness where each of them would manifest themselves in different actions we have angst and even if we choose to focus on one over the other we still see the other as “begging for the action associated with that specific awareness” and that is basically what’s happening when we focus on ourselves versus others.
Although there is no “authority telling us” where to shift our focus it still is the case that things which inherently ask for my focus will keep on begging the above (think of a big painting with a very dominant main picture and also having a small little detail which for some reason I bumped into that detail first, the main picture will constantly ask for and grab my attention and only when I will leave off this little detail will I have peace.

Oy vey is mir I probably am not explaining my self at all, this all could seem like a total mumbo jumbo but that’s always the problem, if I explain it in simple terms I get the “you’re not deep enough for me” thing and if I go in depth then I get the “I don’t think you know what your talking about”.
Please respond, thanks.

Anonymous said...

"You'll agree that when being an impartial arbiter between two parties you will claim that there is no logic to favour one over the other. So pray tell me how this changes when you yourself are one the litigants."

Because you're selfish and don't care about fairness. Why should you be fair?

Problem with your answer is that you’re not answering the question. I asked you if it’s logical to favor one over the other, simple logic that’s all, you’re replacing ‘logic’ with ‘fair’ and asking why be fair/logical. I have tried to take care of that by explaining that a “why” question ultimately means ‘what’s the logic’ which in this case makes the question kind of absurd, what’s the logic in logic. It’s absurd because if this action is logical then that’s what it is.

respondingtojblogs said...

My $.02-

There is no reason to be ethical, just like there is no reason to do anything. We are compelled to act by our instincts. Ethics is a vestige of religion and evolution.

Orthoprax said...

Ben,

"As far as the reason to be moral, it is incumbent on us to realize that we only enjoy the benefits of society because of our own behavioral constrictions."

So essentially a feeling of responsibility then? We ought to be moral because it is only through our collective morality that our society exists as it does.

Ok, so how should we act when we don't like society as it is? And how should we act towards other societies?

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"My point about ‘all ethics…” was trying to define the concept of ethics in a nutshell. It wasn’t about proving it, yet, so we’re in agreement there?"

It's a good guideline, the golden rule, but there are many exceptions. How you would like to be treated is often not the same as how others would like to be treated.

"You can very well experience other peoples pain and joy, it’s just a matter of focus (try a good work of fiction even and you’ll cry at characters pain etc.)."

Yeah, ok, empathy. But there's still obvious differences.

"so my argument again is, how is it logical to focus on one part of the picture namely yourself, over and above the other parts of the picture that you are confronted with. Can you please try to answer this question?"

How is it not? What is your logical basis for treating all equally? You have an inherent self-interest over the interests of others.

"...if I go in depth then I get the “I don’t think you know what your talking about”."

Yeah, that, I'm afraid, is what's going on here too. What I'm getting is something about seeing all humanity as essentially the same and that it is illogical to set one's actions based on just one point of the whole. What I'm not getting is why one should give up their obviously self-centered identity for the sake of equivalency. Things are not all the same from the view of the honored position of the self.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Problem with your answer is that you’re not answering the question. I asked you if it’s logical to favor one over the other..."

Sure, ok, it might be if by favoring one side it helps yourself. Then likewise it makes perfect sense to favor your own side.

Orthoprax said...

responding,

"There is no reason to be ethical, just like there is no reason to do anything. We are compelled to act by our instincts. Ethics is a vestige of religion and evolution."

There are always reasons to do things, but perhaps not absolute eternal ones. Why eat cake? Because it tastes good. That's a good enough reason to do that right?

Why be moral? Because it makes you feel good. Is that good enough? Doesn't really ring so well. But maybe we can justify it through more noble reasons.

respondingtojblogs said...

Why be moral? Because it makes you feel good. Is that good enough? Doesn't really ring so well. But maybe we can justify it through more noble reasons.

I am not so sure you will find one. I think the simple truth is that there really are no "big" answers and I am tired of chasing my tail finding one.

We are captives of the society and time that we live in. We act "morally" because of social pressure and, probably, some sort of survival instinct.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, ok, empathy. But there's still obvious differences.
It’s obviously not so obvious, at least to the extent of making my point, namely that the only reason I don’t experience other peoples pain or pleasure is because I’m not focusing on them.
Don’t you know many cases where a mother would rather bear the pain herself than her child? It’s all about focus she’s much more aware of the childs pain than her own.

“How is it not? What is your logical basis for treating all equally? You have an inherent self-interest over the interests of others.”

Think for a minute about two people who are completely the same in every way, can you logically find a reason to treat one differently than the other? Impossible, for any reason you might come up with for the one is also there for the other, as we are talking of two people the same in every way imaginable. Now think of one these people being yourself will the above statement lose it’s veracity? No!

But I want to treat one differently than the other period, you say, reason or not, ah, I’m ok with that for now but at least you admit that you are being unreasonable, for aren’t you saying I’m doing it without reason.

Let’s not use fancy words “inherent self interest” let’s just say “this is what I want” so are you saying you want something that you can’t explain logically? Yet you want me to explain the illogic in wanting something that’s illogical, now that is a bit tricky or maybe I should say quite obvious.

I claim that there is no “inherent self interest” it’s just a habit of focus, if you focus on x you’ll do what’s logically sensible to do for x, but if you focus on xyz you will do what’s logically sensible for xyz. A person can only do what’s logical hence the constant asking of why should I do this and why should I do that which means what’s the logic in doing this etc.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I probably studied and researched this subject more than you’d imagine and believe me I too had your viewpoint for a long time. I humbly suggest that you try to understand what I’m saying for after all this is a deep philosophical issue that wouldn’t be grasped in a flippant manner.

I came to your site because I respect your intellectual rigor vis-à-vis GH in your discussion about Judaism. There could be a lot to gain if we will understand the ethics issue correctly.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"...namely that the only reason I don’t experience other peoples pain or pleasure is because I’m not focusing on them."

Maybe you might be able to sympathize with the other, but if someone breaks their leg, no matter how much you focus on that leg, you're not going to feel what they feel.

Also why should I focus on other's pains and pleasures?

"Think for a minute about two people who are completely the same in every way, can you logically find a reason to treat one differently than the other?"

If they are identical in every possible way, yes, you're right. But there are no real people like that.

"Now think of one these people being yourself will the above statement lose it’s veracity? No!"

That's impossible. Through the example given - both of those people would have to be me. Otherwise you've just invited a difference and then differential treatment can become justified.

"I claim that there is no “inherent self interest” it’s just a habit of focus, if you focus on x you’ll do what’s logically sensible to do for x, but if you focus on xyz you will do what’s logically sensible for xyz."

Ok, questions:

1) Where does this habit come from?
2) What is the better focus you are arguing for?
3) What is the reason for taking one focus over another?

"I humbly suggest that you try to understand what I’m saying for after all this is a deep philosophical issue that wouldn’t be grasped in a flippant manner."

I assure you that I am doing what I can to understand your views. But I'm having difficulties in the way you are presenting it. Build it from the bottom up.

Anonymous said...

I can actually be more hurt by my friends pain of his broken foot than he is himself. Sure the one is a direct sensation whereas the other is a perception but that doesn't necessarily make the experience less forceful.

Please don't lose sleep (as I am now) over the people not being real, that's the beauty of a thought experiment, we don't worry about the logistics.

No it doesn't change when you change places with one these two guys in my thought experiment. The only thing that changes is that you say now 'I want to give it to myself' but can you give me a reason other than your want? No. So can I say that your want is not based on reason? unreasonable?
Why is it so difficult for you to agree that you are not objectively more valuable than the next person so that there is no objective logic backing your want which in turn says that you position is not logical.

the habit happened because we are cofronted with our own selves constantly so that is what gets detected on our radar screen so we get into the habit of zooming our focus on ourselves.
Question 2 and 3, - focusing on x when y and z are just as much part of the picture is without reason (unreasonable) and reason will always push you to do things her way (you can't do anything without a reason and if you have a reason to do something you will do it,except if you have some other reason not to do it, then too you follow reason). What follows is that ethics which is all about not putting yourself in front of someone else (do unto others) is following the dictates of reason, hence my position that ethics is reasonable and logical and being unethical is unreasonable and illogical

Bottom up, good point

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"The only thing that changes is that you say now 'I want to give it to myself' but can you give me a reason other than your want? No. So can I say that your want is not based on reason? unreasonable?"

Why is it unreasonable to do what you want? How is it reasonable not to do what you want? In fact, it could be argued that the only rational reason to do anything is because you desire to do it. Why else should we do anything?

"focusing on x when y and z are just as much part of the picture is without reason"

Of what picture? How is taking a wider view more rational than the narrow one?

"What follows is that ethics which is all about not putting yourself in front of someone else (do unto others) is following the dictates of reason..."

So you take the wide view because you say it is what's reasonable. How is it reasonable?

You can't just appeal to reason and call something reasonable and it is so. What are your reasons for thinking it reasonable?

Anonymous said...

2+2 is 4 that's a logical statement, but I 'want' it to be 3, well, no problem with your wanting that but youll have to admit that this particular want does not coincide with logic.

Wanting something doesn't change the brute facts.

Let me tackle it from another direction;

Humor me for a moment and let's assume that all my wants are dictated, nay, created, according to reason, will I then be able to put myself in front of someone else? Can you diffentiate between two things that are logically, factually, completely the same? It's impossible, for if their the same then yup they are the same.

So I think I have proven clearly that if 'want' is dictated by reason and reason only then the fact that these two objects are the same will make it impossible to choose/want to focus on one more than the other.

If it is the same according to reason/logic/fact (before 'want' comes into play) then the want will not be able to differntiate as it doesn't have reason dictating it so.

But that is all if we agree that want is dictated by reason, you say. What a big if that is, hmm.

Then again aren't we all talking about how it's reasonable to want X, it's reasonable to be self-centered? So you gotta make up your mind are you looking up to the Goddess Reason and asking her to dictate your wants or not.

When asking if my selfcentred wants are reasonable think as if you are talk to the pure Goddess of reason and asking her what to want. Don't confuse yourself into phrasing the question as if you already have a "want" and are now asking for a .... what? Blessing?

When asking for a reason to be ethical you have tacitly agreed to shape your wants according to reason. REASON COMES FIRST AND THEN WANT FOLLOWS ACCORDINGLY.

This all looks at things from a different angle than the usual that's why it's difficult to agree to it (or maybe cause it's ridiculous).

I haven't really explained why it is that we all want all our wants actions to be according to reason. By the mere fact that we all are asking for explanations and reasons for what we should or would do, is proof enough that this is how we are.

I did touch on it a little in that list I rattled off about "The essence of man..." I wish you would rattel my cage on that one.

Logic is what we named the process of our identifying and defining our experience/awareness.

Wants is what we named the cases where we misconcieved, or, wrongly identified our awareness of our future existence so that we think this is how it will be soon, we named that expectation and wants. If and when we will clearly see the true picture of our future no mistaken awareness, we will not have any expectations (do you have expectations on the past? If we are smart enough we don't have a wants on past events not even like 'I would've loved it if I wouldn't have fell down last week' you just know there is nothing to want about).

The better we will see the facts of our existence, past peresnt and future, clearly, by a process called logical reasoning, we will just float along accoding to those fact, the expression of our knowledge/concsiousnes/awereness in it's 'physical' format, i.e. what we call action, will smoothly portray our awareness.

Do you get my drift in the least?

Sincerely,
Shterenzeyer

Anonymous said...

IMHO the reason why it's very hard for all those ethical relativists to condone Hitlers action is because it is just not the case and somehow it just doesn't add up for them. The problem only is that when we try to verbalize it we get confused and we seem to see that there is nothing unreasonable with his actions. Hence, aahem, your unwillingness to concede outright to GH on his Hitler question.

Godol Hador said...

What it comes down to is instilling in people certain values and then through rational thought based on those values, people will act morally. If one values human life, it's unlikely that they're going to be committing any massacres.

Are such values irrational? Maybe externally, but I think anyone normal would like to live in a world where humans respect human life than not.


Yes, because normal includes having values which were created through millions of years through evolution. But guess what? A drive to spirituality and faith are also normal byproducts of evolution. So why pick some evolutionary values and not others? Because some you like and some you don't? Some are more practical? I can certainly conceive of situations where it might be practical to kill people. What about mentally ill people? They have poor lives, they don't even know what's going on. We should kill them all. Humanely at Birth. Its only practical.

Orthoprax said...

Shterenzeyer,

"Wanting something doesn't change the brute facts."

Yes, I agree. What I'm not convinced of, however, is that moral oughts are facts at all and that they are not simply preferences.

You say that we should treat others as we'd treat ourselves because objectively we are all pretty much the same and that there is no rational reason to put yourself before others.

But what if others would want differently than you? Then you would have cause to act differently. And even objectively, they are different.

Though I do find that the "put-yourself-as-the-mediator" idea is powerful. Moral is what a third disinterested party would decide when confronted with differences of opinion.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"IMHO the reason why it's very hard for all those ethical relativists to condone Hitlers action is because it is just not the case and somehow it just doesn't add up for them. The problem only is that when we try to verbalize it we get confused and we seem to see that there is nothing unreasonable with his actions. Hence, aahem, your unwillingness to concede outright to GH on his Hitler question."

Huh? So the verbalization confuses us? How so?

Orthoprax said...

GH,

"Yes, because normal includes having values which were created through millions of years through evolution. But guess what? A drive to spirituality and faith are also normal byproducts of evolution. So why pick some evolutionary values and not others?"

This is a question I'm working on now, so I don't yet have full answers for you. But I am working on establishing a rational basis for values. The stuff I'm discussing with Shterenzeyer has some promise.

So why would I accept some irrational values? For one, because it is the world we live in and I have to to some degree. All of us have to make some unsupported assertions, but if given the choice, I'd rather make less than more of them. And second, I'm not convinced that they are indeed wholly irrational. I'm still working it out. And thirdly, even if I accept their irrationality, that doesn't change how I feel about things and I may still act by them. If it's all the same, why not?

Anonymous said...

Ortho,
Do you agree to the concept I was trying to convey about realizing that WANTS ARE DICTATED BY REASON so that first you have to have a reason and then a want kicks in.

The proof is by the mere fact that all of us appeal to reason when legitimizing our wants.

If you agree that self-centerdnesss is not rational hence It wouldnt tell Want to want it then you have an ethicall system based totally completly on reason.

Being that reason is only a tool for identifying facts we are basically saying that facts are what dictate my wants. That is what I meant when i said that brute facts dictate wants and wants don't dictate facts.

The above sounds strange, facts dictate wants? But as mentioned above what actually are wants? Wants are expectations, Wants are what we project the future to be, projections made according to the facts as i see them. so ultimately facts, as I see them, dictate, and create my wants.

Anonymous said...

-Continuation-

Once I ascertain certain facts I can't deny it. I can't say that this computer in front of me is a cat, it is what it is.

Logic is all about ascertaining the facts to what they are, so when you say that logic says X you are saying that you ascertained the facts as being X. And sorry there is no way of backing out of your factuall knowledge so once the facts change (changed by using the fact ascertaining tool which we named 'logic') the expectations and the wants change accordingly, hence wants are dictated by logic/reason.

Anonymous said...

Huh? So the verbalization confuses us? How so?

Assume that I'm correct and that 'The essence of conscious being is, obviously, consciousness, and that means awareness which means identifying and defining existence using the tool called logic... blah blah blah, then it is really true that a person just can't really be guided by anything else other than reason yet you and me have had (had, in the past tense? well for me the past tense but for you?) this idea of ethical relativism how coud that be? aren't we talking of the most basic facts of our modus operandi?

The answer is (possibly) that when we start figuring things out using concept we all tend to apply the concepts in place where they dont belong that is Always what happens when mistakes are made, somtimes we realize where we misapplied it and when its more obtuse we don't so it's the verbalization and conceptualization of our actions that confuse us.

Yet being that we still operate as we operate we have this dichotomy between the things that we (think) we figured out to the things that our 'operating system' pushes us to do.

Hence the verbilazation confuses us.

As above the reason you can't say 'I'm ok with Hitler is because your whole essence, or 'operating system' says otherwise. I don't understand Godol's point, he's banking on the fact that you can't condone Hitler, fine, so that tells us that you have some concept that you havent been able to verbalize but it still operates in you where it dicates you to certain positions, but what does that have to do with anything?

Anonymous said...

Talking of Godol it seem like somebody 'mixed up verbalizations' and blessed him "Zeh HaGodel Koton Yiheh" and became Niskayim.

This whole arguement about God and all. Can he first explain what he thinks about God and then he'll try to Prove His Existence.

When someone will tell you that he strongly and sincerly believes something about, say, the President and when you ask him what is it that he believes he'll tell you i don't have the slightest clue, well I would tell him that he could use a good tune up. I mean come on how can he say he believes that blank, he believe in blank?

Once one claims that he doesn't have the slightest clue about God then what doesn he mean the he believes in Him?

Ok well talk on sunday? No internet connection for me on my 2 day vacation.

Stargazer

Anonymous said...

Last licks,

But what if others would want differently than you? Then you would have cause to act differently. And even objectively, they are different.

and then you write that,

Moral is what a third disinterested party would decide when confronted with differences of opinion

So you answered it yourself, right?
However you'll arbitrate between two people, one wanting to use the car to go boating and the other wants to go to Walmart, using rational thinking to come to a decision, the same will hold true you are one of the parties involved.

Ben Avuyah said...

orthoprax,


>So essentially a feeling of responsibility then? We ought to be moral because it is only through our collective morality that our society exists as it does.

>Ok, so how should we act when we don't like society as it is? And how should we act towards other societies?

I think some incling of what moralities makeup is, is provided by the fact that the questions that you ask here are not theoretical. In fact we observe different answers in society depending on the circumstances, Are things decided by a vote or by civil war? do we impose sanctions on a country or invade...

I think the variablity in societies actions in the past shows the flexible nature of morality and how highly situationaly dependant it is.

I know that is not much to sink your teeth into but I think that is how it works. Base human emotions amplified through the machine of government and put into effect by that apparatus, usually in the name of justice or common good, it doesn't make it right or wrong, that is just how it happens.

Godol Hador said...

even if I accept their irrationality, that doesn't change how I feel about things and I may still act by them. If it's all the same, why not?

Great. The same argument applies to religion too.

Orthoprax said...

GH,

"Great. The same argument applies to religion too."

Of course. And so I act the orthodox part even though I don't actually believe in a rational orthodoxy.

But like morality, I still have rational reasons for why I do what I do.

Anonymous said...

A strange situation,
There are a lot of smart intelligent people reading and commenting on this site the same goes to Godol's site
It seems that very many of the people have grappled or still are grappling with the rationale of ethics, as well it should, it is after all the basis for all our actions. It is an issue of utmost importance and consequence. This being the case we would naturally assume that when someone comes along claiming to have the answer to this question he would get bombarded with questions, arguments etc. To be sure, we can expect some arguments to be spiteful rather than in the spirit of finding truth, but we would still assume that most people will dedicate a lot of time and energy to verify the truth or otherwise of this claim.
Yet here in the comments section we have someone who claims just that and there is yet to be seen one comment other than the host of this site.
It is simply beyond me.
This is not about trying to promote his view (my view, actually) this is just about trying to make sense of this situation.
Maybe it is blatantly ridiculous? So it doesn't meri a response? All I can say that IMHO this is absolutely not the case.

Is it because it's not being explained well? All the more reson to ask questions.
Is it about a mentality of "I made up my mind, don't bother me with the facts.
Or maybe blog commenting is more about venting than about learning. Maybe it's about saying "you lose" or "you are a punching bag" it's about who can shout louder and who is better at being cute manipulative and evasive with words.

The truth is that 100 comments on a post makes for cursory reading of short comments and of total skipping of long ones. So it's sort of a vicious cycle, the more people use the comments section as a word sparring excercise the more it become a self fulfilling prophecy.

In a perfect world we will have Godol, misnaged, adderabi, ben aviuh, etc. (myself too) be inellectualy honest, brutally so, Ubela Hamoves Lonetzach Umochu .....

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

I've been mulling over your given conception of desire not being the rational for action and "reason" itself being so. It's not that I haven't been thinking about it that I haven't responded recently, but _because_ I've been so engrained in thought that I haven't yet been able to give a meaningful response.

I'm not sure what it means to appeal to Reason itself to justify actions. Can you give me a few examples of what a reasonable moral act is and why? And not generalities, but controversial acts please. Are there any instances where such Reason contradicts our intuitive moral desires? Is this Reason an absolute or can it change from place to place and from society to society?

Orthoprax said...

"So you answered it yourself, right?"

Not exactly. All it says is that the disinterested desires of a third party are best for finding the fairest solution for conflicting desires. But the disinterested party's desires may have no justifiable rational either. Just what he "thinks" is best.

Orthoprax said...

"Once one claims that he doesn't have the slightest clue about God then what doesn he mean the he believes in Him?"

Indeed, I wrote about this very issue in a previous post.

http://orthoprax.blogspot.com/2005/05/possibility-of-believing-in-god.html

Shtern_Zeyer said...

Hi Ortho,

As you once said, I should really write the whole theory from the bottom ujp rather than writing bits and peices. Me not doing so comes from a lack of self-discipline Oy Gevald.

But still let me now throw in another bit of a piece.

Let's do another thought experiment. A man here has decided to look at the whole world including himself from an unbiased objective viewpoint (we can surely agree that wants are subjective, no?)
He will see himself as nothing more and nothing less than his friend across the street. (He is simply looking at the facts as they are facts)
I hereby make a prediction, if he will incorporate this viewpoint long enough he will behave very ethical. He just won't be able to see why he comes before someone else and remember all he's doing is living according to his ingrained perception of reality, a perception based on looking at the facts as they are.

As I said before, all my writings here have not been a comprehensive essay on this theory of ethics.

Shtern_Zeyer said...

Hi Ortho,

As you once said, I should really write the whole theory from the bottom ujp rather than writing bits and peices. Me not doing so comes from a lack of self-discipline Oy Gevald.

But still let me now throw in another bit of a piece.

Let's do another thought experiment. A man here has decided to look at the whole world including himself from an unbiased objective viewpoint (we can surely agree that wants are subjective, no?)
He will see himself as nothing more and nothing less than his friend across the street. (He is simply looking at the facts as they are facts)
I hereby make a prediction, if he will incorporate this viewpoint long enough he will behave very ethical. He just won't be able to see why he comes before someone else and remember all he's doing is living according to his ingrained perception of reality, a perception based on looking at the facts as they are.

As I said before, all my writings here have not been a comprehensive essay on this theory of ethics.

Orthoprax said...

Shtern_Zeyer,

"A man here has decided to look at the whole world including himself from an unbiased objective viewpoint..."

Right, I'm understanding where you're coming from and as a tool for moral thought I think it's great, but what I don't yet see is how should a person act by that view? He still must have certain values in order to still act morally.

Suppose he doesn't care if his car gets banged up. Does he then extrapolate to everyone that nobody should care? People are, in fact, different.

Anonymous said...

Yes some people want choclate ice cream while others want vanilla. But one common thread runs through everyone equally we want our wants. I can't say that I'll bang up my neighbors car just like I carelessly bang up my own, because by doing that I am disregarding his wants and that is something I never do to myself. what about a person who is apathic to his own wants, you may ask, well that really boils down to saying that he doesn't want it too much, who cares how we conceptualize or label this person, who cares if he doesn't want nice cars because his Rebbe's words about it being Goyish still revebates in his phsyche or if it is due to his general state of apathy at this point of his life. The bottom line is that he doesn't want it hence he will bang it up, so in the end even this apathic man does things according to his wants. And so we ask him, to obey his friends wants as he obeys his own

Anonymous said...

My point with this whole cocept is specifically not about it being a tool for judging morality. My point is that this IS morality. If rational logic tells me that my friend and myself are objectively equal then it is really saying that rationally you should be ethical.

Orthoprax said...

Shteren,

"And so we ask him, to obey his friends wants as he obeys his own."

But some people's wants are really so far removed from the typical. And are some wants more important than others?

Suppose there's a minority group that wants to get paid equally as the majority. But the majority would rather keep paying them less. By the balance of wants, should not the minority group get stiffed every time?

So here comes the concept of "rights." We all have the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to liberty and so on. We seem to have these rights that overrule the majority of wants. How do you justify these?

"My point is that this IS morality."

I know, I understood your contention. What we are exploring here is to see if it holds up under scrutiny.

Shtern_Zeyer said...

Ortho,
We all do things only if it makes sense, actually only 'because' it makes sense. Every person will legitimize his wants by saying that "yes, it makes sense, and if asked how does it make sense to look at yourself more than others he'll answer "it makes sense for 'me'". What he doesn't realize is, that saying that it makes sense if I look at it from my personal angle even if it doesn't make sense by looking at it from an objective viewpoint, is an oxymoron. For the whole idea of looking at it from one angle only is not sensible, so ultimatly he is saying 'no it doesn't make sense.


"But some people's wants are really so far removed from the typical."
So?


"Suppose there's a minority group that wants to get paid equally as the majority. But the majority would rather keep paying them less. By the balance of wants, should not the minority group get stiffed every time?"

It's not the wants that reign supreme it's Reason/Logic (my view on things tell me how things belong, and the more I see things the way they really are the more I see it belonging that way which is the same as saying that this the way I want it to be)
The fact that 10 people want something that is not based on reason will not alter its unreasonableness. 10 people not seeing themselves as equall with all others won't make me find it reasonalbe. I'll still see the facts as they are and see how it belongs. In a situation where 10 people want something reasonable and there are three people that want something reasonable too but you can't do both, then reason and fact tell me that 10 has more weight than 3. So that doing for the 3 is unreasonable.

" So here comes the concept of "rights." We all have the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to liberty and so on. We seem to have these rights that overrule the majority of wants. How do you justify these?"

According to the theory that ethics is the logical reasonable thing to do it is inevitabley true that the right thing in ethics is the right thing according to logic. So ethical right and wrong are really the right and wrong of a mathamatical answer.

As above, it is reasonable and logically accurate (right) that where no one is wanting something unreasonable we should go according to majority. So voting is the Right thing to do. Saying that I have the right to vote is a figure of speech, we don't 'have' rights. When the right thing to do is in my favor we say he is in the right, he has the right.

If the specific 'rights' you mention are really right is a whole seperate issue. We are first trying to ascertain if there is such a thing as, right, just, moral, ethical.. in the first place. We surely can go into discussion if maybe smart people should have more of a vote. Do we really want mob rule? Or do we really want every crank 'fatummeling' many simple people with his 'right' of free speech? Is allowing to preach anarchy or "ethical relativism" the right thing?
But these all are issues only after we have agreed that right and wrong are more than just vestiges of an evolutionary process which has no real merit, and I don't think we have that consensus here, or do we?

"I know, I understood your contention. What we are exploring here is to see if it holds up under scrutiny."

You seemed to say that you are understanding my theory that it's a tool to evaluate morality so I explained my position, but surely we should explore it to see if it holds up. I fully respect your skepticism, it's only 'reasonable'.

Orthoprax said...

Shtern,

"What he doesn't realize is, that saying that it makes sense if I look at it from my personal angle even if it doesn't make sense by looking at it from an objective viewpoint, is an oxymoron."

But some actions only make sense if the person's reasons for doing so are subjective reasons. Should person A apply to dental school? Only if he wants to be a dentist, right? Are there any objective reasons for such things?

"In a situation where 10 people want something reasonable and there are three people that want something reasonable too but you can't do both, then reason and fact tell me that 10 has more weight than 3."

Ok, can you give me an example of two opposing reasonable wants?

"When the right thing to do is in my favor we say he is in the right, he has the right."

But even here we have opposing rights. Right to free speech vs right from defamation. How can we decide which is the overriding right? By counting heads?

"...but surely we should explore it to see if it holds up. I fully respect your skepticism, it's only 'reasonable'."

Sure, thanks. A lot of people take offense when I critique their views, but really I'm just trying to ascertain the truthfulness and consistency of them for the possibility that I may adopt them myself.

Orthoprax said...

Shtern,

Can you go through your logical basics for moral action? So far, I think, we have equality of man. So that whenever one side is putting their wants over another's it is wrong if one side necessarily devalues the other.

What other such basics are there?

Can you also go through the differences between amoral acts which are permitted by reason, immoral acts which are forbidden, and moral acts which are commanded by reason? A give a few examples of each and why please.

Orthoprax said...

Also, what would be useful is answering why we should think people are all equal when they do actually have many differences between them. Age, height, weight, intelligence, wealth, etc etc.

What about them are we recognizing as equal? And is that enough to act upon?

Shtern_Zeyer said...

Ortho,
It is common decency and ethically imperative not to suddenly ignore someone in midst of conversation. Therefore I ask you to accept my apologies in delaying my response. I will work on it within the next few days, it just has been crazy hectic for me.
Shtern

Orthoprax said...

Shtern,

Relax, I know how the internet works. Respond at your leisure.

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err said...

there is no just thing as an ethical code even though we want to believe in. Most decisions about ethics are made on the spot. I have heard almost every guy out there say that would sacrifice something for something they believe in, "their friend, their country, their religion". Some would say they would sacrifice their life. But the deal is simple, they all believe that will do that(which is where ethical code comes from), but at the point when they are faced with that choice, few of them will make that sacrifice. Why? Because there is no ethics code, there is rational thinking at the point the decision. In some people's mind the rational thinking goes, I will give this up because it will create a better something. In others, I don't wanna do this, I don't even believe in it too much. The only time an ethical code exists is when you are making decisions from far away. This is when you personally don't see the sacrifice, but you make someone else do it. Like leader's making choices for their people. (Ofcourse, these choices will affect them by going bad you can say. But in the short run, they don't see themselves making sacrifices) In short, ethical codes are superficial things. Things that you state you follow when you are not faced by them personally. ( I would totally give my life up for my friends by jumping on that bomb if I was on Iraq. I would never do it. None of these statements mean anything, maybe the person who says no will do it, and the person who says yes won't)

Orthoprax said...

Err,

While there are sometimes extraneous factors that affect our moral actions despite our moral inclinations, the fact is that our moral reasonings are indeed followed through by those among us of sufficient character. Some people do indeed jump on that grenade.

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