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Moral Realism...

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Starlight View Post
    ....

    It's basically exactly equivalent to the golden rule, since you are valuing everyone else as yourself. John Rawls' uses this idea in his Theory of Justice, but the product of it is simply to produce a morality that values everyone equally and hence has you caring about everyone as much as yourself. Fairness leads to caring about everyone equally, and caring about everyone equally leads to fairness, so I see an equivalence between the two commonly espoused ethical principles of Care and Fairness.

    Anyway, getting back to Kagan's point, he is saying that if perfectly rational people performed this veil of ignorance thought experiment they would reach the rational conclusion that not harming others would be a good ideal rule for their society. After all, if they agreed harming others was okay for that society, they might be born into that society as a person who suffered great harm. Hence for a rational person thinking about the optimal society to be born into, it would be one with a rule against harming others.

    Not his point. Rather his point would be that if you gave a rational soul a choice of being born into a brutal society where human rights don't exist, or a not brutal society with human rights, they would choose the latter one. Therefore the brutal society falls short of ideal moral conduct.

    The point of his thought-experiment is to be able to objectively assess different societies against hypothetical perfect standard, and give a way to work out what rules ought to exist in an ideal society.
    ...


    ... you would be able to use Kagan's process to come to an understanding of what was morally wrong with your society and what needed to be changed to fix it. Then the society your children would be born into would be a better one for them.

    I think generally the topic of "what are possible motivations for acting morally" is vast. There are so many different possible reasons, many of which can apply at the same time:

    Why care about others in your society or help others?
    1. Because caring can make you a happier person.
    2. Because helping others can bring satisfaction.
    3. Because humans have a sense of empathic and contagiously pick up on the emotions of those around them so if more people in your society are happy then you will be happier.
    4. Because those you know and love directly have other people in their lives you don't know directly but if those people are better off and happier then the people you know and love who interact with them will be happier.
    5. Because everyone's affected by crime in society but if the poor are better off they'll be less motivated to commit crimes and feel they have more to lose than gain by doing so and if there's then less crime there's less chance of you or people you know and love being the victims of crime.
    6. Because if the rest of your society is thriving the public spaces you use will be better and nicer and not defaced.
    7. Because if the rest of your society is thriving then the schools your children go to will be full of nice people and not nasty ones.
    8. Because if the rest of your society is thriving you'll encounter nicer people at your workplace, in the mall, at sporting events.
    9. Because if the rest of your society is thriving other people in it will create better and more works of art, TV, Movies, books, sporting matches, music, etc for you to enjoy, they'll research more and better cures for diseases and illnesses and be able to provide you better treatment should you get sick.
    10. Because you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you acted morally, that you contributed to society by making it a better place, closer to the ideal you would all have agreed was optimal for it if you had all been discussing the possibility of being born into it, you'd know you did your bit.
    11. Because you'd know you're a good person, and you'd have the satisfaction of being a good person.

    Pick any one. Pick all 11. There's probably a dozen more, that list is just what I happened to think of in 5 minutes off the top of my head.

    Well the 'mechanisms of enforcement' for morality tend to be far subtler than those of laws. The police won't come arrest you for being immoral. But subtler effects would potentially happen - the exact inverse of the list I gave above for example. Be nasty to others, and you might find out that others respond to your actions by being nasty to you. Act in ways that make your society a worse place and the consequence is simple: Your society will become a worse place to live in.
    Nicely articulated!
    ...great list...

    with regards to "veil of ignorance" it seems a good idea but I have had some misgiving about it...and it may be because in the context of a " hypothetical perfect standard/ideal society" framework---perhaps more should required than objective rationality? There is nothing wrong with basing rationality on selfish desires (as long as they are not excessive)---but perhaps if selfish desires were balanced with altruistic desires...it might make for a more ideal rationale for society? ---for example, If we were to think of the ideal society not just on the basis of what we want for ourselves---but also on what we want for our "brother" (close family member)....it would then create space for compassion? So---a justice system that is built on the assumption that if our brother (close family member) were to go through it---what would be the most fair AND most compassionate "system"? ...then we may come up with an answer that would better suit an "Ideal"? the same questions could be asked for systems of economics, welfare, politics, identity, ..etc....

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by CMD View Post

      To me there still seems to be a lot of subjectivity in this analogy. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but these hypothetical "spirits" all seem to have "being born into a society where there is the least chance that I will personally come to harm" as their utmost goal, as the thing that they place the most value in, and what is deemed "rational" is based upon that.

      But if you're one of these spirits and the thing that is most important to you is something else, like, say, becoming a tyrannical dictator yourself, then the reasoning changes without necessarily becoming irrational or illogical.

      Being born into a society that heavily values non-harm, fairness, democracy, etc. is no longer the rational choice, as becoming and remaining a tyrannical dictator in such a society would be nearly impossible, no matter how many advantages in life you end up having (wealth, physical and mental health, upbringing, etc.).

      Sure, the likelihood of experiencing harm and being an oppressed individual is greater if one is born into a tyrannical society, but the chances of becoming a tyrannical ruler yourself in a society that allows and tolerates such rulers is also greater, and if you personally (subjectively) place a greater importance on "becoming a tyrannical ruler" over "not personally experiencing harm," then the "best" society from your perspective is the tyrannical one.
      Not sure if yr comment makes sense...?.....
      In order to be a dictator---a group of people would want to have a dictator---one cannot be a dictator all by oneself. ...right?
      therefore---in such a society---there are a group of people who do not want to be a dictator but prefer to follow a dictator. If a society were structured so that every member could become a dictator---then it would self-destruct. (zero-sum)
      So---one would need to structure a system or society in which only one person--the most cunning, or bad, or strong, or...etc would/could become a dictator and all others would be followers. (those who buy into it as a construct)

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Starlight View Post
        Eh? Moral realism is either factually true or factually false. It's not a matter of whether it's convenient for it to be true.
        Of course when you say that moral truths are objective I think we need to flesh out what we mean by objective.

        This is the exact objection I regularly level at your moral system, where you suggest our self-interested fear of getting punished / rewarded by God should be the motivation for doing what he wants.

        However, this thought experiment, by virtue of us not knowing who in the society we would be born as, causes us to value everyone as ourselves. So it's using the Golden Rule as the basis rather than self-interest.
        No, that is not the Christin view. I am a Christian because I love God and His Son. It is not mercenary to desire to be with the one you love. Second, the idea of punishment or justice simply points to the fact, that ultimately we live in a moral and just universe. Even if moral realism is true we live in an a-moral cosmos where ultimate justice is non existent. If you can get away with killing millions of human beings and die fat and happy in old age (like Mao) you win! And your thought experiment, at bottom, certainty does hinge on self-interest. What is good for my well being is key to the experiment, how it effects me. And do you really want to reduce the golden rule to self-interest? Like I said Platonic forms, as Erik Wielenberg argued, are much more noble, IMHO.


        Of course.
        So the atheistic moral nihilist who does not believe in objective moral values and duties is irrational? Why? Would you say that moral relativists are irrational too? Carp, Tass and other atheist here who hold to moral relativism are irrational?

        Of course there is. There will be natural and social consequences. Be nasty to other people, and they'll be nasty to you. Wreck your society, and you'll have to live in a wrecked society. Make your character that of a horrible person and you'll have to live with having the character of a horrible person.
        Which is true whether moral realism is the case or not. So why bring it up in the first place?

        Again seer I would point out that Evangelical Christianity is fundamentally about lack of moral accountability and enforcement for us, because Jesus takes the penalty that should have been ours meaning we don't have to. Evangelicals explicitly reject the idea of a thoroughgoing final judgement by works, because they firmly believe that if God were to render such a judgement we would all fail it and go to hell. So as much as you seem to like to pretend Christianity offers a carrot/stick with regard to moral behavior, it really doesn't do a good job of that. There are other religions that do a much better job of promising that our every (im)moral action will have equivalent punishment/reward in the afterlife than Christianity does. Once again, your own system fails the very criteria you use to claim it is superior.
        First, if you take the penal theory of atonement Christ was punished on our behalf, a penalty was paid. Justice was done. Second, even Christians are judged by their works, there are rewards or lack of in the afterlife, even if the man is saved. That too is another form of justice. And I put the reclamation of a man's soul in the same category. Either the bad man is made good, or he is removed from civil society (we call that hell). And like I said above, this has nothing to do with a carrot/stick, but whether we live in a just universe or not. At best, even if moral realism is true, the most you can do, if some one does not agree, is name calling - they are irrational or immoral according to your lights.
        Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by CMD View Post

          To me there still seems to be a lot of subjectivity in this analogy. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but these hypothetical "spirits" all seem to have "being born into a society where there is the least chance that I will personally come to harm" as their utmost goal, as the thing that they place the most value in, and what is deemed "rational" is based upon that.

          But if you're one of these spirits and the thing that is most important to you is something else, like, say, becoming a tyrannical dictator yourself, then the reasoning changes without necessarily becoming irrational or illogical.

          Being born into a society that heavily values non-harm, fairness, democracy, etc. is no longer the rational choice, as becoming and remaining a tyrannical dictator in such a society would be nearly impossible, no matter how many advantages in life you end up having (wealth, physical and mental health, upbringing, etc.).

          Sure, the likelihood of experiencing harm and being an oppressed individual is greater if one is born into a tyrannical society, but the chances of becoming a tyrannical ruler yourself in a society that allows and tolerates such rulers is also greater, and if you personally (subjectively) place a greater importance on "becoming a tyrannical ruler" over "not personally experiencing harm," then the "best" society from your perspective is the tyrannical one.
          You make a good point, and that's why I think of morality as subjective, rather than objective.

          I think it could be argued that if you had a bunch of different randomly selected groups of human beings, the moral rules that they would come up with would have a lot in common, and this could reasonably be attributed to there being certain facts about human nature that would be expected given our common evolutionary background. Sure, there might be outliers, but they could be explained as the result of defective genes, or a traumatic early life. But I think the best one could get out of this is that morality is "partly objective, and partly subjective".


          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by seer View Post
            Which is true whether moral realism is the case or not. So why bring it up in the first place?
            You brought it up, when you said, "So there is no accountability, no mechanisms of enforcement."

            Nice of you to point out that the means of accountability and mechanisms of enforcement are present whether or not moral realism is the case, though.

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Stoic View Post
              You brought it up, when you said, "So there is no accountability, no mechanisms of enforcement."

              Nice of you to point out that the means of accountability and mechanisms of enforcement are present whether or not moral realism is the case, though.
              Stoic the point is those mechanisms have nothing to do with moral realism. They would be apply even with moral relativism. Or a religious culture. There is nothing inherent in MR that leads to accountability.
              Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Stoic View Post

                You make a good point, and that's why I think of morality as subjective, rather than objective.
                That would make you irrational according to Star...

                Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by seer View Post
                  That would make you irrational according to Star...
                  Not necessarily. I'm not a moral nihilist.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Stoic View Post

                    Not necessarily. I'm not a moral nihilist.
                    You are a moral relativist, you will fall into the same category. Remember the moral nihilist simply does not believe in objective moral values and duties. Like you...
                    Last edited by seer; 04-12-2021, 01:15 PM.
                    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by siam View Post

                      Not sure if yr comment makes sense...?.....
                      In order to be a dictator---a group of people would want to have a dictator---one cannot be a dictator all by oneself. ...right?
                      therefore---in such a society---there are a group of people who do not want to be a dictator but prefer to follow a dictator. If a society were structured so that every member could become a dictator---then it would self-destruct. (zero-sum)
                      So---one would need to structure a system or society in which only one person--the most cunning, or bad, or strong, or...etc would/could become a dictator and all others would be followers. (those who buy into it as a construct)
                      It does not have to be a dictator in order to defeat the premise. Men like to gamble, take chances. Perhaps one would prefer a more dog eat dog world with the possibility of gaining much personal wealth and power. Rather than the safety of Rawls' fairness world. One does not have to reach for dictatorial power.
                      Last edited by seer; 04-12-2021, 03:07 PM.
                      Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Stoic View Post
                        I think it could be argued that if you had a bunch of different randomly selected groups of human beings, the moral rules that they would come up with would have a lot in common, and this could reasonably be attributed to there being certain facts about human nature that would be expected given our common evolutionary background. Sure, there might be outliers, but they could be explained as the result of defective genes, or a traumatic early life. But I think the best one could get out of this is that morality is "partly objective, and partly subjective".
                        I tend to generally agree with this. And it is very similar to my own general approach to the issue.

                        I think there are things about the world which result in significant convergence of moral values. There is variation of course, but it seems to be variation within certain constraints. Looking across history, I see convergence, not divergence, of moral values over time. Looking across cultures I see variations but around common themes.

                        So I tend toward saying that the common themes and general convergence indicate there are a particular set of moral ideas that are non-arbitrary, and which arise universally across time and cultures as a result of certain facts about humans and the world.

                        But each individual culture seems to add to that common core of ideas, many and various different additional ideas that vary from culture to culture. Those parts are obviously subjective and arbitrary, and to the extent that they show a pattern over time, the pattern is that cultures who think hard about morality have a tendency to discard them as arbitrary traditions of the past. Cultures being challenged to think hard about morality seems to have a tendency to make their moral codes converge toward the common universal elements.

                        So I conclude that there seem to be objective and subjective components to people's moral codes. By 'objective' I in this sense mean 'universally held or close to it' and 'arising from facts about the world and human nature', and by 'subjective' I mean 'vary significantly from one culture to the next' and 'having arbitrary parts and ideas'.

                        In this sense I would describe myself as being a moral realist who believes in objective morality: I conclude that it is likely that among the different moral ideas of different cultures that there is a common core of moral ideas that are not as arbitrary as some of their other moral ideas and which are the way they are due to truths about the world and human nature.

                        Believing that there appears to be convergence / a common core of ideas, is not the same as having perfect knowledge of what that common core is precisely though. Perhaps in 100 years moral philosophers will have nailed it down fully. At the moment, the best I can do is loosely describe the cluster of ideas that seem to be in that area of convergence, that common core, and they are things like: Valuing others, benevolence, caring for others rather than harming them, fairness and treating others equitably, treating others as you would want to be treated, promoting the happiness and wellbeing of all. Whether this can be best described as a single underlying moral principle that gives rise to these multiple facets, or whether there are multiple moral principles here that multiple truths about the world give rise to, I am not sure.

                        But the ubiquity of these themes across cultures and apparent convergence toward them across time, makes me believe that there must be facts about the world and about humanity that give rise to this common core of moral ideas. And hence I describe that common core as being 'objective' and 'real', in contrast to 'arbitrary' or 'subjective'. Looking at surveys of modern philosophers on these subjects, it makes me think they mostly hold a similar view - they appear to generally agree that such a non-subjective common moral core does really exist (and hence report being 'moral realists'), but they are a bit uncertain or in disagreement about the details of nailing down precisely what that core actually consists of or how best to construct the internal logic of it and the connections between its parts.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by seer View Post

                          It does not have to be a dictator in order to defeat the premise. Men like to gamble, take chances. Perhaps one would prefer a more dog eat dog world with the possibility of gaining much personal wealth and power. Rather than the safety of Rawls' fairness world. One does not have to reach for dictatorial power.
                          dog eat dog---any system based on zero-sum is going to self-destruct---its like a natural law or something---so a dog-eat-dog system could exist for a time---but eventually will collapse. Such systems do not add any benefit to human survival. Look at Burma---today the military is cracking down on Buddhist Burmese---yesterday it was Muslim Burmese. A system that is built on survival of the oppressor (identity) over the oppressed means that it becomes necessary for there to be some group that falls into the category of oppressed....Had the Burmese focused more on the concept of the equality of all human beings---which would have led to the equality of all Burmese peoples, then---the systemic divisions of superiority/inferiority---leading to abuse, might have been avoided......?.....

                          The same can be said of accumulations of wealth and/or power---such systems come at a cost. The cost of the majority being exploited for the sake of benefits to a few. Such systems self-destruct when there are no more resources to exploit. (but they leave a lot of harm behind). Systems that have a flow incorporated in them last longer because the flow replenishes the "systems" ---so an economic system that has a bi-directional flow of wealth will last much longer and bring more benefits than an economic system that is unidirectional (wealth flows in one direction---towards the rich). The same rules apply to all other systems---systems that have inherent balance will create benefit and last longer than systems that are imbalanced.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by seer View Post

                            You are a moral relativist, you will fall into the same category. Remember the moral nihilist simply does not believe in objective moral values and duties. Like you...
                            There is a big difference between moral nihilism (nothing is morally right or wrong) and moral non-objectivism.

                            As I said, I'm not a moral nihilist.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Stoic View Post

                              There is a big difference between moral nihilism (nothing is morally right or wrong) and moral non-objectivism.

                              As I said, I'm not a moral nihilist.
                              The point is both positions reject objective moral truths, and that is what Star said was irrational. Unless I misunderstood him.
                              Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by siam View Post

                                dog eat dog---any system based on zero-sum is going to self-destruct---its like a natural law or something---so a dog-eat-dog system could exist for a time---but eventually will collapse. Such systems do not add any benefit to human survival. Look at Burma---today the military is cracking down on Buddhist Burmese---yesterday it was Muslim Burmese. A system that is built on survival of the oppressor (identity) over the oppressed means that it becomes necessary for there to be some group that falls into the category of oppressed....Had the Burmese focused more on the concept of the equality of all human beings---which would have led to the equality of all Burmese peoples, then---the systemic divisions of superiority/inferiority---leading to abuse, might have been avoided......?.....

                                The same can be said of accumulations of wealth and/or power---such systems come at a cost. The cost of the majority being exploited for the sake of benefits to a few. Such systems self-destruct when there are no more resources to exploit. (but they leave a lot of harm behind). Systems that have a flow incorporated in them last longer because the flow replenishes the "systems" ---so an economic system that has a bi-directional flow of wealth will last much longer and bring more benefits than an economic system that is unidirectional (wealth flows in one direction---towards the rich). The same rules apply to all other systems---systems that have inherent balance will create benefit and last longer than systems that are imbalanced.
                                So what? That is not the point. For Rawls, for experiment to work, he must assume that all men would be risk averse. That is both ahistorical and an assumption that can not be demonstrated. As far as a majority being exploited for the sake a few, China seems to be doing quite well with the majority of wealth being funneled to their party's oligarchy. With no human rights or equality I might add...
                                Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

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