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Cogito ergo sum

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Moral vs. Factual Belief

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  • Moral vs. Factual Belief

    Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones? Consider the following statements:
    1. It is okay to rape someone as long as this is done as part of a study to determine first hand the psychological effects the act has on victims.
    2. There is nothing wrong with believing 40 + 16 sometimes equals 55.

    My point is that Q1 draws a stronger inner response than Q2. I see this in qualitative terms; falsity in purely descriptive propositions raises only a mild tension, but moral proposals produce a more robust resistance, one familiar form of which is ‘moral indignation’, which I propose can reasonably be said to be a type of response unavailable to inert factual falsehoods. The propositions “the capital of Italy is Barcelona” or “40 + 16 = 55” carry no such dynamic as false moral statements.

    I sometimes use this thought experiment as an example of this distinction:

    Imagine holding a heavy baseball bat. The following items are placed in front you in the following order:

    1. A 300 pound boulder.
    2. A flowering lilac bush.
    3. A grasshopper.
    4. A kitten.
    5. A human infant.

    Beginning with item 1, imagine swinging hard with your bat, striking each in turn three times as hard as you can. Observe your feelings as you strike each object. Unless you're psychologically defective, you likely won't be able to complete these tasks.

    This suggests to me that the late philosopher Mortimer J. Adler (1902-2001) was correct when he made the following distinction,
    "In Book VI of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, clearly cognizant of what he himself had said about the character of descriptive truth, declared that what he called practical judgments (i.e., prescriptive or normative judgments with respect to action) had truth of a different sort. Later philosophers, except for Aristotle's medieval disciples, have shown no awareness whatsoever of this brief but crucially important passage in his writings." (Ten Philosophical Mistakes, 1985)

    One might need to substitute a sledge hammer for the bat for use on the boulder in order to cause any damage to it, but the point remains; it seems the corruption of organisms (the bat produces the falsification of the health--probably the maximum falsification of death in some cases--of each organism) produces stronger dynamic of resistance. Adler identifies two distinct kinds of truth, descriptive (material, factual) and prescriptive (moral, normative). What was posted above seems to support Adler. I’d be interested to hear thoughts.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
    Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones?
    They seem different because they are different.
    Jorge: Functional Complex Information is INFORMATION that is complex and functional.

    mikewhitney: What if the speed of light changed when light is passing through water? ... I have 3 semesters of college Physics.

    Mountain Man: First of all, the Bible is a fixed document.
    Mountain Man: … this is how liberals argue these days, with labels instead of ideas.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Roy View Post
      They seem different because they are different.
      Okay, I see a lot of room was left open in the OP. I maintain that:

      1. truth or any concept of value requires a mind of at least intellectual or higher caliber

      2. truth either
      a. preexists or
      b is a product of human minds or
      c has some other natural explanation for its existence

      Thoughts on the OP plus this?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
        Okay, I see a lot of room was left open in the OP. I maintain that:

        1. truth or any concept of value requires a mind of at least intellectual or higher caliber

        2. truth either
        a. preexists or
        b is a product of human minds or
        c has some other natural explanation for its existence

        Thoughts on the OP plus this?
        are you saying "truth" is synonymous with (ethical/moral) "value"?...are the terms interchangeable?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
          Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones?
          They don't. Morality and ethics developed for the same reason, i.e. they are a product of evolution as it lends itself to our survival as a species. In short, they are an instinctive survival mechanism.
          “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by siam View Post
            are you saying "truth" is synonymous with (ethical/moral) "value"?...are the terms interchangeable?
            Yes. I take the position that value has exactly two denominations, true and false. Prescriptive truth is synonymous with normative value (though there's room for debate here) generally and moral/ethical in particular.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tassman View Post
              They don't. Morality and ethics developed for the same reason, i.e. they are a product of evolution as it lends itself to our survival as a species. In short, they are an instinctive survival mechanism.
              This is the normal answer from atheists; I was surprised when Roy agreed. Do you believe this because evidence leads to this conclusion or because it fits into a preexistent worldview?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
                This is the normal answer from atheists;
                It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
                “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                  It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
                  That was an unnecessarily wordy way of saying "because it fits into [my] preexistent worldview."
                  ~Formerly known as Chrawnus~

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                    It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
                    The problem I have is that evolution began its life as a descriptor of mechanistic biological systems. At some point the pursuit of naturalistic explanations had to bring morality into its cupboards in order to preserve epistemic and ontic consistency within a the naturalist framework. But morality, because it’s categorically separate from mechanistic/empirical systems places “evolutionary morality” in the same boat as supernatural claims for morality—i.e., from a naturalist’s POV, pure speculation. Will you concede this point?

                    I’m not dismissing evolutionary morality on this point, mind you, just calling it what it is in light of your stating morality’s dependence on evolution as a foregone conclusion as if it’s knowledge any intelligent person should know. A fundamental component of my own view of reality and existence consists in a similar marriage of categorical disassociates; I hold that value [abstract quality] inheres both abstract and material existents and this produces, among other things, moral judgments, propositions and motives resulting in primarily value-based behaviors. One reason for the op is to see if reasonable accounts can be given for the existence of value apart from minds….what is your position on this?

                    Given that both your and my beliefs about morality necessarily tread the rim of the speculative, what remains seems to be whether either view has a reasonable mechanism in place sufficient to grant warrant for belief. Speculative is okay if there’s enough logical evidence to connect that logic to behavior and states of affairs in the ‘real’ world (whatever that is).

                    For instance, Greene and Haidt made a splash a few years ago correlating normative judgments with neuroimaging in efforts to establish evolutionary causes for morality. Their work has since been criticized by others in the field citing the imprecision of neuroimaging to allow assignment of specific patterns of thought to local areas of the brain beyond the most general of senses, and other logical problems with the presentation. Of course every view is going to have faults. At the end of the day the best we have are the formations of worldviews as far removed from reasonable doubt as we can get.

                    I’m curious, how would you respond to the points in my second post?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
                      The problem I have is that evolution began its life as a descriptor of mechanistic biological systems. At some point the pursuit of naturalistic explanations had to bring morality into its cupboards in order to preserve epistemic and ontic consistency within a the naturalist framework. But morality, because it’s categorically separate from mechanistic/empirical systems places “evolutionary morality” in the same boat as supernatural claims for morality—i.e., from a naturalist’s POV, pure speculation. Will you concede this point?

                      IÂ’m not dismissing evolutionary morality on this point, mind you, just calling it what it is in light of your stating moralityÂ’s dependence on evolution as a foregone conclusion as if itÂ’s knowledge any intelligent person should know. A fundamental component of my own view of reality and existence consists in a similar marriage of categorical disassociates; I hold that value [abstract quality] inheres both abstract and material existents and this produces, among other things, moral judgments, propositions and motives resulting in primarily value-based behaviors. One reason for the op is to see if reasonable accounts can be given for the existence of value apart from mindsÂ….what is your position on this?

                      Given that both your and my beliefs about morality necessarily tread the rim of the speculative, what remains seems to be whether either view has a reasonable mechanism in place sufficient to grant warrant for belief. Speculative is okay if there’s enough logical evidence to connect that logic to behavior and states of affairs in the ‘real’ world (whatever that is).

                      For instance, Greene and Haidt made a splash a few years ago correlating normative judgments with neuroimaging in efforts to establish evolutionary causes for morality. Their work has since been criticized by others in the field citing the imprecision of neuroimaging to allow assignment of specific patterns of thought to local areas of the brain beyond the most general of senses, and other logical problems with the presentation. Of course every view is going to have faults. At the end of the day the best we have are the formations of worldviews as far removed from reasonable doubt as we can get.

                      IÂ’m curious, how would you respond to the points in my second post?
                      In what sense would you suggest that morals have existence outside of minds?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
                        Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones? Consider the following statements:
                        1. It is okay to rape someone as long as this is done as part of a study to determine first hand the psychological effects the act has on victims.
                        2. There is nothing wrong with believing 40 + 16 sometimes equals 55.

                        My point is that Q1 draws a stronger inner response than Q2. I see this in qualitative terms; falsity in purely descriptive propositions raises only a mild tension, but moral proposals produce a more robust resistance, one familiar form of which is ‘moral indignation’, which I propose can reasonably be said to be a type of response unavailable to inert factual falsehoods. The propositions “the capital of Italy is Barcelona” or “40 + 16 = 55” carry no such dynamic as false moral statements.

                        I sometimes use this thought experiment as an example of this distinction:

                        Imagine holding a heavy baseball bat. The following items are placed in front you in the following order:

                        1. A 300 pound boulder.
                        2. A flowering lilac bush.
                        3. A grasshopper.
                        4. A kitten.
                        5. A human infant.

                        Beginning with item 1, imagine swinging hard with your bat, striking each in turn three times as hard as you can. Observe your feelings as you strike each object. Unless you're psychologically defective, you likely won't be able to complete these tasks.

                        This suggests to me that the late philosopher Mortimer J. Adler (1902-2001) was correct when he made the following distinction,
                        "In Book VI of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, clearly cognizant of what he himself had said about the character of descriptive truth, declared that what he called practical judgments (i.e., prescriptive or normative judgments with respect to action) had truth of a different sort. Later philosophers, except for Aristotle's medieval disciples, have shown no awareness whatsoever of this brief but crucially important passage in his writings." (Ten Philosophical Mistakes, 1985)

                        One might need to substitute a sledge hammer for the bat for use on the boulder in order to cause any damage to it, but the point remains; it seems the corruption of organisms (the bat produces the falsification of the health--probably the maximum falsification of death in some cases--of each organism) produces stronger dynamic of resistance. Adler identifies two distinct kinds of truth, descriptive (material, factual) and prescriptive (moral, normative). What was posted above seems to support Adler. I’d be interested to hear thoughts.

                        Not sure what the point is, but on the surface not meaningful. They are of course different regardless of what we personally believe.
                        Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                        Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                        But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                        go with the flow the river knows . . .

                        Frank

                        I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Anomaly View Post
                          The problem I have is that evolution began its life as a descriptor of mechanistic biological systems. At some point the pursuit of naturalistic explanations had to bring morality into its cupboards in order to preserve epistemic and ontic consistency within a the naturalist framework. But morality, because it’s categorically separate from mechanistic/empirical systems places “evolutionary morality” in the same boat as supernatural claims for morality—i.e., from a naturalist’s POV, pure speculation. Will you concede this point?
                          No. I will not concede this point. There is no good reason for anything but a naturalistic explanation to explain the origins of morality and ethics. They are products of evolution inasmuch as they promote our survival as a social species. We see the precursors of such behavior among other social species such as the great apes. And there is evidence of similar codes of behavior among our hominid predecessors such as Homo erectus and Neanderthal man and other archaic humans.
                          “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JimL View Post
                            In what sense would you suggest that morals have existence outside of minds?
                            I have a hypothesis that value (admixture of truth and falsity which creates moral mutability) is a non-empiric dynamic within being, that factual value interactions, while powerful in a material sense—assuming the resistance my macro level fist encounters striking a wall is in micro reality just a series of electromagnetic reactions—is wholly inert in prescriptive matters. This is testified to by the lack of normative pressure striking the boulder in the thought experiment in op. We can beat on rocks all day and no normative response will be forthcoming.

                            The increasing pressure of resistance felt as each biological object is struck in its turn is consistent with Aristotle and Adler’s distinction of truth as two kinds as it would play out in value endued being in time and space. We understand intuitively that organic entities are in possession of increasing qualitative or quantitative (or both) levels of a life dynamic—life force or vital principle in theology. In striking each entity the truth (life) of each organic object is being violently falsified. In other words truth within being creates the good of health and life; each blow is a falsification of that truth-derived good in alteration of life to a corruption or evil of reduced health or death. Morality is in this view just the word we use to describe pressure the intellect experiences when it processes either actual or representational falsification of prescriptive truth, and organics are in Christian orthodoxy and in this view a union of descriptive truth (body) and prescriptive (soul).

                            The fist hitting the wall works the same way. Descriptive attraction that truthbearing matter imposes holds hand and wall in their respective form and order. The force encountered when hand hits wall is repulsion of an attempt to falsify matter by trying to force like-charged constituents into the same space. This is an impossibility because matter is wholly true and can’t be falsified. The broken knuckles received is matter’s way of maintaining its immutable truth status. Matter is wholly and always true, it can’t be falsified as prescriptive truth can. The interesting thing is that matter and soul operate in opposite ways. Like charges in matter repel, opposites attract. But prescriptive likes attract and opposites repel. Truth in one thing seeks the unity of truth in the other. Same with falsity. But moral truth and falsity resist; this is obvious by the number of continual arguments and sometimes heated discussions on the subject and was demonstrated in the thought experiment.

                            I understand this is pretty abstract and hard to grasp because of its unorthodoxy, but I feel it's actually pretty simple, coherent, logical and consistent with the way a value-based metaphysic would play out in existence.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                              No. I will not concede this point. There is no good reason for anything but a naturalistic explanation to explain the origins of morality and ethics. They are products of evolution inasmuch as they promote our survival as a social species. We see the precursors of such behavior among other social species such as the great apes. And there is evidence of similar codes of behavior among our hominid predecessors such as Homo erectus and Neanderthal man and other archaic humans.
                              Okay. But it seems to me all you’re doing is dogmatic parroting of doctrines you’ve been taught and come to accept. I don’t see any actual arguments. Christians who erroneously use their doctrine as the standard by which others must be judged—thus making their beliefs identical to truth itself—make the same circular error; they create little doctrinal fortifications into which they invite other Christians (or atheists or Muslims, etc.) to participate: “Let us debate one another, the only rule is, your beliefs have to be significantly indistinguishable from mine. Now, come tell me what you believe.”

                              The atheist circularity is similar: "Come, let's argue together; the only rule is that only things in time and space are real. Now then, come tell me all about your God!"

                              I understand...everyone wants to hang on to their own worldview. It's a human thang.

                              Comment

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