The source of ethics

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Cres
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Cres » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:50 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Or they could argue from shared premises, since many people value having consistent ethical systems. So when they share premises (which for this purpose don't have to be objective) they can be argue that stance X is supported by shared premise Y or clashes with shared premise Z. That isn't talking past each other, but doesn't require ethics to be objective.


Agreed. They wouldn't even necessarily need to share the premises if they're both sufficiently well-versed in them. But it's a slightly different argument, about what is right-under-system-X, rather than what is right full stop.

PeteP wrote:Depends. What power do Alice and Bob have over each other? Can Bob force or influence Alice's decision to abort? If not, his opinion on the issue is meaningless.


OK. This seems to me to have some unintuitive implications, eg

(a) a powerless slave in Ancient Rome being tortured by his master has no grounds for complaint - his treatment is perfectly moral, because the master thinks so and has all the power
(b) counterfactual where Hitler wins WW2: in the scenario, there's nothing wrong with the Holocaust, because Hitler thinks it's OK and he has all the power

...but maybe your intuitions here are different to mine?

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CorruptUser
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:22 pm UTC

"Grounds for complaint"? If you can bring your argument before a court, you have "grounds for complaint". That's kind of why we have independent courts, so that everyone has some power to protect themselves, even if that power is on loan from The Public. If you can't do anything about an injustice, you're shit out of luck. 'Right' and 'wrong' are meaningless as concepts without any way of enforcing them.

But this thread is about where 'right' and 'wrong' come from, which is from people. People decide what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'. And if enough people decide that torturing a slave is 'wrong', they can band together and put a stop to it. Not because the universe says torture is an abomination, but because we say so.



After 3 pages, I have yet to see anyone provide any credible evidence that at least one moral system is inherent in nature/universe. There is evidence that human society can create their own moral systems. So the evidence all points to morals being social constructs.

Note that it may be possible for primitive animal societies to also create their own moral system. It's pretty arrogant of humans to think that only humans can have a society.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:40 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:37 pm UTC

CU, all your posts look to me like they say the same damn thing. Are you going to argue for your position, or are you going to just keep pounding the table and insisting that "'Right' and 'wrong' are meaningless as concepts without any way of enforcing them"?
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:54 pm UTC

Only the last two posts were about 'right and wrong being meaningless without enforcement', in this thread anyway. I have been arguing for my position. Please, tell me where my logic is faulty as I could use the constructive criticism.

Do you have any credible evidence that ethics are derived from something outside society? Because if so I'd like to see it.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:05 pm UTC

I don't presume that ethics should be derived from anything. But Cres already provided some evidence that ethics is not derived from society: the apparent fact that people can have moral claims on others even when society does not support them in those claims (indeed, even when society is the party at fault).

Your response is just to deny the evidence itself: as you put it, people don't have grounds for complaint unless they're physically and socially capable of bringing their argument before a court. Your strategy, in other words, is to deny that the purported evidence exists, on the very grounds that it would contradict your conclusion. You believe q; when someone presents premises, p, which show that q is false, you argue that since q is true, p must be false. With that approach, is it any surprise that you haven't found any evidence against your position?
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:16 pm UTC

You haven't given any reason to believe the evidence is credible beyond you wanting it to be true. I want there to be a natural justice system in the universe, but nothing beyond Cause and Effect is observed.

Please provide evidence that P is true.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:25 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
PeteP wrote:Meaningless question in my case I neither have an ethical system nor think there are objective ethics you could match, so asking me that is pointless.


You do things, right? You accept that there are things you should do, things you should not do, etc?

Then congrats, you have an ethical system.

I consider that as silly as saying that atheism is a religion. Saying "ethical system" isn't that devoid of meaning. There are things I dislike others doing, there are things I would feel bad about doing myself. The things have similarity with some ethic systems, but they are just my preferences. I don't have definite rules, it is not systematic. When I was younger and tried to construct rules from a low number of premises that was an ethical system, my preference against hurting people is not an ethical system.
If your definition of an ethical system is broad enough to include it, then I consider your definition so broad that it makes the term useless and I see no reason to adopt that kind of definition.


That is an ethical system, yes. Ethics are based on many things. Everyone has an ethical system of some sort, and yes, they are diverse. Some are terrible. Some are self-contradictory. But asking for your ethical system is like asking for your religious status. Atheism is an acceptable answer to that.

I hold that most surviving ethical systems tend to have at least SOME pragmatic influence. People seem to generally approve of the things they do, and generally do not advocate things that harm them. It seems likely that ethical systems advocating the opposite would tend to die out. This should give you a naturalistic explanation for ethical systems in general, and in particular, for those ethical premises shared by a great many systems.

For instance, the reason that so many ethical systems decry murder is likely because people don't want to be murdered, so going around preaching about how awesome murder is would be hazardous to your health.

CU, you can present a counterargument to that, but just saying "I see no credible counterargument" over and over is pretty weak. Actually take the time to show why they are not credible, or your statement is itself not credible because you are not backing it up with anything.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:46 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:You haven't given any reason to believe the evidence is credible beyond you wanting it to be true. I want there to be a natural justice system in the universe, but nothing beyond Cause and Effect is observed.

Please provide evidence that P is true.

First of all, nowhere have I said that the evidence is credible because I want it to be true. All I said is that it is apparently correct. The part about wanting it to be true, or wanting it to be true showing that it's true, is something you made up, or maybe there's a problem with your web browser, I don't know. But I didn't say it.

As for your request for further evidence in support of the evidence already offered, I don't see the point. The evidence is offered because it's apparent, which to my mind puts it in the same category as claims like the following:
  1. It would be unreasonable to care about one's future welfare on every day except for Tuesdays.
  2. Our total empirical evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the sun will rise tomorrow.
  3. There is an umbrella on the floor in my room.
Of course, claims like these could all be false even though they are apparent. But the point is that, when an apparent claim is advanced as evidence, there's little sense in asking for further evidence backing it up unless we come across independent reason for thinking that the evidence is false: evidence that I suffer from hallucinations about the contents of my room, an elegant physical theory that solves several outstanding problems in astrophysics and incidentally predicts that the sun is about to explode, or what-have-you. If you're going to double down and ask for further evidence every time you're presented with apparent evidence you don't like, we're just going to end up arguing about whether chairs exist.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:04 pm UTC

Alright Tyn.

It's the Is-Ought problem. The slave in Rome Is a slave, but we say that the slave Ought to be free. But if the slave can't escape the master, if Roman society will not or can not intervene to end the enslavement, the slave still Is a slave. Unless you can provide sufficient force behind your Oughts, whether that force is direct or indirect, your Oughts will not change what Is. Therefore, Is only changes to the Ought when something intervenes, whether that's the slave grabbing a nearby spear, society intervening with laws, or the master's heart grows three sizes.

So what are the Oughts? Whatever will bring about a Better Society. Our definition of Better will depend on a lot of axioms. Does our society only consist of our own particular ethnic group? Is a certain gender(s) not actually worthy of protection? What about people with different sexual habits? Are some more human than others? Different societies have held to different axioms, in part because they achieved the results that those in power wanted.

Today, we adhere to the axiom that all people, all and not just Healthy Rich White Straight Protestant Cis Males, are 'worthy' of the protection of rights. We didn't always agree to this; until the 1860's many in the US held to the axiom that White Men are more worthy of rights than Black Men, to say nothing of Women and non-Heterosexual Cis Males. Note that many still don't accept that Black and White are 'worthy' of the same rights.

And so we determine what actions move us closer to our desired society. Slavery was useful when the goal was 'making the world better for rich people'. When we changed axioms to include everyone including the slaves, suddenly slavery is contradictory to the goal of a better society.


Edit: the only thing that is apparent from the slavery example is that we think slavery is wrong, not slavery is wrong. The Romans didn't think it was wrong; it was apparent to them that enslaving non-Romans was fine. Because if you measure the value of society by how good it is for Romans, slavery is the tits. If you measure the value of society by how good it is for everyone, suddenly slavery is a horrible, horrible institution.




Let's make it interesting by applying the scientific method to the following three hypothesis.

Absolutism: There is One absolute supernatural/divine/whatever force that determines.
Relativism: There are multiple supernatural/divine/whatever sources that determine morality.
Skepticism: Humans are the source of morality.

How well does each hypothesis explain how all the myriads of ethical systems currently in existence? If true, what testable predictions does each hypothesis make?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby ucim » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:20 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Let's make it interesting by applying the scientific method to the following three hypothesis.

Absolutism: There is One absolute supernatural/divine/whatever force that determines.
Relativism: There are multiple supernatural/divine/whatever sources that determine morality.
Skepticism: Humans are the source of morality.

How well does each hypothesis explain how all the myriads of ethical systems currently in existence? If true, what testable predictions does each hypothesis make?
We'd have to define "morality" first, (which requires a definition of "right" and "wrong"), and it needs to be done in such a way that does not beg the question.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:53 pm UTC

Is it ok to define Morality as "any system of ethics"?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:02 am UTC

Cres wrote: You can perfectly consistently take the view that nothing supernatural exists, but also believe that questions like "Is it wrong to kill babies for fun?" have correct answers. Just like the question "What is 13 times 78?" - I take you do believe that this has a correct answer, and is not a just matter of opinion.?
Sure you can. And both answers can be true for the person holding them. What makes abortion immoral or moral? If there were an answer one would think that it would have been found. Since society is bitterly divided we can imply that it isn't providing an answer to the ethical question.

Cres wrote:So let's say Alice and Bob are having an argument about a substantive, controversial ethical issue, eg abortion. Is it your view (genuine question) that when Alice says 'Allowing abortion is right' and Bob says 'Allowing abortion is wrong', these statements are closer to 'I like strawberry ice cream' vs 'I don't like strawberry ice cream' than to 'Mt Everest is 8,848m high' vs Mt Everest is 9,000m high' or '13 x 78 = 1014' vs '13 x 78 = 986'? So they're not really having a legitimate argument, but instead just talking past each other?
That would be correct.

Cres wrote:
PeteP wrote:What power do Alice and Bob have over each other? Can Bob force or influence Alice's decision to abort? If not, his opinion on the issue is meaningless.


OK. This seems to me to have some unintuitive implications, eg

(a) a powerless slave in Ancient Rome being tortured by his master has no grounds for complaint - his treatment is perfectly moral, because the master thinks so and has all the power
(b) counterfactual where Hitler wins WW2: in the scenario, there's nothing wrong with the Holocaust, because Hitler thinks it's OK and he has all the power
The question isn't a matter of the power balance unless Alice is pregnant and Bob is trying to stop her from going into the abortion clinic. Alice and Bob both exist in their individual ethical bubble. Society can produce ethics in the sense that it can bring to bear social pressure to conform to expected behavior. But society is not monolithic. Nor is it static. Thus Bob and Alice can hold opposite ethical positions.

a and b are both perfectly consistent, as a matter of points of view. Since ethics have no factual basis other than our desire to want to know how to act in a way we consider moral. Hitlers position was that the Jew was evil and a plague on Europe and mankind. And the slave in Rome or the Deep South were property, subject to the whims and customs of the time. Both ethical positions were moral for those who held them. The Jews desire to remain alive and the slaves desire to be free are the counter ethical position. And just as moral.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:05 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Edit: the only thing that is apparent from the slavery example is that we think slavery is wrong, not slavery is wrong. The Romans didn't think it was wrong; it was apparent to them that enslaving non-Romans was fine. Because if you measure the value of society by how good it is for Romans, slavery is the tits. If you measure the value of society by how good it is for everyone, suddenly slavery is a horrible, horrible institution.

The Romans believed all kinds of stupid things. For example:
  • Roman fortunes in areas such as trade and warfare were controlled by powerful non-human beings with names like Jupiter and Mars. These powerful non-human beings could be appeased by setting aside and killing large groups of livestock, thus improving Roman fortunes in trade and warfare.
  • Fennel is a good treatment for nervous disorders.
  • Jews worshiped a donkey god.
  • Granting expansive political power to Julius Caesar will totally work out well.
The fact that the Romans believed something is entirely consistent with its being false, even with its being apparently false.

CorruptUser wrote:Let's make it interesting by applying the scientific method to the following three hypothesis.

Absolutism: There is One absolute supernatural/divine/whatever force that determines.
Relativism: There are multiple supernatural/divine/whatever sources that determine morality.
Skepticism: Humans are the source of morality.

How well does each hypothesis explain how all the myriads of ethical systems currently in existence? If true, what testable predictions does each hypothesis make?

Why would you expect any of these "hypotheses" to explain the existence of different ethical views, make testable predictions, or fall under the scientific method?
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby ucim » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:56 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Is it ok to define Morality as "any system of ethics"?
Sure, if you are content going around in circles.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:The Romans believed all kinds of stupid things. For example:...
Modern society is better? Take inventory of the nonsense that moderns people believe. I don't see how the fact that Romans believed stupid things has any relevance at all to the source of ethics.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:04 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Let's make it interesting by applying the scientific method to the following three hypothesis.

Absolutism: There is One absolute supernatural/divine/whatever force that determines.
Relativism: There are multiple supernatural/divine/whatever sources that determine morality.
Skepticism: Humans are the source of morality.

How well does each hypothesis explain how all the myriads of ethical systems currently in existence? If true, what testable predictions does each hypothesis make?

Why would you expect any of these "hypotheses" to explain the existence of different ethical views, make testable predictions, or fall under the scientific method?


Because ethics isn't just Philosophy, it's Anthropology. And Anthropology is a science. So any theories you have should both explain why things are the way they are and make testable predictions. Any theory that dies not do both is absolutely useless to science. For example, the Brain in a Jar theory holds that everything is the way it is because we are actually just hooked up to a mega computer, so everything is a simulation. It explains everything, but does nothing to explain what we would see tomorrow. Therefore it's useless to science.

Moral absolutism would predict that either the universe/nature demonstrates a consistent ethical system, or that divine spirits reveal to more than one ethnic group identical sets of morals. It does nothing to explain why we don't agree on ethics beyond "THE DEVIL DID IT!". That in the event that your rights are violated, the universe intervenes to protect those rights. This has not happened. The universe is actively trying to kill us, what with the cancer and the earthquakes and the meteors, so if there is indeed some absolute universal ethical system, "right to life" ain't part of it.

Moral relativism does correctly predict that different ethnic groups would have different ethical systems. But as with the previous example, it must also explain how there is not just one, but more than one natural/divine/universal ethical system. Again, the universe is actively trying to kill us, so there is little reason to believe that ethics are a fundamental part of nature.

Skepticism explains ethics as having been derived from Humans. It explains why there are so many different ethical systems, and explains how ethical systems exist. Therefore, Skepticism both predicts and explains the world far better than Relativism or Absolutism.


Please, point out the logical flaws.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Moral absolutism would predict that either the universe/nature demonstrates a consistent ethical system, or that divine spirits reveal to more than one ethnic group identical sets of morals. It does nothing to explain why we don't agree on ethics beyond "THE DEVIL DID IT!". That in the event that your rights are violated, the universe intervenes to protect those rights.

Again, why do you think moral absolutism predicts any of these things?
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:27 pm UTC

Because absolutism states that there is one source of ethics in the universe. So where is that source? Surely if ethics existed outside of social constructs, there'd be evidence of such. If we can't find evidence that the universe enforces a specific code of ethical behavior beyond "FEED! FIGHT! FUCK!", is it unreasonable to claim that lack of evidence means it probably doesn't exist?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:46 pm UTC

No, I think there's pretty good evidence that the universe does not enforce any particular moral code. However, moral absolutism (or, really, moral universalism, which also includes varieties of subjectivism and non-absolutist realism) does not say that the universe enforces a particular moral code. That's a strawman you'll have to drop if you want to talk about anything that anyone actually believes in.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:55 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Alright Tyn.

It's the Is-Ought problem. The slave in Rome Is a slave, but we say that the slave Ought to be free. But if the slave can't escape the master, if Roman society will not or can not intervene to end the enslavement, the slave still Is a slave. Unless you can provide sufficient force behind your Oughts, whether that force is direct or indirect, your Oughts will not change what Is. Therefore, Is only changes to the Ought when something intervenes, whether that's the slave grabbing a nearby spear, society intervening with laws, or the master's heart grows three sizes.

So what are the Oughts? Whatever will bring about a Better Society. Our definition of Better will depend on a lot of axioms. Does our society only consist of our own particular ethnic group? Is a certain gender(s) not actually worthy of protection? What about people with different sexual habits? Are some more human than others? Different societies have held to different axioms, in part because they achieved the results that those in power wanted.


Is and ought are seperated by action. The entire purpose of ethics is to supply oughts that you then seek to translate into an is.

Yes, the ought without the action is mostly useless. It is the blueprint to a design with no actual builder.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:23 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:No, I think there's pretty good evidence that the universe does not enforce any particular moral code. However, moral absolutism (or, really, moral universalism, which also includes varieties of subjectivism and non-absolutist realism) does not say that the universe enforces a particular moral code. That's a strawman you'll have to drop if you want to talk about anything that anyone actually believes in.


Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe it. So do Buddhists and Hindus, in a different manner. Especially those that adhere to the Just World hypothesis plus the whole Supernatural forces editing the scores after the fact bandaid (e.g., good person but unusually hard life? Extra heaven/Karma/better station next life).

It's not a strawman if billions of people actually believe it.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:50 pm UTC

Is this statement correct as a description of moral absolutism?
Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other circumstances such as their consequences or the intentions behind them.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:08 pm UTC

That's the most common definition, yes.

But it itself does not explain how or why we know it's the One True Moral System. Which is what virtually every religion does; These are the Only True Morality, because it was Revealed to Us by Angels/Spirits/Prophets/Wise Man.

If in the case of divinity being the source of absolute morality, the prediction would be that multiple independent ethnic groups have identical morals, which is not the case. The alternative would be that God is a dick (not a theory I dismiss) for giving the One True Morality to the Mid-East thus ensuring permanent peace but giving the finger to the native tribes in the Americas.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Cres » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:04 pm UTC

The religious angle is quite an interesting one, but I come at it almost from the opposite direction.

One of the consequences of your line of arguing, CU, is that you open the door to arguments along the lines of:

1. Some actions are right and others wrong
2. If there is no God, then everything is permitted (no right and no wrong)
3. Therefore, since we know that there is right and wrong, there must be a God

I think (2) is flawed in the above, but if you accept (2) (as I think you do), then you give the theist a powerful intuition pump to support his argument, as a huge number of (most?) people would feel (1) to be intuitively and obviously true.

On the flip side, one of the strongest arguments against theism is the argument from evil. To over-simplify:

1. There is unnecessary evil in the world
2. A benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God would remove unnecessary evil from the world
3. Therefore, such a God does not exist

I know that this is the deciding argument behind my own atheism. But if you think that without a God, there is no morality, the argument is badly weakened because it's not clear how the concept of evil can make sense without God, making (1) and (3) incompatible.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:05 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe it. So do Buddhists and Hindus, in a different manner. Especially those that adhere to the Just World hypothesis plus the whole Supernatural forces editing the scores after the fact bandaid (e.g., good person but unusually hard life? Extra heaven/Karma/better station next life).

It's not a strawman if billions of people actually believe it.

The fact that billions of people are (allegedly) both moral absolutists and people who believe that morality is somehow enforced by the universe does not show that the former view is part of the latter. (What sense would it make to say that, since a billion people are moral absolutists and believe that God designated Muhammad as his prophet, and another two billion are moral absolutists and believe that God was incarnated as Jesus Christ, moral absolutism entails both Islam and Christianity?) In general, the fact that a lot of people believe both X and Y does not make Y a part of X or X a part of Y (how would you decide which is a part of which?). For example, billions of people believe that the sky is blue and that God exists. This in no way shows that believing the sky is blue involves a belief in theism, or that theism involves a belief that the sky is blue. And if I were to try to argue that the sky isn't blue by claiming that there is no evidence for theism, I would obviously be targeting a strawman.

morriswalters wrote:Is this statement correct as a description of moral absolutism?
Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other circumstances such as their consequences or the intentions behind them.

To be honest, I don't think "moral absolutism" is a term that gets used very often in contemporary philosophy, in part because it's hard to define and in part because I think hardly anyone would fit definitions like this. Those philosophers who believe that some actions are always impermissible, regardless of consequences, will often characterize the always-impermissible actions in terms of intention. For example, Aquinas and Kant, two very influential thinkers from two very different viewpoints who both agree that lies are always impermissible, agree that, to be a lie, a thing at least needs to be an intentional falsehood. Likewise Aquinas, who says that "it is unlawful to take a man's life, except for the public authority acting for the common good" nevertheless qualifies that only intentional killing of a certain kind is unlawful. I can't really think of a moral duty that Aquinas would spell out without reference to intent. And Kant of course thinks that every moral duty ultimately arises from the Categorical Imperative, which acts as a sort of limiting condition on permissible maxims of action.

So neither of these two thinkers - even though they believe it's wrong to do something like to tell a lie in order to save someone from a murderer, or to masturbate if this would (somehow) save the word - would count as absolutists on the proposed definition. If those paradigms don't count, I'm having trouble seeing who else would count as a moral absolutist according to this definition.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby PeteP » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:37 pm UTC

Cres wrote:The religious angle is quite an interesting one, but I come at it almost from the opposite direction.

One of the consequences of your line of arguing, CU, is that you open the door to arguments along the lines of:

1. Some actions are right and others wrong
2. If there is no God, then everything is permitted (no right and no wrong)
3. Therefore, since we know that there is right and wrong, there must be a God

I think (2) is flawed in the above, but if you accept (2) (as I think you do), then you give the theist a powerful intuition pump to support his argument, as a huge number of (most?) people would feel (1) to be intuitively and obviously true.

On the flip side, one of the strongest arguments against theism is the argument from evil. To over-simplify:

1. There is unnecessary evil in the world
2. A benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God would remove unnecessary evil from the world
3. Therefore, such a God does not exist

I know that this is the deciding argument behind my own atheism. But if you think that without a God, there is no morality, the argument is badly weakened because it's not clear how the concept of evil can make sense without God, making (1) and (3) incompatible.

That it would encourage a silly argument (as if there weren't already many of that) is not in itself an argument I kinda doubt CU will find that convincing since he doesn't accept 1.1 . Also, there are already theists who argue that without God everyone would be evil.

Regarding the argument of evil. First I would consider the lick of support the strongest argument. Also 1 and 3 aren't incompatible, it is an argument that the world doesn't seem to look like one with a triple omni God. If you think a world with such a god would have objective good and evil then it remains the exact same argument: If God, then evil is objective. There is unnecessary evil. If you consider a triple omni God and unnecessary evil a contradiction then there is no God. It does not matter whether evil makes sense if no God exists, because the argument only requires unnecessary evil to exists in a world with God to arrive at the contradiction.
Though I never considered that argument very important anyway, a God doesn't have to be very benevolent. It could be a dick like the one in the old Testament.

Tyndmyr wrote:That is an ethical system, yes. Ethics are based on many things. Everyone has an ethical system of some sort, and yes, they are diverse. Some are terrible. Some are self-contradictory. But asking for your ethical system is like asking for your religious status. Atheism is an acceptable answer to that.

Spoiler:
I don't know what you want to say with the comment about Atheism. To the question "What type of car do you own?" both "I only have a motorcycle" and "I don't have one" are acceptable answers neither are a type of car. Atheism is an acceptable answer doesn't mean it is a religion.
But oh well this is unimportant to the topic at the moment, I will just make a mental note that you are using a broad definition and try to remember it should it become relevant.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:40 pm UTC

Most religions' moral systems are a subset of Moral Absolutism. And since they all contradict each other, the vast majority of religions must be wrong. If one was the 'true' religion, evidence for that being correct would be identical religions popping up independently. This has not happened, so there is no substantial evidence that any particular religion is correct. Without religion, how would we "know" that a particular strain of Absolutism is indeed the "correct" moral system?

The way a moral system is built via philosophy is by declaring your axioms and goals as a society, and determining what actions lead to that goal. We might be able to determine what ethics would lead to the goals, but how do we determine what goals are inherently the best without boasting it by our own preferences for our "perfect" society?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby leady » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:59 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Is this statement correct as a description of moral absolutism?
Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other circumstances such as their consequences or the intentions behind them.


It might be correct definition but its incomplete I think for how even absolutist systems typically operate.

The example of the bank manager's family being held hostage whilst he's forced to commit robbery comes to mind. The overall action is wrong, but the moral decision can't land on the bank manager. Even god isn't that harsh :)

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:10 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:That it would encourage a silly argument (as if there weren't already many of that) is not in itself an argument I kinda doubt CU will find that convincing since he doesn't accept 1.1 . Also, there are already theists who argue that without God everyone would be evil.

The point isn't that (2) would give rise to a silly argument. The point is that the truth of (2) would make the argument not silly. For the reason that the argument is silly just is the obvious falsehood of (2). If we suppose that (2) is correct, the only way the argument could be silly is if it were obviously invalid or if (1) were silly. But the argument is valid, and (1) isn't silly: it's common sense. So if the argument is silly, we shouldn't want to flock to (2) as an obvious truth, in need of no justification, as CU keeps insisting.

CorruptUser wrote:Most religions' moral systems are a subset of Moral Absolutism. And since they all contradict each other, the vast majority of religions must be wrong. If one was the 'true' religion, evidence for that being correct would be identical religions popping up independently. This has not happened, so there is no substantial evidence that any particular religion is correct.

This is invalid. First, from the fact that E would be evidence for P it does not follow that the absence of E would be evidence against P. For example, seeing Barack Obama in person would provide good evidence that Barack Obama is alive. However, the fact that I have not seen Obama in person is not evidence that Obama is not alive.

Second, in the specific case of convergence of knowledge, it's not true that people have to generally or independently come to a conclusion in order for that conclusion to be true, or in order for it to be a justified belief for some. There are many facts, including some obvious facts, that many people nevertheless disagree about: the fact that God doesn't exist, or the fact that there is no such thing as ESP, or the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK.

Third, this sort of skeptical argument suffers from its need for specifying which kinds of beliefs count as the same for purposes of seeing whether views have converged. For example, you say that people have not converged on religious beliefs because they have not independently come up with the same religious views, but you probably draw the boundaries of "religion" pretty broadly, including a lot of details like the number and roles of the different gods, the appropriate rituals, and so on. If, on the other hand, you just asked about belief in at least one deity, or belief in some sort of supernatural power, you would find many, many cases of independent, converging beliefs. Conversely, if you clump atheism as one belief, you will find atheism popping up independently in a lot of places. But if, on the other hand, you clump atheism with a whole bunch of moral beliefs and maybe some scientific beliefs as well, you won't find very much independent convergence. Perhaps you could get around this if you had some way of deciding what to split and what to lump, and good reason for thinking that this way of splitting and lumping is a good way to find the truth, but something tells me that you don't.

The point, of course, isn't that belief in God or in any religion is supported by the evidence, but rather that we have to examine the evidence more directly, instead of asking vague questions about which sort of beliefs have converged.

Finally, it's not obvious to me that the beliefs for which we have the best evidence arose independently. Taking the theory of relativity, for example, that view arose in a particular scientific community and got its support from evidence gathered by that community. To my knowledge, nobody without access to Western science worked out the theory of relativity on her own, and nobody thinks that shows that the theory of relativity is just something our society constructed.

CorruptUser wrote:The way a moral system is built via philosophy is by declaring your axioms and goals as a society, and determining what actions lead to that goal.

I would like to call attention to two things here:
  1. This is false.
  2. This is an empirical claim, and it can be confirmed or disconfirmed by looking at the contents of the actual work of philosophers. This is no longer your wild pet theories about what counts as evidence for morality: this is something you can check by going out and looking at the observable world. And yet, even for a straightforward claim like this, you haven't tried to provide any sort of evidence or source for it. Why not? Do you have any basis for this claim at all?
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:23 pm UTC

You are being particularly obtuse what with the constant Courtier's replies, but I'm getting bored of arguing this online. So sure, you win or whatever.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:15 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:27 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:So neither of these two thinkers - even though they believe it's wrong to do something like to tell a lie in order to save someone from a murderer, or to masturbate if this would (somehow) save the word - would count as absolutists on the proposed definition. If those paradigms don't count, I'm having trouble seeing who else would count as a moral absolutist according to this definition.
I could point out some individuals who believe they are, but it serves no purpose. I was trying to parse a response you gave. My point in this discussion has been to construct a defensible basis for the construction of an ethical system without needing morals, other than the desire of any living thing to live. I'm not having much luck.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby PeteP » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:40 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
PeteP wrote:That it would encourage a silly argument (as if there weren't already many of that) is not in itself an argument I kinda doubt CU will find that convincing since he doesn't accept 1.1 . Also, there are already theists who argue that without God everyone would be evil.

The point isn't that (2) would give rise to a silly argument. The point is that the truth of (2) would make the argument not silly. For the reason that the argument is silly just is the obvious falsehood of (2). If we suppose that (2) is correct, the only way the argument could be silly is if it were obviously invalid or if (1) were silly. But the argument is valid, and (1) isn't silly: it's common sense. So if the argument is silly, we shouldn't want to flock to (2) as an obvious truth, in need of no justification, as CU keeps insisting.


It requires 1 being any easier to proof than god itself to not be a silly route to take. Seeing that 1 still hasn't been proven despite many philosophers trying I would consider them similarly hard to proof. And I would consider switching from one thing you can't prove to another you can't proof to prove the first thing as quite silly. Yes many assume 1 to be true, but many also consider God to exist, that the ones who consider both to be true could try to prove one with the other when they meet someone upholding doesn't change all that much.
But the main reason I consider it silly is 2 since it is a pretty narrow stance I doubt many have. I can't remember CU making the necessary statements euther. Believing 2 requires to consider god the only possible supernatural reason for objective right and wrong. But once we allow supernatural reasons it could just exist independently or there could be something like Karma which includes an enforcement aspect. Did CU make the statement that he considers God the only way to have a right and wrong originating from the supernatural?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:39 pm UTC

leady wrote:Surely to have a meaningful debate on ethics then you need a sensible definition of what ethics are? I suspect most are tautologies
Ironically, I think we do not. We can have different meta-ethical perspectives, but if we're just discussing the internal consistency of normative systems then we may never reach the deeper meta-ethical disagreements. So actually, all we need is a roughly common way of using words like, "ought", "permissible", "good", and such. Ethics, I think as a term, just generally refers to those words and the area in which those words are employed--mainly, behavior and interaction that impacts things.

We can't get much more precise while retaining impartiality, I think.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:45 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:But the main reason I consider it silly is 2 since it is a pretty narrow stance I doubt many have. I can't remember CU making the necessary statements euther. Believing 2 requires to consider god the only possible supernatural reason for objective right and wrong. But once we allow supernatural reasons it could just exist independently or there could be something like Karma which includes an enforcement aspect. Did CU make the statement that he considers God the only way to have a right and wrong originating from the supernatural?

I think CU has made it pretty clear that he thinks there is only right and wrong to the extent that they can be enforced. So if that would require just something supernatural, rather than some sort of god, it would still result in a shitty argument for the supernatural.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:26 pm UTC

The argument for justification of a moral authority by a metaphysical source should be considered in the time frame that they were conceived in. Before the conception of meta-ethics or the wheel for that matter. At some point the concept of"Its always been this way." comes into play.

2 is circular since the world exists, irregardless if God does or doesn't, or Karma or whatever(insert your favorite). Shitty God, no God or leprechauns. How you feel about that depends on where you started from.

Good or bad are specific to the person holding the idea and the social group he or she is a part of. Think of the one use of nukes in anger, what was good and who was bad? Define the terms against that ethical choice.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:30 pm UTC

It strikes me that good and bad are inherently imprecise terms.

Especially if, as mentioned before, you want to use it in some sort of abstract, general way, unconnected to people. Was the nuclear bomb good in some abstract metaphysical sense? What does that even mean?

Was the nuke good for the people it got dropped on? Fuck no. Was it good for our stategic position in the war. Yes.

Easy day.

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:05 pm UTC

That's kind of different from the real interest, though. Few people are worried about an "abstract, metaphysical" sense of good that isn't connected with people. What we do want to know is what, after the considering the concerns of different people and their different individual goals, is right all-things-considered. So, for example, we can agree that Kristallnacht was good for the Nazis' political ambitions and bad for the welfare of its victims. However, the fact that these two different interests were oppositely helped and harmed by Kristallnacht does not make it particularly difficult to conclude that Kristallnacht was a bad thing. Nor does this judgment require us to set aside things that are connected with actual people. To the contrary, Kristallnacht was bad precisely because of the harm it visited upon its victims.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:53 pm UTC

I'm probably out of my depth here but I'll plow on. Perhaps I'm wrong, it wouldn't be surprising, but I always think about the use of nukes as a real world issue of good and bad.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:That's kind of different from the real interest, though. Few people are worried about an "abstract, metaphysical" sense of good that isn't connected with people. What we do want to know is what, after the considering the concerns of different people and their different individual goals, is right all-things-considered. So, for example, we can agree that Kristallnacht was good for the Nazis' political ambitions and bad for the welfare of its victims. However, the fact that these two different interests were oppositely helped and harmed by Kristallnacht does not make it particularly difficult to conclude that Kristallnacht was a bad thing. Nor does this judgment require us to set aside things that are connected with actual people.
Yet the English expelled the Jews from their homes and England in 1290, surely a difference of degree only. And felt no shame or moral failing. And over the course of time this type of thing happened time and again. What suddenly made the treatment of the Jews by the Germans immoral? What changed?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:54 pm UTC

Umm. I don't think I'm sticking my neck out too much when I say that it was wrong for England to expel Jews in 1290.
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Re: The source of ethics

Postby Zcorp » Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:11 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Yet the English expelled the Jews from their homes and England in 1290, surely a difference of degree only. And felt no shame or moral failing. And over the course of time this type of thing happened time and again. What suddenly made the treatment of the Jews by the Germans immoral? What changed?

The same thing has always changed over the course of history. Slavery didn't used to create feelings of shame or moral failing in many owners. There are many examples of things that people did that did not make them feel bad about but now do. In many cases this is called progress, there are also examples of where people no longer for shame or moral failing because of their behavior, mostly frequently related to sex. This is also progress. This is largely about reducing the suffering in life.

This idea that everything is subjective is consistently a problem with your thinking. You also need to learn to think 1 step further in just about everything you say, as you've been asked to multiple times.

You take the position that life is good, that 'living things should live' but fail to take that next step that maybe living things should also want to live, that we should reduce the number of things that make things not want to live or make living less desirable. That many things reduce not only life but quality of life. What is stopping you from making the small step forward to agree that living should be as enjoyable as possible?

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Re: The source of ethics

Postby morriswalters » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:22 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Umm. I don't think I'm sticking my neck out too much when I say that it was wrong for England to expel Jews in 1290.
Me neither, give or take 700 years. But was it wrong then? I'm sure for instance that it was wrong for the Jews but the people of England didn't seem to have any ethical qualms. They just missed the money.

Here is the thing I struggle with. Most ethical decisions are of the moment. Finding the English ethically challenged is well and good. 700 years or so later. So will future generations look back at us the way that we look back at England in 1290? What drives the difference. I have argued that economics is a potent force. That are ethics are a matter of affordability. We can do better than the English because we can afford to.

Zcorp wrote:You take the position that life is good, that 'living things should live' but fail to take that next step that maybe living things should also want to live, that we should reduce the number of things that make things not want to live or make living less desirable. That many things reduce not only life but quality of life. What is stopping you from making the small step forward to agree that living should be as enjoyable as possible?
Against my better judgement I'm going to respond. I take the position, not that life is good, but that whatever it is to me, both good and bad, is important to me because I am not ready to die. Sometimes joy and happiness are not enough. At this point I am not happy, Whatever that ephemeral state truly is. I have goals and limited time. I'm pushed. I find both pleasure and fear when posting here. I sometimes do it wrong or hare off on some weird tangent. But the only way to change is to take in what others have to say. To do so you have to return in kind. I do it as well as I can and am content with that.

By the way I take the position that living things have no choice but to live. It isn't even a conscious thing. If I put you at hazard, your heart rate will rise, adrenaline will get pumped in, you will focus entirely on the hazard, all signs of fear. You may lay down and and wait for death but most people can't will themselves to death, no matter how much at hazard they might be in and no matter how great their fear. If I had money to waste gambling, this emotional response and others like it would get my money as the source of ethics, once abstracted out far enough.


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