Morality and Logic

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ndansmith
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Morality and Logic

Postby ndansmith » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:50 pm UTC

Is your ethical/moral system founded on logic/reason? If so, could you explain your thinking on the topic. I cannot see how logic could be the basis of morality.

I suggest that everyone at least take a peek at previous ... aw crap, the search url contains [] ... nevermind? Anyhow I'm going to refrain from merging this topic because I am interested in keeping it in line with current SB standards.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Diadem » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:56 pm UTC

You can't base morality on logic alone, I think that's pretty obvious. But logic is very important. A moral system that is illogical fails. I think that's equally obvious. If your morality is inconsistent it's not a good morality.

Given those two, I don't really understand your question. Where do you get the idea from that people base morality on logic alone?

Where do you base your own morality on?
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Intercept » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:04 am UTC

Maybe it's because I'm secular, but I can't imagine a ethical/moral system not based on logic/reasoning to some extent. I mean, most people base their systems off of logic/reason or religion, and religion is obviously not necessary for ethics or morals. Maybe I just don't understand the question. What do you base your ethics/morals off of?
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:08 am UTC

Diadem wrote:You can't base morality on logic alone, I think that's pretty obvious. But logic is very important. A moral system that is illogical fails. I think that's equally obvious. If your morality is inconsistent it's not a good morality.

Given those two, I don't really understand your question. Where do you get the idea from that people base morality on logic alone?

Well, here is the quote from another board which spurred this line of thinking:
I want reason, I require it to believe something

Since morality was the context of our conversation (i.e. we were talking about moral beliefs), I became curious about the connection between morality and logic.

I am a Christian, so a lot of my moral framework comes from Christian ethics. The main problem I see with talking about logic and morality is the fact-value distinction - logic can tell us about facts whereas morality tells us about values.

Can you think of an example of "a moral system that is illogical?" I am trying to imagine how a moral system could be evaluated with logic, but I am coming up empty.

EDIT: @intercept: Can you show me your logical basis for why murder is wrong? I presume that you and I agree that murder is wrong.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Naurgul » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:13 am UTC

Logic is a tool for building correct statements out of statements that are assumed correct. Mathematics work like that as far as I know. So, my answer would be that you can't have a moral system based on logic alone, but you can have a moral system based on logic among other things. Actually, I think logic is great for making the moral system consistent and fair.

My personal viewpoint is to have as few assumptions as possible, then build the moral system around them using logic. About 5 years ago I started doing it for myself. I wanted my only axiom to be "to achieve long-term stability for the largest system I can perceive", that being humanity if one is short-sighted, then life on earth if you are a bit less so, then the whole universe. So far, I'm evaluating existing behaviours of mine and others to see how they can fit in such a moral system and making up little theorems that emerge from the axiom.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby tantalum » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:25 am UTC

To give an example, imagine this:
"Is it morally right to kill someone?"

From a logical perspective, maybe you could give some reason like "killing people reduces the chances of the population's survival, so you shouldn't do it". But then why do you care about the population's survival? Or maybe you think "killing a person will get other people to punish me". But why do you care if people punish you? There are answers to these questions, but they also trigger another round of questions about the premises you're using.

Ultimately, human morality comes from evolutionarily built-in tendencies like altruism, herd mentality, taboos (against consuming feces, for example), etc. The only role that logic can ever play in morality is in ensuring that your moral philosophy is self-consistent. But even that seems a bit tricky - if you start with a whole bunch of axioms that are not really carefully chosen, the resulting moral theory is not very likely to be completely self-consistent.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:48 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:The main problem I see with talking about logic and morality is the fact-value distinction - logic can tell us about facts whereas morality tells us about values.


This strikes me as circular reasoning. If you assume that logic tells us about facts, and not about values, then you can never simultaneously accept that logic can be the basis for morality — which of course does deal with values. Logic allows you to take statements that you already accept — whether they be about right triangles or ethics — and apply them to situations that you haven't directly considered.

ndansmith wrote:Can you think of an example of "a moral system that is illogical?" I am trying to imagine how a moral system could be evaluated with logic, but I am coming up empty.


Sure:

1. It is always unacceptable to take the life of a human being.
2. Murderers must be put to death.

These two statements are contradictory. If both are accepted, there will be situations where following one rule would necessarily violate the other (i.e. when punishing a murderer.)

Tantalum: Every logical system reduces in that way. Even mathematics has axioms cannot be proven beyond their consistent observation in the real world.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Intercept » Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:27 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:EDIT: @intercept: Can you show me your logical basis for why murder is wrong? I presume that you and I agree that murder is wrong.


Well I think it's safe to say that if certain rules are followed, it will lead to the most net happiness of humanity and also increase our progress. Obviously if everybody's killing willy nilly, those things don't happen. I'm a human, so obviously I want the best for my species and specifically my children. It's programmed into my biology.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:56 am UTC

Intercept wrote:
ndansmith wrote:EDIT: @intercept: Can you show me your logical basis for why murder is wrong? I presume that you and I agree that murder is wrong.


Well I think it's safe to say that if certain rules are followed, it will lead to the most net happiness of humanity and also increase our progress. Obviously if everybody's killing willy nilly, those things don't happen. I'm a human, so obviously I want the best for my species and specifically my children. It's programmed into my biology.

The words I've highlighted I think are indicative of the fact/value distinction. Logic in and of itself cannot tell us whether human happiness is good, what human progress is and why it is good or bad, or what's "best" for the species.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ndansmith wrote:The main problem I see with talking about logic and morality is the fact-value distinction - logic can tell us about facts whereas morality tells us about values.


This strikes me as circular reasoning. If you assume that logic tells us about facts, and not about values, then you can never simultaneously accept that logic can be the basis for morality — which of course does deal with values. Logic allows you to take statements that you already accept — whether they be about right triangles or ethics — and apply them to situations that you haven't directly considered.

I should have said, "logic cannot be the source of values."

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ndansmith wrote:Can you think of an example of "a moral system that is illogical?" I am trying to imagine how a moral system could be evaluated with logic, but I am coming up empty.


Sure:

1. It is always unacceptable to take the life of a human being.
2. Murderers must be put to death.

These two statements are contradictory. If both are accepted, there will be situations where following one rule would necessarily violate the other (i.e. when punishing a murderer.)

OK, good point. Logic can be used to evaluate whether axioms within a moral framework are contradictory. My wife also pointed out to me that logic is also indispensable in predicting the consequences of our actions, which in most moral systems is important. Logic is useful in moral reasoning. But what I have yet to see is an example of logic being the foundation or source of a moral axiom.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Intercept » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:14 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:
Intercept wrote:
ndansmith wrote:EDIT: @intercept: Can you show me your logical basis for why murder is wrong? I presume that you and I agree that murder is wrong.


Well I think it's safe to say that if certain rules are followed, it will lead to the most net happiness of humanity and also increase our progress. Obviously if everybody's killing willy nilly, those things don't happen. I'm a human, so obviously I want the best for my species and specifically my children. It's programmed into my biology.

The words I've highlighted I think are indicative of the fact/value distinction. Logic in and of itself cannot tell us whether human happiness is good, what human progress is and why it is good or bad, or what's "best" for the species.


I think progress is, by definition, good. What's "best" for the species is survival. Period. Obviously, to an extent, you have to make a base assumption when it comes to morality. That assumption doesn't really come from anything if not biology or logic though. Those are the only possibilities. (And by that, I mean that the root of things it would come from those, regardless of whether you're religious or not.)
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Fallible » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:25 am UTC

As people before me have stated, pure (deductive) logic rules alone cannot determine a morality, as they only transform assumptions into conclusions.

However a series of statements where there appears to be a reasonable connection can quickly lead to a basis of morality. While this process is not technically logic, it would qualify as logical (or rational) thought in a lot of people's understanding of the word.

For example:

I observe that there's no significant distinction between myself and other humans
Therefore rules that apply to me should apply equally to others. (Principle of Universality)
I don't want people to behave negatively towards me.
Therefore I should do unto others as I would have other do unto me. (Golden Rule)

While this isn't deductively valid, it does follow the process of observation followed by reasoning.

Obviously, because it's not deductively valid, there exist varying interpretations. E.g. "People of other races (or gender) are significantly different, therefore rules that apply to them, need not apply to us". Differences in morality therefore become differences in perception, or in reasoning.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:29 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:Logic is useful in moral reasoning. But what I have yet to see is an example of logic being the foundation or source of a moral axiom.


Logic cannot be the foundation of an axiom. Axioms are the foundation of logic.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:41 am UTC

Intercept wrote:I think progress is, by definition, good. What's "best" for the species is survival. Period. Obviously, to an extent, you have to make a base assumption when it comes to morality. That assumption doesn't really come from anything if not biology or logic though. Those are the only possibilities. (And by that, I mean that the root of things it would come from those, regardless of whether you're religious or not.)

I disagree on progress. I believe the progress of weapons technology which yielded nuclear weapons is bad. You may not agree, but this example may cause you to re-evaluate your statement that progress is good "by definition."

You espouse the value that the survival of the human species is good. You have not yet shown that this value is rooted in logic, however. Most organisms are imbued with an instinct for self preservation, so I see where your biology base is coming from. But aren't there some biological urges which we as humans have generally deemed as morally inappropriate?

May I suggest the logical syllogism as a means for expressing how a moral value can be the result of logic. Syllogisms are good for facilitating discussions. Might I suggest murder as the example again?

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby diotimajsh » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:46 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:Logic in and of itself cannot tell us whether human happiness is good, what human progress is and why it is good or bad, or what's "best" for the species.
I agree, and never mind that Kant tried to derive an ethical system from rationally consistent behavior. But on that note, nothing else can tell us definitively what is good either. Our biology tells us that pleasure is good and propagating our DNA is good. Yet why should we accept that, if we don't choose to? Similarly, if God exists, It can tell us what It thinks is good for us; but why should we accept that, if we don't choose to?

Frankly, nothing can tell us what to choose to value from the very start. It isn't surprising that logic doesn't tell us that either, particularly since logic (widely construed) doesn't even supply us with axioms to begin with. Any other source--the state, divine revelation, your parents, whatever--may try to instill values in you, but you have no a priori reason to accept them.

This doesn't necessarily mean that morality is doomed. It does mean that searching for perfect, incontrovertible, first principles is probably doomed. I think we're better off with approximations. Syllogistically, maybe something like this:

1. Most sane people agree that killing exclusively for fun is bad.
2. We ought to endorse those moral values held by the majority of sane beings.
3. Therefore, we ought to accept that "killing exclusively for fun is bad".

(Or whatever.)

It's a deductively valid argument; not sound, however, since the second premise is infinitely debatable. Why should we care about majority opinion? Majority opinion could easily be "wrong", and surely it would be better to follow the principles of a minority in a situation where the minority's principles are "better" than the majority's? Where is this "ought" coming from anyway, and how is it justified?

With that in mind, I see it as hypothetical/conditional conclusion: if you accept that we ought to follow the moral majority, then you ought to agree that killing exclusively for fun is bad. And that is true. I think it's kind of silly to just say, "You ought to do X, period."I don't believe there is such a categorical, unequivocal, incontrovertible "ought," even if you invoke God. For, if God Itself descends from the heavens and trumpets in a thunderous voice, "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF," we can still ask... "But why?"

Still, it's rather like arguing with any skeptic, and I think we can make a similar point about sanity. (In fact, I henceforth dub this my "Argument from Sanity"). Yes, you CAN keep asking, "But how do you know that? And how do you know that?" about every step in any argument without ever reaching an unquestionable, incontrovertible bedrock. You can ask, "And how do you know that you're not being deceived by an evil demon right now? Or that you're not in the Matrix, a brain in a vat?" Well, y'know what? Fine, we don't know. But the sane people somehow manage to share a reasonably objective view of the physical world, regardless of your skeptical arguments, whereas the insane ones are off in their own delusions. An insane person might disagree with a proposition such as, "The year is now 2008," whereas a sane person tends to assent. Similarly, an insane person might reject a proposition like, "Serial killing is wrong," whereas a sane person would not.

No one can decide for you whether being sane or insane is better, but I think for most people, the choices speak for themselves.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Rinsaikeru » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:02 am UTC

Isn't the question really being posed: Can morality exist outside religion? That seems much closer to the actual point of the OP--and it removes all of the need to sort out axioms and logical chains.

Yes, I believe I am a moral person and I am athiest. My morality is not based on a belief in the divine but on a belief in people, society, and that every person is deserving of rights and dignity. If your moral code comes from religion, so be it--it does create a moral code after all. This particular track is frequent on this forum: "but how can you be moral, you're a heathen?" I don't like the suggestion inherent in the query.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby diotimajsh » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:10 am UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:Isn't the question really being posed: Can morality exist outside religion? That seems much closer to the actual point of the OP--and it removes all of the need to sort out axioms and logical chains.

That's my impression of the motive behind the question; but I find the question as stated interesting to ponder too.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:01 am UTC

diotimajsh wrote:
Rinsaikeru wrote:Isn't the question really being posed: Can morality exist outside religion? That seems much closer to the actual point of the OP--and it removes all of the need to sort out axioms and logical chains.

That's my impression of the motive behind the question;

That's actually not my motive at all. I do not doubt that people who believe differently than I can be people of excellent moral character. As a matter of fact, I count among my moral role models many non-Christians. However, I really am skeptical of logic-based morality, and that skepticism is not rooted in an agenda against atheists. As a matter of fact, Christians also sometimes attempt to posit logic as the underlying reason for God's commandments. It seems to be a common enough viewpoint (Ayn Rand being a famous example of such thinking), but to me it makes no sense.

diotimajsh wrote:but I find the question as stated interesting to ponder too.

Good. :-)

diotimajsh wrote:1. Most sane people agree that killing exclusively for fun is bad.
2. We ought to endorse those moral values held by the majority of sane beings.
3. Therefore, we ought to accept that "killing exclusively for fun is bad".

It's a deductively valid argument; not sound, however, since the second premise is infinitely debatable.

The second premise is not only debatable, I would say it is invalid. Should terms like "ought" and "should" be accepted in premises? More to the point of my OP - can "oughts" (i.e. values) appear in the conclusions of logical arguments?

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Rinsaikeru » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:08 am UTC

But dioti already explained in his/her post that strict logic is not the solution for the creation of a moral code. In the case presented, ought, sane, and insane have specific meanings (to my understanding).

Sane here seems to indicate someone who fits within a range of expectations defined within the society as acceptable.

Insane here seems to indicate an individual who does not fit within the range of expectations defined by the same society.

In this context it would seem that the clearer more reasonable action we 'ought' to take is the one agreed upon by the majority of those who are active contributing members of the 'sane' category.

I'm not sure I agree with the sane/insane dichotomy--but the premise itself makes some sense to me. I find sane/insane leaves lots of groups (minorities, women, people with disabilities) to the margins.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby TheBeeCeeEmm » Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:14 am UTC

I would go look up Nihilism - I suggest the link in my signature to CounterOrder.

All morality stems from the idea that there are certain things that are wrong and certain things that are right - or perhaps good and evil in religious terms. You see, the concepts of right and wrong come from religion (and biology allows this to happen, more on that later), because in theistic morality there is a greater being(s) that tell us what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. If you claim to be an atheist, the only truly logical position is one of the absolute denial of these concepts entirely. The natural world doesn't display these concepts, the Universe in its unending vastness doesn't care whether or not you murder children. There is no good, there is no evil, there is no right, there is no wrong. There is no such thing as morality in the first place!

Morality is a human idea, created only because of our biological inclinations that take use of our brains and tell us "this is bad! I shouldn't be doing this!" because it more than likely will lead to an unfavorable outcome for the offender. Religion and those who want to obtain and keep power use(d) this inclination as a bulldozer to herd the masses into becoming controllable. "Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose."

Now, don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean that there aren't other reasons for why you shouldn't go out and kill your neighbor, but it certainly has nothing to do with it being wrong. You can fill in the blanks with whatever you want - in my case, I wouldn't for just about a hundred reasons; I don't have a reason to kill him, I don't want to kill him, I don't have the means to do it without getting caught, the risk is high even in the best of situations, I could get injured. If you want a less sociopathic(spellcheck says that's not a real word - well it is now!) reason, me killing him would be depriving him of all his future experiences, and while there is no reason this is bad (since bad is a human concept and doesn't exist), I can reason that I wouldn't enjoy having that happen to me. The Golden Rule, (yes, I see the irony) if you will.

It's a truly unpleasant line of reasoning, isn't it? It would mean that there's really no reason why what Hitler did was wrong, huh? Yeah, that's about what I'm putting forth. He was an asshole, and he killed a lot of people. I'm not defending Hitler here, and I know someone is gonna jump on me about it, but I'm just saying. And it's not nice to think about, but I don't deal in what feels warm and cuddly. The truth is the truth, no matter what I'd like it to be. If I could think otherwise, I'd be a devout follower of some religion.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby diotimajsh » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:13 am UTC

ndansmith wrote:Should terms like "ought" and "should" be accepted in premises? More to the point of my OP - can "oughts" (i.e. values) appear in the conclusions of logical arguments?
In general, that is quite a good question. But, I don't think it applies to my schema. I mean to use ought statements within hypothetical propositions. Unfortunately, I didn't make this explicit until after the syllogism. But, wherever I previously said "ought" in the syllogism, please now append an implicit "...If you desire (or value) such and such."

Why would that help? An analogy: in Tetris, as we know, one can make a horizontal line of blocks vanish by filling it in completely. To me it seems perfectly reasonable to then say, "If you want to make a line of blocks vanish, you ought to strive toward filling it in." And I consider this a true statement. The statement "you ought to fill in a line of blocks completely" by itself is a bit absurd; but, with an understanding that it means something like "filling in a line of blocks is the method needed to effect that line's vanishing," that sounds quite reasonable, and I believe we can say that it is true for the game of Tetris (i.e. true given the assumptions of Tetris). Moreover, it's the kind of statement we could use in a logical argument.

Back to ethics, I'm supposing that moral obligations implicitly follow that same form: "If you wish to further this value, then you ought to behave in such a manner," or perhaps even "Behaving in such a manner is the required way to effect this goal." We can call these statements true given the assumptions of an ethical system, as with Tetris, even though they are hypothetical.

More generally, I suggest the following principle: "If an agent wishes to achieve X, and X may be achieved through action Y, then she ought to do Y." It seems to me that this is a rational principle to accept as part of a decision process and accompanying arguments; in fact, I'm not sure how anyone makes a rational decision without following a similar strategy (e.g., "I want to quell my hunger pangs; eating food will quell that hunger; accordingly, I now choose to eat food."). If you reject that principle, I think we'll need to question whether humans can use reasoned arguments to make any decisions at all, much less ethical ones; and that seems mighty peculiar.

(Oh, and I do apologize for slanderously misconstruing your motive :) )

Rinsaikeru wrote:I'm not sure I agree with the sane/insane dichotomy--but the premise itself makes some sense to me. I find sane/insane leaves lots of groups (minorities, women, people with disabilities) to the margins.
This is true, and I may have gotten a little carried away with that sane/insane business. I believe you're right about how I used the terms in my post, although in defense of ndansmith, I think s/he wanted something deeper and more general than an assertion like "to follow the majority is more reasonable." Something about how "oughts" work in general. So I tried to elaborate on that above.

I'm certainly open to revision on the issue of sanity or related judgments. I wasn't actually trying that hard to come up with a good collection of values, I was just throwing something out there that I thought people would find plausible.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby 6453893 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:21 am UTC

A: I cannot maximize my own benefit if others impede my progress.
B: Others have no incentive not to impede my progress, unless I also agree not to impede theirs.
C: It is mutually beneficial for all people to agree not to impede one anothers' progress.

Most of our morals (assault, theft, murder) boil down to not violating this principle.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:16 pm UTC

It's already been mentioned in the thread but Ayn Rand is the best example of someone trying to construct a moral system from logical assumptions. It's heavily individualistic, and is something like: if we act for purely selfish reasons, our choices will be moral.

The example she used was that if a woman buys bread for her children instead of a coat, she is being moral acting selfishly unless she loves the coat more than her children. I also remember her basing the whole thing on three logical assumptions. I would look it up but my copy of Atlas Shrugged is at *least* 90 centimetres away from me right now.

Personally, however, I don't think morality is based on any universal reasoning. I think assuming there is a universal morality presumes there is a central 'meaning' to existence. But I'm one of those people who thinks there is no one big meaning, but only small meanings people make for themselves. Which are fine, but if you structure a belief system on them, it starts to fray around the edges because the initial presumption is flawed (But this does not mean that an unflawed presumption exists). So, you can construct a moral system on reason and logic, with any central premise (a few good ones have been suggested, as well as Ayn Rands), and you will find ones that work quite well. But they will eventually pop up contradictions and absurdities you'll have to quietly ignore (Jorge Louis Borges once used theology to 'prove' that Judas was the Messiah, just to troll theologians) or else become an insufferable human being (i.e. like someone who has just read Atlas Shrugged).
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby 6453893 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:36 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:But they will eventually pop up contradictions and absurdities you'll have to quietly ignore


Isn't that true for every moral system, logical or illogical? The only way to avoid the contradictions of moral grey areas is to make every moral decision on a spontaneous, case by case basis. And that isn't a system at all.

Also, the three axioms you're thinking of (Non-Contradiction, Either/Or, A is A) aren't Rand's. They are the three axioms of Aristotelian logic, and she just named the three parts of Atlas Shrugged after them.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Maltese Gauze » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:27 pm UTC

You could construct a consistent moral system if you chose your axioms carefully, but such an attempt would be largely irrelevant to what most people consider to be moral. Even utilitarianism, which seems pretty objective on the surface, requires a definition of utility. Divine command morality would appear to be complete and consistent as an axiomatic system, but it only works if you believe in some god. And so on.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:35 pm UTC

6453893 wrote:
Pez Dispens3r wrote:But they will eventually pop up contradictions and absurdities you'll have to quietly ignore


Isn't that true for every moral system, logical or illogical? The only way to avoid the contradictions of moral grey areas is to make every moral decision on a spontaneous, case by case basis. And that isn't a system at all.


This is my point, that all moral systems are flawed. Even those that don't exist yet. The best ones work well in the majority of circumstances, but you can always find a circumstance where it becomes absurd. That's why you shouldn't follow them to the letter (this is what I find with religious people. Those who I find the most pleasant either don't know all the things they're meant to beleive, or know them but choose to discount them, favouring the spirit of what they were raised to beleive over some of the actual passages they've read). Another example might be... computer programs are based entirely on logic, right? Show me a program that never crashes, or does something stupid.

But, yeh, its not the Aristolean thing I'm thinking of. She had something more like: 1. "something" 2. 'something" 3. "something". I think one was that we exist, i.e. she was dismissing philosophy that attacks the assumption that reality exists... and another was that as long as you always think and never act arbitrarily you won't be immoral. something like that.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:39 pm UTC

It absolutely should be based on logic. Morality without logic is a close equivalent to well mannered cruelty. Religious morality fits the latter exceptionally well.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby 6453893 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:04 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
6453893 wrote:
Pez Dispens3r wrote:But they will eventually pop up contradictions and absurdities you'll have to quietly ignore


Isn't that true for every moral system, logical or illogical? The only way to avoid the contradictions of moral grey areas is to make every moral decision on a spontaneous, case by case basis. And that isn't a system at all.


This is my point, that all moral systems are flawed. Even those that don't exist yet. The best ones work well in the majority of circumstances, but you can always find a circumstance where it becomes absurd. That's why you shouldn't follow them to the letter (this is what I find with religious people. Those who I find the most pleasant either don't know all the things they're meant to beleive, or know them but choose to discount them, favouring the spirit of what they were raised to beleive over some of the actual passages they've read). Another example might be... computer programs are based entirely on logic, right? Show me a program that never crashes, or does something stupid.

But, yeh, its not the Aristolean thing I'm thinking of. She had something more like: 1. "something" 2. 'something" 3. "something". I think one was that we exist, i.e. she was dismissing philosophy that attacks the assumption that reality exists... and another was that as long as you always think and never act arbitrarily you won't be immoral. something like that.



I'm sorry, the feeling I got from your post was "Logical morality has XYZ flaws, (and so we should choose illogical morality)." I clearly misconstrued. As for the program that never crashes or screws up,

1010 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"
1020 GOTO 1010*

But obviously the moral system required to deal with real life would be the philosophical equivalent of Vista°.


*I don't know anything about programming, so if this is formatted wrong or whatever, so sue me.
°Especially regarding the driver bugs.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:51 pm UTC

Naurgul wrote:I wanted my only axiom to be "to achieve long-term stability for the largest system I can perceive"

I am impressed that you are doing your own thinking in the area of morality. Very few people do that. I have a few questions about your axiom:

1. What is stability?
2. Why is stability desirable?

negatron wrote:It absolutely should be based on logic. Morality without logic is a close equivalent to well mannered cruelty. Religious morality fits the latter exceptionally well.

Make sure you catch the distinction. I absolutely believe that moral systems should utilize logic in several ways. What I am arguing against is that logic could be the basis for moral values. In fact, I thought of this syllogism which I think describes my argument:

1. All moral systems are predicated on values.
2. Values cannot be deduced from logic.
3. Therefore, moral systems cannot be derived from logic.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:56 pm UTC

I think Humanism is the beginning and end of your search. So ... yes, morality *can* be based around logic (or at least rationality) and has been in varying degrees and methods for 2600 years or so.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:28 pm UTC

ndansmith wrote:2. Values cannot be deduced from logic.

I think this is the point of divergence, it seems to me they can be.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Naurgul » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:42 pm UTC

ndansmith wrote:
Naurgul wrote:I wanted my only axiom to be "to achieve long-term stability for the largest system I can perceive"

I am impressed that you are doing your own thinking in the area of morality. Very few people do that. I have a few questions about your axiom:

1. What is stability?
2. Why is stability desirable?


Obviously, as we approach the root of the theory, it becomes difficult to keep all the formalism alive. Still, I'd say it goes like this:

Stability is the property of a system, given a bounded input to produce a bounded output. Which, not-strictly speaking, would mean that it manages to keep going under all circumstances, under any amount of stress except when confronted with complete chaos. I use stability as a more measurable approach to survivability. So, the longer my family/country/humanity/planet/universe survives the better. And obviously, I try to always give priority to the stability of the biggest relevant-to-the-situation system.

Anyway, to be honest, this is just the state of the art for me. In practice, I use a more down-to-earth moral compass which is a set of assumptions about the best way to achieve long-term stability for humanity. Then, I use those assumptions as axioms which makes evaluating my preconceived notions easier and it also makes coming up with good concrete practices/behaviours easier as well.

With that said, I'd really like to unify all my ideas on morality (although I don't like the term) into a unified philosophical system with the stability axiom being the only assumption.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby BlackSails » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:45 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
ndansmith wrote:2. Values cannot be deduced from logic.

I think this is the point of divergence, it seems to me they can be.


They cant be. You cannot use logic to prove that maximal happiness ought to be a goal, or that anything else SHOULD happen.

You can only make positive, not normative statements with logic. You can say "If happiness is a goal, then we should do XYZ." You cant say "happiness is good"

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby negatron » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:20 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:
negatron wrote:
ndansmith wrote:2. Values cannot be deduced from logic.

I think this is the point of divergence, it seems to me they can be.


They cant be. You cannot use logic to prove that maximal happiness ought to be a goal, or that anything else SHOULD happen.


It may be true that you cannot use logic to prove a lot of things, but you can use it to make determinations, which may not necessarily be axiomatic truths. In this case obviously they will not be. However if logic cannot prove something, neither can anything else, which does nothing to detract from logical inquiry.

If the sole benefit of life is happiness, maximal happiness ought to be a goal. << It may very well not be true, but it is logic.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:52 pm UTC

@Naurgul: Thanks for the response.

negatron wrote:
ndansmith wrote:2. Values cannot be deduced from logic.

I think this is the point of divergence, it seems to me they can be.

Show me one value that can be deduced using the formal rules of logic (once again, a syllogism would be helpful) and I will become a believer. Until then, I remain unconvinced.

Here is another challenge for those who would espouse a logic-founded morality: Since a property of logic is universality, shouldn't morality also therefore be universal?

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:57 pm UTC

ndansmith wrote:Here is another challenge for those who would espouse a logic-founded morality: Since a property of logic is universality, shouldn't morality also therefore be universal?


... challenge?

Seriously, humanism. It (explicitly) relies on universal morality. Your answers, they are only one link away.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby segmentation fault » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:13 pm UTC

TheBeeCeeEmm wrote:The natural world doesn't display these concepts, the Universe in its unending vastness doesn't care whether or not you murder children. There is no good, there is no evil, there is no right, there is no wrong. There is no such thing as morality in the first place!

Morality is a human idea, created only because of our biological inclinations that take use of our brains and tell us "this is bad! I shouldn't be doing this!"


well the universe does care otherwise we wouldnt have such biological inclinations, no?
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:24 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
ndansmith wrote:Here is another challenge for those who would espouse a logic-founded morality: Since a property of logic is universality, shouldn't morality also therefore be universal?


... challenge?

Seriously, humanism. It (explicitly) relies on universal morality. Your answers, they are only one a link away.

OK, from the article:
Humanism is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality.

My assertion is that right and wrong cannot be determined "by appealing to . . . rationality." It is a fundamental limitation of rationality. A value has to be primary to a moral system. In this case, that value is that human beings have dignity and worth. But how can logic tell us what "dignity" and "worth" are, why all humans have them, and why they should be affirmed? Then . . .

Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of the human condition,

What we have here is a system which is claimed to base its morality on rationality. What we do not have here is an actual example of a logic-deduced value (which is what I am looking for). The answers are not one link away, sadly. If only it were that easy.

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Jessica » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:40 pm UTC

I don't see how morality can't be logically based.
Assuming you have a set of moral axioms, you can proceed logically to the rest of your morality.

Of course, whether someone does this or not is a different question. Many people will just take morality at face value, and not look for moral axioms. They'll also accept logical inconsistencies in their morality, if it works for them. But just because some, if not many moral systems are not logical, doesn't mean that one cannot be formed, assuming you can create your own personal moral axioms to logically proceed from.
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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:42 pm UTC

ndansmith wrote:My assertion is that right and wrong cannot be determined "by appealing to . . . rationality."
Again, that's your assertion. But there's an entire school of ethics based on doing so. So clearly, it *can* be determined that way. *Has* been.

So the extension of your position is that Humanism is ... wrongly derived?

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Re: Can morality be based on logic?

Postby ndansmith » Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:53 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:Assuming you have a set of moral axioms, you can proceed logically to the rest of your morality.

Exactly. What I am arguing against is the idea that such moral axioms could be derived from logic.

Azrael wrote:
ndansmith wrote:My assertion is that right and wrong cannot be determined "by appealing to . . . rationality."
Again, that's your assertion. But there's an entire school of ethics based on doing so. So clearly, it *can* be determined that way. *Has* been.

So the extension of your position is that Humanism is ... wrongly derived?

Humanism is mistaken insofar as it claims that moral values can be derived from logic. Said school of ethics may claim that they are deriving moral values from logic, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Like I said, I will believe it when I see it.


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