Do the ends justify the means?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Prelates, Moderators General

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:06 pm UTC

The means are justified for sufficiently valuable ends, if there is sufficient certainty that the end will be achieved through that means. This seems trivially true, for certain extreme examples (e.g. minor evil means; massively good end). Though I can imagine some disagreement from theistic moralities, and perhaps from a few deontological approaches.

--------
jules.LT wrote:I'll add a data point: I'd flip the switch and my gut won't let me push the fat man.
When we put intermediaries between our actions and their consequences, we feel less implicated. Like when economic experiments use tokens exchangeable for dollars instead of actual dollars.
I would probably do the same. Redirecting a train is different from shoving a person in front of a train, even if the end result is the death of the one person and the salvation of five. The action itself is different, and that's relevant.

For instance, one can conceive of a culture where a switch controller has a responsibility to minimize deaths in such a situation, perhaps a legal or professional responsibility, and it's not wholly implausible. But a responsibility to directly shove someone on to the tracks--I think that's much more of a stretch, since it's an action outside of any normal professional jurisdiction.

-------
TranquilFury wrote:The ends always justify the means, it is always correct to take the course of action that satisfies your ultimate goals with the least amount of risk.
I thought this was an discussion of ethics and morality, not of optimizing the achievement of one's goals. :lol: If the only thing of concern is achieving one's own goals, then the concept of good and evil need not even factor in, and "the ends justifies the means" isn't even a moral precept or moral question anymore.

Well, to be fair, amorality can be seen as a meta-ethical standpoint that could produce a normative ethic. It just...wouldn't result in much other than a precept like "maximize your own utliity". Or like the line of yours I just quoted.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby ahammel » Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:20 pm UTC

Greyarcher wrote:The means are justified for sufficiently valuable ends, if there is sufficient certainty that the end will be achieved through that means. This seems trivially true, for certain extreme examples (e.g. minor evil means; massively good end). Though I can imagine some disagreement from theistic moralities, and perhaps from a few deontological approaches.

I find that last sentence interesting, in light of the fact that you seem to take a deontological approach to the trolley problem. You explicitly reject the consequentialist argument, at least:
Redirecting a train is different from shoving a person in front of a train, even if the end result is the death of the one person and the salvation of five.
Glendower wrote:I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur wrote: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
 
Posts: 1573
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:44 pm UTC

I think things have got muddled there Greyarcher. You said that an "evil" action could have a "good" result. I think you'd have to define what action in the above scenarios you think is "evil" and why to be able to apply that here. I don't see anyone saying it's "evil" to try and save the lives of others. "Evil" suggests at least one action is the opposite to what we want to do (save lives). However, in all cases of pushing the other person on the tracks to stop the train it is classed as murder. Why? People have the ability to choose their actions. We respect this. If the person is pushed, it was not with their consent. Replace the person with anything else (property, a horse, etc) and the crime becomes justifiable. That's probably because all other things are replaceable.

Perhaps intent could change how we view the action. Someone inadvertently saving a life while trying to commit murder is no less guilty of attempted murder are they? But what about someone accidentally killing someone while trying to stop the train? Say we have 2 trains. Then 2 people driving cars. One is trying to hit the runaway train off the tracks to commit murder, but fails and stops the train instead. The other is trying to use the car to stop the runaway train and save lives, but fails and derails it instead. When put in front of a jury, how would they rule towards these two people?

So, do we define the "intent" as evil or good, or the result as evil or good?

As to evil actions having good results, it's already been mentioned. If anyone finds out about what you did, will they agree with you? Would they rather you let them die, then commit atrocities in their name? If so, by committing an atrocity to save another's life, you risk loosing both!
It's all physics and stamp collecting.
It's not a particle or a wave. It's just an exchange.
Technical Ben
 
Posts: 2989
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:25 am UTC

ahammel wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:The means are justified for sufficiently valuable ends, if there is sufficient certainty that the end will be achieved through that means. This seems trivially true, for certain extreme examples (e.g. minor evil means; massively good end). Though I can imagine some disagreement from theistic moralities, and perhaps from a few deontological approaches.

I find that last sentence interesting, in light of the fact that you seem to take a deontological approach to the trolley problem. You explicitly reject the consequentialist argument, at least:
Redirecting a train is different from shoving a person in front of a train, even if the end result is the death of the one person and the salvation of five.
Hypotheticals like these try to create a situation where people can't achieve a "perfect" ending--one cannot protect everything one considers important and valuable. I just choose the option I consider optimal. It's an evaluation of what I consider good, valuable, or important, what transgressions I consider terrible, etc., etc. These evaluations are a rather nebulous affair since people usually value a great many things to varying degrees, and I'm no different.

I consider shoving the fat man a greater transgression than redirecting the train into a person. So the means-end evaluation produces a different result. Similarly, raising the number of people saved would change the evaluation again.

------
Technical Ben wrote:As to evil actions having good results, it's already been mentioned. If anyone finds out about what you did, will they agree with you? Would they rather you let them die, then commit atrocities in their name? If so, by committing an atrocity to save another's life, you risk loosing both!
Their moral agreement is of little concern to me. :wink: Although I would be doing it for them--that is, the action aims at achieving a good for them--I am nevertheless doing it because of me (i.e. my views are deciding my action). Barring any discussion where we came to an understanding, I may disagree with them if they thought "that's an atrocity" and thus I may grant their opinion little weight in my decision. This is especially true in the case of a massive good. It's all a weighing game.

Of course, if I thought most people would suffer gross mental distress that would totally ruin their lives as a result of my action, that would change my means-end calculations. So would any prediction that they would kill themselves as a result of my action. It depends.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:38 am UTC

A bible example; an army surrounds a city, demands a random person to be executed for the rest to be spared. The city can't give up the person. An army surrounds a city, demands a specific person to be executed for the rest to be spared. Hand him over.

There are a couple ways of looking at this. On the surface, the difference is that the city has to choose who to kill, and the choosing is in itself more wrong than everyone dying. The other way to look at it is, if the army is there just for any random person, they probably won't stop after just one anyway. If one person was able to cause several thousand people abandoned their farms and families for months, indirectly causing hundreds of deaths of their own people*, to go chase him down, there's a good chance he deserves to be executed.

*This is ancient times. If the farmers stop farming to go to war, people are going to starve.
User avatar
CorruptUser
 
Posts: 7072
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:12 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:46 am UTC

Greyarcher wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:The ends always justify the means, it is always correct to take the course of action that satisfies your ultimate goals with the least amount of risk.
I thought this was an discussion of ethics and morality, not of optimizing the achievement of one's goals. :lol: If the only thing of concern is achieving one's own goals, then the concept of good and evil need not even factor in, and "the ends justifies the means" isn't even a moral precept or moral question anymore.

Well, to be fair, amorality can be seen as a meta-ethical standpoint that could produce a normative ethic. It just...wouldn't result in much other than a precept like "maximize your own utliity". Or like the line of yours I just quoted.

I'm a cynic. In my experience, ethics and morality are just excuses used to hide a more fundamental motivation. Reputation. Influencing the behavior of the people that repeatedly interact with you is important, and regardless of which option you choose, people are less likely to obstruct you if you claim you acted, or refrained from acting, for moral or ethical reasons. I would predict that those who's power is most dependent on the cooperation of other people, will be the most likely to claim an ethical or moral justification for any controversial actions.

There is one key difference in my statement and one like "maximize your own utility", awareness of objective. People's goals aren't always to minimize the number of lives lost, nor should they be. How many people would sacrifice 5 terminally ill serial killers to save his or her own child?

As for pure utility, if you had to choose between a 20 year old honor student and a baby, a pure utility judgement would favor saving the young adult, from the viewpoint of the community. However an emotional decision or social expectation would probably favor saving the baby, because a 20 year old is seen as more capable pursuing self interest, while the baby is completely helpless.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:01 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:A bible example; an army surrounds a city, demands a random person to be executed for the rest to be spared. The city can't give up the person. An army surrounds a city, demands a specific person to be executed for the rest to be spared. Hand him over.

There are a couple ways of looking at this. On the surface, the difference is that the city has to choose who to kill, and the choosing is in itself more wrong than everyone dying. The other way to look at it is, if the army is there just for any random person, they probably won't stop after just one anyway. If one person was able to cause several thousand people abandoned their farms and families for months, indirectly causing hundreds of deaths of their own people*, to go chase him down, there's a good chance he deserves to be executed.

*This is ancient times. If the farmers stop farming to go to war, people are going to starve.


Sorry, just to point out the examples you gave fail to have the "perfect information" needed for such "train on the tracks" examples. Is the person being demanded for execution a murderer or criminal? If so, is the death of a murderer better or worse that allowing the murderer to strike again? If the town is willing to sacrifice it's life for a murderer, what does that show them to be thinking?
Are those attacking the town are doing so just to cause harm? In which case, I see no problem with the town defending the right of an individual to live, even if it means the death of the group (as long as that's the choice each one makes). In this case, the good of a certain thing is considered more important than life.

I agree Greyarcher that you'd hope to have a result of good even though you've allowed bad to happen from your actions. But that is where my dislike of the train on the track examples are. The only one with the perfect information to know that is the one setting up the scenario. Unless that information is given to the one deciding, they will always be less than idea to make the decision. So we've set it up that the one who can can decide is the instigator of the question. However, if they are willing to give the other details, perhaps a correct result could be decided. :P

In the real world people use different mechanisms for choice I guess. For example you mentioned how you would change your mind if you could find out others opinion and how events will effect them. These are things that tend not to be available in such decisions. So often people tend to "err on the side of caution". Rather than take an action considered wrong/evil/bad in the hope it does eventual good. Knowing my actions may not play out how I expect, I can only do what I consider good in all aspects.

My final thoughts on it are, poor questions get poor answers. Even science realises this. :D
If we are not defining a,b,c etc, how can we know if a+b>c? Or if we are asked "which is the higher number" than we may miss the point that our "values" are not absolute. Someone may consider a (a puppy) to be more valuable than (b a car) or visa versa. When comparing lives, we might assume infinite value. But we are not good at adding or subtracting infinities. :P
It's all physics and stamp collecting.
It's not a particle or a wave. It's just an exchange.
Technical Ben
 
Posts: 2989
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:07 pm UTC

TranquilFury wrote:I'm a cynic. In my experience, ethics and morality are just excuses used to hide a more fundamental motivation. Reputation. Influencing the behavior of the people that repeatedly interact with you is important, and regardless of which option you choose, people are less likely to obstruct you if you claim you acted, or refrained from acting, for moral or ethical reasons. I would predict that those who's power is most dependent on the cooperation of other people, will be the most likely to claim an ethical or moral justification for any controversial actions.
I once tried to establish a normative ethical system that, through its solid foundation, would result in everyone agreeing upon and being able to ascertain what was good and right. So I've had too much exposure to my own youthful idealism to be a cynic. I am, however, a realist about people--and I would agree many people likely use ethical reasoning purely as excuses and empty rhetoric. But I am also certain there are idealists out there as well. With over six billion people, there's no way I'm unique on that point.

(I ended up delving into meta-ethics to try and analyze the nature of "good", "right", and "should" rather than taking for granted my own personal moral opinions. I eventually concluded that it's not possible to establish the ethical foundation I sought. But that's a different discussion.)
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby ahammel » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:02 pm UTC

Greyarcher wrote:I once tried to establish a normative ethical system that, through its solid foundation, would result in everyone agreeing upon and being able to ascertain what was good and right.
[...]
(I ended up delving into meta-ethics to try and analyze the nature of "good", "right", and "should" rather than taking for granted my own personal moral opinions. I eventually concluded that it's not possible to establish the ethical foundation I sought. But that's a different discussion.)

So, basically, you failed to solve a thousands-of-years-old unsolved problem in philosophy by yourself.

In a totally unrelated note: I tried all yesterday afternoon, but I couldn't solve the P versus NP problem, so it's probably undecidable.
Glendower wrote:I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur wrote: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
 
Posts: 1573
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:59 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:I once tried to establish a normative ethical system that, through its solid foundation, would result in everyone agreeing upon and being able to ascertain what was good and right.
[...]
(I ended up delving into meta-ethics to try and analyze the nature of "good", "right", and "should" rather than taking for granted my own personal moral opinions. I eventually concluded that it's not possible to establish the ethical foundation I sought. But that's a different discussion.)

So, basically, you failed to solve a thousands-of-years-old unsolved problem in philosophy by yourself.

In a totally unrelated note: I tried all yesterday afternoon, but I couldn't solve the P versus NP problem, so it's probably undecidable.
:roll: I said I concluded that it wasn't possible. Not that I tried and failed. I had actually put my normative enterprise on hold quite early on, because I decided that meta-ethical analyses came first. My conclusion came as the result of that.

Edit: Hmmm, though I suppose I did fail to achieve my initial aim. That doesn't bother me at all though. The entire process was quite informative, and I am satisfied with my thoughts on the matter.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:59 am UTC

Greyarcher wrote:
ahammel wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:I once tried to establish a normative ethical system that, through its solid foundation, would result in everyone agreeing upon and being able to ascertain what was good and right.
[...]
(I ended up delving into meta-ethics to try and analyze the nature of "good", "right", and "should" rather than taking for granted my own personal moral opinions. I eventually concluded that it's not possible to establish the ethical foundation I sought. But that's a different discussion.)

So, basically, you failed to solve a thousands-of-years-old unsolved problem in philosophy by yourself.

In a totally unrelated note: I tried all yesterday afternoon, but I couldn't solve the P versus NP problem, so it's probably undecidable.
:roll: I said I concluded that it wasn't possible. Not that I tried and failed. I had actually put my normative enterprise on hold quite early on, because I decided that meta-ethical analyses came first. My conclusion came as the result of that.

Edit: Hmmm, though I suppose I did fail to achieve my initial aim. That doesn't bother me at all though. The entire process was quite informative, and I am satisfied with my thoughts on the matter.

I came to a similar conclusion through a different methodology, a few years ago I spent a while trying to understand my own motivations and where they came from, in the process I learned that EVERY motivation or goal is ultimately irrational/emotional/instinctual, and most of them weren't even mine. I had been indoctrinated throughout my youth(as had those responsible), and achieving the goals I was expected to pursue would not actually make me any happier.

It was after all this that I decided it was actually normal and ok to be selfish, and that most people were in denial about their own selfishness and ignorant of their own motivations. The problem was that I had spent so much time investigating the depths my own motivations that I had abandoned them all(save survival and comfort). I've spent the time since on autopilot, playing starcraft and arguing on the internet. If I ever find something I really want to accomplish, watch out.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:29 pm UTC

TranquilFury wrote:I came to a similar conclusion through a different methodology, a few years ago I spent a while trying to understand my own motivations and where they came from, in the process I learned that EVERY motivation or goal is ultimately irrational/emotional/instinctual, and most of them weren't even mine.

Just curious, did you take a look at Kant's argument for humanity as an end-in-itself? I'm thinking in particular of how Christine Korsgaard explains the argument in "Kant's Formula of Humanity" (though unfortunately I can't find a pdf).
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.
User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
 
Posts: 4644
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Enthalpie » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:09 pm UTC

I always thought Sandel's Justice to be quite a good introduction into this topic. While just watching the videos without reading the corresponding materials is somewhat superficial and the topic itself is justice in general, it's nevertheless quite interesting and fun to watch. The trolley is the introductory example; starting with episode six Kant is introduced.
I never liked the English translation of Kant (particularly some of the terms) but it might just sound weird to me after reading the original.
Enthalpie
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:28 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:16 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:I came to a similar conclusion through a different methodology, a few years ago I spent a while trying to understand my own motivations and where they came from, in the process I learned that EVERY motivation or goal is ultimately irrational/emotional/instinctual, and most of them weren't even mine.

Just curious, did you take a look at Kant's argument for humanity as an end-in-itself? I'm thinking in particular of how Christine Korsgaard explains the argument in "Kant's Formula of Humanity" (though unfortunately I can't find a pdf).
No, I haven't studied Kant in any detail, I never got the relationship between reason and motive in a categorical imperative. After watching video six of Enthalpie's link, I disagree with that representation of Kant's position on two critical points: I don't believe for a second that all humans are capable of free and rational thought, and even if they were, I do not believe rational thought has any objective value, only a subjective value, for example, when applied to solving a problem with respect to some goal. If it's value can be established objectively, I will listen, and maybe even change my own behavior.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:47 pm UTC

Well, part of my though in pointing you toward constructivist interpretations is that such interpretations do away with the problem of finding objective value in humanity. Korsgaard doesn't think that the goodness of humanity is something "out there" in the world that we apprehend through reason. In fact, if anything were to have objective value then her view would be sunk.

The constructivist idea is that, rather than valuing things because they're good, things are good because we value them. Now every human values things, so every human is committed to taking her own capacity for valuing things — her humanity — as a source of value. Since every other human has the same commitment, and has it on the same grounds, we're also committed to treating other people's humanity as a source of value. Korsgaard calls this the "unconditioned condition" of value, and she thinks that nothing could be an unconditioned condition of value unless it is itself unconditionally valuable. Thus Korsgaard/Kant argues that we have to treat people's humanity as unconditionally valuable.

Note that I haven't used the term "rationality" here. It's true that Kant talks about rational deliberation when he explains what he means by "humanity," but the rational deliberation involved isn't a particularly high standard. It just means something like being able to reason about different alternative ends that you could adopt and choose them on the basis of your conscious representations, rather than just acting as a conduit for subconscious instincts the way an animal might. You could make an unreasonable choice and still have Kantian humanity.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.
User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
 
Posts: 4644
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:57 pm UTC

What does that have to do with Kant?
I don't see the point of the distinction in good vs value either, things or actions are 'good' or 'valuable' for a person or entity if they help the entity achieve it's goal, but those goals/motivations are not necessarily shared by any other party, and are universally of a subjective nature.

I still don't see how anything can be unconditionally valuable, whatever party makes a value judgement makes that judgement with respect to his, her, their, or it's own goals.

If there is intrinsic(unconditional) value in something, that value will be recognized regardless of who or what is making the value judgement, so long as that person or thing is making the judgement rationally with good information. You're welcome to find such a case, or prove one exists.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:57 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:The constructivist idea is that, rather than valuing things because they're good, things are good because we value them. Now every human values things, so every human is committed to taking her own capacity for valuing things — her humanity — as a source of value. Since every other human has the same commitment, and has it on the same grounds, we're also committed to treating other people's humanity as a source of value. Korsgaard calls this the "unconditioned condition" of value, and she thinks that nothing could be an unconditioned condition of value unless it is itself unconditionally valuable. Thus Korsgaard/Kant argues that we have to treat people's humanity as unconditionally valuable.
Something struck me as off here. After a few seconds, I pinned it down to the injection and usage of "source of value". My first thought was that the move was dubious and the usage a sophistical linguistic trick. It's either that, or the oddness is due to operating from different positions at the very start. But as I continue to look at it I lean towards "language trick".

Lets flow from the initial idea, that people value things. Functionally, we can see this as loosely similar to having an opinion or liking something; no need for great precision yet. However, the straightforward move from the initial idea is to keep that verb form. Moving like that, the parallel point we arrive at is, "every human is committed to seeing other people as things that value things"--they're things that like things and have opinions, loosely, just like oneself.

There's no meaningful conclusion about treatment of people that stems from that. It is a verb/action we perform. Valuing--loosely, a mental state towards something; resembles liking, having an opinion, thinking something is important.

The move from "capacity to value things" -> "source of value" is like a move from "capacity to have an opinion" -> "source of opinion" or "capacity to like" -> "source of likedness". Treating other people's humanity as a source of opinions? Well, certainly they have opinions, and it's a human capacity. But in the end it seems like sophistry to move from a verb (valuing), to a noun phrase (source of value) in order to give a poor impression of there being a part of that noun phrase "value" within people. And to move from that to "people are valuable"--it's just compounding language problems ('people are opinionable'? 'people are likable'?).

Perhaps this may have made sense in a different language--and I have long wondered about the way language can shape inferences, and what that may indicate for the soundness of an inference from any given concept--but I don't see these inferential moves working. Unless you could clarify?

-----
TranquilFury wrote:I don't see the point of the distinction in good vs value either, things or actions are 'good' or 'valuable' for a person or entity if they help the entity achieve it's goal, but those goals/motivations are not necessarily shared by any other party, and are universally of a subjective nature.

I still don't see how anything can be unconditionally valuable, whatever party makes a value judgement makes that judgement with respect to his, her, their, or it's own goals.
I generally agree. I'd say that people can value things without any related goal though. For example, if I live in an urban area, and I happen to walk through a green space, we could say I valued that experience and value that green space. But there's no goal there. I may never walk through that place again. It's just appreciation and...placing value on it.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:28 am UTC

TranquilFury wrote:What does that have to do with Kant?

It's an interpretation of his argument in Groundwork 4:429:
Immanuel Kant wrote:The human being necessarily represents his own existence as [an end in itself]; so far it is thus a subjective principle of human actions. But every other rational being also represents his existence in this way consequent on just the same rational ground that also holds for me; thus it is at the same time an objective principle from which, as a supreme practical ground, it must be possible to derive all laws of the will. The practical imperative will therefore be the following: So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.


Greyarcher wrote:The move from "capacity to value things" -> "source of value" is like a move from "capacity to have an opinion" -> "source of opinion" or "capacity to like" -> "source of likedness". Treating other people's humanity as a source of opinions? Well, certainly they have opinions, and it's a human capacity. But in the end it seems like sophistry to move from a verb (valuing), to a noun phrase (source of value) in order to give a poor impression of there being a part of that noun phrase "value" within people.

Well, do you not think that people are sources of opinions? Where else do opinions come from? And if there are good things (even subjectively good things), what makes them good if not the fact that we value them?

Greyarcher wrote:And to move from that to "people are valuable"--it's just compounding language problems ('people are opinionable'? 'people are likable'?).

I don't get what you're saying. This is not some shady underhanded shifting around of words — Korsgaard explicitly announces the premise that "to play this role [of unconditioned condition of goodness], ... rational nature must itself be something of unconditional value." Maybe you disagree with that premise. But there's a distinct idea that can be talked about here. It's not just somebody saying "Humans value things. Value. Humans. Human value! Gotcha!"
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.
User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
 
Posts: 4644
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:52 am UTC

For anything we define as alive, life itself is intrinsically valuable. If it were not then it wouldn't reproduce and would die off. People suffer from a bad case of believing we're special, and we're not.
morriswalters
 
Posts: 3919
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:21 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:37 am UTC

It strikes me that a lot of the thoughts on ethics itt are coming as an argument for the self, and the self alone, regardless of whether that self is self-critical or not. Should we be arguing about what is, or what should be? Now, there is a benefit to being a realist but there needs to be a deeper analysis than simply observing that *you* feel your only motivation is reputation and then extrapolating that everyone else must as well, or simply stating such because you've given up. Immediately this brought to my mind the first lines of the Enchiridion:

Epictetus wrote:Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.


As far as ancient philosophy goes, the Stoics were by and large quite the realists.

Anyway, ethical questions are partly "how do we/I behave" but they are also "how should we/I behave?" The task isn't to figure out what we can all agree upon is reality-as-it-is, but rather how would we like reality to be. While it may seem to a student of history that humanity never changes I think at the same time there is a case to be made for the benefit of holding ourselves to a higher standard, of which we may sometimes fall short. I dislike the trend of treating ethical concerns as if they are context-less math equations of which the subject is the solver. It dehumanizes the Other and by consequence limits our potential as human beings. Civilization is a product of individuals working together to achieve a greater good than they could have without that collaboration, and neither is it as simple as some want to summarize Adam Smith as saying (look out for yourself and it will help everyone the most).

Sophistry, to me, is engaging in these conversations without actually laying your behavior in the future on the line, if you're not attempting to refine your understanding of the world in such a way as to augment your own behavior, you are not engaging in it rigorously enough.

I pointed out Levinas on the first page because I think he gives a radically different perspective than most people do while still staying in the confines of Kantian ethics and German Idealism. Namely, that the ethical question is the "first philosophy" because our approach to the world and the Others we encounter determines the rest of our thought. If we engage the world in a selfish way, placing ourselves as the *prime* end instead of treating all as equally valuable ends then we are operating on the basis of fear and with violence in our hearts. When we approach the Other with ourselves as the prime end we place them into our moral framework and judge them before allowing them (and ourselves to them) the ability to truly represent their value and their ability to augment our potential. Holding this rigid morality of the self then influences our intellectual and business framework such that we limit what we are willing to try and allow in the discussion as true. Further, the need to reify the self's dominance *over* the external and the Other leads, step by small step, to a politics of totality and exclusion. Finally, the fundamental point that makes Levinas unique I think, or more unique than most, is that he asserts that while there is an ethical "right" there is no way to be ethically correct if you force another person to behave ethically correct/right. It is a choice, but there is indeed a correct one, that choice is whether or not to give of yourself to others (which is not to say that you need to be a martyr or anything zealous like that).


@GrammarBolshevik: Could you recommend a good primer essay on Korsgaard? I'm not familiar with her work and her "unconditioned condition" sounds very similar to Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, specifically Nagarjuna's ideas on the tenet of "the emptiness of everything" as in the non-essence of things and beings, where "essence" refers to the qualities inherent to the things/beings *independent* of anything else - basically the argument that nothing has an essence, the "emptiness" of things is the idea that all things are interdependently co-originating, which applies recursively to emptiness itself (which is what strikes me as similar to "unconditioned condition").


@Greyarcher, if you're trying, or at least tried, to work out a normative ethics you owe it to yourself to check out the comparative religion/philosophy scholar Masao Abe's work, specifically the essay "Nonbeing and Mu — The Metaphysical Nature of Negativity in the East and the West" wherein he treats Aristotle's, Kant's and Nagarjuna's philosophies as absolutized frameworks of reality "as it is", "as it ought to be" and it's "emptiness/negation/Mu*" respectively.

*"Mu" is "no" in Japanese.

One last thought, philosophy is about figuring out what it means to live well, don't let that objective get lost in the necessary leaps into abstraction that must be made in its pursuit.
Bharrata
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:12 am UTC

Bharrata wrote:@GrammarBolshevik: Could you recommend a good primer essay on Korsgaard? I'm not familiar with her work and her "unconditioned condition" sounds very similar to Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, specifically Nagarjuna's ideas on the tenet of "the emptiness of everything" as in the non-essence of things and beings, where "essence" refers to the qualities inherent to the things/beings *independent* of anything else - basically the argument that nothing has an essence, the "emptiness" of things is the idea that all things are interdependently co-originating, which applies recursively to emptiness itself (which is what strikes me as similar to "unconditioned condition").

I don't really see the similarity, but if you want to see exactly what Korsgaard means by "unconditioned condition" you'll probably want to read her essay "Kant's Formula of Humanity," which can be found in her book Creating the Kingdom of Ends.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.
User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
 
Posts: 4644
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:39 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Bharrata wrote:@GrammarBolshevik: Could you recommend a good primer essay on Korsgaard? I'm not familiar with her work and her "unconditioned condition" sounds very similar to Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, specifically Nagarjuna's ideas on the tenet of "the emptiness of everything" as in the non-essence of things and beings, where "essence" refers to the qualities inherent to the things/beings *independent* of anything else - basically the argument that nothing has an essence, the "emptiness" of things is the idea that all things are interdependently co-originating, which applies recursively to emptiness itself (which is what strikes me as similar to "unconditioned condition").

I don't really see the similarity, but if you want to see exactly what Korsgaard means by "unconditioned condition" you'll probably want to read her essay "Kant's Formula of Humanity," which can be found in her book Creating the Kingdom of Ends.


Here's my interpretation, correct me if I'm wrong:

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Well, part of my though in pointing you toward constructivist interpretations is that such interpretations do away with the problem of finding objective value in humanity. Korsgaard doesn't think that the goodness of humanity is something "out there" in the world that we apprehend through reason. In fact, if anything were to have objective value then her view would be sunk.


This goes immediately to the heart of interdependence, if things have no objective value, then they have no value except for they relation they have with other things - their interdependent relationship.

The constructivist idea is that, rather than valuing things because they're good, things are good because we value them.


This is placing value based on the interdependent relationship, the thing is not good independently, but only after there is another thing/being to give it value.

Now every human values things, so every human is committed to taking her own capacity for valuing things — her humanity — as a source of value.


See, this is pretty close to explicitly Buddhist (and please do not take the term Buddhist as something negative or non-rigorous, we could call Kant and most of the Western tradition Christian philosophy, it's just an easy term to use) as in the idea of attachment is an overvaluation of an external thing, but in the notions of attachment, desire and the cycle of suffering that grows out of them (samsara) is the underlying implication that it is human beings who give things value based on their understanding of them. If value can only come from the subject then our notion of what is valuable is malleable and if it is malleable then we can lessen our attachment to things by re-examining what should have value and how much it has.

Note that the term suffering is more concretely the phenomena of change, all things change so if we place value on them as things which we expect/desire to be unchangeable, we will suffer when they change. Obviously this does not apply to our feelings about all things that change, but those for which we have unrealistic expectations (attachments).

So then if we understand the source of our suffering, or the ability to overvaluate to tie it in with Korsgaard, we realize that the source of value comes from ourselves and our intrinsic humanity.

Since every other human has the same commitment, and has it on the same grounds, we're also committed to treating other people's humanity as a source of value. Korsgaard calls this the "unconditioned condition" of value, and she thinks that nothing could be an unconditioned condition of value unless it is itself unconditionally valuable. Thus Korsgaard/Kant argues that we have to treat people's humanity as unconditionally valuable.


Bolded first, this ties in with the Mahayana tenet of the sameness of conscious beings, that is, that the bodhisattva (enlightened being) understands that they are of the same quality as other beings, in Korsgaard's framing, all beings are value givers and thus have value, even if they may not see it.

The responsibility for the human who understands this, again agreeing with Korsgaard, is to treat other human beings as "unconditionally valuable."

Note that I haven't used the term "rationality" here. It's true that Kant talks about rational deliberation when he explains what he means by "humanity," but the rational deliberation involved isn't a particularly high standard. It just means something like being able to reason about different alternative ends that you could adopt and choose them on the basis of your conscious representations, rather than just acting as a conduit for subconscious instincts the way an animal might. You could make an unreasonable choice and still have Kantian humanity.


This agrees as well, especially the last sentence: there is always "right action" which can be found by meditation/rationality, but the "unenlightened" human who does not take right action is not less human, the common metaphor would be something like the mirror of their mind is dusty. That's a horrible metaphor at the moment but I think you can see what I mean.
Bharrata
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:32 am UTC

Greyarcher wrote:-----
TranquilFury wrote:I don't see the point of the distinction in good vs value either, things or actions are 'good' or 'valuable' for a person or entity if they help the entity achieve it's goal, but those goals/motivations are not necessarily shared by any other party, and are universally of a subjective nature.

I still don't see how anything can be unconditionally valuable, whatever party makes a value judgement makes that judgement with respect to his, her, their, or it's own goals.
I generally agree. I'd say that people can value things without any related goal though. For example, if I live in an urban area, and I happen to walk through a green space, we could say I valued that experience and value that green space. But there's no goal there. I may never walk through that place again. It's just appreciation and...placing value on it.

That sound's like an instinctual/emotional reaction, a forest is more likely to offer food and water than a stone/concrete desert.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:56 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:The move from "capacity to value things" -> "source of value" is like a move from "capacity to have an opinion" -> "source of opinion" or "capacity to like" -> "source of likedness". Treating other people's humanity as a source of opinions? Well, certainly they have opinions, and it's a human capacity. But in the end it seems like sophistry to move from a verb (valuing), to a noun phrase (source of value) in order to give a poor impression of there being a part of that noun phrase "value" within people.

Well, do you not think that people are sources of opinions? Where else do opinions come from? And if there are good things (even subjectively good things), what makes them good if not the fact that we value them?

Greyarcher wrote:And to move from that to "people are valuable"--it's just compounding language problems ('people are opinionable'? 'people are likable'?).

I don't get what you're saying. This is not some shady underhanded shifting around of words — Korsgaard explicitly announces the premise that "to play this role [of unconditioned condition of goodness], ... rational nature must itself be something of unconditional value." Maybe you disagree with that premise. But there's a distinct idea that can be talked about here. It's not just somebody saying "Humans value things. Value. Humans. Human value! Gotcha!"


The key problem here is that you have not demonstrated why people/rational nature/whatever are unconditionally valuable. Certainly it has a subjective, conditional value, but I can't see how it's possible to support the assertion that it is valuable objectively.

For example, I have value to myself, the "to myself" part is a condition. I am fairly certain I have NO value to a fish, and that would remain true even if the fish was capable of rational thought. In fact it would remain true until and only until my actions had an impact on the fish's goals.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:35 am UTC

TranquilFury wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:The move from "capacity to value things" -> "source of value" is like a move from "capacity to have an opinion" -> "source of opinion" or "capacity to like" -> "source of likedness". Treating other people's humanity as a source of opinions? Well, certainly they have opinions, and it's a human capacity. But in the end it seems like sophistry to move from a verb (valuing), to a noun phrase (source of value) in order to give a poor impression of there being a part of that noun phrase "value" within people.

Well, do you not think that people are sources of opinions? Where else do opinions come from? And if there are good things (even subjectively good things), what makes them good if not the fact that we value them?

Greyarcher wrote:And to move from that to "people are valuable"--it's just compounding language problems ('people are opinionable'? 'people are likable'?).

I don't get what you're saying. This is not some shady underhanded shifting around of words — Korsgaard explicitly announces the premise that "to play this role [of unconditioned condition of goodness], ... rational nature must itself be something of unconditional value." Maybe you disagree with that premise. But there's a distinct idea that can be talked about here. It's not just somebody saying "Humans value things. Value. Humans. Human value! Gotcha!"


The key problem here is that you have not demonstrated why people/rational nature/whatever are unconditionally valuable. Certainly it has a subjective, conditional value, but I can't see how it's possible to support the assertion that it is valuable objectively.

For example, I have value to myself, the "to myself" part is a condition. I am fairly certain I have NO value to a fish, and that would remain true even if the fish was capable of rational thought. In fact it would remain true until and only until my actions had an impact on the fish's goals.


People are unconditionally valuable because they are value givers; the values they give are subjective but the ability to give value is objective.

Kind of like the difference between the reference operator of a pointer or the dereference operator of a pointer in programming.


At least, that's how I understand the idea of the unconditioned condition of value so far; you are valuable to yourself a priori, e.g. unconditionally, thus we should treat other human beings as unconditionally valuable, even though some people may not treat others in such a way.

Saying value is not given by an anthropomorphized fish which cannot give it's opinion in the debate isn't a good argument against consciousness/rationality being the source of value.
Bharrata
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby lutzj » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:20 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:People suffer from a bad case of believing we're special, and we're not.


I like to think that we are special for our purposes, because we are ourselves.
addams wrote:I'm not a bot.
That is what a bot would type.
User avatar
lutzj
 
Posts: 898
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:20 am UTC
Location: Ontario

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:38 pm UTC

Bharrata wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:The move from "capacity to value things" -> "source of value" is like a move from "capacity to have an opinion" -> "source of opinion" or "capacity to like" -> "source of likedness". Treating other people's humanity as a source of opinions? Well, certainly they have opinions, and it's a human capacity. But in the end it seems like sophistry to move from a verb (valuing), to a noun phrase (source of value) in order to give a poor impression of there being a part of that noun phrase "value" within people.

Well, do you not think that people are sources of opinions? Where else do opinions come from? And if there are good things (even subjectively good things), what makes them good if not the fact that we value them?

Greyarcher wrote:And to move from that to "people are valuable"--it's just compounding language problems ('people are opinionable'? 'people are likable'?).

I don't get what you're saying. This is not some shady underhanded shifting around of words — Korsgaard explicitly announces the premise that "to play this role [of unconditioned condition of goodness], ... rational nature must itself be something of unconditional value." Maybe you disagree with that premise. But there's a distinct idea that can be talked about here. It's not just somebody saying "Humans value things. Value. Humans. Human value! Gotcha!"


The key problem here is that you have not demonstrated why people/rational nature/whatever are unconditionally valuable. Certainly it has a subjective, conditional value, but I can't see how it's possible to support the assertion that it is valuable objectively.

For example, I have value to myself, the "to myself" part is a condition. I am fairly certain I have NO value to a fish, and that would remain true even if the fish was capable of rational thought. In fact it would remain true until and only until my actions had an impact on the fish's goals.


People are unconditionally valuable because they are value givers; the values they give are subjective but the ability to give value is objective.

Kind of like the difference between the reference operator of a pointer or the dereference operator of a pointer in programming.


At least, that's how I understand the idea of the unconditioned condition of value so far; you are valuable to yourself a priori, e.g. unconditionally, thus we should treat other human beings as unconditionally valuable, even though some people may not treat others in such a way.

Saying value is not given by an anthropomorphized fish which cannot give it's opinion in the debate isn't a good argument against consciousness/rationality being the source of value.


No, the ability to give value isn't special at all, it's an artifact of your own shortcut in modeling the entity you're talking about. I can just as much say an animal values it's food, it's a useful model for predicting the actions and reactions of other people, animals, or things, but it doesn't have anything to say about the value of those agents, not until you introduce a goal. As for the fish, it does know of my existence, and my actions do not impact it's existence, therefore I am completely irrelevant from it's point of view. If you want to test this with humans, go find an isolated/uncontacted tribe in south america and ask them about how valuable I am.
TranquilFury
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:55 pm UTC

TranquilFury wrote:The key problem here is that you have not demonstrated why people/rational nature/whatever are unconditionally valuable. Certainly it has a subjective, conditional value, but I can't see how it's possible to support the assertion that it is valuable objectively.

For example, I have value to myself, the "to myself" part is a condition. I am fairly certain I have NO value to a fish, and that would remain true even if the fish was capable of rational thought. In fact it would remain true until and only until my actions had an impact on the fish's goals.

You're mixing two distinctions here. First there's the distinction between objective and subjective. Objective value is value that's out there in the world, independently of what anyone thinks about it. Subjective value is value that exists only insofar as someone values it and only to the person who values it ("subjective" does not mean "illusory"). On the other hand, when Korsgaard talks about unconditional value, she is talking about value that is not dependent on its connection to some further valued thing. Things could conceivably fall into any of the four combinations of these two distinctions: my shoes have subjective, conditional value (I care about them, but only insofar as they help me in my broader project of walking places); my humanity, if Korsgaard is right, has at least subjective unconditional value; if anything has objective value, then it could have it conditionally (because it's good for the furtherance of some objectively valuable end) or unconditionally (if it's objectively good and good-in-itself; for example, theists usually think that God is like this).

And, again, constructivists do not assert that anything has value objectively. They assert that a) people are rationally committed to valuing themselves (subjectively) as unconditional ends and b) that they are rationally committed to recognizing the same (subjective) value in other people.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.
User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
 
Posts: 4644
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Bharrata » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:04 pm UTC

TranquilFury wrote:No, the ability to give value isn't special at all, it's an artifact of your own shortcut in modeling the entity you're talking about. I can just as much say an animal values it's food, it's a useful model for predicting the actions and reactions of other people, animals, or things, but it doesn't have anything to say about the value of those agents, not until you introduce a goal. As for the fish, it does know of my existence, and my actions do not impact it's existence, therefore I am completely irrelevant from it's point of view. If you want to test this with humans, go find an isolated/uncontacted tribe in south america and ask them about how valuable I am.


We are talking about moral or ethical value, correct? Value judgements, that sort of thing? The ability to give value would be one of the characteristics that distinguishes a human being from a rock, along with characteristics like language or an epidermis.

By definition value (or more broadly, concepts) cannot be an artifact. But artifacts can be given value.

Even if we're talking about B.F. Skinner and the Radical Behaviorists' view when it comes to human motivations, there is still the ability for humans to assign value to the logical processes by which we behave. Desireable v. non-desireable behavior. Productive v. non-productive. Those are still value judgements about what we want that we apply to different behaviors. The difference with the fish is, it cannot think about the things around it and the behaviors it engages in abstractly, which I think is the pre-requisite here for being able to assign value.

As far as the fish not caring about your existence, have you asked it this? And what are you having for dinner tonight? :lol:



edit: nice compound tetralemma in the post above this TGB
Bharrata
 
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:40 pm UTC

(shortened quotation to relevant section)
TranquilFury wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:things or actions are 'good' or 'valuable' for a person or entity if they help the entity achieve it's goal, but those goals/motivations are not necessarily shared by any other party, and are universally of a subjective nature.
I'd say that people can value things without any related goal though. For example, if I live in an urban area, and I happen to walk through a green space, we could say I valued that experience and value that green space. But there's no goal there. I may never walk through that place again. It's just appreciation and...placing value on it.

That sound's like an instinctual/emotional reaction, a forest is more likely to offer food and water than a stone/concrete desert.
Valuing is naturally tied up with emotions, is it not? Maybe not if we only value something as a means, but if we value something directly then that's probably an emotional act (or an instinctual act). I think that emotional valuing would come prior to any goal, which is why I made that small reply.

-----
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Subjective value is value that exists only insofar as someone values it and only to the person who values it ("subjective" does not mean "illusory"). On the other hand, when Korsgaard talks about unconditional value, she is talking about value that is not dependent on its connection to some further valued thing. Things could conceivably fall into any of the four combinations of these two distinctions: my shoes have subjective, conditional value (I care about them, but only insofar as they help me in my broader project of walking places); my humanity, if Korsgaard is right, has at least subjective unconditional value; if anything has objective value, then it could have it conditionally (because it's good for the furtherance of some objectively valuable end) or unconditionally (if it's objectively good and good-in-itself; for example, theists usually think that God is like this).

And, again, constructivists do not assert that anything has value objectively. They assert that a) people are rationally committed to valuing themselves (subjectively) as unconditional ends and b) that they are rationally committed to recognizing the same (subjective) value in other people.
Ah, thanks, that clarifies the usage of conditional at least. The word is a bit ambiguous otherwise--since subjective value is "value to whom?" and implicitly conditional on subjects and their varying appraisals. That perhaps ties into some of my initial problems. Since subjective value is "value to whom?", there is no obvious necessity to valuing other people. The mere fact that they are other people means there is a distinction, and a distinction can permit valuing one and not the other. Similar attributes are insufficient to force a conclusion, because we can interpret what a person values as, "I value MY X" rather than "I value X" or suchlike.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Now every human values things, so every human is committed to taking her own capacity for valuing things — her humanity — as a source of value. Since every other human has the same commitment, and has it on the same grounds, we're also committed to treating other people's humanity as a source of value. Korsgaard calls this the "unconditioned condition" of value, and she thinks that nothing could be an unconditioned condition of value unless it is itself unconditionally valuable.
I'll ask for some more specific clarification, since I found the usage of "conditional" ambigious. What is meant by "valuable"? With subjective value, I can see how anything could be literally valuable--as a conjugation of the verb "to value" one say that anything that subjects can value is "valuable". But that doesn't seem to be the intended meaning, and I cannot extrapolate another.

Tangentially, I'd interpret various non-human animal behaviors as being consistent with "valuing" things, insofar as it parallels behavior that we'd interpret as humans "valuing" things--but that's not relevant yet.
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Jhackulon » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:12 am UTC

It's the classic 'kill Hitler' thought experiment, would you shoot Hitler to save 6,000,000 lives? how about 5,999,999? or 5,999,998? and so forth until you reach one for one. I wouldn't for any number personally, grand ends can never justify poor means, but pure means can always justify unsatisfactory ends.

You can avoid having any such hopocritical value system by following a more deontological approach (also look up 'kantion', a very interesting read).

Cheers, Jack
Jhackulon
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 8:57 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Nem » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:39 am UTC

If fat people know I'm the sort of person to push fat people onto tracks, then I'm going to find fat people a lot more dangerous. Generally if people around me know I'm the sort of person to sacrifice them, they'll be on guard against me all the time.

Whereas, if people going on trains realise I'm the sort of person who won't save them, they're unlikely to accept the very probable danger involved in fighting me. Even if they won, they'd still go on the train without me there to save them.


It's a consequentialist argument, mind. But our moral intuitions did not evolve in the context of single iteration thought experiments. In the next iteration of the train track argument you and the fat man are busy fighting and the train goes off the end of the rails anyway....

#

Do the ends justify the means? Only in your head. Which is where justification seems to live anyway.
Nem
 
Posts: 334
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:19 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Greyarcher » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:54 pm UTC

Jhackulon wrote:It's the classic 'kill Hitler' thought experiment, would you shoot Hitler to save 6,000,000 lives? how about 5,999,999? or 5,999,998? and so forth until you reach one for one. I wouldn't for any number personally, grand ends can never justify poor means, but pure means can always justify unsatisfactory ends.

You can avoid having any such hopocritical value system by following a more deontological approach (also look up 'kantion', a very interesting read).
Basically, you indicate that there's a moral duty to avoid doing evil that overrides any moral duty to accomplish good. This means, effectively, that the (im)moralness of the means is infinitely more important than the moralness of the end.

Do you think that the overriding duty to avoid doing evil is superior at accomplishing good in the end? (If so, I'll note that certain perfect information hypotheticals undermine the effectiveness of such duty-based analyses.) If this is not so, what is the reason for holding this moral position that is not ultimately concerned with accomplishing good? Because a position that places infinite weight on the moralness of the means must, ultimately, be most concerned with something other than "accomplishing good ends". Otherwise, the goodness of an end could override the immorality of a means.

These are general questions for anyone who holds a position like Jhackulon expressed.

Edit: I edited my post because I predicted that my old question would be less interesting the current. Shunted the old question under a spoiler instead.
Spoiler:
You reference Hitler, an aggressor--are you saying, then, that you would never kill anyone in defense of your own life or the life of another?
In serious discussion, I usually strive to post with clarity, thoroughness, and precision so that others will not misunderstand; I strive for dispassion and an open mind, the better to avoid error.
Greyarcher
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:03 am UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby Technical Ben » Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:07 am UTC

Does this not take us back to an "unavailable information" argument? The question is with hindsight. At the time when we would be able to make such a decision, we would not know if 6 million peoples lives were at stake, or that we were being told the truth.
Nor could we know if negotiating would have better consequences, etc.

This is probably one of the few times I'd agree that short term consideration is better than long term. But only because we are sacrificing too much in the short term (human life), for a rather big unknown in the long term.
It's all physics and stamp collecting.
It's not a particle or a wave. It's just an exchange.
Technical Ben
 
Posts: 2989
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Apr 08, 2012 1:23 am UTC

Given the knowledge of what was to come, I could smother Hitler in his crib and sleep like a baby. Better yet slip his mother the morning after pill or a drug to induce an abortion after he is conceived. And then you can be sure that what you killed wasn't human, or so goes one line of thinking. But what is the point of the experiment. Is it to test what is moral or what is ethical? Like the trolly problem it is most useful when we use the answer to enlighten us as to why we feel the way we feel at all. To understand why we consider anything moral of ethical.
morriswalters
 
Posts: 3919
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:21 am UTC

Previous

Return to Serious Business

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests