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Debates Forum

  1. 09 Sep '10 15:35
    Neo: Are you saying that I must choose whether Trinity lives or dies?
    Oracle: You have already made that choice. Now you must understand it.

    The Matrix Reloaded


    In a deterministic universe, an act of premeditated murder or saving a person from drowning is no more and no less an event in the system than an apple falling to the ground under gravity. Is there any point to assigning moral status to the former but not the latter? Why ethics in a deterministic universe?
  2. 09 Sep '10 15:38
    For this question to have any relevance you must first establish that the universe is in fact deterministic.
  3. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    09 Sep '10 15:41
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Why ethics in a deterministic universe?
    Human nature demands heroes and villains.
  4. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    09 Sep '10 15:47 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Neo: Are you saying that I must choose whether Trinity lives or dies?
    Oracle: You have already made that choice. Now you must understand it.

    The Matrix Reloaded


    In a deterministic universe, an act of premeditated murder or saving a person from drowning is no more and no less an event in the system than an apple falling to ...[text shortened]... assigning moral status to the former but not the latter? Why ethics in a deterministic universe?
    Are you excluding compatibilism from the outset?

    My first thought would be that determinism doesn't imply you would do the same thing in different worlds. If moral responsibility entails any consequences, then the world with or without it would be a different world. So the assignment or not of moral responsibility does affect the outcome.
  5. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    09 Sep '10 15:48
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    For this question to have any relevance you must first establish that the universe is in fact deterministic.
    Why is the default non-determinism?
  6. 09 Sep '10 15:58
    Originally posted by Palynka
    Why is the default non-determinism?
    It's not, but if you want to give any conclusions about ethics based on the assumption that the universe is deterministic, then you have to prove the assumption first.
  7. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    09 Sep '10 15:59 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    It's not, but if you want to give any conclusions about ethics based on the assumption that the universe is deterministic, then you have to prove the assumption first.
    So you're not allowed to discuss the consequences of a possible assumption?

    Wow.
  8. 09 Sep '10 16:01
    Originally posted by Palynka
    So you're not allowed to discuss the consequences of a possible assumption?

    Wow.
    Well, sure you are "allowed", I just don't think it's particularly meaningful in this case.
  9. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    09 Sep '10 16:02
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    Well, sure you are "allowed", I just don't think it's particularly meaningful in this case.
    I'm sure you don't.
  10. 09 Sep '10 16:40 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Palynka
    Are you excluding compatibilism from the outset?

    My first thought would be that determinism doesn't imply you would do the same thing in different worlds. If moral responsibility entails any consequences, then the world with or without it would be a different world. So the assignment or not of moral responsibility does affect the outcome.
    I don't think compatibilism actually adds anything to the question. Let's say I feed a hungry child and my actions are compatible with my desires. So what? Both my act and my desires are no less pre-determined than an apple falling to the ground and making a soft "thud". Why ascribe moral status to one and not the other? What makes one event "good" but not the other? Isn't the line between events ascribed a moral status and those that aren't arbitrary?

    EDIT: A utilitarian could get around this by describing events that increase net happiness (say) of beings capable of happiness as "good"; in which case an apple falling could in fact be "good" and have a moral status. I'd have to think about such a response more but I think the question of a special status for beings capable of happiness such that events that affect them have a morality comes up.

    (A meta-philosophical question would be the point of the discipline of ethics in itself.)

    If we live in a deterministic universe, then all events within this universe are completely specified by the initial conditions of the universe. There simply cannot be another universe (even conceptually) that is identical to ours up to a point T-deltaT before the "moral" event - so there's no question of "possible worlds" where event E doesn't occur.
  11. 09 Sep '10 16:48
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Why ethics in a deterministic universe?
    Why ethics in a non-deterministic universe?
  12. 09 Sep '10 16:52
    Originally posted by Thomaster
    Why ethics in a non-deterministic universe?
    Start a new thread and I'll bite.
  13. 09 Sep '10 16:54
    I don't think this discussion was meant to be a "this is our reality" discussion. I think it was meant to be a "let's discus ethics in the Matrix reality".

    I would think that ethics in a non-deterministic universe would be a different thread. This thread was meant to discuss ethics under the condition of a deterministic universe.
  14. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    09 Sep '10 16:57
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Neo: Are you saying that I must choose whether Trinity lives or dies?
    Oracle: You have already made that choice. Now you must understand it.

    The Matrix Reloaded


    In a deterministic universe, an act of premeditated murder or saving a person from drowning is no more and no less an event in the system than an apple falling to ...[text shortened]... assigning moral status to the former but not the latter? Why ethics in a deterministic universe?
    Because the universe is deterministic and it determined humans would value ethics.
  15. Donation bbarr
    Chief Justice
    09 Sep '10 17:59
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    I don't think compatibilism actually adds anything to the question. Let's say I feed a hungry child and my actions are compatible with my desires. So what? Both my act and my desires are no less pre-determined than an apple falling to the ground and making a soft "thud". Why ascribe moral status to one and not the other? What makes one event "good" bu ...[text shortened]... nt - so there's no question of "possible worlds" where event E doesn't occur.
    I am unsure why you think there is any tension between our modes of ethical evaluation and assessment and the possibility that our universe is deterministic. Consider these questions you ask above:

    "Why ascribe moral status to one and not the other? What makes one event "good" but not the other? Isn't the line between events ascribed a moral status and those that aren't arbitrary?"

    These questions can and have been fruitfully asked in moral philosophy independently of worries about determinism. Is there anything about determinism in particular that makes these questions more pressing? I'd figure that the supposed tension between determinism and freedom informs your questions, but then you claim that compatibilism doesn't really add anything to the debate. So, I'm confused. Can you clarify?