Originally posted by LemonJello
This is a great stream.
For starters, I was wondering about your claim that Premises I, II, III are 'basic'. In this context, I understand that term to mean foundational, as in taken without any underlying support. You say, essentially, that I (absurdity) and II (non-duality) are basic because they are 'self-evident', but I'm wondering if n on the contrary it runs counter to intuition. How would you respond to that?
Thanks for your response and helpful questions.
Yes, self-evident is too strong a term. (This was also before I read Scrib’s essay on the nature of axioms.) For the moment I’ll drop back top something like “intuitively clear to me.” If one wants to take them as simply premises, that’s fine.
I tend to ask people what they mean by “meaning” when they use that word. I am using it pretty synonymously with understanding (hence the slash)—how we come to understand the world (not in simply a descriptive sense). Colloquially, the existential story we tell to others and ourselves, that we have learned.
Sometimes people in discourse seem to extend it to teleology, and what they see as their purpose in life. I think the same argument holds.
I would use this word simply in the sense of preference ordering or clustering. What I value is what is dear to me. Moral values are one kind of value.
I have really ignored moral considerations here, as I am skeptical about how much one can draw moral conclusions from a non-theistic spiritual philosophy. I am not a deontologist (though I was—without knowing the word—for most of my life). I have no systematic moral theory to offer others. I would probably mostly take a Taoist view that non-duality/non-separability implies that “immoral” behavior (such as causing undue pain and suffering) is disharmonious, both socially and with regard to the individual psyche, and—in the sense that I have used the term here—incoherent with the nature of the whole, hence destructive; and that probably is intuitive.
Rather than a western “sin” view of things, I take an eastern “illusion” view of things. If one does not realize that certain behavior is destructive of the coherence of the Tao (again both in which and of which we are)—if one cannot see clearly how “out of whack” it is to deliberately cause undue suffering, or not to intervene when another is committing such behavior, then one is—well, not seeing clearly, but operating under some illusion.
When I talked of facts in section I, I was not addressing the question of moral facts at all. I dislike the term, but perhaps I do not understand it correctly. I suspect you are correct “that when you press people and make them dig down to their moral foundations, a lot of them will probably just tell you that they take some moral facts to be just plain and obvious”. However, there seems to be a redundancy in that statement, in that what seems plain and obvious is likely to be taken for a fact. Also, that kind of statement seems to come when one can no longer argue the validity of one’s moral conclusions...
I would rather say that (1) we infer, perhaps largely intuitively, moral conclusions from a set of facts and circumstances; (2) there may well be a moral grammar to our consciousness that determines how such conclusions are arrived at; (3) the commonality of that grammar leads to (statistically anyway) a commonality of moral conclusions across humanity; (4) individual variations in that grammar lead to individual variations with respect to moral conclusions (I also tend to be a perspectivist), although generally within the bounds of “central tendency”.*
With all that said, would not Camus view the seeking of a sure moral system to be another attempt to escape the absurd? In the real situation, are “moral facts” always
so clear that we do not have to wrestle with them? I always find moral decision-making to be a bit messier than moral theorizing...
The key word in that phrase “undue pain and suffering” seems to be undue
. Can I always tell that? Some people argue for moral positions that have nothing to do with undue pain and suffering (I am likely not to agree with them). For example: is it a “moral fact” that humans ought to be vegetarian—that meat-eating necessarily causes undue pain and suffering? How does such a “moral fact” (if it is one) square with the natural facts of our physiology? Were/are hunter-gatherer societies inherently immoral on this score? Is not a great deal of our talk about moral theory really descriptive of how we think people come to moral decisions, or how we think we do?
* I would not argue a moral theory strictly from the, possibly pathological, tails of the distribution.