1. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 00:51
    ...turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn.

    So I gather a lot of you are wondering about where we get our morals and stuff, right?

    I was looking at a couple other threads, and let's just say I was a bit disappointed.

    Does anyone here even know what philosophy is? Seriously now... I can't believe what passes for good arguments here.

    I am going to present a story. As far as I know, it is the work of Stephen Law. Before you read this, you must realize that I am independent of any theories presented and will try to be as objective as possible.

    How do we detect wrongness?


    Let's take a closer look at the view that moral value is objective, that it's 'out there' independently of us. This position is known as moral realism. As we're about to discover, moral realism faces a notorious difficulty: it seems to make knowledge of right and wrong impossible. This is because it appears unable to explain how we detect these moral properties. To see why, consider the following story.

    One morning, while Virtue is hanging out the washing, an alien spacecraft lands in her back garden. The alien crew suggests that she takes a flight with them over the city. Virtue accepts their offer, and they are soon swooping above the rooftops. The aliens render their spacecraft invisible so that they don't disturb anyone in the streets below.
    Then, as they pass low over a dark alley, Virtue spots a young man trying to steal a woman's purse. She points this out to the aliens. 'Look!' she says. 'We should help that woman. What that man is doing is wrong!'

    The aliens are mystified.

    'Ah. Wrong. We find your earthling talk of things being morally "wrong" deeply baffling. Most of your language we understand. But this property wrongness remains a mystery to us. We can find no trace of it. We want a complete theory of the universe. We don't want to miss anything out. Please point out the wrongness to us.'

    Virtue is confused. She points out of the window and says: 'But can't you just see that what that man is doing is wrong?'

    The aliens peer intently out of the window. Then they look back at Virtue.
    'No, we can't. In fact, we find your talk of "seeing wrongness" very odd. We have five senses just like yours: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But we can't find this property you call wrongness. Where is it? By which of your five senses do you detect it? You say you can see it?'

    Virtue begins to understand why the aliens are confused. After all, it seems that our five human senses provide our only window on to the world around us. So if wrongness is an objective property - if it's part of the world 'out there' - then how do we get to know about it? How do we detect wrongness?
    Virtue thinks she's spotted the confusion.

    Inferring that Something Is Wrong

    'Ah. I see your problem,' says Virtue. 'Wrongness isn't a property that you can directly observe, as you can, say, roundness. But that doesn't mean that there's a problem about establishing its existence. After all, the same is true of magnetism, isn't it? We can't see, hear, taste, touch or smell magnetism, can we?

    'True.'

    'Yet we still know that magnetism is out there, don't we? For we can legitimately infer the existence of magnetism from what we can directly observe: the effect it has on iron fillings, for example.'

    The aliens seem to be catching on. 'So you infer the wrongness of stealing from those features of stealing that you can observe?'

    'Precisely.'

    Is and Ought

    To Virtue's surprise, the aliens remain baffled.
    'You're mistaken. The inference you say you make cannot legitimately be made.'

    'Why not?' asks Virtue.

    'To say that something is wrong is to say we ought not to do it. Correct?'

    Virtue nods in agreement.

    'Well, the facts about what we ought or ought not to do are an entirely different sort of fact to the facts about what is the case.'

    Virtue is confused. 'I'm not sure I follow.'

    'Well, to say that something ought not to happen is not to say anything about what is happening. To say that this man ought not to steal that purse is not yet to say that he is or isn't stealing it, is it?'

    Virtue has to agree.

    'Conversely, to say that something is the case is not yet to say that it ought or ought not to happen.'

    Virtue is not so sure. But what about the "is" fact that stealing causes suffering and makes people unhappy? Doesn't that immediately provide us with a rational case for not doing it?'

    The aliens shake their green heads. 'No, it doesn't. Look, suppose someone delights in causing suffering and steals to make others unhappy. They actually think that it's something they ought to do. It won't do you one jot of good to point out to this person that stealing causes suffering and unhappiness. They will happily agree with you about that. They just disagree with you about whether stealing is something they ought to go in for.'

    'I see'.

    The aliens continue. 'Now there's nothing remotely irrational about this cruel person's position, is there? You might think it immoral. But there's nothing you can point to by way of "is" facts that supports your contention that causing suffering is not something one ought to do over this person's contention that it is something one ought to do. You can't, simply by pointing to the "is" facts, provide any grounds for supposing that you're correct and they're mistaken.'

    'H'm. Perhaps.'

    'So you see? You cannot directly observe wrongness, as you can, say, redness.'

    'I already agreed to that.' replies Virtue.

    'But neither can you infer the wrongness of stealing from what you can directly observe.'
    Again, Virtue has to agree. 'I guess you are right. That would require that I infer an "ought" from an "is", and that cannot legitimately be done.'

    'Correct.' say the aliens. 'As you just admitted, the "is" facts are morally neutral.'

    Virtue looks puzzled.

    'I have to admit, that is a bit of mystery.' she says.

    'You don't say.' reply the aliens, somewhat peevishly.

    A Puzzle

    The aliens sum up their bewilderment about this property - wrongness - that Virtue thinks is out there on the other side of the glass. 'But then how do you establish the existence of this strange property? You can't directly see it, smell it, touch it, taste it or hear it. But neither can you infer its presence from what you can observe as you can, say, magnetism. Yet you say you know it's there?'

    The aliens look out of the window and raise their eyebrows. 'So how do you earthlings detect this "wrongness"? If it really is out there, please point it out to us.'

    Virtue scratches her heads and peers intently at the man still struggling to take the woman's purse. 'To be honest, I don't know. I feel sure it's out there. I feel sure that what that man is doing has the property of being wrong. But I just don't know how I detect this property.'
    The aliens appear to be right: we can't directly observe wrongness. But neither can we legitimately infer its presence from what we can observe. So if the property for which the aliens are looking really is 'out there' on the other side of the glass porthole, how does Virtue detect it?
    ---------

    “Take any action allowed to be vicious: Wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all its lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice… You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion to your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you towards this action.” David Hume (1711-76)


    Subjectivism: To say something is wrong is to claim that you personally disapprove of it. Similarly, to claim something is right is to claim that you approve.

    Intersubjecivism: To say something is wrong is to claim that your community disapproves of it. Similarly, to claim something is right is to claim that your community approves.

    Emotivism: To say something is wrong is not a claim at all. Rather, it is to express disapproval of it. Similarly, to say that something is right is to express approval. Suppose I go to a football match. My team, Charleton, scores, so I say ‘hoorah for Charleton’. Do I make a claim when I say this? No, my statement involves no claim. It is neither true nor false. Notice that I’m not even making a claim about how I feel. Rather, I am expressing how I feel. To say ‘killing is wrong’ is to, in effect, say ‘boo to killing’. So ‘killing is wrong’ is neither true nor false. But then, no fact is required to make ‘killing is wrong’ true.

    None of these solve the problem of how we define moral values. They are simple subjective views on it. It’s what we feel, regardless of rationality.

    ---------


    This is intended primarily for atheistic individuals, but there is something for everyone to gain.

    Tell me what you think, leave a rec, whatever.
  2. Standard memberscottishinnz
    Kichigai!
    Osaka
    Joined
    27 Apr '05
    Moves
    8592
    21 Mar '06 01:34
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    [b]...turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn.

    So I gather a lot of you are wondering about where we get our morals and stuff, right?

    I was looking at a couple other threads, and let's just say I was a bit disappointed.

    Does anyone here even know what philosophy is? Seriously now... I can't believe what passes for good arguments here ...[text shortened]...
    A little long, but I liked the aliens....

    Yes, absolutely, "rightness" and "wrongness" are value judgements that we make upon an event or object, not inherent properties.

    I guess it comes back to our environmental conditioning. A child growing up in an athiest household is no more likely to turn out bad provided strong moral guidance is provided. Christians normally say "belief in god (heaven / hell) makes our kids better behaved, than athiest kids". I'm beginning to wonder though, actually if it's just the fact that the bible tells christians to spend more time with their kids giving them moral instruction.

    Most people who commit crimes as adults have had poor childhood experiences, I think, and are perhaps less able to differentiate between rightness and wrongness.

    Anyhoo, what do I know. Just my 2 cents.
  3. Account suspended
    Joined
    18 Jan '05
    Moves
    1875
    21 Mar '06 01:361 edit
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    [b]...turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn.

    So I gather a lot of you are wondering about where we get our morals and stuff, right?

    I was looking at a couple other threads, and let's just say I was a bit disappointed.

    Does anyone here even know what philosophy is? Seriously now... I can't believe what passes for good arguments here ...[text shortened]...
    the majority of judgments which people pass as right or wrong is based on one's own experience in life. i.e. if i wouldn't do something then it is wrong for you to do it also. this does hold truth to a large degree, yet it is not certain.


    chess players know how easy it is to take control of peoples lives and manipulate for a variety of reasons. enjoyment, greed... the list goes on.


    as a Christian i believe this is totally wrong as it robs one's life in the Lord. 'is God not bigger than these people', you may say. yes He is and He could wipe out all in an instant, BUT what are they going to do about this wrong they continue to do. how many years of sorrow will they have to enjure to bridge the gap of those wrongs? none... that's why Jesus died for you.
  4. Account suspended
    Joined
    18 Jan '05
    Moves
    1875
    21 Mar '06 02:19
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    A little long, but I liked the aliens....

    Yes, absolutely, "rightness" and "wrongness" are value judgements that we make upon an event or object, not inherent properties.

    I guess it comes back to our environmental conditioning. A child growing up in an athiest household is no more likely to turn out bad provided strong moral guidance is provided. ...[text shortened]... rentiate between rightness and wrongness.

    Anyhoo, what do I know. Just my 2 cents.
    a true Chrisian would do this anyway because they want to be acceptable in Jesus's eyes. looking after their children among many other things would be natural... for a true Christian.
  5. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 03:072 edits
    Originally posted by Kaboooomba
    a true Chrisian would do this anyway because they want to be acceptable in Jesus's eyes. looking after their children among many other things would be natural... for a true Christian.
    You've lost focus. This isn't about god, and this isn't about jesus. This is about determining morality from an objective frame of reference.


    If I ask you how you define morals and you tell me that god tells you what is right or wrong, you haven't answered the question.

    In fact, you've created more questions to answer and none of them leave us with an objective view of morality. Our faith in morality requires a faith in god, a faith in religion, a faith in something we cannot answer.


    I'm not saying you are right or wrong, I'm saying you haven't answered the question.

    Edit: I mean, with sound logic, I can even prove that believing the sun will rise from the east tomorrow is irrational. Not that it's improbable, but that it is irrational.

    Edit: Let's not get into that one yet...
  6. Standard memberscottishinnz
    Kichigai!
    Osaka
    Joined
    27 Apr '05
    Moves
    8592
    21 Mar '06 03:48
    Originally posted by Kaboooomba
    a true Chrisian would do this anyway because they want to be acceptable in Jesus's eyes. looking after their children among many other things would be natural... for a true Christian.
    Looking after your kids is natural from an evolutionary perspective.

    My favourite line in your dialogue is "a true christian would do this anyway because they want to be acceptable in Jesus' eyes". Can't they tell for themselves? Why do they need Jesus? If I was god, and that was your sole defence of how you lived your life, no matter how piously, you'd be off to the hot place. I mean, you've never made a decision of your own, other than to defer judgement to someone else. Stop being so scared to live your life!
  7. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 04:25
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    Looking after your kids is natural from an evolutionary perspective.
    Snakes, turtles, spiders, cheetahs?

    The last two just do the bare minimum. Female spiders just wait until they hatch, and female cheetahs give the kids a basic survival crash course.


    As for us humans, have you seen day time talk shows?
  8. Standard memberscottishinnz
    Kichigai!
    Osaka
    Joined
    27 Apr '05
    Moves
    8592
    21 Mar '06 05:20
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    Snakes, turtles, spiders, cheetahs?

    The last two just do the bare minimum. Female spiders just wait until they hatch, and female cheetahs give the kids a basic survival crash course.


    As for us humans, have you seen day time talk shows?
    look up r and k strategists. Despite the fact that that some species, indeed some individuals within those species, don't take particularly good care of their children it doesn't mean that they all do. Many species take good care of their young most mammals and birds for example. Any species that invests alot of energy in their young will likely protect those young.
  9. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 05:28
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    look up r and k strategists. Despite the fact that that some species, indeed some individuals within those species, don't take particularly good care of their children it doesn't mean that they all do. Many species take good care of their young most mammals and birds for example. Any species that invests alot of energy in their young will likely protect those young.
    Yes, I know. But the further you take this into evolution, the further it becomes an economic goal/incentive.

    It's really not an answer. Some take a route embedded with fear, but those paths lead us to more questions, and then even more questions.

    You guys are welcome to discuss it here. Just ask yourself if you can answer this objectively.
  10. Joined
    15 Sep '04
    Moves
    7051
    21 Mar '06 05:39
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    Yes, I know. But the further you take this into evolution, the further it becomes an economic goal/incentive.

    It's really not an answer.
    I dont see how. To me, morality is an ecomomical system which confers optimizes mutual satisfaction for individuals in a society. This can be explicated by both evolutionary stability models and developmental stability models.
  11. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 05:43
    Originally posted by Conrau K
    I dont see how. To me, morality is an ecomomical system which confers optimizes mutual satisfaction for individuals in a society. This can be explicated by both evolutionary stability models and developmental stability models.
    ... and some people/animals are born without this fondness for economics?



    Pray tell, who's right? It's still unclear to me how you decide what is right/wrong.
  12. Standard memberscottishinnz
    Kichigai!
    Osaka
    Joined
    27 Apr '05
    Moves
    8592
    21 Mar '06 06:02
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    ... and some people/animals are born without this fondness for economics?



    Pray tell, who's right? It's still unclear to me how you decide what is right/wrong.
    No just the investments in a cost benefit system differ. Look at the huge differences between large and small businesses for example.
  13. Donationbbarr
    Chief Justice
    Center of Contention
    Joined
    14 Jun '02
    Moves
    17381
    21 Mar '06 06:232 edits
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    ...turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn.

    So I gather a lot of you are wondering about where we get our morals and stuff, right?

    I was looking at a couple other threads, and let's just say I was a bit disappointed.

    Does anyone here even know what philosophy is? Seriously now... I can't believe what passes for good arguments here
    Your definition of subjectivism regarding value is incorrect. The definition you've provided is for ethical egoism. The definition of intersubjectivism regarding value is also incorrect. The definition you've provided is for normative cultural relativism. Subjectivism is a view about the source of value, not about moral rightness. At most, views about what is valuable only give us prima facie, defeasible reasons to pursue what is valuable. It is only in combination with some other premise (e.g., that one is obligated to maximize value) that this view of value entails anything at all about moral rightness. Intersubjectivism is also a view about value. Intersubjectivism claims that values arise from human interests and desires, but that there are rational constraints on what humans can value given their nature, and rational requirements to value particular things based upon principles of practical rationality. Kantians as well as many Aristotelians will be intersubjectivists about value.
  14. Mississauga, Ontario
    Joined
    28 Oct '05
    Moves
    668
    21 Mar '06 15:02
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Your definition of subjectivism regarding value is incorrect. The definition you've provided is for ethical egoism. The definition of intersubjectivism regarding value is also incorrect. The definition you've provided is for normative cultural relativism. Subjectivism is a view about the source of value, not about moral rightness. At most, views about what ...[text shortened]... l rationality. Kantians as well as many Aristotelians will be intersubjectivists about value.
    I shortened the definitions, and although I didn't explicitly say so. I've already touched on the facts you presented.

    They are not incorrect, but simply lack the completeness one feels when everything is handed down on the proverbial silver platter.
  15. Donationbbarr
    Chief Justice
    Center of Contention
    Joined
    14 Jun '02
    Moves
    17381
    21 Mar '06 17:56
    Originally posted by Tetsujin
    I shortened the definitions, and although I didn't explicitly say so. I've already touched on the facts you presented.

    They are not incorrect, but simply lack the completeness one feels when everything is handed down on the proverbial silver platter.
    Shortened = Completely changed? You added a bunch of crap about moral rightness to the definitions for subjectivism and intersubjectivism about value. So, your definitions are incorrect.
Back to Top