Is morality just a subset of reason?

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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mysterio448
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Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:37 am

During WWII, the US dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of people, most of them non-combatant civilians including women and children, were killed. Many near the center of the blast were subjected to such extreme heat that their bodies were simply vaporized from existence. Many were burned alive, or crushed from debris, or died from radiation sickness. Generations of Japanese have suffered health problems from the radiation exposure. Yet despite all this calamity, many do not consider the bombing morally wrong. Some historians have argued that the bombing was necessary because it forced Japan to surrender and also because it obviated a ground invasion of Japan -- through these factors, the bombs may have prevented more deaths, on both sides of the war, than they caused.

My point is not to debate the ethics of the bombing, but to point out that it has been justified by many people as a necessary act of war. But why should morality work differently in wartime than it does in peacetime? The fact is, the American bombing of those Japanese cities was a government-approved act of murder. I do not say this to condemn the bombings but only to describe them. Some people would say that murder is categorically wrong, but this situation would seem to indicate otherwise.

If the mass-murder of innocents can be justified, then anything can potentially be justified. But is that all morality is -- justification? Perhaps there is no such thing as right or wrong, per se; there is only what you can justify and what you can't. Perhaps, there are no rigid moral imperatives or absolutes; there are only arguments and lines of reasoning.

With this in mind, one might consider the possibility that the thing we call "morality" is really nothing more than a subset of logic and reason. What do you think about this conclusion? Is this the accurate way of looking at morality, or is there more to it?

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:29 pm

It is an unreasonable position to hold that the atomic bombing of Japan was a necessary act of war, or that they helped end the war.
They would say that, wouldn't they.
But it was all post hoc reasoning.

You have only to review the chain of events to know that those positions are flim-flam. And most historians have pointed out the truth of the matter. The idea that the bombs hastened the war, is one of those many facts of history that we take on faith as children then learn the truth in later life.

The fact is that by 1945 Japanese people were not in the moral framework of US thinking. They were no longer deemed human, and so were fair targets.
The fact is that the Manhattan Project took much longer than expected and so there was a rush to try the bombs out on a soft target whilst they still had the chance to justify the $2 billion price tag. They had two types of bombs and wanted to find out which was the most effective.
1) Neither targets had any military significance. They were civilian targets. This choice ensured maximum safety for the crew and the success of the mission.
2) After the first bomb, communications were out, and the Japanese High Command knew very little about the results. It was not brought into discussions about the ending of the war with the Emperor.
3) So before the true significance of the first bomb could be assessed the second bomb was dropped as per mission plan. No one waited to hear the reaction from the Japanese. And there was none forthcoming. If the plan was the hasten the war: why drop a second bomb?
4) Even after the second bomb the Emperor was unmoved by the events.
5) However, what was in discussion is the fact that the greatest ever single assembled army in history had just taken all of Manchuria from the Japanese in a couple of days. Manchuria had fallen to the Russians and they were preparing to conquer Japan. The disparity between the non-existent Japanese defence and the Russian forces would have meant Japan would have fallen in very quickly.
6) Japan wishing to avoid being taken over by Russia, put themselves in the hands of the Americans hoping for a better long term settlement.

This is how most historians read the events, based on actual accounts of the Japanese leadership.

Vor
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Vor » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:11 pm

We must place blame where it truly belongs.

Japan's leadership. The greatest blame rests here for their decision to go to war, their inability to recognize defeat and the arrogance that led them to needlessly sacrifice the lives of so many Japanese.

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:00 am

Vor wrote:We must place blame where it truly belongs.

Japan's leadership. The greatest blame rests here for their decision to go to war, their inability to recognize defeat and the arrogance that led them to needlessly sacrifice the lives of so many Japanese.
And if the USA had systematically executed all the Japanese people - would that still place the blame on the Japanese leadership?

It always tales two to tango. The atomic bomb drops were just an experiment. They were not needed.

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vegetariantaxidermy
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:55 am

Hobbes' Choice wrote:It is an unreasonable position to hold that the atomic bombing of Japan was a necessary act of war, or that they helped end the war.
They would say that, wouldn't they.
But it was all post hoc reasoning.

You have only to review the chain of events to know that those positions are flim-flam. And most historians have pointed out the truth of the matter. The idea that the bombs hastened the war, is one of those many facts of history that we take on faith as children then learn the truth in later life.

The fact is that by 1945 Japanese people were not in the moral framework of US thinking. They were no longer deemed human, and so were fair targets.
The fact is that the Manhattan Project took much longer than expected and so there was a rush to try the bombs out on a soft target whilst they still had the chance to justify the $2 billion price tag. They had two types of bombs and wanted to find out which was the most effective.
1) Neither targets had any military significance. They were civilian targets. This choice ensured maximum safety for the crew and the success of the mission.
2) After the first bomb, communications were out, and the Japanese High Command knew very little about the results. It was not brought into discussions about the ending of the war with the Emperor.
3) So before the true significance of the first bomb could be assessed the second bomb was dropped as per mission plan. No one waited to hear the reaction from the Japanese. And there was none forthcoming. If the plan was the hasten the war: why drop a second bomb?
4) Even after the second bomb the Emperor was unmoved by the events.
5) However, what was in discussion is the fact that the greatest ever single assembled army in history had just taken all of Manchuria from the Japanese in a couple of days. Manchuria had fallen to the Russians and they were preparing to conquer Japan. The disparity between the non-existent Japanese defence and the Russian forces would have meant Japan would have fallen in very quickly.
6) Japan wishing to avoid being taken over by Russia, put themselves in the hands of the Americans hoping for a better long term settlement.

This is how most historians read the events, based on actual accounts of the Japanese leadership.
Excellent post. And let's not forget that the Americans were itching to try out their new toy on real victims. If they had done it to 'end the war' and 'save lives' (American lives of course, since they are the only ones that matter) why did they also bomb Nagasaki?

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:32 pm

vegetariantaxidermy wrote:
Hobbes' Choice wrote:It is an unreasonable position to hold that the atomic bombing of Japan was a necessary act of war, or that they helped end the war.
They would say that, wouldn't they.
But it was all post hoc reasoning.

You have only to review the chain of events to know that those positions are flim-flam. And most historians have pointed out the truth of the matter. The idea that the bombs hastened the war, is one of those many facts of history that we take on faith as children then learn the truth in later life.

The fact is that by 1945 Japanese people were not in the moral framework of US thinking. They were no longer deemed human, and so were fair targets.
The fact is that the Manhattan Project took much longer than expected and so there was a rush to try the bombs out on a soft target whilst they still had the chance to justify the $2 billion price tag. They had two types of bombs and wanted to find out which was the most effective.
1) Neither targets had any military significance. They were civilian targets. This choice ensured maximum safety for the crew and the success of the mission.
2) After the first bomb, communications were out, and the Japanese High Command knew very little about the results. It was not brought into discussions about the ending of the war with the Emperor.
3) So before the true significance of the first bomb could be assessed the second bomb was dropped as per mission plan. No one waited to hear the reaction from the Japanese. And there was none forthcoming. If the plan was the hasten the war: why drop a second bomb?
4) Even after the second bomb the Emperor was unmoved by the events.
5) However, what was in discussion is the fact that the greatest ever single assembled army in history had just taken all of Manchuria from the Japanese in a couple of days. Manchuria had fallen to the Russians and they were preparing to conquer Japan. The disparity between the non-existent Japanese defence and the Russian forces would have meant Japan would have fallen in very quickly.
6) Japan wishing to avoid being taken over by Russia, put themselves in the hands of the Americans hoping for a better long term settlement.

This is how most historians read the events, based on actual accounts of the Japanese leadership.
Excellent post. And let's not forget that the Americans were itching to try out their new toy on real victims. If they had done it to 'end the war' and 'save lives' (American lives of course, since they are the only ones that matter) why did they also bomb Nagasaki?
Exactly my point.
They never gave the Japanese a chance to assess, the first bomb before they dropped the second one.

Vor
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Vor » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:37 am

War is dehumanization and Japan exelled at it during WWII and still does for the failure to truly show penance for the war. Germany owned up to all responsibility for their role in WWII,but Japan pretends to be the victim and fails to teach her citizens the reality of that time.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:15 pm

Morality cannot be a subset of reason.

Reason is a formal procedure, one that applies to any content but to no specific content exclusively. It's useful for anything.

Morality is substantive, since it is inevitably premised on content -- specific valuations and ontology related to a specific worldview, not to all worldviews.

You can reason within a specific set of moral presuppositions, but reason pur laine does not issue in any particular moral precepts. It's not the kind of thing that does that.

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:01 pm

Vor wrote:War is dehumanization and Japan exelled at it during WWII and still does for the failure to truly show penance for the war. Germany owned up to all responsibility for their role in WWII,but Japan pretends to be the victim and fails to teach her citizens the reality of that time.
I don't think that is the case. Both countries have some people that are unrepentant, but both have had non aggressive foreign policies since WW2.

If you want to look to see who has not paid attention to the horrors of war, you need look no further than the victors.

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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:02 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:Morality cannot be a subset of reason.

Reason is a formal procedure, one that applies to any content but to no specific content exclusively. It's useful for anything.

Morality is substantive, since it is inevitably premised on content -- specific valuations and ontology related to a specific worldview, not to all worldviews.

You can reason within a specific set of moral presuppositions, but reason pur laine does not issue in any particular moral precepts. It's not the kind of thing that does that.
I agree with this.
But do not be surprised when I throw it back in your face one day.

mysterio448
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:11 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:Morality cannot be a subset of reason.

Reason is a formal procedure, one that applies to any content but to no specific content exclusively. It's useful for anything.

Morality is substantive, since it is inevitably premised on content -- specific valuations and ontology related to a specific worldview, not to all worldviews.

You can reason within a specific set of moral presuppositions, but reason pur laine does not issue in any particular moral precepts. It's not the kind of thing that does that.

If reason can only be used within the context of moral presuppositions, then what does one use to determine the moral presuppositions themselves?

If I assume that murder is wrong, yet I happen to find myself in a situation where I find it within reason to commit murder to serve some higher goal, I could basically override this moral precept by way of reason. Doesn't this indicate that reason takes precedence over moral presuppositions?

Vor
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Vor » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:15 pm

We must place blame where it truly belongs.

Japan's leadership. The greatest blame rests here for their decision to go to war, their inability to recognize defeat and the arrogance that led them to needlessly sacrifice the lives of so many Japanese.

More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt)

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:47 pm

Hobbes' Choice wrote:I agree with this. But do not be surprised when I throw it back in your face one day.
I would be. It has nothing to do with the justification of morality. Reason is like maths...it can be used to do all sorts of things, but just as maths cannot be said to be a subset of engineering, reason isn't a subset of morality.

Moral reasoning is only possible if objective morality exists and can be known. I think it does and is, and you think it doesn't. You have no moral premises you can start with, and I do. So you cannot reason within the moral categories, but I can.

So hey, go ahead and throw...you won't hit anything...even by your own reckoning. :)

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:58 pm

mysterio448 wrote:If reason can only be used within the context of moral presuppositions, then what does one use to determine the moral presuppositions themselves?
Now you've got the important question! Good for you. :D

Christians say, "They are revealed by God." Atheists have no reason to think that there are any moral premises at all, just as David Hume so astutely pointed out.
If I assume that murder is wrong, yet I happen to find myself in a situation where I find it within reason to commit murder to serve some higher goal, I could basically override this moral precept by way of reason.
No, you couldn't. I see you've accidentally fallen into the fallacy of ambivalence between the word "reason" and the word "reasons." Don't worry: it's a common mistake.

You could only "override" a particular moral judgment you made by positing contrary "reasonS," yet not by reason itself. Pure reason would have no opinion on the matter...but you might have opinions and your own reasons for doing what you did. That's quite different.

To illustrate, you may have reasons for abandoning your spouse. That does not mean that pure reason compelled you to do it, or to stay. Reason is a procedure, not a premise. It does not care what you do, and is not capable, any more than maths can care.
Doesn't this indicate that reason takes precedence over moral presuppositions?
No. One is merely procedural, the other is premise-based.

Now, reason can use premises, but it does not depend on any particular premises. And reason, since it does not contradict premises itself but only points out when it is possible to see that two premises contradict each other, has no view.

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:11 pm

mysterio448 wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:Morality cannot be a subset of reason.

Reason is a formal procedure, one that applies to any content but to no specific content exclusively. It's useful for anything.

Morality is substantive, since it is inevitably premised on content -- specific valuations and ontology related to a specific worldview, not to all worldviews.

You can reason within a specific set of moral presuppositions, but reason pur laine does not issue in any particular moral precepts. It's not the kind of thing that does that.

If reason can only be used within the context of moral presuppositions, then what does one use to determine the moral presuppositions themselves?

If I assume that murder is wrong, yet I happen to find myself in a situation where I find it within reason to commit murder to serve some higher goal, I could basically override this moral precept by way of reason. Doesn't this indicate that reason takes precedence over moral presuppositions?
Things determined are not necessarily decided upon but come unbidden and are urged by your social and cultural context under which lies a subsumed human nature, structured and modified by culture.
Morals can follow their own cultural logic which no formal process can unpick.
Murder is not objectively wrong. It is a crime in certain cultural contexts.

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