Immanuel Can wrote:But, as Kai Neilson rightly points out, "reason" isn't going to get you morality. You pointed out the essential problem yourself, in your last message: bad premises + logic = bad (or at least invalid) conclusion. Good premises + logic = valid conclusion. EVERYTHING depends on the premises, not on the reasoning that follows from them. The reasoning can be unimpeachable, but if the premises are bad you're going to get errant conclusions.mysterio448 wrote:I don't believe that morality is a matter of taste but is a matter of reason. Deciding what is moral is not to be thought of as a discrete decision but as an ongoing intellectual process.
So I'm agreeing with you that reasoning is useful as a process -- but only after the RIGHT premises are put into the reasoning-mechanism. It' the premises that need justification.
You seem to be interpreting "premise" in this context as certain absolute moral principles, but that is not what I interpret "premise" to mean in the moral context. I understand premise to mean not the moral conclusions one chooses to follow but the details of the situation, both the external circumstances and the internal circumstances.
There is no such thing as a "correct" moral standard. There is only a moral standard that works well or works poorly relative to the demands of the situation.Not so. There's no equivocation there. It won't matter if you take it as morally-worse or quality-worse: you're still going to have the same problem, namely that you'll need to prove that whatever moral standard or quality standard you're referring to is the correct one. And absent any objective moral OR quality standard, how are you going to do that?
It is not implausible. If everyone gets what they want, then no one gets what they don't want. "Everyone getting what they want" implies that no one person's satisfaction overrides that of another.If Hitler gets what he wants, and Mother Teresa gets what she wants, then we're all good? Implausible, for obvious reasons.
This is incorrect. I don't have to know the quintessential or absolute example of a certain quality to understand when one thing has that quality more than another. For example, I know that an elephant is bigger than a dog, but I don't have to know the biggest thing in the universe to make this comparison.Whenever you use a scale, you are rationally obliged to apply a teleological view of your own. For example, if you say X is "more fulfilling" than Y, you could not possibly judge that without some view of what "human fulfillment" ultimately consists in. Or if you say X is "more practical" than Y, you are obligated to say "practical for goal Z, A or B, which are the right 'practical' purposes for us to have."
I understand you assert this is so -- but I see nothing that even suggests why you would think you're right about it. "True satisfaction"? How is anyone going to get that without knowing what "satisfaction" is? "Satisfaction" of what impulse? For what purpose? To what end?
Interestingly, you then refer to "whims" as "petty," and the "ego or the emotions" as likewise. But how can you know this, if all you've got to go on is some provisional feeling of "satisfaction"? What makes one thing "petty" and another "satisfying"? For it surely must be apparent to you that ego can be very strong, and what you regard as "whims" are often major issues to other people.
Satisfaction is found through introspection and self-knowledge; it is not achieved by way of some external principle. Life experience and reflection will allow one to discriminate between petty whims and true satisfaction.
The relativity of time doesn't mean that time can be reversed; it means that time is not absolute. The passage of time can speed up or slow down depending on how fast you are going or whether you are exposed to a gravitational field.Then make it go backwards for us. I want to be young again.
All this...light waves, Schrodiger's Cat, etc. Is presently being revisited because of new scientific developments. It is now thought that a strategy called "modest observation" is capable of yielding a definite answer to this apparent paradox: and if so, we'd be unwise to make much of a popular misconception teetering on the brink of disproof. But either way, it's merely an argument from analogy, and that strategy always requires definite showing that the analogy is apt, and does not contain a significant difference from its referent. In this case, the analogy from physics to morality is clearly far too stretched to be compelling.
You're making the old mistake of arguing from "relativity" (i.e. a scientific theory about the physical world) to "relativism" (i.e. an ideology about the metaphysical). There's never been a good argument to be made that way. See, you say...
No, that does not follow. That illegitimately jumps from physics to metaphysics, from an IS statement to an OUGHT, and from facts to moral assessments.
I was not trying to say that because many scientific observations are relative that therefore morality is relative. I was responding to your assumption that everything has to be based upon some kind of objective standard, but objectiveness is largely an illusion in reality. I was trying to say that we should leave open the possibility that morality is also not objective.
If I were being cheeky I'd say, try disbelieving in your government, and see if that works for you.
Whether or not one "believes" others have authority over one has nothing to do with whether or not they do. Your government will lock you up if you steal, even if you protest you don't believe in governments. Likewise, if a moral law -- or a moral law Giver -- exists, then the fact that a person doesn't know that it exists will not stop it applying. But metaphysicians are fond of pointing to human conscience as an indication that we do, indeed, know the existence of at least some objective moral imperatives. Whether or not they're right, ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially if the law has been revealed in some form and can be known. Then refusal to know would just be willful disobedience. And we even recognize that in common law.
If I disbelieve in the existence of the government, then the prospect of retribution from the government will have no influence over my actions. Whether I get punished by the government for breaking the law is a separate issue.
And also the existence of conscience does not imply objective moral imperatives. There are times when people deem it necessary to subjugate the conscience in preference to moral reasoning. I would assume that the people behind the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have felt some conscientious objections to what they did; no one wants to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children. But they still did it anyway because they reasoned that the situation called for it.
Your government example is not relevant to the point you are making. God is not going to come and arrest me and lock me up if I do something wrong. Whatever punishment he may give me will happen after I'm dead, but by then it will be too late to prevent me from doing whatever evils I may want to do."Applicable" yes: but a thing can be "applicable" without your say-so. See the government example above. "Intuitive," it's not clear why you would think that: why would you assume that morality must be "intuitive"? Can you go further with that?
Why would you assume that morality doesn't have to be intuitive? If it's not intuitive then what reason does anyone have to behave morally? I think in some way we may be talking past each other because we are actually talking about two different senses of the concept of "morality." You are referring to morality in the sense of an external set of general rules and guidelines that serve to maintain peace and order in society; I am talking about an internal motivating force that helps one to make specific decisions for specific situations.
What does your objective morality tell you about the US's decision to kill thousands of innocent civilians in Japan? What would God say about it?
But, as Kai Nielson points out, on an atheist account, why would you have any hesitation about abject selfishness and egocentrism? After all, there's no objective evil, so those things are essentially as "good" as any other value on earth. But you clearly don't think they are, so now you have to ask yourself why you don't think they are.
It's all about seeking one's best self. I like what one philosopher says: "The philosopher has notions of good and evil unlike those of other men. For they are courageous because they are afraid of greater dangers, and temperate because they desire greater pleasures." Being a good person is not about self-sacrifice but achievement of deeper levels of satisfaction. Selfishness can be pleasing to an extent, but when one indulges in it too much it can be self-defeating. Furthermore, "selfishness" is a concept that is open to interpretation; what is selfish to one person may just be sensible achievement of self-interest to another. God will not tell you which is which; only reason will tell you.
That may make you a "better" person than if you did otherwise. But on an atheist account, it's impossible to see that it does. I'm personally glad you're a nice person in this regard: but nothing in your atheism makes you choose to be this way rather than any other. After all, there are no objective standards, according to what you've said...so if you were an axe-murderer, you would be just as "good" a person as you are now. After all, it seems the term "good" has no objective referent or scale of values, according to your view.
You are correct that my atheism makes no demands of me in terms of morality. But from experience I have found that the same is largely true of Christians. I have found that many Christians think of Christianity as merely a "get out of hell free" card and don't really pay much attention to the details of their faith. Religion for many is something that has mainly social significance and has little influence over their personal behavior. Most people don't really look at religion in a moralistic way. And also don't forget the Christians who kill abortion doctors and the Muslims who carve people's heads off and blow themselves up in the name of God.
Once again, you are talking about external rules imposed upon the individual while I am talking about internal motivation and reasoning behind moral decisions. Whatever the external rules may be, I still have to make up my own mind about what I should do and why I should do it.I think this mixes up two different issues: 1) the justification for morality, and 2) the motivation for morality. If a law against -- say adultery -- actually exists, the question of whether that is a good law is different from the question of whether or not I'm going to want to obey it.
I think that perhaps that may be at the root of your dilemma regarding morality: perhaps you think that whatever morality is, you have to *like* it before it counts. But it would be hard to see why that has to be true. It would only be reasonable to suppose in the case that nothing you could possibly *like* could be bad. But I don't think we'll have any trouble making the case that people *like* a great many bad things. Some like to smoke and give themselves cancer. Some like theft. Some enjoy torture, rape or murder....the cases can be multiplied very easily. And it must be clear to anyone that in at least some of these cases, the perpetrator is not going to find any moral law against those actions "motivating."
Motivation is an important issue, but it's not primary. "Is there a law?" comes before "Do I like the law?" for the second already assumes the first, as you can see.
One thing you seem to be ignoring is the fact that one may find oneself in a situation in which there is no established objective moral rule on record. People find themselves in complicated situations that are not addressed in the Bible. In such situations, what exactly are people supposed to do?