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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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:37 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
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.
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.

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.

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?
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.
If Hitler gets what he wants, and Mother Teresa gets what she wants, then we're all good? Implausible, for obvious reasons.
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.

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."
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.
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.

Then make it go backwards for us. I want to be young again.
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.


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. :D

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.

"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?
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.

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.


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.
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.

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?

mysterio448
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 5:41 pm

Hobbes' Choice wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:
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.
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.
.
The trouble is with your approach is that all your premises are based on unfounded suppositions, as all moral laws are. They are always contingent of the sectional interests of the people who wield the moral power, regardless of ANY objective criteria.

The problem does not lie with reason or logic but with what assumptions to apply them, and in moral cases there is no objective ground. Moral are rooted in complicated social, and emotional states, bound from customary and therefore relative and contingent positions which in healthy societies are always in a state of flux.
Pretending you can bring moral absolutes and objective criteria is a untenable conservative and unresponsive position. You might think you are objective but moral law has to respond to change.
You suggest that morality is determined by society. But society is merely an abstraction. What is real are people. There exists no hard barrier between individuals and society. It is a kind of paradox: Individuals are subject to societal rules and norms, but at the same time it is the moral reasoning of individuals that determines what is right and wrong.

Many societies throughout history have accepted practices and institutions that people today would consider immoral, things such as human sacrifice, racial and class persecution, slavery, subjugation of women, cruel and unusual punishments or executions, etc. Should the individual just lay back and accept the norms of society or should he reason for himself about what is appropriate or inapproprate?

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

Post by Immanuel Can » Sun Jul 05, 2015 5:50 pm

mysterio448 wrote: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.
Not at all. I'm just pointing to a basic axiom that could be said of issues moral or having nothing to do with morality at all. False premises are always destructive to any salutary effects of reason. And that is precisely what you said yourself, I believe. I was merely emphasizing the importance of the point.
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.

But no description -- that is, no mere description -- of facts, details and circumstances will lead us to a moral conclusion. Take, for example, this observation:

"Thousands are starving in Ethiopia."

What are we to make of that? That we ought to give them money? That we ought to go over there and serve as rescue workers? That we ought to apply to Ethiopia to adopt? That we should change the channel so that we don't have to watch depressing statistics? That the government of Ethiopia should be overthrown? That Ethiopia is off our list for that new liver we need? That Ethiopians are incapable of handling their own affairs? That starvation happens, and without it the world population would become problematic? That YouTube will provide us with disturbing pictures to satisfy our prurient curiosities? Or is nothing at all implied, but that this is some interesting data to feed into the sociological statistics we're accumulating?

You can't tell from the description. A description, as philosophers put it is not a prescription. Even knowing all the facts of a situation does not tell us what we are supposed to do with what we learn. And lacking any objective moral premises to guide us, such as "Starving people should be fed by those with money," or, on the other hand, "Starving people must be left to die," we are totally morally at sea.

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.
Who defines "the situation" and what it "demands"? And when something "works," for what ought it to "work"?

Nietzsche was right about this: that if there is no objectivity to morality, then we are, to use his words, "beyond good and evil," and can't get back to them at all. There is no "this works" in a neutral sense. Something only "works for..." some power objective of the person who is attributing "workability" to it.

So why should we bow to what you say "works"? What if it doesn't "work" for us? Your goal is the preservation of your property, and locking your door "works" for you; but my goal is to possess your computer and jewelry, and a crowbar "works" for me much better than your lock "works" for you. Where is the moral dimension in that situation, and how do you know it's there?
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.
Ah, but you forgot Sartre there. "Hell is other people." His hyperbolical point is simply that there is no such thing as people "getting what they want" so long as other people exist. And morality -- as I pointed out earlier -- invariably is about what we do with and to others, and what they do with and to us.

So what you're really describing is actually a sort of speculative "ideal" with no reality to it, and no morality in it. This speculative 'ideal' could only be possible on a planet with only one inhabitant. Everywhere else, morality comes back as a necessity, and -- to quote the great philosopher Mick Jagger -- "You can't always get what you want..."
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.
You've misunderstood me. Perhaps I was unclear. You don't have to be able to conceive of the largest thing possible in order to conceive of largeness. I'm not suggesting that at all. But what I am suggesting is that if you have an ant, a dog and an elephant, you've got small -- bigger -- biggest worked out in your head even to observe a difference. Thus you've posited an objective scale of difference there.
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.
Ah, but now what a pack of difficulties you've put to yourself. For now you've posited that "self" pre-exists. (After all, one cannot "introspect" nothing, and one cannot have "self-knowledge" if there is not preexisting "self" to know). So now "self" is objective. But if you deny that "self" is objective, then how can you "know" what this jelly-like, amorphous property you're signifying by the world "wants" in order to be "satisfied"?
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.
And yet, as I pointed out, in it's flow direction it most certainly IS absolute. So the measurement of time may differ, but time itself moves with universal, objective directionality. Thus it is not a case of relativism.
I was not trying to say that because many scientific observations are relative that therefore morality is relative.
Oh good...because that would be a false analogy, clearly.
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.
Of course that is possible: but its truthfulness depends on which premise is true -- that objective morality exists, or that it does not. Again, it is the premises that need defense, but "reason" isn't going to solve anything for us until that's settled. We need our premises.
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.
True. But motivation isn't the issue either. It would be a mental error, as I suggested below, to say, "unless I find premise X or Y morally motivating, it can't be true." There's no logic in that, if we were inclined to make such a jump.
they reasoned that the situation called for it.
This claim makes no sense on your description of morality. It can only mean, "We looked at the war situation, and decided we wanted to kill the Japanese and not be killed ourselves." Fine. But again, no one asked the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The situation" did not "call" for anything. "Situations" do not "call." People "call" for certain actions because they "read" situations in particular ways and want particular things. But those things, as I pointed out earlier" conflict.

This is an excellent case in point: could you say "The people of America got what they wanted, and the people of Nagasaki got what they wanted, so everyone was okay"? Of course not.
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.
Just like "motivation," "prevention" isn't the issue either. Justice is. When an evil has been committed, there must be a restoration of right. Clearly, only a Supreme Being could do that. But atheists insist no such Being exists, so they are stuck believing in injustice only forever.

Ironically, then, the Argument from Evil, the atheist claim that "a good God couldn't allow X," has two highly unatheistic implications: 1) that X is objectively wrong (or else their criticism couldn't possibly matter) and 2) that atheists simply have to believe they live in a world of irremediable "X-ness," or evil, a place where "justice" has no meaning, so what are they complaining about? What is, is.
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.
No, "peace and order" isn't my concern here. Truth and justice are. "Motivation" is a secondary issue, as I pointed out: you can't ask "Does moral X motivate me," if "moral X" doesn't already exist. So motivation cannot be a primary concern, just a very interesting secondary one.
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?
I would say it's not up to me to judge. I simply admit I do not have all the relevant data to know whether it was a case of Just War or massacre, or something else. But if I were the Supreme Being, I would have all I needed to make the right judgment about that.
It's all about seeking one's best self.
Describe "best." I mean that: describe the concept "best," without using the word "for".
In any case, what is a "best" self? Indeed, how do you know what your own "best" self is, or is it who your wife thinks it is, or is it who your society thinks it is?
Selfishness can be pleasing to an extent, but when one indulges in it too much it can be self-defeating.

Aren't you even a little bit worried it could be Other-defeating as well? Could you be thinking "morally" and not?
God will not tell you which is which; only reason will tell you.
The first claim is the matter of debate we are engaging, I believe. The second is patently false, since "reason" has no premises of its own.
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.
You need to meet better Christians, I would say.
... 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.
I always find it really funny how unscientific atheists get about this. Muslims kill millions. Atheists killed 148 million in the last century. If someone who calls himself a "Christian" kills someone once, under the misguided view that he has to help God save babies, then we put Muslims and all Christians -- but no atheists -- in the same dirty pool, do we? :D

Classic. Except you've forgotten something: that on your view, carving people's heads off isn't wrong. There is no "wrong," remember? Neither is shooting an abortionist "wrong," then. So what are you complaining about? :lol:

I'm being lighthearted. Seriously, though, the important point is this: I agree with you that these things are objectively evil. Even the shooting of an abortionist is, in my view, a usurping of God's prerogative and hence an immoral act. But I have a basis for saying so, and you have....well, what? What makes shooting someone "wrong"? You mean only that you don't personally like it? Or do you mean that you and I ought to agree that it's wrong, because it IS wrong...and wrong whether or not the misguided soul who shot the abortionist realized it...
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.
This is true. But it's a secondary issue. If there are no objective standards, then "should do" and "shouldn't do" have no meaning. Only "would do" and "wouldn't do" matter anymore, and they matter only as a sociological description, not as any kind of moral prescription.
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?
I'm not ignoring it...I'm well aware of it. It just hasn't come up until now.

I think this is an interesting feature of objective morality. You might compare it to the difference between codified law and applied law. "Parking is prohibited" is what you'll read on a sign in your town...but does it hold in the case of emergencies? Does it govern pulling over someone to pick them up? What if someone is in the car with the engine idling?

These are not insoluble situations for us, nor even particularly difficult. What we do is consider the law, discern the spirit in which it is given, and decide how a current case applies to it. And we do that all the time, in real life. So there's no great difficulty in "complicated situations," so long as the right precedent is clear and the relevant details are available.

However, you are yourself in rather a different situation. For you, the "Parking is prohibited" sign is not objectively binding. It only expresses the prejudices of the person -- or of his society -- that put the sign there. So you have no moral guidance from it at all, and it's not clear to me why you'd be "motivated" to obey it if you think you can get away with not obeying it -- let alone to labour over the implications of the law.

Good talking to you again. It's fun to process things.

mysterio448
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:22 pm

I think there are really only two responses here that are relevant to the point I am trying to convey.
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?
I would say it's not up to me to judge. I simply admit I do not have all the relevant data to know whether it was a case of Just War or massacre, or something else. But if I were the Supreme Being, I would have all I needed to make the right judgment about that.
I find it interesting that you talk a great deal about objective moral standards, yet when I ask you to provide a judgment about a specific situation, you are unable to do so. You just say, "It's not up to me to judge." But why can't you judge? If morality is not determined by looking at the details of the situations and reflecting upon one's own personal ideals but instead is based upon objective moral standards, as you yourself say, then judging should not be a problem in this situation.

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?
I'm not ignoring it...I'm well aware of it. It just hasn't come up until now.

I think this is an interesting feature of objective morality. You might compare it to the difference between codified law and applied law. "Parking is prohibited" is what you'll read on a sign in your town...but does it hold in the case of emergencies? Does it govern pulling over someone to pick them up? What if someone is in the car with the engine idling?

These are not insoluble situations for us, nor even particularly difficult. What we do is consider the law, discern the spirit in which it is given, and decide how a current case applies to it. And we do that all the time, in real life. So there's no great difficulty in "complicated situations," so long as the right precedent is clear and the relevant details are available.

However, you are yourself in rather a different situation. For you, the "Parking is prohibited" sign is not objectively binding. It only expresses the prejudices of the person -- or of his society -- that put the sign there. So you have no moral guidance from it at all, and it's not clear to me why you'd be "motivated" to obey it if you think you can get away with not obeying it -- let alone to labour over the implications of the law.

I have underlined a word from your response that I think is important here. You use the word "discern." Now it seems to me that the word "discern" is really just another way of saying "reason." So it is ironic that in spite of all the importance that you attribute to objective moral standards you still unwittingly admit that one's personal reasoning process lies at the heart of making moral choices.

You postulate these objective things called "right" and "wrong" and then you admit that one ought to use reason to seek them out. My position is similar, however I differ in that I eliminate the ideals of right and wrong and simply concentrate on the reasoning part. Thus, there is no such thing as right or wrong actions, there is only right or wrong reasoning. It is like that syllogism example that I gave you before: if you have the correct premises and you utilize correct reasoning, you will naturally come to the correct conclusion. Likewise, if you make a moral decision based on sound moral reasoning, then whatever decision you make will be the "right" decision, no matter what it entails. Right and wrong do not exist in the sense of context-less ideals but they exist in moral conclusions that follow from sound moral arguments. Your inability to make a moral judgment about the aforementioned bombings is, I believe, a testament to this fact.



One thing you should understand as that there are really at least two separate meanings to the concept of morality: one is a set of general rules and ideals that are imposed upon people from a societal level in order to establish peace and order in society, the other is the specific decisions that individuals make within the context of specific situations. You seem to think that the former and the latter are one and the same, but I am saying that while the former may influence the latter, the latter is ultimately what morality really is.

While you talk about objective moral standards, you have yet to ascertain what this set of standards is or where it is to be found. I will assume you are talking about the Bible. Well, one important moral milestone that has been made recently in the history of human civilization is that the world has almost universally come to the conclusion that the institution of slavery is immoral. People have come to this conclusion on their own, without any influence from the Bible. As a matter of fact, the Bible never denounces slavery, as it was fully accepted as normal and OK at the time the book was written. This is one strong indication that morality is not about any objective moral standards, since if that were the case then morality would not be subject to the changes of time and culture. We today believe that slavery is wrong, not because God said so but because it is what our reasoning has indicated.

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

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:35 pm

mysterio448 wrote:I find it interesting that you talk a great deal about objective moral standards, yet when I ask you to provide a judgment about a specific situation, you are unable to do so. You just say, "It's not up to me to judge." But why can't you judge?
Oh, that's easy...I'm not an American serviceman at the end of WWII, so I do not have the relevant data to form a good judgment. Mine would only be based on a retrospective textbook kind of knowledge of what went on. But do I think that the involved parties should have had sufficient data to make a better judgment than I can? Yes, absolutely. Did they make the right one? God will tell them one day, and I hope they think they did the right thing. But for me to make that call at this point, well, that's not a burden God has given to me.
I have underlined a word from your response that I think is important here. You use the word "discern." Now it seems to me that the word "discern" is really just another way of saying "reason." So it is ironic that in spite of all the importance that you attribute to objective moral standards you still unwittingly admit that one's personal reasoning process lies at the heart of making moral choices.
No, it's very "witting." :) I'm fully aware of it. You'll have to follow me carefully here to see what I'm saying: reason is relevant, but is not adequate to the operation of the moral faculties. Reason is a neutral mechanism that lacks premises of its own. As philosophers put it, it's "formal" not "substantive." Reason is a grinder into which you can put beef or fingers -- the mechanism itself does not care and is not paying attention. The results in the first case will be good, and in the second excruciatingly bad. It's what goes in (i.e. the premises) that makes reasoning "good" or "bad." Reasoning itself lacks any moral properties.

Better?
You postulate these objective things called "right" and "wrong" and then you admit that one ought to use reason to seek them out. My position is similar, however I differ in that I eliminate the ideals of right and wrong and simply concentrate on the reasoning part. Thus, there is no such thing as right or wrong actions, there is only right or wrong reasoning.
If that were true (and it's clearly not), then any syllogism that was technically valid would be a "good" or "moral" syllogism. You would be completely disregarding the quality of the premises. But you yourself have already taken pains to show that you know that everything depends on good premises, and that "validity" is a neutral issue. Look below...
It is like that syllogism example that I gave you before: if you have the correct premises and you utilize correct reasoning, you will naturally come to the correct conclusion.
If the premises determine the "goodness" or "badness" of moral reasoning, then reason isn't contributing any substance. It's merely operating as a neutral mechanism. And if that's what you mean, then I would agree. But then, morality is not a "subset" of reason, since reason does not inject moral properties into the content. (By the way, I think you mean "valid" not "correct." "Correct" is ambiguous, since people can mistake you for meaning "morally correct," which would be quite untrue here, obviously.)
Likewise, if you make a moral decision based on sound moral reasoning, then whatever decision you make will be the "right" decision, no matter what it entails.
What makes reasoning into "moral reasoning"? I think you're accidentally importing unjustifiable moral implications into the idea of reasoning, and then confusing yourself as to the outcome being moral. For it must be clear to you that one can reason correctly, even creating a disciplined philosophical syllogism and thus make "valid" an immoral conclusion.

Here:

There are many babies in America.
Babies are nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

That's valid reasoning (assuming "nutritious" and "should eat" can reasonably be taken as equivalent claims). It follows the X → Y, Y → Z, Z → X form required for a categorical syllogism. But it's based on morally horrendous premises. But on the view that reason = morality, you'd have to insist it was a moral conclusion.

You've mixed up two issues here: reason does not produce morality. Reason is only useful to solving moral puzzles if the premises themselves are already moral.
One thing you should understand as that there are really at least two separate meanings to the concept of morality: one is a set of general rules and ideals that are imposed upon people from a societal level in order to establish peace and order in society, the other is the specific decisions that individuals make within the context of specific situations. You seem to think that the former and the latter are one and the same, but I am saying that while the former may influence the latter, the latter is ultimately what morality really is.
And I think you're incorrect. There are not two separate meanings for morality -- there are only two separate situations in which morality operates. You're only pointing to the difference between legal (or, if you prefer, culturally approved in some form) and personal. You are making this mistake perhaps because you labour under the impression that morality is socially determined. But that is a premise I deny. Morality is not what a society makes it: at most, a society can only agree (or fail to agree) with the objective truth about morality.

On your view, for example, you cannot criticize a society for mass-murders or bride-burnings, because the society itself is the highest moral authority. But I deny this. Mass-murders and bride-burnings are universally wrong. And so I can criticize, say, the Russian government or traditional Hinduism, for what they do, and defend the rights of minorities or women against their oppressors...but you cannot, given your own view of morality as culturally limited.

And the situation is much worse if you posit that you have personal authority to determine your own morality. For in that case, not even living in the same society protects you from the vicious propensities of certain others. As I said before, Nietzsche was right about this: if God is dead, then power is the only remaining fact. We are "beyond good and evil." You would have no morality at all, then.
While you talk about objective moral standards, you have yet to ascertain what this set of standards is or where it is to be found. I will assume you are talking about the Bible. Well, one important moral milestone that has been made recently in the history of human civilization is that the world has almost universally come to the conclusion that the institution of slavery is immoral. People have come to this conclusion on their own, without any influence from the Bible.
Historically untrue. Go and read the story of William Wilberforce, the chief agent of the destruction of slavery throughout the British Empire. And read why he did what he did, and you'll see that statement is totally historically naive. Better still, go and read John Locke, and you'll discover that not just rights for persons of colour, but ALL human rights derive from a Biblical worldview.
As a matter of fact, the Bible never denounces slavery, as it was fully accepted as normal and OK at the time the book was written.
Untrue again. I won't bore you with discussions about the meaning of indentured servitude in the ancient world versus chattel slavery in the New World, but I will simply point out that once again you're wrong. And I'm highly dubious that its even a moral issue you are personally facing, so it seems a rather reddish herring.
We today believe that slavery is wrong, not because God said so but because it is what our reasoning has indicated.
Untrue. But we can check. Give me the historical syllogism that your mythical "reasoners" used to decide that slavery was morally wrong. Or show me your syllogism that makes necessary that slavery is wrong at all, even today. But use no universal moral claims (because you've already said these don't have any justification) and presume no moral terms. Do it with nothing but reason.

You'll find you simply cannot do it without presuming a moral standard you cannot justify.

Nietzsche would say that slavery is simply a question of power, and not of morality at all. He would not even deny that slavery is an option today. Now, I'm sure that's not what you personally believe, judging from your citing it as a case of "immoral" action. However, were you being consistent with the view you profess, you'd actually be forced to say he's 100% right. So now who faces the "slavery" problem?

mysterio448
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:49 pm

Immanuel Can wrote: Oh, that's easy...I'm not an American serviceman at the end of WWII, so I do not have the relevant data to form a good judgment. Mine would only be based on a retrospective textbook kind of knowledge of what went on. But do I think that the involved parties should have had sufficient data to make a better judgment than I can? Yes, absolutely. Did they make the right one? God will tell them one day, and I hope they think they did the right thing. But for me to make that call at this point, well, that's not a burden God has given to me.

Here you are blatantly contradicting yourself. You say that morality consists of objective moral principles yet you continue to say that this case in WWII involves an assessment of the circumstances and an application of reason. This goes against everything you have been saying so far. Later on in your latest post you say that mass murder is immoral; but how can you say that but also say that the bombing of Japan – which was basically mass murder – can only be judged by analyzing the situation and making a reasonable assessment? If you were consistent, you would just say simply and unequivocally that the bombings of Japan were immoral.
No, it's very "witting." :) I'm fully aware of it. You'll have to follow me carefully here to see what I'm saying: reason is relevant, but is not adequate to the operation of the moral faculties. Reason is a neutral mechanism that lacks premises of its own. As philosophers put it, it's "formal" not "substantive." Reason is a grinder into which you can put beef or fingers -- the mechanism itself does not care and is not paying attention. The results in the first case will be good, and in the second excruciatingly bad. It's what goes in (i.e. the premises) that makes reasoning "good" or "bad." Reasoning itself lacks any moral properties.

Better?
The mistake you keep making is that you are confusing the concept of a premise with the concept of a conclusion. When you say "moral premise" what you are really saying is "conclusion." The true premises within a moral situation are the circumstances of the situation. Those circumstances are themselves amoral; the only moral part of a moral argument is the conclusion, which is the only part that is actually saying what the person should do in the situation.
If that were true (and it's clearly not), then any syllogism that was technically valid would be a "good" or "moral" syllogism. You would be completely disregarding the quality of the premises. But you yourself have already taken pains to show that you know that everything depends on good premises, and that "validity" is a neutral issue. Look below...
But as I have said in previous posts, the quality of the premises is just as important as the reasoning itself. Remember that a premise in this context is NOT a moral imperative but is merely the amoral details of the situation. One must find which premises are the most relevant and important in the situation. For example, as I said in my last post, I hate going to work. I may decide that because working is unpleasant that therefore I will not go to work anymore; but if I do this then I will be ignoring the more relevant and important premise which is that I like to be able to eat and pay my rent. If I include this superior premises, then I would come to the conclusion that I will continue to go to work. The quality of the premises and the reasoning are of equal importance.


What makes reasoning into "moral reasoning"? I think you're accidentally importing unjustifiable moral implications into the idea of reasoning, and then confusing yourself as to the outcome being moral. For it must be clear to you that one can reason correctly, even creating a disciplined philosophical syllogism and thus make "valid" an immoral conclusion.

Here:

There are many babies in America.
Babies are nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

That's valid reasoning (assuming "nutritious" and "should eat" can reasonably be taken as equivalent claims). It follows the X → Y, Y → Z, Z → X form required for a categorical syllogism. But it's based on morally horrendous premises. But on the view that reason = morality, you'd have to insist it was a moral conclusion.

You've mixed up two issues here: reason does not produce morality. Reason is only useful to solving moral puzzles if the premises themselves are already moral.

Once again the premises in a moral argument are not themselves moral. Moral reasoning involves the input of amoral statements and then outputs a moral statement stating what you ought or ought not to do.

Furthermore, it is interesting that you deny that reason and logic are important to making moral choices, yet this is at least the second time that you have provided a syllogism that is blatantly invalid. The conclusion "Therefore, we should eat babies" is a total non sequitur based on the provided premises. I think maybe you should review some instructional material showing how to properly form a logical syllogism.
And I think you're incorrect. There are not two separate meanings for morality -- there are only two separate situations in which morality operates. You're only pointing to the difference between legal (or, if you prefer, culturally approved in some form) and personal. You are making this mistake perhaps because you labour under the impression that morality is socially determined. But that is a premise I deny. Morality is not what a society makes it: at most, a society can only agree (or fail to agree) with the objective truth about morality.

On your view, for example, you cannot criticize a society for mass-murders or bride-burnings, because the society itself is the highest moral authority. But I deny this. Mass-murders and bride-burnings are universally wrong. And so I can criticize, say, the Russian government or traditional Hinduism, for what they do, and defend the rights of minorities or women against their oppressors...but you cannot, given your own view of morality as culturally limited.

And the situation is much worse if you posit that you have personal authority to determine your own morality. For in that case, not even living in the same society protects you from the vicious propensities of certain others. As I said before, Nietzsche was right about this: if God is dead, then power is the only remaining fact. We are "beyond good and evil." You would have no morality at all, then.
First of all, I never said that morality is determined by society. I believe that morality does not exist in an objective set of imperatives but is a personal reasoning process. Furthermore, you say that society's ideas about morality may or may not align with the objective truth of morality. But I understand morality to be a reasoning (or logical) process, and logic does not determine truth, so therefore there is no such thing as "moral truth." The most there can be is valid moral reasoning.
Historically untrue. Go and read the story of William Wilberforce, the chief agent of the destruction of slavery throughout the British Empire. And read why he did what he did, and you'll see that statement is totally historically naive. Better still, go and read John Locke, and you'll discover that not just rights for persons of colour, but ALL human rights derive from a Biblical worldview.
It is notable here that you don't say outright that the Bible condemns slavery, but instead you use the more vague phrase "Biblical worldview." This only serves to draw attention away from the simple fact that the Bible does not condemn slavery.

Untrue. But we can check. Give me the historical syllogism that your mythical "reasoners" used to decide that slavery was morally wrong. Or show me your syllogism that makes necessary that slavery is wrong at all, even today. But use no universal moral claims (because you've already said these don't have any justification) and presume no moral terms. Do it with nothing but reason.

You'll find you simply cannot do it without presuming a moral standard you cannot justify.

Nietzsche would say that slavery is simply a question of power, and not of morality at all. He would not even deny that slavery is an option today. Now, I'm sure that's not what you personally believe, judging from your citing it as a case of "immoral" action. However, were you being consistent with the view you profess, you'd actually be forced to say he's 100% right. So now who faces the "slavery" problem?
As far as the historical reasons for why slavery is now considered immoral, I assume it involves a lot of different factors. I assume the downfall of absolute monarchies and the rise of democracy are a couple of factors. The concept of one human being owning the life of another seems to be at odds with modern ideals about liberty, equality and freedom from oppression by the higher class. That's probably why slavery in the United States was so controversial while it was going on, because it contradicted the ideal that the US was a land of freedom and opportunity.

You still have yet to show where in the Bible it says that slavery is wrong. Not only does the Bible not condemn the institution but welcomes it with open arms. Consider 1 Peter 2:18-20 –

"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God."

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

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:04 pm

mysterio448 wrote:Here you are blatantly contradicting yourself. You say that morality consists of objective moral principles yet you continue to say that this case in WWII involves an assessment of the circumstances and an application of reason. This goes against everything you have been saying so far.
No. If you don't have the right premises, you can't be sure you have the right conclusion. You said so yourself. Now, neither you nor I has the premises to know that situation, and neither of us is in it; so though there IS an objective moral truth about it, one that actual participants would be better positioned to know, neither you nor I can know it right now. It's too late. It's over fifty years too late. You and I now have different moral issues -- like, say, how to remain fair to each other -- for which we DO possess the relevant information and CAN form the right premises. So we have objective duties pertaining to that. But you and I are not WWII airmen, and no one is calling us to judge their situation with our limited knowledge.

In sum, what you and I lack is not objective morality, but rather information for the premises. Think carefully, and you'll see there's all the difference in the world between my position and what you are ascribing to me.

As for contradicting myself, as I pointed out very carefully in my last message, right in the middle, you can easily misread that bit if you don't read it carefully. I meant that. From your response, I can see that you don't know the formal/substantive distinction: it's a very useful one in philosophy.

"Formal" is like mathematics: a "2"is formal, because it can represent 2 of anything. It is a "form" into which anything can be plugged. Meanwhile, "substantive" means "containing factual substance" or "content-based." Substantive content, unlike formalism specifies particulars or predicates things. Formalities don't. Reason is a formal process: it has none of its own substantive content. Get that, and you've got my position.

But "forms" do not themselves demands specific moral predicates. And reason is a form. It has no specific content. Like "2" it can be about anything.
The mistake you keep making is that you are confusing the concept of a premise with the concept of a conclusion.

No, actually. I can't see a bit of warrant why you imagine that. I must not be explaining it in a way you get.
The true premises within a moral situation are the circumstances of the situation. Those circumstances are themselves amoral; the only moral part of a moral argument is the conclusion, which is the only part that is actually saying what the person should do in the situation.
You're describing an illegitimate mental leap from IS to OUGHT. Hume debunked that move more than a century ago. It cannot be done. If your premises contain no moral predicates, your conclusion can't contain any either...or else, argues Hume, you're being irrational. Hume showed that, and the vast majority of moral philosophers today agree with his statement entirely.
For example, as I said in my last post, I hate going to work. I may decide that because working is unpleasant that therefore I will not go to work anymore; but if I do this then I will be ignoring the more relevant and important premise which is that I like to be able to eat and pay my rent. If I include this superior premises, then I would come to the conclusion that I will continue to go to work. The quality of the premises and the reasoning are of equal importance.
You haven't made a moral statement in your conclusion or your premises there. All you've done is made a decision about what you want, given certain unpleasant/pleasant consequences. But you haven't done a stitch to show that any right/wrong was involved in the situation. If you had chosen otherwise, you would not have been "immoral" in any way. Therefore, you are not making any moral claim there.

You showed that you get money for going to work. You didn't show that you were moral for going to work. You were merely practical.
Once again the premises in a moral argument are not themselves moral. Moral reasoning involves the input of amoral statements and then outputs a moral statement stating what you ought or ought not to do.
Now you've got it! You've just shown that you know that you're forcing moral predicates into your premises without having legitimized their presence there. And you're entirely right: that's what you're doing. But for that very reason, your conclusions are mere presumption on your part.
this is at least the second time that you have provided a syllogism that is blatantly invalid.
You're incorrect again. I even laid out the form for categorical syllogisms for you and reconciled the middle term. So it's a valid syllogism with no equivocation. Prove me wrong, if you think you can.
First of all, I never said that morality is determined by society. I believe that morality does not exist in an objective set of imperatives but is a personal reasoning process.

Oh. Okay, that's fine. So social rules are out for you? They don't matter, but personal ones do? Okay, you can move that way. But you'll still end up caught on my second point: namely, that your "morality" fails to oblige anyone else, and therefore cannot safeguard your rights for you. In fact, then you don't even have moral grounds to protest if someone (mis)treats you.
I understand morality to be a reasoning (or logical) process, and logic does not determine truth, so therefore there is no such thing as "moral truth." The most there can be is valid moral reasoning.

"Truth" is a property of premises and predications, not of reason itself. You are correct. But the truthfulness of the premises has to be shown first, or else the reasoning no longer convinces or compels anyone.

There is nothing "moral" about "reason." And nothing "immoral" either. Reasoning is amoral. Again, remember that you are already smuggling in moral predicates you have never justified into your premises. Your reasoning isn't providing those moral judgments for you: your premises are. But those premises remain unjustified on your part. You need to justify them...and I'll look forward to seeing you do just that at the end of this message.
As far as the historical reasons for why slavery is now considered immoral, I assume it involves a lot of different factors. I assume the downfall of absolute monarchies and the rise of democracy are a couple of factors.
Yes, as you say, "you assume." Sadly, you assume without a stitch of historical accuracy. There's no nice way to say it: you're just completely wrong about this. Democracy was invented in Greece, where everyone had slaves, and it disrupted that system not one bit. In the West, democracy continued very well with slavery intact, and it was quite clear it could have continued so indefinitely. For you see, the slaves had no votes. It took a Civil War, plus economic changes, plus a civil rights movement to change that. And until they had recognition as full human beings, democracy was of no use to slaves. As for the monarchy...it had no relevance at all, either way: so I can't even see why you imagined you wanted to bring it in.
The concept of one human being owning the life of another seems to be at odds with modern ideals about liberty, equality and freedom from oppression by the higher class. That's probably why slavery in the United States was so controversial while it was going on, because it contradicted the ideal that the US was a land of freedom and opportunity.
Meanwhile, behind all those changes that led to the abolition of slavery is the question, "What ideology made possible both the universal extension of democratic privileges and the freeing of the slaves?" It was the belief in universal human rights, and it was derived directly from Locke, who got it from conservative Christian theology. Not only did that belief issue in the end of slavery, but women's rights, prison reform, social welfare, and a host of other such benefits to mankind. Read Locke, and you'll know.
Consider 1 Peter 2:18-20 –

"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God."
Gladly. It's answering this question: can someone who is forced to be a slave still please God? For it was the case everywhere in the ancient world -- and remains the fact today -- that slaves exist. There is a very real danger, therefore, that in addition to the degradations of slavery itself, a person who was a Christian would be unable to serve God, since he was forcibly kept in the service of men. But God graciously provided that a) first, if he could, a slave should get free (see 1 Cor. 7:21) "Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that." But b) if the slave could not achieve that, then the passage above allows him still to serve God, even if he's bound to a master, and even if that master has no sympathy for him as a Christian or mercy for him as a slave. The evils of men are no impediment to one's being a Christian...even such evils as slavery.

There are, in fact, still many slaves in this world -- none as a result of any decision of God's, but every last one by human decision and human wickedness. And we, in the West, often turn a blind eye to their suffering and care nothing for them. It's really something to know that God loves them and allows that they can serve Him, even those who are trapped by these wicked humans and cannot obtain the freedom God wants for them. So long before the human race itself every considered freeing slaves, God was thinking about it and making provision for those who were enslaved. Mankind is not so moral.

I have done as you asked. But now, I think it's your turn. I asked you for that syllogism proving that "reason" was the cause of the end of slavery. You dodged that. Now I'm going to call you on it.

Let's have your syllogism. Go ahead.

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

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:39 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
mysterio448 wrote:Here you are blatantly contradicting yourself. You say that morality consists of objective moral principles yet you continue to say that this case in WWII involves an assessment of the circumstances and an application of reason. This goes against everything you have been saying so far.
No. If you don't have the right premises, you can't be sure you have the right conclusion. You said so yourself. Now, neither you nor I has the premises to know that situation, and neither of us is in it; so though there IS an objective moral truth about it, one that actual participants would be better positioned to know, neither you nor I can know it right now. It's too late. It's over fifty years too late. You and I now have different moral issues -- like, say, how to remain fair to each other -- for which we DO possess the relevant information and CAN form the right premises. So we have objective duties pertaining to that. But you and I are not WWII airmen, and no one is calling us to judge their situation with our limited knowledge.

In sum, what you and I lack is not objective morality, but rather information for the premises. Think carefully, and you'll see there's all the difference in the world between my position and what you are ascribing to me.

As for contradicting myself, as I pointed out very carefully in my last message, right in the middle, you can easily misread that bit if you don't read it carefully. I meant that. From your response, I can see that you don't know the formal/substantive distinction: it's a very useful one in philosophy.

"Formal" is like mathematics: a "2"is formal, because it can represent 2 of anything. It is a "form" into which anything can be plugged. Meanwhile, "substantive" means "containing factual substance" or "content-based." Substantive content, unlike formalism specifies particulars or predicates things. Formalities don't. Reason is a formal process: it has none of its own substantive content. Get that, and you've got my position.

But "forms" do not themselves demands specific moral predicates. And reason is a form. It has no specific content. Like "2" it can be about anything.
The mistake you keep making is that you are confusing the concept of a premise with the concept of a conclusion.

No, actually. I can't see a bit of warrant why you imagine that. I must not be explaining it in a way you get.
The true premises within a moral situation are the circumstances of the situation. Those circumstances are themselves amoral; the only moral part of a moral argument is the conclusion, which is the only part that is actually saying what the person should do in the situation.
You're describing an illegitimate mental leap from IS to OUGHT. Hume debunked that move more than a century ago. It cannot be done. If your premises contain no moral predicates, your conclusion can't contain any either...or else, argues Hume, you're being irrational. Hume showed that, and the vast majority of moral philosophers today agree with his statement entirely.
For example, as I said in my last post, I hate going to work. I may decide that because working is unpleasant that therefore I will not go to work anymore; but if I do this then I will be ignoring the more relevant and important premise which is that I like to be able to eat and pay my rent. If I include this superior premises, then I would come to the conclusion that I will continue to go to work. The quality of the premises and the reasoning are of equal importance.
You haven't made a moral statement in your conclusion or your premises there. All you've done is made a decision about what you want, given certain unpleasant/pleasant consequences. But you haven't done a stitch to show that any right/wrong was involved in the situation. If you had chosen otherwise, you would not have been "immoral" in any way. Therefore, you are not making any moral claim there.

You showed that you get money for going to work. You didn't show that you were moral for going to work. You were merely practical.
Once again the premises in a moral argument are not themselves moral. Moral reasoning involves the input of amoral statements and then outputs a moral statement stating what you ought or ought not to do.
Now you've got it! You've just shown that you know that you're forcing moral predicates into your premises without having legitimized their presence there. And you're entirely right: that's what you're doing. But for that very reason, your conclusions are mere presumption on your part.
this is at least the second time that you have provided a syllogism that is blatantly invalid.
You're incorrect again. I even laid out the form for categorical syllogisms for you and reconciled the middle term. So it's a valid syllogism with no equivocation. Prove me wrong, if you think you can.
First of all, I never said that morality is determined by society. I believe that morality does not exist in an objective set of imperatives but is a personal reasoning process.

Oh. Okay, that's fine. So social rules are out for you? They don't matter, but personal ones do? Okay, you can move that way. But you'll still end up caught on my second point: namely, that your "morality" fails to oblige anyone else, and therefore cannot safeguard your rights for you. In fact, then you don't even have moral grounds to protest if someone (mis)treats you.
I understand morality to be a reasoning (or logical) process, and logic does not determine truth, so therefore there is no such thing as "moral truth." The most there can be is valid moral reasoning.

"Truth" is a property of premises and predications, not of reason itself. You are correct. But the truthfulness of the premises has to be shown first, or else the reasoning no longer convinces or compels anyone.

There is nothing "moral" about "reason." And nothing "immoral" either. Reasoning is amoral. Again, remember that you are already smuggling in moral predicates you have never justified into your premises. Your reasoning isn't providing those moral judgments for you: your premises are. But those premises remain unjustified on your part. You need to justify them...and I'll look forward to seeing you do just that at the end of this message.
As far as the historical reasons for why slavery is now considered immoral, I assume it involves a lot of different factors. I assume the downfall of absolute monarchies and the rise of democracy are a couple of factors.
Yes, as you say, "you assume." Sadly, you assume without a stitch of historical accuracy. There's no nice way to say it: you're just completely wrong about this. Democracy was invented in Greece, where everyone had slaves, and it disrupted that system not one bit. In the West, democracy continued very well with slavery intact, and it was quite clear it could have continued so indefinitely. For you see, the slaves had no votes. It took a Civil War, plus economic changes, plus a civil rights movement to change that. And until they had recognition as full human beings, democracy was of no use to slaves. As for the monarchy...it had no relevance at all, either way: so I can't even see why you imagined you wanted to bring it in.
The concept of one human being owning the life of another seems to be at odds with modern ideals about liberty, equality and freedom from oppression by the higher class. That's probably why slavery in the United States was so controversial while it was going on, because it contradicted the ideal that the US was a land of freedom and opportunity.
Meanwhile, behind all those changes that led to the abolition of slavery is the question, "What ideology made possible both the universal extension of democratic privileges and the freeing of the slaves?" It was the belief in universal human rights, and it was derived directly from Locke, who got it from conservative Christian theology. Not only did that belief issue in the end of slavery, but women's rights, prison reform, social welfare, and a host of other such benefits to mankind. Read Locke, and you'll know.
Consider 1 Peter 2:18-20 –

"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God."
Gladly. It's answering this question: can someone who is forced to be a slave still please God? For it was the case everywhere in the ancient world -- and remains the fact today -- that slaves exist. There is a very real danger, therefore, that in addition to the degradations of slavery itself, a person who was a Christian would be unable to serve God, since he was forcibly kept in the service of men. But God graciously provided that a) first, if he could, a slave should get free (see 1 Cor. 7:21) "Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that." But b) if the slave could not achieve that, then the passage above allows him still to serve God, even if he's bound to a master, and even if that master has no sympathy for him as a Christian or mercy for him as a slave. The evils of men are no impediment to one's being a Christian...even such evils as slavery.

There are, in fact, still many slaves in this world -- none as a result of any decision of God's, but every last one by human decision and human wickedness. And we, in the West, often turn a blind eye to their suffering and care nothing for them. It's really something to know that God loves them and allows that they can serve Him, even those who are trapped by these wicked humans and cannot obtain the freedom God wants for them. So long before the human race itself every considered freeing slaves, God was thinking about it and making provision for those who were enslaved. Mankind is not so moral.

I have done as you asked. But now, I think it's your turn. I asked you for that syllogism proving that "reason" was the cause of the end of slavery. You dodged that. Now I'm going to call you on it.

Let's have your syllogism. Go ahead.
People who think moral law is objective are fools.
Immanuel Can thinks that moral law is objective.
Therefore Immanuel Can is a fool.

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

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:42 pm

Slavery in some instances is illegal in other instances it is legal.
Cases where truth depends on the context is not objective, but relative.
The proscription and prescription of slavery is a moral issue.
Therefore the moral case for and against slavery is not objective but relative.

mysterio448
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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Sun Jul 12, 2015 1:55 am

Immanuel Can wrote: No. If you don't have the right premises, you can't be sure you have the right conclusion. You said so yourself. Now, neither you nor I has the premises to know that situation, and neither of us is in it; so though there IS an objective moral truth about it, one that actual participants would be better positioned to know, neither you nor I can know it right now. It's too late. It's over fifty years too late. You and I now have different moral issues -- like, say, how to remain fair to each other -- for which we DO possess the relevant information and CAN form the right premises. So we have objective duties pertaining to that. But you and I are not WWII airmen, and no one is calling us to judge their situation with our limited knowledge.

In sum, what you and I lack is not objective morality, but rather information for the premises. Think carefully, and you'll see there's all the difference in the world between my position and what you are ascribing to me.

As for contradicting myself, as I pointed out very carefully in my last message, right in the middle, you can easily misread that bit if you don't read it carefully. I meant that. From your response, I can see that you don't know the formal/substantive distinction: it's a very useful one in philosophy.

"Formal" is like mathematics: a "2"is formal, because it can represent 2 of anything. It is a "form" into which anything can be plugged. Meanwhile, "substantive" means "containing factual substance" or "content-based." Substantive content, unlike formalism specifies particulars or predicates things. Formalities don't. Reason is a formal process: it has none of its own substantive content. Get that, and you've got my position.

But "forms" do not themselves demands specific moral predicates. And reason is a form. It has no specific content. Like "2" it can be about anything.
I think we will have to come up with an agreed definition of the term "objective morality." I understand the term to mean a morality in which some acts are right or wrong regardless of the circumstances. You say that you believe in objective morality but when I ask you about the WWII situation you say that the vaporizing and burning alive of thousands of men, women, children and babies is not really wrong per se, but one would have to look at it within the context of the situation. Explain to me simply and directly how that response is not the same thing as what I have been saying? If this is what you really believe then what exactly is the point of saying you believe in absolute morality?


You're describing an illegitimate mental leap from IS to OUGHT. Hume debunked that move more than a century ago. It cannot be done. If your premises contain no moral predicates, your conclusion can't contain any either...or else, argues Hume, you're being irrational. Hume showed that, and the vast majority of moral philosophers today agree with his statement entirely.
I think we still have a misunderstanding as to what the word "premise" means in a moral context. A premise is merely the circumstances of the situation itself. For example, the premises in the WWII situation were just the specific details that brought the US to the decision to drop the bombs. Premises in anmoral context are amoral by definition.
You haven't made a moral statement in your conclusion or your premises there. All you've done is made a decision about what you want, given certain unpleasant/pleasant consequences. But you haven't done a stitch to show that any right/wrong was involved in the situation. If you had chosen otherwise, you would not have been "immoral" in any way. Therefore, you are not making any moral claim there.

You showed that you get money for going to work. You didn't show that you were moral for going to work. You were merely practical.
That example was made to show the difference in quality between different premises in a decision-making process. The process is the same in a moral situation.

You're incorrect again. I even laid out the form for categorical syllogisms for you and reconciled the middle term. So it's a valid syllogism with no equivocation. Prove me wrong, if you think you can.
OK, let's analyze your syllogism:

There are many babies in America.
Babies are nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

You said that making the words "nutritious" and "should eat" equivalent terms is reconciling the middle term, but that's not the case. What you have really done is a thing called "begging the question": it is when you assume the conclusion in of the premises. So you have in fact not "reconciled the middle term." As a matter of fact, I don't think there is a middle term in your syllogism. Also your first premise "There are many babies in America" is in no way implied in or related to the conclusion and is a completely superfluous premise.

Let me suggest some better syllogism examples:

Babies are nutritious.
We should eat whatever is nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

OR

We should eat whatever there is many of in America.
There are many babies in America.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

As you can see, the subject term and predicate term from my conclusions are also present in the premises. But in your syllogism, it is not clear where the terms from the premises are present in the conclusion. The only term that is even mentioned in your conclusion is "babies"; the terms "many" and "nutritious" are nowhere in the conclusion. Thus your syllogism is incorrectly formed.



Oh. Okay, that's fine. So social rules are out for you? They don't matter, but personal ones do? Okay, you can move that way. But you'll still end up caught on my second point: namely, that your "morality" fails to oblige anyone else, and therefore cannot safeguard your rights for you. In fact, then you don't even have moral grounds to protest if someone (mis)treats you.


Nor does your objective morality safeguard your rights. If someone is mistreating you, appealing to some abstract standard of morality and saying that what they are doing is "wrong" will not achieve anything if you are dealing with a particularly recalcitrant individual. And furthermore, my moral theory is not designed for defending oneself from immorality but for avoiding immoral behavior oneself. How you deal with difficult or immoral people is a separate issue.

Yes, as you say, "you assume." Sadly, you assume without a stitch of historical accuracy. There's no nice way to say it: you're just completely wrong about this. Democracy was invented in Greece, where everyone had slaves, and it disrupted that system not one bit. In the West, democracy continued very well with slavery intact, and it was quite clear it could have continued so indefinitely. For you see, the slaves had no votes. It took a Civil War, plus economic changes, plus a civil rights movement to change that. And until they had recognition as full human beings, democracy was of no use to slaves. As for the monarchy...it had no relevance at all, either way: so I can't even see why you imagined you wanted to bring it in.
Democracy may have been invented in Greece, as you claim, but in the Western world it took a long hiatus for much of the Middle Ages, in which monarchies were the norm. Democracy seemed to resurface in the West around the time of the American and French revolutions. At that time, absolute monarchies began to fall out of popularity, and democracy that involved the people voting for representatives began to proliferate. Subsequently, an institution in which human beings could be sold and purchased no longer had a place in this new world where freedom and equality were common ideals. This may have contributed to the unpopularity of slavery. Another factor may have been economic. The modern world was becoming more focused on industrial labor involving manufactured goods and less focused on agriculture, which was what slaves in the West were commonly used for. Also, there was the threat of slave insurrections such as the successful insurrection that occurred in Haiti and others such as the Nat Turner revolt.

You have yet to show where in the Bible it says that slavery is bad. Telling me how some theologians have interpreted abolitionist sentiments in the Bible is not the same as actually showing that such ideas are in the Bible.
Meanwhile, behind all those changes that led to the abolition of slavery is the question, "What ideology made possible both the universal extension of democratic privileges and the freeing of the slaves?" It was the belief in universal human rights, and it was derived directly from Locke, who got it from conservative Christian theology. Not only did that belief issue in the end of slavery, but women's rights, prison reform, social welfare, and a host of other such benefits to mankind. Read Locke, and you'll know.
I don't know if what you're saying is accurate or not, but all I know is that you still haven't showed where the Bible condemns slavery. You just keep talking about the other people's interpretation of the Bible rather than the Bible itself. One can interpret whatever one wishes, but the interpretation is ultimately the opinion of the interpreter and not of the object of interpretation.

Gladly. It's answering this question: can someone who is forced to be a slave still please God? For it was the case everywhere in the ancient world -- and remains the fact today -- that slaves exist. There is a very real danger, therefore, that in addition to the degradations of slavery itself, a person who was a Christian would be unable to serve God, since he was forcibly kept in the service of men. But God graciously provided that a) first, if he could, a slave should get free (see 1 Cor. 7:21) "Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that." But b) if the slave could not achieve that, then the passage above allows him still to serve God, even if he's bound to a master, and even if that master has no sympathy for him as a Christian or mercy for him as a slave. The evils of men are no impediment to one's being a Christian...even such evils as slavery.

There are, in fact, still many slaves in this world -- none as a result of any decision of God's, but every last one by human decision and human wickedness. And we, in the West, often turn a blind eye to their suffering and care nothing for them. It's really something to know that God loves them and allows that they can serve Him, even those who are trapped by these wicked humans and cannot obtain the freedom God wants for them. So long before the human race itself every considered freeing slaves, God was thinking about it and making provision for those who were enslaved. Mankind is not so moral.
If God hates slavery so much then why did he not in his divine, holy Word ever condemn slavery?
I have done as you asked. But now, I think it's your turn. I asked you for that syllogism proving that "reason" was the cause of the end of slavery. You dodged that. Now I'm going to call you on it.

Let's have your syllogism. Go ahead.
A syllogism is just a simplified version of a single argument. I cannot give you a syllogism for the abolition of slavery because 1) I am not precisely certain what the reason(s) was, and 2) it is likely that there was a constellation of reasons behind abolition rather than one reason alone. There is no single syllogism that can be created for such a complex subject.

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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Scott Mayers » Sun Jul 12, 2015 3:28 am

mysterio448 wrote:....

...
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?
Moral concepts are derived from early, mostly childhood, experiences which begin blank but have an assignment drive, like a hardwired program, which appeals to the environment to supply. It is a kind of 'program' that gets initiated in "windows" of development to which when originally 'run', only grants an unknown variable to its formula, then checks the environment to determine what to assign to it. If by testing the environment through a window that questions how one should internally react emotionally to some contingent experience, and the experience favors how one behaves or interprets the environment as favorable, it assigns the variable as, "good", in an assignment to one's morals. Thus such assignment reduces to emotional states one is in when initially experiencing them or samples of them. When the "window" closes, this hardwires how one 'feels' emotionally about similar general issues. These are what become morals.

I reason this based on an evolutionary type of thinking. An entity may experiment with some reaction to its environment which may either allow it to persist, cause it to die, or some medium between the extremes. Certainly if one's tested assignment to act/react is most destructive, it will potentially kill the animal. But if it persists, its initial option becomes the assigned value (or virtue) to which the organism maintains. This gets hardwired in the periods where the brain is most flexible to variable conditions within its environment and get 'fixed' when the window of development for that part of the brain is closed.

Thus, while it may be presumed that an atheist, or worse, a nihilist, like myself, will still have morals that coincide with others even if they recognize morality lacks any meaning to nature itself. I logically recognize an absence of a real absolute morality to exist; but I still have them by the particular nature of my early experiences that define the 'feelings' my biology respond to.

I also believe that rational introspection (logic or intelligence) too is based on experience to which one has been motivated early on to practice by attempting to resolve contingent and apparent contradictions. When one uses reasoning, they begin when one must find a means to overcome some barrier based upon their emotional desire or need to reach some goal(s). Reasoning (or intelligence) is NOT a natural skill as we initially appeal to approaching goals by direct motivation through our emotions. It is only when those emotions are not fulfilled do we find a need or motivation to begin reasoning.

Thus morality is NOT a subset of reason, if we base this 'reason' upon our ability to use it. But morality IS rationalized by nature's reasoning via evolutionary functions that get passed onto our brain's capacity while reason is developed by using it in practice based on our experiences for needing it.

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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Immanuel Can » Sun Jul 12, 2015 3:15 pm

mysterio448 wrote:I think we will have to come up with an agreed definition of the term "objective morality." I understand the term to mean a morality in which some acts are right or wrong regardless of the circumstances.
Oh no. That could be very arbitrary. "Objective" simply means "grounded in a reality." i.e. not a fiction made up in someone's head. :) Objective morality not only CAN take circumstances into account, but in its applied form, MUST do so.

Now I see the source of our misunderstanding. You were thinking I was asking for an arbitrary decision about the bombing, and I was insisting on an objective one. Good to know. Problem solved. :D
I think we still have a misunderstanding as to what the word "premise" means in a moral context. A premise is merely the circumstances of the situation itself. For example, the premises in the WWII situation were just the specific details that brought the US to the decision to drop the bombs. Premises in anmoral context are amoral by definition.
I'm not disagreeing, but there's a problem: what makes one premise "moral" and another not? It is not enough that a premise contains some predication of morality, like "Lying is wrong," for before that premise can stand it needs justification: it needs a proof that lying really IS wrong. It's not moral, but only arbitrary, until that work is done.

So even though I believe "Lying is wrong" is a true statement, I am able to do so because of objectivism about morality. But without objectivism, why is lying "wrong"? In fact, what is "wrong" at all?
That example was made to show the difference in quality between different premises in a decision-making process. The process is the same in a moral situation.
Well, it's an analogy...but it fails to capture the real problem, which is the one I mention above: how do we get something specifically "moral" into a practical equation?

OK, let's analyze your syllogism:

There are many babies in America.
Babies are nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

You said that making the words "nutritious" and "should eat" equivalent terms is reconciling the middle term, but that's not the case.
Oh, I see...so you're contesting the synonymity of the expressions. But that's all too easily remedied. All you need to do is supply the premise you've pointed out as missing, namely "We should eat that which is nutritious," and then the whole syllogism holds again.
As a matter of fact, I don't think there is a middle term in your syllogism.
The middle term was "nutritious/should eat". But as I pointed out above, decoupling them is easy, and would restore the validity -- though of course, not the truthfulness or morality -- of the syllogism.

Also your first premise "There are many babies in America" is in no way implied in or related to the conclusion and is a completely superfluous premise.
Easily solved again. Let's change it to "We have extra babies in America"/ "We should use what we have extra"...and so on. Add in a specific chain like that, and you're still going to arrive where I sent you, logically speaking -- to a valid syllogism with an immoral conclusion.

And THAT is the key point, not whether or not we eat babies...which I assume neither of us is planning to do.

Let me suggest some better syllogism examples:

Babies are nutritious.
We should eat whatever is nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

OR

We should eat whatever there is many of in America.
There are many babies in America.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

As you can see, the subject term and predicate term from my conclusions are also present in the premises. But in your syllogism, it is not clear where the terms from the premises are present in the conclusion. The only term that is even mentioned in your conclusion is "babies"; the terms "many" and "nutritious" are nowhere in the conclusion. Thus your syllogism is incorrectly formed.
Ah, now look...you've just done exactly what I was saying...supplying the tacit premises to make the immoral argument rational. You might have just believed me in the first place, and saved yourself the labour: because look now...you've just granted my essential point: that morality is not a subset of reason, since reason by itself can be used to justify entirely immoral behaviours. The "moral" bit has to come from justified premises, not from some magic achieved by reason itself.
Nor does your objective morality safeguard your rights. If someone is mistreating you, appealing to some abstract standard of morality and saying that what they are doing is "wrong" will not achieve anything if you are dealing with a particularly recalcitrant individual.
Ultimately, yes it will. It will not change the individual now, perhaps, but it will have everything to do with how his moral condition is settled when the Ultimate Judge eventually rules on the matter, as He certainly will.
And furthermore, my moral theory is not designed for defending oneself from immorality but for avoiding immoral behavior oneself. How you deal with difficult or immoral people is a separate issue.
No, it's not. You cannot even identify the word "immoral" in regard to others unless you have an objective standard (reminder: I say "objective," not "arbitrary"). Unless you're really saying something when you call him "immoral," something that goes beyond "I don't like him," something that reflects a morally-real (i.e. objective) judgment, then you're saying nothing at all, except, "I don't like..."
I said:
Let's have your syllogism. Go ahead.
A syllogism is just a simplified version of a single argument. I cannot give you a syllogism for the abolition of slavery because 1) I am not precisely certain what the reason(s) was, and 2) it is likely that there was a constellation of reasons behind abolition rather than one reason alone. There is no single syllogism that can be created for such a complex subject.
Untrue. Syllogisms are precisely for the purpose of making complex subjects plain. It would not matter at all what the historical reasons for the abolition were UNLESS they were rational. The fact that some people just happened at some point to decide they didn't like the institution any more would prove nothing...especially about the morality of their decision. So let me open it up wider.

Give me your syllogism for why YOU don't believe in slavery. And I'll give you mine.

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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by mysterio448 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:12 pm

Immanuel Can wrote: Oh no. That could be very arbitrary. "Objective" simply means "grounded in a reality." i.e. not a fiction made up in someone's head. :) Objective morality not only CAN take circumstances into account, but in its applied form, MUST do so.

Now I see the source of our misunderstanding. You were thinking I was asking for an arbitrary decision about the bombing, and I was insisting on an objective one. Good to know. Problem solved. :D


What I understand the term "objective morality" to mean is that certain actions are right or are wrong in themselves, regardless of the circumstances. You will have to explain to me plainly and clearly what you understand the term to mean so that we are on the same page.

If you want to argue that mass murder is inherently wrong but that it is debatable whether the atomic bombings of Japan actually qualify as mass murder, then that is one thing. But if you want to say that regardless of how you classify the act, that the moral status of the act still depends on the circumstances of the situation, then that is moral relativism plain and simple.

I'm not disagreeing, but there's a problem: what makes one premise "moral" and another not? It is not enough that a premise contains some predication of morality, like "Lying is wrong," for before that premise can stand it needs justification: it needs a proof that lying really IS wrong. It's not moral, but only arbitrary, until that work is done.

So even though I believe "Lying is wrong" is a true statement, I am able to do so because of objectivism about morality. But without objectivism, why is lying "wrong"? In fact, what is "wrong" at all?
It seems that you are not really paying attention to what I've been saying. A moral premise is amoral, therefore "Lying is wrong" would not qualify as a moral premise but a moral conclusion. Moral premises in a moral argument are at least one objective observation of the circumstances and at least one statement of one's own goals or feelings.

As a moral relativist, I don't believe that lying is wrong in itself. For example, say if I saw a beaten, bloodied woman running past me, in obvious fear for her life, and then run down a street and make a left turn at a corner, and then a minute later a scary-looking man with a bloody knife comes following after her and asks me which way the woman went, right or left. Assuming I cannot refuse to answer, would I tell the truth or would I lie? Personally, I would probably lie and say she went right. You see, that is what moral relativism is about. It means that no act is right or wrong in itself, and that the words "right" and "wrong" actually mean nothing until they have gone through the reasoning process. This is why premises in a moral argument are amoral.

Well, it's an analogy...but it fails to capture the real problem, which is the one I mention above: how do we get something specifically "moral" into a practical equation?
With your question you seem to assume that moral matters are inherently impractical. But I disagree. I believe that there is really no difference between moral matters and practical matters – they are the same thing. Moral matters only seem different because they pertain to matters that society has conventionally branded as "moral," but there is no substantive difference. If one doesn't find doing the right thing to be useful, then why should anyone bother? A "good" act is only as good as the good that comes out of it; a "bad" act is only as bad as the bad that comes out of it. Therefore, I would say that morality and practicality are very much related.

The middle term was "nutritious/should eat". But as I pointed out above, decoupling them is easy, and would restore the validity -- though of course, not the truthfulness or morality -- of the syllogism
Wrong. You don't seem to know what a "middle term" actually is. The middle term in a syllogism is the term that is not mentioned in the conclusion itself but is implied because it logically fuses together the subject term and the predicate term. So looking at your syllogism:

There are many babies in America.
Babies are nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

The phrase "should eat" is explicitly mentioned in the conclusion so therefore it is not the middle term. Looking at one of my syllogisms:

Babies are nutritious.
We should eat whatever is nutritious.
Therefore, we should eat babies.

The subject term is "we should eat," the predicate term is "babies," and the middle term which is not mentioned in the conclusion is "nutritious." Once again, maybe you should go back and re-learn some basic logic.


Ah, now look...you've just done exactly what I was saying...supplying the tacit premises to make the immoral argument rational. You might have just believed me in the first place, and saved yourself the labour: because look now...you've just granted my essential point: that morality is not a subset of reason, since reason by itself can be used to justify entirely immoral behaviours. The "moral" bit has to come from justified premises, not from some magic achieved by reason itself.
Firstly, I have said before that finding the most relevant and important premises is just as important as the reasoning process itself. You get out what you put in. So if you determine the nutritional value of babies to be a relevant consideration then that's on you. Secondly, as I have said before, premises are not "justified" in themselves but are amoral considerations of the situation.
Nor does your objective morality safeguard your rights. If someone is mistreating you, appealing to some abstract standard of morality and saying that what they are doing is "wrong" will not achieve anything if you are dealing with a particularly recalcitrant individual.
Ultimately, yes it will. It will not change the individual now, perhaps, but it will have everything to do with how his moral condition is settled when the Ultimate Judge eventually rules on the matter, as He certainly will.
But by then the evil will have already been committed and the suffering suffered, so the point is moot, not to mention impractical.
No, it's not. You cannot even identify the word "immoral" in regard to others unless you have an objective standard (reminder: I say "objective," not "arbitrary"). Unless you're really saying something when you call him "immoral," something that goes beyond "I don't like him," something that reflects a morally-real (i.e. objective) judgment, then you're saying nothing at all, except, "I don't like..."
Incorrect. Take car theft for example. I would generally consider car theft to be wrong. But if a time bomb was about to go off, potentially killing hundreds of innocent people, and a person had no other means of transportation and thus stole my car in order to get to the bomb and diffuse it, I would not consider that act of car theft to be immoral, only inconvenient. Whether or not I like what someone is doing is not the sole determining factor of immorality.
Untrue. Syllogisms are precisely for the purpose of making complex subjects plain. It would not matter at all what the historical reasons for the abolition were UNLESS they were rational. The fact that some people just happened at some point to decide they didn't like the institution any more would prove nothing...especially about the morality of their decision.
People in history have done all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, rational or otherwise. I don't really understand what your point is here. You seem to be saying that a course of action is only morally good if there is a logical rationale behind it. But I think that actions are only as good as the good that comes out of them, regardless of the intentions. I am glad that slavery is abolished, and I don't entirely know nor do I think that it really matters much what the reasons were to achieve this condition. Abolition was a good thing, not because of the causes but because of the effects.

What you must understand is that the whole point of morality is to prevent bad things from happening. Sometimes bad things happen because people have bad intentions. Sometimes bad things happen because people have good intentions but poor reasoning. And sometimes bad things happen for no good reason at all. The fact is, only the process of reasoning within a specific context can identify what "bad" actually is and determine the right way to address it. It seems that your moral philosophy is burdened by circular reasoning: you want to try to define what is good or bad before you've even placed the concepts within a context in which they could have substance.
Give me your syllogism for why YOU don't believe in slavery. And I'll give you mine.
No human being deserves to be owned by another.
That which deprives people of what they deserve is evil.
Therefore, any institution in which a person can be owned by another is evil.
Slavery is an institution in which a human being can be owned by another.
Therefore, Slavery is evil.

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Re: Is morality just a subset of reason?

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Jul 14, 2015 4:38 pm

mysterio448 wrote:What I understand the term "objective morality" to mean is that certain actions are right or are wrong in themselves, regardless of the circumstances. You will have to explain to me plainly and clearly what you understand the term to mean so that we are on the same page.
Oh, I see...yes, you're troubled by the "in themselves" bit. Yes, if that's what I were saying I'd agree with you. But it's not my position. There is no such thing as moral "in itself": that would be "intrinsic" morality, and it would be just as unprovable as relativistic morality.

For a Christian, morality is grounded in God. That which is according to His character is good; that which is a corruption or denial of that character is evil. So "good" and "evil" are stable properties. Now, that's a far cry from saying they're "simple" qualities, or always easy to discern. But when correctly discerned, what is being discerned is objectively real -- meaning not a contingent fiction of the vagaries of some human brain or brains.

Is that any clearer?

I think, though, another word giving us misunderstandings is "relativistic". From your later comments,...
...that the moral status of the act still depends on the circumstances of the situation, then that is moral relativism plain and simple.
... I discern that perhaps you are allowing "relative" to slide over into "circumstantial" in your thinking. But that's not correct. That moral reasoning takes into account circumstances is necessary; but that the presence of those circumstances makes or indicates that morality is relative is untrue. An objective moral judgment is premises on all the real, relevant facts of the situation, plus one objective moral claim about those facts.

You might look at it this way: a moral syllogism needs at least one premise with morality built into that premise. In your example re: slavery below, you yourself built morality into the first premise without realizing you'd done it (assuming you're speaking accurately when you also claim you believe the premises are "amoral.") For "deserves" is a moral concept, predicated on a free-standing moral claim, based on something like the intrinsic worth of human beings, which is itself a debatable premise. (In fact, it's an indefensible premise in an atheist world, a matter on which I shall shortly expand.)

But here, look at what you wrote:
A moral premise is amoral, therefore "Lying is wrong" would not qualify as a moral premise but a moral conclusion. Moral premises in a moral argument are at least one objective observation of the circumstances and at least one statement of one's own goals or feelings.

You're trying to use "goals or feelings" to fill in the essential moral content in the premises. But "my goals/feelings are correct/desirable/right/whatever" is a contentious premise you have not defended. In fact, it's a smuggled-in moral judgment.

Essentially, then, the account you have given above would make you an Emotivist (if you go with the word "feelings") or a Pragmatist (if you go with the word "goals"). These are two very different ethical frameworks, which you are using as if they were the same thing. But worse than that, Emotivism has already been widely discredited in moral philosophy because it turns out to be entirely morally uninformative, since "I feel" doesn't justify anything, morally speaking.

Meanwhile, you can note that Pragmatism has decayed into the "End of Ethics" school because it's inherently amoral, substituting "practical for my goals" for the value "right." It's been widely criticized as inherently selfish and agenda-driven, applying as it does only to the interests of a particular individual or group, and not to the larger question of the rightness or wrongness of the action. Essentially, critics have come to see that Pragmatism's just a complete denial of all morality: for the "out" group has no basis of appeal against the power-play being made by the "in" group, under Pragmatism. So it's a killer for minority rights, for example, and ends up just being a "might makes right" theory. In fact, it would allow things like slavery, if they fit some kind of "goal" people can have.

Absent Emotivism and Pragmatism, you'd be stuck. Your moral syllogisms can have descriptions of circumstance, but lack the basis of moral evaluation of those circumstances, and thus cannot conduce to any moral conclusion.
As a moral relativist, I don't believe that lying is wrong in itself. For example, say if I saw a beaten, bloodied woman running past me, in obvious fear for her life, and then run down a street and make a left turn at a corner, and then a minute later a scary-looking man with a bloody knife comes following after her and asks me which way the woman went, right or left. Assuming I cannot refuse to answer, would I tell the truth or would I lie? Personally, I would probably lie and say she went right.

Well, that's Consequentialism, not Relativism. In fact, that's the classic Consequentialist counter-case to Deontology that you are citing there. So now you're up to three systems of ethics combined in your account: Emotivism (feelings), Pragmatism (goals) and Consequentialism (the woman will be hurt if you don't lie).

So far, then, it's unclear which of these opposed moral systems is actually driving your view. If the feelings, goals and consequences don't reconcile in a particular situation, which one is supposed to be leading your judgment? Are you an Emotivist, a Pragmatist or a Consequentialists...or a Relativist? Now we've got four.
This is why premises in a moral argument are amoral.
They actually can't be. An "amoral" premise would not contain any value judgment. To know if you should lie about the woman or not, you must already have in mind a moral judgment that it is a) against your moral feelings, b) not consonant with right goals, or c) unlikely to create good consequences if you do not lie. And how would you defend that?

Now, in the case you've given above, it would be possible for you to respond that there's no problem, since all three seem to be in line: but what if the question were, say, "Should I sleep with this desirable woman, even though I have no long-term interest in her?" For then, your a) feelings, and c) the consequences to the woman might be wildly opposite. And your "goals" could be either 1) the satisfaction of your present physical desires, or 2) the honouring of your promise to your own wife; so you wouldn't even know which "goal" to choose. What then? Which is the moral perspective, and how do you know?
With your question you seem to assume that moral matters are inherently impractical.
No, I mean the opposite: that practical matters are inherently amoral. And it's not an assumption I personally hold, it's a characterization of the view atheists must hold if they are rational within their own assumptions. For them, "practical" does not self-evidently come bundled with any "moral" information. It only comes with "practical" information. Hume showed that decisively.
But I disagree. I believe that there is really no difference between moral matters and practical matters – they are the same thing.
You may suppose that, but I think it's pretty easy to show that's not correct. It may be "practical" for some purpose you have in view (such as the satisfaction of your physical desires) that you ply with a drink, drug, and then sexually assault the woman mentioned above. Surely that would not make it moral for you to do so: but if what I have listed above is all the relevant circumstances, then on your view, you'd have to say it did.

There must be more to this, I think.
A "good" act is only as good as the good that comes out of it; a "bad" act is only as bad as the bad that comes out of it. Therefore, I would say that morality and practicality are very much related.
But surely, what you are advocating here is just pure Consequentialism really. And as such, it's subject to all the criticisms to which all forms of Consequentialism are subject, such as the arbitrary teleology problem, because even Consequentialists cannot agree on the right "goal," whether it's a "rule" or an "act," and whether it's "pleasure/pain" or something else, or that all Consequentialist moral calculus in their "hedonic calculations" is arbitrary as well.
...the middle term in a syllogism is the term that is not mentioned in the conclusion itself but is implied because it logically fuses together the subject term and the predicate term.
Ah, you are correct. In my haste to reply, I made an error. My apologies. But as you corrected that error in your alternate syllogism, you did, in fact, confirm the upshot of what I said: namely, that rational arguments can issue in immoral conclusions. And that's all that really matters to our present conversation.

So reason and morality are not automatic companions (as they sometimes are and sometimes aren't), and thus morality is not a subset of reason.
Whether or not I like what someone is doing is not the sole determining factor of immorality.
So are we ruling out "feelings" now? That's a bit perplexing. Because earlier on, you listed them with "goals" and later, with consequences, as possible essential sources of moral information. Okay, you can do that: but I just want to be sure you're now abandoning Emotivism, if you are. Or are you now just saying that the consequences *overrule* the feelings, and so you're still happy blending Emotivism with Consequentialism, but Consequentialism is the real driver, and Emotivism is optional?
I wrote:
Untrue. Syllogisms are precisely for the purpose of making complex subjects plain. It would not matter at all what the historical reasons for the abolition were UNLESS they were rational. The fact that some people just happened at some point to decide they didn't like the institution any more would prove nothing...especially about the morality of their decision.
You replied:
People in history have done all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, rational or otherwise. I don't really understand what your point is here. You seem to be saying that a course of action is only morally good if there is a logical rationale behind it.

Close. I'm saying that at least in principle, if no good line of reasoning can be specified for an action, then we have no reason to think that action rational. Similarly, if no moral line of reasoning can even possibly be adduced for a moral judgment, then we have good reason to think that judgment immoral or amoral.

If we, today, can think of no reason slavery was really wrong, then there would be nothing preventing us from going back to it, or doing it in some other form with some other minority group, if circumstances should seem to favour that goal for us. We need a way of saying to people, "Even if you want it and think it serves your goals, you are still wrong to take slaves." And how will we get that, if no reasons exist?

(As an aside: slavery is far from dead in this world. In places like India, China and North Africa, it's still being done in its primitive form, apparently; and worldwide, the sex-trafficking 'industry' currently has more slaves than existed at any time in human history. And the Qatari treatment of the Nepalese over the building of World Cup stadiums is an international human-rights horror show. So the need for reasons to thwart this are just as pressing as they ever were -- maybe more so today.)
I am glad that slavery is abolished,
As am I, and, I think, all morally correct people.
...and I don't entirely know nor do I think that it really matters much what the reasons were to achieve this condition. Abolition was a good thing, not because of the causes but because of the effects.
Ah but the effects were quite devastating economically for the post-bellum South in America. A plantation owner would certainly not agree with your assessment. What makes you right and him wrong?
What you must understand is that the whole point of morality is to prevent bad things from happening.
Define "bad". You mean "Things I feel I don't like," or "things that don't fit my goals," or "things with consequences I don't prefer"? And what if someone else feels otherwise? Are they immoral then? How do you know?

I promised:
Give me your syllogism for why YOU don't believe in slavery. And I'll give you mine.
You replied:
No human being deserves to be owned by another.
That which deprives people of what they deserve is evil.
Therefore, any institution in which a person can be owned by another is evil.
Slavery is an institution in which a human being can be owned by another.
Therefore, Slavery is evil.
Premise 4 is definitional and obvious, so I can grant you that one. But Premise 1 uses the word "deserves," which is a value judgment on your part. Premises 2 and 3 employ the word "evil," to which you would not be rationally entitled without proof. So three out of the four premises, far from being, as you said above "amoral" are morally-freighted premises. But you have already said morality is not objective, so none of these freighted terms are rationally-obligatory for a skeptic to believe. So you have now left us with no defense showing that slavery is immoral. And I think we all know we need one.

But now I will reply in kind:

Premise 1: The Supreme Being made all men accountable to Him for their actions.
Premise 2: One cannot be held accountable without the ability to perform free actions.
Premise 3: The ability to perform such free actions is incompatible with slavery.
Conclusion: Therefore, slavery is against the intentions of the Supreme Being.

This is not original with me, I confess. Essentially, it's John Locke's rationale. It also would free women, and by implication it would also accord to handicapped persons maximal autonomy, among other things. For its basic driver is the necessity of all human beings to give account for their actions to the Supreme Being, and thus it cannot be relativized by the contingent purposes of other human beings. It banishes slavery (and the oppression of other such minority groups) on a basis that is universally-compelling, if premise 1 is granted.

But that's the problem: in the atheist world, premise 1 is not granted. And so the whole argument against slavery falls on that link in the chain, if atheism is true. So falls any rationale for women's rights, the rights of minorities and the rights of the physically and mentally challenged. Children's rights cannot be proved. Human rights across different societies cannot be proved. In fact, absent that first premise, no human rights of any kind can be proved, if atheism is true.

Good thing it's not.

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

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:01 pm

mysterio448 wrote: No human being deserves to be owned by another.
That which deprives people of what they deserve is evil.
Therefore, any institution in which a person can be owned by another is evil.
Slavery is an institution in which a human being can be owned by another.
Therefore, Slavery is evil.
By what means do you justify your first two premises?

Who says who deserves what?

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