Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

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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Gary Childress
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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Gary Childress » Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:31 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
Gary Childress wrote:I wasn't raised in a religious household either and don't go to any Church but through the years I've learned to be more honest about what I don't know about the world. Stephen Hawking doesn't know everything there is to know about the world. All the quantum physicists combined don't know much more about reality than what mathematics tell them and mathematics have been defying many of our common sense notions about the world lately. Mathematics themselves are ideal, non-physical abstractions about the world we otherwise encounter with our senses.
There's a difference between not knowing something and not bothering with something that's completely absurd though.

You probably don't withhold judgment on whether Jupiter is populated with floating pink bunny rabbits who speak English, smoke pipes and sing Bad Company songs to each other all day long.
The idea of pink bunny rabbits who speak English on Jupiter is extremely absurd to the point of disbelief as are celstial teapots. In fact, just judging form the context they are brought up in conversation I am pretty sure such an entity is fictional. However that doesn't disprove that there may be some divine/spiritual (or whatever) entity or that "ultimate reality" may not be, in some way, radically different than we think. In any case, I'm glad you made the distinction between "making up morality" and "discovering what's in our brains," though, to be fair, I would clarify further to say that we "discover" what is in our "mind". A brain is a lump of matter with location in space and time. Mind doesn't seem (at least prima facie) to have those qualities, though, judging from evidence, I do believe mind supervenes upon the brain.

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Lacewing
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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Lacewing » Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:32 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
Lacewing wrote:So how is this different from "making it up"?

Morality is a judgment, isn't it? Aren't we making up all of our judgments?
It's not decided by whim, and for at least one's core moral views, it's not decided at all. It's discovered--one discovers what's built-in to one's brain basically.

"Making it up" is typically understood to have a connotation of whim to it.
No, I wasn't speaking of a whim. :) Rather, that we create our reality with our rules and definitions and judgments and ideals. Based on our circumstances, we (within the groups we identify with) determine what is right and wrong, and create our beliefs. All of this doesn't exist without us... and it varies even amongst us (humankind)... which would seem to indicate that we are creating it (making it up). I'm not saying it doesn't have value -- I'm just saying that there isn't anything ultimately carved in stone that applies to all people and circumstances.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Gary Childress » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:00 am

Lacewing wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:
Lacewing wrote:So how is this different from "making it up"?

Morality is a judgment, isn't it? Aren't we making up all of our judgments?
It's not decided by whim, and for at least one's core moral views, it's not decided at all. It's discovered--one discovers what's built-in to one's brain basically.

"Making it up" is typically understood to have a connotation of whim to it.
No, I wasn't speaking of a whim. :) Rather, that we create our reality with our rules and definitions and judgments and ideals. Based on our circumstances, we (within the groups we identify with) determine what is right and wrong, and create our beliefs. All of this doesn't exist without us... and it varies even amongst us (humankind)... which would seem to indicate that we are creating it (making it up). I'm not saying it doesn't have value -- I'm just saying that there isn't anything ultimately carved in stone that applies to all people and circumstances.
Maybe you don't mean it this way but one other problem I see with saying that we (human beings) "create" what is moral is that it seems to me to almost imply that anything can be moral by virtue of if we or some group gets together to agree on it. Therefore a group of us could conceivably get together and recast our vote on what is moral or collectively change our minds at any moment or something. It really does sound sort of arbitrary to me. And if we assign this arbitrariness to it, then I think there is a tendency to go further and think, well, it's all just brute survival of the fittest and since morality is just our creation, maybe I could get away with not being moral at all and there would be no penalties for it so long as no one catches me.

I don't know. You could be right, that morality is created by us humans. But to me it really seems more like a death knell for morality.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:30 am

Gary Childress wrote:The idea of pink bunny rabbits who speak English on Jupiter is extremely absurd to the point of disbelief as are celstial teapots. In fact, just judging form the context they are brought up in conversation I am pretty sure such an entity is fictional. However that doesn't disprove that there may be some divine/spiritual (or whatever) entity or that "ultimate reality" may not be, in some way, radically different than we think. In any case, I'm glad you made the distinction between "making up morality" and "discovering what's in our brains," though, to be fair, I would clarify further to say that we "discover" what is in our "mind". A brain is a lump of matter with location in space and time. Mind doesn't seem (at least prima facie) to have those qualities, though, judging from evidence, I do believe mind supervenes upon the brain.
It doesn't have anything to do with proof/disproof; I didn't mention that idea at all. It has to do with whether an idea is worth giving any serious consideration whatsoever. You don't give serious consideration to just any arbitrary idea/claim just because someone has that idea or believes that claim.

Re mind/brain, I'm an identity theorist. I'm fine with the idea of supervenience, as long as we're talking about supervenience in an identity sense. I'm not fine with the idea of epiphenomenalism. Some people seem to be hinting at epiphenomenalism with "supervenience," but I believe that's a mistake.

I don't agree that mind doesn't seem to have a location. My mind, for example, is clearly in the room I'm presently in in New York City, while it's clearly not in, say, Puerto Rico. And it's clearly temporally located at October 23, 2016 at 10:30 pm, relative to NYC, and not temporally located at December 1, 1086.

Of course that's because my mind is identical to particular brain states/processes from a first-person perspective.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:43 am

There's no such thing as 'morality', it's just empathy and kindness, and murdering and killing someone for food isn't particularly kind or empathetic. Some people will see it as simply survival, and others won't. There have been a heck of a lot of times when humans have been really hungry, but little evidence of them killing and eating each other because of it unless they are from a culture that practices cannibalism regardless of famine.
And empathy and kindness are not exclusive to humans, not by any stretch of the imagination. Humans kill for pleasure. That doesn't seem very 'moral' to me.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:44 am

Lacewing wrote:No, I wasn't speaking of a whim. :)
That's fine if you're not using it that way, but that's why I said "'Making it up' is typically understood to have a connotation of whim to it" and why I made a distinction.
Rather, that we create our reality with our rules and definitions and judgments and ideals.
That's stated so that it would be broader than morality. I don't know if you had something broader in mind.

I don't agree with that in either case though.

With morality, again, I don't believe that at least out core moral dispositions are intentionally invented or created any more than we intentionally invent or create how our hearts work. That doesn't mean that how our hearts work comes from something outside of us. It's a part of us, a part of what we are, but it's not something we decide or intentionally control.
Based on our circumstances, we (within the groups we identify with) determine what is right and wrong, and create our beliefs.
I think that individuals' brains determine this, where there also will be influences from society/culture. I'm using "influence" there in just the same way that we say for example that Bob Dylan influenced the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood".

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:50 am

Gary Childress wrote:Maybe you don't mean it this way but one other problem I see with saying that we (human beings) "create" what is moral is that it seems to me to almost imply that anything can be moral by virtue of if we or some group gets together to agree on it.
Anything could be moral to someone. All that depends on is whether someone's brain works in a manner where they feel that particular thing is moral. It doesn't have anything to do with agreement (unless the person in question only feels that consensus stances are moral), and it's not a matter of intentional invention. But anything could be moral to particular individuals.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:59 am

vegetariantaxidermy wrote:There's no such thing as 'morality'
Morality simply amounts to interpersonal behavior that one feels is more significant than etiquette and that one feels is permissible, or recommendable, or obligatory, etc.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:30 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
vegetariantaxidermy wrote:There's no such thing as 'morality'
Morality simply amounts to interpersonal behavior that one feels is more significant than etiquette and that one feels is permissible, or recommendable, or obligatory, etc.
So no such thing then.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Lacewing » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:33 am

Gary Childress wrote: Maybe you don't mean it this way but one other problem I see with saying that we (human beings) "create" what is moral is that it seems to me to almost imply that anything can be moral by virtue of if we or some group gets together to agree on it.
Yes... I mean that... but I'm not suggesting that it is an instant thing... or even a conscious thing. Because there are all these influences (to use the word that Terrapin Station used) that affect and steer everything. And they can vary from group to group... and they form over time... but they are STILL a concoction of humans. :) So... to be clear... I'm not talking about a whim or a sudden decision like: "Oh hey everybody, let's all agree that it's okay to eat people now." I'm simply saying that whatever characteristics of morality you believe in, I think they are made up by a long line of humans of a certain mindset... just as other humans of other mindsets have come up with other ideas of morality.
Gary Childress wrote:...and since morality is just our creation, maybe I could get away with not being moral at all and there would be no penalties for it so long as no one catches me.
Well that's true, and a lot of people are like that it seems. But there are also a lot of people who have no DESIRE to do those kinds of things. I don't think we necessarily need morals to tell us what to do -- because we will naturally do what feels good, and what we desire to do/feel.
Gary Childress wrote:You could be right, that morality is created by us humans. But to me it really seems more like a death knell for morality.
Why does the potential of it being our creation make it any less valuable? For me, the whole purpose of pointing out that we're making up stuff is to show how we entangle ourselves in our own creations. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't create -- after all, that seems to be why we're here (to see what we can create). However, remaining conscious of our creations... rather than thinking everything is happening TO US and/or that everything/everyone has to be a certain way... reveals more potential, and can be very freeing.

At least that's how it seems to me. I don't claim to know what is right for everyone. I just like to suggest possibilities that I think I see. :D

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Gary Childress » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:34 am

Terrapin Station wrote:It doesn't have anything to do with proof/disproof; I didn't mention that idea at all. It has to do with whether an idea is worth giving any serious consideration whatsoever. You don't give serious consideration to just any arbitrary idea/claim just because someone has that idea or believes that claim.
What determines whether something is worth "serious consideration"? what is "arbitrary" about the notion of a "supreme being" or some sort of "spiritual" aspect to reality?
I don't agree that mind doesn't seem to have a location. My mind, for example, is clearly in the room I'm presently in in New York City, while it's clearly not in, say, Puerto Rico. And it's clearly temporally located at October 23, 2016 at 10:30 pm, relative to NYC, and not temporally located at December 1, 1086.

Of course that's because my mind is identical to particular brain states/processes from a first-person perspective.
What is a "brain state", though? It's a physical state of affairs where certain physical molecules are located in space at a particular time. Now dig around in those molecules and try to find "blueness" in those molecules. Try to find the sound of a tree falling in the forest in those molecules. Try to find "pain" in those molecules. Can you pinpoint exactly where "pain" is in those molecules? What does "pain" even "look" like? Can you track movement of "pain" over time as it moves around in those molecules? At time X where is "pain"? Time Y...and so forth.

You say your mind is in NYC. Can you pinpoint the exact spot down to a millimeter where your "mind" is? Suppose you bang your big toe on the door. Where is the pain? Is it in your big toe, or is it in your brain where the "brain states" are? Now chop off your toe. Like Lord Nelson, maybe you'll have the "phantom limb" phenomenon. Now where is the pain? It can't be in your big toe because that's gone. So it must be in your brain. So again point to the exact spot on your body where you feel the pain?

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Lacewing » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:40 am

Terrapin Station wrote:I don't believe that at least out core moral dispositions are intentionally invented or created any more than we intentionally invent or create how our hearts work.
I've just responded in a post to Gary, to try and further clarify what I'm referring to. I find it interesting that my communication somehow led you both to believe that I was talking about some sort of "on the spot" morality adjustment. :) Hopefully my latest post (prior to this one) has cleared that up.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:44 am

vegetariantaxidermy wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:
vegetariantaxidermy wrote:There's no such thing as 'morality'
Morality simply amounts to interpersonal behavior that one feels is more significant than etiquette and that one feels is permissible, or recommendable, or obligatory, etc.
So no such thing then.
No one feels that way? Haha.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:46 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
vegetariantaxidermy wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:Morality simply amounts to interpersonal behavior that one feels is more significant than etiquette and that one feels is permissible, or recommendable, or obligatory, etc.
So no such thing then.
No one feels that way? Haha.
Well I said pretty much the same thing in the previous post. And people who agonise over what 'morality' is must be psychopaths. It's pretty obvious there is no such thing, just look at how it changes, sometimes practically overnight. I was watching (accidentally) the other night an old 'Carry On' film. Lecherous old men in lifts sqeezing women's breasts and bums, making sleazy, suggestive comments to every young female they encounter, the female 'victims' twittering with delight-- and people apparently laughed uproariously at these 'jolly japes'. Move on a couple of decades and men are being arrested left, right and centre for doing the same sort of things that at the time were considered 'a hoot' but are now considered 'immoral'.
And how recently were homosexuals being arrested for 'immorality'? If humans are that bloody fickle and insincere about what they consider to be moral then what's the point in even using the stupid, religiously-charged word? Give me empathy, kindness, and fairness any day.
Last edited by vegetariantaxidermy on Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Famine and Cannibalism: Ethics in Extreme Circumstances

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:03 am

Gary Childress wrote: What determines whether something is worth "serious consideration"? what is "arbitrary" about the notion of a "supreme being" or some sort of "spiritual" aspect to reality?
For most people, including me, not being absurd is one big factor.

That the idea of nonphysical existents is incoherent doesn't help, of course.
It's a physical state of affairs where certain physical molecules are located in space at a particular time. Now dig around in those molecules and try to find "blueness" in those molecules.
Do you mean from a third-person perspective?

Mentality is a first-person phenomenon. Isn't that obvious? It should be. It's what brain states are like when you are the brain in question. It's certainly easy to find them from a first-person perspective.
Can you pinpoint exactly where "pain" is in those molecules? What does "pain" even "look" like? Can you track movement of "pain" over time as it moves around in those molecules? At time X where is "pain"? Time Y...and so forth.
How would it be that you have enough interest in this topic to ask these sorts of questions, yet you're completely unfamiliar with brain imaging re correlations to reports of first-person mental phenomena?
You say your mind is in NYC. Can you pinpoint the exact spot down to a millimeter where your "mind" is?
"Either you can pinpoint the location of x down to a millimeter, or x doesn't have a location"--holy moly, that would be stupid to claim, right? You'd have to say that my TV doesn't have a location, because it occupies more than a millimeter.

The location of my mind is identical to the location of my brain. Do you believe that it's difficult to specify the location of one's brain?

Where is the pain? Is it in your big toe, or is it in your brain
Not at all a difficult question. The pain phenomenon occurs in your brain. Apparently you're unfamiliar with anaesthesia.

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