What is the highest principle?

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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henry quirk
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What is the highest principle?

Post by henry quirk »

A poster, elsewhere, sez: I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality.

What say you?
FlashDangerpants
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by FlashDangerpants »

That one is as good a try as any. So is the golden rule, and the categorical imperative, along with all the other variations of Nobody Likes a Hypocrite. This one too...
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But ... Most times when one of these things is proposed, the idea in mind is to have some basic rule from which all other rules are derived. In this instance your interlocutor seems to have the oposite in mind; a sort of final tie-breaker rule that must, for any decision, be compatible with all other principles being applied in that case + presumably <insert the standard Kantian universal boiler plate stuff here>. In this instance there might be some validity in switching from that search for the foundational thing at the bottom of all ethics to looking for the pointy bit at the top of the pyramid. It's not something I've put much thought into before so I'm not sure just yet.

Personally I am a moral skeptic in that I don't think there is a grand unifying principle of all ethics. We can get the impression that there ought to be such a thing because people are generally very similar to each other and have similar ethical wants (honesty, fairness, yadda yadda). Whether we got that set of base ethical intuitions through biology by evolving as a social species or as some sort of Gift Of Crom is irrelevant, the important thing is that we didn't acquire it via some prehistoric symposium of great and wise minds, and we can't recreate it in full from the ground up or the top down with one now.
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henry quirk
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by henry quirk »

FlashDangerpants wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 1:04 am That one is as good a try as any. So is the golden rule, and the categorical imperative, along with all the other variations of Nobody Likes a Hypocrite. This one too...
Image

But ... Most times when one of these things is proposed, the idea in mind is to have some basic rule from which all other rules are derived. In this instance your interlocutor seems to have the oposite in mind; a sort of final tie-breaker rule that must, for any decision, be compatible with all other principles being applied in that case + presumably <insert the standard Kantian universal boiler plate stuff here>. In this instance there might be some validity in switching from that search for the foundational thing at the bottom of all ethics to looking for the pointy bit at the top of the pyramid. It's not something I've put much thought into before so I'm not sure just yet.

Personally I am a moral skeptic in that I don't think there is a grand unifying principle of all ethics. We can get the impression that there ought to be such a thing because people are generally very similar to each other and have similar ethical wants (honesty, fairness, yadda yadda). Whether we got that set of base ethical intuitions through biology by evolving as a social species or as some sort of Gift Of Crom is irrelevant, the important thing is that we didn't acquire it via some prehistoric symposium of great and wise minds, and we can't recreate it in full from the ground up or the top down with one now.
You understand I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality. isn't mind, yeah?

Me: I just asked a question.
Impenitent
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Impenitent »

do what you can...

-Imp
FlashDangerpants
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by FlashDangerpants »

henry quirk wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 1:40 am You understand I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality. isn't mind, yeah?

Me: I just asked a question.
Yeah, that one is Skeptic's. Your own is usually more along the lines of keeping your hands out of other people's pockets I believe.

It's only because Skeptic is the interlocutor in question that I made a point of noting the structural novelty. He tends to present Comp-Sci based structures, only to be responded to as if he were using more standard philosophical ones. In this case he might be onto something though. So we might do well to see if there are ways in which that model of rule application could help, even if the specific no harm principle itself is thousands of years old and not usually seen as interesting.

I presonally doubt it changes anything, but fuck, philosophers have been trying to universalise ethics for so long, and where has it got us. The trendiest option in recent years is just Aristotle, but with less advice on how to be the best possible slave.
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henry quirk
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by henry quirk »

"Your own is usually more along the lines of keeping your hands out of other people's pockets I believe."

Yeah, that ain't right.
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HexHammer
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by HexHammer »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:57 pm A poster, elsewhere, sez: I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality.

What say you?
To understand the concept of relevance and do intelligent things.
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RCSaunders
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by RCSaunders »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:57 pm A poster, elsewhere, sez: I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality.

What say you?
One thing wrong with that is that it is negative. An ultimate principle would have to be a positive, not what one must refrain from doing, but one must do to be doing right.

The second thing wrong with that is that it makes the ultimate principle, "social." That would mean the ultimate moral principle does not apply to how an individual lives his own life, only how he relates to others.

Both of those are wrong.
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henry quirk
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by henry quirk »

RCSaunders wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:18 pm
henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:57 pm A poster, elsewhere, sez: I am pretty sure the highest principle is "no harm". Morality.

What say you?
One thing wrong with that is that it is negative. An ultimate principle would have to be a positive, not what one must refrain from doing, but one must do to be doing right.

The second thing wrong with that is that it makes the ultimate principle, "social." That would mean the ultimate moral principle does not apply to how an individual lives his own life, only how he relates to others.

Both of those are wrong.
Yep.
Skepdick
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Skepdick »

FlashDangerpants wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 1:04 am In this instance there might be some validity in switching from that search for the foundational thing at the bottom of all ethics to looking for the pointy bit at the top of the pyramid. It's not something I've put much thought into before so I'm not sure just yet.
You have the right gist. Foundations are a pipe dream.

I am just going to re-arrange your bottom->top orientation into a left -> right (present -> future), is -> ought orientation. Face the same way as the arrow of time. Aim for a point in future spacetime that doesn't suck. When you look at it that way, it's good ol' consequentialism + conscientiousness.

Only, in order to be conscientious you need to be able to predict the consequences of your actions. The reason why it fails in practice is because multi-dimensional statistical analysis gets really complex really quickly, and the evolved ape's brain can't cope with the complexity of the computation to foresee N-th order catastrophic side-effects.

Far more often shit goes wrong because we are ignorant, not malicious (best intentions count for nothing). No plan survives contact with reality and all that.
Last edited by Skepdick on Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:53 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Skepdick
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Skepdick »

RCSaunders wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:18 pm One thing wrong with that is that it is negative.
That's exactly why it works. All positive statements fail at metaphysics.

All positive statements require you to accept an axiom - a premise. A foundation (which you know damn well you don't have), so the only other choice you have is to start with the conclusion and work your way backwards to some premises.

It requires exactly backwards thinking. Reverse engineering if you will. It's the exact same thinking style as Reverse mathematics.

But far more trivially, the positive principle is bullshit because it's superfluous. Nobody needs to be told "what is right" because everybody already thinks they know! That's half the trouble.
RCSaunders wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:18 pm An ultimate principle would have to be a positive
Says who? Until you solve metaphysics positive principles are a pipe dream.

RCSaunders wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:18 pm , not what one must refrain from doing, but one must do to be doing right.
That erroneous assumption is why you will not get anywhere in 2000 or infinitely many years of philosophy.

The first rule in business (or doing anything) is "Don't die". Dead people do neither right; nor wrong.
Last edited by Skepdick on Thu Feb 06, 2020 9:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Skepdick
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Skepdick »

FlashDangerpants wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 2:16 am I presonally doubt it changes anything, but fuck, philosophers have been trying to universalise ethics for so long, and where has it got us. The trendiest option in recent years is just Aristotle, but with less advice on how to be the best possible slave.
Universalism is a pipe dream.

"No harm" is the most you can say (and it's probably too much) without tripping over the idiocy of ambiguous definitions, and yet every damn person would agree that having less car accidents is better than the alternative.

Every word you utter in expanding/defining "harm" is giving rope to the hangman - to mis-interpret, to mis-contextualise, to mis-understand. The problem is (and always has been) consistent interpretation of symbols, not definitions.

That's what computer solve. They eliminate ambiguity and to some extent help us manage complexity. They can do "thought experiments" a lot faster than humans. They buy us time - that's it.

One can still use that time (and computers) for nefarious shit. In the worst case - time becomes just another finite resource to wage wars over.
Last edited by Skepdick on Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Lacewing
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Lacewing »

LOVE
Skepdick
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Skepdick »

Lacewing wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:55 pmLOVE
Love can be harmful. Helicopter parenting.

The logical extension of "love" (empathy) is the over-protective, tyrannical mother.
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Lacewing
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Re: What is the highest principle?

Post by Lacewing »

Skepdick wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:56 pm
Lacewing wrote: Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:55 pmLOVE
Love can be harmful. Helicopter parenting.

The logical extension of "love" (empathy) is the over-protective, tyrannical mother.
Anything can be harmful. Limiting love to what you describe is based on your own experience/issues/agenda. Real unconditional love solves all kinds of things.
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