Why Be Moral?

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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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Immanuel Can »

bahman wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 2:07 am
Immanuel Can wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:42 am
bahman wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:59 pm Why be moral? Because otherwise, the government will punish you. So you are basically afraid of the society who is blindly making the rules.
So the rules are, you say, "blind." But they're "moral" too, you say.
Yeah. It is blind since any law which is agreed in any society is the result of what the nature of the majority is. The majority dictates, even if it is cannibalism.
So we're taking about morality, and you're arguing that cannibalism is moral? At least, it is if "the majority dictates" that it is?
Immanuel Can wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:42 am And the government makes them stick by means of a threat of force, not rationality or moral justification, so you act out of being "afraid" of being "punished," not out of any sense of rightness.
The government is a part of any modern social system but yet they follow what the majority ask for. They couldn't simply get the power unless they lie to people.
Oh. So people are actually totally incapable of being motivated through truth, or by moral considerations? They have to be deceived?

And then you say that the government "follows what the majority asks for," but "lies to people" -- so they both follow and are leading by deceiving the same people? I'm wondering who's leading, there...
Immanuel Can wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:42 am And governments must all be "moral," regardless of their differing natures, because anything the government "punishes" you for is that which is not "moral".
Yes, I get punished if I do something which the majority does not consider as moral.
So if a government and majority "consider" something as moral, it just is? Like Nazi Germany? There, rounding up and executing people was "moral"?

Still not seeing how any of that makes sense.
odysseus
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by odysseus »

Immanuel Can
\And it would need a defense. It would really need it.

It would need much more than saying, "I defend moral realism." Because barring an actual defense, "I defend" again means only "I defend...but no one else has any reason/obligation to."

Well, there is all that I have out out there already. It has the essential parts. Anyway, it has to be understood at the outset that the only thing that is going to provide an indefeasible ground for ethics is something that is demonstrably absolute, and such a thing is not so remote as it may
seem, after all, sufficient cause is like this, as are tautologies and contradictions. We consider these nondiscursive yet impossible to overturn: they are true simply because of the "giveness" of their nature. (Of course, you can exercise your freedom and question sufficient cause, but this doesn't really amount to genuine doubt).

There are two kinds goods and bads. The most common, and the only one given any attention by modern philosophers, aka, moral nihilists ( a great book by Simon Critchley on this, Very Little, Almost Nothing, Death), is the contingent goods and bads, and this is easily demonstrated: a good knife is a sharp knife, so sharpness is the contingent goodness, and it is contingent because it doesn't have to that way. For example, if the knife is for Macbeth, then a sharp knife is decidedly not good since someone could get hurt. Contingency of predicated properties like this reveals the need for context in order for the goodness of badness to be demonstrated, and without context, these terms are entirely without application. Good for what? is the question. They always defer to something else so sense can be made of it.

The other kind of good and bad is absolute, and such things never change. Something that is absolutely bad is bad, regardless of the context. Note that with the sharpness of the knife, the goodness of this not only changes, it becomes its opposite: a sharp knife in Macbeth is a bad knife.

In ethical situations, good stays good, bad stays bad and there is nothing conceivable that can change this. Of course, circumstances can relativize this because they are in competition, but the goodness and badness remain what they are. Consider a moral dilemma (extreme examples are most poignant): an ultimatum is given you to torture a child, or, a thousand others will be tortured and in a fashion much more terrible. There is a very good argument for utility here that says you should torture the child, but really, the point is, there is nothing, no countervailing argument that can change the "badness" of the torture into something good, or to diminish the badness at all. It remains fixed and inviolable, as indefeasable as if it were written on stone tablets by God. Ethical badness and goodness are utterly transcendental: unobservable, for while that pain in your finger boiling in the fire is a fact, the badness of it, and I offer this as self evident, is not, says Wittgenstein, and while I consider this an arbitrary omission from what a fact is, he is right: ethical goods and bads are very, very odd things. John Mackie wrote his Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong, denying moral realism based on precisely this. Too odd; but then, he's wrong.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

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odysseus wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 2:32 am Good for what? is the question. They always defer to something else so sense can be made of it.
Knives aren't morally good. Nor are they morally bad. They're just serviceable or dysfunctional for particular purposes.

I think the whole discussion of objects as "good" or "bad" misunderstands the meaning of moral goodness.
...a sharp knife in Macbeth is a bad knife.

No, I think not.

Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!”


Lady Macbeth's knife isn't morally good, and not morally bad. It's just sharp or not sharp. It "sees" nothing at all, not even "the wound it makes." It's the forces of darkness she summons, and it's Lady Macbeth that are evil. The "keenness" of the knife is not the "keenness" of Lady Macbeth's heart. Only metaphorically is the knife "keen" for anything; literally, it's only keen-sharp. But Lady Macbeth...she's "keen" to kill Duncan.

The hand that uses the knife is the moral agent. The knife has no view at all over whether it should be used to filet King Duncan himself, or to prepare his breakfast the next morning. It will work well for both, with equal indifference to the moral status of the action.
In ethical situations, good stays good, bad stays bad and there is nothing conceivable that can change this.
"Nothing conceivable"? No change in human decision?

That sounds like moral objectivism; but as I say, moral objectivism is going to need a justification. That defense of which you spoke is still unoffered, so far. But I'm hopeful that maybe you'll still have a go at it.
Consider a moral dilemma (extreme examples are most poignant): an ultimatum is given you to torture a child, or, a thousand others will be tortured and in a fashion much more terrible. There is a very good argument for utility here that says you should torture the child, but really, the point is, there is nothing, no countervailing argument that can change the "badness" of the torture into something good, or to diminish the badness at all. It remains fixed and inviolable, as indefeasable as if it were written on stone tablets by God.
If it's not "written on stone tablets," (i.e. an unalterable, divinely-created reality) then the "badness" of all torture, whether of children or entire nations, is neither morally bad nor morally good...it just is, it exists, it happened, but no more can be said.
John Mackie wrote his Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong, denying moral realism based on precisely this. Too odd; but then, he's wrong.
Well, in that book, Mackie writes,

"...ordinary moral judgments include a claim to objectivity, an assumption that there are objective values in just the sense which I am concerned to deny this...The claim to objectivity, however ingrained in our language and thought, is not self-validating."

So it seems he also recognized that moral objectivism, or the claim that there is intrinsic "badness" or "goodness" in any objects, is not the kind of thing one can claim without making a proper defence of why we ought to think that's true.

I don't usually agree with Mackie: but on this particular point, I have to concede he's right.
Veritas Aequitas
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

Immanuel Can wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 4:29 pm
RCSaunders wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 3:53 pm Why would anyone choose anything if they believed it would deprive them of what they wanted?
Actually, we human beings do that quite a bit. That's because there's a different between proximal and distant "goods."

Let us take an example.

I know that lying to my wife is bad -- it will harm our relationship, make me a bad person, and put us both into a mode of discourse in which we are deprived of access to reality relative to each other. Bad, bad, bad.

But my wife asks me, "Do you like this new dress."

No, I don't. It looks like an explosion in a toilet paper factory, and is an entirely unflattering garment in every possible way. And if I can see that, so will others. But her eyes are shining, and she seems thrilled with her purchase, and anything I say about the dress will all too easily transfer into a criticism of her person or her taste...the easiest way out consists in me lying to her, or at least evading the truth cleverly.

So what do I do? I do want a good and honest relationship with my wife. I know that lying will damage that, and is not the route to get me there. But I also want not to create a conflict, or to seem mean, or to spoil her moment of happiness with her new purchase...

So for many people, the answer would have to be, "Lie now, and feign ignorance later." You won't damage your relationship with your wife (too much), and you'll avoid an uncomfortable situation now.

But what happened to my commitment to realism, and to truth?
Your above action is sub-optimal but not for optimality in the the longer run.

What you need is an efficient Framework and System of Morality and System driven by secular objective absolute moral oughts/standards.
In this case "No human ought to lie" [as justified] is adopted as an secular objective moral standard/rule.

Ethically and practically, you may need to lie to optimize under various conditions this time and as previous times. This is sub-optimization.
If you do not have an effective Framework and System of Morality and System, you will have to keep lying in the future and that potentially and possibly could be detrimental at some point to the relationship.
If your moral conscience and compass is improving, such continual lying [even white lies] will erode and hurt [mentally painful] your conscience in the long run.

But if you [say u are non-theist] incorporate the ideal 'No human ought to lie' within your Framework and System of Morality and Ethics, your lying this time would instantly generate a variance from the ideal.

This variance should trigger you to take whatever the necessary corrective actions so that you need not be put in a position to lie to your wife.
In this case, communicate more with your wife so she will know your preferences.
There are so many ways one can do to avoid having to lie to one's wife in order to optimize the situation. Perhaps the two can reach the maturity to accept truthful statement from each other and not be hurt by it.

Why be Moral?
Therefore 'moral oughts' [must be justified from evidences and reasoning] are not to be enforced but merely to act as GUIDEs to improve ethically towards an impossible-to-achieve-ideal.
Veritas Aequitas
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

RCSaunders wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 5:11 pm For now, I'll only say I regard Wittgenstein and all the logical positivists as near idiots who have done unforgivable damage to the field of philosophy. All values are relative attributes. Nothing is inherently good, bad, right or wrong. Before there can be a value, there must first be some objective, purpose, end or goal relative to which a thing is good, bad, right, or wrong.
How can you be that ignorant?

Wittgenstein was never a logical positivists albeit he did agree with some of their views as in the earlier-Wittgenstein.

The later-Wittgenstein was a philosophical anti-realist which is a big contrast from those of the logical positivists and the analytical philosophers.
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

bahman wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:59 pm Why be moral? Because otherwise, the government will punish you. So you are basically afraid of the society who is blindly making the rules.
The government is involved in politics, the legislature, the police, the judiciary which imposed laws and forced citizen to act in a certain way. It has nothing to do directly with Morality and Ethics.

Morality and Ethics are matters for the individual[s] mental developments e.g. one's Moral Compass and Conscience.
Where I made the attempt to improve my moral competence voluntarily, that is because of my human nature and has nothing to do with the government.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Immanuel Can »

Veritas Aequitas wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 6:07 am What you need is an efficient Framework and System of Morality and System driven by secular objective absolute moral oughts/standards.
One might "need" it. One might desperately also want it. But it's quite evident that one still can't legitimately have it.

There is no rational justification for such principles. There is no "ought," absolute or otherwise, that can be rationally deduced in that way.
odysseus
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by odysseus »

Immanuel Can

Knives aren't morally good. Nor are they morally bad. They're just serviceable or dysfunctional for particular purposes.

I think the whole discussion of objects as "good" or "bad" misunderstands the meaning of moral goodness.
That is rather to the point. You see, if you don't think there is anything in ethical matters that is absolute (a problematic term ,as are all, and in the end there awaits yet another argument as to the hermeneutic circularity of language and whether the claim that something is absolute itself still bedded implicitly in what Derrida calls traces) then you think our moral judgments are all contingent. The knife and Macbeth is just an illustration of what a contingent judgment is. You can imagine ANY proposition you please and you will find contingency in the uses of good and bad. I just printed the word 'contingency' but was it a good choice to do so? I say yes, for ....and then I list my reasons. Using the word was not good in itself, but good for something else: making a point, why was this good? to get to the truth of something, and so on. Again most language works like this, and it is only until the questioning bottoms out that one arrives at something like pleasure, pain, joy, horror, and these, says moral realism are the foundation for ethics, and they are inherently good or bad.

No, I think not.

Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!”

Lady Macbeth's knife isn't morally good, and not morally bad. It's just sharp or not sharp. It "sees" nothing at all, not even "the wound it makes." It's the forces of darkness she summons, and it's Lady Macbeth that are evil. The "keenness" of the knife is not the "keenness" of Lady Macbeth's heart. Only metaphorically is the knife "keen" for anything; literally, it's only keen-sharp. But Lady Macbeth...she's "keen" to kill Duncan.

The hand that uses the knife is the moral agent. The knife has no view at all over whether it should be used to filet King Duncan himself, or to prepare his breakfast the next morning. It will work well for both, with equal indifference to the moral status of the action.
Entertaining. I once taught Macbeth; but here, it is altogether incidental.
"Nothing conceivable"? No change in human decision?

That sounds like moral objectivism; but as I say, moral objectivism is going to need a justification. That defense of which you spoke is still unoffered, so far. But I'm hopeful that maybe you'll still have a go at it.
It has to be kept in mind that here the issue is metaethics not a thesis about what one should do in all situations or a formulation of how to make ethical decisions, for these are inevitably contingent affairs for they are wrapped up in things that are valuatively arbitrary. The "objectivity" is not about what one should do situationally, but what the ground of ethics qua ethics is, and this is, I posit, and absolute.
If it's not "written on stone tablets," (i.e. an unalterable, divinely-created reality) then the "badness" of all torture, whether of children or entire nations, is neither morally bad nor morally good...it just is, it exists, it happened, but no more can be said.
Quite right, and again, to the point: God and his tablets is just an illustration as to what an absolute would be, and how it would be binding absolutely. Once the notion is clear that such a thing is possible then we can discard God and the rest. The more that can be said is no more than what the value itself "speaks" and I am claiming it speaks the ethical (or, metaethical) good and bad. It is not about conscience, or duty (those these are no being discounted in ethics at all) but it is about a phenomenological reduction of what makes ethics, ethics. not unlike what Kant did with reason, abstracting from judgments evident in our thinking to analyses of their form. Here, it not the rational form, but value that remains in the reduction. Value qua value, the (very mysterious, I add) fact (to contradict Wittgenstein who said ethical good and bads are not factually presented) that pain has this dimension to its presence. The match that burns deserves serious analysis. What IS that. It is not like an empirical fact at all, yet it is what makes the entire human drama what it is. This is value (or, metavalue).
Well, in that book, Mackie writes,

"...ordinary moral judgments include a claim to objectivity, an assumption that there are objective values in just the sense which I am concerned to deny this...The claim to objectivity, however ingrained in our language and thought, is not self-validating."

So it seems he also recognized that moral objectivism, or the claim that there is intrinsic "badness" or "goodness" in any objects, is not the kind of thing one can claim without making a proper defence of why we ought to think that's true.

I don't usually agree with Mackie: but on this particular point, I have to concede he's right.
No. Mackie was dead wrong. He was an analytic philosopher, and his standard of what qualifies as an assumption is dictated by empirical science, and, again with Wittgenstein, value as it is being discussed here, is simply off the table. In this, he dismisses the very essence of what it is to be human. Analytic philosophy is like eating a pie with no filling. Heidegger is fascinating.
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Skepdick »

RCSaunders wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 2:50 pm That supposes someone already has a moral ideology. The question is, why should anyone choose to do what is moral whether from an individualist or collectivist point of view. But in either case, if I understand you, it is dependence on society that would be a reason for being moral. Is that right?
My point is that morality is only meaningful notion in a collectivist/social context: individuals interacting with other individuals. Whether it's a society of two - e.g me interacting with my wife; or society of 8 billion - me interacting with the rest of humanity, that is the context in which it is meaningful to speak about morality.

If you are an individualist and a hermit "having a moral ideology" is a meaningless notion. The only person you can be moral or immoral to is yourself - what you do with or to yourself is none of my damn business.

The reason to be moral towards others is because you aren't cut out to be a hermit.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Immanuel Can »

odysseus wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:05 pm ...if you don't think there is anything in ethical matters that is absolute ...then you think our moral judgments are all contingent.
Yes, "If." If one thinks that, then that's necessarily true. Quite so.

"Contingent" is one way of saying it: but "vacuous" is more accurate. There's quite simply nothing to such judgments. People make them, of course, but can't prove them justified.
The knife and Macbeth is just an illustration of what a contingent judgment is.
Well, no...that's the point. The judgment of the knife isn't even a moral judgment. It's just a judgment about usability. It lacks all moral dimension.
No, I think not.

Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!”

Lady Macbeth's knife isn't morally good, and not morally bad. It's just sharp or not sharp. It "sees" nothing at all, not even "the wound it makes." It's the forces of darkness she summons, and it's Lady Macbeth that are evil. The "keenness" of the knife is not the "keenness" of Lady Macbeth's heart. Only metaphorically is the knife "keen" for anything; literally, it's only keen-sharp. But Lady Macbeth...she's "keen" to kill Duncan.

The hand that uses the knife is the moral agent. The knife has no view at all over whether it should be used to filet King Duncan himself, or to prepare his breakfast the next morning. It will work well for both, with equal indifference to the moral status of the action.
Entertaining. I once taught Macbeth; but here, it is altogether incidental.
And yet, it was an illustration you chose. Why choose an "altogether incidental" illustration?

But I think it's not incidental. Shakespeare was no fool: he knew what he was writing there. The rhetorical device he employs regarding the word "keen" is called "zeugma," the linking of two disparate objects with a single adjective. He knew that the moral "keenness" to kill was Lady Macbeth's, and that the knife was only literally "keen" -- keen-edged, not consciously keen on a moral or immoral objective, like Lady Macbeth.
"Nothing conceivable"? No change in human decision?

That sounds like moral objectivism; but as I say, moral objectivism is going to need a justification. That defense of which you spoke is still unoffered, so far. But I'm hopeful that maybe you'll still have a go at it.
It has to be kept in mind that here the issue is metaethics not a thesis about what one should do in all situations or a formulation of how to make ethical decisions, for these are inevitably contingent affairs for they are wrapped up in things that are valuatively arbitrary.
That's yet to be shown. We can't make all "affairs" merely "valuatively arbitrary" by saying so. We have to show reasons why people should agree it's true.
The "objectivity" is not about what one should do situationally, but what the ground of ethics qua ethics is, and this is, I posit, and absolute.
But one cannot separate metaethics and normative ethics in this way, because any normative ethical (and for that matter, any situational judgment, by extension too), has to be rationalized FROM the metaethical groundwork. At least it does if we want to present our ethics as a rational package, rather than merely an arbitrary judgment.

Thus, if the metaethics are absolute, then they will rationally absolutely exclude certain normative deductions and rationalize others, and they will permit only certain situational determinations to be rational from the metaethics. It is not the case that we can have an absolute metaethic, and then say the rest is contingent, situational or arbitrary -- unless we want to turn metaethics into a hermetically-sealed-off intellectual activity that has nothing to do with the things we should subsequently believe or do.
If it's not "written on stone tablets," (i.e. an unalterable, divinely-created reality) then the "badness" of all torture, whether of children or entire nations, is neither morally bad nor morally good...it just is, it exists, it happened, but no more can be said.
Quite right, and again, to the point: God and his tablets is just an illustration as to what an absolute would be, and how it would be binding absolutely. Once the notion is clear that such a thing is possible then we can discard God and the rest.
No, that's clearly not so.

As you say, such a thing as an objective ethic may be possible; but you've already shown that it's only possible if the supposition of God's existence is introduced at the metaethical, or prior to that, at the ontological level. Remove that metaethical underpinning, and it's no longer clear that it's "possible" at all.

Your reasoning on that is a little like saying, "We can make tea with a tea bag and hot water; and once we realize that's possible, we can eliminate the tea bag, and we'll have tea."
...a phenomenological reduction of what makes ethics, ethics.
That won't work. Phenomenology requires us to start from the point that a "belief exists" among human beings, so to speak. It can't rationally justify that phenomenon, because it only deals with the IS, not the ought. The method can only teach us that there is this weird, human activity called "making ethical judgments," but cannot tell us whether or not any of those judgments are right, true or good.
Well, in that book, Mackie writes,

"...ordinary moral judgments include a claim to objectivity, an assumption that there are objective values in just the sense which I am concerned to deny this...The claim to objectivity, however ingrained in our language and thought, is not self-validating."

So it seems he also recognized that moral objectivism, or the claim that there is intrinsic "badness" or "goodness" in any objects, is not the kind of thing one can claim without making a proper defence of why we ought to think that's true.

I don't usually agree with Mackie: but on this particular point, I have to concede he's right.
No. Mackie was dead wrong.
So you think that it's just fine to make a claim to objectivity without validating it, and we can just claim it's self-validating? I think that's obviously a vulnerable declaration.

If we claim anything is "objectively" or "absolutely" the case in ethics, any rational skeptic is going to ask us how we can validate that claim. Only the most naive or simple-minded onlooker is going to say, "Yeah...self-validating...that's good." Anyone with an ounce of sense is going to say, "Yeah? How do you know?"
odysseus
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by odysseus »

Immanuel Can
Yes, "If." If one thinks that, then that's necessarily true. Quite so.

"Contingent" is one way of saying it: but "vacuous" is more accurate. There's quite simply nothing to such judgments. People make them, of course, but can't prove them justified.
You would have to take this up with Mackie, for he does think all ethics is contingent. Not sure why you think contingent affairs vacuous. It's not vacuous to say, given that you don't want to go to jail, and you want a normal life, and your conscience would scream bloody hell, and so, and so on; therefore, you should not bludgeon that teenager because his music is too loud. Most, and most philosophers would all, of our ethical issues are constructed like this.

I don't know what you have in mind.

Well, no...that's the point. The judgment of the knife isn't even a moral judgment. It's just a judgment about usability. It lacks all moral dimension.

Usability is an interesting way to put it. It really IS a matter of how things "work" in contingent affairs. That is, as some will argue, what self interest is all about, and the argument goes that all moral actions are really reducible to self interest, and the acts we commit are essentially utility for the self. But putting this about self interest aside, it is true that there is utility in all moral thinking. Why help another person? Why not do this or that terrible or commendable thing? The reasoning is all about achieving some end. A good couch is good for appearance, comfort, home making, and so on; a good moral act is, so there are fewer criminals on the street, so your sister will not despise you forever, to support the economy so civil society doesn't fall apart, and so on (you can divine what these could be about). BUT: when the matter are reduced to their essence, and, in good post modern irritating fashion, the questions as to why lead to their resting (or, their terminus) place, you get something like, "Because it is good to feel this way or that," and there is no more asking because the utility has finally yielded to its purpose, which is value realization. To be in love, e.g., does not require justification, and this is the kind of thing that drives all ethics, and it is the reason you had to be cautious here, and insistent there, all moral judgment, and all foundationally contingent on value.
And yet, it was an illustration you chose. Why choose an "altogether incidental" illustration?

But I think it's not incidental. Shakespeare was no fool: he knew what he was writing there. The rhetorical device he employs regarding the word "keen" is called "zeugma," the linking of two disparate objects with a single adjective. He knew that the moral "keenness" to kill was Lady Macbeth's, and that the knife was only literally "keen" -- keen-edged, not consciously keen on a moral or immoral objective, like Lady Macbeth.
Not sure why this is interesting. See the above for clarity.
That's yet to be shown. We can't make all "affairs" merely "valuatively arbitrary" by saying so. We have to show reasons why people should agree it's true.
You can't simply say so if it contradicts something that is apodictically required. You want reasons to agree it's true that putting a painful spear into another's kidney is, all contingent matters aside, inherently wrong. My position has been that the "reason" lies inherent in the phenomenon of pain itself. Beyond this, there is no argument save that which I have provided which serves only to disentangle the clear, intuitive presence of the phenomenon from a lot of bad thinking, thinking which looks to question begging and derivative assumptions, grounded in the valuatively arbitrary conditions that give rise to contingency in ethics. See the above.
But one cannot separate metaethics and normative ethics in this way, because any normative ethical (and for that matter, any situational judgment, by extension too), has to be rationalized FROM the metaethical groundwork. At least it does if we want to present our ethics as a rational package, rather than merely an arbitrary judgment.
I couldn't have said it better. But I am not separating them at all, I am abstracting from real circumstances to isolate their essence. Therefore, mine is an argument that is about this very groundwork, and because it is always already IN experiences in moral affairs,the abslolute nature they present shows the presence of an absolute IN our everyday affairs.


T
hus, if the metaethics are absolute, then they will rationally absolutely exclude certain normative deductions and rationalize others, and they will permit only certain situational determinations to be rational from the metaethics. It is not the case that we can have an absolute metaethic, and then say the rest is contingent, situational or arbitrary -- unless we want to turn metaethics into a hermetically-sealed-off intellectual activity that has nothing to do with the things we should subsequently believe or do.
See the comment I just made. And considered, Kant was not isolating the pure forms of rationality from application. He was analyzing them.
No, that's clearly not so.

As you say, such a thing as an objective ethic may be possible; but you've already shown that it's only possible if the supposition of God's existence is introduced at the metaethical, or prior to that, at the ontological level. Remove that metaethical underpinning, and it's no longer clear that it's "possible" at all.

Your reasoning on that is a little like saying, "We can make tea with a tea bag and hot water; and once we realize that's possible, we can eliminate the tea bag, and we'll have tea."
No, I'm simply demonstrating how an absolute would be binding. The metaethical underpinning is in this argument the center of attention, which is the essential content of the moral issue at that my be at hand, not God at all. God is A tea bag, not THE tea bag discussed here. OR, if you prefer: Think that, instead of using a tea bag, that what you already have before already is tea. That's more like it. Ethics is already upon us, as is its absolute essence.
That won't work. Phenomenology requires us to start from the point that a "belief exists" among human beings, so to speak. It can't rationally justify that phenomenon, because it only deals with the IS, not the ought. The method can only teach us that there is this weird, human activity called "making ethical judgments," but cannot tell us whether or not any of those judgments are right, true or good.
If you follow Husserl on something like this, you will find that all phenomena are eidetic constructions, but he thought that these were absolute in their presence. This is a very big issue, and very interesting. Here, I am not following him exactly, or, perhaps I am; this kind of thing gets complicated. He was right to think that eidetic content predelineates all encounters in the epoche, but he did not, as far as I've read, look closely at ethics that way he did normal intentional relations. May point here is that if you do this, look at the actuality of day to day ethics, and remove presuppositions as is required, what will emerge is a moral absolute.
o you think that it's just fine to make a claim to objectivity without validating it, and we can just claim it's self-validating? I think that's obviously a vulnerable declaration.

If we claim anything is "objectively" or "absolutely" the case in ethics, any rational skeptic is going to ask us how we can validate that claim. Only the most naive or simple-minded onlooker is going to say, "Yeah...self-validating...that's good." Anyone with an ounce of sense is going to say, "Yeah? How do you know?"
I hope the above shows I have just made a claim without validating it.
Impenitent
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Impenitent »

the knife in Macbeth is only bad if Macbeth doesn't want it in Macbeth...

that doesn't mean, however, if Macbeth removes the knife in Macbeth he will not bleed badly...

Shakespeare was Edward de Vere...

-Imp
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Immanuel Can »

odysseus wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:54 pm
Immanuel Can
Yes, "If." If one thinks that, then that's necessarily true. Quite so.

"Contingent" is one way of saying it: but "vacuous" is more accurate. There's quite simply nothing to such judgments. People make them, of course, but can't prove them justified.
You would have to take this up with Mackie, for he does think all ethics is contingent. Not sure why you think contingent affairs vacuous.
Oh, it's very simple. There's nothing behind them that justifies them. They're all merely arbitrary.
It's not vacuous to say, given that you don't want to go to jail,
I don't want to go to jail in the US or the UK. But I also don't want to go to jail in Saudi or North Korea or Nazi Germany. But in the former, you might go for murder or theft, and the latter three you would go for dissidence, or for exercising free speech, or blasphemy, or being a Jew.

Morally, there's a world of difference. In the first two cases, I would presumably be worthy of being jailed. In the latter ones, my being jailed would be only a function of tyranny. And to pretend that's morally equivalent would be monstrous.
...your conscience would scream bloody hell...
That depends, doesn't it? I would have to think that what I was doing was wrong, and I would need reasons to believe it was.
Well, no...that's the point. The judgment of the knife isn't even a moral judgment. It's just a judgment about usability. It lacks all moral dimension.
Usability is an interesting way to put it. It really IS a matter of how things "work" in contingent affairs.
You're missing the point, I fear.

The knife is not involved in morality in any way here, except as the chosen instrument of a human being, who is morally capable. "Usability" is not a moral quality.
That is, as some will argue, what self interest is all about, and the argument goes that all moral actions are really reducible to self interest, and the acts we commit are essentially utility for the self.
I'm not speaking of Utilitarianism. I'm only speaking of utility, usability, function. Objects like knives have no knowledge of Mill or Bentham, and do not respond on that basis.
To be in love, e.g., does not require justification, and this is the kind of thing that drives all ethics,
No, that's a dodge, a facile escape from the real question. (Side Note: I don't mean you are facile; I mean the answer isn't good, because it's far "too easy.")

If ethics were merely emotive, like "loving something," then we cannot possibly have obligation to do anything we don't "love" to do. But morality is inevitably about things we find difficult to do, but choose to do, so to speak, "on principle."

It is because stealing is so tempting that we have the injunction, "Thou shalt not steal." We have no injunction that reads, "Thou shalt not saw thy leg off," because no sane person ever wants to do that. When emotions and values align, morality doesn't even enter the question. We just do what we please.
And yet, it was an illustration you chose. Why choose an "altogether incidental" illustration?

But I think it's not incidental. Shakespeare was no fool: he knew what he was writing there. The rhetorical device he employs regarding the word "keen" is called "zeugma," the linking of two disparate objects with a single adjective. He knew that the moral "keenness" to kill was Lady Macbeth's, and that the knife was only literally "keen" -- keen-edged, not consciously keen on a moral or immoral objective, like Lady Macbeth.
Not sure why this is interesting. See the above for clarity.
Hey, you picked it.
That's yet to be shown. We can't make all "affairs" merely "valuatively arbitrary" by saying so. We have to show reasons why people should agree it's true.
You want reasons to agree it's true that putting a painful spear into another's kidney is, all contingent matters aside, inherently wrong.
No, I don't. That's facile again.

I want an explanation of why I should not steal, on occasions when everything within me wants to steal, and I'm really sure I can avoid getting caught. Because that's when morality comes into play. Nobody needs to give me any reasons not to do what I have absolutely no inclination to do anyway, because it will never happen.
My position has been that the "reason" lies inherent in the phenomenon of pain itself.
Let's start there.

Can you show that the terms "pain" and "moral evil" are strictly identified with each other, so that there can be no "good pain," and there can be no "pain-free" condition that is not morally good too?
But one cannot separate metaethics and normative ethics in this way, because any normative ethical (and for that matter, any situational judgment, by extension too), has to be rationalized FROM the metaethical groundwork. At least it does if we want to present our ethics as a rational package, rather than merely an arbitrary judgment.
I couldn't have said it better. But I am not separating them at all, I am abstracting from real circumstances to isolate their essence.
That's phenomenological, alright, but it's also working backwards. And the problem with working backwards is that it presumes the legitimacy of the phenomenon observed, and then tries to explain how it comes about, rather than opening the question of the legitimacy of the phenomenon in the first place -- which is where moral considerations begin.

So a phenomenologist, if he's really a phenomenologist, would walk into a death camp and say, "I observe the phenomenon of dying people here. Let's accept that people die, and ask what sorts of regimes produce this outcome. Let's leave the metaethical question of the legitimacy of Nazi moral values aside...Nazis have values, and so do Jews. Let's just look at them all as phenomena."

Phenomenology will never teach us a thing about morality, because it operationally suspends the kinds of judgments necessary to arbitrate in a moral situation. It does not pass value judgments, far less justify any. Instead, it uses detachment, cold observation, recording and cataloguing of the phenomena. And this produces no moral clarity, even when it makes morality itself into the inert object of its study; for its methodology rules out the very subject matter it hopes to look at.
No, that's clearly not so.

As you say, such a thing as an objective ethic may be possible; but you've already shown that it's only possible if the supposition of God's existence is introduced at the metaethical, or prior to that, at the ontological level. Remove that metaethical underpinning, and it's no longer clear that it's "possible" at all.

Your reasoning on that is a little like saying, "We can make tea with a tea bag and hot water; and once we realize that's possible, we can eliminate the tea bag, and we'll have tea."
No, I'm simply demonstrating how an absolute would be binding.
But then you immediately revert to saying, there IS no God, while dropping the inevitable logical consequence: that under those conditions, morality is no longer objective.

And so you have tea without a teabag.
God is A tea bag, not THE tea bag discussed here.
To make that plausible, you'd have to produce the other teabag. And you haven't. You've only argued that in theory, and if conditions were other than they are, metaethics could conceivably be objective. You've done not a thing to show that, given the conditions of godlessness you insist pertain, the same is true.
Ethics is already upon us, as is its absolute essence.
There it is: the phenomenological error.

It has to take for granted that whatever we've got, whatever is "phenomenologically evident" must also be legitimate. Not only DOES it exist, it OUGHT TO exist, assumes phenomenology.

And that's an error of amphiboly, of course, one that would make Hume turn over in his grave.

As I wrote earlier:
That won't work. Phenomenology requires us to start from the point that a "belief exists" among human beings, so to speak. It can't rationally justify that phenomenon, because it only deals with the IS, not the ought. The method can only teach us that there is this weird, human activity called "making ethical judgments," but cannot tell us whether or not any of those judgments are right, true or good.
I think I see the basic category error you might be making here. It's to equate the claim "(something known as) morality objectively exists," with the claim "objective morality exists." :shock:

In other words, the objective fact that human beings happen to indulge in a phenomenon called "moral thinking" does not remotely suggest that their thinking is objectively true, good or right. Even their universal belief in "objective truth" wouldn't be sufficient to make that belief "objectively true."

But back to our present case.
May point here is that if you do this, look at the actuality of day to day ethics, and remove presuppositions as is required, what will emerge is a moral absolute.

"Remove presuppositions". There it is again. In the case of morality, it means, "Look at morality without thinking morally."

Tea without tea again.
Do you think that it's just fine to make a claim to objectivity without validating it, and we can just claim it's self-validating? I think that's obviously a vulnerable declaration.

If we claim anything is "objectively" or "absolutely" the case in ethics, any rational skeptic is going to ask us how we can validate that claim. Only the most naive or simple-minded onlooker is going to say, "Yeah...self-validating...that's good." Anyone with an ounce of sense is going to say, "Yeah? How do you know?"
I hope the above shows I have just made a claim without validating it.
It does. In just this way:

Above, I see the phenomenon of a claim. Indeed so. And yes, I do observe that you've not validated it. Indeed so.

But the obvious conclusion has to be that your claim either lacks validation (at the moment) or perhaps even is not capable of validation by anyone. Either would be a problem.
Last edited by Immanuel Can on Sat Mar 14, 2020 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by Immanuel Can »

Impenitent wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 5:33 pm the knife in Macbeth is only bad if Macbeth doesn't want it in Macbeth...
In the play, the speaker in regard to the knife is Lady Macbeth, and the intended victim is King Duncan.

Macbeth does not stab himself.
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RCSaunders
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Re: Why Be Moral?

Post by RCSaunders »

Skepdick wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:17 pm
RCSaunders wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 2:50 pm That supposes someone already has a moral ideology. The question is, why should anyone choose to do what is moral whether from an individualist or collectivist point of view. But in either case, if I understand you, it is dependence on society that would be a reason for being moral. Is that right?
My point is that morality is only meaningful notion in a collectivist/social context: individuals interacting with other individuals. Whether it's a society of two - e.g me interacting with my wife; or society of 8 billion - me interacting with the rest of humanity, that is the context in which it is meaningful to speak about morality.

If you are an individualist and a hermit "having a moral ideology" is a meaningless notion. The only person you can be moral or immoral to is yourself - what you do with or to yourself is none of my damn business.

The reason to be moral towards others is because you aren't cut out to be a hermit.
Thank you! I understand what you mean.
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