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Good and Evil (Moral Philosophy)
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 1:26 am    Post subject: Good and Evil (Moral Philosophy) Reply with quote

This is somewhat related to the Proof of God question, but worth discussing as a separate issue in its own right.

We humans tend to classify actions as good or evil, and the struggle between the two is frequently a key basis for works of fiction. (The Dreamland Chronicles is a case in point.) Most people don't realise that this intuitive understanding of good and evil or moral rights and wrongs is very hard to formalise. It also poses an interesting problem for Materialists: those who do not acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the physical world. Before launching into discussion, let me give a little introduction to this problem.

The problem we face here is whether a question like "stealing is wrong" can be classified as true or false, and if it can, what is it that makes the statement true or false? In contrast, consider a statement like, "the cat is on the mat." This statement is true if the subject ("the cat") and the object ("the mat") both exist and bear a particular relationship to each other (the one is on the other). When "the cat" refers to my cat, and "the mat" refers to the mat in front of the heater in my back room, this statement is true about half the time in winter.

Moving back to "stealing is wrong", the statement categorises an action (the act of stealing) into a moral category (the category of moral wrongs). What sort of statement is this? Is it an expression of taste, equivalent to "I dislike stealing"? Most people would deny this: they would say that stealing is, by definition, a kind of action which is morally wrong, not as a matter of taste, but in an absolute sense. If it weren't wrong, we wouldn't call it stealing. Yet some would say that all morality is subjective: there is no such thing as a moral absolute, only a majority opinion.

Are there moral absolutes? If so, what makes a moral absolute true or false? What is it about stealing that makes it wrong? If not, are you also willing to defend that view to its logical extremes?

If you believe that a statement like "stealing is wrong" has a true-or-false type of answer, then you are a moral realist, and your major problem is to explain what kind of reality your statement describes. This is a particular problem for Materialists, who only acknowledge physical reality, since moral realities seem to be non-physical ones. If you see someone snatch a handbag off an old lady, that's a physical reality, but what physical reality makes the action right or wrong?

An anti-realist, on the other hand, declares that a statement like "stealing is wrong" has no basis whatsoever in reality, and can't be classified as true or false. In fact, the anti-realist might go so far as to say that the statement is completely meaningless, precisely because "rightness" and "wrongness" have no basis in reality. A special case of anti-realist is the error theorist, who claims that moral statements have no basis in reality, but we humans operate under the overwhelming illusion that they do, so we have a kind of persistent hallucination of morality.

The moral realists, on the other hand, are not a single consistent group either. One might base moral reality in personal taste, being a form of moral relitivism. This person sees all moral statements as true or false, but the equivalent of an expression of taste such as, "I dislike stealing". An intersubjectivist says that stealing is morally wrong because society thinks so. More often than not, however, the moral realist appeals to a separate realm of moral truths. One might say that "stealing is wrong because God says it's wrong". Others might go further than this -- I have known moral realists who would claim, "stealing is wrong, and would be wrong even if God said it wasn't."

So what's your stance on morality? What problems do you see with other possible stances on morality? Do you see any contradictions between your stance on morality and your stance on other things? If I were to ask you to defend a moral statement like, "stealing is wrong", how would you go about it?
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Bezman
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting. Although I come verbally under-equipped, and also without such deep and related education (not to mention training/experience in discussing such matters), I am willing to stick out my neck.

"Right" and "wrong" are human expressions. If we were not conscient/sentient human beings, this problem would not exist. Whether things as stealing, murder, sabotage/destruction of property, and other "immoral" actions are right or wrong relates to a very human attribute:
feelings.

I definitely oppose that the regard of something as right or wrong should be a matter of opinion. There are, IMO, universal absolute "wrongs" (And rights too, I guess). The definition is, also IMO, that if you commit an action that destroys (with a very wide meaning) something that someone else has used his or her time and/or resources to create, get or otherwise acquire, and/or if it is usually so that the person that you "offend" becomes hurt, or will have to do a lot of work to regain what is now no longer available to her (due to your action), then the action is "WRONG".

If a person disagrees to this, I consider it to be either because the person is a psychopath (that lacks empathy), or a very hurt person that suppresses the "right/wrong" discussion in order to survive. Or somebody that is willing to do ANYTHING to achieve a goal, usually partially psychopathic, so cause one would cover this.

Now, hit me, and let's see if I can defend this.
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for stepping up, Bezman. I have a few questions about your position. If I understand correctly, you think that there are absolute moral wrongs (which are not matters of opinion) and we can know them as such through our emotions. The "bad feelings" are an effect, not a cause, so that something remains morally wrong even if someone with faulty emotions (such as a psychopath) doesn't experience the appropriate "bad feelings". So far so good?

Bezman wrote:
The definition is, also IMO, that if you commit an action that destroys (with a very wide meaning) something that someone else has used his or her time and/or resources to create, get or otherwise acquire, and/or if it is usually so that the person that you "offend" becomes hurt, or will have to do a lot of work to regain what is now no longer available to her (due to your action), then the action is "WRONG".

So is taxation a moral wrong? I've heard of people who feel that taxation is theft, and it certainly involves destroying (by confiscation) something that someone else has invested effort into creating.

Also, one much harder question. If someone's feelings are functioning properly, then they will have appropriate "bad feelings" in relation to moral wrongs, correct? Is there some sort of "master template" for appropriate emotional responses? Is there something against which we can (in principle, if not in practice) compare our emotional responses to see if they are operating correctly?
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ssava
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



I think to determine MORALITY...you have to first determine WHO or WHAT is qualified to determine morality.

God...would be a good one to do this.

Therefore. First...you'd have to determine his existence.

That being said.
If there were no God.

Then I think Morality is purely based on what you're brought up to believe.
It's purely based on popular rules and such.

Take Homosexuality.
A few centuries ago. It was totally acceptable.
Now? Not so much.
But...slowly....people are becoming more and more accepting.

Maybe in another couple decades. It won't be an issue.

Maybe things like this roller coaster.

Morality is based on a belief system. Nothing more.

Bez....
I've heard arguments like yours before.
But I think emotions and feelings are not something you should EVER...EEEEVVVVVEEEEERRRRR base laws or beliefs on.
They can be easily manipulated. Easily decieving.

You can feel bad because you stole from someone purely because you were RAISED to feel bad.
If you grew up in the jungle. No human interaction. Would you feel the same? Or would it simply be the way you survived?

What about people who DO steal to survive? I'm sure they have made moral adjustments to feel GOOD about what they do.

These feelings are so maliable. I wouldn't trust them.

Find out WHO determines morality. If it's God. Then yes. THer e is good there is evil.
If it's Man. It's just a set of "what's popular now" rules.[/url]
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nicodemus contradicts himself. He starts out by saying what is good to one may be considered evil to another, and that there is no absolute right or wrong. He then claims that he is the one that determines good and evil, and that if he says the sword is evil, then it is. Make up your mind, Nic: either there is no absolute right or wrong, in which case you're just expressing an opinion when you say the sword is evil; or there is an absolute right or wrong, and you're the one who gets to say which is which for some reason.

ssava wrote:
I think to determine MORALITY...you have to first determine WHO or WHAT is qualified to determine morality.

It's not clear that this is an appropriate first step. If there were an absolute frame of reference, one could ask whether it exists because of God, or whether God can be good or evil thanks to his actions in reference to this framework. I think we're better off examining our intuitions as to what "good" and "evil" are.

ssava wrote:
That being said.
If there were no God.

Then I think Morality is purely based on what you're brought up to believe.
It's purely based on popular rules and such.
...
Morality is based on a belief system. Nothing more.

So you're taking a relativist stance? In this model of yours, is the statement "stealing is wrong" true because someone believes it is true, or is there some better way describing your view? If you're going with relativism, then you're pretty much going with the first two panels of ol' Nic's monologue here. Things are only good or bad relative to a person and their beliefs. When someone asks, "is stealing wrong?", the answer must be another question: "wrong for whom?"

Note that if you're embracing relativism, then someone who says "stealing is wrong" isn't just expressing an opinion: they are expressing a belief against which other things can be judged true or false. "Opinions" make reality.

ssava wrote:
Bez....
I've heard arguments like yours before.
But I think emotions and feelings are not something you should EVER...EEEEVVVVVEEEEERRRRR base laws or beliefs on.
They can be easily manipulated. Easily decieving.

Woah there! If you're going with relativism, then there's no possibility of deception. Deception assumes an absolute truth. So what if feelings can be manipulated? That's just persuading someone to change their views on what's right and what's wrong. If we're embracing relativism, then whatever you believe to be true is true for you.

Well, I'm a bit confused. Perhaps I misunderstood about the relativism thing. Can you clarify your position at all? We can continue to work on the assumption that God doesn't dictate morality (whether or not he exists) if you like.
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ssava
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I honestly don't know what relativism is....so if you say I'm talking about it...then I hope it makes me sound smart.
Smile

As for your question.
Consider this.

Drugs.

Drugs have the ability to alter your feelings.
Make you feel stronger, sexier, sadder, happier, etc.

Music can do this, smells, the company you're in.
So many things can alter your emotions.

So if something that is SO EASILY influenced is the determining factor of morality...then morality is easily influenced as well.

Take for instance drinking. People often use "I was drunk" for what they "soberly" consider a moral wrong doing.

But...while intoxicated...they "thought it was a good idea".

So. while drunk. Was...say stealing from the cash register or sleeping with your best friends wife morally wrong?
Or...during that time...it was OK...because emotionally you felt it was OK?

Again. I'd never base something off of emotions.
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Bezman
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm leaving for Italy (Rome) on a job conference until Monday 1st, so I'll postpone answering your posts until then. Arrivederci! Smile Cool
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have a safe trip buddy!
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look forward to your safe return, Bezman.

ssava wrote:
So if something that is SO EASILY influenced is the determining factor of morality...then morality is easily influenced as well.

Right, but why is this a problem? If morality is a shifting target, an arbitrary belief system which isn't so much "right or wrong" as "what's currently popular", then what's the big deal? At worst you might entertain some unpopular ideas about morality while drunk. I don't see a big deal with that: I entertain a number of unpopular ideas about morality when I'm stone cold sober!

ssava wrote:
So. while drunk. Was...say stealing from the cash register or sleeping with your best friends wife morally wrong?
Or...during that time...it was OK...because emotionally you felt it was OK?

Are you suggesting that it's not okay? That makes it sound like there's some kind of standard against which the action is being judged. If we're working on the assumption that God either doesn't exist or isn't relevant, then what's setting the standard? Social norms?
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erikjust
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say I am a firm "believer" in the fact that there is no universal good and evil.
It is all in a point of view.

Let’s take up concept such as stealing and killing.

Some might say well those too are clearly wrong and evil.

If that’s the chase well then nature is EVIL as hell, because in nature you both kill and steal in order to survive.
It survival of the fittest out there and that´s really the only rule, that is absolute out there.

So where do morals come from? The hypothesis goes that in the early days of mankind where we slowly began to live in tribes, certain forms of behavior models where more favorable than others, because the people you encountered well it wasn´t just that one time you would encounter them several times.
As such being and asshole such as killing and stealing became less profitable for you.

As time went by these “codes of behavior” became a part of our species more or less.

I say more or less because we have several examples of society’s whit different moral codes then others.

In the end I would say what counts as right or wrong morally all depends on the society you live in and what codes of behavior they have.

An example could be atheism in Denmark (where I live) such a thing is perfectly normal and people doesn´t look at you twice just because you say you’re an atheist.

In America (from what I have heard) things are VERY much different, here being an atheist is not something you should say too loudly, especially if you want to be a politician or something like that, because people have a deep mistrust for atheists.

Again two different society’s whit two different sets of moral codes they live by.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erik, it sounds like you are opting for an anti-realist position.

Before I ask you some questions about your view, I want to make a comment on your example of killing and stealing being evil and the implication that this makes nature evil. What you're doing there is known as constructing a straw man, and it's a poor substitute for a proper understanding of the subject. Those thinkers that actually hold the view that murder and theft are absolute moral wrongs have a much more thought-out explanation for things than you've given credit for here. It's best to concentrate on defending your own view rather than attribute silly ideas to those who disagree with you.

Anyhow, it looks like you're claiming that there's no "moral reality", as such. There's just a bunch of different consequences which we can expect to face for various actions, and that's mostly shaped by survival rather than any kind of "moral reality". Feelings of moral outrage are just survival instincts with an inflated opinion of themselves, or something like that. Am I understanding you here?

You've also spoken of morality as depending on society and codes of behaviour. I'd like a little clarification on that point. It's important to distinguish between "good" and "evil" as concepts in themselves, as compared to "pleasant outcomes" and "unpleasant outcomes". I think it's pretty much clear to everyone that if you violate social norms, you're likely to suffer unpleasant consequences. Even so, we need to distinguish between "evil" and "unpleasant outcomes". Hypothetical examples are good for making this kind of distinction, so here are a couple.

erikjust wrote:
...what counts as right or wrong morally all depends on the society you live in and what codes of behavior they have.

Fred lives in a society which considers murder to be wrong (as is typical). Fred hates Jim -- with good reason -- and decides to kill him, society's views on the subject notwithstanding. Fred totally gets away with it: the coroner rules the death as suicide, and Fred is never even suspected as the culprit. Jim was a pretty unpopular guy, and nobody doubts the suicide verdict, so Fred literally gets away with murder.

Are Fred's actions evil? Explain.

Toby lives in a society which condones slavery. In this society, slaves are property, and the slave owner has the right to kill his slaves without cause. Marcus is such a slave, property of Toby. Unfortunately for Marcus, Toby is a harsh and ill-tempered master. Marcus is overworked, undernourished, and routinely beaten for under-performing even though he tries his best. One day Marcus falls ill and can't work, and Toby angrily beats him to death. Society at large shrugs: most folks think that Toby is an idiot for wasting slave labour, but that's his own lookout.

Are Toby's actions evil? Explain.
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erikjust
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Fred lives in a society which considers murder to be wrong (as is typical). Fred hates Jim -- with good reason -- and decides to kill him, society's views on the subject notwithstanding. Fred totally gets away with it: the coroner rules the death as suicide, and Fred is never even suspected as the culprit. Jim was a pretty unpopular guy, and nobody doubts the suicide verdict, so Fred literally gets away with murder.

Are Fred's actions evil? Explain.


Where Fred´s actions evil, well you said it yourself the society Fred lives in considers murder to be wrong.

In that aspect what Fred did was morally wrong and against the law.
So on a society perspective (and perhaps some other people´s too)
Fred´s action where wrong and some might consider his actions evil.

Yet in Fred´s eyes the evil one might be Jim, whom he hated so does Fred consider his actions evil?
From what you wrote he doesn´t he sees it as totally fair and just.

So was Fred´s action evil? In our eyes they might be but that is only the standpoint we take on it, because in the society we live in and the way our heads have been put together we see his action as evil others might not.

Quote:
Toby lives in a society which condones slavery. In this society, slaves are property, and the slave owner has the right to kill his slaves without cause. Marcus is such a slave, property of Toby. Unfortunately for Marcus, Toby is a harsh and ill-tempered master. Marcus is overworked, undernourished, and routinely beaten for under-performing even though he tries his best. One day Marcus falls ill and can't work, and Toby angrily beats him to death. Society at large shrugs: most folks think that Toby is an idiot for wasting slave labour, but that's his own lookout.

Are Toby's actions evil? Explain.


Again in our eyes Toby is one evil bastard, and the same goes for the slaves he owns.

But in the society he lives in what Toby did might be foolish, but not evil as such.

Again it all depends on the standpoint you take whit your morality and the rules of the society you live in.

Let me put up another example.

At the end of world war II the Americans lunch two nuclear strikes at the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing thousand if not millions of civilians.

Now in the Japanese and some other peoples eyes that makes the Americans who dropped the bomb VERY evil.
Yet in America it´s perceived as a totally justified actions in order to end the war and not evil in the least bit.

Where the Americans who dropped the bomb and decided to do it and build it Evil ?

Moses return to the promised lands only it occupied, well god has told him that the land is rightfully his, so he orders his men to attack and kill every man, woman and child in most of the cities he encounters.
And those few where he doesn´t he only spares the women who have not yet been whit a man.
Those women are to be slaves of his men to be raped when ever they feel like it.

Where Moses and his men evil?

The Prophet Mohamed takes a seven year old girl as wife but waits to consummate the married till she is nine.
Now in that age it was perfectly normal to have a young wife.
It was common practice that when a girl had had her first period she was ready to be married and have children.

Now was Mohamed evil or a pedophile?

Again we stand on a dilemma because in our eyes the American choice of Booming Japan was perfectly understandable and not evil in the least bit way.
Yet to others what they did was a despicable evil act.

If anyone today did what Moses and his men did and was on the losing side they would be handed over for a trial accused of crimes of war.
Yet in their eyes what they did was perfectly natural and not evil in the slightest bit of way.

Same whit Mohamed in today’s western standard he was both evil and a filthy pedophile, yet for others what he did was perfectly natural and not the least bit evil.

Again it is all about once personal point of view and that of the society we live in.

Once again defining that there is no True good and evil there is only a different moral standpoint what is evil in someone’s eyes is perfectly good and just in other people’s eyes.

One last question before I end this Where does YOUR notion of Good and Evil originate from, and what makes your notion of Good and Evil the right ones??
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the elaboration, erik. Perhaps you are not an anti-realist after all, but a radical sort of relativist, since you say that it's all about personal point of view. Thus an action X is not good or evil in and of itself, but can be considered good or evil by a person or a society.

In other words, "good" and "evil" are expressions of opinion. To say that action X is "good" is no different than to say "I approve of action X", and to say that action X is "evil" is to say "I disapprove of action X". Thus a statement like "stealing is evil" can be literally true or false, but only when expressed in relation to a person or group that can hold an opinion on the matter, never as a stand-alone statement of moral absolutes. Similarly, the statement "stealing is good" is true if the person making the claim sincerely approves of stealing.

Have I understood your position correctly?

Would anyone else like to express agreement or disagreement with this position? Please give reasons, particularly if you disagree.
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erikjust
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have understood it correctly.

Again if drawing comparison to nature In our view killing children or killing as a whole is wrong and evil.
But to a Lion male its a completely different matter all together.

For him killing children (young lions) is completely okay as long as they are males.
Why? so they can´t threaten his position as the dominant male when they grow up and it will only be his genes that are carried on.
And killing for him is a way of life a way of getting food.
Whether the victims be Buffaloes or Humans its all meat/food to him.

Again it is all in a point of view no actions is truly good or truly evil it all depends on your view point and that of the society you live in.
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Bezman
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh Gods/Science Smile NO! I utterly and totally disagree with this spineless, pragmatic and by-itself evil opinion.

The only thing erikjust seems to have been able to establish is that (some) "evil actions are deemed ACCEPTABLE in some societies". I give that full credit, that's the way the world works. It does however not make these actions less EVIL, in my opinion.
I would say that this is what happens if you let your feelings, as ssava expressed, become obscured. Much like another discussion topic we had, there was a reference to a video that listed ten questions, and then concluded that in order to accept these statements, you had to make up excuses to stick with it. I'd say that that's EXACTLY what makes those acts described by erikjust "non-evil" (quotes mandatory). By using erikjust's POV, you can make up this kind of excuse for exactly ANY type of action. As long as many enough accept the "excuse", it will become "non-evil" per se (with time).
With opinions like that, it is not strange at all that the world, IMO, is evil (to a high degree).

erikjust wrote:

Again in our eyes Toby is one evil bastard, and the same goes for the slaves he owns.

But in the society he lives in what Toby did might be foolish, but not evil as such.

Again it all depends on the standpoint you take whit your morality and the rules of the society you live in.

Oh'forf... (btw, pls explain why the slaves are evil?)
Such a variable approach to the problem makes you stand without an answer, or be dependant on a "jury's" verdict (or rather prejudice, which you are most likely already aware of at the time of the act).
In fact, your action is going to be considered good or evil dependent on who or which people are standing nearby at the time.
To be more clear, your consideration will be "who will know?", and if the answer to that question is ok to you, that will be enough to justify your act.
And when your focus has shifted from "is this right?" to "will I get away with it?", that's when you should realize that you are deviating from Right. Doesn't get any clearer than that.

If you judge the problems in the light of the "definition" I wrote earlier, those examples given by TFBW are clearly defineable and answerable.
(ssava, do you really think that this (erikjust's) POV is better? please explain, but first read my next post.)

I would also say that this type of opinion requires that you are a follower (as opposed to a "leader"), and that you do not question anything that you are "fed". See what happened in China, where everyone was given/fed/indoctrinated with "Mao's Little Red" book of, shall I say, "local truths". It becomes your truth, especially so if you have nothing to compare with.
Thus, it is not considered evil to kill a man (or woman) and send the bill for the bullet to his next of kin.

I will not even TOUCH erikjust's comparison to male lions with a 1 parsec Smile pole. Unsentient beings do not have a concept of "right/wrong" or "good/evil" as humans have. They primarily act based on instinct, not after making "morality considerations".
(whew. 25-30 rewritings only before I posted it...)
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
1 parsec


Someone has been watching Transformers again Razz

Okay Bezman lets dance (by the way thanks for answering I love a good a debate)

Let me open my reply by asking: Where does your notion of Good and Evil come from, by what standard are you judging an Act to be Good or Evil and what makes it right one?

Does your Notion come from some sort of religion, your parent’s or society?
If it comes from either of these three or from all of them, then really the notion on which you are judging an act to be Good or Evil, just comes from someone else’s opinion on the matter and support my notion on Good and Evil and such being the result of someone’s opinion.

Let´s take the recent chase from Germany (I am sure most of you have heard about it) where a man had kept his daughter imprisoned for 25 years in his basement in that time he had raped her and have had children whit her.

Now in my eyes (and most people in the world) that man is one evil and sick bastard, yet in his own eye he was just protecting his daughter and the sex thing just happened.
Now by what standard do we judge his actions as evil? Do we do it by some universal notion of good and evil? No we judge his actions as evil by our own standards and that of the society we live in.

Now you mentioned my standpoint is of one who just follows and would be satisfied by just being fed.

Well I would disagree whit that action by once again going back to the scenario whit Toby who killed one of his slaves.
Now let´s say he does it again and again, the slaves eventually get more then fed up by this treatment and rebel.

Now what made the Slaves rebel some universal notion that the treatment they got was bad and they wouldn´t stand for it anymore?
No again it was their own personal opinion, that the treatment they got was bad and Toby was one evil bastard that needed to be toppled from his throne.
Because seen from Toby´s eyes and others like him what he did was perfectly normal and not evil in the slightest.

Again can you truly say that the opinions you have of what is good and what is evil is not based on someone else’s opinion?

Again I would hold to the argument that in the end there is no TRUE Good or Evil, there is only the different opinions on what is right and wrong.
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Bezman
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
If I understand correctly, you think that there are absolute moral wrongs (which are not matters of opinion) and we can know them as such through our emotions.
Instead of emotions, I'd say by introspection, which of course includes one's (unobscured) emotions.
I have to find a source, but I have once seen a list of "basic moral rights/wrongs" that even a three-year old can answer yes/no to.

Bezman wrote:
The definition is, also IMO, that if you commit an action that destroys (with a very wide meaning) something that someone else has used his or her time and/or resources to create, get or otherwise acquire, and/or if it is usually so that the person that you "offend" becomes hurt, or will have to do a lot of work to regain what is now no longer available to her (due to your action), then the action is "WRONG".

I would like to clarify or specify by adding that this goes for self-aware beings.

TFBW wrote:
So is taxation a moral wrong?

Technically no, since you are not robbed of anything, no more than you are robbed of anything when you pay for something in a store - you are merely trading one asset for another.
When it comes to taxes, you trade some of your money in exchange for water supply, infrastructure, defense, fire fighting, medical care (US exception here), kindergartens etc. This method is also agreed by a majority of the population.
HOWEVER, taxes may be unfair, prices in a store may too, so that you give more than you get. If this gap becomes too big (I agree it is hard to make it perfect down to the cent), THEN this act becomes unfair. And if the people that are in charge of it are aware of it being unfair, and choose to do nothing about it, then THEY are to be considered evil. Whether something immaterial as an unfair tax by itself can be considered evil... I'll have to think for a while, but spontaneously, my answer is yes.

TFBW wrote:
Also, one much harder question. If someone's feelings are functioning properly, then they will have appropriate "bad feelings" in relation to moral wrongs, correct? Is there some sort of "master template" for appropriate emotional responses? Is there something against which we can (in principle, if not in practice) compare our emotional responses to see if they are operating correctly?
Yes. See the unspoiled three-year old described above. Nearly everyone has it in them when they are born.

I have even read about a recent university experiment which included far younger children than that, but I have not yet put full trust in it due to lack of detailed information on how the experiment was performed (se3e below).

Basically, young kids, like less than a year old, were shown a sequence where one building block was trying to move its way up a hill. Another building block then tried to push this first building block DOWN the hill, i.e. preventing it. A third building block then HELPED the initial block to overcome the obstructing second block and make it across the crest.

Shortly afterwards, these children were presented with the three building blocks, and they predominantly chose the "helping" building block (lbock number three above).
My main concern: If this choice was regardless of color and shape of the blocks, then it may be a good non-biased and useful outcome.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TDC God Almighty aka ssava:) wrote:
Bez....
I've heard arguments like yours before.
But I think emotions and feelings are not something you should EVER...EEEEVVVVVEEEEERRRRR base laws or beliefs on.
They can be easily manipulated. Easily decieving.

Well, maybe emotions was the wrong word. However, if you exclude emotions from this debate, there would BE no debate. Why? Because without emotions, the concept of right/wrong or good/evil would simply not exist! These concepts are, like it or not, based on human feelings.

And still, how would alcohol or drugs or whatever make it right to harm another human being?
And WHOA, before anyone of you get into a scenario like "but what if this human being was really really bad" etc, which will only lead into a discussion of who's worse and when is it better to do a little harm to prevent more and/or worse harm, let's start from zero here - nobody has done anything bad at all - how would alcohol or drugs or whatever make it right to harm another human being in this scenario?

Because in my world, two bads (as in killing a bad guy) does not make one good. It's just one way of dealing with it.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embarassed My apologies for this huge post. I feel I'm hot, so I had to forge while the iron was still hot. Embarassed
erikjust wrote:
Quote:
1 parsec

Someone has been watching Transformers again Razz

Nah, science class in school, long time ago. Wink Btw, thanks for not taking it personally and for continuing the debate in such a civil manner - respect!
erikjust wrote:
Let me open my reply by asking: Where does your notion of Good and Evil come from, by what standard are you judging an Act to be Good or Evil and what makes it right one?

Does your Notion come from some sort of religion, your parent’s or society?

I believe we are born with it, then deviate from it. I am NOT saying that I STICK with everything I consider to be morally right, but when it comes to the base of "the universal set of right and wrong", it is my opinion that we are born with it - see my previous post above, last four paragraphs.

As for the ones I have personally, I'd better not even try to defend or justify them here! Very Happy

erikjust, about the Austrian guy wrote:
Now by what standard do we judge his actions as evil? Do we do it by some universal notion of good and evil? No we judge his actions as evil by our own standards and that of the society we live in.

Do we really? Or do we do it by the "universal fact" that depriving someone of his/her freedom (and hurting someone else) is wrong? I understand that some people do what you suggest, but that would tell us more about them and their moral standards than about what is right and wrong.

erikjust wrote:
Well I would disagree whit that action by once again going back to the scenario whit Toby who killed one of his slaves.
Now let´s say he does it again and again, the slaves eventually get more then fed up by this treatment and rebel.

Now what made the Slaves rebel some universal notion that the treatment they got was bad and they wouldn´t stand for it anymore?
No again it was their own personal opinion, that the treatment they got was bad and Toby was one evil bastard that needed to be toppled from his throne.
Because seen from Toby´s eyes and others like him what he did was perfectly normal and not evil in the slightest.

Now let's split this up. I'll start from the end: "what he did was... not evil".
I'd say that other people did not CONSIDER this as evil. They probably did not consider it at all. But the basic principles that Toby violates are:

* Freedom/Respect of other (conscient) beings
* Willfully inflicting harm to others

People that consider this to be "not evil" are not asking themselves the question, they are going by "the law of least resistance"... laziness if you wish. They are themselves violating at least the first principle above, since they are not respecting others (the slaves) either. Currently I can not formulate a principle/law that covers the loyalty/solidarity/courage that would cover their lack of acting. Respect lies closest and covers most of it.

Number two... You suggest that it is the slaves' free will that they suddenly decide that Toby is "evil" and that he must be handled. This indirectly implies that some of Toby's slaves probably have the opposite opinion - that what Toby does IS indeed right, and that what he is doing is the right thing.

I'd say that it would take a horrid amount of bad treatment and smudged judgement to create such an excuse for justifying someone to treat you like that. But that is what society does to you - from your first experiences as a newborn, and for the rest of your everyday life.

Still, these people would feel deep inside themself a wish for something else than Toby's harsh treatment, maybe they can only describe it as a wish to be free, but they DO know that something is wrong. I'd like to quote my favorite movie The Matrix:
"You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad."
If there are no options, you learn to live with it. You make up excuses. You find workarounds. And eventually, you may even learn to accept and appreciate what you have, instead of mourning that which you don't have, but barely know of, since that makes your life easier. Also, see my own story below. (If you think really hard, guys and girls, you may in fact have similar stories yourselves...!)

Well, back to the subject, I'm kinda slipping off it here: how could the slaves just decide that what Toby did was wrong, if it was not for his violating of the universal principle of inflicting harm to others?

If you make the threshold of escaping something high enough, you can make people put up with a lot of bad things. Why would you have to make thresholds in the first place if it wasn't morally (or otherwise) wrong?
I agree with you: none of the rebelling slaves would be able to claim that they have consulted the universal laws of right and wrong and come to the conclusion that since Toby is in violation of it, it is our divine duty to get rid of him. They would not know that. But if he wasn't violating the laws of good and evil, how could they ever become angry with him?
"Because they were not happy with what he did?"
Hold your horses!!! Does that mean that if I give say, 10,000 people food every day (not asking anything in return), some of them, say 25, may decide that what I do is bad, and that I'm an evil bastard, and rebel and kill me?
NO!! Because I'm not violating any of these universal laws!
(Well sure they can if they're on dope or something else is wrong with them, but let's not deviate even more here)

Even if Toby's rebelling slaves consider the rebelling to be their own decision, based on their own opinion, that opinion is - without them being aware of it themselves - based on universal principles of right and wrong.
So to a little part I agree with you, but I still consider your opinion to be... (cannot find a good word or phrase here) ..."you have not analysed it to the bottom cause of it".

erikjust wrote:
Again can you truly say that the opinions you have of what is good and what is evil is not based on someone else’s opinion?
No, but let's keep me out of this... Smile Or why not, here's "my story". I have included it to give a glimpse of how society and even family affects you every day, and that it shapes you. Not looking for any compassion here!!
I believe that I from the beginning had a healthy view of right and wrong. However, growing up with childhood "friends", kindergarten, school and other bad experiences hardened me in order to survive in this society. I had to find excuses. I had to surrender my principles. I was many times SHOCKED that people did not follow such (IMO) SELF-EXPLANATORY things, and many many times I tried to find an answer to the question "How can anyone WANT to hurt another person, just for the fun of it?". I never felt any such feelings myself. (At least not before the age of 25-26 or so)

It was not until way after 25 (can't remember exactly when) that I was presented with other ways of thinking. I realized that my moral standards were far from good, and that in some cases, this society makes some of them unchangeable (well, very very hard, at least). I can't say that I have changed a lot since then, but at least, I think differently when it comes to questions like this than I did before.

About following the standards of your society etc:
I consider this to be a common and easily explainable "error", also based on human behaviour.

You can think of it as a line of soldiers marching. If every soldier looks only at the soldier right in front of him, there will be an offset in the pace and the farther away from the front you go, the larger the offset will be. The entire column of soldiers will look like a caterpillar worm moving forward. STILL, every single soldier will consider that what he does is right - he is following the standards of those closest to him.

Or, you can think of a symphony orchestra. If every musician were to follow the pace/tempo of the person closest in front of him/her, the farther away from the conductor they were seated, the worse they would play.

Obviously, each soldier should be looking at the soldier at the front of the line (or the guy leading the parade), and the musicians should be looking at the conductor to find the right pace.

But if no one tells them to, this will not happen. And I think that is a very close analogy to why things are as you describe, erikjust. People have not been presented with any "conductor", and with time, they have deviated farther and farther from it, without even noticing.

In this analogy, the conductor and the parade leader are the universal laws or principles that I keep referring to. Nobody knows or cares about them much today, and it keeps spiralling, down, down... down. Each newborn gets an even worse starting position than those before, with more and more vendictive action running around them, enforcing them to abandon their principles and become a part of the society.

In fact, I'd even say that those born with psychopathy or other emotional challenges are the blessed ones - they will never have any moral problems with this world! But the world will have with them... Smile (yes, I was being ironic)
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd like to intervene as moderator at this point and focus the argument a little. It's good that we've got two participants both sincerely defending points of view that conflict, and I want to clarify the similarities and differences between them.

The major point of difference is as to whether there is an absolute moral standard against which moral truths are decided. On the one hand we have erikjust, who takes a relativist point of view. He says that there is no absolute moral standard: all moral judgements are subjective. In his view, a claim that "X is evil" is no different to the claim "I seriously disapprove of X". On the other hand we have Bezman, who takes the view that there are certain moral absolutes or universal moral truths: certain actions which are inherently good or evil regardless of who approves or disapproves. We might call Bezman's position a universalist view.

The key difference between these two points of view is that the universalist requires some absolute frame of reference: a "moral aether", if you like. Bezman has presented certain aspects of human behaviour as evidence for this. Particularly, he presents common innate (unlearned) moral behaviour in people as evidence that they are operating in relation to a universal truth.

There is a point of clarification needed from Bezman here, however. Is the innate moral behaviour something that happens because of a relationship with some kind of outside truth (a "moral aether", as I put it), or does the innate moral behaviour dictate the universal truth?

This question is a bit abstract, so I'll illustrate it with another of my hypothetical stories. A brilliant pharmacist by the name of Dr Schadenfreude invents a serum called KALUS which inoculates babies against a broad range of diseases more cheaply and effectively than many of the existing immunisation treatments. In testing, this serum is found to operate flawlessly, with only one documented side-effect. Psychological tests demonstrate that babies who receive this treatment tend to be unmoved when other people become upset, whereas babies who have not received the treatment tend to empathise and also become upset when others are upset.

If the government decides to standardise on KALUS as an immunisation treatment, what are the moral implications of this decision, if any? Explain your answer.
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erikjust
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That´s a bloody though question.

Mostly because some of the side effects you describe are related to a syndrome called Asperger Syndrom, I know of it because I got the bloody thing(those of you who don´t know what it is can read here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome)

First of all will the drug affect their abilities to show emotions or know them and is the effect permanent?

And let’s say they are permanent to a degree that if nothing is done the child will be unable to read other people’s emotions that well.
But if something is done as per say training the child from a young age in the ability to read other peoples emotion, they will regain the ability.

I guess your question is: would it be morally correct to pass it down as a law that forces the children to be inoculated whit this drug in a young age.
Again it is all in a point of view and to judge which of the two is the lesser evil.

On one hand we have our current vaccine which is expensive (to a certain degree) yet I only protect the child to a certain degree against diseases that might affect it later in life.

On the second had we have this new drug which is cheaper and able to cure diseases much better than the previous one yet it has the side effect of reducing one’s ability to read other peoples emotion and responding to them.

Again would it be morally wrong to force people to use the new drug again it’s all down to a point of view, as to what they consider morally right or wrong.

Sorry if it isn´t the answer you where looking for but your question is kinda hard to answer.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Assume that the effect of the serum is permanent, but it's not as severe as Asperger Syndrome. The long-term effects can only be described as a reduction in empathy: the person can detect emotions well enough and also express them, but exhibits less concern for others than someone who has not undergone the treatment. All else being equal, a person treated with KALUS is rather less likely to stop and help an injured person, for example.

This may be some sort of practical concern to the moral relativist. A person who considers empathy to be a good thing will consider KALUS to have bad properties. It has no implications for moral relativism as a whole, though: moral judgements remain matters of opinion.

The question is more targeted at Bezman because it decides between two possible views of morality, and I'm not yet sure which of these he's defending. If moral truths are defined by human behaviour, then the moral shift which occurs in a society that adopts the use of KALUS on a wide scale (a general reduction in empathy) is nothing terribly special. If one believes that moral behaviour is an evolved trait (based on popular evolutionary assumptions), then shifts like this are certainly a normal part of history, and there's no particular reason to get wound up over it.

If, on the other hand, moral truths are reflected in human behaviour, a chemically induced shift like this amounts to the introduction of a permanent moral impediment. Scott talked earlier about morally dubious things that seem acceptable while the subject is drunk or under other influences: this would be like a permanent (if mild) altered state of that sort. This view of things requires that moral facts have some kind of existence independent of any human being, which raises all sorts of interesting questions.

I'm wanting Bezman's clarification on this so that I can follow up with the right kind of question.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you frost a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, is the cake innately yellow or brown?
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well...I think I might be on bez's side on this one, at least to a point. I believe there is such a thing as a moral basepoint, a foundation if you will.

I'll start my reasoning with killing since that is a popular moral fault.

I think deep down inside most people consider killing each other wrong. Lets call this a universal truth. Now to this universal truth we have exceptions (my old teacher always used to say that there is always an exception to confirm the rule). For example most people consider it OK to kill a person in self defense or in defense of another when you or the other person is being directly threatened. This is in itself a sort of universal law because no matter what culture we come from we feel this is ok.

Then to further tear things apart there are some situation where some societies feel it is right to kill other people while some societes consider it wrong. One example to this is the death penalty. Now in most countries it has been abolished while others still claim to it as an ultimate punish. There are also cultures who consider it ok to kill people in defence of the family honour (kind of like dueling in the 18th century).

So I guess my conclusion is that we have some kind of common ground for most moral issues and that we agree that there are some exceptions to these moral rights and wrongs but that we on some points differ in opinion because of our separation in belief and history. So I guess I agree with both of you to some extent...we do have some innate feeling for moral but it gets shifted and bent into shape by our upbringing and our society.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
The question is more targeted at Bezman because it decides between two possible views of morality, and I'm not yet sure which of these he's defending.

YOU'RE not sure? Very Happy Heck, I have NO FRICKIN IDEA what I'm defending, ha ha! Like I wrote before, I lack the philosophical knowledge to label my thoughts, so please do, as soon as you've pinpointed me.

Btw YAY:
TFBW wrote:
We might call Bezman's position a universalist view.

I just got a life view (errmm... that's not what its called in English...) named in my honor! Very Happy

Either way, that's one tough question:
TFBW wrote:
Is the innate moral behaviour something that happens because of a relationship with some kind of outside truth (a "moral aether", as I put it), or does the innate moral behaviour dictate the universal truth?

I really didn't have an answer to that right away. After considering the two options for a minute, I must say that I strongly prefer the first one.

However, after thinking about it for a day or so, it suddenly struck me that there is in fact an answer to that question available... in writing! And in a very eerie way and place too. Most of you will think I'm religious for even writing this, but I assure you of my agnostic position. The answer to the question is "by coincidence" to be found in - the bible.
Genesis (1 Mos) 3:5.
Kinda scary, huh... that the answer to such a superdeep question is right there, and right in the very beginning of that book. Makes you wonder.
Anyways, this insight strengthened my leaning into a belief. I may now be biased by it. Kind of great authority support - the alleged word of GOD on my side, wow!? Cool

Now about the KALUS story then. (I'm not 100% I grasp the full meaning of your phrase "the moral implications of this decision", if you feel I fail to answer your question, please rephrase that part)
I'd say a government have to be rather KAL... callous itself in order to approve of such a treatment instead of waiting for a better version of it.

For a government where most members share erikjust's view of good and evil, they will probably see it as a step forward, like "finally we can get rid of all these soft wussy whiners! PROGRESS RULES!". In my opinion, it would be a permanent lowering of moral standards, a farthering (?) from the "true, right, universal moral values" that I have earlier expressed my belief in.
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