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  #151  
Old 10-03-2019, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I've been saying that the disagreement may be semantic. I still think that.
I think we're both arguing from the same place. I think we have different ways of justifying why we're in that place, and how we got there, and while those differences are not major, I don't think they're entirely trivial.

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You seem to agree that the calculus I described earlier is accurate, regarding how desires turn "is" into "should." Is that a fair statement?
I think it's accurate on a personal level, not on an objective level. By which I mean, I think it's accurate for you. I think it's mostly accurate for me. I don't think it necessarily describes how every person comes to understand ethics, even when their ethical stance largely matches yours and mine. And, of course, there are any number of ethical stances which are not at all described by that process.

To be clear, I'm including things like, "Might makes right," and "I've got mine; fuck everyone else" as "ethical" stances. I think they're bad ethics, but I don't think my ethical stances are in any way more objectively accurate than those.

I'm not actually sure the extent to which you agree with that last sentence. One of my problems with the concept of natural rights is that it often dresses itself up as objectively right - or at least, uses language that invites that interpretation. My impression is that you broadly agree that morality is subjective, but I'm not certain.

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If so, do you agree that things you "should" do may be fairly described as "duties"?

If so, do you agree that if you have a duty to do something regarding another person, that person has a right to your performance of that duty?
I don't agree that something you "should" do is the same as having a "duty" to do a thing. I should exercise more, for example, but I don't have a duty to exercise more, unless I've promised someone that I will be less of a fat-ass in the future. Or, to be less trivial, I should donate more to charity than I do - I don't need to buy a new computer game instead of giving that money to the needy. But I don't think I have a duty to give $50 to a soup kitchen instead of spending it on the latest Gears of War*. Duty, to me, implies a formalized acceptance of responsibility. I don't think the cake shop owner who refuses a cake for a gay couple has a "duty" to serve the gay couple, although I'm okay with the cake shop owner being subject to legal penalties for not following applicable anti-discrimination laws.

*Almost said, "the latest Call of Duty, but that seemed confusing in context.
  #152  
Old 10-03-2019, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I don't even know if it's worth pointing this out to you--but if you persist in thinking that the only way your conversation partners can deny your claim is to be dishonest, you cut off any meaningful discussion. I deny your claim 100%, and I do so sincerely. If you can't wrap your head around what that means, you can't meaningfully talk with me.
How is it you are not seeing the self contradictory nature of your own so-called axioms? Your argument has the nature of religious revelation and the vast majority of history and contemporary society is evidence that what you propose is not objective truth.

It's like arguing with a fervent Christian or Muslim or something on the basis of morality and they keep bringing up the acceptance of the 10 commandments as the objective truth and that anyone who sees it any other way is wrong. You see how that is a perplexing stance to take?
  #153  
Old 10-03-2019, 08:16 PM
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You'll forgive me, Miller, if I think you're wrong on that point.
Perhaps not, but that quote doesn't prove it. You described a good process at arriving at a subjective understanding of moral behavior. But it's still subjective. I mostly agree with octopus about "might make right" being the only objective moral stance, but that's not the same as not understanding - let alone preferring - a subjective moral stance.

Also, note that "objective moral stance" is not the same as an "objectively moral stance."
  #154  
Old 10-03-2019, 08:21 PM
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Oh, if your viewpoint is accepted as objective truth wouldn't you also be compelled in the name of justice to impose your viewpoint on the rest of the world? Wouldn't the acceptance of your objective truth as real mean that the culture that it was produced by is superior to any culture that does not accept your objective truth?
  #155  
Old 10-03-2019, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Miller View Post
Perhaps not, but that quote doesn't prove it. You described a good process at arriving at a subjective understanding of moral behavior. But it's still subjective. I mostly agree with octopus about "might make right" being the only objective moral stance, but that's not the same as not understanding - let alone preferring - a subjective moral stance.

Also, note that "objective moral stance" is not the same as an "objectively moral stance."
There's a pretty major disagreement here still, then, and that's why I keep going back to that "Crudely stated" bit. I'm not 100% convinced that my stance is correct, but I do think it's possible that morality can be observed, because it's something that arises naturally. Any such morality is objective, and is either correct or incorrect.

I think "might makes right" is not only objectively incorrect, but it's not even recognizably a position about morality, as I understand morality. Unless one takes the grotesque position that the victor is necessarily behaving in a moral fashion, which is not how most folks use the expression.

Rather, "might makes right" is a statement that more often means, "Morality is subjective." Which I disagree with.
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Originally Posted by Miller View Post
I think it's accurate on a personal level, not on an objective level. By which I mean, I think it's accurate for you. I think it's mostly accurate for me. I don't think it necessarily describes how every person comes to understand ethics, even when their ethical stance largely matches yours and mine. And, of course, there are any number of ethical stances which are not at all described by that process.
Sure. There's disagreement. Disagreement does not preclude objective reality.

Disagreements about ethics involve a lot of appeals to reason. I think that's appropriate. Some objective facts form the basis for different positions. But there is the *possibility* that one ethical position is more consistent, more elegant, and more powerfully explanatory of ethical principles and of observed reality than others.

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I don't agree that something you "should" do is the same as having a "duty" to do a thing. I should exercise more, for example, but I don't have a duty to exercise more, unless I've promised someone that I will be less of a fat-ass in the future. Or, to be less trivial, I should donate more to charity than I do - I don't need to buy a new computer game instead of giving that money to the needy. But I don't think I have a duty to give $50 to a soup kitchen instead of spending it on the latest Gears of War*. Duty, to me, implies a formalized acceptance of responsibility. I don't think the cake shop owner who refuses a cake for a gay couple has a "duty" to serve the gay couple, although I'm okay with the cake shop owner being subject to legal penalties for not following applicable anti-discrimination laws.
To use these examples: the "should" in "should exercise more" is shorthand for, "I desire to be healthier, and exercising more would help me realize this desire," right? However, you can't impose a duty on yourself, since you're automatically in charge of balancing your own desires. If you desire to sit on your fat ass and eat Cheetos, and that's the desire that wins out, you definitely chose the desire that was most important to you. You can't help but do that.

As for the soup kitchen, that's in an interesting ethical area. Let's make it more extreme for a paragraph: I've got a fruit orchard, and I gain some pleasure from owning things. I never eat those fruit. Children are starving outside my fruit orchard, because I lock the fence every night. A do-gooder offers to collect fruit to take to the children--fruit that otherwise rot. Do I have a duty to agree? You say no. I say yes.

Back to the soup kitchen: it's the same question, but now we're in a grayer area. Your $50 probably won't save a life at the soup kitchen. You can't possibly save all the lives out there. You're entitled to prioritize your own desires to a substantial degree, since you're the single person on earth best at meeting them. When substantial desires conflict, the question gets thorny, and I don't know exactly how best to balance the calculus.

But these are positive duties. Take a negative duty, which are much easier to talk about. Those kids outside your orchard, eyeing your fruit hungrily: I suggest they impose a negative duty on you, and you may not shoot them in order to curtail their hungry eyes. Even if there's no formalized acceptance of responsibility, that's a major thwarting of desire (their desire to live), for very trivial purposes.

Experienced desire creates the word "should."
The existence of desires in other beings creates "shoulds" regarding those other beings.
Those "shoulds" may be expressed as duties--positive or, more clearly, negative--toward those beings.
Those duties may be understood at rights possessed by those beings.

No god is necessary for this chain of reasoning; nor is any step subjective. I may be fallacious in one of the steps--but if I am, the persuasive approach will be to tell me where I am fallacious, not to deny the possibility of objectively determining ethical behavior.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 10-03-2019 at 09:12 PM.
  #156  
Old 10-03-2019, 11:57 PM
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They are thorny issues. But you haven’t defined moral agent. Is a dolphin a moral agent? A gorilla or a chimp? Is a sufficiently advanced AI? Is it an infant? Is it a person who has 0 chance of waking from a coma?

Secondly, you are using examples where there aren’t hard choices to be made. Is it more or less moral to from armies out of men or women? We are all mortal so some value can be assigned to the propagation of the species as opposed to the individual. That is not an objective number regardless of how it’s determined yet the numbers used drastically change the outcome.

You are biologically wired to feel empathy towards your species and to some extent other living creatures. It’s a biological survival strategy that most humans have happened to inherit. The human brains that don’t feel empathy are just as human as you though. Think about their observations and conclusions about morality. Are they not an undefined moral agents?

The fallacy is thinking that some people’s moral preferences are objectively true. It’s also a potentially dangerous source of zealotry.

Last edited by octopus; 10-03-2019 at 11:59 PM.
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