Some questions about ethics

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John Bruce Leonard
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 12th, 2017, 8:48 am

To -1-

-1-, let me see if I understand. You view human morality as comprising two parts, personal morals and social morals. Personal morals are the direct product of genetics or DNA; they cannot be altered, being as they are “codified in genes.” In any case of conflict between them and social morals, personal morals will invariably govern the outcome. They are not, as Achim has suggested, the product of human choice or decision; it would seem rather that they underlay human choice or decision.

Social morals, on the other hand, vary from community to community, although there may be some precepts which are common to all communities. Social morals take the form of commandments, and they, unlike personal morals, can be acted against, or resisted. They are therefore weaker than personal morals.

If all of this appears correct to you, then consider this. It seems to me erroneous to call “personal morals” morals at all. Morality indicates, nay, presupposes, the possibility of choice or of alternatives. Supposing someone taps my knee, and I, without wishing to, kick him in the face. This cannot be considered a moral act, because I had no command over it, while it would be considered a moral act if I willingly kick a person who has insulted me. Or consider again: if I enter a person’s house and spit on his floor, that would be taken as an act of provocation or insult—a moral act. But if I am overcome by a fit of nausea and even vomit on his floor, that would be merely an embarrassment; no normal person would hold me accountable for this, because it was not an act of choice. Therefore, since “personal morals” are neither the object nor the consequence of choice, they are in fact better understood as personal impulses, personal instincts. It would seem, then, that morality is in fact reducible to social morals alone.

Does this seem correct to you?


To Spectrum—
Spectrum wrote:[In] general it is always the species that drives the survival at all costs and this is already programmed in the DNA of the living thing.
To what extent can we resist or alter our “DNA programming” through our adoption of a given morality?
Spectrum wrote:Why I used "species" is because the human species is evident a very distinct species with special mental abilities. If the higher primate can expedite their evolution to be like humans, I would group them within the same collective in consideration of Morality issues.
Given this logic, what would stop me from arguing as follows? Our Western society is clearly distinct from all other human societies, and particularly from more primitive or pre-industrial societies. Only in our Western society has it been possible to establish functioning democracies. This suggests a fundamental division between our society and the other societies of the world. If these other societies can expedite their evolution to be like Westerners, we could group them within the same collective, but until such a time as that, it is useless and worse than useless to consider them as part of our collective.

The unit by which we should take our moral bearings is therefore not the species, but that part of the species which is capable of preserving our ways and our good: not the species, but Western society, should be the standard of reference.
Spectrum wrote:Note the insects, e.g. bees and ants, when attacked individual fighter bees or ants will be sacrificed for the sake of the colony and therefrom the species. It is not obvious in humans but a fine comb analysis can reveal such a program is also inherent in humans as species.
It is not clear to me that a bee who perishes for the sake of her colony, is perforce perishing for the sake of her species. Here is empirical evidence. Bee colonies, like human societies, war with one another: a strong bee colony will enter a weak one to rob it of its honey, often killing many of the bees, and sometimes the entire hive, in the process. Human beings, it goes without saying, indulge similar behaviors in their societies. Ants and chimpanzees both follow similar patterns. Now, all of this would be patently absurd, maybe even impossible, if the primary “genetic program” of these groups were to preserve their species, rather than their own society, their own “colony.” Just as no bee will ever massacre her sisters in order to rob the honey of her own hive, and just as only the rarest human beings will murder what they regard as their brethren for the sake of gain or personal advancement, so it seems that the primary concern of all social animals, humans included, is not the species, but the society—however that term is to be understood.

And so again—does it not seem that the society, rather than the species, is the more natural standard of reference, in contemplating morality?

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by -1- » May 12th, 2017, 7:11 pm

John Bruce Leonard wrote:To -1-

-1-, let me see if I understand. You view human morality as comprising two parts, personal morals and social morals. Personal morals are the direct product of genetics or DNA; they cannot be altered, being as they are “codified in genes.” In any case of conflict between them and social morals, personal morals will invariably govern the outcome. They are not, as Achim has suggested, the product of human choice or decision; it would seem rather that they underlay human choice or decision.

Social morals, on the other hand, vary from community to community, although there may be some precepts which are common to all communities. Social morals take the form of commandments, and they, unlike personal morals, can be acted against, or resisted. They are therefore weaker than personal morals.

If all of this appears correct to you, then consider this. It seems to me erroneous to call “personal morals” morals at all. Morality indicates, nay, presupposes, the possibility of choice or of alternatives. Supposing someone taps my knee, and I, without wishing to, kick him in the face. This cannot be considered a moral act, because I had no command over it, while it would be considered a moral act if I willingly kick a person who has insulted me. Or consider again: if I enter a person’s house and spit on his floor, that would be taken as an act of provocation or insult—a moral act. But if I am overcome by a fit of nausea and even vomit on his floor, that would be merely an embarrassment; no normal person would hold me accountable for this, because it was not an act of choice. Therefore, since “personal morals” are neither the object nor the consequence of choice, they are in fact better understood as personal impulses, personal instincts. It would seem, then, that morality is in fact reducible to social morals alone.

Does this seem correct to you?
1. You got it right.

2. Yes, what you wrote seems correct to me. With the added argument, that decisions are constantly made, but they are not made by a free will; selecting a choice from a list of alternatives is always determinable before hand, since everything is caused in this universe, no uncaused thing happens.

3. I would therefore call any behaviour that unselfishly creates a martyr of sorts of the self for the benefit of others still a moral act.

4. In other words, no person makes any choices of his own, or, rather, he does, but his decisions are caused by things. If we know the all the causes (which we don't) of what affects a person's behaviour, we could predict precisely his entire life if we also know the circumstances of his entire life.

5. People make choices, but they are entirely predictable by someone who knows the pertinent details of their reality.

6. As such, there is no difference between genetically predisposed morality and socially enforced morality: the person has no freedom in creating a decision (although he does create a decision; it is simply just determined.)

7. Therefore if you INSIST that a person's act is only moral if his behaviour is a function of his FREE choice, then I am sorry, there is an argument that denies any and all behaviour as being moral.

This is a tough cookie; the more you think about it, the clearer (and less palatable) it gets. Choices are made daily, and there is a will, but the latter is not free, and the former are determined and pre-cognizable by a smart and knowing mind.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 13th, 2017, 1:34 am

John Bruce Leonard wrote:
Spectrum wrote:[In] general it is always the species that drives the survival at all costs and this is already programmed in the DNA of the living thing.
To what extent can we resist or alter our “DNA programming” through our adoption of a given morality?
As I had stated, DNA wise all humans are 'programmed' [no programmer btw] to survive at all costs.
If the DNA is programmed otherwise,
i.e. "DNA wise human are NOT programmed to survive at all costs"
then potentially the human will be extinct. Then we will have anarchy and 'fire-fighting' morality and ethics.

Maybe in the future 500 years from now, humans will be able to tweak the DNA of all humans at the fundamental level, and a freak pervert dictator programmed all humans with;
"DNA wise human are NOT programmed to survive at all costs"
then the human species will have the possibility to be extinct with the press of that "button".
I don't believe this is a possibility.
Spectrum wrote:Why I used "species" is because the human species is evident a very distinct species with special mental abilities. If the higher primate can expedite their evolution to be like humans, I would group them within the same collective in consideration of Morality issues.
Given this logic, what would stop me from arguing as follows? Our Western society is clearly distinct from all other human societies, and particularly from more primitive or pre-industrial societies. Only in our Western society has it been possible to establish functioning democracies. This suggests a fundamental division between our society and the other societies of the world. If these other societies can expedite their evolution to be like Westerners, we could group them within the same collective, but until such a time as that, it is useless and worse than useless to consider them as part of our collective.

The unit by which we should take our moral bearings is therefore not the species, but that part of the species which is capable of preserving our ways and our good: not the species, but Western society, should be the standard of reference.
The point with grounding in Morality [abstracting principles and laws] is it must be approached towards the greater universal level than the particular level [to infinite varieties] which is very subjective and therefrom the issue of grounding would be absurd. This is a general rule for all faculties of knowledge.
The basis of "species" is the most relevant and practical given the reality at present, human species is unique.
If all living things are like humans, then the basis will be 'all living things' [a possibility] rather than 'species.'
Spectrum wrote:Note the insects, e.g. bees and ants, when attacked individual fighter bees or ants will be sacrificed for the sake of the colony and therefrom the species. It is not obvious in humans but a fine comb analysis can reveal such a program is also inherent in humans as species.
It is not clear to me that a bee who perishes for the sake of her colony, is perforce perishing for the sake of her species. Here is empirical evidence. Bee colonies, like human societies, war with one another: a strong bee colony will enter a weak one to rob it of its honey, often killing many of the bees, and sometimes the entire hive, in the process. Human beings, it goes without saying, indulge similar behaviors in their societies. Ants and chimpanzees both follow similar patterns. Now, all of this would be patently absurd, maybe even impossible, if the primary “genetic program” of these groups were to preserve their species, rather than their own society, their own “colony.” Just as no bee will ever massacre her sisters in order to rob the honey of her own hive, and just as only the rarest human beings will murder what they regard as their brethren for the sake of gain or personal advancement, so it seems that the primary concern of all social animals, humans included, is not the species, but the society—however that term is to be understood.

And so again—does it not seem that the society, rather than the species, is the more natural standard of reference, in contemplating morality?
Nature ways is such that it works on the principles of large numbers be it individual[s] or group[s].

In the case of groups, tribes or colony, DNA-wise certain living things will form groups but nature will ensure there will be as many groups as possible. Therefore even if one group kill another that would be an exception against the general force of unity to ensure the preservation of the species.

If you observe individual[s] and groups, the ultimate objective is the species and not the group or individual where some % can be sacrificed for the sake of the species.

I can move further and it is not a problem to state, the ultimate objective of all living things is the preservation of living things [rather than species]. This view would be more interesting. I need not go this far but restrict it to "species" at the present for the purpose of the Philosophy of Morality.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 13th, 2017, 3:44 am

To -1-
-1- wrote:This is a tough cookie; the more you think about it, the clearer (and less palatable) it gets. Choices are made daily, and there is a will, but the latter is not free, and the former are determined and pre-cognizable by a smart and knowing mind.
I see no reason our ideas should not be “tough cookies.” There is nothing in the character of the world which promises to us comforting thoughts. I applaud you then for your willingness to look straight on matters. Let us see what comes of it.

If I continue to follow you, it would appear there are three main claims in your latest response: 1.) all things are caused in this universe, and human actions are no exception; 2.) the particular cause of all human actions is DNA; and therefore 3.) what we have been calling “social morals” are in fact illusory or irrelevant, for such morals are incapable of influencing human behavior. If this is so, then we may make a further step even beyond our latest: not only are there no “personal morals,” but there are no “social morals” either; there are only the genetically determined acts of individual human beings. We seem to have abolished the moral realm altogether. You continue to prefer calling certain actions moral, but I wonder if there is a reason for this preference, beyond merest habit and the lax and indefensible perspective of our societies? Shall we not bite hard on this tough cookie, and admit that morality is but an illusion?


To Spectrum—
Spectrum wrote:As I had stated, DNA wise all humans are 'programmed' [no programmer btw] to survive at all costs.
If the DNA is programmed otherwise, 
i.e. "DNA wise human are NOT programmed to survive at all costs"
then potentially the human will be extinct. Then we will have anarchy and 'fire-fighting' morality and ethics.
I am afraid my question was not very clear, Spectrum. Let me try to express it this way. I of course agree that all human beings value survival, even those who take their own lives. (I do not suppose it is ever an easy thing to commit suicide.) Yet it is equally clear that in some cases human beings, even a great many of them, are capable of subjugating this desire for personal continuation to what they perceive as greater concerns. In times of war, for instance, it is generally held to be virtuous to risk one’s life, to die, in order to attain the welfare of one’s homeland and family, the destruction of the enemy, or personal glory, and many people do in fact sacrifice themselves to these ends. I am not interested in analyzing any of these peculiar motivations, so much as in comprehending how you understand such phenomena. Is this an instance of a human being willfully resisting the programming of his DNA, or rather of a human being acting on the basis of motivations provided by a yet more “fundamental” portion of his DNA?
Spectrum wrote:The basis of "species" is the most relevant and practical given the reality at present...
I would like to know why you take it as “most relevant and practical.” What precisely makes it a more objective principle than one’s society or tribe?

Now, you have stated your general rule as follows:
Spectrum wrote:The point with grounding in Morality [abstracting principles and laws] is it must be approached towards the greater universal level than the particular level [to infinite varieties] which is very subjective and therefrom the issue of grounding would be absurd. This is a general rule for all faculties of knowledge.
I could accept this general rule, and still dispute whether you have hit upon the appropriate “universal level.” For it is clear that one cannot be too universal, and I think you will agree with me about this: you seem to avoid taking life as the final moral standard, but opt instead for the human species “for the purpose of the Philosophy of Morality.” The reasons for this are clear enough. If we were to take life as such as the standard, and if we were to apply your original logic to it, we would come out with the result that it is absolutely prohibited to kill any other organism in the world, for the reason that if every organism were to behave in such a fashion, life would cease. You will agree, I do not doubt, that such would be not only a totally ridiculous, but also a totally infeasible, moral precept. Then universality must be weighed against the right level specificity.

Then my question is what it is precisely about the “species” that demonstrates its right balance of universality and specificity. You give a few indications. On the one hand, you say that the “human species is unique.” This is fair enough, though again I do not see what will stop me from arguing for the uniqueness of a larger unit, such as the mammal class or the animal kingdom or life itself, or else the uniqueness of any number of smaller human groups—societies, ethnicities, subspecies, what have you. Uniqueness alone seems insufficient as a determining characteristic.

You also argue as follows:
Spectrum wrote:In the case of groups, tribes or colony, DNA-wise certain living things will form groups but nature will ensure there will be as many groups as possible. Therefore even if one group kill another that would be an exception against the general force of unity to ensure the preservation of the species.

If you observe individual[s] and groups, the ultimate objective is the species and not the group or individual where some % can be sacrificed for the sake of the species.
The “ultimate objective is the species.” If I were to ask whose objective this is, you might respond, as you seem to do above, that it is nature’s: the same nature which “ensures” the variety of groups, the same nature which embeds certain “programming” into our DNA. You suggested in one of your initial posts that the human species does not have the “purpose” to go extinct. I cite all of these words merely to try to better understand the thought behind them. Let me ask this: can nature be said to have purpose?

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 13th, 2017, 10:38 pm

John Bruce Leonard wrote:
Spectrum wrote:As I had stated, DNA wise all humans are 'programmed' [no programmer btw] to survive at all costs.
If the DNA is programmed otherwise, 
i.e. "DNA wise human are NOT programmed to survive at all costs"
then potentially the human will be extinct. Then we will have anarchy and 'fire-fighting' morality and ethics.
I am afraid my question was not very clear, Spectrum. Let me try to express it this way. I of course agree that all human beings value survival, even those who take their own lives. (I do not suppose it is ever an easy thing to commit suicide.) Yet it is equally clear that in some cases human beings, even a great many of them, are capable of subjugating this desire for personal continuation to what they perceive as greater concerns. In times of war, for instance, it is generally held to be virtuous to risk one’s life, to die, in order to attain the welfare of one’s homeland and family, the destruction of the enemy, or personal glory, and many people do in fact sacrifice themselves to these ends. I am not interested in analyzing any of these peculiar motivations, so much as in comprehending how you understand such phenomena. Is this an instance of a human being willfully resisting the programming of his DNA, or rather of a human being acting on the basis of motivations provided by a yet more “fundamental” portion of his DNA?
As I had stated the absolute moral laws/maxims are merely ideal guides.
But human nature at present [as observed] will drive some human to kill for necessary and unnecessary reasons.

When there is 'killing' they are not willfully resisting the inherent moral programming. This is a dilemma of optimization against the present constraints where self-defense and preventive measures are necessary.

What is needed is for all humans to be "awake" to the inherent moral absolute laws within ourselves and strive to progress towards the ideals.
So the question against the ideals is how can humanity prevent and eliminate wars and all sorts of killings of humans. With the ideals as fixed, it is not impossible to progress towards the ideal and thus continual improvement from the existing status [with the awareness the ideal is not expected to be achieve].
What this model has is an engine to drive continual improvement in terms of the average Moral Intelligence [MQ]. Without the ideal there is no fixed goal post to leverage upon to improve systematically, thus resulting in fire-fighting all over the place.
Spectrum wrote:The basis of "species" is the most relevant and practical given the reality at present...
I would like to know why you take it as “most relevant and practical.” What precisely makes it a more objective principle than one’s society or tribe?
Now, you have stated your general rule as follows:
Spectrum wrote:The point with grounding in Morality [abstracting principles and laws] is it must be approached towards the greater universal level than the particular level [to infinite varieties] which is very subjective and therefrom the issue of grounding would be absurd. This is a general rule for all faculties of knowledge.
I could accept this general rule, and still dispute whether you have hit upon the appropriate “universal level.” For it is clear that one cannot be too universal, and I think you will agree with me about this: you seem to avoid taking life as the final moral standard, but opt instead for the human species “for the purpose of the Philosophy of Morality.” The reasons for this are clear enough. If we were to take life as such as the standard, and if we were to apply your original logic to it, we would come out with the result that it is absolutely prohibited to kill any other organism in the world, for the reason that if every organism were to behave in such a fashion, life would cease. You will agree, I do not doubt, that such would be not only a totally ridiculous, but also a totally infeasible, moral precept. Then universality must be weighed against the right level specificity.
As I had stated, if [and only IF] all living things were to reach the level of human consciousness, intellect, wisdom, etc. then yes the absolute moral maxim will be:
'It is not permitted to kill any living things' no ifs nor but.

But note this is a only a guide.
In practice we will take this hypothesis as far as it can go while striving to close the moral gap.

At the present [till perhaps the next 50,000.. millions of years?], empirically, the universal 'specie' basis is most optimal.
In addition, it is not only universal human 'specie' but also applicable to the universal human, i.e. basic human dignity. This basic human dignity [common denominator] is why we cannot stop at the group, race, national level.
Then my question is what it is precisely about the “species” that demonstrates its right balance of universality and specificity. You give a few indications. On the one hand, you say that the “human species is unique.” This is fair enough, though again I do not see what will stop me from arguing for the uniqueness of a larger unit, such as the mammal class or the animal kingdom or life itself, or else the uniqueness of any number of smaller human groups—societies, ethnicities, subspecies, what have you. Uniqueness alone seems insufficient as a determining characteristic.
The human species is definitely significantly unique with its higher human consciousness and other human qualities.

As I had mentioned above, until all other living things evolved to the levels of humans, then I would rope in other species into the ambit of Philosophy of Morality.
However, there are moral/ethics consideration taking place at the fringes with the higher primates, pets [dogs, cats, others] etc. But at the present it is not sufficient to make it universal [yet].

The human species basis is optimal at present and it can only go forward with changes [next 500 years?] to consider other species but not backward.

You also argue as follows:
Spectrum wrote:In the case of groups, tribes or colony, DNA-wise certain living things will form groups but nature will ensure there will be as many groups as possible. Therefore even if one group kill another that would be an exception against the general force of unity to ensure the preservation of the species.

If you observe individual[s] and groups, the ultimate objective is the species and not the group or individual where some % can be sacrificed for the sake of the species.
The “ultimate objective is the species.” If I were to ask whose objective this is, you might respond, as you seem to do above, that it is nature’s: the same nature which “ensures” the variety of groups, the same nature which embeds certain “programming” into our DNA. You suggested in one of your initial posts that the human species does not have the “purpose” to go extinct. I cite all of these words merely to try to better understand the thought behind them. Let me ask this: can nature be said to have purpose?
There is no teleological [god dictated] purpose in nature.
My 'ultimate objective' is inferred from empirical evidence and nothing else.

As I had stated it is observed so far no species had emerged [evolved] with the purpose [as observed] to go extinct "intentionally" or deliberately. To do so is an impossibility.
Note the mayflies which only has few hours to live but what is their purpose [inferred] of flying around as mayflies. Note the examples of so many living things that strive survive against all sorts of odds to survive and reproduce where possible.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Gertie » May 14th, 2017, 12:40 pm

John
I assume by Harris you are referring to Sam Harris? It seems to me Harris is rather begging the question with his ideas of “well-being” and “suffering.” As a good scientist, he takes these concept as given, and builds his reasoning from there, while perhaps this is the precise contrary of what we ought to do here. Let me ask you this, Gertie: how do you understand “well-being”?
My own take, that Oughts derive from qualiative subjective states of conscious creatures (ie well-being or quality of life) means that well-being can't be neatly categorised or quantifiable. As I said different Subjects will have different needs, goals and perceive some harms differently. So 'well-being' is necessarily a broad brush category imo. There are heirarchies of needs which are easy enough to agree on as being necessary for a basic acceptable quality of life, but in more complex societies where basic needs are met, the negotiation of Oughts inevitably becomes messy. Tis the nature of the Subjective beast imo. And while I admire Harris for his clear thinking on a tricky topic, I think he's someone who is sometimes over-confident on how far clear thinking can get us.

I think Goldstein might be onto something with her notion of Mattering as a new way to think about Oughts. Some things matter to all of us, some things are more individually subjective. I also like Rawls' Veil of Ignorance as a way of looking at how societies should organise in a way likely to result in maximising well-being, Subjects putting themselves in each others' shoes, rather than starting with top down rules based on theoretical ideas about what well-being means. This is also helpful as an empathy prompt, because our evolved neuro-biological mechanisms which promote social (care and cooperative) behaviour work well when it comes to kin and people you know face to face, but lose power with distance. And our more competitive and tribal predispositions are apt to kick in with strangers, a major problem for our vast inter-connected globalised societies. We need approaches which acknowledge the reality of how we work.

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 14th, 2017, 4:14 pm

To Spectrum—
Spectrum wrote:Without the ideal there is no fixed goal post to leverage upon to improve systematically, thus resulting in fire-fighting all over the place.
I certainly see the problems in the kind of generalized disagreement you refer to. It would in its way be very desirable if we mostly agreed on the fundamental values. Do you think such agreement could ever be possible amongst human beings—even given that someone like yourself arrives at a valid and objective moral system?
Spectrum wrote:In addition, it is not only universal human 'specie' but also applicable to the universal human, i.e. basic human dignity. This basic human dignity [common denominator] is why we cannot stop at the group, race, national level.
Interesting, Spectrum. How do you understand “dignity”? I am assuming it must have something to do with “higher human consciousness and other human qualities”? I would be most curious to hear how you derive such a concept from empirical observations.

I assume that this is a fundamental element of your idea? For it seems that only something like a universal human dignity can save us from falling into this kind of logic:

Human morality as derived from empirical sources must be based on the survival of the species. All human beings must therefore procreate: it is the moral obligation of every human being to produce at least a single offspring in the course of his life, and better yet two, because if every individual human being did not produce at least a single offspring, the species would perish. Thus, in cases in which an individual does not succeed in finding a willing partner, it is not only permissible but morally obligatory, to resort to any and all expedients, including rape, to produce the required number.

Or again: the species cannot survive if the genetics of the species is overwhelmed with weak or unhealthy genes. It is thus morally obligatory for every human with a genetic history of genetic illness or of unfavorable mutations, to abstain from procreation.

Or yet again: the species’ survival is favored by the spreading of strong genes, for which it is morally obligatory for every human being with strong genetics to have as many children as he or she can.

No doubt countless such examples could be dreamt up. How would you argue against them?
Spectrum wrote:There is no teleological [god dictated] purpose in nature.
My 'ultimate objective' is inferred from empirical evidence and nothing else.
Indeed, I had not intended anything like “god dictated.” I meant only to indicate that it would appear that there are ends in the natural world—that life, for instance, exists for an end, a telos. Else it is impossible to speak of purpose—and, I might add, very difficult to speak of morality.

Yet I wonder if anything like a “purpose” or an “objective” can really be inferred from empirical evidence alone? What entitles you to that claim? For one cannot say, via empirical evidence, that the earth, for instance, has the purpose of circling the sun; one cannot claim that the crystalline form of the crystal is the objective of the crystal. What makes life different, from an empirical point of view?


To Gertie—

Gertie, there is a lot in your response. Let’s consider this part of it. You seem to differentiate between those needs or goals which are broad or universal, and those which are specific or subjective. You also speak of “hierarchies of needs,” with some needs being more “basic” than others. Does it seem fair to say that we can draw a kind of spectrum of needs, ranging from the most basic, universal, and hence most important, to the most individualistic, subjective, and hence least important? (Given, of course, all of your very just caveats to the effect that these things are impossible to measure clearly or objectively.)

As regards your second paragraph—judging by your brief comments on Rawls and on the problems of contemporary society, it would seem you suppose it desirable for human beings everywhere to be empathetic with as many other human beings as possible. Would this be fair to say?

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 15th, 2017, 1:10 am

John Bruce Leonard wrote:To Spectrum—
Spectrum wrote:Without the ideal there is no fixed goal post to leverage upon to improve systematically, thus resulting in fire-fighting all over the place.
I certainly see the problems in the kind of generalized disagreement you refer to. It would in its way be very desirable if we mostly agreed on the fundamental values. Do you think such agreement could ever be possible amongst human beings—even given that someone like yourself arrives at a valid and objective moral system?
It impossible to have common consensus in the present state of human consciousness with relatively a primate brain. [relatively humans were near-apes not too long ago -200,000 years?]

However note humanity has progressed from acceptance of slavery within 100 years to a total banned [an ideal moral maxim] officially in all countries. Of course in practice there is still slavery but the overall human consciousness and moral compass is bearing hard to narrow this gap towards the ideal.

The above is solid empirical evidence there is a spiraling trend of forward positive progress and something is happening in the brain of the average human with disgust and aversion toward the concept of slavery. This is the higher tuning of the moral compass on slavery towards a higher moral quotient [MQ] in this regard.

From the above empirical example and trend, one can forecast the moral drive within the average human brain is progressing.
Given this real trend, it is very possible humanity will eventually progressed towards the acceptance of other absolute moral maxims and laws. The question only when.
The point with philosophers discussing and accepting such ideas is to find the effective principles and models so that the progress can be expedited before some perverts [evil Islamists who do not recognize MAD] using cheap WMDs to exterminate the human species.
Spectrum wrote:In addition, it is not only universal human 'specie' but also applicable to the universal human, i.e. basic human dignity. This basic human dignity [common denominator] is why we cannot stop at the group, race, national level.
Interesting, Spectrum. How do you understand “dignity”? I am assuming it must have something to do with “higher human consciousness and other human qualities”? I would be most curious to hear how you derive such a concept from empirical observations.
It is our higher human consciousness and cognition that we are able to understand what is basic human dignity.
The basic human dignity is a concept to bring all humans to a common denominator as one with every one. The point is if you do not respect and give consideration to the basic human dignity of others [morally, ethically, etc.] then you are not respecting and insulting yourself because you are basically human as every other human.
I assume that this is a fundamental element of your idea? For it seems that only something like a universal human dignity can save us from falling into this kind of logic:

Human morality as derived from empirical sources must be based on the survival of the species. All human beings must therefore procreate: it is the moral obligation of every human being to produce at least a single offspring in the course of his life, and better yet two, because if every individual human being did not produce at least a single offspring, the species would perish. Thus, in cases in which an individual does not succeed in finding a willing partner, it is not only permissible but morally obligatory, to resort to any and all expedients, including rape, to produce the required number.

Or again: the species cannot survive if the genetics of the species is overwhelmed with weak or unhealthy genes. It is thus morally obligatory for every human with a genetic history of genetic illness or of unfavorable mutations, to abstain from procreation.

Or yet again: the species’ survival is favored by the spreading of strong genes, for which it is morally obligatory for every human being with strong genetics to have as many children as he or she can.

No doubt countless such examples could be dreamt up. How would you argue against them?
As I had stated many times, the absolute moral laws/maxim are merely ideals as guides only to facilitate improvements towards the impossible ideals.

Human nature in practice will definitely vary from the ideal.
The objective is to narrow [not close] the gap between the ideal and the practical.
Human nature and all its variables will generally conform with the Bell Curve with a mean and a small percentile of extremes at both end.
There is no way you can expect all humans adult to reach a constant height of 5 feet 9 inches. It is the same for the mental qualities which will vary across all humans.

Therefore it is not necessary that 'all humans must procreate' to conform to the ideal, all humans must procreate and contribute to the next generation. With so much complexities involved in the reproduction system of humans there are bound to be certain % of natural variations which is not a serious concern at present.
If there is no ideal guide then how do we know when is the critical mass level to be concern and take preventive action?

Strong genes favored?
Parallel to the concern to the preservation of the species, there is an evolving trend of mirror neurons [you familiar?] within humanity that promote empathy and compassion. This will ensure there is no sufferings to whose who are at a disadvantage and with certain handicaps.

Spectrum wrote:There is no teleological [god dictated] purpose in nature.
My 'ultimate objective' is inferred from empirical evidence and nothing else.


Indeed, I had not intended anything like “god dictated.” I meant only to indicate that it would appear that there are ends in the natural world—that life, for instance, exists for an end, a telos. Else it is impossible to speak of purpose—and, I might add, very difficult to speak of morality.

Yet I wonder if anything like a “purpose” or an “objective” can really be inferred from empirical evidence alone? What entitles you to that claim? For one cannot say, via empirical evidence, that the earth, for instance, has the purpose of circling the sun; one cannot claim that the crystalline form of the crystal is the objective of the crystal. What makes life different, from an empirical point of view?

What make life different is consciousness of different degrees, and for humans, its human consciousness which is very unique.

With empirical evidence we can infer the ultimate result of the 'Sun' or anything physical based on the principle of entropy. The Sun is likely to be whatever and will implode or explode, it is a matter of time as inferred from astronomy or theories of astrophysics.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 15th, 2017, 8:48 am

Spectrum wrote:With empirical evidence we can infer the ultimate result of the 'Sun' or anything physical based on the principle of entropy. The Sun is likely to be whatever and will implode or explode, it is a matter of time as inferred from astronomy or theories of astrophysics.
Do you hold that there is a difference between an “end result” on the one hand and a “purpose” on the other?
Spectrum wrote:However note humanity has progressed from acceptance of slavery within 100 years to a total banned [an ideal moral maxim] officially in all countries. Of course in practice there is still slavery but the overall human consciousness and moral compass is bearing hard to narrow this gap towards the ideal.
And how can we be certain that this is progress? I of course agree with you: but suppose a certain utterly reprehensible person were to approach us, saying, “Slavery is not only acceptable from the standpoint of evolution and the survival of the species, but is even beneficial to it, for the following reasons: 1.) it permits the breeding of super-human beings as well as human beings perfectly adapted to a wide variety of social roles; 2.) it allows us to control human populations in such a manner as to avoid serious dangers to our collective continuation; 3.) it segregates the weak from the strong, thus ensuring the continual improvement of human genetics; 4.) it guarantees an ever-present work force so that the best of the masters can dedicate their lives toward the procurement of knowledge, the production of useful inventions, or the resolution of the greatest problems confronting our species.”

Put very broadly, Spectrum, the idea of the “species” as the moral standard seems to me to support as easily positions we would loathe, as positions we would favor. It seems to me that there can be no means of distinguishing between the two, without having recourse to more fundamental standards which do not issue merely from empirical observations.

I will give you another example. You have responded to my “moral obligation to procreate” very justly, as it seems to me, by pointing out that “it is not necessary that 'all humans must procreate' to conform to the ideal... With so much complexities involved in the reproduction system of humans there are bound to be certain % of natural variations which is not a serious concern at present.” Yet this same response seems possible also for your commandment against killing, thus: it is not necessary that all human beings absolutely refrain from murder to conform to the ideal. With so many complexities involved in our societies and the relations of human beings there is bound to be a certain percentage of murders, which is not a serious concern at the present.” What is the difference? It is not enough to say that the ideal you propose absolutely prohibiting killing is merely a guide; for I can claim the same about my procreative ideal: it is a “guide to facilitate improvement toward the ideal” of guaranteeing the future of the species, and if rape is now and then the product of that, then so be it: for certainly judging by evolutionary standards, there are no empirical reasons to disfavor rape.

You would propose a commandment against killing “no ifs nor buts,” but not a commandment toward procreation “no ifs nor buts.” No doubt I would agree with you. But unless I have missed some essential feature of your idea, it seems to me that your preference here can only be based on certain ideas of good or evil which you have not yet articulated in our conversation, which lie beyond the empirical realm, and which you impose upon the observations you derive from your empirical investigations.

Here is another point at which I perceive these unspoken standards: you take the elimination of slavery as “solid empirical evidence there is a spiraling trend of forward positive progress,” but I am afraid I do not yet see this so clearly as you. Change as such surely cannot be taken as change for the better—or do you disagree? On what purely empirical grounds can we see this particular change as being progressive rather than regressive?

It is probable I have not yet understood the link between the empirical and the moral. Perhaps it would behoove us to return to your yin-yang idea of the “is” and the “ought.” Near your earliest remarks, you state the following:
Spectrum wrote:Deriving "ought" from "is" is like deriving pure principles like those of mathematics, geometry, physics, etc. e.g. a perfect circle ought to have such and such measurements properties. With such measurements humanity can get utilities out of it even there is no way of creating an absolute "perfect" circle empirically.
It would appear you are attempting in a way to mathematicize ethics. Now, the derivation of pure principles in mathematics, geometry, and physics is justified in every case by mathematical proof. Do you hold that such proof is possible also in ethics? Or do you have a different standard by which you judge the derivation of pure ethical principles from empirical evidences?

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 16th, 2017, 12:31 am

John Bruce Leonard wrote:
Spectrum wrote:With empirical evidence we can infer the ultimate result of the 'Sun' or anything physical based on the principle of entropy. The Sun is likely to be whatever and will implode or explode, it is a matter of time as inferred from astronomy or theories of astrophysics.
Do you hold that there is a difference between an “end result” on the one hand and a “purpose” on the other?
I view 'purpose' in this context as related to reason and intentionally from some agency.
"end result" is the result of things at an 'end' [time, process, etc.] as defined by human beings.
Spectrum wrote:However note humanity has progressed from acceptance of slavery within 100 years to a total banned [an ideal moral maxim] officially in all countries. Of course in practice there is still slavery but the overall human consciousness and moral compass is bearing hard to narrow this gap towards the ideal.
And how can we be certain that this is progress? I of course agree with you: but suppose a certain utterly reprehensible person were to approach us, saying, “Slavery is not only acceptable from the standpoint of evolution and the survival of the species, but is even beneficial to it, for the following reasons: 1.) it permits the breeding of super-human beings as well as human beings perfectly adapted to a wide variety of social roles; 2.) it allows us to control human populations in such a manner as to avoid serious dangers to our collective continuation; 3.) it segregates the weak from the strong, thus ensuring the continual improvement of human genetics; 4.) it guarantees an ever-present work force so that the best of the masters can dedicate their lives toward the procurement of knowledge, the production of useful inventions, or the resolution of the greatest problems confronting our species.”
This 'progress' is very objective.
Hundreds of years ago there were X number [millions?] of slaves without any intervention from governments. In many countries then, slavery was approved politically.
At present there are no slaves [& slavery] that are recognized officially by any legitimate governments.
This is obviously 'progress' in the sense of consideration for basic human dignity.

Your suggestions re 1-4 is immoral as they defy basic human dignity.
Put very broadly, Spectrum, the idea of the “species” as the moral standard seems to me to support as easily positions we would loathe, as positions we would favor. It seems to me that there can be no means of distinguishing between the two, without having recourse to more fundamental standards which do not issue merely from empirical observations.
There are more fundamental standards to look into, but I think what we are discussing is sufficient.
I will give you another example. You have responded to my “moral obligation to procreate” very justly, as it seems to me, by pointing out that “it is not necessary that 'all humans must procreate' to conform to the ideal... With so much complexities involved in the reproduction system of humans there are bound to be certain % of natural variations which is not a serious concern at present.” Yet this same response seems possible also for your commandment against killing, thus: it is not necessary that all human beings absolutely refrain from murder to conform to the ideal. With so many complexities involved in our societies and the relations of human beings there is bound to be a certain percentage of murders, which is not a serious concern at the present.” What is the difference? It is not enough to say that the ideal you propose absolutely prohibiting killing is merely a guide; for I can claim the same about my procreative ideal: it is a “guide to facilitate improvement toward the ideal” of guaranteeing the future of the species, and if rape is now and then the product of that, then so be it: for certainly judging by evolutionary standards, there are no empirical reasons to disfavor rape.

You would propose a commandment against killing “no ifs nor buts,” but not a commandment toward procreation “no ifs nor buts.” No doubt I would agree with you. But unless I have missed some essential feature of your idea, it seems to me that your preference here can only be based on certain ideas of good or evil which you have not yet articulated in our conversation, which lie beyond the empirical realm, and which you impose upon the observations you derive from your empirical investigations.
As I had pointed out, the absolute moral maxim 'killing another human being is not permissible, no ifs nor buts' is abstracted from empirical evidence, i.e.

1. No species emerged to be extinct.
2. DNA wise all humans are programmed to fear death
3. There is the consideration for basic human dignity.
4. Reason wise, if killing is permitted universally, the human species will be extinct.

As I had stated this moral moral maxim is merely a guide and in practice 'killing another human being is excusable in some conditions'.

But I also stated this exception should not be accepted as permanent and humanity must strive to narrow [cannot be closed] the gap towards the ideal.

It is the same of the procreation ideal in practice where exceptions are acceptable.
If the world is overpopulated, then humanity must do something about it and not strive towards the ideal blindly. What is critical is humanity must be mindful of all this collectively?
I also stated this process is not tenable at the present and humanity must work in raising the moral consciousness of each individual to a higher level.
Here is another point at which I perceive these unspoken standards: you take the elimination of slavery as “solid empirical evidence there is a spiraling trend of forward positive progress,” but I am afraid I do not yet see this so clearly as you. Change as such surely cannot be taken as change for the better—or do you disagree? On what purely empirical grounds can we see this particular change as being progressive rather than regressive?
I have given the reasons above re why slavery is abominable. The available statistics re abolishment of slavery by governments are obviously a progress. What we need to improve on further is to control illegal practices of slavery that is still going on underground.
It is probable I have not yet understood the link between the empirical and the moral. Perhaps it would behoove us to return to your yin-yang idea of the “is” and the “ought.” Near your earliest remarks, you state the following:
Spectrum wrote:Deriving "ought" from "is" is like deriving pure principles like those of mathematics, geometry, physics, etc. e.g. a perfect circle ought to have such and such measurements properties. With such measurements humanity can get utilities out of it even there is no way of creating an absolute "perfect" circle empirically.
It would appear you are attempting in a way to mathematicize ethics. Now, the derivation of pure principles in mathematics, geometry, and physics is justified in every case by mathematical proof. Do you hold that such proof is possible also in ethics? Or do you have a different standard by which you judge the derivation of pure ethical principles from empirical evidences?
Not mathematicize.
I stated it the complementing of the Pure and the Applied into a process of interdependent interactions that will drive progress. This pure and applied elements exist in many fields of knowledge, Physics, geometry, economics, chemistry, music, etc. and not only in mathematics. So why not in Morality.

You will have questions on this topic because you have not covered the full framework and system of Morality and Ethics that I am proposing. This is too wide for me to discuss here. A good start would be to understand [not necessary agree] Kantian Morality and Ethics fully and correctly. Problem with Kant's Morality is it is highly nuanced and one can go off track very easily and end up with a wrong understanding. Btw, Kant's is NOT deontological at all, don't get lost in this trail.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 17th, 2017, 3:29 am

Spectrum wrote:I view 'purpose' in this context as related to reason and intentionally from some agency.
"end result" is the result of things at an 'end' [time, process, etc.] as defined by human beings.
Can we then say that living things have purpose, while non-living things do not?
Spectrum wrote:A good start would be to understand [not necessary agree] Kantian Morality and Ethics fully and correctly.
I have read Kant and given his ideas some thought. Whether I have understood him “fully and correctly” is, of course, another question. You seem to be proposing certain important modifications on the Kantian system, insofar as you introduce and rely on the theory of evolution, which of course was not accessible to Kant. It is your idea that I am most interested in understanding, so let us proceed as we have been doing; and if there are any points at which some specific aspect of Kantian philosophy is essential to understanding, we can introduce it and discuss it then.
Spectrum wrote:As I had stated this moral moral maxim is merely a guide and in practice 'killing another human being is excusable in some conditions'.

But I also stated this exception should not be accepted as permanent and humanity must strive to narrow [cannot be closed] the gap towards the ideal.

It is the same of the procreation ideal in practice where exceptions are acceptable.
If the world is overpopulated, then humanity must do something about it and not strive towards the ideal blindly. What is critical is humanity must be mindful of all this collectively?
I also stated this process is not tenable at the present and humanity must work in raising the moral consciousness of each individual to a higher level.
Thank you, Spectrum: this clarifies nicely what you mean when you say that your ideal is a guide, and also what you mean when you say it is not at present enforceable. I might have something to say on your conception of the ideal at some later moment, but for the moment I am content to let this rest.

It more and more seems to me that (at least from the little of your system you have been able to present in our brief conversation) dignity is of a certain moral centrality to your idea. For to say it yet again, without some deeper moral standard, and relying on evolution alone, I really do not see how we can avoid arriving at morally horrendous conclusions.

I would therefore like to pursue the question of dignity. Here is what I understand of it so far. Please correct me where I stray.

1. You conceive of it as applying to all human beings, and only to human beings, perhaps with certain ambiguous or trivial exceptions, which is why the species and the species alone, rather than less or more inclusive collectives, can be considered the proper standard of reference for human morality.

2. This dignity is somehow connected to “higher human consciousness and cognition.” You state that this consciousness and cognition permits us to “be able to understand what is basic human dignity,” but it also seems likely that consciousness and cognition itself is implicated somehow in that dignity, rather than being merely the means of apprehending it.

3. To deny the dignity of another human being is self-contradictory insofar as it is equivalent to denying one’s own dignity, because the dignity of another human being and one’s own dignity are identical.

Now, supposing I have understood your statements adequately, I am willing to accept the first premise for now. I would like to better understand the second two.

I see no necessary connection between dignity and consciousness or cognition, nor any other part of human nature. Quite the contrary: dignity seems to me a term of human distinction; there are human beings who have it and human beings who do not. Even amongst those who have it, there are gradations. One could argue, then, that denying the dignity of an undignified human being is only a matter of simple honesty, of obedience to reality.

You seem to perceive “dignity” instead as being a term distinguishing human beings from all other known entities, a quality inherent in humanity, which might certainly differ in degrees at our present level of consciousness or evolution, but which ideally will be augmented toward total dignity for all in the future. Is this accurate? How can you persuade someone like me, who does not perceive this universal human dignity as being real nor even possible, of your idea? Where precisely do you see the link between dignity and the human condition?
Spectrum wrote:I stated it the complementing of the Pure and the Applied into a process of interdependent interactions that will drive progress. This pure and applied elements exist in many fields of knowledge, Physics, geometry, economics, chemistry, music, etc. and not only in mathematics. So why not in Morality.
To my mind, Spectrum, you pose an excellent question, one that might help us understand a great deal about morality. In all the fields you list (with the exception, I would say, of economics), what you call the “pure and applied elements” are almost entirely non-controversial. No musician disputes the pure principles of music, no physicist debates the pure principles of physics, etc. Yet human beings disagree with one another about the most basic elements of morality.

The question, then, is why it should be so much more difficult to produce such “pure and applied” elements for moral or political questions, broadly understood, than for any other field of human experience? I do not believe we can take it for granted that such non-controversial “pure and applied” elements must exist for morality, merely because they exist for other fields. The single most persuasive indication that they might not, is that at present they do not. This is hardly, of course, a proof, but it does point to an important difficulty. It seems to me that the reason for this difficulty is bound up in the question of “purpose”—but I would like to hear your thoughts on both of these questions.

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 17th, 2017, 5:20 am

John Bruce Leonard wrote:
Spectrum wrote:I view 'purpose' in this context as related to reason and intentionally from some agency.
"end result" is the result of things at an 'end' [time, process, etc.] as defined by human beings.
Can we then say that living things have purpose, while non-living things do not?
Since non-living things do not have consciousness at all, we can assert such things do not have a 'purpose' [as defined].
Livings things has 'purpose' as defined by humans and there are many perspectives to purpose.
One perspective, what is clearly purpose [personal or group] is when humans deliberately establish objectives on their proposed actions. In other perspective, actions based on instincts may be associated with some general purpose of a group or the species.

Spectrum wrote:A good start would be to understand [not necessary agree] Kantian Morality and Ethics fully and correctly.
I have read Kant and given his ideas some thought. Whether I have understood him “fully and correctly” is, of course, another question. You seem to be proposing certain important modifications on the Kantian system, insofar as you introduce and rely on the theory of evolution, which of course was not accessible to Kant. It is your idea that I am most interested in understanding, so let us proceed as we have been doing; and if there are any points at which some specific aspect of Kantian philosophy is essential to understanding, we can introduce it and discuss it then.
Many of my views so far is encompassed by Kant's categorical imperatives and his wider framework of Morality and Ethics.
Thank you, Spectrum: this clarifies nicely what you mean when you say that your ideal is a guide, and also what you mean when you say it is not at present enforceable. I might have something to say on your conception of the ideal at some later moment, but for the moment I am content to let this rest.

It more and more seems to me that (at least from the little of your system you have been able to present in our brief conversation) dignity is of a certain moral centrality to your idea. For to say it yet again, without some deeper moral standard, and relying on evolution alone, I really do not see how we can avoid arriving at morally horrendous conclusions.

I would therefore like to pursue the question of dignity. Here is what I understand of it so far. Please correct me where I stray.

1. You conceive of it as applying to all human beings, and only to human beings, perhaps with certain ambiguous or trivial exceptions, which is why the species and the species alone, rather than less or more inclusive collectives, can be considered the proper standard of reference for human morality.

2. This dignity is somehow connected to “higher human consciousness and cognition.” You state that this consciousness and cognition permits us to “be able to understand what is basic human dignity,” but it also seems likely that consciousness and cognition itself is implicated somehow in that dignity, rather than being merely the means of apprehending it.

3. To deny the dignity of another human being is self-contradictory insofar as it is equivalent to denying one’s own dignity, because the dignity of another human being and one’s own dignity are identical.

Now, supposing I have understood your statements adequately, I am willing to accept the first premise for now. I would like to better understand the second two.

I see no necessary connection between dignity and consciousness or cognition, nor any other part of human nature. Quite the contrary: dignity seems to me a term of human distinction; there are human beings who have it and human beings who do not. Even amongst those who have it, there are gradations. One could argue, then, that denying the dignity of an undignified human being is only a matter of simple honesty, of obedience to reality.

You seem to perceive “dignity” instead as being a term distinguishing human beings from all other known entities, a quality inherent in humanity, which might certainly differ in degrees at our present level of consciousness or evolution, but which ideally will be augmented toward total dignity for all in the future. Is this accurate? How can you persuade someone like me, who does not perceive this universal human dignity as being real nor even possible, of your idea? Where precisely do you see the link between dignity and the human condition?
Basic human dignity is the lowest level of dignity that is common and should be recognized and accorded to all humans [regardless of gender, race, color, etc.]. e.g. the right to live, not be enslaved and own as property of another, free speech, and the likes. I don't see how this cannot be real? So as long as one is a human being, one must be accorded the basic human dignity.
Once this is recognized this is also a basis for the establishment of absolute moral maxims.

Basic human dignity must be recognized because humans has the consciousness and ability to recognize it. Non-human [in their present state] cannot deal morally with the concept of basic dignity between individual[s] or collectively within their species.

Note the correction;
  • 3. To deny the BASIC dignity of another human being is self-contradictory insofar as it is equivalent to denying one’s own BASIC dignity, because the BASIC dignity of another human being and one’s own BASIC dignity are identical.
Spectrum wrote:I stated it the complementing of the Pure and the Applied into a process of interdependent interactions that will drive progress. This pure and applied elements exist in many fields of knowledge, Physics, geometry, economics, chemistry, music, etc. and not only in mathematics. So why not in Morality.
To my mind, Spectrum, you pose an excellent question, one that might help us understand a great deal about morality. In all the fields you list (with the exception, I would say, of economics), what you call the “pure and applied elements” are almost entirely non-controversial. No musician disputes the pure principles of music, no physicist debates the pure principles of physics, etc. Yet human beings disagree with one another about the most basic elements of morality.

The question, then, is why it should be so much more difficult to produce such “pure and applied” elements for moral or political questions, broadly understood, than for any other field of human experience? I do not believe we can take it for granted that such non-controversial “pure and applied” elements must exist for morality, merely because they exist for other fields. The single most persuasive indication that they might not, is that at present they do not. This is hardly, of course, a proof, but it does point to an important difficulty. It seems to me that the reason for this difficulty is bound up in the question of “purpose”—but I would like to hear your thoughts on both of these questions.
[/quote]
I am not the type who blindly follow the crowd. I am very sure the Pure and Applied can be applied to Morality. It is a matter of putting our collective efforts to it.

In any case to facilitate efficient improvements in any endeavor we must establish objectives which are to be continually improve upon. e.g.
"IF you failed to plan, you've 'planned' to fail."

In the case of morality, the most ideal to such a process is to establish ideal absolute moral principles as with other Pure & Applied based on empirical evidences and using our higher faculty of reason.
Whilst at the present it is not tenable in practice, there is no restrictions in establishing them based on our intellect and reason.
Imagine if you are omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omni-whatever, what sort of moral standards would you set and how [since omnipotent] would you go about it. This can be easily thought out and improved upon.
Once we have established our moral objectives the next question is how can we get everyone to get on board on the mission.

Why I am optimistic on the above in the near future is the trend of the exponential expansion of knowledge from many advance fields, e.g. genomic, connectome, IT & its technologies, etc. which can contribute [fool proof] in the Pure and Applied aspects of Morality and Ethics.
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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 18th, 2017, 4:29 pm

Spectrum wrote:One perspective, what is clearly purpose [personal or group] is when humans deliberately establish objectives on their proposed actions. In other perspective, actions based on instincts may be associated with some general purpose of a group or the species.
And can we further say that those purposes which are rooted in instinct have a more fundamental importance than those purposes which are deliberately established by human beings?
Spectrum wrote:Basic human dignity is the lowest level of dignity that is common and should be recognized and accorded to all humans [regardless of gender, race, color, etc.]. e.g. the right to live, not be enslaved and own as property of another, free speech, and the likes. I don't see how this cannot be real?
Yet it appears we cannot merely take its reality for granted. I will present two difficulties.

1.) There have been in the history of the world, and are still now, a great many nations and individuals which not only disputed the idea of basic human dignity, but even detested it as a principle for organizing human society. One might claim, of course, that the rejection of basic human dignity has been superseded or is being superseded in the evolution of the race; one might say something to the effect that the recognition of basic human dignity represents an elevated level of human consciousness, so that the denial of basic human dignity must represent an inferior level of human consciousness. But this position is not so easy to hold as it appears.

Among the most notorious cases of the denial of human dignity were certainly the Nazis and the Fascists of a century past. Now, these regimes, despite and indeed because of their anti-egalitarian policies, attracted the interest and support of such men as Heidegger, Knut Hamsun, Julius Evola, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Ezra Pound. It is obvious that most people today will loathe the choices and philosophies of these men and disagree with them in a great many ways; but that is very different from claiming that these men had an inferior level of consciousness. These men were all brilliant and keen thinkers to a one, and they cared deeply about the fate of humankind and about the potential richness of human life. If we are to claim that they lacked human consciousness—as I think we would have to do, if we are to equate a high level of consciousness with an advanced awareness of basic human dignity—we must posit a human capacity (consciousness) which is distinct from human reason and passion. Put otherwise, this capacity cannot be determined merely by intelligence, merely by deep feeling, though it may be influenced by these things. It is also evident that it is a capacity which can be developed over the course of a single human life, for we speak of such things as “raising awareness” and “changing hearts,” which evidently refers precisely to augmenting the consciousness of basic human dignity.

My question becomes, what is the nature of this capacity? How can we define human consciousness, and how can we give an account and justification of it, given that it seems strangely absent in certain otherwise even excessively gifted human beings?

2.) We must interpret evolution in the light of the consciousness of basic human dignity, else we will be compelled to interpret evolutionary morality in an unacceptably cruel “social Darwinistic” manner. Yet there is nothing to suggest that the ends or purpose of evolution and the ends or purpose proposed by our consciousness will coincide. It may be that our consciousness will produce radically different moral precepts than will an empirical review of evolution. This tension has already been suggested in our conversation by the fact that evolution considered in the absence of basic human dignity would seem to permit certain kinds of atrocious acts for the benefit of the species.

There are only two ways out of this conundrum, so far as I can see. One is to embrace the principles which issue from our consciousness over all other principles, including empirically derived principles, and to attempt, rather than an empirical deduction of moral precepts, a morality based on the principles of consciousness of basic human dignity. This of course will run foul of that trouble which you with your system would like to avoid—namely, the “firefighting” between various moral theories.

The other alternative is to make the claim that our consciousness itself is the purpose of evolution—that it represents the highest evolution to date, and that it is for this reason empirically valid as a principle for human morality. This alternative, however different it might seem from the first, appears to end at the same conclusion. For if human consciousness is the purpose of evolution, and if this same consciousness must change our understanding of evolution such that we must rely on it rather than the simple derivation of precepts from the raw data of evolution, then we must allow that the foremost moral imperative which we might derive from evolution, is to follow the principles of our consciousness, even when these contradict the principles of a lower evolution. Thus, for instance, while the overall economy evolution would seem to permit and even in some cases encourage infighting and killing between members of one and the same species, we must conclude, based on the principles of higher consciousness, that these empirically observations are insufficient for human morality; we must impose, instead, an absolute prohibition against killing as the ideal toward which we should work.

In either case it seems to me that the empirical research into evolution is of derivative or secondary importance, compared to the principles which we might derive directly from an analysis of the human condition as such. Now I suspect you will probably disagree with this. How can you justify the importance of the empirical, given the evident necessity of importing principles from non-empirical sources in order to regulate the conclusions which the empirical suggests to us?
Specter wrote:Basic human dignity must be recognized because humans has the consciousness and ability to recognize it. Non-human [in their present state] cannot deal morally with the concept of basic dignity between individual[s] or collectively within their species.
Unfortunately there are also many racists today who hold that certain human groups “cannot deal morally with the concept of basic dignity between individuals.” What can we say in response to such unpleasant claims?
Specter wrote:I am very sure the Pure and Applied can be applied to Morality.
I certainly believe this to be possible. But you seem to believe it is certain. Wherefore your certainty?
Specter wrote:Imagine if you are omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omni-whatever, what sort of moral standards would you set and how [since omnipotent] would you go about it. This can be easily thought out and improved upon.
I think the difference between us, Specter, is not so much in our awareness of the importance of ideal moral standards—this we share—but rather in the fact that I very much doubt there is anything “easy” in thinking through the perspective even of a moderately wise human being, not to speak of an omniscient entity. Do you not think that a god would, for his unimaginable excellence of intelligence, be able to see complications and implications that we do not so much as begin to intuit?
Specter wrote:Why I am optimistic on the above in the near future is the trend of the exponential expansion of knowledge from many advance fields, e.g. genomic, connectome, IT & its technologies, etc. which can contribute [fool proof] in the Pure and Applied aspects of Morality and Ethics.
We should be wary of unwarranted optimism. Our successes in any number of fields do not guarantee equal successes in all fields of endeavor. We can only take the trend you cite as a promise of similar progress in morality and ethics, if we can be sure that morality and ethics can be reasonably subjected to the same methodology which has produced such spectacular advancement elsewhere. Now, the fields you mention are scientific fields. What makes you believe that science will have the same success with morality and ethics that it has had in other fields?

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by Spectrum » May 19th, 2017, 2:15 am

John Bruce Leonard wrote:
Spectrum wrote:One perspective, what is clearly purpose [personal or group] is when humans deliberately establish objectives on their proposed actions. In other perspective, actions based on instincts may be associated with some general purpose of a group or the species.
And can we further say that those purposes which are rooted in instinct have a more fundamental importance than those purposes which are deliberately established by human beings?
There are many perspectives to this point and we need to consider the context involved as far a particular instances are involved.

In general what I have been proposing in one perspective is whatever purpose we abstract from instincts must be complemented with what is to be deliberately established by human beings with the objectives for the positive overall well being of humanity towards preservation of the species.

In particular cases, the possible dilemma events are infinite. If a person has an instinct of being less mathematical inclined [easily tested] but deliberately has a conscious aspiration want to be a mathematicians, so which is more fundamental. The potential cases for such dilemma is endless.
Spectrum wrote:Basic human dignity is the lowest level of dignity that is common and should be recognized and accorded to all humans [regardless of gender, race, color, etc.]. e.g. the right to live, not be enslaved and own as property of another, free speech, and the likes. I don't see how this cannot be real?
Yet it appears we cannot merely take its reality for granted. I will present two difficulties.

1.) There have been in the history of the world, and are still now, a great many nations and individuals which not only disputed the idea of basic human dignity, but even detested it as a principle for organizing human society. One might claim, of course, that the rejection of basic human dignity has been superseded or is being superseded in the evolution of the race; one might say something to the effect that the recognition of basic human dignity represents an elevated level of human consciousness, so that the denial of basic human dignity must represent an inferior level of human consciousness. But this position is not so easy to hold as it appears.

Among the most notorious cases of the denial of human dignity were certainly the Nazis and the Fascists of a century past. Now, these regimes, despite and indeed because of their anti-egalitarian policies, attracted the interest and support of such men as Heidegger, Knut Hamsun, Julius Evola, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Ezra Pound. It is obvious that most people today will loathe the choices and philosophies of these men and disagree with them in a great many ways; but that is very different from claiming that these men had an inferior level of consciousness. These men were all brilliant and keen thinkers to a one, and they cared deeply about the fate of humankind and about the potential richness of human life. If we are to claim that they lacked human consciousness—as I think we would have to do, if we are to equate a high level of consciousness with an advanced awareness of basic human dignity—we must posit a human capacity (consciousness) which is distinct from human reason and passion. Put otherwise, this capacity cannot be determined merely by intelligence, merely by deep feeling, though it may be influenced by these things. It is also evident that it is a capacity which can be developed over the course of a single human life, for we speak of such things as “raising awareness” and “changing hearts,” which evidently refers precisely to augmenting the consciousness of basic human dignity.

My question becomes, what is the nature of this capacity? How can we define human consciousness, and how can we give an account and justification of it, given that it seems strangely absent in certain otherwise even excessively gifted human beings?
You missed my point here.
I merely state it is because humans has the type of human consciousness [not animals] that humans can deliberate on the concept of basic human dignity.
It is nothing to do with difference in degree of human consciousness between humans.

We can easily differentiate human consciousness from those of animals from the degree of human actions [intellectual, rationality, arts, technological advancements, etc. ] that is different from animals.

I don't think the Nazis and the people you mentioned, e.g. Heidegger, etc. are ignorant of what is basic human dignity as least to themselves. It is just that they do not respect the the basic human dignity of others. In any case, I don't believe Heidegger would agree with gassing and killing 6 million Jews and others. Being in Germany at those time, he must be been trapped by various factors in dilemma and his moral competence was not very high. Perhaps Heidegger was unfortunately born a marginal psychopath.
2.) We must interpret evolution in the light of the consciousness of basic human dignity, else we will be compelled to interpret evolutionary morality in an unacceptably cruel “social Darwinistic” manner. Yet there is nothing to suggest that the ends or purpose of evolution and the ends or purpose proposed by our consciousness will coincide. It may be that our consciousness will produce radically different moral precepts than will an empirical review of evolution. This tension has already been suggested in our conversation by the fact that evolution considered in the absence of basic human dignity would seem to permit certain kinds of atrocious acts for the benefit of the species.

There are only two ways out of this conundrum, so far as I can see. One is to embrace the principles which issue from our consciousness over all other principles, including empirically derived principles, and to attempt, rather than an empirical deduction of moral precepts, a morality based on the principles of consciousness of basic human dignity. This of course will run foul of that trouble which you with your system would like to avoid—namely, the “firefighting” between various moral theories.

The other alternative is to make the claim that our consciousness itself is the purpose of evolution—that it represents the highest evolution to date, and that it is for this reason empirically valid as a principle for human morality. This alternative, however different it might seem from the first, appears to end at the same conclusion. For if human consciousness is the purpose of evolution, and if this same consciousness must change our understanding of evolution such that we must rely on it rather than the simple derivation of precepts from the raw data of evolution, then we must allow that the foremost moral imperative which we might derive from evolution, is to follow the principles of our consciousness, even when these contradict the principles of a lower evolution. Thus, for instance, while the overall economy evolution would seem to permit and even in some cases encourage infighting and killing between members of one and the same species, we must conclude, based on the principles of higher consciousness, that these empirically observations are insufficient for human morality; we must impose, instead, an absolute prohibition against killing as the ideal toward which we should work.

In either case it seems to me that the empirical research into evolution is of derivative or secondary importance, compared to the principles which we might derive directly from an analysis of the human condition as such. Now I suspect you will probably disagree with this. How can you justify the importance of the empirical, given the evident necessity of importing principles from non-empirical sources in order to regulate the conclusions which the empirical suggests to us?
Consciousness is too complicated a subject to delve into details.
For the moment I would take 'consciousness' as something general and encompassing in all aspects of humanity.
As such instead of moral consciousness, I would deal with it as moral intelligence, like in Linguistic-Mathematical intelligence [IQ] and other intelligences.

Yes, I agree there is no certainty the ends of evolution may not coincide with ends of morality.
However the starting point is we need fix grounded absolute moral laws and maxims to establish the most effective Moral & Ethical Framework & System, else it is fire-fighting.
To do so we have to make good use of the brain/mind we have, we optimize however we can.
So we apply Abductive reasoning in our quest.
https://en.w:k:pedia.org/w:k:/Abductive_reasoning
see w:k: for details.
This is how we arrive a moral maxims from empirical evidence using our available mental resources. [note I have provided the proofs earlier]

The other alternatives are guessing, opinions, speculations, wild conjectures, and the likes.

Btw, I stated there is a need for a model and the need to test this model at least theoretically that it will work. We have not got into this yet.

Why the empirical evidences is important because that is the basis of proof based on facts and the non-empirical ideal is the driver for improvement.

Specter wrote:Basic human dignity must be recognized because humans has the consciousness and ability to recognize it. Non-human [in their present state] cannot deal morally with the concept of basic dignity between individual[s] or collectively within their species.
Unfortunately there are also many racists today who hold that certain human groups “cannot deal morally with the concept of basic dignity between individuals.” What can we say in response to such unpleasant claims?
These responses are far from the ideal, thus there is a moral gap.
What is needed is to narrow this moral gap by analyzing the root causes from every angle, e.g. genetics, neurosciences, psychology, biology, social, political, etc. and to propose solutions which if cannot be implemented, then in the future when such is possible.

On the subject of racism, there has been a lot of improvement as compare to hundreds year ago. Apartheid for example is banned and there are many other improvements worldwide. This improvement seem to be progressing on its own slowly. But if we get to the root causes we could expedite it and wean off racism for good.
Specter wrote:I am very sure the Pure and Applied can be applied to Morality.
I certainly believe this to be possible. But you seem to believe it is certain. Wherefore your certainty?
In Philosophy there is no absolute certainty, thus my reference meant a high confidence level.
My optimism is based on the extensive research and literature reviews I have done so far.
One good clue is humanity's full knowledge of the human genome which was once thought as an impossible task. We are now moving into the connectome [perhaps currently at 5-10%] but once we get to >50%, [tracing the neural circuitry in the brain to its end results] there would be a lot humanity can progress towards. As I had mentioned there is a trend of an exponential expansion of knowledge.
Specter wrote:Imagine if you are omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omni-whatever, what sort of moral standards would you set and how [since omnipotent] would you go about it. This can be easily thought out and improved upon.
I think the difference between us, Specter, is not so much in our awareness of the importance of ideal moral standards—this we share—but rather in the fact that I very much doubt there is anything “easy” in thinking through the perspective even of a moderately wise human being, not to speak of an omniscient entity. Do you not think that a god would, for his unimaginable excellence of intelligence, be able to see complications and implications that we do not so much as begin to intuit?
I never said it is easy especially from our current state of competence.
My view is, it is not impossible as the human brain and mind is very malleable and can be rewired and moldable. Note the change [improvements, note double-edged as well] of the human brain/mind since 10,000 or 1,000 years ago. So from extrapolation I am very confident we can progress by leaps in terms of morality. What I propose is not expected to be achievable within the next 10 years but rather in 75-100 years and point is we have to start the baby steps now.
Specter wrote:Why I am optimistic on the above in the near future is the trend of the exponential expansion of knowledge from many advance fields, e.g. genomic, connectome, IT & its technologies, etc. which can contribute [fool proof] in the Pure and Applied aspects of Morality and Ethics.
We should be wary of unwarranted optimism. Our successes in any number of fields do not guarantee equal successes in all fields of endeavor. We can only take the trend you cite as a promise of similar progress in morality and ethics, if we can be sure that morality and ethics can be reasonably subjected to the same methodology which has produced such spectacular advancement elsewhere. Now, the fields you mention are scientific fields. What makes you believe that science will have the same success with morality and ethics that it has had in other fields?
Normally I am very rational, risk adverse and conservative, but in this case, my optimism is not based on 'feel' but based on existing empirical evidences and real possibilities plus knowledge gathered to date.
Btw, what I am proposing for morality is not based on Science nor Scientific per se but merely rely on Science as a tool together with other tools, especially philosophy.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

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Re: Some questions about ethics

Post by John Bruce Leonard » May 21st, 2017, 3:47 am

Spectrum wrote:This is how we arrive a moral maxims from empirical evidence using our available mental resources. [note I have provided the proofs earlier]

The other alternatives are guessing, opinions, speculations, wild conjectures, and the likes.
How does this procedure differ from traditional philosophical approaches—say, Aristotle’s? How exactly do you understand the “empirical”? Does it subsume anything observable, outside the human being or within him? Is it necessarily measurable?

You seem to be taking, for instance, “basic human dignity” as an empirical element to your latest proof. Yet I cannot see this as an “empirical fact” by any stretch of the term. In the first place, the empirical seems to me relatively uncontroversial. That is to say, we can expect that no one but madmen and fools will debate any given empirical fact. As I have pointed out, the idea and meaning of “basic human dignity” is disputed by individuals who are neither madmen nor fools. It is disputed as much as any other human value, any other element of human morality. In what sense then can it be taken as empirical?
Spectrum wrote:In general what I have been proposing in one perspective is whatever purpose we abstract from instincts must be complemented with what is to be deliberately established by human beings with the objectives for the positive overall well being of humanity towards preservation of the species.
I am not yet clear on the relative rank of what we abstract from the instincts and what we deliberately establish. Which of these two do you consider to be the regulating principle to your moral system, and why?
Spectrum wrote:You missed my point here.
I merely state it is because humans has the type of human consciousness [not animals] that humans can deliberate on the concept of basic human dignity.
It is nothing to do with difference in degree of human consciousness between humans.
I do not believe I missed your point, Spectrum, but I was perhaps not clear enough with my own.

My question is the particular relation between basic human dignity and human consciousness. I intended with my examples to demonstrate that mere possession of human consciousness, even at what would seem to be a very high level, does not necessarily lead to awareness of basic human dignity. The relation between basic human dignity and consciousness is thus not as clear as you seem to hold. This is a problem because it means that we cannot simply take basic human dignity as a universally accepted standard. The only way I can see out of this difficulty is by asserting that there is an element of human consciousness (namely, that which grants us the ability to recognize basic human dignity) which is in fact not connected to intelligence nor passion, but is a capacity separate from them both. This way and this way alone, we can explain why such intelligent and passionate men as those I have listed, or any number of others today or in the past, do not grant basic human dignity.

You seem to tacitly grant me my point when you say that Heidegger’s “moral competence was not very high,” or even that he was “born a marginal psychopath.” This appears to indicate a lack of some element of consciousness in Heidegger, that element of consciousness which makes us aware of basic human dignity. I imagine you would make the same criticism of the other men I have indicated. It thus seems that you conceive of a special capacity, which you have called “moral competence” or in any earlier post “moral consciousness,” which differs from individual to individual. This moral consciousness is either identical with or else necessarily includes awareness of basic human dignity. We can therefore recognize the presence or lack of moral consciousness in human beings by the degree to which they acknowledge basic human dignity. Yet this presupposes that we ourselves recognize and acknowledge basic human dignity. Our judgement of the moral competency of other human beings is based on our tacit acceptance of our own moral competency. Now, all of this is done with an eye toward producing an objective moral schema which can aid humanity in moving toward a moral ideal. That schema then presupposes a regulating value, basic human dignity, which is accepted by some, and rejected by others. This leads me to two questions.

1.) Any moral system which would claim to be objective must demonstrate the worth of its basic values. Yet it seems that your moral system rather presupposes at least one of its basic values. How can you reconcile this with the stringent demands of objectivity?

2.) What are we to say to those who do not simply presuppose basic human dignity? For you are speaking in this present moment, Spectrum, with just such an individual. I have grave doubts about the reality of anything like “basic human dignity.” I accept that the principle of human equality before the law is perhaps the best legal tenet we have at our disposal at present, but it seems to me pragmatic much more than moral. The idea that every human being is truly equal to every other in any sense at all seems to me very difficult to maintain.

Is there any argument you can make to help persuade me to your position? Or must we simply conclude that I am in some way lacking in moral consciousness, so that I will never be able to perceive the truth of your moral system?
Spectrum wrote:These responses are far from the ideal, thus there is a moral gap.
What is needed is to narrow this moral gap by analyzing the root causes from every angle, e.g. genetics, neurosciences, psychology, biology, social, political, etc. and to propose solutions which if cannot be implemented, then in the future when such is possible.
There seems to be a presupposition throughout your theory that the ideal is attainable by means of human effort—if not fully and finally, then with ever increasing degrees of perfection. How can we presuppose this? Is it not as possible—perhaps even more possible—that the ideal is in most cases thoroughly unrealizable, and that its realization will occur only here or there, as much the result of accident as of human striving?
Spectrum wrote:My view is, it is not impossible as the human brain and mind is very malleable and can be rewired and moldable. Note the change [improvements, note double-edged as well] of the human brain/mind since 10,000 or 1,000 years ago. So from extrapolation I am very confident we can progress by leaps in terms of morality. What I propose is not expected to be achievable within the next 10 years but rather in 75-100 years and point is we have to start the baby steps now.
I contest the progress of the “human brain,” at least with regard to the second time frame you have indicated. I do not see that our human minds have improved so very greatly over the past thousand years. It does not seem to me they have improved even over the past three thousand years. I grant that much depends on what examples you choose for comparison, but I am willing even to claim that the caliber of mind of the Athenians of the classical epoch in Ancient Greece was considerably higher than that of modern day Europeans and Americans. I think that a very compelling case can be made that Western human beings of today represent an overall decline with respect even to Western human beings of five hundred years ago.

Many points in your system seem to presuppose an idea of progress. Do you hold that progress is inevitable? If so, why? Evolution in and of itself hardly gives us that right. There have been examples of species which have adapted certain character traits which later in novel circumstances directly caused their extinction. Might it not be the same way with human beings? Might it not be that our consciousness, even our moral consciousness, will lead to our destruction, or else to our decline? And if this is possible, how can we responsibly take any facet of evolution as a sound basis for our morality?

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