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If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

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GE Morton
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » November 16th, 2018, 2:36 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
November 16th, 2018, 11:05 am
GE Morton:
Of course. The rules just set forth constraints on the choice. What will be the best move depends on the details of the situation.
Exactly, and that is why a rule based morality is inadequate.
Well, they are not "inadequate" merely because they don't supply immediate answers to every moral question, any more than the rules of chess are inadequate because they don't supply the best next move in your current game, or the laws of physics are inadequate because they don't tell you whether the bridge you're designing will withstand the loads it will carry. You still have to analyze the site, test the materials, estimate the loads, and do the math.
I agree, provided you apply the affected agents' criteria for what promotes well-being, not your own.
And that is why the values and beliefs of the individual matter and must be taken into consideration.
I agree. But I suspect you are assuming there is some disagreement there, perhaps turning on divergent understandings of "values." An individual's beliefs and "values," however, never justify a violation of the rules.
Moral rules or norms change over time.
Norms, yes. Moral rules no --- not if they were sound to begin with.
Morality remains forever in the realm of opinion.
Well, every theory, every proposition, remains forever in the "realm of opinion." But opinions are merely beliefs, and beliefs are either true, false, or neither (they are non-cognitive). That someone may hold a contrary opinion does not render a sound theory unsound, or a true proposition false.
This does not mean that all opinions should be regarded as equal, but that we strive to determine what is best without ever having knowledge of what is best.
Oh, no. I agree that we are sometimes forced to act without conclusive knowledge of what is best, but not always. Not even most of the time.
I agree with Wittgenstein:
But the end is not an ungrounded presupposition: it is an ungrounded way of acting. (OC 110)

Giving grounds, however, justifying the evidence, comes to an end; - but the end is not certain propositions' striking us immediately as true, i.e. it is not a kind of seeing on our part; it is our acting, which lies at the bottom of the language-game. (OC 204)

If the true is what is grounded, then the ground is not true, not yet false. (OC 205)
I also agree with Wittgenstein. Axioms are not grounded. They must be assumed to be true. And arguments with someone who does not grant that assumption cannot be fruitful. I also agree with the thrust of the "rule paradox" --- the meaning of a rule can only be found in its practice. What I'm suggesting is that moral rules play the same role, and have the same functionality, as rules in any other realm of activity, as revealed though their applications and practice. I.e., there is nothing peculiarly problematic or intractable about moral questions.
What do you see there that leads you to think I have misinterpreted her?
"Thus, according to the alternative reading, one can conclude that Anscombe is arguing that the only suitable and really viable alternative is the religiously based moral theory that keeps the legalistic framework and the associated concepts of ‘obligation.’ This interpretation is more in keeping with Anscombe’s religious views and with her other ethical views regarding absolute prohibitions. There were plenty of actions she took to be morally wrong, so it seems clear—as Simon Blackburn noted—that she herself was not out to jettison these terms. But one can defend an even stronger claim. MMP is a carefully crafted argument intended to show the absurdity of rejecting the religious framework—along with it’s metaphysical underpinnings—when it comes to moral authority."
Actions have consequences, but that does not mean that Kant is consequentialist. His method is a priori and categorical.
Not really. The categorical imperative persuades only because the maxims justifying some acts could not be universalized, not because they lead to contradictions, but because the consequences would be disastrous. There is nothing self-contradictory in, "Everyone may murder anyone else at will."
If it is wrong to lie then it is wrong no matter the consequences.
Yes. Kant was a bit of a fanatic on that issue. Most philosophers, even Kantians, think that rule must be relaxed somewhat.
It is a matter of logical consistency. Can there be a universal law requiring us to lie? What would it mean to lie if everyone always lied? The term would lose its meaning because it would not stand as the opposite of truth telling, which would not exist.
That's true, but the fact that always lying is not defensible does not preclude that it sometimes is. Sound rules would not categorically prohibit lying, but they would place stringent restrictions on it.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 16th, 2018, 5:07 pm

GE Morton:
Well, they are not "inadequate" merely because they don't supply immediate answers to every moral question, any more than the rules of chess are inadequate because they don't supply the best next move in your current game …
The point is that moral rules are not like the rules of chess. The rules of chess do not tell us what we ought to do, only what we are permitted and not permitted to do if we are to play that game. If morality is about what we ought to do and/or living well, then a set of rules detailing what is and is not permitted is inadequate.
… or the laws of physics are inadequate because they don't tell you whether the bridge you're designing will withstand the loads it will carry. You still have to analyze the site, test the materials, estimate the loads, and do the math.
The laws of physics alone are inadequate if we are to build a bridge. So too, any set of rules you devise will be inadequate if we are to live well.
An individual's beliefs and "values," however, never justify a violation of the rules.

I think you have got it backwards, any set of rules that violates an individual’s beliefs and values must justify this violation.
Norms, yes. Moral rules no --- not if they were sound to begin with.
Well then the historical and cultural evidence points to the absence of sound moral rules. You may point to such things as prohibitions on murder and stealing but they are subject to interpretation and exceptions. Some hold that the death penalty is morally appropriate but others do not. Some hold to the principle of just war but others do not; and what may be justified in principle does not address what happens in practice. Some hold that it is wrong to steal but others that there are circumstances where it is justified, and some make the argument that it is wrong that certain things should be in the public rather than private domain, and so, if what should be in the public domain is held privately then it is not stealing to take it.
But opinions are merely beliefs, and beliefs are either true, false, or neither (they are non-cognitive).
Or indeterminate. The fact that we may hold opposing views on, for example, abortion does not mean that one of us holds a true belief and the other a false belief.
I agree that we are sometimes forced to act without conclusive knowledge of what is best, but not always. Not even most of the time.
Can you provide some examples from morally contentious issues where there is conclusive knowledge of what is best? Or are they the exceptions? In that case give some examples based on conclusive knowledge.
Axioms are not grounded. They must be assumed to be true.
You said:
Whatever is "held" to be reasonable will be so held on some grounds …
So the ground is an assumption, and what is reasonable is reasonable based on an assumption, and “conclusive knowledge” too must be based on assumptions. But assumptions are not independent of time and place. And so, moral rules based on assumptions cannot be independent of time and place, that is, they are subject to change.
So the question may always be asked whether those grounds are sound and defensible or not.
But their defense is based on other assumptions that are not being called into question, which does not mean that they are beyond question.
This interpretation is more in keeping with Anscombe’s religious views and with her other ethical views regarding absolute prohibitions.
The article states:
Anscombe’s article “Modern Moral Philosophy” stimulated the development of virtue ethics as an alternative to Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Social Contract theories. Her primary charge in the article is that, as secular approaches to moral theory, they are without foundation. They use concepts such as ‘morally ought,’ ‘morally obligated,’ ‘morally right,’ and so forth that are legalistic and require a legislator as the source of moral authority. In the past God occupied that role, but systems that dispense with God as part of the theory are lacking the proper foundation for meaningful employment of those concepts.
Now whether or not she is arguing for a theory based on religious authority (something about which I made no claims), it is clear that you are not. Yours is a secular legalistic theory.
The categorical imperative persuades only because the maxims justifying some acts could not be universalized, not because they lead to contradictions, but because the consequences would be disastrous. There is nothing self-contradictory in, "Everyone may murder anyone else at will."
It violates the second formulation of the categorical imperative, the Formula of the End in Itself:
Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.
He does not appeal to the disastrous consequences but again, a priori, to non-contradiction.
That's true, but the fact that always lying is not defensible does not preclude that it sometimes is. Sound rules would not categorically prohibit lying, but they would place stringent restrictions on it.
A categorical imperative is without exception. The issue is whether he is a consequentialist. He is not. He would not agree with you that sound rules would not categorically prohibit lying.

GE Morton
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » November 16th, 2018, 10:14 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
November 16th, 2018, 5:07 pm

The point is that moral rules are not like the rules of chess. The rules of chess do not tell us what we ought to do, only what we are permitted and not permitted to do if we are to play that game. If morality is about what we ought to do and/or living well, then a set of rules detailing what is and is not permitted is inadequate.
And . . .
The laws of physics alone are inadequate if we are to build a bridge. So too, any set of rules you devise will be inadequate if we are to live well.
Ah. I think we've elucidated the root of our disagreement. I disagree that morality is "about" living well, or what we ought to do to live well. Or at least, a public morality is not about that (private moralities may be). That is, in my view, the province of Norman Vincent Peale, Deeprak Choprah, Scientologists, and other "self-help" gurus. As I said earlier in this thread and others, the aim of a rational theory of public morality is to devise a set of rules governing interactions between agents in a social setting. I.e., what constraints and duties are obligatory upon them. The aim of those rules, in turn, is to enable all agents to maximize their welfare, to whatever extent each is able. Such a theory makes no recommendations (much less commands) what anyone must do to "live well." That is entirely a decision for each agent to make, and will depend upon their own idiosyncratic interests and goals. The theory is indifferent to those goals, and to the means an agent chooses to pursue them, provided it does not violate any of the rules.

So, yes, those rules will indeed be inadequate for informing people how to "live well," just as traffic laws are inadequate for informing people how to "travel well." They merely supply some "rules of the road" for agents seeking to live well in setting where their actions may affect the ability of other agents to do likewise.
An individual's beliefs and "values," however, never justify a violation of the rules.

I think you have got it backwards, any set of rules that violates an individual’s beliefs and values must justify this violation.
Surely you can see that is impossible in principle. Since the beliefs and "values" of different individuals often contradict, no set of rules could be justified (not even traffic laws).
Well then the historical and cultural evidence points to the absence of sound moral rules. You may point to such things as prohibitions on murder and stealing but they are subject to interpretation and exceptions.
Of course. Certain exceptions are encompassed in the rule.
Some hold that the death penalty is morally appropriate but others do not. Some hold to the principle of just war but others do not; and what may be justified in principle does not address what happens in practice. Some hold that it is wrong to steal but others that there are circumstances where it is justified, and some make the argument that it is wrong that certain things should be in the public rather than private domain, and so, if what should be in the public domain is held privately then it is not stealing to take it.
Yes, there are disagreements on all those questions. So it is incumbent upon the protagonists for each of those views to produce rational arguments supporting them --- or demur and allow one of the default solutions to prevail, i.e., "Might makes right" or "If it feels good, do it." I.e., accept moral anarchy.
Or indeterminate. The fact that we may hold opposing views on, for example, abortion does not mean that one of us holds a true belief and the other a false belief.
Yes, it does. The true belief will be the one consistent with a rational moral theory and with objective, publicly acessible evidence. The false belief will be the one based on superstition, mysticism, spurious intuitions, or inchoate "feelings."
Can you provide some examples from morally contentious issues where there is conclusive knowledge of what is best? Or are they the exceptions? In that case give some examples based on conclusive knowledge.
That question contains its own answer --- no. From the fact that an issue is contentious it is obvious that there is no conclusive knowledge of what is best. But most everyday moral decisions are not contentious. E.g., whether I should blow my paycheck at the race track, or buy food and shoes for my kids; whether I should refrain from beating my wife; whether I should repay the money I borrowed from my brother.
So the ground is an assumption, and what is reasonable is reasonable based on an assumption, and “conclusive knowledge” too must be based on assumptions. But assumptions are not independent of time and place. And so, moral rules based on assumptions cannot be independent of time and place, that is, they are subject to change.
The ground will be some axiom. The truth of an axiom must be self-evident; it will be self-evident if it satisfies one of the criteria given earlier. But since it cannot be proven to be true, it must be aassumed to be so.
Now whether or not she [Anscombe] is arguing for a theory based on religious authority (something about which I made no claims), it is clear that you are not. Yours is a secular legalistic theory.
Your claim was, "She is clear in her rejection of what she calls “legalistic” moral theories and terms such as ‘moral right', ‘moral obligation’, and ‘moral duty’ in favor of ‘good’ and ‘just’ and ‘virtue’. She stresses the importance of an adequate philosophy of psychology."

She is, arguably, NOT arguing for that view. She raises it only to critique it. She is arguing for a "legalistic" view, but holds that such a view requires some overriding "authority." But it doesn't.
The categorical imperative persuades only because the maxims justifying some acts could not be universalized, not because they lead to contradictions, but because the consequences would be disastrous. There is nothing self-contradictory in, "Everyone may murder anyone else at will."
It violates the second formulation of the categorical imperative, the Formula of the End in Itself:
Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.
He does not appeal to the disastrous consequences but again, a priori, to non-contradiction.
Think that through. There is no contradiction in, "I may treat myself as an end; but I may treat you as merely a means." Now suppose it is universalized: "Everyone may treat themselves as ends, but may treat everyone else as a means only." There is still no contradiction. But there are disastrous consequences. The point of universalizing is to make those consequences obvious.

Contradictions are logical failings; they have no moral import per se. Trying to derive a normative conclusion from a logical error is akin to trying to derive "ought" from "is."
A categorical imperative is without exception. The issue is whether he is a consequentialist. He is not. He would not agree with you that sound rules would not categorically prohibit lying.
I know he would not agree! But he is wrong on that point.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 17th, 2018, 1:15 am

GE Morton:
I think we've elucidated the root of our disagreement.
I think it was clear long ago, but I do not think it hangs on any difference you might see between living well and one’s welfare.
That is, in my view, the province of Norman Vincent Peale, Deeprak Choprah, Scientologists, and other "self-help" gurus.
Your condescending comment makes clear that you have no understanding of Aristotle’s ethics.
Surely you can see that is impossible in principle. Since the beliefs and "values" of different individuals often contradict, no set of rules could be justified (not even traffic laws).
Of course they can. Using your example of traffic laws, they are justified because they provide for the safety of all who share the road. A moral rule would take precedence over individual’s beliefs and values when it can be shown that those beliefs and values are harmful to others when acted on.
Yes, there are disagreements on all those questions. So it is incumbent upon the protagonists for each of those views to produce rational arguments supporting them
Yes, but when all is said and done there will still be disagreement. We are not moving toward the resolution of all moral disagreement through sound moral theory. Given the differences in moral theories, we are not even moving toward agreement on what a sound moral theory is.
The true belief will be the one consistent with a rational moral theory and with objective, publicly acessible evidence.

[From the fact that an issue is contentious it is obvious that there is no conclusive knowledge of what is best.
And since there is no conclusive knowledge we cannot say that there is a true belief regarding contentious issues such as abortion. Without knowledge we cannot identify a belief as true.
E.g., whether I should blow my paycheck at the race track, or buy food and shoes for my kids; whether I should refrain from beating my wife; whether I should repay the money I borrowed from my brother.

These are not matters of conclusive knowledge but of generally agreed upon opinion.
The ground will be some axiom. The truth of an axiom must be self-evident …
The ground will be some axiom. The truth of an axiom must be self-evident; it will be self-evident if it satisfies one of the criteria given earlier. But since it cannot be proven to be true, it must be aassumed to be so.
And again assumptions are relative to time and place.
She raises it only to critique it.
Where does she critique it? If you do not have a copy of MMP it is available free online. Unfortunately, it does not allow me to cut and paste.
She is arguing for a "legalistic" view, but holds that such a view requires some overriding "authority."
You appeal man-made laws she is arguing for divine law. Moral laws, according to her view, are not their own authority. Moral laws without divine authority are without force. It is for this reason that she is critical of your legalistic language. Divine law is not a legalistic moral theory. God commands, he does not theorize.
There is no contradiction in, "I may treat myself as an end; but I may treat you as merely a means.
The reason why I must treat myself as an end is the same reason I must treat you as an end. So to treat myself as an end and you as a means is a contradiction.
Moral requirements present themselves as being unconditionally necessary. But an a posteriori method seems ill-suited to discovering and establishing what we must do whether we feel like doing it or not; surely such a method could only tell us what we actually do. So an a posteriori method of seeking out and establishing the principle that generates such requirements will not support the presentation of moral “oughts” as unconditional necessities. Kant argued that empirical observations could only deliver conclusions about, for instance, the relative advantages of moral behavior in various circumstances or how pleasing it might be in our own eyes or the eyes of others. Such findings clearly would not support the unconditional necessity of moral requirements. To appeal to a posteriori considerations would thus result in a tainted conception of moral requirements. It would view them as demands for which compliance is not unconditionally necessary, but rather necessary only if additional considerations show it to be advantageous, optimific or in some other way felicitous. Thus, Kant argued that if moral philosophy is to guard against undermining the unconditional necessity of obligation in its analysis and defense of moral thought, it must be carried out entirely a priori. (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/)
Contradictions are logical failings; they have no moral import per se.
They do for Kant:
The Categorical Imperative, in Kant’s view, is an objective, unconditional and necessary principle of reason that applies to all rational agents in all circumstances. (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/)

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » November 17th, 2018, 2:55 am

GE Morton
Dictionaries give definitions of words. Kant's explanation and justifications for transcendental arguments do not purport to define "memory." You claimed that "badness" was part of the definition of the word "pain." It isn't, any more than "delicious" is part of the definition of "cilantro."
I beg to differ: Kant's account easily passes for a definition, albeit a complicated one; in the same vein that I could both say the heart is an organ for pumping blood as well as provide a detailed medical dictionary's account. Both definitions. The badness of pain is definitional in that if the badness were removed it would no longer be pain. Since it, badness, is both necessary and sufficient for pain to be present, I think the conditions for a definition apply. Deliciousness would be a dispositional possibility of the cilantro, not a definition. But the deliciousness itself would be unqualifiedly good. The goodness is definitionally part of deliciousness.
Well, not being a Platonist, I have no idea what "essences" are, or how one would go about establishing that the "essence" of X is Y. As far as I can see, when someone claims that Y is the "essence" of X he is merely claiming that Y is the aspect of X most important to him, and may indeed be an aspect apparent only to him, or even invented by him, and apparent to no one else.
Consider an essence to be what, if removed, would also disqualify the thing that the essence is supposed to apply to from being what it is.
My view is that the two cannot be easily separated and it is only in analysis that things "come apart". This makes the all knowledge claims instances of abstraction.
Oh, surely not. "This brick weighs 3.5kg" is quite concrete and readily confirmable by all observers.
A knowledge claim like "this brick weighs 3.5kg": what is the actual material foundation for this claim? It is in the fabric, if you will, of the experience that that produced the claim; that is, as the observer noted the position of the needle on the gauge of the scale, that it was at 3.5kg, and reported this in an utterance, this event was the actuality of the content of the judgment. But the richness of the content is lost with the abstracted singularity of it, nor can the utterance bear the real conscious, call it qualia. We are, upon listening, invited to disregard altogether the actuality on which the utterance is based, and construct our own. This may sound a bit convoluted, but it is exactly the way objective knowldge claims go. The actuality in question is the complex pragmatic matrix of a self.
Well, I don't deny that eating cilantro will elicit a pleasant experience in some people. But your claim was that deliciousness was an inherent property of the herb. And you've not answered whether it is also inherently obnoxious --- since it elicits an unpleasant experience in other people.
Oh no, I wouldn't say such a thing. The good is inherent in the deliciousness. The bad is inherent in obnoxiousness.
Are you saying that if you enjoyed that pain, it would still be "inherently" bad?
This strikes me as a problem in semantics: pin pricks hurt, but I can imagine a condition whereby they become associated in some bizarre fetish with pleasure, then become pleasurable. Is the pain still pain? Well, like I said, things get confused in a world where value gets mixed in human affairs. This is why we have words like 'ambivalence'.
Yes, I gathered that. My counterclaim is that the only value dimension they have is the one you (or some other valuer) assigns to it, which will differ from valuer to valuer, as is obvious from the plethora of values assigned by different agents to almost anything you can name.
But this has no bearing on value being an absolute, for the matter is not about WHAT is valued; it is about valuing as such.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Consul » November 17th, 2018, 1:54 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
November 17th, 2018, 2:55 am
The badness of pain is definitional in that if the badness were removed it would no longer be pain. Since it, badness, is both necessary and sufficient for pain to be present, I think the conditions for a definition apply.
I suppose by "badness of pain" you mean its hedonic badness, viz. its unpleasantness or hurtfulness. For if you mean instrumental badness, viz. non-usefulness or non-helpfulness, then pain isn't bad (by definition or in principle), since it informs you about a danger to or damage in your body, such that you can react accordingly and avoid the danger or take care of the damage. In this respect, pain is good, viz. useful or helpful.

William Robinson calls the hedonic aspect of experiences, especially sensations and emotions, their valence, which is their (degree of) pleasantness (positive valence) or unpleasantness (negative valence). The question is whether its valence is intrinsic or extrinsic to an experience such as pain. If the negative valence (unpleasantness) of pain is intrinsic to it, then we must say that what the masochist feels when e.g. his skin is pierced by needles is not pain but some other kind of sensation. But I think that what he feels is indeed pain, because I think that the valence of an experience is extrinsic to it—in the sense that it is not constituted by or part of the pain(-quale) itself. This view is not refuted by the fact that the vast majority of humans and (I guess) all nonhuman animals are non-masochists, in whose minds pain experiences are invariably associated with a negative valence. But association is not the same as constitution; that is, the unpleasantness or hedonic badness normally associated with pain isn't constituted by the intrinsic phenomenal quality of the pain itself.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » November 17th, 2018, 6:11 pm

Consul:I suppose by "badness of pain" you mean its hedonic badness, viz. its unpleasantness or hurtfulness. For if you mean instrumental badness, viz. non-usefulness or non-helpfulness, then pain isn't bad (by definition or in principle), since it informs you about a danger to or damage in your body, such that you can react accordingly and avoid the danger or take care of the damage. In this respect, pain is good, viz. useful or helpful.

William Robinson calls the hedonic aspect of experiences, especially sensations and emotions, their valence, which is their (degree of) pleasantness (positive valence) or unpleasantness (negative valence). The question is whether its valence is intrinsic or extrinsic to an experience such as pain. If the negative valence (unpleasantness) of pain is intrinsic to it, then we must say that what the masochist feels when e.g. his skin is pierced by needles is not pain but some other kind of sensation. But I think that what he feels is indeed pain, because I think that the valence of an experience is extrinsic to it—in the sense that it is not constituted by or part of the pain(-quale) itself. This view is not refuted by the fact that the vast majority of humans and (I guess) all nonhuman animals are non-masochists, in whose minds pain experiences are invariably associated with a negative valence. But association is not the same as constitution; that is, the unpleasantness or hedonic badness normally associated with pain isn't constituted by the intrinsic phenomenal quality of the pain itself.


Talk about intrinsic and extrinsic valence seems to offer a standard for clarification when we are working out whether a value term might apply. Is the pain preserved even if the experience is positive? You say yes, I say fine; if we had some kind of nuanced hedonic calculator that could register values of engagement individually, we would see the pain gauge at some point when registered with a positive valence, and that point would be unchanged given a negative valence. Interesting way to put it. Now that I think about it, I am not sure, for a phenomenological perception of the pain, that is, one in which the pain is seen as "it is itself", rather than qualified by thought and theory and whatever else, is acknowledged in a very different way when contextualized in a fetish of positive valence. Feel the pain, but the pain IS now pleasure,like an acquired taste, like coffee or cigarettes: this latter was initially dreadful; a week later, can't live without it.

I mean phenomenological badness only: observe the pain of this tooth gone bad and put in abeyance all context, all presuppositions and allow the pain to "speak" for itself. This is an absolute, if an indistinctly identified one, as in cases of ambiguity, that appears before one. The clear examples are most poignant: lighted match to the finger tip for a few seconds. Descriptive accounts of observable features do not encompass the value aspect of what occurs.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » November 17th, 2018, 11:46 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
November 17th, 2018, 1:15 am

I think it was clear long ago, but I do not think it hangs on any difference you might see between living well and one’s welfare.
I suspect it does. As I use the term, an individual's welfare is a measure of the extent to which he has secured the goods and achieved the goals included in his hierarchy of values, whatever those may be. Because they are so diverse and differ from person to person, no universal set of rules can prescribe what he must do to attain them. All the rules can do, and all they need to do, is prescribe some constraints on those pursuits when they are undertaken in a social setting, where one agent's actions can effect the welfare of other agents. As long as those constraints are satisfied, what goals an agent seeks, what means he chooses to attain them, and whether or not he succeeds is beyond the scope of the theory. Those issues may be addressed by some private "morality" to which he subscribes, such as a religious code, a "virtue ethic," a communitarian longing, Stocism, hedonism, or any of the doctrines and lifestyles proffered by the self-help gurus, but the public morality takes no cognizance of those, unless they entail or provoke behaviors in conflict with the public rules.

Your notion of "living well," if it follows Aristotle, as you have indicated, has nothing to do with the agent's attaintment of his own idiosyncratic goals, but with acquiring certain qualities of character and habits and pursuing certain interests and a certain lifestyle --- ideally (for Plato and Aristotle), the interests and lifestyle of the philosopher. There is nothing morally wrong with that (from the perspective of a public morality). Or with most of the prescriptions of the other private moralities. To each his own. But I am interested only in what rules may be enforced against all agents, whatever their interests and lifestyles, and whether those rules are rationally defensible.

One clue as to the difference between my "public morality" and the various private moralities can be seen by asking whether the morality has application to Crusoe (i.e., an agent in a non-social setting). The public morality does not; most of the private moralities would still apply.

But perhaps I am mistaken about what you mean by "living well," and "flourishing." If so, please expand on that.
Surely you can see that is impossible in principle. Since the beliefs and "values" of different individuals often contradict, no set of rules could be justified (not even traffic laws).
Of course they can. Using your example of traffic laws, they are justified because they provide for the safety of all who share the road. A moral rule would take precedence over individual’s beliefs and values when it can be shown that those beliefs and values are harmful to others when acted on.
??? Well, now you seem to be agreeing with what I said earlier: "An individual's beliefs and 'values,' however, never justify a violation of the rules." All the rules of my theory, except the duty to aid, have precisely the same purpose as the traffic rules you now defend, namely, prohibiting acts which cause harm to others. Are you now agreeing that some rules can be justified on grounds independant of anyone's beliefs and values?
Yes, there are disagreements on all those questions. So it is incumbent upon the protagonists for each of those views to produce rational arguments supporting them
Yes, but when all is said and done there will still be disagreement. We are not moving toward the resolution of all moral disagreement through sound moral theory. Given the differences in moral theories, we are not even moving toward agreement on what a sound moral theory is.
The fact that disagreements remain in the face of sound arguments and incontrovertible evidence is not an indictment of the underlying theory. People regularly cling to beliefs inconsistent with incontrovertible evidence. I've given my criteria for a sound moral theory. Perhaps you can outline yours.
E.g., whether I should blow my paycheck at the race track, or buy food and shoes for my kids; whether I should refrain from beating my wife; whether I should repay the money I borrowed from my brother.
These are not matters of conclusive knowledge but of generally agreed upon opinion.
Well, that not feeding my kids, beating my wife, and stealing from my brother harms them is quite conclusive knowledge. But it is true that whether one may harm others at will is a matter of opinion, and someone who holds that opinion has no use for a moral theory.
Where does she critique it?
"…but it can be seen that philosophically there is a huge gap, at present unfillable as far as we are concerned, which needs to be filled by an account of human nature, human action, the type of characteristic a virtue is, and, above all of human ‘flourishing’. And it is the last concept that appears the most doubtful. (MMP, 41)"
She is arguing for a "legalistic" view, but holds that such a view requires some overriding "authority."
I'm going to demur on further debate re: Anscombe. It is off-topic, and her views are not interesting to me.
There is no contradiction in, "I may treat myself as an end; but I may treat you as merely a means.
The reason why I must treat myself as an end is the same reason I must treat you as an end. So to treat myself as an end and you as a means is a contradiction.
Sorry, but it is not. Two propositions are contradictory if one denies precisely what the other asserts.

1. I may treat myself as an end.

2. I may treat you as a means (not an end).

The second does not deny what the first says, since they have different subjects ("myself" and "you").

Nor are my reasons for treating you in a certain way "the same" as the reasons I treat myself in that way. I treat myself as an end because I experience the pleasures or suffering resulting from my acts, or from the acts of others which effect me. I do not experience any pleasure or suffering from your acts, other than those which affect me, or from acts of others (including me) which affect you. So I do not have the same reason for treating you as an end that I have for treating myself as one.

Your imagined contradiction depends upon an unstated assumption, namely, an assumption of the moral equality of all agents. That is a defensible assumption (and is a postulate of my theory), and so the CI is sound, but not because its denial is self-contradictory. It is because the bad consequences (for everyone, including me) of rejecting it are self-evident.

Whether Kant can be read as a consequentialist has developed a significant literature. Here is one typical discussion:

https://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/ ... entialist/
Contradictions are logical failings; they have no moral import per se.
They do for Kant:
The Categorical Imperative, in Kant’s view, is an objective, unconditional and necessary principle of reason that applies to all rational agents in all circumstances. (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/)
I agree. But the principle of reason that forces it is not avoidance of contradiction. It is not logical necessity that compels it.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 18th, 2018, 11:58 am

GE Morton:
All the rules can do, and all they need to do, is prescribe some constraints on those pursuits when they are undertaken in a social setting, where one agent's actions can effect the welfare of other agents.
As I see it, ethics is about what we ought to do, not simply what we are constrained from doing. What we ought to do is decided in view of what promotes the idea of a good life. Such consideration takes place at three interrelated levels: the personal, the interpersonal, and wholes such as an organization, a profession, a community, a country, the planet. In aiming to live a good life the question of what a good life is is itself an activity that aims at the good life.
Your notion of "living well," if it follows Aristotle, as you have indicated, has nothing to do with the agent's attaintment of his own idiosyncratic goals, but with acquiring certain qualities of character and habits and pursuing certain interests and a certain lifestyle --- ideally (for Plato and Aristotle), the interests and lifestyle of the philosopher.
Of course Aristotle’s ethics has something to do with an agent's attainment of his own goals. No one lives my life for me. “Lifestyle” is anachronistic. Aristotle addresses the aspiring philosopher, but the gentleman and statesman as well. The quality of character and habits are not ones that are unique to the philosopher. Aristotle is not providing answers, he intends for the reader to think about and try to work through the questions of how we are to live. It is a perennial question. But not everyone is capable of thinking in this way, and so, the political life is not rejected in consideration of the ethical. It is essential even if it is not the life a philosopher would want to life. It is essential precisely because the philosophical life is the exception. Most men need to be led to a virtuous life. Aristotle’s ethics and politics form a whole, the man and the city, the private and the public.
But perhaps I am mistaken about what you mean by "living well," and "flourishing." If so, please expand on that.
I do not know what you think I mean by "living well," and "flourishing". In an earlier post addressed to Consul on the various senses of the term ‘good’ I said the following:
I would add the metaphysical good - Plato’s generative good:

... not only being known is present in the things known as a consequence of the good, but also existence and being are
in them besides as a result of it, although the good isn't being but is still beyond being, exceeding it in dignity and power. (Republic 509b)
Socrates says that this is his opinion (509c). It is not something he claims to know. So why should we pay any attention to it? Because it provides an image of the whole that inspires, informs, and guides our understanding of the ways of being good. The examined life is about being able to discern the good in what we do. It has no end beyond being and doing what is good. But this should not be taken is the moralistic sense of following rules and obligations. It is what Aristotle calls the final cause, the end toward which a thing moves in the fullness of its actualization, its self-becoming, its strength and power, its virtue or arete. (Nietzsche’s will to power has much in common with this, but he rejects the notion of the completion of a timeless, fixed, and unchanging human nature.)

Historically the good was transformed into or subsumed under God, but whereas God provided commandments, the good does not. It is up to us to determine what is and is not good, that is, to philosophize. Some moral theorists attempt to substitute the dictates of reason for the commandments of God, holding us under obligation to follow principles and rules they claim have been objectively and universally determined for us. But we are not motivated by rules and do not aim at following them as an end in itself, but to the extent that we do follow them we do so for some good.
I am with Nietzsche in rejecting the notion of a fixed and unchanging human nature, but this does not mean that we are entirely plastic and malleable. We seek the good but do not know what it is in an exhaustive and complete way. Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is eros, desire for something we do not possess.
Well, now you seem to be agreeing with what I said earlier: "An individual's beliefs and 'values,' however, never justify a violation of the rules."
What I am saying is that with any set of rules you devise it must be a two-way street. The rules are not self-justifying. Any rules that violate an individual's beliefs and values must be justified, and, on the other hand, any action based on an individual's beliefs and values must be justified if they are harmful to others. This is not the same as your claim that an individual's beliefs and values never justify a violation of the rules.

Reckless driving is wrong not simply because it breaks the rules, but because it endangers the lives of others. There may be cases, however, where one is justified in breaking the traffic laws, for example, rushing someone to the hospital.
All the rules of my theory, except the duty to aid, have precisely the same purpose as the traffic rules you now defend, namely, prohibiting acts which cause harm to others. Are you now agreeing that some rules can be justified on grounds independant of anyone's beliefs and values?
You are justifying your rules based on your own belief that one should not cause harm. The violation of someone’s beliefs and values is a harm to them. The greater or lesser harm must be decided on a case by case basis. In addition, your moral theory and your political theory are based on common beliefs about the individual and how this relates to values.
And it is the last concept that appears the most doubtful. (MMP, 41)
Anscombe gives no indication that such a project must fail. She says that the gap is “at present unfillable”.

If you read what Anscombe said rather than what others say about what she said, you will find that she continues in the same paragraph to say that the man who believes in divine laws can, like the Greek philosophers, think in terms of “flourishing”.

The Stanford Encyclopedia you quote from continues:
If we are to go back to very early approaches, such as Aristotle’s, then the natural approach to developing the alternatives is as a ‘virtue ethics’ and digging into the messy issue of human flourishing and good.
GE:
Sorry, but it is not. Two propositions are contradictory if one denies precisely what the other asserts.

1. I may treat myself as an end.

2. I may treat you as a means (not an end).

The second does not deny what the first says, since they have different subjects ("myself" and "you").
Once again, you are ignoring the second formulation of the categorical imperative:
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
One cannot follow this maxim, and one must follow it categorically, if you treat someone as a means. The maxim refers to persons. Both “myself” and “you” are the same in so far as they are persons. One need not consider any consequences of treating others as a means. To do so is inconsistent with their dignity and autonomy.
Whether Kant can be read as a consequentialist has developed a significant literature. Here is one typical discussion:
Reddit??? Since when does Reddit count as part of a “a significant literature”? Someone pointed to Cummiskey’s “Kantian Consequentialism” but Cummiskey does not claim that Kant is a consequentialist. In the preface he states that he is convinced that Kant is not a consequentialist but that his main argument is consistent with consequentialism. Someone else pointed to Parfit, but I am not going to wade through to see what he is claiming. If you make a claim you should be able to defend it, not point vaguely in the direction of Reddit.

We are in agreement as to the answer to topic question. Our disagreement, however, runs deep and informs our differences on both ethics and politics. It is based on a difference in what it means to be human. Your's is Libertarian, mine takes seriously 'arete' (virtue, excellence), 'eudaimonia' (happiness, flourishing, well-being), and the common good of the whole.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Consul » November 18th, 2018, 12:51 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
November 17th, 2018, 6:11 pm
I mean phenomenological badness only: observe the pain of this tooth gone bad and put in abeyance all context, all presuppositions and allow the pain to "speak" for itself. This is an absolute, if an indistinctly identified one, as in cases of ambiguity, that appears before one. The clear examples are most poignant: lighted match to the finger tip for a few seconds. Descriptive accounts of observable features do not encompass the value aspect of what occurs.
If experiential/phenomenal goodness/badness is defined as an experience's hedonic valence—i.e. its positive or negative degree of pleasantness, joyfulness, attractiveness, or likability—and the hedonic valence of a sensation or emotion is intrinsic to it, i.e. part of its essence, then it's impossible for one and the same kind of experience to be liked by some subjects and to be disliked by others. But there are many such cases, which provide strong evidence for the view that valences aren't intrinsic hedonic qualities of experiences. For example, most people like the taste of honey, but I loathe it. If the taste of honey were intrinsically pleasant, I couldn't dislike it; but I do, so it's not.

As for pain experiences, most of them are such that not even a masochist can enjoy or like them, because they are naturally non-dissociable or non-separable from their (extrinsic) negative valence (aversiveness, unpleasantness). For instance, I don't think there are people who can enjoy or like an intense headache or toothache.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by mr533473 » November 18th, 2018, 2:00 pm

Gertie wrote:
May 6th, 2018, 11:49 am
I personally go with Harris - 'The Well-Being of Conscious Creatures', and I gave my argument earlier. So, finally (!) to answer your question, my foundation for judging if something is 'wrong', my foundation for moral rules/Oughts, is whether it's detrimental to the Well-Being of Conscious Creatures. Murder? Yup deffo!
My initial reactions to your position is this... Whipping a slave is immoral whereas whipping a kinky lover begging for the strap is perfectly permissible. So where does that leave the act of whipping? If what I posed is so, it seems to depend on the reception rather than the act itself. It follows, physical well-being comes second to personal autonomy. Infringing on the right to choose whether to be whipped or not seems to be the violation. I think this falls outside the scope of mere 'well-being' and calls for a more complex explanation as to why a right to free association between those who can whip you and those who can't exists and what its basis is (perhaps it is well being... but but I don't see how unless like 'god' the term starts to expand its definition out of convenience)

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » November 19th, 2018, 1:21 pm

Consul
If experiential/phenomenal goodness/badness is defined as an experience's hedonic valence—i.e. its positive or negative degree of pleasantness, joyfulness, attractiveness, or likability—and the hedonic valence of a sensation or emotion is intrinsic to it, i.e. part of its essence, then it's impossible for one and the same kind of experience to be liked by some subjects and to be disliked by others. But there are many such cases, which provide strong evidence for the view that valences aren't intrinsic hedonic qualities of experiences. For example, most people like the taste of honey, but I loathe it. If the taste of honey were intrinsically pleasant, I couldn't dislike it; but I do, so it's not.
But are those cases the same,those "many such cases'? To have the same kind of experience is a complicated thing, for the way we establish likes and dislikes vary. Honey possesses no promise of a positive valence, but once it is there, and the appreciation set, that positive valence and the value sense of good I am defending is there and the good that is registered in the, what, the agent of value receptivity (a lovely bookish term), whether it is a person or a Cocker Spaniel, is absolute. Hedonic valences, to follow your thinking, are acknowledged as good or bad, and consensuses exist here as do dissensuses. But the what it is that is valued or not is constructed in the mind, and none of these are the same.
The goodness of honey is not a property of the honey as an institution, as a universally regarded concept; it rather resides in the experience of the individual. Goodness, by this account, and I don't see how any of our judgments can be differently understood in an attempt to get to the bottom of basic assumptions, is subjective, and the absoluteness I attribute to it raises ethical issues to a qualitatively different level, though one has to avoid metaphysical descriptions and and anything that is not warranted.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » November 19th, 2018, 8:43 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
November 18th, 2018, 11:58 am
GE Morton:
All the rules can do, and all they need to do, is prescribe some constraints on those pursuits when they are undertaken in a social setting, where one agent's actions can effect the welfare of other agents.
As I see it, ethics is about what we ought to do, not simply what we are constrained from doing. What we ought to do is decided in view of what promotes the idea of a good life. Such consideration takes place at three interrelated levels: the personal, the interpersonal, and wholes such as an organization, a profession, a community, a country, the planet. In aiming to live a good life the question of what a good life is is itself an activity that aims at the good life.
In another thread I wrote,

"Perhaps I should re-introduce the distinction (made elsewhere on this forum) between public moralities and private moralities. Historically, moral philosophy has covered a lot of ground, and embraced everything from the foundations of law to cultivation of virtues to one's relationship with God to self-improvement tips. I take a theory of public morality to be concerned with one issue only: rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. All other questions regarding acceptable or desirable personal behavior --- whether one should eat meat on Fridays, attend church on Sunday, donate to this or that charity, "turn the other cheek" if smote, refrain from sex outside marriage, smoke marijuana, peruse pornography, etc., etc., fall within the purview of private moralities. Government should take no notice, neither promoting or suppressing, any private morality, unless one of them conflicts with a rule of public morality --- a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory."

I realize that moral philosophers --- i.e., anyone who claims to be one, or considered by someone else to be one --- historically have taken up all those issues. But the crucial issues, the issues which arouse the deepest passions and the most heated arguments, are those concerned with interactions between moral agents --- questions concerning killing, enslaving, stealing, cheating, lying, cooperating, aiding. Those are the issues which must be resolved, if only provisionally, for a civilized society to cohere and yield the benefits it allows, and not descend into Hobbes' omnium bellum contra omnes. Those are the issues that compel the adoption and enforcement of laws. Hence it makes sense to split those and similarly critical questions off from the many others which have been claimed to fall within the ambit of "morality," and construct a theory dealing with them only --- a theory of public morality.

I noted previously that nothing prevents philosophers, or anyone else, from investigating and arguing for, or anyone from following, a "private morality" that encompasses any of those other issues. The public morality takes no notice of those, as long its rules are not violated.

The only reason I can see why you might not agree to such a restricted focus is that the rules derived from a theory of public morality might preclude pursuit or attainment of "the good life" as you envision it. And there is no doubt that they will conflict with someone's conception of "the good life." That is, of course, because what counts as "a good life" differs from person to person, and some of those conceptions view the impacts on others as irrelevant.

The quest for an answer to the question of what constitutes a good life is misguided. There is no possible universal answer, because what is deemed "good" is inescapably subjective, and relative to agents. That holds whether the adjective is applied to a painting, a concert, a restaurant, a novel, a movie, a job, a game, an idea, or a life. Aristotle's proposals for what is necessary for a good life would surely not be so counted by a mendicant monk, Evel Knievel, Torquemada, Madonna, or Donald Trump. So we take that diversity of perspectives as a given, a fixed starting point. The question then becomes: What rules, if any there are, will permit all agents thrown together in a modern, civilized society to live "the good life" as they respectively define it?

It is true that many people are uncertain from time to time what will contribute to a good life for them. Should I marry this guy? Take this job? Pursue this degree? Have a baby? Learn French? Join this organization? Support this charity? Vote for Trump? No philosophical argument will provide answers to such questions for everyone, and probably not for anyone. There is no "good life for humans." There is only a good life for Alfie, another for Bruno, etc. And only they can say what kind of lives those are.
Of course Aristotle’s ethics has something to do with an agent's attainment of his own goals. No one lives my life for me. “Lifestyle” is anachronistic. Aristotle addresses the aspiring philosopher, but the gentleman and statesman as well.
What about the ranch hand, the construction worker, the rock star, the priest, the farmer, the entrepreneur, the midwife, the cop, the soldier, the short order cook?
In an earlier post addressed to Consul on the various senses of the term ‘good’ I said the following:

I would add the metaphysical good - Plato’s generative good:

... not only being known is present in the things known as a consequence of the good, but also existence and being are
in them besides as a result of it, although the good isn't being but is still beyond being, exceeding it in dignity and power. (Republic 509b)
Yes. That is an example of the obscure mysticism ("philobabble") for which Plato is justly derided.
What I am saying is that with any set of rules you devise it must be a two-way street. The rules are not self-justifying.
I agree. They must be justified by being shown consistent with a sound moral theory.
Any rules that violate an individual's beliefs and values must be justified, and, on the other hand, any action based on an individual's beliefs and values must be justified if they are harmful to others. This is not the same as your claim that an individual's beliefs and values never justify a violation of the rules.
Yes, it is the same, provided those rules are justified.
You are justifying your rules based on your own belief that one should not cause harm. The violation of someone’s beliefs and values is a harm to them.
Really? You are counting a prohibition against say, pedophilia as a "harm" to the pedophile, because it affronts and frustrates his values and beliefs?
The greater or lesser harm must be decided on a case by case basis.
Yes. A "harm," however, is conventionally understood to mean a reduction in welfare. But an agent may not count ill-gotten gains in tallying his level of welfare, and so no harm is done him by preventing or forcing him to forfeit those gains.
In addition, your moral theory and your political theory are based on common beliefs about the individual and how this relates to values.
Of course, as are all moral and political theories. Those various assumptions are set forth explicitly in my theory as postulates. Any of those may be challenged --- but not successfully, I'm quite confident.
Once again, you are ignoring the second formulation of the categorical imperative:
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
But so formulated it begs the question (the question of whether one must treat oneself and others the same way). Which is why I separated it into two propositions in my deconstruction. That we must treat them the same must be argued for; it cannot be summarily assumed.
We are in agreement as to the answer to topic question. Our disagreement, however, runs deep and informs our differences on both ethics and politics. It is based on a difference in what it means to be human. Your's is Libertarian, mine takes seriously 'arete' (virtue, excellence), 'eudaimonia' (happiness, flourishing, well-being), and the common good of the whole.
The major disagreement is with that last clause ---- there is no "common good of the whole." There is only good for Alfie, good for Bruno, etc., and what counts as "good" is for each of them to define. The rest of us must take their pronouncements as conclusive.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 19th, 2018, 10:36 pm

GE Morton:
I take a theory of public morality to be concerned with one issue only: rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field.
Moral codes are useful but how we regard others, the care and kindness we show to them, the extent to which we help them, and so on, are not governed by rules. The disjunction between "public and private morality" is problematic.
The quest for an answer to the question of what constitutes a good life is misguided. There is no possible universal answer, because what is deemed "good" is inescapably subjective, and relative to agents.
The former does not follow from the latter unless one holds to some notion of moral objectivity, which, in my opinion, is misguided.
The question then becomes: What rules, if any there are, will permit all agents thrown together in a modern, civilized society to live "the good life" as they respectively define it?
It is not just a question simple of rules but of practices - providing education, food and shelter, safe and sanitary conditions, healthcare, opportunity, and so on.
There is no "good life for humans."
There are certain commonalities however addressed by the practices just mentioned. No one lives a good life who is starving or in constant pain or is gravely ill.
What about the ranch hand, the construction worker, the rock star, the priest, the farmer, the entrepreneur, the midwife, the cop, the soldier, the short order cook?
What about them? All can benefit from reflection on what they think the good life is. It is the philosopher and statesman who shape the public domain in which they live. It is the philosophers of liberalism who have shaped what you think about public and private life. As Nietzsche said, the philosopher is commander and legislator. So, whether one engages in such reflection or not, their lives are shaped and influenced by those who have, the statesman and the philosopher.
That is an example of the obscure mysticism ("philobabble") for which Plato is justly derided.
You really do not have a clue as to what Plato is about. In order to begin to understand you would need to read some of the dialogues, attentively, from beginning to end, with a teacher who understands him and can guide you. Not everyone is drawn to Plato but to call his work “philobabble” just shows your ignorance. Most likely what you know of Plato is second or third hand and based on things said by those who do not understand the art of writing or the art of reading.
Really? You are counting a prohibition against say, pedophilia as a "harm" to the pedophile, because it affronts and frustrates his values and beliefs?
It is not that every prohibition is a harm that needs to be justified but that some are. We are not free to do whatever we want whenever we want, but there must be limits to what we are prohibited from doing.
A "harm," however, is conventionally understood to mean a reduction in welfare. But an agent may not count ill-gotten gains in tallying his level of welfare, and so no harm is done him by preventing or forcing him to forfeit those gains.
As I said, it needs to be addressed on a case by case basis. Ill-gotten gains and pedophilia hardly covers every case where what an individual values may be at odds with some set of moral rules.
Any of those may be challenged --- but not successfully, I'm quite confident.
If by successful you mean what will persuade you then perhaps not. But all of us have a hard time admitting when we are wrong.
But so formulated it begs the question (the question of whether one must treat oneself and others the same way).
It does not beg the question. Kant addresses this.
… there is no "common good of the whole."
That is your opinion, and as long as you hold to it you are likely not to see the force of any challenge to your theory.

By the way, this is one of the values of reading Plato. He used the dialogue form because what one says and believes and holds to be true cannot be separated from the person who says it or believes it or holds it to be true. There was in the history of philosophy a turn away from looking at themselves - “the view from nowhere”. And this has led many to believe that philosophy gets us nowhere. Things are changing though, and the renewed interest in Plato and Aristotle is part of this change, a return to philosophy as a way of life.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Consul » November 20th, 2018, 2:12 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
November 19th, 2018, 1:21 pm
But are those cases the same,those "many such cases'? To have the same kind of experience is a complicated thing, for the way we establish likes and dislikes vary. Honey possesses no promise of a positive valence, but once it is there, and the appreciation set, that positive valence and the value sense of good I am defending is there and the good that is registered in the, what, the agent of value receptivity (a lovely bookish term), whether it is a person or a Cocker Spaniel, is absolute. Hedonic valences, to follow your thinking, are acknowledged as good or bad, and consensuses exist here as do dissensuses. But the what it is that is valued or not is constructed in the mind, and none of these are the same.
The goodness of honey is not a property of the honey as an institution, as a universally regarded concept; it rather resides in the experience of the individual. Goodness, by this account, and I don't see how any of our judgments can be differently understood in an attempt to get to the bottom of basic assumptions, is subjective, and the absoluteness I attribute to it raises ethical issues to a qualitatively different level, though one has to avoid metaphysical descriptions and and anything that is not warranted.
Of course, you and I cannot share numerically identical experiences; that is, a particular experience occurring in your mind/brain cannot occur in mine. But numerically different experiences (experience-tokens) in different minds/brains can be qualitatively identical (or similar at least) and thus belong to the same type of experience.

If an experience's (positive or negative) hedonic valence is intrinsic to it and constitutive of its phenomenal character or quality, then experiences with different valences are (in themselves) different experiences. Then, for example, if you like the taste of a particular sort of honey and I don't, our gustatory experiences aren't only different in terms of their valences or hedonic qualities but also in terms of their (intrinsic) phenomenal qualities. In this case, if you enjoy the taste of honey and I could have exactly the same taste-experiences of honey you have, I would enjoy them too, because they are essentially or inherently pleasant, and hence cannot be experienced as unpleasant by me or anybody else. It follows that our honey-related taste-sensations are intrinsically different if you like them and I don't.

Given that we cannot directly compare the subjective qualia of our sensations or emotions and decide on this basis whether or not they are qualitatively identical, it seems that the following two situations are empirically indistinguishable:

1. The valence, i.e. hedonic quality or tone, of an experience is extrinsic to an experience in the sense that it is not constitutive of, not essential to its intrinsic phenomenal character. So a difference in valence does not entail a difference in phenomenal character.

2. The valence, i.e. hedonic quality or tone, of an experience is intrinsic to an experience in the sense that it is constitutive of, essential to its intrinsic phenomenal character. So a difference in valence does entail a difference in phenomenal character.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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