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The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

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GE Morton
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Re: THE NECESSITY OF MORAL REALISM (MORAL OBJECTIVISM)

Post by GE Morton » October 29th, 2018, 9:21 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
October 29th, 2018, 4:18 pm

It is not a matter of what is distinctively human but of what is human. A rational animal is still an animal and rationality is not independent of drives, desires, and feelings.
It is logically independent. It is true, of course, that emotional factors (prejudices, internalized dogmas, tastes, hatreds, love, etc.) often thwart rational decision-making. Which is why those lurking propensities are constantly discouraged and warned of for judges, scientists, and others who must dispassionately weigh evidence. They are a flaw, not a "feature," in rational decision-making.
What I am saying that you have defined morality in such a way that according to this conception morality did not exist for most of human history.
That is correct; it did not. What existed were various pre-moral folkways.
Rule or principle based morality is not something new. It is widely accepted and the basic of many texts used in classes in ethics.
It is not new, but none of them have been widely adopted (although utilitarianism has made some headway). Most people still adhere to folkways or some religious creed.
Not everyone accepts your assumption that moral agency is the determining factor. There is a significant percentage of the population, including some moral theorists, who hold that the determining factor is human life, and a human fetus is alive.
Those folks will have the problem of explaining what distinguishes human life from all other life. And that inquiry will lead directly to moral agency.
Another significant percentage holds that the developmental stage should be the determining factor. Most hold that a newborn is not a moral agent, and so, if it is permissible to terminate a fetus because it is not a moral agent then it is permissible to terminate the life of a baby.
Yes; that argument could be made. So some further considerations would be needed to forestall that consequence.
Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is a main topic in medical ethics textbooks. They are illegal in most US states.
That a practice is illegal has no bearing on its moral status.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Burning ghost » October 30th, 2018, 12:22 am

Morton -
It is logically independent. It is true, of course, that emotional factors (prejudices, internalized dogmas, tastes, hatreds, love, etc.) often thwart rational decision-making. Which is why those lurking propensities are constantly discouraged and warned of for judges, scientists, and others who must dispassionately weigh evidence. They are a flaw, not a "feature," in rational decision-making.
This doesn’t appear to be the case. I believe Damasio has been mentioned already. Have you looked at his work at all?

I’ve made a few little thought experiments on this forum that reveal the tangled web of rational and emotional thought. We are not “rational” creatures. We have a certain rational capacity, but our ability for abstract rational thought is pretty damn poor. Yet in a day-to-day human scenarios we are able to apply rational thought to situations with emotionally familiar content with a greater success rate than purely abstract thought.

Emotional content is certainly not a “flaw.” Literally everythign we do is for emotive success. Cold hard logic cannot is a basis for the best outcome. Without a moral map there is no value system and one would live in a nihilistic abyss without regret or concern.

Take the trolley problem. What really tends to happen with these hypotheticals is that people opt out of responsibility in favour of hard cold logical decisions - this does not always help us make the better choice (I’ll repost the problem later probably becasue I cannot find it.)
That a practice is illegal has no bearing on its moral status.
Technically no. In a historical sense we can hardly suggest that the shaping of law is not without individuals setting out their moral views.
(Note: I use “ethic” as a culmination/interaction of individual morals, and “moral” as the individual stance. I find it easier to make this rough delineation for the sake of talking about the individual and group dynamics involved in decision making.)
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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Fooloso4 » October 30th, 2018, 11:07 am

GE Morton:
It is true, of course, that emotional factors (prejudices, internalized dogmas, tastes, hatreds, love, etc.) often thwart rational decision-making.
It is not a question of thwarting rational decision-making. The problem is treating human beings as if the are rational decision-making machines whose decisions should not take into consideration those things that matter to them. Rational decision making does not occur in an idealized vacuum free of presuppositions and values. Your idealized notion of rational decision-making itself is based on presuppositions and values.
That is correct; it did not. What existed were various pre-moral folkways.
I cannot comment on this since you have not identified the advent of contemporary moral theory.
Those folks will have the problem of explaining what distinguishes human life from all other life.
It is explained by reproductive biology. Humans give birth to humans.
Another significant percentage holds that the developmental stage should be the determining factor. Most hold that a newborn is not a moral agent, and so, if it is permissible to terminate a fetus because it is not a moral agent then it is permissible to terminate the life of a baby.
Yes; that argument could be made. So some further considerations would be needed to forestall that consequence.
There are two points: 1) developmental stage which informs both legal and moral considerations, 2) your claim about moral agency being the determining factor. What is the further consideration that is needed in order to determine that killing children is not morally permissible?
Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is a main topic in medical ethics textbooks. They are illegal in most US states.
That a practice is illegal has no bearing on its moral status.
You said that you were not aware there was any moral problem with euthanasia, as long as it's voluntary. The fact that it is a main topic in medical ethics textbooks shows that your lack of awareness is due to being uninformed. Legality comes into question because there is an ongoing debate about whether it should be legal and this debate addresses the morality of the act.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by GE Morton » October 30th, 2018, 12:06 pm

Burning ghost wrote:
October 30th, 2018, 12:22 am
It is logically independent. It is true, of course, that emotional factors (prejudices, internalized dogmas, tastes, hatreds, love, etc.) often thwart rational decision-making. Which is why those lurking propensities are constantly discouraged and warned of for judges, scientists, and others who must dispassionately weigh evidence. They are a flaw, not a "feature," in rational decision-making.
This doesn’t appear to be the case. I believe Damasio has been mentioned already. Have you looked at his work at all?
What does not appear to be the case? That rational thought is logically independent of emotional states? Two things are logically independent if neither implies the other. That is the case with reason and emotion. Whether an argument is valid or invalid is not dependent upon anyone's emotional state; nor does whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not guilty, or whether the Earth revolves around the Sun or vice-versa.

Damasio is right that "feelings" play a role in much everyday decision-making, especially in personal decision-making: "Should I marry this guy?," "Should I take that job?", "Should we vacation in Bermuda or Cancun this year?", "Should I order the gumbo or the crayfish bisque?", "Should I vote for Trump or Hillary?" Moreover, every human act has an emotional motivator --- it is undertaken to attain some goal, some purpose, some good the agent deems desirable --- which is an emotion. Such decisions can only be made by weighing the personal satisfaction anticipated from each alternative.

But many decisions --- including those in courtrooms, in the sciences, and (ideally) in philosophy --- do not involve any personal satisfaction other than the satisfaction of getting the right answer. And which answer is right does not depend upon anyone's feelings.
Take the trolley problem. What really tends to happen with these hypotheticals is that people opt out of responsibility in favour of hard cold logical decisions - this does not always help us make the better choice (I’ll repost the problem later probably becasue I cannot find it.)
You'll need to amplify there --- especially if you're suggesting that some emotional factor would make that decision easier.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Burning ghost » October 30th, 2018, 1:53 pm

Morton -

I’m glad we can disagree something. It’s a bloody long, long way down though! ;)
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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by GE Morton » October 30th, 2018, 3:21 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
October 30th, 2018, 11:07 am

It is not a question of thwarting rational decision-making. The problem is treating human beings as if the are rational decision-making machines whose decisions should not take into consideration those things that matter to them.
See response to Blue Ghost (above). When making personal decisions ("Should I take that job?", "Should I donate to this charity?") things that matter to the agent are decisive. Choosing the alternative that matters the most (that will deliver the most satisfaction) is the rational choice.

But when deciding whether an empirical proposition is true or false, whether a scientific theory is sound, whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not guilty, or whether a certain course of treatment is best for a patient, the decision-maker's feelings have no role to play. When it proves they have played some role you have grounds for a perjury charge, an appeal or a malpractice suit.
Rational decision making does not occur in an idealized vacuum free of presuppositions and values. Your idealized notion of rational decision-making itself is based on presuppositions and values.
Yes, it is. It presupposes that there is a difference between truth and falsehood, between valid and invalid arguments, between justice and injustice, and in all cases prefers the former to the latter.
Those folks will have the problem of explaining what distinguishes human life from all other life.
It is explained by reproductive biology. Humans give birth to humans.
That is circular, Fooloso. And evasive --- you evade the question of what makes humans "special."

You also evaded this question earlier:
You are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. This is an anachronistic view.
I'm not sure what you're saying there. Are you suggesting that the task for moral philosophy is to rationalize pre-existing moral intuitions? Which intuitions? Whose intuitions?
If moral decisions are to be based on intuitions or "feelings," upon whose intuitions and feeling should they be based? The Muslim jihadist's? The white supremicist's? The Marxist ideologue's? The Pope's? Donald Trump's?
What is the further consideration that is needed in order to determine that killing children is not morally permissible?
Primarily the physical independence of the born child from the mother, allowing for adoption, and also that birth is relatively clear place to draw a legal line.
You said that you were not aware there was any moral problem with euthanasia, as long as it's voluntary. The fact that it is a main topic in medical ethics textbooks shows that your lack of awareness is due to being uninformed. Legality comes into question because there is an ongoing debate about whether it should be legal and this debate addresses the morality of the act.
A controversy does not necessarily point to a problem, especially with respect to moral questions --- due to the non-rational sources of many "moral" views.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Fooloso4 » October 30th, 2018, 4:19 pm

GE Morton:
But when deciding whether an empirical proposition is true or false, whether a scientific theory is sound, whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not guilty, or whether a certain course of treatment is best for a patient, the decision-maker's feelings have no role to play.
Human relations are not logical relations. They are not a matter of empirical propositions or scientific theory or criminal judgment. Medical treatment, however, does involve decision-makers feelings. To be clear, the decision-maker is the patient. The physician can explain the various options and outcomes but it is the patient’s life and the patient’s right, both morally and legally, to decide the course of treatment. Questions of value, desire, hopes, and emotional well-being are valid and important considerations. What factors come into play when trying to decide the best course of treatment vary. Quality of life matters. Self-dignity matters. Some may wish to remain alive at all costs, others do not.
It presupposes that there is a difference between truth and falsehood, between valid and invalid arguments, between justice and injustice, and in all cases prefers the former to the latter.
It presupposes a lot more than that. Your moral theory does not have exclusive claims to the difference between truth and falsehood, between valid and invalid arguments, between justice and injustice when it comes to moral deliberation.
That is circular, Fooloso. And evasive --- you evade the question of what makes humans "special."
When humans starts giving birth to non-humans we can discuss what makes humans “special”. Until then there is no reason to question what distinguishes human life from all other life. Abortion ends a human life. When it may be morally permissible to end a human life is another question. You have yet to identify the moral principles by which we can resolve the question of abortion.
If moral decisions are to be based on intuitions or "feelings," upon whose intuitions and feeling should they be based? The Muslim jihadist's? The white supremicist's? The Marxist ideologue's? The Pope's? Donald Trump's?
I did not say that they are based on intuitions or "feelings" but that they do not exclude them.
Primarily the physical independence of the born child from the mother, allowing for adoption, and also that birth is relatively clear place to draw a legal line.
The issue is not legal but moral determinations. The child is still not a moral agent and so you cannot use moral agency to determine the moral permissibility of abortion but ignore it the moment a child is born. In addition, the legal line in the US is the first trimester, after the twelfth week of gestation. So legally it has nothing to do with physical independence.
A controversy does not necessarily point to a problem, especially with respect to moral questions --- due to the non-rational sources of many "moral" views.
Professional ethicists who base their arguments on moral principles may disagree as to the morality of euthanasia. The problem is that there is no universal agreement as to what the relevant principles are, and there are not principles by which we determine which principles hold more weight. With both abortion and euthanasia the difference is often along the lines of the principle of the sanctity of human life versus the principle of autonomy and self-determination.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by GE Morton » October 30th, 2018, 9:05 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
October 30th, 2018, 4:19 pm

Human relations are not logical relations. They are not a matter of empirical propositions or scientific theory or criminal judgment.
Well, "human relations" covers a lot of ground. So I'm not sure to what you're referring. You're right that none of them are logical relations, but most of them are empirically verifiable and subject to rational moral scrutiny. Perhaps you can amplify a bit on the point you're trying to make here.
Medical treatment, however, does involve decision-makers feelings. To be clear, the decision-maker is the patient. The physician can explain the various options and outcomes but it is the patient’s life and the patient’s right, both morally and legally, to decide the course of treatment.
And the physician has a right to decide whether to recommend it or perform it.
It presupposes that there is a difference between truth and falsehood, between valid and invalid arguments, between justice and injustice, and in all cases prefers the former to the latter.
It presupposes a lot more than that. Your moral theory does not have exclusive claims to the difference between truth and falsehood, between valid and invalid arguments, between justice and injustice when it comes to moral deliberation.
"My moral theory" makes no claims of any kind about the difference between truth and falsehood, valid/invalid aarguments, etc. It assumes the same criteria for evaluating moral propositions and arguments that are assumed in every other field.
When humans starts giving birth to non-humans we can discuss what makes humans “special”.
No, Fooloso. You're treating human life as "special" now, so you need an explanation for that now, not in some fanciful future. You're still evading.
You have yet to identify the moral principles by which we can resolve the question of abortion.
I've given you one, which you apparently have rejected due to some mystical, nebulous notion about the "sanctity of human life" (which you cite below), and have evaded explaining.
If moral decisions are to be based on intuitions or "feelings," upon whose intuitions and feeling should they be based? The Muslim jihadist's? The white supremicist's? The Marxist ideologue's? The Pope's? Donald Trump's?
I did not say that they are based on intuitions or "feelings" but that they do not exclude them.
Ah. How should they be included? How do they fit in? And if they are not based on feelings and intuitions, upon what are they based? Does the validity or applicability of a moral principle vary with the feelings of the agent called upon to apply it? May a racist judge acquit a white surpremicist murderer because he "feels" the murder was righteous?
The issue is not legal but moral determinations. The child is still not a moral agent and so you cannot use moral agency to determine the moral permissibility of abortion but ignore it the moment a child is born.
Yes, you can, if other relevant factors later come into play. What was sufficient grounds earlier may not be sufficient later.
In addition, the legal line in the US is the first trimester, after the twelfth week of gestation. So legally it has nothing to do with physical independence.
Actually, the line was moved to the end of the 2nd trimester in the Casey decision (1992). But you're right in substance. The Court created a gray area (the point of viability, generally the third trimester) before which the fetus is not a person (not a moral agent), and after which (birth) the baby is a person. Between viability and birth it is somewhere in between.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Fooloso4 » October 30th, 2018, 11:41 pm

GE Morton:
Well, "human relations" covers a lot of ground. So I'm not sure to what you're referring. You're right that none of them are logical relations, but most of them are empirically verifiable and subject to rational moral scrutiny. Perhaps you can amplify a bit on the point you're trying to make here.
The point is that contrary to what you say feelings do play a role in moral deliberations. Whether or not feelings play a role in empirical propositions or scientific theory or criminal judgment tells us nothing about the role of feelings in moral deliberation.
And the physician has a right to decide whether to recommend it or perform it.
Whether or not that is true, and it is not true in all cases, the point is that questions of the morality of treatment do take into consideration the feelings of the patient.
"My moral theory" makes no claims of any kind about the difference between truth and falsehood, valid/invalid aarguments, etc. It assumes the same criteria for evaluating moral propositions and arguments that are assumed in every other field.
What I am claiming is that there must be additional criteria for evaluating moral propositions. In my opinion, it is a mistake to treat moral questions as if they can be reduced to the evaluation of propositions.
No, Fooloso. You're treating human life as "special" now, so you need an explanation for that now, not in some fanciful future. You're still evading.
Some people do hold that human life is “special” in the sense that a) it differs from the lives of other beings, and b) it is immoral to end that life (although they may differ as to whether or not there are exceptions). This is not my position, but it is one that should be acknowledged. That starting from that position moral issues will be decided in a way that may be incompatible with those that start from a different position. You can argue all you want with their treating human life as sacred, you can claim that they are wrong, but you will not persuade them. Moral differences may reach an impasse. This is what principle based morals hopes to avoid but cannot.
You have yet to identify the moral principles by which we can resolve the question of abortion.
I've given you one, which you apparently have rejected due to some mystical, nebulous notion about the "sanctity of human life" (which you cite below), and have evaded explaining.
You have appealed to the notion of moral agency and have not been able to resolve the problems that follow. A seven or eight or nine month old fetus is not a moral agent. Does it follow that abortion should be permissible up until the time of birth? You have not given a moral explanation for why a newborn is different. Those without decision making capacity are not moral agents either.

You can call the sanctity of human life “some mystical, nebulous notion" but it is fundamental to the beliefs of many people. It needs no further explanation, it is that on which explanations are built.
How should they [intuitions and feelings] be included? How do they fit in?
A few examples where they play a part: Premarital sex and adultery. These are not issues resolved by an appeal to the decisions of moral agents, for that begs the question. It is a question of the moral deliberations of those agents that counts. Public nudity. Censorship. Our responsibilities to others. Those who care for, have compassion for, and are concerned for the well-being of others will conclude that something like universal healthcare is a moral issue.

And if they are not based on feelings and intuitions, upon what are they based?

Are you asking what other things moral deliberations are based on? Religion, custom (see the etymology of the term moral), upbringing.

Does the validity or applicability of a moral principle vary with the feelings of the agent called upon to apply it?

That depends on the principle.

May a racist judge acquit a white surpremicist murderer because he "feels" the murder was righteous?

That is a legal issue, but feelings alone are not legally or morally determinate. Murder by definition means a wrongful killing.

… generally the third trimester) before which the fetus is not a person (not a moral agent), and after which (birth) the baby is a person.

But not a moral agent. You have not explained why the lack of moral agency is relevant for the fetus. If the fetus in the third trimester is not a moral agent and not a person then abortion in the third trimester should be morally permissible based on the criteria of moral agency.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Burning ghost » October 31st, 2018, 1:10 am

Morton -
What does not appear to be the case? That rational thought is logically independent of emotional states? Two things are logically independent if neither implies the other. That is the case with reason and emotion. Whether an argument is valid or invalid is not dependent upon anyone's emotional state; nor does whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not guilty, or whether the Earth revolves around the Sun or vice-versa.
On the surface you’re correct. If you go deep, deep down this simply doesn’t hold up. I assumed you understood what I was pointing at when I brought up in passing the proble of inference (induction.) The absolutism of a logical premise only functoin within set and defined limits (abstracted limits.) In experiential life nothing is absolute.

Our very existence and movement in the world is defined by our emotional orientation. Rational thought is an extension of emotional being - they are essentially abstracted directions upon the same spectrum. They are interdependent relational antonyms (one implies the existence of the other), not complimentary antonyms (where the presence of implies the absence of the other.)

I’ll post the trolley problem I made asap (still cannot find it.) It should show that the idea of an emotionless rationality is simply incorrect.
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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Burning ghost » October 31st, 2018, 1:36 am

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Steve3007 » November 1st, 2018, 7:52 am

Burning ghost wrote:Found it: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15145&p=296851#p296851
That was a good one. I remember being fooled by it.

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Re: THE NECESSITY OF MORAL REALISM (MORAL OBJECTIVISM)

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 1st, 2018, 11:05 am

GE Morton wrote:
October 29th, 2018, 8:12 pm
Was that a typo? No, they do not distinguish humans from other animals. Yes, they are inherent in humans (so is digestion, as you point out below), but that doesn't make them suitable, much less optimum, foundations for a moral code.
Certainly other facets of humans other than emotions should go into that, but one cannot come up with morals without emotions. How do we decide what axioms we have? What we value? How to prioritize consequences to avoid`? to see? These all need value judgments that must in part be emotional.

And my badly worded point was that yes, humans have functions that other social mammals do not, but that does not make the limbic system and emotions not human.
I'm sure that's essentially true (though some of Damasio's conjectures are dubious). But it doesn't impact my thesis. I have not argued that emotions have no role in human life; only that they have no role to play in moral theorizing.
How do we even take the first step at coming up with a value without emotion? If we prioritize, say, human life or lives, we do this because we are emotionally invested in them. We have no starting point without going on emotional evaluations. To compare two outcomes, if we are consequentialists, we will have emotional reactions that must be incorporated. This does not mean all emotional reactions are right, etc. Rational thinking has its place also, but without the emotions there is no reason to have goal X, or priority Y, or banning Z as part of our morals. And then to weight the grade of the effect of some action or consequence our emotional reactoins will again have to be involved.

I agree. But a sound moral theory is not concerned with values; it is concerned with the means of pursuing one's values and attaining one's goals in a social setting.
And to work with that will require evaluating, with more emotion based values, all sorts of consquences, means and ends, etc.

Others might argue that if it experiences it should be allowed to continue to live, even if it cannot make moral choices.
Then you may not swat mosquitoes.
Some do, some Buddhists for example. My point was that you cannot simply logically determine the moral there. You are appealing to our emotional reactions when you say one cannot swat mosquitoes.

No, they will not. And if they do they will not qualify as axioms, which must be self-evident.
OK, tell me an axiom of your moral theory that does not in any way come from you being a social mammal. One devoid of emotional interest.
That's correct. But a moral theory is not concerned with what or who you care about, or how much you care about them. It is only concerned with how you act with regard to them.
Jesus. Fine. But that caring is part of the axioms - we shall not harm someone without good cause, harm should be avoided. Something like that comes right out of empathy and emotions. Concern about suffering. Not saying that must be a starting place but every starting place will have to do with what we care about. And HOW YOU ACT WITH REGARD TO THEM will also have to do with emotions.

If you have might makes right moral people, they may feel that greatness has to flourish, even at the cost of innocent life. IOW they like greatness and strong people and build their moral philosohpy out of that. You or some other modern person might build a philosophy with more empathetic axioms regarding the weak. Also coming from emotions but more on the empathetic, caring end.

All moral stances will come out of emotionally influenced axioms. And you will not be able to rationally convince people with different emotional reactions - to the suffering of strangers or outgroup people - that they are wrong. You can point to consequences, but they will happily live with them. Sure, some weak poeple will get killed not because they were evil. Who cares? Others will feel, yes feel, this is unfair, cruel, whatever, based in part on empathetic feelings.

No logical argument will bridge this gap. None. You can prefrontal cortex each other for months, and it happens here, and nothing will ever come of it, because there are emotional values both at the axiomatic level and at the evaluation of consequences, priorities, means levels also.

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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by GE Morton » November 1st, 2018, 3:29 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
October 30th, 2018, 11:41 pm

The point is that contrary to what you say feelings do play a role in moral deliberations. Whether or not feelings play a role in empirical propositions or scientific theory or criminal judgment tells us nothing about the role of feelings in moral deliberation.
We need some clarification here. Yes, feelings do play a role in moral deliberations --- the feelings of the agents affected, but not the feelings of the decision-maker. Or the feelings of a moral theorist.

All moral decisions are occasioned by some scenario involving the welfare of moral agents, a choice between acts which will confer suffering or happiness --- "feelings" --- upon them. It is those effects that make the question a moral one, and the decision-maker certainly must take them into account. But if he is to do so fairly, he must set his own feelings aside, and weigh the impacts of the various options objectively.
Whether or not that is true, and it is not true in all cases, the point is that questions of the morality of treatment do take into consideration the feelings of the patient.
See above.
What I am claiming is that there must be additional criteria for evaluating moral propositions. In my opinion, it is a mistake to treat moral questions as if they can be reduced to the evaluation of propositions.
The answers to those questions, assuming they are expressible, will necessarily be propositions. Those propositions will assert that one of the available options improves the welfare of the affected agents more than the alternatives (or reduces it less). That proposition will be either true or false, and whether it is true or false is an objective matter. Whether a certain moral rule will increase or reduce the welfare of agents affected by it is no different than the question of whether a certain traffic rule will reduce or increase accidents.
No, Fooloso. You're treating human life as "special" now, so you need an explanation for that now, not in some fanciful future. You're still evading.
Some people do hold that human life is “special” in the sense that a) it differs from the lives of other beings, and b) it is immoral to end that life (although they may differ as to whether or not there are exceptions).
The lives of all species differ from those of all other species. Are they all special? And of course, b) is just a baseless, dogmatic statement.
This is not my position, but it is one that should be acknowledged. That starting from that position moral issues will be decided in a way that may be incompatible with those that start from a different position. You can argue all you want with their treating human life as sacred, you can claim that they are wrong, but you will not persuade them. Moral differences may reach an impasse. This is what principle based morals hopes to avoid but cannot.
Well, you seem to be confusing moral philosophy with sociology, or cultural anthropology. The latter are concerned with how people actually act and what they believe; philosophy is concerned with what is true. People hold all kinds of groundless or incoherent views, on every subject, and always have. It is hardly a relevant objection to a moral theory that some people will reject it because it conflicts with some dogma they currently hold --- a dogma they cannot rationally defend or even coherently explain, any more than that it is a relevant objection to the theory of evolution that it conflicts with the Bible.
You have appealed to the notion of moral agency and have not been able to resolve the problems that follow. A seven or eight or nine month old fetus is not a moral agent. Does it follow that abortion should be permissible up until the time of birth?
Yes. The viability-birth interval presents no morally relevant distinctions requiring different treatment.
You have not given a moral explanation for why a newborn is different. Those without decision making capacity are not moral agents either.
But I did give one. An infant, though not a moral agent, is still, like many animals, a moral subject (or "moral patient"). It has moral status. Once born the infant is not longer a burden upon the mother, and given that others are willing to adopt, it would be immoral to kill it (for the same reason it would be immoral to euthanize a healthy dog if someone is willing to adopt it).
How should they [intuitions and feelings] be included? How do they fit in?
A few examples where they play a part: Premarital sex and adultery. These are not issues resolved by an appeal to the decisions of moral agents, for that begs the question. It is a question of the moral deliberations of those agents that counts. Public nudity. Censorship. Our responsibilities to others. Those who care for, have compassion for, and are concerned for the well-being of others will conclude that something like universal healthcare is a moral issue.
Well, except for the premarital sex, your examples all indeed raise moral issues. And, of course, different people will arrive at different answers to those questions. The job of moral philosophy is to ascertain which of those answers is right (if any) --- or more precisely, to propose a methodology for for doing so. Now, perhaps your response will be, "There is no 'right' answer." In that case you can expect a continuation of the status quo --- where they are answered by one of the default methodologies: "If it feels good, do it," or, "might makes right."
Are you asking what other things moral deliberations are based on? Religion, custom (see the etymology of the term moral), upbringing.
Well, again, you seem to be confusing sociology with moral philosophy. Views on cosmology, biology, chemistry, etc., etc., were also at one time based on religion or custom (and still are for some people). Does that fact call into question the soundness of atomic theory, quantum theory, etc., or of the scientific method?
That is a legal issue, but feelings alone are not legally or morally determinate. Murder by definition means a wrongful killing.
Again, you're evading. Do the judge's feelings have ANY role to play in the decision?

You also have yet to answer another question I posed earlier: "If moral decisions are to be based on intuitions or 'feelings,' upon whose intuitions and feeling should they be based? The Muslim jihadist's? The white supremicist's? The Marxist ideologue's? The Pope's? Donald Trump's?"

You replied that they are "not based on intuitions or feelings, but that they do not exclude them." I then asked upon what you think they are based, and how those feelings or intuition fit in. You've not answered.

Fooloso4
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Re: The Necessity of Moral Realism (Moral Objectivism)

Post by Fooloso4 » November 1st, 2018, 9:56 pm

GE Morton:
We need some clarification here. Yes, feelings do play a role in moral deliberations --- the feelings of the agents affected, but not the feelings of the decision-maker.
If one lacks care and empathy then one may not regard the feelings of others as important and will not be able to relate to them. In considering the feelings of others the decision-makers own feelings come into play. He or she may feel that others do or should feel as they do, care for what they care about, be moved in a way that they feel appropriate.
The answers to those questions, assuming they are expressible, will necessarily be propositions. Those propositions will assert that one of the available options improves the welfare of the affected agents more than the alternatives (or reduces it less).
And some of those affected might prefer one option and some another. The weight given to different aspects of the assumed consequences may vary. What one may see as an improvement another may not.
That proposition will be either true or false …
If it were that simple there would be little or no disagreement regarding moral issues. Principle based moral theory has not resolved those disagreements.
Whether a certain moral rule will increase or reduce the welfare of agents affected by it is no different than the question of whether a certain traffic rule will reduce or increase accidents.
We can agree on the number of accidents by a simple count. What stands as an improvement or reduction of the welfare of agents is a matter of opinion.
The lives of all species differ from those of all other species. Are they all special?
How I might answer and how others would are not the same. Some value some lives more than others. I tend to put human life ahead of that of other species. In any case, this came up in relation to abortion. I do not see the relevance of bringing other species into it.
b) is just a baseless, dogmatic statement.
You may regard the belief that human life should not be taken or only taken in certain situations as baseless and dogmatic, but it is fundamental to most people. I do not know what your moral theory rests on if human life is disregarded.
Well, you seem to be confusing moral philosophy with sociology, or cultural anthropology.
In my opinion the confusion is in thinking that morality should disregard what people hold to be most important, sacred, and valuable.
Yes. The viability-birth interval presents no morally relevant distinctions requiring different treatment.
Are you claiming that there is no moral difference between an abortion is the first and ninth month?
It [a baby] has moral status.
This begs the question. What is the basis for it having moral status? Why does the newborn have moral status and the late stage fetus does not?
Once born the infant is not longer a burden upon the mother, and given that others are willing to adopt, it would be immoral to kill it (for the same reason it would be immoral to euthanize a healthy dog if someone is willing to adopt it).
And if no one is willing to adopt the baby? What if the healthy dog is killed to be eaten?
Well, except for the premarital sex, your examples all indeed raise moral issues.
Premarital sex does raise moral issues for some. The fact that it plays no role in your moral theory does not mean that others do not question the morality of it.
And, of course, different people will arrive at different answers to those questions.
Yes, and that is the point. The answer to moral questions cannot be treated as the equivalent of counting car accidents or whether evolution is true.
The job of moral philosophy is to ascertain which of those answers is right (if any) --- or more precisely, to propose a methodology for for doing so.
I would say that the job of moral philosophy is not to ascertain the right answers but to deliberate about what seems best. Unlike the bivalence of right and wrong, it is not a fixed determination and is subject to change. What is best is, all things considered, what seems preferable to the alternatives. There is no methodology by which to do this. The determination of what is best requires self-reflection on what one takes to be most valuable and important to their life. It requires an acknowledgement that others, whether they too are reflective or not, will have their own goals and ends and things they hope to achieve. It requires that we recognize commonalities and find ways of accommodating differences without undue harm to others.
Well, again, you seem to be confusing sociology with moral philosophy. Views on cosmology, biology, chemistry, etc., etc., were also at one time based on religion or custom (and still are for some people). Does that fact call into question the soundness of atomic theory, quantum theory, etc., or of the scientific method?
You seem to be confusing moral deliberation with objective science. This is the basis of our disagreement. It is dissatisfaction with your approach that has led a significant number of moral philosophers and ethicists to virtue ethics, the ethics of care, non-cognitivism, biology, neuroscience, and so on.
Again, you're evading. Do the judge's feelings have ANY role to play in the decision?
On the contrary. The topic is moral judgment not legal judgment. Unless you can show that they are sufficiently alike the introduction of judges is an evasion. But I will indulge you. I assume you are referring to what judges should do rather than what they may actually do, that you are not talking about judges who are biased by race for example. Yes, contrary to the ideal that justice is blind, the judge’s feelings do play a role. They make judgments about the reliability of witnesses based on demeanor. How a judge weighs the evidence may vary depending on how he or she feels about the defendant - not simply in the sense of liking or disliking them but whether this person seems like someone who would do what they are accused of. The severity of the sentencing might likewise be affected by the judge’s feeling about the defendant's future. How judges weigh the evidence and arguments will differ, otherwise there would be no need for more than one Supreme Court justice. How a judge feels about the rights of women or abortion or guns or cakes and gay marriage can make a difference.
You replied that they are "not based on intuitions or feelings, but that they do not exclude them." I then asked upon what you think they are based, and how those feelings or intuition fit in. You've not answered.
Moral deliberation takes a variety of things into consideration, the possible consequences of choices and actions are decided on a case by case basis. Beliefs, customs, values, all the things you want to throw out, come into play. It may be that there will be no general agreement and no way to arrive at a “right answer”. I do not see this as a defect of moral deliberation but as the condition within which moral deliberation takes place.
In general, to cause harm and suffering is bad, and to minimize them is good. To flourish is good, well-being is good, and these require good health, nourishment, shelter, and so, what promotes their attainment is good and what prevents there attainment is bad.

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