What is this school of ethics called?

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BertNewton
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What is this school of ethics called?

Post by BertNewton » July 22nd, 2020, 5:04 am

Hi,

Long ago I came across (I vaguely remember doing, at least) a school of ethics that was somewhat like utilitarianism but instead of favouirng the maximum pleasure it attempted to favour the most just. The reason why I am asking is because I thought up some principles of morality, thought it was cool, then thought it may exist already. It goes like:

I was trying to think of how morality could be objective because moral relativism (or should I say, moral relativists) make me uncomfortable. I know it's wrong that a religion causes people to throw homosexuals from rooftops because they are homosexual, or throw acid in the face of a child for reading a book, and I know how (the pleasure principle) but I can't justify how to give imperatives without being subjective.

Then wondered why objectivity wasn't used in subjective morality anyhow? That is, why don't we use science (as much as we can) to resolve moral issues? I know this has been said before and I do like the work of Sam Harris but I'm not sure if he quite nails this point. We do this every day in courthouses. If someone is suspected of murder they are given a trial where as much evidence is given to help find the truth. And while subjectivity will no doubt creep in, it does replicate somewhat the scientific method; at least they are looking for facts, as much as possible. Why not in ethics?

The reason why I feel uncomfortable with moral relativists is because they generally end up taking one of two stances regarding harm:
  • It's all in the eye of the beholder. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserved to die because they offended someones religion
or
  • I believe it's wrong because my society told me so, but they believe it's right because that's what their society told them so, so I can make no objective claims against it.
What if?.....We use science to find the cause of a harmful action and dismiss highly subjective claims in favour of objective facts?

In Papua New Guinea it is traditional for tribal men to accuse woman of witchcraft if a village member dies prematurely. They then torture the accused with burning irons for days on end. In Islam they kill homosexuals, apostates, and rape non-believers, in Christianity they circumcise, etc. All these actions can be scientifically proven to be incorrect: The PNG person who died prematurely can have an autopsy (this has actually been done, and of course, they find the man died of natural causes), the Islamists act on a subjective source, and is there any evidence circumcision is beneficial?

Now I'm not saying we should go and invade those countries and sort them out, but rather, now moral relativists can have the following attitude towards harmful behaviour:
  • I don't believe it's correct and it can objectively proven by science
...and I will feel a lot more comfortable around my fellow moral relativists. Anyway, that is a long way of asking: does a system like this already exist or something close?

Thanks.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Pattern-chaser » July 23rd, 2020, 9:44 am

As one example: please describe objectively why it is morally wrong to "throw homosexuals from rooftops". When you have your first answer, ask "why?" again, maybe five times. I think this will illustrate the difficulty of your chosen course.

Of course I do not condone throwing anyone off a roof, I condemn it, but on wholly subjective moral grounds. I am human, and I think and judge subjectively. It's what I am and what I do. ... It's what we are, and what we do. Objectivity is impartial, unbiased and mind-independent; humans are none of these things, although we can approach them a little if we try hard.
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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by h_k_s » July 23rd, 2020, 7:20 pm

BertNewton wrote:
July 22nd, 2020, 5:04 am
Hi,

Long ago I came across (I vaguely remember doing, at least) a school of ethics that was somewhat like utilitarianism but instead of favouirng the maximum pleasure it attempted to favour the most just. The reason why I am asking is because I thought up some principles of morality, thought it was cool, then thought it may exist already. It goes like:

I was trying to think of how morality could be objective because moral relativism (or should I say, moral relativists) make me uncomfortable. I know it's wrong that a religion causes people to throw homosexuals from rooftops because they are homosexual, or throw acid in the face of a child for reading a book, and I know how (the pleasure principle) but I can't justify how to give imperatives without being subjective.

Then wondered why objectivity wasn't used in subjective morality anyhow? That is, why don't we use science (as much as we can) to resolve moral issues? I know this has been said before and I do like the work of Sam Harris but I'm not sure if he quite nails this point. We do this every day in courthouses. If someone is suspected of murder they are given a trial where as much evidence is given to help find the truth. And while subjectivity will no doubt creep in, it does replicate somewhat the scientific method; at least they are looking for facts, as much as possible. Why not in ethics?

The reason why I feel uncomfortable with moral relativists is because they generally end up taking one of two stances regarding harm:
  • It's all in the eye of the beholder. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserved to die because they offended someones religion
or
  • I believe it's wrong because my society told me so, but they believe it's right because that's what their society told them so, so I can make no objective claims against it.
What if?.....We use science to find the cause of a harmful action and dismiss highly subjective claims in favour of objective facts?

In Papua New Guinea it is traditional for tribal men to accuse woman of witchcraft if a village member dies prematurely. They then torture the accused with burning irons for days on end. In Islam they kill homosexuals, apostates, and rape non-believers, in Christianity they circumcise, etc. All these actions can be scientifically proven to be incorrect: The PNG person who died prematurely can have an autopsy (this has actually been done, and of course, they find the man died of natural causes), the Islamists act on a subjective source, and is there any evidence circumcision is beneficial?

Now I'm not saying we should go and invade those countries and sort them out, but rather, now moral relativists can have the following attitude towards harmful behaviour:
  • I don't believe it's correct and it can objectively proven by science
...and I will feel a lot more comfortable around my fellow moral relativists. Anyway, that is a long way of asking: does a system like this already exist or something close?

Thanks.
Depends on the religion. Islam is very pro homo.

Whereas fundamentalist Christianity (within Protestantism) is anti homo.

And some Christian religions like the U.S. Episcopalians have homo female and male ministers.

So if homo you just gotta be careful where you go where nobody will throw you off a rooftop for being different.

A better example would be abortion or capital punishment. Both of these are very controversial.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by BertNewton » July 23rd, 2020, 8:20 pm

As one example: please describe objectively why it is morally wrong to "throw homosexuals from rooftops". When you have your first answer, ask "why?" again, maybe five times. I think this will illustrate the difficulty of your chosen course.
I mean objective in the scientific sense.

Yes, I do believe that's why I mentioned Harris because as I think he makes the is-ought leap. He accepts the subjectivity of "it's wrong to harm others" but then says that if we accept that then we can be objective as to whether harm is occurring.

I don't have a problem with this and was asking what the school of thought would be called. Of course, if you can show me a purely objective moral system then i would be interested too.
Islam is very pro homo.
No it is not.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 23rd, 2020, 11:17 pm

The objective goal of morality is to produce the best good and the least harm for everyone. At least, that's the ultimate position that everyone must fall back to when comparing two rules or courses of action.

Consider two rules. One rule says that runaway slaves must be returned to their masters. Another rule says that slavery must be abolished. How do we judge which rule is best?

Well, slavery had some economic benefits that were good for the plantation owners. But slavery also inflicted considerable harm upon the black people who were abducted and enslaved. If we outlawed slavery, then no plantation owner would suffer any long-term loss, because all plantation owners would incur the same additional cost of using paid labor. And, if we outlawed slavery, then all of the harms that were inflicted upon the slaves would be alleviated. Therefore, abolishing slavery was objectively a morally better rule than supporting it.

So, that's objective moral judgment.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 24th, 2020, 6:23 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 23rd, 2020, 9:44 am
As one example: please describe objectively why it is morally wrong to "throw homosexuals from rooftops". When you have your first answer, ask "why?" again, maybe five times. I think this will illustrate the difficulty of your chosen course.

Of course I do not condone throwing anyone off a roof, I condemn it, but on wholly subjective moral grounds. I am human, and I think and judge subjectively. It's what I am and what I do. ... It's what we are, and what we do. Objectivity is impartial, unbiased and mind-independent; humans are none of these things, although we can approach them a little if we try hard.
I don't think your grounds are subjective. I think you object to throwing people off a roof because it causes unnecessary harm. Thus, to achieve the best good and least harm for everyone, it comes in second to every other rule, such as the rule that two consenting adults may do what they please.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 24th, 2020, 6:28 am

h_k_s wrote:
July 23rd, 2020, 7:20 pm
...
A better example would be abortion or capital punishment. Both of these are very controversial.
So, how would one go about deciding whether abortion or capital should be allowed (rule 1) or disallowed (rule 2). What is the criteria for comparing these two rules in those two cases?

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Pattern-chaser » July 24th, 2020, 9:19 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 6:23 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 23rd, 2020, 9:44 am
As one example: please describe objectively why it is morally wrong to "throw homosexuals from rooftops". When you have your first answer, ask "why?" again, maybe five times. I think this will illustrate the difficulty of your chosen course.

Of course I do not condone throwing anyone off a roof, I condemn it, but on wholly subjective moral grounds. I am human, and I think and judge subjectively. It's what I am and what I do. ... It's what we are, and what we do. Objectivity is impartial, unbiased and mind-independent; humans are none of these things, although we can approach them a little if we try hard.
I don't think your grounds are subjective. I think you object to throwing people off a roof because it causes unnecessary harm. Thus, to achieve the best good and least harm for everyone, it comes in second to every other rule, such as the rule that two consenting adults may do what they please.
If you want to know what I think, just ask. As it is, you don't know what I think, or why I think it. To inform any future references you might wish to make, I will tell you that my personal moral code is based upon fairness and justice for all living things (without favour to any one sort of life), everywhere.

So I object to throwing people off rooves, unless there is a just and fair reason why it should be done. Just and fair to all.

And yet I understand that you might behave according to quite different standards, and that your (subjective) standards are not superior or inferior to my own (subjective) standards. Happily for our societies, we seem able to agree on many moral issues, so our behaviour is governed, in general, by the same standards. Co-operation within a subjective framework, as has been the case more or less throughout all of human history. It's how we humans operate.
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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 24th, 2020, 10:49 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 9:19 am

So I object to throwing people off rooves, unless there is a just and fair reason why it should be done. Just and fair to all.

And yet I understand that you might behave according to quite different standards, and that your (subjective) standards are not superior or inferior to my own (subjective) standards. Happily for our societies, we seem able to agree on many moral issues, so our behaviour is governed, in general, by the same standards. Co-operation within a subjective framework, as has been the case more or less throughout all of human history. It's how we humans operate.
Yet the only way that cooperation is possible will be due to a shared understanding of the key rule: that our goal is to achieve the best good and the least harm for everyone. If there is no shared understanding then there will be no agreement.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Pattern-chaser » July 24th, 2020, 11:35 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 10:49 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 9:19 am

So I object to throwing people off rooves, unless there is a just and fair reason why it should be done. Just and fair to all.

And yet I understand that you might behave according to quite different standards, and that your (subjective) standards are not superior or inferior to my own (subjective) standards. Happily for our societies, we seem able to agree on many moral issues, so our behaviour is governed, in general, by the same standards. Co-operation within a subjective framework, as has been the case more or less throughout all of human history. It's how we humans operate.
Yet the only way that cooperation is possible will be due to a shared understanding of the key rule: that our goal is to achieve the best good and the least harm for everyone. If there is no shared understanding then there will be no agreement.
Please stop restating your personal moral code in a way that suggests that I have accepted it as correct. I have not. Your code is no better than anyone else's, except to you, of course. Our societies have reached agreement, in general terms, on moral issues. It is not at all clear that they (we) have accepted any one interpretation of what a moral code should be.
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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by LuckyR » July 24th, 2020, 1:28 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 23rd, 2020, 9:44 am
As one example: please describe objectively why it is morally wrong to "throw homosexuals from rooftops". When you have your first answer, ask "why?" again, maybe five times. I think this will illustrate the difficulty of your chosen course.

Of course I do not condone throwing anyone off a roof, I condemn it, but on wholly subjective moral grounds. I am human, and I think and judge subjectively. It's what I am and what I do. ... It's what we are, and what we do. Objectivity is impartial, unbiased and mind-independent; humans are none of these things, although we can approach them a little if we try hard.
Great post. Humans are subjective as mentioned though the norm here on planet Earth is objective self interest. Essentially all other life forms treat other species and often members of their own species with zero regard to anything else but their individual or colony's ability to pass along their genetic material. Our outlier viewpoint is IMO "better", than pure self interest, but is just my subjective opinion.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 24th, 2020, 2:01 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 11:35 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 10:49 am
Yet the only way that cooperation is possible will be due to a shared understanding of the key rule: that our goal is to achieve the best good and the least harm for everyone. If there is no shared understanding then there will be no agreement.
Please stop restating your personal moral code in a way that suggests that I have accepted it as correct. I have not. Your code is no better than anyone else's, except to you, of course. Our societies have reached agreement, in general terms, on moral issues. It is not at all clear that they (we) have accepted any one interpretation of what a moral code should be.
Whether you accept it or not, you will apply it. The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. That's the rule that justifies or rejects every other rule. It's like the Great Commandment in Matthew 22: 35-40 (which is basically where it comes from).

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Sculptor1 » July 24th, 2020, 2:13 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 2:01 pm
Pattern-chaser wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 11:35 am


Please stop restating your personal moral code in a way that suggests that I have accepted it as correct. I have not. Your code is no better than anyone else's, except to you, of course. Our societies have reached agreement, in general terms, on moral issues. It is not at all clear that they (we) have accepted any one interpretation of what a moral code should be.
Whether you accept it or not, you will apply it. The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. That's the rule that justifies or rejects every other rule. It's like the Great Commandment in Matthew 22: 35-40 (which is basically where it comes from).
No,no, no.

You do not get to infer THIS "The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. "
FROM THIS
Mathew 22 35ff-
This says nothing about who, exactly is yout neighbour does it?
Sadly I'm not a "son of David" so do not qalify as a neighbour.
ANd the bit about loving god throws a massive spanner in the works.

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » July 24th, 2020, 2:27 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 2:13 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 2:01 pm


Whether you accept it or not, you will apply it. The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. That's the rule that justifies or rejects every other rule. It's like the Great Commandment in Matthew 22: 35-40 (which is basically where it comes from).
No,no, no.

You do not get to infer THIS "The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. "
FROM THIS
Mathew 22 35ff-
This says nothing about who, exactly is yout neighbour does it?
Sadly I'm not a "son of David" so do not qalify as a neighbour.
ANd the bit about loving god throws a massive spanner in the works.
The Humanist paraphrase is "Love Good and love Good for others as you love it for yourself. All other rules derive from these two."

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Re: What is this school of ethics called?

Post by Sculptor1 » July 24th, 2020, 5:12 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 2:27 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
July 24th, 2020, 2:13 pm

No,no, no.

You do not get to infer THIS "The best good and least harm for everyone is the only criteria that everyone can agree to. That's the rule that is behind every other rule. "
FROM THIS
Mathew 22 35ff-
This says nothing about who, exactly is yout neighbour does it?
Sadly I'm not a "son of David" so do not qalify as a neighbour.
ANd the bit about loving god throws a massive spanner in the works.
The Humanist paraphrase is "Love Good and love Good for others as you love it for yourself. All other rules derive from these two."
Not sure what your point is here

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