Are right and wrong and the related duties possible without absolutes

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This topic contains 161 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 1 week, 4 days ago.

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  • #39995

    jakelafort
    Participant

    The social contract? Is it an absolute? No. It is a construct.

    Are ethical precepts or rules absolute? Is there some ethereal zone in which one can find such? Of course not. It is just the application of reason to abstract concepts. However, the conclusion i’ve reached does not invalidate ethical precepts. It simply is a matter of forming ethical precepts based on reason, unavoidably influenced by contemporary thought and cultural mores.

    #39996

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    What you believe is irrelevant to this conversation. Maybe it belongs in another discussion but it has no place here. So, unless you want to be ignored by me anyway, you’d better get with the program and discuss the topic at hand. For starters, just say whether you believe in absolutes which are overarching inviolable ethical absolutes and explain why do or don’t believe in them. Absolutes are always true. They were true before there were humans and will be true till the end of time, just like the rules of arithmetic.

    If you want to know what I believe, then the answer is no, there can be no such thing except if God exists.  If morality is a description of the psychology and behaviour of social animals, how can it exist outside of that realm?  Except in a theoretical sense, in the minds or text books of thinking beings.

    #39997

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Go back to the example of the expert swimmer who doesn’t want to miss out on the new iPhone but sees someone drowning in a lake on his way. If he has a duty to save that life, where does that duty come from? What makes it a duty?

    I believe that a “duty” is 1) what we expect of ourselves; and 2) what others expect of us.  So, we would want to save the drowning person, and others would expect it of us.  Why is this?  Because of moral instincts or intuitions.  In this case, helping in response to need, which I maintain is a fundamental human instinct.  Even a psychopath will help others in need when there is no benefit to themselves.

    The instinct to help others in the vicinity comes from when we lived in small groups, for most of the past 2 million years, and needed others personally for survival and thriving.  So, evolution endowed us with 1) empathic concern; 2) an evolved motivation to help.

    #39998

    _Robert_
    Participant

    The social contract? Is it an absolute? No. It is a construct. Are ethical precepts or rules absolute? Is there some ethereal zone in which one can find such? Of course not. It is just the application of reason to abstract concepts. However, the conclusion i’ve reached does not invalidate ethical precepts. It simply is a matter of forming ethical precepts based on reason, unavoidably influenced by contemporary thought and cultural mores.

    This is the answer. We punish those who break that unwritten social contract. Military deserters are called cowards and worse. The morality for a soldier ant is to do his “duty” to protect the queen who in turn has all the reproductive “duties”. And all without an “ant god”. Socialized insects dominate the planet in some ways. Their social contract is more rigid than ours and they don’t get to muse about “divine morality”.

    #39999

    Unseen
    Participant

    The social contract? Is it an absolute? No. It is a construct. Are ethical precepts or rules absolute? Is there some ethereal zone in which one can find such? Of course not. It is just the application of reason to abstract concepts. However, the conclusion i’ve reached does not invalidate ethical precepts. It simply is a matter of forming ethical precepts based on reason, unavoidably influenced by contemporary thought and cultural mores.

    “Simply” makes it sound easy and generally justifiable, LOL, when in fact it’s the more powerful opinion lording it over the less powerful one. Reason exists as the servant of motive. Do you see the advantage if ethical absolutes actually exist?

     

    #40000

    Unseen
    Participant

    What you believe is irrelevant to this conversation. Maybe it belongs in another discussion but it has no place here. So, unless you want to be ignored by me anyway, you’d better get with the program and discuss the topic at hand. For starters, just say whether you believe in absolutes which are overarching inviolable ethical absolutes and explain why do or don’t believe in them. Absolutes are always true. They were true before there were humans and will be true till the end of time, just like the rules of arithmetic.

    If you want to know what I believe, then the answer is no, there can be no such thing except if God exists. If morality is a description of the psychology and behaviour of social animals, how can it exist outside of that realm? Except in a theoretical sense, in the minds or text books of thinking beings.

    No, the notion of ethical absolutes doesn’t depend on God. It CAN but it needn’t. Like Plato’s forms, they can just exist as metaphysical facts.

    #40001

    Unseen
    Participant

    Go back to the example of the expert swimmer who doesn’t want to miss out on the new iPhone but sees someone drowning in a lake on his way. If he has a duty to save that life, where does that duty come from? What makes it a duty?

    I believe that a “duty” is 1) what we expect of ourselves; and 2) what others expect of us. So, we would want to save the drowning person, and others would expect it of us. Why is this? Because of moral instincts or intuitions. In this case, helping in response to need, which I maintain is a fundamental human instinct. Even a psychopath will help others in need when there is no benefit to themselves. The instinct to help others in the vicinity comes from when we lived in small groups, for most of the past 2 million years, and needed others personally for survival and thriving. So, evolution endowed us with 1) empathic concern; 2) an evolved motivation to help.

    Maybe you could start by phrasing things more affirmatively rather than couching it in your belief system. Just say absolute ethical absolutes do/don’t exist and state why before you offer an alternative system.

    #40002

    Unseen
    Participant

    The social contract? Is it an absolute? No. It is a construct. Are ethical precepts or rules absolute? Is there some ethereal zone in which one can find such? Of course not. It is just the application of reason to abstract concepts. However, the conclusion i’ve reached does not invalidate ethical precepts. It simply is a matter of forming ethical precepts based on reason, unavoidably influenced by contemporary thought and cultural mores.

    This is the answer. We punish those who break that unwritten social contract. Military deserters are called cowards and worse. The morality for a soldier ant is to do his “duty” to protect the queen who in turn has all the reproductive “duties”. And all without an “ant god”. Socialized insects dominate the planet in some ways. Their social contract is more rigid than ours and they don’t get to muse about “divine morality”.

    That’s the answer to a problem that wasn’t asked, that being can you have an ethical system without absolutes? Implicit is the position you’re taking is that there aren’t or can’t be ethical absolutes but you offer no evidence much less proof. You can make ethical judgments based on opinion and attitudes, individual or social, but those aren’t systems, they are ad hoc and ad hoc can vary widely from place to place with wildly different senses of what duties need to be carried out.

    What ethical philosophy wants is a system that allows one to make judgments which are facts, not opinions. Making judgment is easy. Making a true one is hard.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 5 days ago by  Unseen.
    #40004

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen, the notion of ethical absolutes is as far as i can see chimerical. Sure i see the advantage provided the absolutes are well conceived.

    I think experts in various field could use their expertise to draft precepts. They would be far from absolute and incorporate the plasticity of a constitution or any other field where knowledge is layered.

    #40005

    _Robert_
    Participant

    That’s the answer to a problem that wasn’t asked, that being can you have an ethical system without absolutes? Implicit is the position you’re taking is that there aren’t or can’t be ethical absolutes but you offer no evidence much less proof.

    I answered this question already…the only duty close to anything absolute is to survive and reproduce. The social contract is the mechanism to enhance survival. Thought you could connect the dots. Everything else ethics-wise is relative to the your and your group’s survival. Including dropping atomic weapons on enemy woman and children.

    #40006

    Unseen
    Participant

    Unseen, the notion of ethical absolutes is as far as i can see chimerical. Sure i see the advantage provided the absolutes are well conceived.

    I think experts in various field could use their expertise to draft precepts. They would be far from absolute and incorporate the plasticity of a constitution or any other field where knowledge is layered.

    I’m a little perplexed by your second graph. Are you saying experts DO use their expertise to draft precepts or that this is what’s needed?

    Who is an ethical “expert”? Or are you thinking of expertise from other fields?

    #40007

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Like Plato’s forms, they can just exist as metaphysical facts.

    Surely you mean metaphysical concepts.  A fact is something that by definition has some kind of existence.

    #40008

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Lets see. I would include philosophers, neuroscientists, social psychologists and perhaps artificial intelligence. I am saying it is a way to arrive at something reasonable. They wont have the cozy absolutist feelings of a mythical stone tablet with the ten commandments. But it is the best we can do. Just guidance.

    #40009

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Just say absolute ethical absolutes do/don’t exist and state why

    I think that ethical absolutes in the sense you’re talking about do not exist.  They don’t have any medium within which to exist.

    Mathematics and logic surely exist within the medium of physical logic, or at least originate in it, so mathematics and logic can be said to express truth.  The same can not be said of morality.  The only medium within which it can exist is in the psychology and behaviour of humans, and their culture.

    #40010

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    If someone travels to Mars or Pluto, or the Andromeda galaxy – is it still wrong to torture children for fun, in all those places?  If there were no people and no children there.

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