Are right and wrong and the related duties possible without absolutes

Homepage Forums Small Talk Are right and wrong and the related duties possible without absolutes

This topic contains 161 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 1 week, 6 days ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 162 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #39867

    _Robert_
    Participant

    any ethical principle involving a duty, it seems to me, is justified in terms of an absolute, namely The Good.

    You’re right, the entire point of doing anything is to benefit from it. But whose benefit? The self? One’s team-mates or group? There are different classes of values depending on which one it is. There’s also sacredness, so sometimes being ethical means to maximise sacred values of any kind.

    “the greatest good for the greatest number”

    I’m not advocating the greatest good for the greatest number, because, that’s pointless, useless, cruel and unkind. It causes misery for the ones left without. I’m advocating the maximum benefit and minimum harm for each and every person concerned in the situation. Each person is an individual whole world, not a statistic.

    ‘Harm’ and ‘benefit’ are subjective and relative so a slaver can use your logic to do whatever because Africans are beneath him and he is benefiting them in his mind. So ‘benefit’ or ‘harm’ are the just current consensus and hardly absolute. And our so-called ‘good’ today might be ‘harmful’ in thirty years. In fact we may be condemning our species to extinction right now with the way we live, knowing what we know… and we may considered the most wicked of generations by the yet to be born.

    #39868

    Unseen
    Participant

    ‘Harm’ and ‘benefit’ are subjective and relative so a slaver can use your logic to do whatever because Africans are beneath him and he is benefiting them in his mind. So ‘benefit’ or ‘harm’ are the just current consensus and hardly absolute. And our so-called ‘good’ today might be ‘harmful’ in thirty years. In fact we may be condemning our species to extinction right now with the way we live, knowing what we know… and we may considered the most wicked of generations by the yet to be born.

    You’re making some implicit but obvious judgments there. Slavery and slavers are bad. Abusing the environment is irresponsible. So you do refer to absolutes of some sort after all!

    #39869

    jakelafort
    Participant

    From Robert: ‘Harm’ and ‘benefit’ are subjective and relative so a slaver can use your logic to do whatever because Africans are beneath him and he is benefiting them in his mind. So ‘benefit’ or ‘harm’ are the just current consensus and hardly absolute. And our so-called ‘good’ today might be ‘harmful’ in thirty years. In fact we may be condemning our species to extinction right now with the way we live, knowing what we know… and we may considered the most wicked of generations by the yet to be born.

    It would seem there are countless variations on the slaver theme. The slaver’s perspective is predicated on the notion of his group’s superiority. Otherwise guys like Jefferson and Washington would have been abolitionists. The conviction of one’s superiority and concomitant justification to exploit can be based on race, social standing or caste, wealth or any number of things. That is why wartime is rife with propaganda about how the enemy is less than human.( It is a second issue whether one’s perceived superiority is a good justification to exploit.)

    I am not a proponent of ethical/moral systems. Principles that aid our decisions makes more sense to me. Based on the history of exploitation we need to address and ameliorate our nearly universal tendency to hose the unfortunate and less powerful groups. Oh, we humans are a piece of work. Flawed? Good lawd, yes. So it is incumbent on our slaver or actor to posit equality and utilize empathy or some formulation of the golden rule before resorting to the defense of i was just following orders or doing as my contemporaries do.

    #39870

    Unseen
    Participant

    Let’s take a practical situation somewhat analogous to stealing food for one’s child.

    Assume you are a programmer for a big company and I’m working on their financial programs. I see a subtle way to steal small amounts regularly from the company’s retirement fund, a way which is below the threshhold of the system’s built-in antifraud safeguards, sending those proceeds directly to my Bitcoin account, which is for every practical and legal purpose anonymous, although I can withdraw funds from it pretty much at will.

    My wife is dealing with an illness so expensive to treat that it’s, well, beyond my earning power on my regular salary. I love my wife and don’t want her to die.

    How would a situationalist respond and how would (for the lack of a better term) an absolutist respond to this choice?

    Now, I know there may be some here with technical expertise who could point out the impracticality or even impossibility of this example, and to them I say: Don’t attempt an end run around it. For the sake of argument, deal with it assuming it’s a potentially real situation.

    #39871

    Davis
    Moderator

    Unseen, I was clearly referring to absolute moral systems with a pronounced unquestionable set of received rules like the bible or what a dictator says. I do not know if you are referring to duty re: virtue ethics, deontological ethics or some other system. If it is one of the earlier two, they are NOT absolute moral systems and are not necessarily garbage.

    #39872

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, I think you need to acquaint yourself a little more thoroughly with the more well discussed moral systems. You keep saying things that are strange explanations of terms used in moral systems:

    • A duty is ideal performance that we owe to others and ourselves
    • There are no absolute moral principles, although there are absolute, abstract features of morality, like duty.
    • Does all of ethics boil down to The Good, singular?  That would be the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to all concerned.

    And this statement leads me to believe that you need to work a little more on even basic terms:

    I think it’s possible to construct an ethical system on what humans find normative

    #39873

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Let’s take a practical situation somewhat analogous to stealing food for one’s child. Assume you are a programmer for a big company and I’m working on their financial programs. I see a subtle way to steal small amounts regularly from the company’s retirement fund, a way which is below the threshhold of the system’s built-in antifraud safeguards, sending those proceeds directly to my Bitcoin account, which is for every practical and legal purpose anonymous, although I can withdraw funds from it pretty much at will. My wife is dealing with an illness so expensive to treat that it’s, well, beyond my earning power on my regular salary. I love my wife and don’t want her to die. How would a situationalist respond and how would (for the lack of a better term) an absolutist respond to this choice? Now, I know there may be some here with technical expertise who could point out the impracticality or even impossibility of this example, and to them I say: Don’t attempt an end run around it. For the sake of argument, deal with it assuming it’s a potentially real situation.

    You could make ethical arguments to justify his actions. They would tend to be situational because of the wife’s illness is a terrible situation and his intentions are good but you could also use the seemingly absolute argument that he is exhibiting altruistic love; the most important human quality and thus the greater good is being served.

    You can make arguments against his actions from either point of view as well. Stealing is absolutely just wrong….or you could say in his particular situation it is really only wrong because it is a retirement fund and there may be other people who need the money even more than he does.

    Guess it is up to a local consensus of ape brains to decide because the balance of the known universe is incapable of doing anything.

     

    #39875

    Unseen
    Participant

    My example above of the programmer who can steal from his employer with anonymity is a more current example out of Plato’s The Republic.

    It’s called The Ring of Gyges.

    One of the most famous discussions of justice occurs in Book 2 of Plato’s The Republic where Socrates’ interlocutor in the dialogue, Glaucon, argues that there is no intrinsic reason to be just. The only reason to be just is to avoid the consequences of unjust actions. In making this point, Glaucon also highlights an anthropological underpinning for this view, namely the idea that people are largely selfishly motivated. He raises the issues of justice (from a perspective that Plato will reject) against the backdrop of a story that was well-known in Greece, the story of Gyges’ ring.

    According to the story, Gyges, a young shepherd in the service of the King of Lydia was out with his flock one day when a great storm occurred. Near to where he was tending sheep, there was an earthquake, opening a crevice into the ground. Gyges descended into the crevice where he found, among other things, a bronze horse, with doors. Opening the doors, Gyges saw a human skeletal form possessing a golden ring. Gyges took the ring and ascended from the opening. Later in the month at a gathering of the shepherds of the King, Gyges noticed that twisting the ring on his finger, he disappeared. Those around him began speaking of him as if he weren’t there. Repeating this trial, it worked each time. Now, having acquired this new ability to become invisible, Gyges arranged to become a messenger sent to court. Once in court, Gyges used his magic ring to gain the graces of the queen, who he seduced. With the power to go undetected, he then managed to conspire with the queen to kill the king and to take over the kingdom.

    Any man with similar power, Gyges maintains, would do the same. If we could get away with crimes that advanced our interest, we would all do so. The only reason that we are just is that we do not possess such magical rings and we thus would suffer negative consequences for acts of injustice. The implication of the story is that being just is not fundamentally in our interest. It is something we do as a compromise because we cannot get away with injustice. In short, no one is just for intrinsic reasons. (source)

    Notice the difference between my example and that of Gyges and his ring, though. The programmer had a, well, semi-unselfish reason for acting: saving his wife. Gyges proposes that the programmer wouldn’t even need that ethical fig leaf. If he can do it, why not just do it.  Why worry about it?

    #39877

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    the more well discussed moral systems

    They don’t seem to help me, when thinking about duty, or the Good, or normativity, or anything to do with morality.  With evolutionary ethics, I can examine those things directly.

    #39878

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    ‘Harm’ and ‘benefit’ are subjective and relative so a slaver can use your logic to do whatever because Africans are beneath him and he is benefiting them in his mind. So ‘benefit’ or ‘harm’ are the just current consensus and hardly absolute.

    But like Shermer says, ask the slave what they think about it.  They’re the one who is being benefited or harmed.  Also, if the slave owner is prosocial, he or she will modify his or her behaviour over time, as they find out that their behaviour is causing harm.

    It is absolute to respect people to the extent of not harming them unnecessarily.  That could be considered an absolute Good.

    #39879

    _Robert_
    Participant

    But like Shermer says, ask the slave what they think about it.  They’re the one who is being benefited or harmed.

    Why would a slaver consider doing that? To them it would be like consulting with cattle. In fact the founding fathers of the US had similar (but less drastic) thoughts about their constituencies; thus the electoral college.

    I think we have an huge voting block that consistently harms themselves, voting against their own interests while chasing some absolute idealist goals setup by dictators, be they celestial or Earthly . The idea that there is some absolute morality can only lead to some absolute authority who imparts justice.

    Strong idealism is the realm of religion and that has cause misery beyond our comprehension.

    #39880

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, something can not be of use to you if you put little to no effort into really understanding them. Why should people take your own moral/ethical concepts seriously when you won’t put an effort into getting at least a basic grasp on the standard language and concepts?

    Secondly, you are using terms in your own way  which is extremely confusing to everyone else. If you cannot take the time to get acquainted with these terms, then invent your own. Not learning about what terms actually refer to and adopting them yourself in your own different way will not lead to anything useful.

    Thirdly, from what I can gather, you are really just reinventing the wheel with your moral system, only ending up with problems all your predecessors have encountered only have attempted to resolve better than you have. That is…your stubbornness to acquaint yourself with even a survey of the last 2500 years of moral systems, has led you to very badly reinventing the wheel.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks ago by  Davis.
    #39882

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    As I see it, the present state of affairs is a crude lumpy model of a wheel, that doesn’t turn.  The wheel has not been invented yet.

    I’ve described morality by its parts, and then drawn conclusions from surveying that landscape.  In doing so, I have produced a fully functioning cart.

    #39883

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Robert writes: I think we have an huge voting block that consistently harms themselves, voting against their own interests while chasing some absolute idealist goals setup by dictators, be they celestial or Earthly . The idea that there is some absolute morality can only lead to some absolute authority who imparts justice.

    Strong idealism is the realm of religion and that has cause misery beyond our comprehension.

    Quite right. It is childlike, even infantile, to believe that a divine entity sets forth immutable morality and is judging our observance of its commands. Some of us may view our parents in that way as little ones. But when we mature we realize how flawed our parents are. Similarly when we grow intellectually we realize human constructs of mythology are unrelated to anything real.

    It is commonplace among theists to believe deeply that morality is only achieved through following their gods. Equating morality with religion is imparted as the sine qua non of a good person. Even a cursory examination of the do’s and dont’s of religions informs the rational person how absurd it is to buy into their BS. Any intelligent person can compose a better set of principles to live by.

    #39884

    Unseen
    Participant

    What is an “ethical absolute”?

    To Plato, it’s what he called a “form.” Forms are the only truly real things in Plato’s theory. The world of everyday life is little more than an array of shadows cast by forms. To him, forms are  abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space

    I trust that’s not what most of us mean by absolutes.

    How about this?: An ethical absolute is an inviolable value or principle by which human choices are made or according to which actions are evaluated.

    Can you criticize this or propose a better one?

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 162 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.