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 7 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #39961

    Unseen
    Participant

    If there were no more priests around to hear the confessional – would the confidentiality of the confessional still be an overarching ethical absolute?

    That’s the question we’re supposedly discussing here: Can there even be ethical absolutes of that nature, or are all absolutes contingent and not necessary?

    Do you have an answer?

    #39962

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    This question is, is moral realism real?  Is human morality baked into the fabric of the universe?  In my opinion, that possibility is bizarre and religious.  But that isn’t an argument against it.  I think it’s hard to argue against it, except to observe that “value needs a valuer”, and therefore, ethical absolutes are contingent (they need a carrier agent within which to exist) as you put it.

    Although, I don’t think that “true” is synonymous with “necessary”.  However, in this case, I can see what you mean in a way.  If it is true that something is real then it necessarily follows that it exists in some sense.

    What do you mean by contingent versus necessary?

    The complicated thing is that morality does exist in some sense, but it requires moral agents (biological beings) within which to exist.  Objective, “real” morality is the illusion we possess, of the local morality, which involves the generalised perspective of the in-group (objective norms and justice), overlaid on top of the universal human morality of altruism and fairness and group-mindedness etc.  Not only that, but norms are what we do in order to thrive, survive, and reproduce, cooperatively, competitively, fairly etc.  So norms have a physically objective component that is of the real universe.  So, ethics have roots in reality but they are not themselves part of the fabrice of the universe.  They are more of an emergent property of physical facts.

    #39963

    Unseen
    Participant

    This question is, is moral realism real? Is human morality baked into the fabric of the universe? In my opinion, that possibility is bizarre and religious. But that isn’t an argument against it. I think it’s hard to argue against it, except to observe that “value needs a valuer”, and therefore, ethical absolutes are contingent (they need a carrier agent within which to exist) as you put it.

    I’d like to resist a needless expansion of the vocabulary we use. I’ve never used the word “real.” Likewise, “baked into the fabric of the universe” seems both vague and a bit over the top.

    Although, I don’t think that “true” is synonymous with “necessary”. However, in this case, I can see what you mean in a way. If it is true that something is real then it necessarily follows that it exists in some sense.

    I would never say that true is synonymous with necessary. In fact, truth is a broad concept that embraces both contingencies and necessities.

    What do you mean by contingent versus necessary?

    Simon, you really do need that Philo 101 course. This is pretty basic stuff. Contingencies are things which are but might be otherwise. Necessities are things which cannot be other than they are. These are facts of two fundamentally different kinds and both are in principle discoverable. A contingent fact is what it is at a certain time and place. My blue bedspread might be replaced by a green one tomorrow or might not. You’d have to look tomorrow. On the other hand, once you discover a mathematical fact, for example, you are stuck with it. It can’t be different tomorrow.

    The complicated thing is that morality does exist in some sense, but it requires moral agents (biological beings) within which to exist. Objective, “real” morality is the illusion we possess, of the local morality, which involves the generalised perspective of the in-group (objective norms and justice), overlaid on top of the universal human morality of altruism and fairness and group-mindedness etc. Not only that, but norms are what we do in order to thrive, survive, and reproduce, cooperatively, competitively, fairly etc. So norms have a physically objective component that is of the real universe. So, ethics have roots in reality but they are not themselves part of the fabrice of the universe. They are more of an emergent property of physical facts.

    I keep getting the impression that all of your views amount to a vast confusion of the two sorts of ethical bases. You use terms which don’t apply and confuse, “objective” and “real” come to mind. You place a lot of weight on some traits (altruism, fairness, cooperation) being inevitable in terms of human social evolution, but that doesn’t make any of those concepts necessary, for any of them could conceivably be otherwise.

    #39964

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    contingent versus necessary

    Then morality is a cross between the two.  Given the contingent facts, then the fundamental structure of the way it’s put together is necessary.  The facts aren’t anything other than what they are.  The structure of morality has to be the way it is, given the facts.

    #39965

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    the word “real.” Likewise, “baked into the fabric of the universe”

    The age-old philosophical question is, in what sense are moral statements true, in what sense is morality real?  Does it exist in the mind of God, or only in the minds of people?  (and their culture?)  Philosophers cling on to this idea of “moral truth”, and it screws them up and hampers their thinking – as if “murder is wrong” has the same status as “2+2 = 4”, or “the sun is 93 million miles away”.

    #39966

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Our millions and millions of years of development are only about eating other living things and not getting eaten yourself to enable reproduction. Suddenly some monkey-like creatures discovered the universe didn’t really care for all that and wants you to be “good”. Fucking nonsense.

    #39967

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Here’s another super-duper article by John Teehan, about the relationship between secular and religious ethics.

    https://www.academia.edu/30951985/Ethics_Secular_and_Religious_An_Evolved_Cognitive_Analysis

    To live in a secular age is to live our lives and pursue our goods within an “immanent frame.” The key feature of the “immanent frame” is that belief in God, or in the transcendent in any form, is contested; it is an option among many; it is therefore fragile; for some people in some milieus, it is difficult, even “weird.” 500 years ago in Western civilization, this wasn’t so. Unbelief was off the map, close to inconceivable, for most people.

    #39968

    jakelafort
    Participant

    No, on that definition of contingencies: Contingencies are things which are but might be otherwise.

    That word comes up often in law. It aint what is-it is not a state of being. It is about what may occur. I will shoot him in the nuts contingent on that rat bastard ratting me out. What are the contingencies in the springing power of attorney? He cedes power over his financial affairs to Jack Black if he is deemed incompetent by two physicians.

    #39969

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    What I mean is, the facts are arbitrary – they may or may not occur – but what type of morality you get as a result, depends on those facts.

    I find that this is a problem, and a source of confusion in philosophy – people rely on a certain technical word, which can have several shades of meaning – instead of plain English explanations.  I think that this is one reason why philosophy, and especially moral philosophy, tends not to get anywhere.

    #39972

    Unseen
    Participant

    contingent versus necessary

    Then morality is a cross between the two. Given the contingent facts, then the fundamental structure of the way it’s put together is necessary. The facts aren’t anything other than what they are. The structure of morality has to be the way it is, given the facts.

    “The facts aren’t anything other than what they are,” but they can be because they are contingencies. What is true today in the real world of facts can be different tomorrow.

    In a different sense an ethical absolute is what it is as well. “It is what it is” is a common idiomatic expression that means very little to our discussion here. Why? Because it’s a tautology.

    Do you believe there are ethical absolutes independent of any facts, those facts including human contingencies like local attitudes and norms about values and behavior, traditions, customs, fears, prejudices, etc.?

    Take a stand.

    #39973

    Unseen
    Participant

    the word “real.” Likewise, “baked into the fabric of the universe”

    The age-old philosophical question is, in what sense are moral statements true, in what sense is morality real? Does it exist in the mind of God, or only in the minds of people? (and their culture?) Philosophers cling on to this idea of “moral truth”, and it screws them up and hampers their thinking – as if “murder is wrong” has the same status as “2+2 = 4”, or “the sun is 93 million miles away”.

    So you disbelieve in ethical absolutes and there is no such thing as actual right and wrong. Right and wrong are contingencies determined by individuals or social groups and are not in any way facts, which can be true or false in the sense of being true or false for everyone,  and provably so(?).

    #39974

    Unseen
    Participant

    Our millions and millions of years of development are only about eating other living things and not getting eaten yourself to enable reproduction. Suddenly some monkey-like creatures discovered the universe didn’t really care for all that and wants you to be “good”. Fucking nonsense.

    I will put you down as disbelieving in ethical absolutes. It’s just beliefs people or societies hold, not something that involves true or false.

    #39975

    Unseen
    Participant

    No, on that definition of contingencies: Contingencies are things which are but might be otherwise. That word comes up often in law. It aint what is-it is not a state of being. It is about what may occur. I will shoot him in the nuts contingent on that rat bastard ratting me out. What are the contingencies in the springing power of attorney? He cedes power over his financial affairs to Jack Black if he is deemed incompetent by two physicians.

    We are not doing law here but philosophy. Still, contingencies abstractly are things that can be true or false. In a practical everyday sense, they are things dependent on facts in the world. An ethical absolute, if it exists, is not dependent on facts in the world, anymore than 2×2=4 can be falsified by facts in the world.

    Very orthodox Christians, for example, should believe that The Ten Commandments are to be taken literally. Of course, in the real world, more practical Christians find exceptions (for a greater good, in order to survive, etc.). With the first such exception, however, they have rejected ethical absolutes, because only by being held inviolable can it even BE an absolute.

    Not many Christians believe in ethical absolutes anymore.

    #39976

    Unseen
    Participant

    What I mean is, the facts are arbitrary – they may or may not occur – but what type of morality you get as a result, depends on those facts. I find that this is a problem, and a source of confusion in philosophy – people rely on a certain technical word, which can have several shades of meaning – instead of plain English explanations. I think that this is one reason why philosophy, and especially moral philosophy, tends not to get anywhere.

    So now it is technical terminology which is ambiguous and plain English which is precise and lacking “shades of meaning.” The reason why philosophers and scientists define their terms—something ordinary users do not—is to be precise and eliminate shades of meaning.

    #39977

    jakelafort
    Participant

    From Unseen: We are not doing law here but philosophy.

    I helped with the definition of contingencies because the one you gave was inaccurate. The law part was incidental and included because it was illustrative and easily conceptualized.

    Apropos of absolutely nothing i have this quote i ascribe to Francois Villon. Not sure if it is imagined or misremembered but it is pretty. “The law in its infinite wisdom punishes equally the rich man and the poor man for stealing a loaf of bread.”

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