Learning About Contemporary Thought in Ethics

  • #1
Another God
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Hi everyone. Some of you may know (although most wouldn't) that I have some of my own quite strongly held beliefs about ethics, how they actually work, what they actually are, and how people continue deluding themselves into some sort of cosmic significance of the 'sanctity of life' and 'rights' etc..

Anyway, I am potentially thinking about putting some serious thoughts into my beliefs, and maybe writting something solid on them...like an essay, or serious of essays..or something. So anyway, I realized there is a very important first step I need to take before I start writing anything... I need to learn what is already out there.

So, can anyone here recommend and good contemporary ethical philosophers? POint me towards some good online essays available from well known philosophers of ethics perhaps...perhaps simply explain some principles of ethics?

(Don't worry, I know the basics...Utilitarianism, Do unto Others...etc..)

Thanks
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dissident Dan
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Is Ayn Rand considered contemporary?
 
  • #3
This is a good topic and a very telling question. I've had quite a time finding what i consider good contemporary philosophy. I'm a generation x-er and i have not found anything substantial from my generation. Heck, there aren't even many good contemporary fiction writers. I don't think Ayn Rand can properly be called a contemporary... of mine anyway.

When in doubt i always have plenty of classics close at hand.
how people continue deluding themselves into some sort of cosmic significance of the 'sanctity of life' and 'rights' etc..
If i come across anything i'll let you know because i do understand and relate to this sentiment.
 
  • #4
Another God
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Well, don't get too caught up in the term contemporary...I'm more importantly just looking for any works which are still influential today..anything which sort of sums up what is beleived.

So far, my only real contact with contemporary thought is Sociobiology. And otherwise, Utilitarianism, although it has much criticism against it, seems to pretty much be the basis for our societies... And well, my own theories do actually incorporate both these theories.. I just want to make sure 1. I don't misrepresent either of these schools of thought, and 2. Don't miss any other relevant schools of ethical thought.

(PS: I actually started reading Atlas Shrugged the other week...)
 
  • #5
Dissident Dan
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I've heard that it's more efficient to read her shorter, nonfiction works, than the long-ass atlas shrugged.
 
  • #6
wuliheron
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I'd do the google thing if I were you and then check amazon for what is popular. Might also look into contextualism, situational ethics, and pantheism.
 
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  • #7
selfAdjoint
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maybe look up Rawls, and "Veil of ignorance". That should get you started on one thread of contemporary ethics.
 
  • #8
Maybe do a web search on Peter Singer...

Or... here's an interesting link.http://www.literatus.net/essay/BioEthics.html [Broken]
 
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  • #9
Les Sleeth
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Ethics

You said in your original post, " . . . perhaps simply explain some principles of ethics?" I don't know if you were asking for opinions from people here or not, but if you were I'll venture an opinion.

I believe ethics, or if one prefers the word morality, arise because we must share planet Earth with other human beings, and so can be boiled down to a single, simple idea: the effects our behavior has on others. I am excluding the effects one's behavior has on oneself. I am also excluding the effects one's behavior has on other life forms (with a caveat – discussed below).

A behavior is ethical if it at least does no harm. A person is “highly ethical” if in all his dealings with others he strives to do no harm in his interactions. The reason that is significant is because to survive we must also act in our own self interest, and as everyone knows, pursuing self interest can be at the expense of others. If several people want the same thing, such as a contract from the city to do all its landscaping, only one winner gets the contract. Some might see that as harming (the non-winners), but competition is actually just how reality works sometimes. What would be unethical is rather than compete fairly, someone wins by cheating and so harms the fair process of bidding that competitor’s rely upon.

War and police interventions is another tricky one. The damage done in war or police work can be ethical if it is to prevent even more harm by those the soldiers or police oppose. Disciplining children is similar in that one causes pain (I don’t mean hitting) in order to help the child overall. Although I suggested harming other life is excluded (mostly for the sake of the meat eaters out there), harming the environment all humans are dependent on is harming others.

Finally, beyond not harming one might say doing good is an ethic. Personally I think it’s a value rather than an ethic, but it would be a great way to ensure not harming and therefore serve one’s ethical commitment.

EDIT

I was thinking about it and it seems there are ethical issues involved in behavior that might cause harm, like when mates cheat. If they get away with it, and no one gets hurt (and say the marriage continues unaffected), then have they been unethical because someone
could have been harmed?
 
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  • #10
Another God
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Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.

My take on Ethics though, is basically the dead opposite to what you think. Firstly, the ethics which I think of...are more of a descriptive ethics. ie: This is how I think people actually work... And from there, I also believe that how it works, is good enough. Or perhaps its better to say, 'how it works, is how it works, and so we have to accept this and work with it, rather than trying to brainwash everyone into a new ethical system which will never work because people simply don't work that way'.

Now what's so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.


Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.

And yes, I believe this is how every individual works at a fundamental level, and yes, I believe this is how our "ethical, Moral" world comes to exist...through entirely selfish actions. (Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this...but I can't explain all of that in a small posting.)
 
  • #11
Why do some people believe that real life is like that game Survivor where the most manipulative and ruthless win, while others see life through rose tinted glasses and believe generally that bad never happens to good people? I don't understand this one.
I disagree that you need to learn all about what the authorities think about ethics up to this point, some of it maybe, but most of the information of ethics is right outside our door- people are ethics in action. In other words, the outcome of having some new or different knowledge to impart isn't as important as the immediate outcome of satisfying one's own curiosity by observation and figuring it out for ourselves, I can't imagine Darwin cared much about what everyone was going to think about evolution theory while he was working on it for 20 years.
 
  • #12
Another God
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Sure, my thoughts on it are largely constructed from this 'ethics in action' as you call it...but I am considering the prospects of writting something semi-official on it...and as such, its best if I look like I know what I am talking about. You know, references and all that. Plus its handy to refer to known terms by their actual names, rather than actively describing each phenomenon in each scenario, which can become tedious.

ie: Call it utilitarianism rather than saying "its good if we can make as many people happy as possible"
 
  • #13
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Another God
Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.

You're welcome.

Originally posted by Another God
My take on Ethics though, is basically the dead opposite to what you think. Firstly, the ethics which I think of...are more of a descriptive ethics. ie: This is how I think people actually work... And from there, I also believe that how it works, is good enough. Or perhaps its better to say, 'how it works, is how it works, and so we have to accept this and work with it, rather than trying to brainwash everyone into a new ethical system which will never work because people simply don't work that way'.

What people? People work in lots of different ways.

Originally posted by Another God
Now what's so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community

That doesn't sound like ethics to me, it seems merely a principle of management. Those are exactly the sorts of ideas used in planning, management by objectives, etc.

Originally posted by Another God
Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.

Again, what people? Some people care only about themselves, others have matured and find great rewards in doing good. Whether or not the human race as a whole has evolved to the point of recognizing the real dangers of selfish behavior doesn't have much to do with if ethics have value.

Originally posted by Another God
And yes, I believe this is how every individual works at a fundamental level, and yes, I believe this is how our "ethical, Moral" world comes to exist...through entirely selfish actions. (Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this...but I can't explain all of that in a small posting.)

If I hadn't already experienced you as a thoughtful person :smile: I would be appalled at your take on ethics. To me, you've defined exactly what it is that leads to a person becoming unethical.

I admit I answered you informally . . . I've waded thru too many burdensome treatises by philosophers who couldn't seem to relate their own experiences of living to realistic interpretation. Personally I don't believe ethics is all that difficult, it's simple. It doesn't require a list of religious principles or deep philosophical analysis to know the issue of ethics arises precisely because selfishness controls the small-minded, self-centered, egocentric, unevolved human.

But for the sake of having a philosophical discussion, I will debate this with you if you are interested. If we proceed, my argument against what I see as essentially a social Darwinist view is that causing no harm, and even acting to the benefit of others, actually makes one richer, happier, be less stressed, and have fewer enemies than coldly pursuing selfish interests. Since all of that makes it more likely one will survive, my view isn't some goody-goody thing, it's practical.

To be totally accurate, at this point in my life feeling good is a top priority, and I've found service to humanity to be a lot more enjoyable than those days when the only thing I ever thought about was my selfish desires. Isn't that pursuing self interest too? Yep, but when it is done that way it's called "enlightened self-interest," and in my humble opinion it produces the highest sort of ethics.
 
  • #14
Another God
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I guess you could say that I am talking about enlightened self interest then, because the first thing you should realize, is that the only way to take proper care of yourself, is to make good friends. You need good friends, and people around you who care about you, so that they can help you, take care of you, and do you favours when you need them the most. These people are the people who make life possible, without them, life sucks.

How do you get these people around you? You take care of them. You love them, you help them, you do them favours when they need it.

Simply: In taking care of yourself as best as you can, you will necessarily need other people around you taking care of you. To get these people, you must take care of them in return... You must do things which are traditionally seen as ethical.

My point is simply that these actions still come from a selfish cause. Selfishness is not an evil.


The second major implication of all that I am talking about, is that there is nothing which is inherently wrong or evil. So there is nothing wrong with murder, or with rape, or with stealing etc... There is nothing 'wrong' oither than doing that which goes against your desires. It just so happens that when you consider what your desires actually are, they will pretty much always point you down a path where rape, murder and stealing is wrong because they will not help you be happy. (and will lead you to being very unhappy)

I still believe that it is essential to take an ethical standpoint from a selfish point of view, because we only know our own minds, and this is the only point of reference we have. If we aren't here to please ourselves, who are we here to please? How to know what it is that pleases these other people?

It isn't until you have yourself sorted out, that you are able to do things which help other people.

The most giving people I know, are all depressed. I think its because they haven't learned yet, that without taking care of themselves, they have nothing inside left to give...
 
  • #15
drnihili
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Your best bet is to get an anthology used in an intoro ethics course. Your local Uni should have something on the shelves.

At a minimum you should become familiar with Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill on the historical end of things. More recently you should have a look at Sayre-Mccord and Baier. There are of course more, but that should give you a start. In the 20th century things get pretty thick and detailed. If you don't have a historical background it can often be hard to figure out what the discussion is about. Once I get my boxes unpacked I can put up some more references.

Read Ayn Rand if you want, but most philosophers shudder when her name is mentioned in a philosophical context. Whether you agree or disagree with her position, her work has little or no philosophical meat to it. No more than most good novels.
 
  • #16
Fliption
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Originally posted by Another God
Sleeth, thanks for your thoughts.
I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire. Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.

Hmm this sounds familiar. I think it's called Hedonism. I've heard this view a lot in philosophical ethics courses. I don't think it's anything new. I won't even attempt to argue against it philosophically because I know it can't be done. Kinda like proving the material world exists outside our minds.
 
  • #17
kyle_soule
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Originally posted by Another God
Now what's so different about my thoughts from yours? Well, firstly, I think Right and Wrong (Good and Bad) is determined soley by the end desire.

Desire must be defined, natural desire or "want" desire? If it is a natural desire it can only be good (right). If it is a wanting desire that isn't needed or natural then that is where right and wrong come into play. And in that case all desires are right/good unless (a) it gets in the way of natural desires or (b) you, at a later time, determine it was wrong, notice only YOU can say a desire was wrong. If you chose to do one thing from as a wanting desire and I thought it was wrong, that doesn't make it wrong, the only thing that can make it wrong is your final desition.

Whatever course of action works towards x goal, that is the 'right' thing, and whatever hinders the achievement of that goal is the 'wrong' or 'bad' thing. With this concept setting out right and wrong, the desirer is an individual or a community.

There are innocuous and noxious actions, it is innocuous if no harm or regret at a later time follows and if it does not interfere with natural desires (such as eating, drinking, etc). Noxious actions would be the type that does hinder the achievement of natural desires or you believe are wrong after you achieve the ends.

Anyway, I didn't plan on trying to get right into all of it right now, if people are interested, then I will post more on this, but how my ethics are so different to yours, is simply that with the stuff said above in mind, I believe that 'doing least harm' is the last thing on someones mind when they attempt to determine what they should do. What they do do, is try to figure out "What do 'I' want out of this situation?" And from that, the 'right' thing to do (the ethical thing) would be whatever is required to achieve that ends.

This is interesting to note: it requires a conscious and thoughtful decision to fulfil natural desires, you would think it would be the other way around, but humans are plauged by wanting desires.

Would you also agree that 'the ends justify the means'?

Your style of ethics is very similar to Aristotle, I think you would at least enjoy reading some of his works, if you have not already. Perhaps contemporary ethics holds no more truths than foregoing ethics.

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
 
  • #18
Another God
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Thanks for all the feedback and thoughts. I'll have a bit more of a read and a bit more of a think about it.

Kyle: I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.
 
  • #19
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Another God
My point is simply that these actions still come from a selfish cause. Selfishness is not an evil.

I see what you are saying but I believe you are misapplying the word "selfish." Self intererest would be a better term because selfish has already been assigned a meaning, which is to pursue one's own desires without regard for the consequences to others. Often it stems from narcissistic views or emotional insecurities.

Originally posted by Another God
II still believe that it is essential to take an ethical standpoint from a selfish point of view, because we only know our own minds, and this is the only point of reference we have. If we aren't here to please ourselves, who are we here to please? How to know what it is that pleases these other people? . . .The most giving people I know, are all depressed. I think its because they haven't learned yet, that without taking care of themselves, they have nothing inside left to give . . . It isn't until you have yourself sorted out, that you are able to do things which help other people.

If we use the term self interest, then I think you have made some good points here. There are people who want to please others because they seek approval, and so they are constantly on an emotional roller coaster where the ride depends on if they get approval or not.

And when people are content inside, then they usually start behaving in a more caring way towards everything, from brushing one's teeth to interacting with others.

Originally posted by Another God
The second major implication of all that I am talking about, is that there is nothing which is inherently wrong or evil. So there is nothing wrong with murder, or with rape, or with stealing etc... There is nothing 'wrong' oither than doing that which goes against your desires. It just so happens that when you consider what your desires actually are, they will pretty much always point you down a path where rape, murder and stealing is wrong because they will not help you be happy. (and will lead you to being very unhappy)

I can't quite agree with all that. I think I understand what you mean, which is that what is truly best for you is what makes you happy and healthy, and that is a practical issue and not really a matter of ethics. I have the same view toward my own behaviors. I resist saying "right " or 'wrong" in the sense of morality because I think in the past a lot guilt trips have been laid on people about how they are "supposed" to be. Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality.

However, not everyone is in touch with their nature. In fact, outside of chidren (who seem most in touch with it) I think most people have strayed, and some quite a lot. I have seen people make deals that rip off others, or the environment, and who then go off and gleefully spend all the money they made. There are people who I have read about who actually have enjoyed killing and torture.

The thing is, do people have any natural rights? Does being alive entitle us to live? To our possessions? To freedom? If we have any natural rights at all, then it is "wrong" for others to take them from us. That's why I limit the meaning of ethics/morality to issues of harm to others.

Originally posted by Another God
I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.

I wonder if you really mean that. Say there are so many people living on an island it's stressing out the sewer system, food supply, living space, etc. It would be better for the residents if there were fewer people, so they hire Saddam Hussein to come over an kill a few thousand people . . . problem solved! The island's support systems all return to normal and life is better for all the remaining residents.

Did the positive end justify the means used to achieve it?

See, all means are really little "ends" in themselves, and each must be evaluated on its own merits, not just in light of the overall end they are contributing to.

As far as the end determining the means, that's true . . . but that is just a sound principle of planning, and really rather neutral to ethics. But the idea of the end justifying the means, that's a different concept altogether. Plenty of people have brought tremendous misery on others applying that exact principle.
 
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  • #20
Royce
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I can't remember if it was Bertran Russell or Bernard Shaw who said; "There is no such thing as a purely altruistic action.
Could have been either really. Being idealistic at the time I was shocked and dismayed but soon realized that it's probably true. Now I'm sure it is even if all we get out of it is a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
I don't think that the end ever justifies the means ethically speaking. To me if the means need to be justified then they are probably wrong and we need to look for other means; but I am a bit idealistic still. I think that there are intrinsic right and wrong motives and actions beyond self interest.
In a society of scarce resourses fufilling ones own self interest even if it is a matter of survival will always be at the expense of another. How do we decide who is to have those scarce resources and/ or who is to live? That to me is ethics and the debate can go on forever. However, in such a society, while we were debating ethics someone else came along and took the very resources we were debating over. That to me is reality.
 
  • #21
Fliption
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Well, I said that I wouldn't try to debate against this view philosophically but I've changed my mind :smile: because I do have some comments after thinking about this a bit more today. I see that LwS has already hit on one thing that I thought. It is true that you cannot get away from the fact that all actions by an individual are done because the individual wanted to do it. So it can be argued that all actions are selfish actions. But I too thought this mis-uses the word "selfish". When this word is used in this way, there is no way one can perform any act at all without it coming from the self. Thats just the way the mind and nature works. The word is useless when used this way because it applies to everything by definition and has a very different meaning from the usual definition used in ethics that LWS described.

In light of this idea that the word "selfish" is somewhat useless when used in this fashion, it results in the ethics becoming a bit shallow. Not in an insulting sense but in that it seems to ask the wrong question. The question that should be asked is a much deeper question. You(AG) are looking at the way things work to arrive at this conclusion instead of how it should work. I cannot dispute the fact that everything I do is because it is my desire to do it, therefore I am "selfish". But the question of ethics is not "should I desire?" but "what should I desire?"

An example would be if you had a baby. (Congratulations AG you're a father!) We can agree that everything this baby will ever do as it grows to be an adult is self serving. But now you have a choice in front of you. You have the opportunity to mold what this persons desires might be. So the question is Not "does the child act out of selfish desires?" but rather "what should the child desire?" You can raise this person to desire being an abusive killer or you can raise him to desire to help other people. Which will you choose and why? This is what ethics tries to answer.
 
  • #22
kyle_soule
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Originally posted by Another God
Kyle: I would not only say that the ends justifies the means, but the ends determines the means.

Interesting, although this wouldn't hold true if the ends were considered bad by you when all was said and done. At least I don't think. Perhaps so:smile:
 
  • #23
Another God
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Thanks for the great replies again everyone...it seems I have some work ahead of me now...
Originally posted by LW Sleeth
I see what you are saying but I believe you are misapplying the word "selfish." Self intererest would be a better term because selfish has already been assigned a meaning, which is to pursue one's own desires without regard for the consequences to others. Often it stems from narcissistic views or emotional insecurities.
Agreed then. Understanding it this way will help me a lot..I have been using selfish like that for so long now, its no wonder I have encountered problems with it in the past :smile: So, from now on, i iwll use self-interest, because that is more accurately what I mean.

I can't quite agree with all that. I think I understand what you mean, which is that what is truly best for you is what makes you happy and healthy, and that is a practical issue and not really a matter of ethics. I have the same view toward my own behaviors. I resist saying "right " or 'wrong" in the sense of morality because I think in the past a lot guilt trips have been laid on people about how they are "supposed" to be. Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality.

However, not everyone is in touch with their nature. In fact, outside of chidren (who seem most in touch with it) I think most people have strayed, and some quite a lot. I have seen people make deals that rip off others, or the environment, and who then go off and gleefully spend all the money they made. There are people who I have read about who actually have enjoyed killing and torture.

The thing is, do people have any natural rights? Does being alive entitle us to live? To our possessions? To freedom? If we have any natural rights at all, then it is "wrong" for others to take them from us. That's why I limit the meaning of ethics/morality to issues of harm to others.
Well, that is precisely what all of this is about. The first premise of my ethics, is that there are no objective rights. People do not have a right to life, or a right to anything. People just are, just as atoms just are. And yes, this is a key fact.

It may be scary, and it may result in the potential for results which no one likes, but I am not trying to create a utopia here...I guess I am taking a more Machiavellan position: I am describing things, as they are, not how they 'should be'...not that anyone is any good at doing that anyway.

So, if we have no rights, then there is nothing 'wrong' with torture, killing, harming the environment etc. (At least, not inherently) It all depends on perspective and goals. Let me go through what you ahve said though : "Human nature seems equipped to teach us what is best for us, so we don't need all that morality." Morality, and ethics basically mean the same thing (one is greek, one is latin), and I think socrates (or someone from that era) claimed that ethics is simply attempting to determine how we should live. Well, this is my answer to that... Human nature determines how we live (whether we like it or not). Our desires set out the goals for us, and we act in ways according to our goals. And THAT is our ethics, our morality. There is no 'morality' which isn't needed because we have human nature...NO, human nature IS our morality.

"not everyone is in touch with their nature"[/]
I agree with this, and lol, that's partly why I feel a need to go about writting about my ethics. I am attempting to make people realize that 'Right to life' doesn't exist. 'Sanctity of life' is a myth. 'Evil' is a story made up to scare us into doing things which we otherwise wouldn't do. And I believe that these brainwashing techniques that have been used in civilisations for thousands of years in an attempt to make us be 'good' have caused as much 'bad' as anything. When you have an absolute stance on anything, you act on extremes. When you realize that it is all just about perspective, then you are more amiable, and able to let go, and accept people and things for who/what they are. And so, there are less reasons for wars, less reasons for hatred, less reasons for destruction... And more reasons for just getting on with your own life, happy in doing what you are doing, because what you are doing, is exactly what you want to be doing.

Say there are so many people living on an island it's stressing out the sewer system, food supply, living space, etc. It would be better for the residents if there were fewer people, so they hire Saddam Hussein to come over an kill a few thousand people . . . problem solved! The island's support systems all return to normal and life is better for all the remaining residents.

Did the positive end justify the means used to achieve it?
Are they really positive ends? Think about it. You already know that that is a crap outcome, so of course it doesn't justify the means. If you are going to think of a counter example, then you will need to think of one which has a perfect outcome, with perceivably terrible means. (I don't think such a thing exists)

Now, what is so bad about the ends here? Firstly: How many loved ones/friends did the remaining people lose? Do you think this will devastate those remaining people? Make their lives a little less bearable? Perhaps it may even put them in fear of their own lives. Like, what happens if they over populate again? Will they be killed off next time? Perhaps they will stop having kids now, even though they really want kids, but they are scared to...so their lives suffer in that regard. etc.

The scenario you described gave one possible resolution to the issue, but it is a bad one. If you were actually on this island, and you were stuck with those problems, i guarantee you, that there would be a hundred better options which would get the ends you want, and would leave you without the nasty after taste. And anyone of those options would be the 'right'[/] thing to do.


See, all means are really little "ends" in themselves, and each must be evaluated on its own merits, not just in light of the overall end they are contributing to.
That is true. Entirely true. Because everything that happens around us is evaluated in terms of how much we like that. But this isn't a problem. Just another step towards understanding.
 
  • #24
Another God
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Originally posted by Royce
I don't think that the end ever justifies the means ethically speaking. To me if the means need to be justified then they are probably wrong and we need to look for other means;
Well yes, when you speak of ends justifying means, then yeah, it implies there is something wrong with the means. I am actually saying though, that the ends determines the means, and the means are just as neutral as everything else in the galaxy, so there is nothing to be 'justified' about them.

but I am a bit idealistic still. I think that there are intrinsic right and wrong motives and actions beyond self interest.
From what basis do you know these right and wrongs? How universally applied are they? Are they immovable walls, unstoppable cannon balls, or are the just as prone to change as everything else in the universe?

In a society of scarce resourses fufilling ones own self interest even if it is a matter of survival will always be at the expense of another. How do we decide who is to have those scarce resources and/ or who is to live?
Because I didn't plan on going into the theory in this thread, I haven't sat down and properly set it all out, and so I don't think I have yet really pointed out the fact that ethics (under my theory) comes from certain perspectives. It always relies on perspectives. First and foremost, is the personal perspective. After that, you have social perspectives. The family, the community, the state, the country, the world etc. These social perspectives are ficticious entities, but vitally important. As an individual, it is usually in our best interest to be in a society which takes care of us (we can't do everything ourselves, so we get help.). As such, we need a functioning society which has particular goals directed towards helping every member within it to be happy/healthy etc. The members of the society are the basic units which determine what the society wants, but converting all of those individual desires into a social desire is obviously damn hard.
So how do we decide? Well, individually, we don't...the society does it somehow, and the answer all depends on what the society is trying to achieve, how har the going is, how well set up some are etc... It all depends on context and perspective.

And this is the key element. There is no right and wrong... there is only context and perspective.





And in having said all of that, I think I may have just realized the biggest PROBLEM with my theory... It implies inherent intelligence. Which obviously isn't actually there. People make mistakes, people don't understand positions, people aren't aware of all of the variables etc...so bad decisions are made.
 
  • #25
Another God
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Great reply Flipton! This is exactly one of the first problems I encountered whenI first started thinking down this line...I'll do my best to explain what I came up with...
Originally posted by Fliption
You(AG) are looking at the way things work to arrive at this conclusion instead of how it should work. I cannot dispute the fact that everything I do is because it is my desire to do it, therefore I am "selfish". But the question of ethics is not "should I desire?" but "what should I desire?"

SO, what should we desire? Well, firstly, what is it that currently determines what we do desire? my answer to that turned out to be evolution. Evolution...our creator, decided what was 'right', from its perspective, for us to desire. The desires we feel now, the things which make us happy, the things which make us feel good are programmed into us by evolution, because those things help us function in a way which suits the ends of evolution. Our ends, are the menas through which evolutions works.

Do we want to be a slave to the ends of evolution? Or do we want to take control of ourselves and decide what it is that we actually want to want? The irony here though, is that the things we will choose to want, will still be the things which evolution has designed us to want...but whatever.

I guess an important question is: Do we think we will ever know better than millions of years of guess and check? Do we? Will we? I don't think we ever will, because even if we manage to change ourselves through something like genetic engineering to be perfect little individuals, then something will enter the system, a little glitch, a parasite, and it will crash everything back down to this less than perfect reality we currently have. (ie: Evolutionary stable systems... If everything is altruistic, then if a non-altruistic organism enters, it gets everything for free, and so does better than the altruists... Over time, the non-altruists grow in numbers, and the altruistic system no longer exists...)

Wow, I'm about to get all biblical here, so watch out: I don't think we will ever be able to improve upon evolution, because evolution is representative of simple mathematic relationships present throughout the very existence of the universe. If we try to push ourselves to one extreme or another, the system will crash and quickly revert to its equilibrium point. (biblical bit) its almost as if the universe is our god, and evolution is gods will, and if we ever reach the point where we believe we can challenge Gods will (try to improve upon the ESS we are in), we will all be destroyed.
Examples: We engineer so that everyone is 'bad' and of course, we all kill each other, everyone dies, the end. Not a good option.
Second option: We engineer everyone so that they are completely 'good', no one harms each other, no one hates, no one hurts etc. Some parasite will enter the system, and boom, it systematically numerates and kills us all. (think of the Simpsons Halloween Episode where Lisa wishes for world piece, the aliens come down and enslave them because they are too peace loving to fight back.)

The point: Perhaps our selfish, less than ideal system is the only system which works, and perhaps the desires we have been given from evolution are the only desires we could ever want.


An example would be if you had a baby. (Congratulations AG you're a father!) We can agree that everything this baby will ever do as it grows to be an adult is self serving. But now you have a choice in front of you. You have the opportunity to mold what this persons desires might be. So the question is Not "does the child act out of selfish desires?" but rather "what should the child desire?" You can raise this person to desire being an abusive killer or you can raise him to desire to help other people. Which will you choose and why? This is what ethics tries to answer.
And with this example, obviously you are talking on a level which is still subservient to our evolutionarily designed desires, and of course, within this area, we can still affect things. SO which would I want? Of course I would want the help other people (to some extent) because this child will be part of my family unit, and the desires of my family society will be ones of happiness, health and safety. If I have a killer in that society, than I couldn't feel safe, and so that threat would need to be removed from the society.

(All depends on perspective)
 
  • #26
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Another God Well, that is precisely what all of this is about. The first premise of my ethics, is that there are no objective rights. People do not have a right to life, or a right to anything. People just are, just as atoms just are. And yes, this is a key fact. So, if we have no rights, then there is nothing 'wrong' with torture, killing, harming the environment etc. (At least, not inherently) It all depends on perspective and goals.

I will accept and try to argue from what I believe is your position, that no consciousness was involved in creation. It could be true, however, that some sort of consciousness is behind creation, that we all owe our conscious existence to it, and that being (whatever it is) gave each of us a “right” to live. But let’s assume it is a blind, dumb set of physical principles alone which has created us.

You said, “Human nature determines how we live (whether we like it or not). Our desires set out the goals for us, and we act in ways according to our goals. And THAT is our ethics, our morality. There is no 'morality' which isn't needed because we have human nature...NO, human nature IS our morality.”

Setting aside the important issue of deciding what our nature is (I’m pretty sure I believe there’s more to it than you), would you agree we can at least say that those things we do which are most aligned with our nature should work best in the human realm? If, for instance, you raise a child with emotional abuse and beatings, does that “work” as well as raising a child with love and guidance? It has been very clearly demonstrated which works better, and that means humans do have certain characteristics hard-wired into them.

Now, let go back to whether we have any natural rights. Look at human management systems, such as those we apply in child-rearing or business or government, and compare systems which assume humans have rights to systems which don’t. Which “works” better? In which system do humans thrive best? Because the system which assumes humans have natural rights works best, I say that indicates we do have natural rights. But even if we can’t “objectively,” as you put it, prove we have natural rights, it has been objectively proven it’s best to assume we do.

Originally posted by Another God I am attempting to make people realize that 'Right to life' doesn't exist. 'Sanctity of life' is a myth. 'Evil' is a story made up to scare us into doing things which we otherwise wouldn't do. And I believe that these brainwashing techniques that have been used in civilizations for thousands of years in an attempt to make us be 'good' have caused as much 'bad' as anything. When you have an absolute stance on anything, you act on extremes. When you realize that it is all just about perspective, then you are more amiable, and able to let go, and accept people and things for who/what they are. And so, there are less reasons for wars, less reasons for hatred, less reasons for destruction... And more reasons for just getting on with your own life, happy in doing what you are doing, because what you are doing, is exactly what you want to be doing.

Why would you try to make people realize these things when respecting life is good for preserving nature, the same nature which created us and still maintains us? Evil, again, is really just a term invented to represent acts of pure harm, and instilling the value of not harming in people is a very practical thing to do. Just because some people in power, elements of organized religion for example, decided to put some perfectly natural aspects of human behavior on the “harm list,” doesn’t mean evil isn’t a useful concept.

So I return to my original definition of ethics, which is to do no harm to other human beings. This idea of yours about pursuing one’s desires, and adding Fliption’s point, of learning what to desire, seems to me to be a different subject altogether from ethics. Of course you should pursue what is in your best interests AND you should try to do it in a way that doesn’t harm others. Why? It doesn’t matter whether if it is a matter of God’s will or if it is simply a value that’s come to us through natural selection, because the ethic of no harm “works,” that is why we need it.

Originally posted by Another God Are they really positive ends? Think about it. You already know that that is a crap outcome, so of course it doesn't justify the means. If you are going to think of a counter example, then you will need to think of one which has a perfect outcome, with perceivably terrible means. (I don't think such a thing exists)

Well, you are giving a new twist to a phrase that has quite a bit of history. Traditionally it has referred to acts done by people in power, acts usually that result in them becoming more powerful. It was to say, “if these means get you what you want, then you are justified in using them.” Stalin kept himself secure by killing everybody who could even remotely be a threat. He wanted security, and the means he applied did manage to keep him alive for quite awhile.

If you are going to be conscientious every step of the way when employing that concept, then I am not sure “the end justifies the means” any longer means anything!
 
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  • #27
Right now I am just going to point you to a few authors that have not been mentioned (Rawls already has and he is a great source):
Habermas is vital.
Rorty's third volume of philosophical papers and his "Achieving our Country" are good sources.
Catherine Mackinnon for feminism.
Also check out any anthropological sources that deal with ethics, there are a lot and they generally are very interesting.
 
  • #28
Fliption
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Originally posted by Another God
SO, what should we desire? Well, firstly, what is it that currently determines what we do desire? my answer to that turned out to be evolution. Evolution...our creator, decided what was 'right', from its perspective, for us to desire. The point: Perhaps our selfish, less than ideal system is the only system which works, and perhaps the desires we have been given from evolution are the only desires we could ever want.

But I think this has the same problem. Saying that evolution dictates the ethic does nothing to answer the question. If you define evolution so that it captures everything we desire then it too encompasses everything; all behavior. And then it too becomes useless as a guide for choosing "which" behavior is the correct one. Now you have no guide to tell you how to raise your child because evolution allows all options.
And with this example, obviously you are talking on a level which is still subservient to our evolutionarily designed desires, and of course, within this area, we can still affect things. SO which would I want? Of course I would want the help other people (to some extent) because this child will be part of my family unit, and the desires of my family society will be ones of happiness, health and safety. If I have a killer in that society, than I couldn't feel safe, and so that threat would need to be removed from the society.
(All depends on perspective) [/B]

Does evolution dictate happiness for individuals or for humanity as a whole? Does evolution make you choose to raise a child that helps people and and then allow other people to raise murderers?

Ultimately I ask all these questions because I think there is a distinction between the selfish desires you mention as a part of evolution and the selfishness as used in ethics. Simply because evolution has created a thinking human people who can make choices. All choices are allowed by evolution so the question about how to raise the baby cannot get it's answer there unless we choose to define an evolutionary ethic a little differently. To do that we would have to make assumptions about what is good for evolution and what isn't. But this would be different from saying evolution allows all individual desires.
 
  • #29
Another God
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I'm going skiing for a week, and I don't have time to reply right now. I think I know basically what I am going to say, but I'll think on it some more...

See you next weekend.
 
  • #30
Another God
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Stepping back for a moment...

Tp both Fliption and Sleeth:
It is easy to be sucked into an argument and try to argue various points forgetting why you are arguing them, so let me step back from where this is all going, and allow me to state exactly what my intentions are with these thoughts, so that a greater perspective can be put onto my thoughts.

Firstly, I am actually not attempting to explain what people should do. That is not my aim. My aim is to make people understand the true nature of things. I want people to see the world as it is, not as they want it to be. I believe that we MUST do this, because without a solid grasp of the truth, we have no basis on which to claim what we should do.

So, Fliption, while I agree that deciding what we should do it important, I am not yet there. I am trying to form the foundations first, and from there the hard questions can be asked.

Now, with that solidly in your minds, you must then also understand that these ethics which we work with our entire lives operate from a range of perspectives. That is, first and foremost, we have our own personal perspective which basically dictates everything that we want. Secondly, we have the various societies which we are in. Our family, our state, our country, our workplace, our school...whatever. Each of these communities which we live in has its own perspective. (This perspective is basically ficticious, but it needs to be concieved of as a sort of entity. I think that this perspective is what politics should be about achieving, although I doubt anything will ever be able to accurately represent a perspective which comes from 3 or 300 millions individual perspectives...) Now, from the perspectives of these societies, there are things that it wants (and these wants come directly from the accumulated wants of the individuals within that society.

I need to make sure the above paragraph is really clear, because this is where the most confusion seems to arise: We individually want things, but when we partake in a society, we are also within an agreement amongst members of that society to obey the wants of the society at large (thus sometimes impeding our own personal wants). The goal though, is to have a society which meets the desires of everyone in it.



More to follow.. i just need to sort it out so that I can explain it clearly...
 
  • #31
Another God
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Setting aside the important issue of deciding what our nature is (I’m pretty sure I believe there’s more to it than you), would you agree we can at least say that those things we do which are most aligned with our nature should work best in the human realm? If, for instance, you raise a child with emotional abuse and beatings, does that “work” as well as raising a child with love and guidance? It has been very clearly demonstrated which works better, and that means humans do have certain characteristics hard-wired into them.
I realized that this says something very important within my conception of ethics.

You presented this example, as if to argue that there is a right and a wrong, and that it is our duty ti know them and follow them. Well, what I am all about is saying that there is no absolute right and wrong, but there is a contingent reality in which we live, and in each situation we find ourself, there is a right and wrong which achieves the ends we want. Now this example you present is perfect. Raising a child in a particular way "Works" better than raising it in another way.

What do you mean by "works"? Well, you mean that it raises a child which does what we want more so than a child which we raise the other way. (Or, in other words, it raises a child which fits into our society better than children raised the other way).

So is it "Right" to raise a child with love etc? In our circumstance, yes certainly...but only because these are our circumstance, and because this is what we want. (we = Our state/country/culture..whatever)


I have to say it again. The whole point of my claim here, is simply to argue that people have a belief in some mythical "Objective Right and Wrong" which simply does not exist. It is true that there are certain things which are more frequently right (based on human genetic programming), and as such it is a good idea for us to figure out the human instincts and behaviours, and thus figure out the best ways of living based on these things...but it MUST be understood that these 'best ways of living' are simply choices based on the situation, and not absolutes.

People must accept that some people want to choose different 'rights' in their society, and follow them.




From this, there are remaining considerations of "Do we want to be in a propserous society?" or "Do we want to be in a society which suits us perfectly"? And more difficultly: "Is it possible, to have a society which suits us perfectly, and is prosperous."

Chances are the third option is not possible...and so if we try to live in a society which suits us to some degree, it will be less prosperous and so we won't get everything we want...which in turn will result in it no longer quite suiting us as much as we want. (in most circumstances)(some people like living of very little food and no material possesions etc)

Which means most of us should want to live in a prosperous society. And to do this, we simply have to face up to the fact that we will have to give up many of our personal desires.

Now comes the trick of balancing those factors, figuring out what type of society would be the most prosporous while still sitting in line with the majority of peoples desires and figuring how big the society will need to be to achieve this.

So many factors, so much consideration. No wonder no one has figured it out yet.
 
  • #32
Another God
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I had a thought the other day too. Maybe all politicians get into politics wanting to help society, wanting to make their society be the perfect society...wanting it to be prosperous, and suit the needs of all of the people in it all at once. But upon reaching a position where it is within their ability to do so, they quickly learn that not only is it not possible to achieve such an ends, but it impossible to even make any sort of agreement on anyone simple fact. Everyone is different, and you can't please anyone, let alone everyone.

In the face of such adversity, they all give up on the society (its a project largely doomed from the beginning anyway), and quickly start concentrating on fulfilling their own personal desires. At least that's a task they can take care of.

Do you blame them?
 
  • #33
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Another God
Firstly, I am actually not attempting to explain what people should do. That is not my aim. My aim is to make people understand the true nature of things. I want people to see the world as it is, not as they want it to be. I believe that we MUST do this, because without a solid grasp of the truth, we have no basis on which to claim what we should do.

That is a decent goal, but how will you know when you have the entire “truth”? Life for me has been constantly discovering more and more aspects of reality; and prior to finding out about these aspects I had believed I knew how things worked. I fell for that mental fallacy over and over, until finally accepting there is no way to know how much you don’t know.

An analogy I like is how people say opinions are like [a certain posterior anatomical feature] . . . everybody has one. The implication is, opinions are equal. But not only are opinions not equal, the mind-set behind opinions can be quite different. The most frustrating people to talk to or deal with are opinionated people because they have “decided” how something is, case closed. But the mind that never closes the door on an opinion, which is always open to new information and therefore to adjusting the opinion, that mind is a joy to interact with.

So too is it with philosophy, but even more so because there is such a great amount of information waiting to be discovered about the nature of reality. You say you want people to “see the world as it is” and have “a solid grasp of the truth,” but by what standards will you evaluate them, and what experiences do you have which qualify you to evaluate? If you have not fully grasped “the true nature of things,” as you say, then how can you be certain of your philosophical recommendations which are supposedly designed to fit that nature?

Originally posted by Another God
. . . you must then also understand that these ethics which we work with our entire lives operate from a range of perspectives. That is, first and foremost, we have our own personal perspective which basically dictates everything that we want. Secondly, we have the various societies which we are in . . . Now, from the perspectives of these societies, there are things that it wants (and these wants come directly from the accumulated wants of the individuals within that society. . . .We individually want things, but when we partake in a society, we are also within an agreement amongst members of that society to obey the wants of the society at large (thus sometimes impeding our own personal wants). The goal though, is to have a society which meets the desires of everyone in it.

I want to reiterate my main problem with what you are saying, and that is I don’t believe you are talking primarily about ethics. Everybody already knows and accepts that people want and need stuff, and that we are all involved in a struggle to get it. But it doesn’t become an ethical issue until what you do trying to get those needs and wants harms, or has the potential to harm, others.

All the concepts about setting things up to help oneself, or if speaking from a social perspective, to help people in general get what they want and need – all that is really a management issue. A good manager, as well as a good management system, organizes things to facillitate achieving goals. Everything from politics to family life depend on some type of management system to achieve goals, and the goals are decided by wants and needs. As Fliption astutely pointed out, the wiser one becomes the more one realizes the importance of one’s goals.

But what has any of that to do with ethics? I realize there is a casual use of the word, such as when someone talks about their “work ethic.” That actually refers to their work habits; philosophical ethics have a different meaning.

I think ethical issues come up most often because of the competition people get into trying to meet wants and needs, and maybe that is what you are looking at. But then you say there is no “right” or “wrong,” again I have to disagree (discussed below).

Originally posted by Another God
You presented this example, as if to argue that there is a right and a wrong, and that it is our duty ti know them and follow them. Well, what I am all about is saying that there is no absolute right and wrong, but there is a contingent reality in which we live, and in each situation we find ourself, there is a right and wrong which achieves the ends we want. Now this example you present is perfect. Raising a child in a particular way "Works" better than raising it in another way.

What do you mean by "works"? Well, you mean that it raises a child which does what we want more so than a child which we raise the other way. (Or, in other words, it raises a child which fits into our society better than children raised the other way). So is it "Right" to raise a child with love etc? In our circumstance, yes certainly...but only because these are our circumstance, and because this is what we want. (we = Our state/country/culture..whatever)

You have not understood me completely there. I am not just saying it works only because it achieves some end – once again, that is a management thing. I am saying it “works” because the actions are in accord with the underlying nature of a human and reality. My point was to demonstrate that exists.

You cannot, no matter how clever you are, make a child happy and healthy under any circumstances you decide upon. And children are incredibly malleable in some ways. But if certain needs are not met, they will languish, and can become severely disturbed. Do you really think we just “want” a loving child? Yes a loving child is wonderful, but a loved child also thrives. If love wasn’t part of human nature, then why should the child thrive?

Some parents raise their kids to have sex with them, this actually goes on. Why not? One could create an isolated city, where everyone was raised to do it with everybody, set up the govermment and social systems to support it. After a couple of generations it becomes what everyone wants, and so is there anything “wrong” with it?

Well, do you know anybody raised that way? I do, and I can tell you I have never met anyone like that with healthy sexuality. People get so addicted they spend all their time chasing it, or they shut down completely, or they bury it and it comes out as some severe neurosis, and many of them seek sex as adults with children. And the reason is, a child needs to develop before being exposed to sex. You can train children to do it and even want it, but it doesn’t leave them healthy.

So your claim that there is no "Objective Right and Wrong" has a flaw. There is tons and tons of evidence that some things contribute to health and happiness, and other things contribute to sickness and unhappiness.

Originally posted by Another God
The whole point of my claim here, is simply to argue that people have a belief in some mythical "Objective Right and Wrong" which simply does not exist. It is true that there are certain things which are more frequently right (based on human genetic programming), and as such it is a good idea for us to figure out the human instincts and behaviours, and thus figure out the best ways of living based on these things...but it MUST be understood that these 'best ways of living' are simply choices based on the situation, and not absolutes.

If you mean as some moral on-high thing, okay. But that is not the only interpretation for right and wrong.

I like the Chinese interpretation better, that of the “Way.” It is to understand reality is a certain way, and that harmonizing with that way ensures the best success in life. There is a lot flexibility within the large principles of the Way, but one never, according to this idea, can go against the large principles without coming out the worse for it.

I believe you contradict yourself somewhat when on the one hand you acknowledge “there are certain things which are more frequently right (based on human genetic programming), and as such it is a good idea for us to figure out the human instincts and behaviours, and thus figure out the best ways of living based on these things” . . . and then you go on to say, “it MUST be understood that these 'best ways of living' are simply choices based on the situation, and not absolutes.”

What is improper in saying what is “right” are those things which best nurture and develop a human, and what is “wrong” is that which most damages a human? In that sense there are absolutes, and so following what is right is not merely a situational matter. I think you are on target to say there is situational correctness – mores, customs, traditions, laws, ettiquette, procedures -- they all address this. But to assert that only the relative exists, and no absolute(s), I believe is beyond your personal experience to say so assuredly. Further, it is contradicted both by those elements of human nature which demand specific attention/treatment in order to thrive, as well as by many physical principles, such as their constancy in all situations, C, etc.

In my opinion, relativistic ethics alone gives us all the justification we need to take and do whatever the hell we want. You could argue that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if there weren’t thousands of years of history to prove you wrong. It is precisely because we have discovered certain universals that the most powerful improvements to humanity have come about.
 
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  • #34
Another God
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Originally posted by LW Sleeth
That is a decent goal, but how will you know when you have the entire “truth”?
I won't. We never know "The Truth"...but we sure as hell can know when we get it wrong can't we? This pretty much how science works. Falsification. Make a bold hypothesis, and then try to find where it is wrong. So here I am, making a bold hypothesis, and looking for errors in it (its hard to find errors in your own theory, so you present it to other people, and ask them to convince you that you are wrong, or else accept your theory.)

But to decide that Because we can never know the truth is reason enough to stop looking for it...is contrary to Philosophy, to Science, and to my own nature. Truth is an ideal of mine which is very important to me.
The most frustrating people to talk to or deal with are opinionated people because they have “decided” how something is, case closed.
I disagree with the opinionated thing, but only in terms of the definition of "Opinion"... It frustrates me that "Opinionated" has an immediate negative context, while someone who has "Beliefs" has a positive/neutral context. Think about it, if you meet someone who has say religious beliefs, or beliefs about telekenisis etc, then "Thats OK...because that is their belief, and so we won't dispute that." But an opinion...now that is something which in reality, is just a temporarily accepted truth.

That is my take on beliefs and opinions anyway

But that isn't really important here unless you feel that I am acting in a way which is like the typical take on "opinionated"? Personally, my philosophy is that my job is only to present my beliefs in a hope that someone can show me where I am incorrect. I am not so much trying to convince you that I am right, as much as trying to find out where I am wrong, and at the same time denying any of these attempts which I believe aren't valid.

But if you think I have done anything which is contrary to this philosophy, please tell me.


I want to reiterate my main problem with what you are saying, and that is I don’t believe you are talking primarily about ethics.

OK, how about we accept that my initial aim is not to define ethics then. I'll accept that so that we stop debating this, and instead we will state that my initial aim is to describe my understanding of how the world is. What I am describing is how I believe it is, and I believe these things because of various reasons, examples given etc (I have explained why already), and now it is up to you and anyone else who feels interested in this topic to tell me why it is that you deny the truth in my beliefs. (You don't have to do this, but if you are like me, then you would be interested in knowing the truth, and if someone claims to perhaps have an idea of what it is, then you would inspect their words and see where they have made errors or else accept their claims.)

And so, initially I am not talking about ethics persay (where ethics describes how we should live) but I am talking about the nature of the world in which we humans find ourselves. The world of Objective indifference. There is no absolute right and wrong. There is no right to life. Things just ARE.

And I believe that you CANNOT create an ethical code without accepting this.

Let me state this more formally: "Before an ethical system can be established, the truth must be known." ie: If you don't know the truth, then any ethics that you try to create will only represent your beliefs, your situation, your society, the trends in your culture etc.
Of course this leads to a whole series of Epistemological arguments about what is really known etc, but that is for the other million philosophers out there, I've decided to concentrate on this part, and that's my choice.

And so, as part of my contribution to the human efforts towards a true universal code, I am trying to do my part by wiping the slate clean, removing all of the misconceptions about right and wrong, removing the lies, and pointing people towards the real causes of our desires/causes for/of ethics.



More to follow.
 
  • #35
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Another God We never know "The Truth"...but we sure as hell can know when we get it wrong can't we? . . . But to decide that Because we can never know the truth is reason enough to stop looking for it...is contrary to Philosophy, to Science, and to my own nature. Truth is an ideal of mine which is very important to me.

One cannot always know when we “get it wrong.” If, for instance, you think that only science can reveal all revealable truths, then you will discount any sort of evidence that isn’t empiricial. The evidence you accept is only going to be sense data, because that is all empiricism relies on. As you proceed through life, you use empiricism to examine things, and it always reveals form, structure and mechanics (since that’s the only thing sense data reveals), and it does so quite flawlessly. What is your conclusion about the Truth? It is that the “Truth” is purely structural and mechanical form. But then, you haven’t looked at anything else have you?

Yet the person researching that way is going to tell the world the Truth when I personally know of something that is not revealed through the senses or empiricism. And just try to get someone fully committed to empiricism to look at that evidence objectively . . . impossible. But that won’t prevent them from preaching partially-researched theories on Truth to the world (my pet peeve, as you probably know).

Originally posted by Another God It frustrates me that "Opinionated" has an immediate negative context, while someone who has "Beliefs" has a positive/neutral context. Think about it, if you meet someone who has say religious beliefs, or beliefs about telekenisis etc, then "Thats OK...because that is their belief, and so we won't dispute that." But an opinion...now that is something which in reality, is just a temporarily accepted truth. . . . But that isn't really important here unless you feel that I am acting in a way which is like the typical take on "opinionated"?

Opinionated has a specific definition, and I was referring to that. People who blindly believe may not fit that formal definition, but I agree it is another kind of ignorance.

No, I wasn’t saying you are opinionated. My point wasn’t even really about being opinionated, it was about how one maintains one’s mind in the search for truth. Is it really open, or is it already leaning so far in some direction it colors and filters information? In other words, prior to and more important than the finding of Truth is the condition of consciousness to recognize it.

Originally posted by Another God Personally, my philosophy is that my job is only to present my beliefs in a hope that someone can show me where I am incorrect. I am not so much trying to convince you that I am right, as much as trying to find out where I am wrong, and at the same time denying any of these attempts which I believe aren't valid. . . . But if you think I have done anything which is contrary to this philosophy, please tell me.

I think that is okay as a test strategy . . . if you listen. Yet you cannot just advocate a philosophical perspective and say “prove me wrong.” You are obligated to prove it correct and make your case logically. So far you haven’t done that or really responded to my objections to your philosophy, but instead keep repeating your relativistic position (I am dropping the ethical definition challenge as you said to do). I will summarize why I think you are wrong again, below.

Originally posted by Another God . . . my initial aim is to describe my understanding of how the world is . . . initially I am not talking about ethics persay (where ethics describes how we should live) but I am talking about the nature of the world in which we humans find ourselves. The world of Objective indifference. There is no absolute right and wrong. There is no right to life. Things just ARE. And I believe that you CANNOT create an ethical code without accepting this. Let me state this more formally: "Before an ethical system can be established, the truth must be known." ie: If you don't know the truth, then any ethics that you try to create will only represent your beliefs, your situation, your society, the trends in your culture etc.

You make a statement of the nature of reality without supporting it with evidence, and then go ahead and suggest a philosophy based on the original assumption. I challenge all your supporting assumptions and therefore cannot possibly agree with your conclusion until you justify your assumptions.

How do you know it is a world of objective indifference? You just think it is based on what you know. I know of things that tell me otherwise, so why should I abandon my model of reality for yours when you don’t give me reasons that yours better represents reality?

Then you say there is no absolute right or wrong, which I have to infer means you think there are no absolutes. In my last post I suggested another take on “right and wrong” borrowed from Chinese philosophy, that gets the meaning of right and wrong away from transcendent morality (i.e., religious); but you did not respond to that. Also unresponded to was my attempt to show you there do seem to be principles that cannot be circumvented without causing oneself or others damage, and so are universal (for humans at least), and certainly there are universally true physical principles. To me these facts contradict your assertion that there is no absolute basis from which to draw ethics.

Finally you say things just are, and that we cannot create an ethical code without accepting that. Sure we can, and have. And speaking personally, I like my ethical stance a lot better than yours. I cannot see a single advantage to defining the truth first as purely objective, believing there is nothing absolute, and then developing a set of ethics for every different situation I find myself in. I already know of principles that apply to everything, or at least to very large sets. Everytime I have discovered principles like that my understanding of reality has leaped ahead expotentially.

To be blunt, I think you are trying to develop a materialist philosophy for the world, but the world isn’t going to buy that yet. Materialists have a long way to go to prove creation is purely material. And as long as the world's most influential materialists refuse to apply anything but material-exposing investigative methods, I am not going to accept their view as complete. I want to hear a philosophy from someone who has looked at EVERYTHING, not just what supports their beliefs or inclinations.

Originally posted by Another God And so, as part of my contribution to the human efforts towards a true universal code, I am trying to do my part by wiping the slate clean, removing all of the misconceptions about right and wrong, removing the lies, and pointing people towards the real causes of our desires/causes for/of ethics.

I still have to get back to asking how you know the truth about right and wrong, how do you know the causes of our desires, and what qualifies you to wipe the slate clean? What have you achieved that would give me confidence in your recommendations? I have lived awhile, educated myself, meditated on the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and I still don’t feel qualified to recommend to the world what they should do.

I am not going to accept any philosophy without evidence, and if the philosophy is important enough, proof. I certainly am not going to replace my own ever-developing philosophy with one that conflicts with what I have experienced to be true. If I did that, I would be just another blind faith nitwit. So, AG, essentially I am saying you need to do more to make your case.
 
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