What does it mean that something is right or wrong?

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  • #26
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Depends on how you define "moral truth". People often say that if it's not carved in stone, it's not a truth. But nobody can honestly mean that as soon as you carve something in stone, then it's true! Still morality is objective, because we can SEE other beings suffer, and because suffering is bad, it's wrong to expose them to suffering.
 
  • #27
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Can one be utilitarian and moral relativist at the same time?

I suppose sort of. That is, you could define your own personal moral set as Utilitarian, without necessarily enforcing that definition of morality onto others.

It means that we don't have to, because morals are relative after all. It means that I don't have to help someone in jeopardy.

Damn straight! ... If that happens to be your own moral code. I'm not sure I know anyone whose personal moral code would allow them NOT to help someone in jeopardy (except in cases where the particular person was relevant). So realistically speaking, because moral codes are so similar between people, you probably DO have to help someone in jeopardy. But there's a slight chance that you're abnormally developed psychologically, and won't be evil for not having helped them.

DaveE
 
  • #28
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I can also force it on others, without claiming that the values are universal?
 
  • #29
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I can also force it on others, without claiming that the values are universal?

Again, if your moral code allows it, yes. As I stated before, if you're significantly abnormally developed, your morality may dictate that it's ok. And as a moral relativist, I won't judge you as "evil" for doing so. ... But I just may decide to try and stop you, as would others.

Ultimately, I question whether individualistic moral codes like "it's good not to help people" and "it's good to see others suffer" are naturally selected to fail, so to speak. That is, the societies that might develop with such moral sets are likely to die out in favor of societies where moral codes encourage helping others. It's deeply ingrained into mammals, it seems, where other mammals often help each other, groom each other, care for their young, etc. So a certain portion may be tied to biology, who knows?

DaveE
 
  • #30
I don't really believe that ethics exist outside of society. I don't believe right and wrong/good and bad exist, for when humans cease to exist, who's to say that it's good or bad to beat your dog? Many believe in a higher being that creates these principles, but as that I do not believe in such higher beings, I do not personally believe in the substance of ethical systems. I think of it more in terms of flow patterns and variables. If beating one's dog has a more positive affect on society than a negative affect, than it is 'good', and if beating one's dog has a more negative than positive affect on society, than it is 'bad'. Say for example if beating a dog somehow is linked to the life of a child who will become the scientist who comes up with a cure for AIDS, and not beating the dog results in the death of this child, then beating the dog is certainly a 'good' thing, for it greatly would benefit society. Otherwise, it would probably just be a 'bad' thing, ending in nothing more than an injured and depressed dog.
 
  • #31
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But are they morally prescriptive or intellectually prescriptive? As I pointed out they make statements about morals not moral statements. Do you not see the difference?

"Intellectually prescriptive" is still a form of prescriptive statement ie. morality. They are making morally prescriptive statements about how someone who values truth ought to relate to moral relativism.

If I assert that "proposition X is justified", I am really asserting that there exists objectively verifiable reasons why "proposition X is justified" ought to be considered valid. Thus any form of or attempt at rational argumentation presupposes moral realism (just as it presupposes the existence of truth, the meaningfulness of language etc.)
 
  • #32
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I don't really believe that ethics exist outside of society.

Even if you are on a deserted island, you still have values and means of assessing reality in order to fulfill them.
 
  • #33
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Even if you are on a deserted island, you still have values and means of assessing reality in order to fulfill them.

And thats why people tend to go a bit crazy when alone on a desert island, because all those values and instincts are based on people who aren't there.
 
  • #34
"Intellectually prescriptive" is still a form of prescriptive statement ie. morality.

I believe you are commiting an error of basic logic and set theory. That while morally prescriptive statements may belong to the set of all prescriptive statements this does not mean all prescriptive statements are morally prescriptive.

Is the prescriptive statement "members of a set of entities Y which include the chracteristic X do not dictate that all members of the set Y possess the characteristic X" a morally prescriptive statement?
 
  • #35
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All value, including morals, exist only within an intersubjective and subjective state.
All humans learn that pain hurts, and this means no human can ever escape the intersubjective knowledge that hurting animals is negative for the animal.
If a human was completely oblivious to the fact that hurting animals hurts the animal, then there couldn't be applied a moral principle to this person.

But no such person exists, and even if you are sadist who enjoys others pain, you are still aware of the pain, and how that pain feels. (All humans have had pain at some point or another)
It is this awareness that is the basis of morals, and without it there can be no morals.
 
  • #36
All value, including morals, exist only within an intersubjective and subjective state.
All humans learn that pain hurts, and this means no human can ever escape the intersubjective knowledge that hurting animals is negative for the animal.
If a human was completely oblivious to the fact that hurting animals hurts the animal, then there couldn't be applied a moral principle to this person.

But no such person exists, and even if you are sadist who enjoys others pain, you are still aware of the pain, and how that pain feels. (All humans have had pain at some point or another)
It is this awareness that is the basis of morals, and without it there can be no morals.

There are persons with psychosis who do not make the connection between their subjective experience and that of others, though they are generally considered exceptional cases.
 
  • #37
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It is this awareness that is the basis of morals, and without it there can be no morals.

I think that's a bit oversimplified. Moral systems are not based solely on pain issues. They usually include 'punishments' which inflict pain. Morals are social rules, designed to give people an understanding about their place within a society. Moral rules often apply differently to different groups within societies, rather arbitrarily, and emphasize the importance or lack thereof of different types of pain and pleasure. The idea of sin can apply to any behavior, pain or no pain. That said, a person can also have there own personal moral code, outside of their societal structure, which has its basis entirely within one's personal identity, quite to the contrary of society.
 
  • #38
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JayRoe yeah that's true, a sin can be anything that society deems a sin, but I still find that a basic awareness and value judgment of positive and negative is the reason why we create morals around things, but those values are all based around beliefs about things, which are subjective. But even so there is still an awareness of the logic and meaning behind situations and people, and this awareness is the basis of morality imo.
 
  • #39
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All value, including morals, exist only within an intersubjective and subjective state.
All humans learn that pain hurts, and this means no human can ever escape the intersubjective knowledge that hurting animals is negative for the animal.
If a human was completely oblivious to the fact that hurting animals hurts the animal, then there couldn't be applied a moral principle to this person.

But no such person exists, and even if you are sadist who enjoys others pain, you are still aware of the pain, and how that pain feels. (All humans have had pain at some point or another)
It is this awareness that is the basis of morals, and without it there can be no morals.

In that case, hurting animals is not wrong because it is wrong to cause suffering but because one knows about and can identify with that suffering. Also, many people do not hold animals on the same level as humans (not necessarily because they view humans as some supreme species, but because they themselves are humans and in their eyes humans needs wants etc. come before animals). I cannot see any real flaw in this, and I don't think that this view would necessarily mean that someone would not object to the unnecessary harm of animals.
 
  • #40
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I believe you are commiting an error of basic logic and set theory. That while morally prescriptive statements may belong to the set of all prescriptive statements this does not mean all prescriptive statements are morally prescriptive.

Is the prescriptive statement "members of a set of entities Y which include the chracteristic X do not dictate that all members of the set Y possess the characteristic X" a morally prescriptive statement?

That is not a prescriptive, but descriptive statement. But yes, all prescriptive statements are ultimately morally descriptive statements, since they prescribe an attitude to claims.
 
  • #41
This arguement could litrally go on forever, because unlike other arguements on this forum there is no factual evidence behind Opinion's. The only thing that i think defines what is right and what is wrong is things like public opinion, natural opinion (by which i mean genetics) and the opinion of people around you, for example your parents.

The opinion of right and wrong is not universial, for all we know we may enconter an alien race that due to how its evolved may be what we consider very destructive and dominating, but again we may also encounter an alien race that is extremly peaceful.

Though right and wrong cannot be proved this is no reason not to argue over them, though it may seem pointless to argue over opinion i believe that we should find what opinions work best to suit mankinds nature as a hole.

:wink:
 
  • #42
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The riddler said:
Though right and wrong cannot be proved this is no reason not to argue over them, though it may seem pointless to argue over opinion i believe that we should find what opinions work best to suit mankinds nature as a hole.

:wink:


Sure, but why do certain opinions work best? What is the system that everything adheres to in this universe? What stipulates which opinions should work best? Randomness? Hmm, I don't think so. I would think that something vital is missing in our understanding of the fundamental essence of the universe.
 
  • #43
Sure, but why do certain opinions work best?

As i have mentioned before i think certain opinions work best only because of how we have been evolved or nutured to believe in them, but seeing how nuture can vary between different people i think it is best that opinions work on the overall nature of ourselves.
To understand what is best for us, we must first understand ourselves.

What is the system that everything adheres to in this universe? What stipulates which opinions should work best? Randomness? Hmm, I don't think so. I would think that something vital is missing in our understanding of the fundamental essence of the universe.

don't think that there is a single system that everything adheres to in this universe, but i do think that everything has its own different system that lets it react to different situations in whatever way it see's fit, these systems are either built over time (e.g. Evolution/genetics) or adjusted (e.g. Nuture), and the only thing i can say about the fundemental essence of the universe is that its probably extremly simple and right there in front of us.
 
  • #44
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The riddler said:
Sure, but why do certain opinions work best?

As i have mentioned before i think certain opinions work best only because of how we have been evolved or nutured to believe in them, but seeing how nuture can vary between different people i think it is best that opinions work on the overall nature of ourselves.
To understand what is best for us, we must first understand ourselves.


This doesn't explain why certain opinions describe better than others the reality we perceive. If we had been evolved in a different manner(whatever that means), would we have been perceiving a different universe, regulated by a different set of laws?



WaveJumper said:
]What is the system that everything adheres to in this universe? What stipulates which opinions should work best? Randomness? Hmm, I don't think so. I would think that something vital is missing in our understanding of the fundamental essence of the universe.

The riddler said:
don't think that there is a single system that everything adheres to in this universe


If there is no system that everything adheres to, how has the universe existed for 14 billion years then? If i give you a handful of sand, can you make a small-scale model of the universe that would last even for 2 seconds?



but i do think that everything has its own different system that lets it react to different situations in whatever way it see's fit


What exactly is "IT" in your above sentence? How could we characterise it?



these systems are either built over time (e.g. Evolution/genetics) or adjusted (e.g. Nuture), and the only thing i can say about the fundemental essence of the universe is that its probably extremly simple and right there in front of us.


I think what is extremely simple and primitive is our own understanding of what exactly is at play. We are still in our infancy development-wise and despite our spectacular progress all of our theories are still incomplete to various degrees and we most definitely haven't figured everything out yet. The only ones that seem to be certain they have figured everything appear to be either hardcore, die-hard atheists or religious fundamentalists. Intuitively, most of the time we are able to understand what is best for us(i.e. if it's right or wrong), but this is a skin-deep perspective. We are still lacking a deeper, fuller understanding of the system(some call it an underlying reality, accessible or not) that makes the emergence of the classical universe possible with all of its bells and whistles.
 
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