Author Topic: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.  (Read 4382 times)

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Offline Razel

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #87 on: April 20, 2013, 07:53:13 AM »
Fairness is universal to humans, but there may exist people who do not have it.  You don't see any contradiction there?

No, there is no contradiction between human societies manifesting a given intuition and some human beings within a society not possessing it. Why would you ever think there is? Most individuals only have a tiny bit of input, if at all, in their society's authoritative ruleset and traditions.

I never said anything about human societies manifesting a given intuition.  I asked how can fairness be universally intuitive to humans if there may exist humans who do not have it.  Also, if there may exist humans who do not have it, then there may exist a society of humans who do not have it, which means it may not even be universal in every human society.

I'm really confused about your position.  Earlier, you stated:

"Ethically, they can't both be true, since contradictions cannot exist. From a general epistemic standpoint, intuitions are attitudes and judgments, not propositions, and cannot be true or false."

If this is the case, then how can "harming innocent people is wrong", which you also said was an intuition, be objectively correct?  Unless I misinterpreted you and you're not an epistemic.

Offline shnozzola

Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #88 on: April 20, 2013, 11:49:53 AM »
As long as there are people who care, there are things that matter.

Razel, let's dig a bit deeper.

Let's say tomorrow, Kim Jong-un does the unthinkable and launches a nuclear attack.  Let's say 2 things.

   First, let's say the attack is more than we could have expected, and indeed L.A. is a Hiroshima.  Now, we have a smart President  that will not let things get out of hand, and by meeting with the UN and the G6 etc. the world works together to end the threat relatively quickly. I doubt if we would be stupid enough to nuke N. Korea, get other countries involved, etc, and  IMO, that gets into a possible universal evolutionary common sense that may keep the species going.

   Second, let's say the world has vastly underestimated what N. Korea has been doing underground for years.  Kim Jong-un really is a nut and wipes out cities in the US, Europe, Russia, South America, Africa, and China with 200 cities nuked.  In the chaos barbarianism rules and the remainder of the world wide nukes are launched by cowboys.  Evolutionary common sense is out the window with powerful nuts.   The human species becomes extinct.  Reboot.

   Evolutionary life just starts rebuilding at whatever stages survive North Korea. Watching the entire universe from an easy chair - no harm, no foul. No big deal.  Plenty of time (infinite?) to start over and see what CAN survive, if anything - and none of that even matters.
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #89 on: April 20, 2013, 12:17:52 PM »
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How do we know?
Because we have ethical intuitions.....

How do we know that?

All societies have implemented conceptions of justice (as far as I know: I've never heard of any contrary example). But if you're asking about individuals, that's an open question, given the existence of, for instance, sociopaths. Do they not have ethical intuitions, or do they just have no motivation to follow them? I don't know the answer to that one.

In other words, we do NOT know thateveryone has ethical intuitions.  Societies do....but does every society alwasy follow every ethical intuition that you claim each individual has?  Andjust because societies have them, why does it then follow that all (normal) citizens have identical "ethical intuitions"?

You seem to be making the assumption that we all have these "ethical intuitions" with only the scarcest of evidence.  Surely Milgram's experiments for one cast doubt that everyone has the same ethical intuitions - you said that "it is wrong to harm the innocent" was a universal ethical intuition - how then would you explain Milgram's results?
« Last Edit: April 20, 2013, 12:48:18 PM by Anfauglir »
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Razel

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #90 on: April 20, 2013, 12:29:02 PM »
Evolutionary life just starts rebuilding at whatever stages survive North Korea. Watching the entire universe from an easy chair - no harm, no foul. No big deal.  Plenty of time (infinite?) to start over and see what CAN survive, if anything - and none of that even matters.

Why should the POV of the universe or nature be used to decide whether or not things matter?  The universe may not have a purpose for life, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't.

Offline dloubet

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #91 on: April 20, 2013, 04:29:00 PM »
Has anyone voiced the ethical advantages of acting in one's self interest? Self interest is a great ethic, but it has just one problem: You have to be smart enough to know what's in your best interest.
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #92 on: April 20, 2013, 04:46:51 PM »
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How do we know that?
Depends if you're asking about ethical intuitions specifically, or all intuitions. There are a number of lines of evidence for ethical intuitionism. One is introspection. Another is by examining other societies and other primates and seeing the similarities in how they are organized and behave in the face of other people's behavior. Another is to look at people who do act in divergent ways and look at why they do so (e.g. sociopaths).

As for intuitions in general, we know that evolution has equipped us with a priori knowledge, otherwise babies could not even get started on their process of discovery. How would you go about "teaching" a baby to trust appearances? Any organism incapable of understanding its perceptions would have to either be fed and handled all its life, or would die off. It's simply not evolutionarily advantageous.


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In other words, we do NOT know thateveryone has ethical intuitions.  Societies do....but does every society alwasy follow every ethical intuition that you claim each individual has?
No, I don't think there is a direct translation, again mostly because of ideological bias. For a majority of societies (but not all of them by a long shot), religion has always had a large impact on a society's rules of conduct.

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Andjust because societies have them, why does it then follow that all (normal) citizens have identical "ethical intuitions"?
Society expressing intuitions is caused by the existence of intuitions, not the reverse. Society does not cause intuitions. Intuitions are a priori.

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You seem to be making the assumption that we all have these "ethical intuitions" with only the scarcest of evidence.
No, not at all. All the scientific evidence that I know of, as well as my belief in evolution, tells me that this is the case.

BTW, not to use an argument from popularity,  but most atheists agree with me that morality is evolutionarily-driven. We just disagree on the specifics.

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Surely Milgram's experiments for one cast doubt that everyone has the same ethical intuitions - you said that "it is wrong to harm the innocent" was a universal ethical intuition - how then would you explain Milgram's results?
I don't really understand your question- as if we've even talked about this before! Milgram's results are easily explained by what Haidt's framework calls authority, or mindfulness of one's status, which is also instinctual and which is possessed by other primates.

So, and you don't have to but I'm just curious about this, do you have an alternate viewpoint to present so we can have a discussion, or are you just asking me questions? Because you do seem to have something in the back of your mind.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2013, 04:52:52 PM by Hierophant »

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #93 on: April 20, 2013, 04:55:10 PM »
Has anyone voiced the ethical advantages of acting in one's self interest? Self interest is a great ethic, but it has just one problem: You have to be smart enough to know what's in your best interest.

Self-interest is not in itself an ethical system, because it begs the question of why one should decide to define "good" by "what is in my interest." There must exist a prior standard in the individual that makes one accept this definition, thereby making the redefinition superfluous.

Self-interest is only at best what moral philosophers call prudential reasons. Note the word "reasons," which are necessarily inscribed within a larger framework. To state that prudential reasons are one's standard of ethics is a category error.

Self-interest is also contradictory. Person X is self-interested, so by definition X considers eir life as good in itself, but other's lives to be mere instrumental values to X. But X also believes that self-interest is true for everyone, so by definition X considers that Y's life is good in itself. Therefore Y's life is both an instrumental value and good in itself. This is an obvious contradiction.

The same problem of prior standard, by the way, applies to the Bible or any other external standard.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2013, 05:26:16 PM by Hierophant »

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #94 on: April 20, 2013, 04:59:02 PM »
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I never said anything about human societies manifesting a given intuition.  I asked how can fairness be universally intuitive to humans if there may exist humans who do not have it.
And I already answered you. Likewise, would you say people who lack a leg are not human? Or people who have three kidneys are not human? Yet we identify the human prototype as having two legs and two kidneys.

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Also, if there may exist humans who do not have it, then there may exist a society of humans who do not have it, which means it may not even be universal in every human society.
Do you know any such society? I don't. I have read a number of anthropological books about the customs of a wide range of societies, so while I would not consider myself an expert on the subject, I think I know sufficiently about it. But just one counter-example would be enough...


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If this is the case, then how can "harming innocent people is wrong", which you also said was an intuition, be objectively correct?  Unless I misinterpreted you and you're not an epistemic.
Not an epistemic what? And what did I say that implies an intuition is not objectively correct, or that such a thing makes any sense at all? Your claim of having a given intuition may not be objectively correct, but an intuition is not correct or incorrect, it is just a brute fact. In the same way, my proposition that "the sky is blue" is objectively correct, but the actual color of the sky is not correct or incorrect, it's just a fact.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2013, 05:17:39 PM by Hierophant »

Offline shnozzola

Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #95 on: April 20, 2013, 05:19:48 PM »
How bout this?

   New laws under president Sarah Palin lead A to B to C to D, and yes indeed, not only is atheism illegal in the US, but these evil blasphemous atheists are naturally on par in Sarah's world with pedophiles and murderers.  Internet records being what they are, all members of WWGHA get a knock on their door, but with Sarah's christian values, aren't sentenced to death, merely life in prison w/o parole so the demons can do no harm.

Utilitarianism and common sense morality?  At least if we had access to the internet we would have time to sharpen our debating points.

http://www-tc.pbs.org/wnet/wp-content/blogs.dir/9/files/2008/09/five_sources.pdf
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Offline Razel

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #96 on: April 20, 2013, 09:46:12 PM »
And I already answered you. Likewise, would you say people who lack a leg are not human? Or people who have three kidneys are not human? Yet we identify the human prototype as having two legs and two kidneys.

So it's not universal for all humans to all have two legs and two kidneys?  I still don't get your point.

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Do you know any such society? I don't. I have read a number of anthropological books about the customs of a wide range of societies, so while I would not consider myself an expert on the subject, I think I know sufficiently about it. But just one counter-example would be enough...

If "x is objectively wrong because we all intuitively know that", then there shouldn't even exist any people who don't intuitively know that.

Quote
Not an epistemic what? And what did I say that implies an intuition is not objectively correct, or that such a thing makes any sense at all? Your claim of having a given intuition may not be objectively correct, but an intuition is not correct or incorrect, it is just a brute fact. In the same way, my proposition that "the sky is blue" is objectively correct, but the actual color of the sky is not correct or incorrect, it's just a fact.

I see.  Thanks for clearing that up.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #97 on: April 21, 2013, 02:09:54 AM »
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So it's not universal for all humans to all have two legs and two kidneys?
It is a universal trait of humans to have two legs and two kidneys, but obviously not all humans follow this. There is no trait that all humans can share, because there is, I believe, always a possible way for a human being, or at least something we'd call a human being, to not possess any trait you can come up with.

Take the transhumanist nonsense, for instance. What if a human being uploads eir mind into a computer substrate? Would you still call em a human being? And yet they would share no (or very few, mostly irrelevant) biological traits whatsoever with you or me.

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If "x is objectively wrong because we all intuitively know that",
But that's not what I'm saying. I make no claim that "all" will agree with me on anything. Disagreement is part of every intellectual domain, including those about which we have intuitions (such as perception, esthetics or logic). Creationism is objectively wrong but millions of people do not know this fact. Christians believe there is a "supernatural" realm even though this goes against the intuition (otherwise shared by all, including Christians) that it is objectively wrong to believe in something in the absence of any evidence for it.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 02:14:49 AM by Hierophant »

Offline Razel

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #98 on: April 21, 2013, 02:50:55 AM »
It is a universal trait of humans to have two legs and two kidneys, but obviously not all humans follow this. There is no trait that all humans can share, because there is, I believe, always a possible way for a human being, or at least something we'd call a human being, to not possess any trait you can come up with.

So when you say "universal", you mean "something that applies to every society" or "something that applies to most people" instead of "something that applies to everyone".

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But that's not what I'm saying. I make no claim that "all" will agree with me on anything. Disagreement is part of every intellectual domain, including those about which we have intuitions (such as perception, esthetics or logic). Creationism is objectively wrong but millions of people do not know this fact. Christians believe there is a "supernatural" realm even though this goes against the intuition (otherwise shared by all, including Christians) that it is objectively wrong to believe in something in the absence of any evidence for it.

Yes, I get it.  Something can be objectively true, but not everyone has to believe it's true.

If the reason isn't that we "know intuitively", then what is the reason that makes x objectively wrong?  My dog objectively weighs 10 lbs because I can objectively put him on a scale and measure it, and he will weigh 10 lbs regardless of perspective.  The scale is what decides whether or not he weighs 10 lbs, regardless of whether or not other people believe he weighs 10 lbs.  What makes ethics objective?  What objective method do you have to measure the wrongness of something?

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #99 on: April 21, 2013, 03:13:55 AM »
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So when you say "universal", you mean "something that applies to every society" or "something that applies to most people" instead of "something that applies to everyone".
Having two legs or two kidneys is part of the human prototype, but not everyone has two legs or two kidneys. When I say something is universal, in the case of biology for instance, I mean that it's part of the human prototype. My further point was that nothing "applies to everyone."


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What makes ethics objective?  What objective method do you have to measure the wrongness of something?
The most direct objective method we have of measuring the wrongness of something is to refer to our relevant intuitions and their corollaries, and make sure that we're not subject to any of the common sources of error, such as ideological bias or partial/biased/incorrect information, using hypothetical scenarios to ensure that we're not committing some form of Special Pleading (e.g. Christians who are against abortion and yet who give an abortion-sympathetic answer to Thomson's Violinist).
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 03:21:02 AM by Hierophant »

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #100 on: April 21, 2013, 03:17:25 AM »
I have to say, I've been answering questions for a while now, but when are we going to have a debate on the subject? I've already addressed why I disagree with the OP's presentation of "common sense morality" (which was intended to be a representation of intuitionism) and why my position (EvoInt) does not fall into the fallacies csm supposedly does. I am willing to consider further attempts at refutation, or to ponder any alternate viewpoint that anyone wants to present (I have already done so above with self-interest).

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #101 on: April 21, 2013, 05:26:31 AM »
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How do we know that?
Depends if you're asking about ethical intuitions specifically, or all intuitions. There are a number of lines of evidence for ethical intuitionism. One is introspection. Another is by examining other societies and other primates and seeing the similarities in how they are organized and behave in the face of other people's behavior. Another is to look at people who do act in divergent ways and look at why they do so (e.g. sociopaths).



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In other words, we do NOT know thateveryone has ethical intuitions.  Societies do....but does every society alwasy follow every ethical intuition that you claim each individual has?
No, I don't think there is a direct translation, again mostly because of ideological bias. For a majority of societies (but not all of them by a long shot), religion has always had a large impact on a society's rules of conduct.

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Andjust because societies have them, why does it then follow that all (normal) citizens have identical "ethical intuitions"?
Society expressing intuitions is caused by the existence of intuitions, not the reverse. Society does not cause intuitions. Intuitions are a priori.

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You seem to be making the assumption that we all have these "ethical intuitions" with only the scarcest of evidence.
No, not at all. All the scientific evidence that I know of, as well as my belief in evolution, tells me that this is the case.

BTW, not to use an argument from popularity,  but most atheists agree with me that morality is evolutionarily-driven. We just disagree on the specifics.

I may have missed it, but I've not seen the evidence that we have ethical inuitions as a universal thing.  I don't believe that societies CAN be used as a baseline to assume that all citizens - normal OR sociopath - have the same "ethical intuitions".  Society will be formed by the majority, which could mean up to 49% of people have differing "ethical intuitions".  You can't look at ANY society and say "all its citizens agree with it", surely?  If you could, then I guess every German was a Nazi who believed Jews should be exterminated, every person in the UK believes drugs should be illegal, every person in the US in the 1800s was 100% behind the idea of slavery.  So I'd appreciate a little more info on how you can step from "societies 'believe'" to "ALL normal peopl believe".

Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline mango

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #102 on: April 21, 2013, 07:27:13 PM »
Hi,
to totally crash this thread with a login I've apparently had from days past (I don't know what I wrote in the past, and I don't feel like looking it up. Horrible fallacies probably):
1.
In order to defend intuitionism, you do have to overcame the issue of framing effects. What I find to be one of the most devastating studies against this is this one:
Schwitzgabel et al. "Expertise in Moral Reasoning,"  Mind & Language (2012), 27, 135-153
http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzAbs/EthOrder.htm

This is a study in experimental philosophy where professional ethicists and ethics professors well familiar with issues such as trolley cases as well as other people were asked for ethical judgments on a number of issues. And it turns out, the professionals and the lay people are equally affected by framing effects. That is, the ethical judgment (intuition) they give when presented with cases varies to a degree of statistical significance based only on the ordering of the cases.
If ethical intuitions were as stable as you, Hierophant, seem to need them to be, you wouldn't expect ethically irrelevant features to make such a big difference.

2.
Going back to a few pages ago, I think it would be helpful to keep some distinctions in mind.

Value Theory is what we use to determine what is good.
This can be either absolutist (pain is bad for everyone, music is good for everyone) or conditional on kind of thing (pain isn't bad for the Borg, music isn't good for dung beetles, but both are bad for humans)
When people say they don't want "metaphysical" ethics, I suppose they don't want values to be ontological primitive non physical things. Ideally, value properties should supervene on physical (or biological, chemical, whatever) properties. Usually naturalists hope to get supervenience relationships of everything on the fundamental physical properties. So, ideally a naturalist value theory would be able to show some supervenience relationship of values on physics (via biology, psychology, etc).

Normative Ethics is the study of theories that are used to determine what actions are good/should be taken. Usually these make you specify a value theory. For example, you could couple a normative theory such as consequentialism (strive to achieve the greatest net good values v.s. bad values) with hedonism (pleasure is valuable), or with desire satisfaction theory (getting what you [really] want is valuable).

There are problems getting either of these off the ground. First, how can we find out whether there are things good or bad for something?
Secondly, how can we find out that we have any obligation to bring about these good things?

Which sortof brings us to what we are doing here:

MetaEthics dealing with the question of whether there are values or norms at all, and if so, what their ontological status is (Are they supervenient on physical things, are they abstract entities, etc.) That is sortof on the same level as asking "What are laws of nature?"

Incidentally, I don't understand why people are so spooked about values that are ontologically non-physical things. That's about on par with being a realist about numbers, sets, properties, propositions, and such matters, and it is very very hard to get a consistent ontology that is thoroughly nominalistic.

3.
Keeping these distinctions in mind really helps the discussion to stay focused. For example, intuitionism is primarily a metaethical theory: Values and norms are either supervenient on or discovered by the intuitions of moral agents. And per naturalism and evolution, these intuitions are psychological properties we can study. Moreover, we can theorize about how humans came to have these intuitions through psychology (evolutionary and otherwise).

Interestingly, there is both an epistemic and a metaphysical thesis which needs to be kept distinct. On the one hand, we can claim that our intuitions merely track the moral truths, but that they do not ground them. Ethical truths may be grounded in other things, but we can try to argue that the kind of cognitive mechanisms humans have adequately track these truths. Recent evolutionary debunking arguments have often tried to show that this can't be the case.

On the other hand, we can say that moral truths in fact supervene on the intuitions. That is, if the intuitions were different, then the morals would be different, but the intuitions, as they are, is what makes up the moral truths. That is of course pretty straightforward relativism, and it is seriously threatened by a number of problems.

a) Moral disagreement.
If the intuitions disagree, how do the moral truths go? Are only consensus intuitions the 'real' morals? Is this at the current time limited to geographic locations, or is it past and future intuitions as well?
b) Framing Effects -  See point 1. above
Our moral intuitions are affected by things that very clearly seem to be non-moral factors. But how could morality be grounded in a mechanism that is affected by input that is obviously non-moral?
c) Why should we care? - The value problem
If morality just IS the consensus of our intuitions, how does it give us a reason to act on it? What is the rational connection between
1. "It is wrong to M" is an intuition shared among humans. And
2. I will not M  ?

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #103 on: April 21, 2013, 11:00:06 PM »
Quote
I don't believe that societies CAN be used as a baseline to assume that all citizens - normal OR sociopath - have the same "ethical intuitions".
Then it's good that I never said that, huh?

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #104 on: April 21, 2013, 11:13:40 PM »
If ethical intuitions were as stable as you, Hierophant, seem to need them to be, you wouldn't expect ethically irrelevant features to make such a big difference.
I never said intuitions were the only factor involved in making decisions, or that cognitive biases do not exist, so I'm not sure why you think this is a counter-argument. Of course cognitive biases exist and influence everything we think. How does that disprove intuitionism any more than it disproves other ethical theories or e.g. science?

I'm not sure if any of the rest of what you wrote was meant to address me, but I'll answer what I see as questions...

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If the intuitions disagree, how do the moral truths go?
This question is too vague. Are we talking about two intuitions possessed by the same person? Or different people? Or what? You have to provide context.

If you're asking how to resolve disagreements, then that's a whole other issue, but since it's an issue for all ethical theories, I don't see how it's particularly relevant to intuitionism.

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Are only consensus intuitions the 'real' morals?
I don't know what a "consensus intuition" is. I don't know of any sub-categories of intuitions, except by dividing them in disciplines like perception, ethics, esthetics, etc.

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Our moral intuitions are affected by things that very clearly seem to be non-moral factors. But how could morality be grounded in a mechanism that is affected by input that is obviously non-moral?
I don't understand the question. Morality, like all other areas of knowledge, is the product of a human brain, and the human brain is subject to cognitive biases. Everything we know is subject to those biases, including memory and perception. And I hope you don't intend to refute memory and perception as well.


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If morality just IS the consensus of our intuitions
I still don't know what a consensus intuition is.

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how does it give us a reason to act on it? What is the rational connection between
1. "It is wrong to M" is an intuition shared among humans. And
2. I will not M  ?

Apart from the fact that 1 is not an accurate statement (what does it matter if it's shared among humans? "humanity" is not making ethical judgments, individuals are), the falsify of the general form of the argument can be seen by this example:

1. I have a memory experience of e.
2. e happened.

1 is about a mental state, while 2 is about a past event. What could possibly be the relation between a mental state and an event? Again, unless you intend to deny the validity of memory, there isn't really any argument here.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 11:21:40 PM by Hierophant »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #105 on: April 22, 2013, 03:47:55 AM »
Quote
I don't believe that societies CAN be used as a baseline to assume that all citizens - normal OR sociopath - have the same "ethical intuitions".
Then it's good that I never said that, huh?

Then I'm confused, on two counts.  What do you mean by:

There are a number of lines of evidence for ethical intuitionism. One is ... examining other societies and other primates and seeing the similarities in how they are organized and behave in the face of other people's behavior. .....
Society expressing intuitions is caused by the existence of intuitions, not the reverse.

It seemed to be saying that we can deduce the existence of ethical intuitions from society.  I explained why I believed that could not be done.  If you believe that you CAN deduce the existence of ethical intiutions from looking at societies, I'd appreciate knowing the detail of how you think that can be done.

If you agree with me that you can NOT deduce the existence of ethical intuitions from examining societies, then I would appreciate you explaining what evidence you ARE using.  I know you've claimed there is evidence, but I haven't been able to spot where you stated what that evidence is - sorry.

Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #106 on: April 22, 2013, 04:14:03 AM »
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It seemed to be saying that we can deduce the existence of ethical intuitions from society.  I explained why I believed that could not be done.  If you believe that you CAN deduce the existence of ethical intiutions from looking at societies, I'd appreciate knowing the detail of how you think that can be done.
You're moving the goalposts. Your initial assertion was that I said the similarities between societies entailed that every human being had the same intuitions. I never said that. What I did say was that the similarities between societies was evidence for ethical intuitionism, i.e. the position that ethics originates in a priori judgments and is built upon their foundation.

Yes, I think the similarities in the way societies treat their members are powerful evidence for intuitionism. If subjectivism was true, there would be no particular reason for societies to generally agree on murder being wrong, theft being wrong, harming innocent people being wrong, honesty, fairness and courage being laudable, and so on. We should see societies where murder, theft and harming the innocent is considered right, where honesty, fairness and courage are discouraged, and so on. But because ethics serves an evolutionary purpose and is based on the evolution of sociability, we do not observe such differences.

We do observe differences in ethical judgment between societies as well, but what we do observe are, I think, mostly differences due to vast ideological (e.g. religious) biases, massive errors of fact or ignorance (e.g. of science), and a too-great importance given to in-group (which as I've argued before is rejected by EvoInt).

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #107 on: April 22, 2013, 04:31:41 AM »
You're moving the goalposts. Your initial assertion was that I said the similarities between societies entailed that every human being had the same intuitions. I never said that. What I did say was that the similarities between societies was evidence for ethical intuitionism, i.e. the position that ethics originates in a priori judgments and is built upon their foundation.

Ah - well, then if not every human is born with the same ethical intuitions, then I return to what I believe was the individual point - that they are therefore subjective rather than objective.  I have no problem with overall similarites between societies being evidence that a particular ethical intuition is more prevalent than other/s.

But if two people can have differing ethical intuitions, then I fail to see how a single system of ethics derived from ONE of those sets of intuitions can be said to be an objective system.  At least not without saying that a system derived from the OTHER set of intuitions is equally objective.

And that's the bit I don't get - how two differing ethical systems can both be described as objective?

I feel like I may be missing something though, so appreciate clarification.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #108 on: April 22, 2013, 04:40:37 AM »
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Ah - well, then if not every human is born with the same ethical intuitions, then I return to what I believe was the individual point - that they are therefore subjective rather than objective.
No, intuitions are objective because their existence and contents do not depend in any way on the psychological attitude or response that observers have towards it. I already pointed that out on the previous page. One's intuitions are as much of a brute fact as the number of one's legs or kidneys. The fact that people are born with legs of different lengths does not make legs subjective entities.

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But if two people can have differing ethical intuitions, then I fail to see how a single system of ethics derived from ONE of those sets of intuitions can be said to be an objective system.
I said the intuitions are objective. I didn't say anything about a system of ethics yet, unless you're talking about EvoInt specifically. If you're asking whether EvoInt is objective, then I agree that it's a debatable issue, but the objective nature of intuitions themselves, and intuitionism in general (no matter what the area), is not really debatable.

Quote
I feel like I may be missing something though, so appreciate clarification.
I'm not sure what your issue-to-be-resolved is, since you keep moving the goalposts and forcing me to chase you on every reply. I wish you'd just stand still for a minute and settle one thing at a time instead of starting these wild geese chases.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 04:42:23 AM by Hierophant »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #109 on: April 22, 2013, 06:46:42 AM »
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I feel like I may be missing something though, so appreciate clarification.
I'm not sure what your issue-to-be-resolved is, since you keep moving the goalposts and forcing me to chase you on every reply. I wish you'd just stand still for a minute and settle one thing at a time instead of starting these wild geese chases.

It comes down to this: I do not understand how an individual's ethical intuitions can be described as objective, when another individual can have differing EIs.

Yes: I get that we can say it is an objective fact that this person has this EI, and that person has that EI, in the same way as we can say it is an objective fact that he has red hair, she has dark hair.  But I honestly don't get how you can say that an ethical intuition is objective in its nature.  It's existence, yes, but not its nature.  What I mean is: we can say "it is objective that Bill's EIs are these".  What we cannot do is say "it is objective that Bill's EIs are correct" - that value judgement is a subjective one.  (It may be here that we have gone on crossed lines).

But as a result I do not see how we can say that the existence of EI advances the theme of this thread (in determining a system of morality) if different people have different EIs.  It would be as valid as advancing a system of ethics based on hair colour, would it not?  EvoInt cannot be objective in nature if it is based on Bill's EIs, when Bob's EIs are totally different.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Graybeard

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #110 on: April 22, 2013, 07:49:39 AM »
Morals are the rules taken from responses (often, but not always, emotional responses) that others vicariously display.

We feel sorry for a man who has been blinded. We imagine ourselves being blinded. We are then vicariously angry at the man who blinded him – the perpetrator has behaved, as we say, “immorally.”

All immoral behaviour is behaviour of which we do not approve because we would not want it to happen to us.

There are 7 billion people on the planet; they all have a different set of preferences and, within those preferences, an intensity of feeling. Morality has to be subjective.

However, because of the diversity of preferences, they will be able to be mapped to a 3D bell graph. A certain portion of the main body of the bell is the norm and we hide our true feelings to make life easy for ourselves – we tolerate and live within a particular general morality that our society has adopted.

Thus there are morals that are common to mankind and intensities of morals that are cultural and/or individual and areas where some possess certain morals and others not.

There is, of course, no need for any being to have 'given' us any morals, any more than there is any reason for ants to have been ‘given’ their controlled behaviour patterns -> we just evolved that way as a social species.  Morality is a set of tacit rules that work for us. That is "us" as individuals and "us" as a society and "us" as a tribe/nation and "us" as humankind.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #111 on: April 22, 2013, 02:04:14 PM »
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It comes down to this: I do not understand how an individual's ethical intuitions can be described as objective, when another individual can have differing EIs.
How can your reasoned position about atheism be described as objective, when another individual has a different reasoned position? How can an individual's memory of an event can be described as objective, when another individual can have different memories? How can an individual's perception of an object be described as objective, when another individual can have different perceptions? etc.

People have or have had profound disagreements on things that clearly are matters of fact, such as the assassination of JFK, evolution and creationism, the existence of Bigfoot, the origin of disease, whether witches exist, the inferiority of a race compared to another, the existence of God, etc. Why do you think that demonstrates that there's no matter of fact?
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 02:10:36 PM by Hierophant »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #112 on: April 22, 2013, 02:08:51 PM »
So nothing is subjective, to you.

EDIT:  You use several examples of perceiving physical reality, which we agree is an objective constraint on our perceptions (even though those perceptions themselves are subjective).  Physical reality is, regardless of what we think or feel about it.

With ethics, there is no physical reality constraining EIs.  So, Anfauglir's point remains unanswered, so many posts later.  I suspect you have no answer for him and perhaps are avoiding actually thinking about his point.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 02:12:39 PM by Azdgari »
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #113 on: April 22, 2013, 02:13:52 PM »
Anything that is partially constituted by our psychological reactions is subjective. Funniness is subjective. Beauty is subjective (even though there are objective facts about it). A headache is subjective. Economic value in a capitalist economy is subjective. Many of our motivating factors (emotions, appetites) are subjective. 
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 02:16:00 PM by Hierophant »

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #114 on: April 22, 2013, 02:18:58 PM »
But our instincts are objective, by your definition.  I was using the real definition, not yours.
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.

Offline Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #115 on: April 22, 2013, 02:22:07 PM »
And by "real" definition, I mean the definition of the word "subjective" understood by everyone in the thread who isn't you.  I realize that language is subjective.
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.