Author Topic: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.  (Read 5440 times)

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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #116 on: April 22, 2013, 02:33:29 PM »
Definitions are not subjective, if you mean the ones you can find in the dictionary.

No one's presented a better definition than mine, so I feel somewhat entitled to my usage... If you can provide an alternate definition for "subjective" which does not include things like science, then I'll accept it as well.

But I think we're wasting an awful amount of time on something that's not even on-topic... I'm here to defend my position, not argue over what is objective and what isn't. I would think that objectivity and subjectivity is pretty "common sense."
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 02:36:33 PM by Hierophant »

Online Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #117 on: April 22, 2013, 03:04:42 PM »
Definitions are not subjective, if you mean the ones you can find in the dictionary.

Whether it can be found in the dictionary is not subjective, of course.  Though obviously that's not what I meant.  Yours objectively cannot be found in the dictionary.

No one's presented a better definition than mine, so I feel somewhat entitled to my usage... If you can provide an alternate definition for "subjective" which does not include things like science, then I'll accept it as well.

"Science" can mean all sorts of things.  Care to clarify?  And why do you think it is that philosophical dialogue for centuries has utilized definitions of "subjective" and "objective" that you find useless?

Rather than use old words with pre-existing definitions, you should coin a new term, or look up an English word or two that already fits your meaning.  You are not entitled to make up your own language when trying to communicate with others.

But I think we're wasting an awful amount of time on something that's not even on-topic...

It was your decision to deliberately derail the discussion with that topic a-way back during our prior exchange.  The legacy of that derailment continues with the use of English on one side, and your similar but different language on the other.  This is your choice.  You must not want communication to take place.

I'm here to defend my position, not argue over what is objective and what isn't. I would think that objectivity and subjectivity is pretty "common sense."

Normally it's pretty common-sense.  Then someone like you comes along and re-defines things so that nobody knows what anyone's saying anymore.
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #118 on: April 22, 2013, 03:13:22 PM »
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Yours objectively cannot be found in the dictionary.
And that proves that...?

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"Science" can mean all sorts of things.  Care to clarify?
No... you'll just claim my definition isn't objective anyway.  :D

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Rather than use old words with pre-existing definitions, you should coin a new term
Hey, let's all speak gibberish! Dubla dran? Morky 'n Mindy parsley shakeahey.

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It was your decision to deliberately derail the discussion with that topic a-way back during our prior exchange.
I stated that intutions are objective. This is a factual statement. If you prefer, intuitions are a brute fact. Are your bruised sensibilities healed now?

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Normally it's pretty common-sense.  Then someone like you comes along and re-defines things so that nobody knows what anyone's saying anymore.
Yes, obviously this is all my fault. I somehow dared to bring my own assumptions in a philosophical discussion, while you obviously did not. I'm also responsible for the last time you stubbed your toe. Cuuuurses!

Seriously... are you trying to make me laugh?

Online Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #119 on: April 22, 2013, 03:22:30 PM »
And that proves that...?

It just means that it's not in common usage.  But in case it slipped your mind, I was responding to this quip:
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Definitions are not subjective, if you mean the ones you can find in the dictionary.

No... you'll just claim my definition isn't objective anyway.  :D

Now you're just trolling.

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Rather than use old words with pre-existing definitions, you should coin a new term
Hey, let's all speak gibberish! Dubla dran? Morky 'n Mindy parsley shakeahey.

Not at all what I suggested.  But in-line with your trolling.

I stated that intutions are objective. This is a factual statement. If you prefer, intuitions are a brute fact. Are your bruised sensibilities healed now?

Their existence is a brute fact, yes.  They are a part of reality.  All thoughts are.  What sensibilities are you talking about?  I just don't like it when people respond to a genuine attempt to discuss something by trolling or derailing the discussion.  You did the latter earlier by, without explaining what you were doing, deciding to depart from the English language.  Now, in this last post, you're just trolling.

Yes, obviously this is all my fault. I somehow dared to bring my own assumptions in a philosophical discussion, while you obviously did not. I'm also responsible for the last time you stubbed your toe. Cuuuurses!

Seriously... are you trying to make me laugh?

Oh please.  My only rash assumption was that you were speaking English.  You've since corrected me on that point.  The question is, why didn't you do so openly, instead of assuming that what you'd invented was common knowledge?
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #120 on: April 22, 2013, 03:27:41 PM »
You're complaining endlessly about my use of one word, you remain here even though you obviously don't want to discuss the topic, but I'm the troll. Whatever, dude. I am done with you and your personal attacks.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #121 on: April 22, 2013, 03:30:05 PM »
Two words, actually, and they're the ones that are the center of this thread's discussion topic:  Morality and whether it is <word #1> or <word #2>.  That's why the meanings of those words matter so much to the discussion.

But then, that would only be important to someone who's interested in having a discussion...

EDIT:  Also, apart from describing your previous post as trolling[1], where have I made a personal attack in this thread?
 1. IMO this is not a personal attack, any more than "you are behaving poorly" is a personal attack.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 03:31:42 PM by Azdgari »
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #122 on: April 23, 2013, 02:24:39 AM »
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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?

I don't.  Now it seems you are chasing your own wild goose.

The existence or non-existence of god, Bigfoot, what I ate for lunch, where I parked my car.....all of those are objective facts.  Their validity is not changed one tiny bit by what I think is reality.

My beliefs about those things, your beliefs about those things, his beliefs about those things - those are all subjective.

I stated that intutions are objective. This is a factual statement. If you prefer, intuitions are a brute fact.

That a person has a particular intuition, is objective.
The "correctness" of that intuition, is subjective.

Example:  It is an objective fact that I believe it is right that all red-haired children are evil and should be drowned at birth.  It is NOT an objective fact that that all red-haired children are evil and should be drowned at birth - that is a subjective opinion based on my intuition.
<DISCLAIMER: I do not actually believe the above.>
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 #123 on: April 23, 2013, 03:11:22 AM »
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The existence or non-existence of god, Bigfoot, what I ate for lunch, where I parked my car.....all of those are objective facts.  Their validity is not changed one tiny bit by what I think is reality.
So we do agree on that.

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My beliefs about those things, your beliefs about those things, his beliefs about those things - those are all subjective.
I made no claim about that.

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Example:  It is an objective fact that I believe it is right that all red-haired children are evil and should be drowned at birth.  It is NOT an objective fact that that all red-haired children are evil and should be drowned at birth - that is a subjective opinion based on my intuition.
<DISCLAIMER: I do not actually believe the above.>
Even in a hypothetical, you can't just state "I believe X, therefore it is intuitive." Our actual beliefs about ethics have many motivating factors, and intuitions are just one of them. Other sources of motivations include appetites, feelings, prudential reasons (i.e. self-interest) and reasoning errors such as ideological bias, cognitive bias (as we already discussed), ignorance of important facts, etc.

But yes, all right, suppose I agree with you that all of our positions are subjective. So what?
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 03:30:58 AM by Hierophant »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #124 on: April 23, 2013, 04:55:23 AM »
But yes, all right, suppose I agree with you that all of our positions are subjective. So what?

So I do not see how any system of ethics can be anything more than subjective.

That may well never have been your point at all, I've lost track now!   ;)

So far as EIs go, assuming that we have them at all, it is objective what each individual's EI is.  But those EIs are subjective in what they claim.

I really HAVE lost track as to what we're talking about now - I think it stemmed from the OP claiming the failure of two ethical systems and asking for a better one?
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 #125 on: April 23, 2013, 05:24:49 AM »
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So far as EIs go, assuming that we have them at all, it is objective what each individual's EI is.  But those EIs are subjective in what they claim.
Okay, but again, since that applies to all ethical systems... I don't really see the relevance to this particular discussion.

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I really HAVE lost track as to what we're talking about now - I think it stemmed from the OP claiming the failure of two ethical systems and asking for a better one?
Well, yes. And I'm arguing for one of the two systems he claims is a failure. As I said before, I've pointed out why I think his refutation of intuitionism (or as he called it, "commonsense morality") fails to address EvoInt or intuitionism in general. The discussion stalled from there because of the whole objective/subjective rigamarole.

Offline mango

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #126 on: April 23, 2013, 10:04:27 AM »
To be fair to Hierophant, we'd probably have to read the book he is defending. Sadly, my university library doesn't have it as an ebook, and I'm too lazy to actually go to the library. Google books has a few pages of it, or at least it has the beginning of chapter two which outlines all the claims. I'm somewhat disappointed that the website of the guy who wrote it doesn't have at least a downloadable paper outlining the basics of the view. The book is called:
"Evolutionary intuitionism :  a theory of the origin and nature of moral fact"

here is the google books link (no idea if this works):
http://books.google.com/books?id=zgnQszaBBrwC&pg=PA24&lpg=PA24&dq=Evolutionary+intuitionism+:++a+theory+of+the+origin+and+nature+of+moral+fact&source=bl&ots=zW6HzC5QSd&sig=2zcR5FJsxj1Kck-n_A1nqw6KqmM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1Z92UYibDcajrAHOlYCwBQ&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=Evolutionary%20intuitionism%20%3A%20%20a%20theory%20of%20the%20origin%20and%20nature%20of%20moral%20fact&f=false

And here is the website of the author:

http://zamulinski.com/evolutionary_intuitionism

And just because I'm nice, here is a summary of the claims of the view for Tl:Dr people:
1. Moral realism is true (vs. anti-realism)
2. Moral objectivism is true (vs. relativism or subjectivism. E.g. it is always wrong for anyone anywhere to torture any babies for fun)
3. Cognitivism is true (we can know the moral facts)
4. Moral judgments can be true (vs. error theory)
5. The is/ought gap is unbridgeable (You can NOT derive an 'ought' from an 'is.' This is against the naturalist gambit that moral values supervene on physical facts)
6. Morality is not instrumental (That is, morality is not just pragmatic, or an agreement to optimize things or whatever. Also, moral reasons can go against self-interest)
7. We have intuitive access to moral truths (to SOME moral truths under SOME conditions. So it is possible to get moral knowledge through intuitions)

Now, the interesting part is how he argues for all this. But I suppose you have to read the book for it. I would also like to point out that the bits I read are very clearly articulated, so you probably can't dismiss the view as easily some of Hierophant's comments may have led on to. (No offense intended. I'm just trying to say that the author of the view you like is probably doing a better job defending it than you are. Thank you for bringing it up though, I may read the book some time over the summer)

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #127 on: April 23, 2013, 03:48:46 PM »
I'm not just defending EvoInt, I am defending intuitionism in general. I didn't just read one book and decided I knew enough, geeze.

Offline mango

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #128 on: April 23, 2013, 04:46:51 PM »
I'm not just defending EvoInt, I am defending intuitionism in general. I didn't just read one book and decided I knew enough, geeze.

I never meant to say you only read one book. You did say you thought it was the best view, and there is nothing wrong with one book happening to present the view you most agree with. But given that the book was written to overcome the "other problem with intuitionism," I thought that you agreed that regular intuitionism doesn't work.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #129 on: April 23, 2013, 08:51:43 PM »
No, I don't think intuitionism in general is a flawed view. I would also encourage you to read Ethical Intuitionism, by Michael Huemer. Great, great book. There is a chapter available for reading here.

Offline mango

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #130 on: April 28, 2013, 02:53:47 PM »
Hierophant, through one of your other posts you identified yourself as the main author of http://www.strongatheism.net/

On there, you have two articles from 2005 about ethics. Do you still endorse those views?

The Case for Objective Morality
http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/case_for_objective_morality/

The Is-Ought False Dichotomy
http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/is_ought_false_dichotemy/

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #131 on: April 28, 2013, 04:08:56 PM »
No, I don't endorse these views any more (although obviously I am still a moral realist).

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #132 on: April 29, 2013, 11:07:58 AM »
In other words Utilitarianism tends to enforce a very poor outcome on its practitioners. It may be objected that this would not be the case if everyone acted on the principle of utility, this is fair, but the notion of universal assent hopelessly unrealistic. I would argue that an ethical system which makes its practitioners worse off is philosophically flawed.

I have a problem with this opening statement.

Utilitarianism is not something that one person unilaterally adopts, but is something forced upon the civilization by a ruler, or an imaginary god. People would have no hesitation following a morality, if it made them individually better off. It follows that morality is something that is hard to do, and must be forced upon you.

I might vote for tax reforms that tax the rich, and then when I'm rich, I attempt to evade the tax.

A civilization must adopt utilitarianism to a large degree, or it faces being exterminated by a culture which is more efficient. Once it has settled on a version which creates relative efficiency, it then fusses over regularizing the laws, to make them "fair", please god, please other voters.
Humans, in general, don't waste any opportunity to be unfathomably stupid - Dr Cynical.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #133 on: April 29, 2013, 05:51:44 PM »
How does utilitarianism promote a more efficient economy? It seems to me that implementing utilitarian ethics would create such an omnipresent bureaucratic apparatus that everything would crawl to a halt.

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #134 on: April 29, 2013, 06:49:37 PM »
If the state were to impose individual-action utilitarianism, that would be true - but then by utilitarianism's own standards, such an attempt would be "wrong" for the very reason you point out.  That is not the kind of utilitarianism that states typically impose though.  Instead, they impose rule-based utilitarianism.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_utilitarianism
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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #135 on: April 29, 2013, 09:08:35 PM »
How does utilitarianism promote a more efficient economy? It seems to me that implementing utilitarian ethics would create such an omnipresent bureaucratic apparatus that everything would crawl to a halt.

I've seen utliliarianism in this thread, defined as something that has "happiness" as its goal. If that were the case, it should be called "Happitarianism", but it's not. The core of utility is functionality, and obtaining the most functionality, so that your economy works better, so that people probably can be happy, if indeed they view consumerism and prosperity as happiness. (Which there are some doubts) But, the prime objective is for your kingdom to work, because if it doesn't, you are dead. In a blunt way, evolution shapes the rules of utility, so you have no choice but to adopt it as a basis.

Typically, people understand morality as a form of utilitarianism, because they can always argue for the rules, in terms of whether it will hurt their country. Should we pay welfare to single mothers? Well, no; because blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, America will fall, and be invaded by Islam and Mexicans.

Utilitarianism has problems deciding some issues, like abortion and euthanasia. Say, I make a rule, which says that all babies with birth defects should be killed. We should logically do this. In BC days, people used to leave their kids out in the snow, to check how hardy they were. You will notice that there is no mention of what to do with a defective baby in the Bible. Important issue, right? Glossed over. The problem is: what type of people does it make us, if we can kill our children? This might wash in Klingon society, but would the Klingon economy really work, and out-compete others. I don't know.
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Offline Hierophant

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Re: Secular ethics - why Utilitarianism and Common Sense Morality fail.
« Reply #136 on: April 29, 2013, 11:55:24 PM »
You are stretching the definition of "utilitarianism" beyond recognition. "Functionality"? What does that even mean? I can only interpret this, at best, as a form of cultural relativism, and at worse as a form of obedience to authority. Whatever the function of our institutions (like "the economy"), they must be good and fulfilled with maximum efficiency, and of course people in positions of power are the ones who tell you what the function of their institution is.

Obedience to authority is not morality, as you should well know.