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    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009 edited
    @Citruscreed what doclivingston said.
    not is it good or bad but is it a good idea or a bad idea? I don't think this is just semantics, I think it is a crucial difference that informs everything that follows. The first question in this case would be "what if everyone did it?" (right?) or the "times a gazillion factor" as I prefer to call it
    a) Your gazillion factor is Kant's First Formulation. Don't worry, I spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel in these discussions, too. Too much to read, not enough time! Try going through Humanism and Pragmatism as that seems to be where you're headed anyway.

    b) Which leads pretty neatly into: Yes. It pretty much is semantics. "Good" implies in itself "good idea" - the reason they seem different to you is that you are using in the first case an Absolutist definition of good and in the second a Pragmatist or Consequentialist definition. So yeah, it's semantics - semantics are important. Good and bad mean different things on the want/do not want spectrum depending pretty much entirely ON semantics, even before we get into the "who defines good" issue.
  1.  (5365.102)
    Glad someone else thinks that semantics are important other than myself, I'm tired of the often dismissive "oh that's just semantics" cliche'. Good and bad though are quite nebulous and though we all know what they "mean" they tell us little, not to mention reinforcing dualism of thought which I would consider somewhat detrimental since it does appear to pertain to absolutism. One of my friends discusses things in terms of varied levels of usefulness or detriment, which I think, gives us a larger palette upon which to make value judgments.

    Which is why I think most actions, unless done with willful intent to the detriment of others should be considered amoral.
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009

    Jaques Derrida argued that the biggest paradox of philosophy is that if you could somehow manage to answer the myriad of questions that philosophy asked, Philosophy would cease to exist.

    (Thank you, Action Philosophers.)
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009
    @ doc livingston:
    fully formed systems of morality that have nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of absolute right and absolute wrong

    ok, do I have to take your word for it or would you be prepared to name a few of these examples so I can look at them and see what you mean? I don't mean to be rude, I just wish to better understand my own misunderstanding. "Higher Power" was a bit provocative of me, I didn't mean god etc specifically, rather that there is some objectively desirable truth that applies in all situations. Do you mean, like, communism suggests it is moral to share everything you have in common with everyone else? Or like fascist morality suggests that an individual must subjugate their own needs to the needs of the state? If so, I'd suggest that these still try to use some "eternal" (are we calling this absolute?) perspective to justify their demands.
    re: morality/ideology
    I guess it works both ways. I'm not sure how much there is to gain from an argument about whether morality more commonly fosters ideology, or ideology more commonly fosters morality.

    @Labyrinthine: Thanks! I'll look at those links. I see what you're saying about the absolutist/consequentialist thing. I still think that when someone says they think something is the morally right thing to do (Good), they mean something quite different to the most beneficial/useful thing to do (good idea). Once I've familiarised myself with the thoughtscape here I may be able to express that a little more precisely.

    @Audley: I didn't mean to dismiss semantics out of hand. I have been accused myself of worrying too much about the precise meanings of words. I think it is important that everyone is on the same page.

    @Solario: I scare myself sometimes, wondering if the meaning of life is wondering about the meaning of life.

    @all: sorry about the mega input, thanks for your patience and your educative responses ;)
  2.  (5365.105)
    @ Citruscreed.

    Apologies, I never meant to accuse you of anything, especially as I think the same. Language can be a brilliant tool, especially if one is precise in it's use. Many assume that the noises they make are automatically understood by everyone, which is often not the case. I find myself constantly having to ask my good lady what people on the News or V.O. on adverts are trying to impart, I'm not being obtuse and English is my first language, I just find myself often not understanding some of the things because I don't use it as a constant frame of reference.

    An example of this (which I pointed out somewhere on another thread) was the recent popular usage of the phrases "A big ask" and "blue sky thinking". I really had difficulty trying to understand them (though I knew what each of the words was) and others who apparently knew what they meant had difficulty expressing what the phrases actually meant.

    A small digression, but yes, it is important that we have a consensual understanding of our concepts and meanings.

    As for the meaning of life, it seems to me another fallacious concept. "what does life mean?" It means you're not dead. OR 15 years with time off for good behaviour. I don't know if I get that one either.
  3.  (5365.106)
    @citrus: You're just defining morality incorrectly, I really don't even think it gets to the point where I'd have to provide examples to show you. (Uh, how 'bout me, for one?) Subjective morality isn't exactly a hard thing to conceive. You basically described it, but then called it ethics. You're splitting hairs, narrowing down what you think morality is and then arguing against that. Nietzsche and Freud both rejected the type of absolutist morality you're describing (and yeah, absolutist would be the appropriate word), and so do almost every atheist and agnostic you'll meet. Most anyone that rejects the idea that we can reliably know the existence of any higher power. Most anyone that rejects the idea that we can fully know objective truth, and consequently, any sort of accurate knowledge of what's objectively right or wrong, good or bad. (Or, rather, that significantly large group of people I'm a part of that believes there's no such thing as objective right or wrong or good or bad.) As you laid it out yourself, people can decide what is relatively "right" or "wrong" in a given situation based on circumstances. That's subjective morality. Again, you just decided to call that ethics.
  4.  (5365.107)
    Blah. I was totally blanking on it, even when stressing "relatively"... wow, shameful. Here. Moral relativism. Jesus my brain don't work no more...
    • CommentAuthorMWHS
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009
    Sorry about this, my brain is rather addled from an afternoon at the pub(s), but re:
    ok, do I have to take your word for it or would you be prepared to name a few of these examples so I can look at them and see what you mean?

    Virtue theory, as espoused by G.E.M. Anscombe or P. Geach? I'd recommend Casey as an intro.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009
    Again, you just decided to call that ethics.

    um, it wasn't me. Or at least, I didn't mean to. I understood that to be the difference between morality and ethics. Are you saying there is no meaningful difference? Or that ethics is something else entirely?
  5.  (5365.110)
    It's arguable, as the two get interchanged quite a lot and have overlaps, but if there's a difference, it's usually this: ethics is the study and implementation of morality. You seem to be going with something entirely different: first, that morality is always an absolutist description of what is objectively right and objectively wrong across all situations, and second, that ethics is a preferable method of going about things, taking circumstance into account. Insisting on looking at things that way just strikes me as having very very limited usefulness, and doesn't really seem to be how either morality or ethics in general are usually defined or discussed.
    (Edited repeatedly for a lil less smugness, a lil more intelligence... hopefully.)
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009
    ok, so a university's ethics committee judges whether x research is morally acceptable. like that? practicable interpretations of abstract concepts. am i getting warm yet?

    so in an audacious, and not entirely unexpected, volte face; I'm abandoning the idea that morality is necessarily an absolutist description of what is objectively right and objectively wrong. But it is still basically a description of what is right and wrong though, isn't it? It can be sensitive to circumstance but still refers to something over and above simply useful or detrimental, no?

    I still feel like I'm not getting something (you most likely won't be surprised to hear): moral relativism is surely a wrigglier and slipperier beast than even Barry. If morality is all relative and never absolute then it would seem even less useful than a few simple practical rules for not being a cunt. So what's it for? Why is it important to ask if risk-taking behaviour is morally wrong rather than simply asking if it is likely to end up hurting people?

    It's @Stygmata I feel bad for. I can almost imagine his 'sploded eyes pissing blood all over his keyboard and monitor as the will to live is forcibly pumped out of him. I'll stop now. This public delineation of the dimensions of my ignorance has gone on long enough. I return this mutilated thread to your sagacious custody like a cat might present you with a cute lil bunny rabbit after it has torn off one of the hind legs.
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2009
    Why is it important to ask if risk-taking behaviour is morally wrong rather than simply asking if it is likely to end up hurting people?

    Why would we care whether people get hurt or not? Presumably because we judge that there's something bad about people being hurt; but making that kind of judgement involves thinking about morality.
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2009
    @citruscreed et al - No worries, I've had a busy week, and it has been fun to read. Maybe I'll start off a new weekly topic or something - the recent drift to talking about morality in general puts me in mind of some stuff from Nietzsche that also has relevance in the light of the recent American "torture memo" revelations.
  6.  (5365.114)
    Would that be "battle not with monsters?"
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2009
    "Whether we immoralists are harming virtue? Just as little as anarchists harm princes. Only since the latter are shot at do they again sit securely on their thrones. Moral: Morality must be shot at."

    - /Twilight of the Idols/, Maxims 36
  7.  (5365.116)
    Heh. Nice. Is there an irony, do you think, it was published exactly 100 years after the revolution in France? I'm uncertain as to what he is getting at, is he saying Morality only survives after being tested or is he saying it must be terminated?
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2009 edited
    Nietzsche hated the French Revolution - but perhaps not for the reasons many of us commonly assume about his thought: That he was the champion of the will-to-power, the "blonde beast" associated with elitism, National Socialism, and Randroids. But this leads into the second challenging quotation about morality, punishment and society that had me thinking recently:

    It would not be impossible to imagine a society with a consciousness of its own power which allowed itself the most privileged luxury which it can have—letting its criminals go free without punishment. “Why should I really bother about my parasites,” it could then say. “May they live and prosper—for that I am still sufficiently strong!” . . . Justice, which started by stating “Everything is capable of being paid for, everything must be paid off” ends at that point, by covering its eyes and letting the person incapable of payment go free—it ends, as every good thing on earth ends, by doing away with itself. This self-negation of justice—we know what a beautiful name it calls itself—mercy. It goes without saying that mercy remains the privilege of the most powerful man, or even better, his beyond the law.
    - /Genealogy of Morals/, Essay 2, Section 10.

    Taking this in the light of the recent American "torture memo" flap - what would it mean to just walk away from the whole mess? To have done with the hearings and Truth and Reconciliation committees, and as a society, just brush our shoulders off and move on, without punishment? Can that be done out of strength and not weakness?

    Honestly, I'm not sure I understand what this would look like.

    ETA: For that matter, what would it mean to simply walk away from the "War on Terror"? Could we build a society that can simply endure its terrorists?

  8.  (5365.118)
    That is a very interesting question, and one strictly, it seems to me, that America has to struggle with. However the Administration purports a "Moral Authority" and makes significant noises about freedom justice etc. So it would seem to me in doing so it would have to consider following the International Law in spirit rather than weasel its way around it. There is no strength there surely, only gross hypocrisy? As the quote says, it ends by "doing away with itself" at least as an idea that it pretends to follow. To me it would look like a betrayal of the fundamental basis of America as it considers itself (though as an outsider, perhaps I'm not justified in commenting as to what America considers itself, perhaps the ideas it pronounced since it's foundation have been nothing but rhetoric.)

    As for your second point, most societies did simply endure their terrorists in so far as they considered them nothing but merely criminals and dealt with them as such. Even the Oklahoma City bombing was endured that way. This was my point about "Battle not..." The Attacks on 11/9/01 as dramatic and horrifying as they were, were merely criminal acts, but instead of dealing with them that way, the attacks gave rise to a "WAR" against monsters and in doing so America created a new paradigm in dealing with Terrorism. That paradigm, as far as I can see, gave carte blanche for countries (not only the States or Israel) to erode the very things they claim they were fighting to protect. Pre-emptive paranoia, rendition, torture, dehumanisation of other cultures, restrictions on civil liberties and using weapons of mass destruction against a populace in order to achieve political ends. This is the essence of terrorism and increasingly it is the justification of fighting terrorism worldwide.

    So yes, I think you could, in fact I suspect America is in a prime position to simply endure it's terrorists, however to do so would require a sane rational media which does not "FEAR UP" the populace into a terrified hysteria causing the Government to react in such extreme ways.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2009 edited
    my princes

    *bows deeply*

    Can man be redeemed? Is forgiveness not greater than justice? Apt questions both.

    Allow me to posit that imprisonment of criminals is not solely about the delivery of punishment. Ostensibly, on this wet and blasted rock at least, it is primarily about the protection of society from those unable to restrain their baser impulses.

    The great thinker Stephenson N, wrote speculatively of a technological device similar in appearance to a back brace that could be physically installed upon those individuals with a known propensity for nefarious activity. Such a device would discreetly monitor the behaviour of the villain in question, only becoming noticeably active to incapacitate the luckless wretch quite thoroughly should he engage in any action deemed questionable by the law. Thus freedom from incarceration could still provide a measure of security for the wider population and liberty from the well-documented social ills arising from a permanent prison society.

    I contend sirs, that punishment is something wholly apart from justice. It satisfies only the emotional impulse for revenge and of itself serves no social good. In truth, quite the opposite. Rather, it is a snarled threat of violence directed by a state towards her citizens. An implicit assurance that force is right. Any theoretical deterrent effect of punishment is undermined by the effect of enforcing a model of society that encourages its people to believe that it is natural and right that the strongest local entity should hold power over that most essential requirement of a good and useful life. Freedom.

    I beg you, royal gentlemen and common folk alike, not to guillotine these bestial knaves. Or even to enclose them in fetid, lightless pens till the end of their days. Yes they are corrupted by cruelty, deceit and unwarranted self-importance, but a greater good, the common weal, is only truly served by the simple act of putting the instruments and practices of torture beyond use, not by deserting these hapless blackguards to the rough and bloody medicine of the slavering mob.

    now I really must dash before these fine constables lay hands on my collar, I have to print up some inflammatory leaflets...
  9.  (5365.120)
    Hey. Quite interested in reading Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Can anyone recommend readable/accessible starter texts? I'm coming from a literature rather than philosophy background, so can't handle anything too difficult. Also, particular editions/translations would be much appreciated. Thanks.