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Moral Realism

 
 
Lichtung
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 12:00 pm
@bigstew,
Quote:
The sadist objection only shows that we can desire intrinsiclly bad/good things


That's not quite what I was getting at. The experience of pleasure or pain are adjacent or inessential to the "intrinsically bad/good things." So the pleasure or pain is dependent on some other further property; one that intrinsically good or bad, as you conceded. While moral experiences are often accompanied by pleasure and pain, these cannot pretend to be more than accidental features of the putative source of intrinsic moral value. Hopefully you get what I mean. Pleasure and pain are non-moral rank-ordered goods. A true moral property, in my view, is connected to a virtuous or vicious character state.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 01:45 pm
@Lichtung,
I think it is very difficult to equate moral virtue with pleasure, Freud's pleasure principle comes to mind as the basis for behavioral motivation. The equation in question requires, however, that we frame the notions of pleasure and pain more broadly than simply in terms of physical sensation. I prefer to equate morality with the dichotomy of beautiful-ugly. But that, too, is complex and incomplete.
Lichtung
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 03:37 pm
@JLNobody,
Quote:
I think it is very difficult to equate moral virtue with pleasure, Freud's pleasure principle comes to mind as the basis for behavioral motivation. The equation in question requires, however, that we frame the notions of pleasure and pain more broadly than simply in terms of physical sensation. I prefer to equate morality with the dichotomy of beautiful-ugly. But that, too, is complex and incomplete.


I didn't equate moral virtue with pleasure. What I said was that our moral experiences are often accompanied by pleasure or pain. We experience some level of pleasure and pain in nearly all our experiences; from the enjoyment of taking a brisk walk to the the long-awaited dump in the toilet.

It's not hard to see that pleasure is our reward for satisfying a goal or desire, and pain is our punishment for having our aims or wants frustrated. Goals and desires are what control pleasure and pain. The greater your desire, the greater the pleasure. By that logic, the moral virtues can be understood as the most desirable things one can possess, and therefore are the highest pleasures in human life. Likewise, a vicious character is the most undesirable thing, and therefore the cause of the greatest suffering.
igm
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 04:18 pm
@Lichtung,
Lichtung wrote:

Goals and desires are what control pleasure and pain.

They seem to but I don't think they do. It leads to goal seeking and insatiable desire but I think it's mistaken. We suffer from trying to attain the goal that we desire; when we get there we let go of the goal and desire and expect pleasure. We then wait free from the goal and desire and access a glimpse of innate happiness in the moments we let go of our goals and desires.

I think you’ll find this is just as plausible an explanation or how happiness happens.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 04:30 pm
@Lichtung,
Agreed. One can say that not only is virtue its own reward (i.e., there IS joy in knowing your behavior is beneficial to others) but that evil is its own punishment (it must be Hell to live in the mind of a Hitler).
0 Replies
 
Lichtung
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 04:47 pm
@igm,
Quote:
They seem to but I don't think they do. It leads to goal seeking and insatiable desire but I think it's mistaken. We suffer from trying to attain the goal that we desire; when we get there we let go of the goal and desire and expect pleasure. We then wait free from the goal and desire and access a glimpse of innate happiness in the moments we let go of our goals and desires.

I think you’ll find this is just as plausible an explanation or how happiness happens.


Are you telling me there is no principled distinction between the desire I have for a doughnut and the desire I have for self-mastery? The doughnut is a relative or apparent good. Once satisfied it leaves me empty, and so I crave for another; and another...

Self-mastery, on the other hand, is a virtue of the will; a permanent state of character. It is not something that can be easily taken from me. Once it has been achieved I require nothing more; I can rest at ease and feel completely satisfied. Moreover, having a virtue of this kind advances other desires and goals that I might have and therefore it contributes to my overall happiness.

On those grounds, there is an objective distinction to observe between higher and lower pleasures. Some pleasures are purely intellectual as well, so this shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of hedonism. The reason a person acts virtuously is not to obtain pleasure; the pleasure is a happy by-product of a life devoted to virtue.
igm
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 05:00 pm
@Lichtung,
Lichtung wrote:

The reason a person acts virtuously is not to obtain pleasure; the pleasure is a happy by-product of a life devoted to virtue.

I Agree. It is an example of selflessness which is another way that innate happiness arises (as a by-product). Perhaps, all goals and desires are a product of the self's wish to master things. Alternatively, selfless virtue would appear to be the antidote. In this case virtuous activity should be at the request of another not instigated by oneself.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 05:05 pm
Pleasure and displeasure are measures and values in a scale of relative comparisons...what would be of pleasure if displeasure was n´t possible I wonder ? There´s nothing classically objective in good or evil...there are natural forces of order and subsequent deconstructions of old systems only to assist to the emergence of newer ones...such matter is far beyond the scope of Moral...it concerns the very "fabric" of reality !
0 Replies
 
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 12:48 pm
@Lichtung,
Quote:
While moral experiences are often accompanied by pleasure and pain, these cannot pretend to be more than accidental features of the putative source of intrinsic moral value.


When someone is lit on fire, it makes sense to say we relieve the pain itself. We don't relieve the pain inorder to pursue other ends (although these certainly can accompany it). For instance, we could ask why "why put the fire out" and answer "because I'm in pain" but it makes no sense to continue saying "why are you in pain?". Pain properly understood then, is basic and irreducible.

Quote:
A true moral property, in my view, is connected to a virtuous or vicious character state.


In meta ethics, virtue theories of ethics are much more difficult to ground. What establishes virtuous character? Further, when the going gets rough, and virtues conflict, virtue ethics just collapses back into consequentialism. What establishes the best consequences prefereneces based on intrinsic value e.g. pain/pleasure
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 01:13 pm
@igm,
Quote:
Isn't pain subjective (you won’t find it in the outside world it has to be inferred)


Well on one hand pain is subjective since it requires you to feel it, but your pain is no less real than mine or any others pain. We can infer quite easily when someone is in fact in pain. So in that sense, pain is a part of reality.

Quote:
isn't the additional label 'bad' applied due to the person's memory of what actions are bad etc... subjective also. Surely they only become objective (in some sense) when society talks about these subjective effects of for example rape and agree that the 'bad pain' reported by those who have been raped is something that society should label immoral or ethically bad.


True, pain (and pleasure) are in the mind, but to say the thoughts or sensations we have are non factual is an unjustified assumption. The crux is that if what exists in the mind isn't factual, then it wouldn't be true that you have thoughts or sensations. Does that seem coherent to you?

And you're right in a way regarding society acknowledging the pain of others. On a common sense level, we do think we can reliably know when another person is in pain-it is not a shaky inference to make. If we can know others are in pain, and that knowledge is reasonably justified, wouldn't it follow that pain is in some sense an objective feature of the world?

igm
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 01:16 pm
@bigstew,
bigstew wrote:

When someone is lit on fire, it makes sense to say we relieve the pain itself. We don't relieve the pain in order to pursue other ends (although these certainly can accompany it). For instance, we could ask why "why put the fire out" and answer "because I'm in pain" but it makes no sense to continue saying "why are you in pain?". Pain properly understood then, is basic and irreducible.

I’m not sure this is correct. If pain had no consequence apart from pain itself then the relief of pain would be a secondary consideration. For example: there are two people one reports being in intense pain, the other is bleeding to death but reports no pain. The paramedic in attendance would treat the person bleeding to death before the person who shows no sign of injury but reports intense pain. If a person caused these injuries to both and the paramedic was asked to say which was the most unethical I’d say he would go for the life threatening one.

p.s. I try to keep my posts as simple as possible i.e. plain English.
0 Replies
 
igm
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 01:53 pm
@bigstew,
igm wrote:

Isn't pain subjective (you won’t find it in the outside world it has to be inferred)


bigstew wrote:

Well on one hand pain is subjective since it requires you to feel it, but your pain is no less real than mine or any others pain. We can infer quite easily when someone is in fact in pain. So in that sense, pain is a part of reality.


Two points: we talked before about whether pain is subjective or objective and I said that it was possible that it could be both and you seemed to say it had to be one or the other. But your statement above seems to agree with me i.e. A and B not A or B? So less black and white?

igm wrote:

Isn't the additional label 'bad' applied due to the person's memory of what actions are bad etc... subjective also. Surely they only become objective (in some sense) when society talks about these subjective effects of for example rape and agree that the 'bad pain' reported by those who have been raped is something that society should label immoral or ethically bad.

bigstew wrote:

True, pain (and pleasure) are in the mind, but to say the thoughts or sensations we have are non factual is an unjustified assumption. The crux is that if what exists in the mind isn't factual, then it wouldn't be true that you have thoughts or sensations. Does that seem coherent to you?

And you're right in a way regarding society acknowledging the pain of others. On a common sense level, we do think we can reliably know when another person is in pain-it is not a shaky inference to make. If we can know others are in pain, and that knowledge is reasonably justified, wouldn't it follow that pain is in some sense an objective feature of the world?

Well I’d say you have to infer them i.e. thoughts or sensations... in others i.e. Cartesian deception could be at play. If someone was able to deceive then that means they could, so therefore your inference is subjective but you could move forward with 'collective probability' if others' agreed with you that your inference was probably correct but it's possible you'd be wrong so because of that I'd say it was subjective.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 02:07 pm
@igm,
According to conventional usage your pain is objective to me and subjective to you. Similarly, my pain is subjective to me and objective to you. Yet both are objective facts. Moreover both yours and mine are simultaneously objective and subjective facts. To detect YOUR pain I must use measures not needed to perceive my pain, yet these "objective" measures (e.g., readings, marks emitted by a mechanical neurological device), as I read them are experiences and therefore also subjective phenomena.
igm
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 02:40 pm
@JLNobody,
JLNobody wrote:

According to conventional usage your pain is objective to me and subjective to you. Similarly, my pain is subjective to me and objective to you.

Yet both are objective facts. Moreover both yours and mine are simultaneously objective and subjective facts.


I agree. Conventionally and gramatically that is the case. The points I've made so far are about pain and whether it's intrinsic to ethical judgements. So I need to take a slightly different tack.

JLNobody wrote:

To detect YOUR pain I must use measures not needed to perceive my pain, yet these "objective" measures (e.g., readings, marks emitted by a mechanical neurological device), as I read them are experiences and therefore also subjective phenomena.


I agree. But is this a comment or are you challenging my previous post/s in some way?
Lichtung
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 06:25 pm
@bigstew,
Quote:
When someone is lit on fire, it makes sense to say we relieve the pain itself. We don't relieve the pain inorder to pursue other ends (although these certainly can accompany it). For instance, we could ask why "why put the fire out" and answer "because I'm in pain" but it makes no sense to continue saying "why are you in pain?". Pain properly understood then, is basic and irreducible.


Pain might be basic and irreducible, but you have yet to show that it is a "moral" property. I wonder what you would say about a lion that savages another animal for food. Is this immoral? Moreover, what do you think about natural disasters that wipe out whole populations? I'm not sure this qualifies as immoral in the usual sense. I'm ready to call these natural evils, but a natural evil does not necessarily imply "immorality."

I believe there are two things that qualify something as moral/immoral: (1) voluntariness/involuntariness; and (2) praise/blame. We praise those who do good voluntarily, and blame those who do evil voluntarily. Similarly, if someone does good involuntarily we tend to suspect it's merely a fortunate accident, and would never be justified in praising the person. The same with involuntary evils; we would never seriously consider condemning someone if they were not directly responsible. If this distinction holds you'll have to explain what qualifies a natural evil as immoral.

Quote:
In meta ethics, virtue theories of ethics are much more difficult to ground. What establishes virtuous character? Further, when the going gets rough, and virtues conflict, virtue ethics just collapses back into consequentialism. What establishes the best consequences prefereneces based on intrinsic value e.g. pain/pleasure


I disagree. Virtue ethics is likely the most defensible position you could take. If you're a moral naturalist or non-reductive naturalist you can easily account for virtue and eudaimonia through practical reasoning. And consequentialism is complementary to virtue ethics, it doesn't undermine its central claims. Reducing everything to pleasure and pain I think misses the point. It might be easier to justify empirically, but isn't nearly as coherent as you might suspect from an epistemic or ontological perspective.

The error with Bentham-style utilitarianism is precisely this emphasis on pleasure and pain. It fails to distinguish qualitatively superior forms of human experience. You might be familiar with the phrase: "It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." Mill and Sigwick, at least, provide for value hedonism. This is closer to virtue ethics than you might think. And with G.E. Moore we come one step closer since he recognized intrinsic value. Once you provide consequentialist theories with a proper conception of the good, you'll find out that it's nearly identical with the teachings of virtue ethics.

The conflict between different virtues is actually a pseudo-problem. There virtues are not all equal. The intellectual virtues, for example, are superior to the moral virtues. The specific position that I defend considers practical wisdom to be the highest virtue. It is the purpose of practical wisdom to prudently order the different virtues as the circumstances require. I could go on, but I'll just leave it at that. I'm more than happy to field your objections.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2011 10:46 pm
@igm,
Frankly, I have no idea why I said that. It wasn't, I think, intended as a challenge. But I must say that I've been too lazy to determine what you mean by "virtue ethics."
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2011 12:03 am
@Lichtung,
Quote:
"It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."

...and this is precisely why pleasure and pain are relative to a reference point in a system be it physical or psychological...there´s nothing intrinsic in pleasure and pain without such reference, without the contrast of a default background...

...this default referential value has itself a mobile status as it reflects a dependent systemic state of equilibrium which is variably correlated to the species referent and its adaptive evolutionary process as also is inextricably linked to the interior and exterior environmental changing variables who condition perception and reflexive responsive behaviours...thus naturally comes to mind the classical example of a dope addict who permanently has to increase its dosage to get the same amount of pleasure due to habit...pleasure and pain at this light represent a relativistic permanently re-evaluated measurement process where a referential degree of order or disorder is established in relation to a given system...to my view there´s honestly no need for any further mystification on the matter, it is in fact that simple !...

..."hell" without hope or memory it is no "hell"...and "heaven" without the possibility of "hell" it is certainly no "paradise"...just tedium !
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2011 12:29 am
@bigstew,
To go back to the OP, you imply that "pain" is associated with "objectivity". The obvious problem with that is the philosophical quagmire regarding the lack of objectivity of the experience of others, irrespective of compounding problems of separating "mental" and "physical pain".

So the central issue is not "pain" per se but the concept "objectivity" itself. And on that matter I suggest you refer to Wittgenstein's discussion of "language games" and his point that so-called philosophical issues are generated by "language on holiday". Cynically, arguments like those of Kant who tried to establish ethics on "rational principles" are the equivalent of advocating (say) child rearing by numbers. The point is that "objectivity" has a certain range of uses (in the sciences for example) and social regulation falls outside such a range irrespective of the fact that social entities can also be considered to be biological entities. The sociological whole is not the sum of the biological parts.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2011 12:35 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
...it follows then that while pain and pleasure are admissibly irreducible forms in themselves they are nonetheless utterly dependent on a relativistic mutual frame of reference conditioned by ulterior and extrinsic circumstances grounded on the very fabric of reality and its permanent flux process far beyond the scope of moral...
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2011 01:39 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
To me, it follows that morality is about internal conflict It follows that "moral problems" are personal problems which may be ameliorated by internal thought processes which reduce, cushion or eliminate what we might call "pain" or "suffering". Insofar that "self integrity" is a function of group identity, then differing group allegiances and empathies will influence degrees of conflict.
0 Replies
 
 

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