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Should ethics apply to other conscious animals?

 
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 11:05 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Then you shouldn't be making arguments that are, in effect, based on morality.


Perhaps I should say; I am unclear what you mean by 'morality' or 'moral importance', since you use those words as if you know, while, to my mind, there is little consensus on the issue.

Regarding step 5, since I do try to act in this way, and I don't have to act in this way, it follows that I think I should. For the sake of argument, I'll put humility aside, and say I think you should too.

cicerone imposter wrote:
djbt, Mass murderers think their experience is also important.


Certainly. Do you disagree? Do you think the experience of mass murderers is of no importance?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 11:30 am
The topic of this discussion is "ethics." Everybody's experience is "important," but not in the way you seem to believe.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 11:34 am
cicerone imposter wrote:
Everybody's experience is "important," but not in the way you seem to believe.


Where am I going wrong?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 11:38 am
"Other conscious animals" cannot impact the whole world by their actions, whereas man can. By that simple conclusion, individual actions of humans are very different than "other conscious animals" when talking about "ethics."
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 12:00 pm
cicerone imposter wrote:
"Other conscious animals" cannot impact the whole world by their actions, whereas man can.


Ever heard of the butterfly effect? But seriously...

cicerone imposter wrote:
By that simple conclusion, individual actions of humans are very different than "other conscious animals" when talking about "ethics."


Isn't that a 'statement of fact' (one that is quite obviously false), rather than a conclusion?

And, more importantly, why?

Are "humans whose actions are likely to have a great impact on the world" very different from "humans who are highly unlikely to have a great impact on the world" when talking about "ethics"?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 03:09 pm
djbt wrote:
Perhaps I should say; I am unclear what you mean by 'morality' or 'moral importance', since you use those words as if you know, while, to my mind, there is little consensus on the issue.

If you don't know what you mean when you talk about "morality," then maybe you shouldn't talk about it at all.

djbt wrote:
Regarding step 5, since I do try to act in this way, and I don't have to act in this way, it follows that I think I should. For the sake of argument, I'll put humility aside, and say I think you should too.

Why should I act in that way? Because experience is "important?" In what way is it important? And how does that importance translate into "moral importance?"
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 03:29 pm
Personal experience is important, but not of primary importance.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 03:41 pm
I didn't say I don't know what I mean when I use the word (if I were to use it as part of an argument, I would define it in the context I was using it). I said I don't know what you mean by 'morality' and 'moral importance'. If you could define these terms, I will be able to either take issue with your definition, explain why my position satisfies your definitions, or concede that your definition is the cruz of morality, and my position has no moral grounding.

Otherwise I could just take the definition of 'moral importance' as being 'relating to the experience of conscious being'...

To try to take the discussion forward:

Is your experience not important to you? I someone were to torture you, would you not that think it were important that your experience of pain ceased? And if something makes you happy, do you not think it important that you continue to experience this happiness?

What is the difference between 'importance' and 'moral importance'? Can anything that is not 'morally important' be 'important'?

You should act this way, because if you do, it is likely that everyone's experience will be more positive and less negative. For the same reason, everyone else should, and you should hope that everyone else will.

It seems to me that the three least arbitrary positions one can take with regard to this are:

(1) No-one's experience is morally important. Nothing is morally important.

(2) My experience is morally important.

(3) The experience of everything that can experience is morally important.

Again, though, I think we will move forward faster if you would define your terms.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 03:58 pm
Should and hope are unreliable as they pertain to morals.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 04:11 pm
djbt wrote:
I didn't say I don't know what I mean when I use the word (if I were to use it as part of an argument, I would define it in the context I was using it). I said I don't know what you mean by 'morality' and 'moral importance'. If you could define these terms, I will be able to either take issue with your definition, explain why my position satisfies your definitions, or concede that your definition is the cruz of morality, and my position has no moral grounding.

Otherwise I could just take the definition of 'moral importance' as being 'relating to the experience of conscious being'...

If your position, in essence, is "I don't know what you mean until you define your terms," then you couldn't hold even a simple conversation with someone. Obviously, the word "morality" has a well-established meaning, even if the concept of "morality" is open to debate. When I use the word "morality" I use it in its popular, well-established sense: a system of the principles regarding right and wrong conduct.

djbt wrote:
To try to take the discussion forward:

Is your experience not important to you? I someone were to torture you, would you not that think it were important that your experience of pain ceased? And if something makes you happy, do you not think it important that you continue to experience this happiness?

No doubt.

djbt wrote:
What is the difference between 'importance' and 'moral importance'? Can anything that is not 'morally important' be 'important'?

Certainly. If having lots of money is important to me, does that necessarily mean that having money is right or good? You've claimed that having experiences is important; I don't disagree. But there is a wide logical gap between claiming something is important in itself and claiming that something that is important in itself is also important as a matter of morality. Just because I like to have lots of money doesn't mean that having money and obtaining more money is somehow the right thing to do. After all, a racist would claim that it is important to discriminate against minorities. Does that make discrimination the right thing to do?

djbt wrote:
You should act this way, because if you do, it is likely that everyone's experience will be more positive and less negative. For the same reason, everyone else should, and you should hope that everyone else will.

Then you're a utilitarian?

djbt wrote:
It seems to me that the three least arbitrary positions one can take with regard to this are:

(1) No-one's experience is morally important. Nothing is morally important.

(2) My experience is morally important.

(3) The experience of everything that can experience is morally important.

Again, though, I think we will move forward faster if you would define your terms.

We're still working on your terms here, djbt. One step at a time.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2005 05:55 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
If your position, in essence, is "I don't know what you mean until you define your terms," then you couldn't hold even a simple conversation with someone.


OK, no need to be rude. I have found that the debates that I have learnt something from have usually started with a definition of terms. I didn't mean to offend you in asking this.

joefromchicago wrote:
Obviously, the word "morality" has a well-established meaning, even if the concept of "morality" is open to debate. When I use the word "morality" I use it in its popular, well-established sense: a system of the principles regarding right and wrong conduct.


OK, we'll go with that. But can I remove the 'the'? Or do we already know what the priciples of right and wrong conduct are?

Assuming I can remove the 'the', if I say that it is 'right' for a person to take the experience of others into consideration, and 'wrong' not to, I think you would agree that my position is a moral one, is that right?

Can I take as your definition of 'moral importance':
(1) Affecting morality, that is, having an affect on a system of principles regarding right and wrong conduct
or
(2) something that morality applies to, that is, a thing that a system of principles regarding right and wrong conduct would have something to say about.

I'll assume the later, please correct me if this is wrong.

In my system of principles regarding right and wrong conduct (presuming you agreed my position is a moral one), clearly experience is morally important. In fact, in the morality I have outlined, experience is the only thing which is morally important.

joefromchicago wrote:
If having lots of money is important to me, does that necessarily mean that having money is right or good? You've claimed that having experiences is important; I don't disagree.


Fair point. First, I would make a distinction between 'having experiences' (things happening to you) and 'experience' (consciousness, ability to 'feel'). It is to the latter I refer. I would say that something like having money is only important to you insomuch as it affects your experience. By my 'morality', this means that it is not 'morally important' in itself, only the affect it has on your experience is 'morally important'. This affect, obviously, could be either good or bad.

joefromchicago wrote:
Just because I like to have lots of money doesn't mean that having money and obtaining more money is somehow the right thing to do. After all, a racist would claim that it is important to discriminate against minorities. Does that make discrimination the right thing to do?


A system of the principles regarding right and wrong conduct could well be that 'right conduct' is conduct which discriminates against minorities, and 'wrong conduct' is that which doesn't. This is not a 'morality' that I like or agree with, but I'm not sure if anyone could say that it isn't a 'morality', by the definition you put forward.

And I can't say by what standard we can judge the value of one 'morality' over another, unless we think there is a 'universal morality' against which moralities are judged.

We can, of course, look at the assumptions that underpin a morality, or the steps taken from these assumptions, for inconsistencies, or too great leaps. I favour the system I outlined, because it seems to me that the assumptions and steps are reasonable.

joefromchicago wrote:
Then you're a utilitarian?


Certainly my position is consequentialist. It is quite possibly utilitarian. However, I say this wearily, because their are of course numerous forms of utilitarianism, and many bad arguments for it as well as good ones. I don't want to be faced with a straw man argument!

To sum:

My position is a system of the principles regarding right and wrong conduct, a 'morality'.
Experience, in my morality, is morally important, because it is integral to how the morality differentiates between right and wrong. In fact, experience is not just the only thing that is morally important in this system. It is the only thing that is important at all! Everything else is important only insomuch as it affects experience.

Thoughts?
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2005 04:20 am
cicerone imposter wrote:
Personal experience is important, but not of primary importance.


It is in the morality I outlined. What is your morality, and what is of primary importance to it?

cicerone imposter wrote:
Should and hope are unreliable as they pertain to morals.


Certainly. But in moving from making a statement of fact to making a 'moral' statement, I must use words which pertain to morals.

Are you saying that morality in general is unreliable?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2005 10:29 am
Quote, "Are you saying that morality in general is unreliable?" Where in my posts did I ever even suggest such a thing. It's all in your head. In society, what the individual experiences is subservient to the whole. In the larger context, even the moral imperatives of your group is not important to other groups, and they will follow what they think are "moral" and right. That's the reason why we still have the death penalty in the states, and not in most other developed countries.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2005 11:05 am
cicerone imposter wrote:
Quote, "Are you saying that morality in general is unreliable?" Where in my posts did I ever even suggest such a thing. It's all in your head.


I didn't say that you had said this. I wasn't accusing you. I was just asking whether or not this was what you meant to imply, so that I can understand your position more clearly.

cicerone imposter wrote:
In society, what the individual experiences is subservient to the whole.


When you say 'whole' what do you mean? Do you mean the sum of all the individuals? If so, is it not that personal experience still primary, it's just that there are many personal experiences to take into account? Or does the whole have some significance other than the significance of all the individuals it contains?

cicerone imposter wrote:
In the larger context, even the moral imperatives of your group is not important to other groups, and they will follow what they think are "moral" and right. That's the reason why we still have the death penalty in the states, and not in most other developed countries.


Do you agree with moral relativism, then? How does this affect your general moral position on (a)other humans (b)other non-human animals?

Thanks for the intersting debate, by the way.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2005 12:06 pm
djbt, All you need to do is ask a direct question; when have I refused to answer one? Your question assumes something I never even suggested, so it's a nonsequetor. The "whole" means "community standards." What I have said, and I'll repeat again, is that the individual's personal experience or morals takes a back seat to his/her community, and the community must take a back seat to the larger state and country, then it differs from country to country.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Mar, 2005 10:26 am
djbt wrote:
OK, we'll go with that. But can I remove the 'the'? Or do we already know what the priciples of right and wrong conduct are?

I view the "the" as unimportant. Remove it if you like.

djbt wrote:
Assuming I can remove the 'the', if I say that it is 'right' for a person to take the experience of others into consideration, and 'wrong' not to, I think you would agree that my position is a moral one, is that right?

Yes.

djbt wrote:
Can I take as your definition of 'moral importance':
(1) Affecting morality, that is, having an affect on a system of principles regarding right and wrong conduct
or
(2) something that morality applies to, that is, a thing that a system of principles regarding right and wrong conduct would have something to say about.

I'll assume the later, please correct me if this is wrong.

I think both are accurate, but, for purposes of discussion, you can assume that definition (2) is correct.

djbt wrote:
And I can't say by what standard we can judge the value of one 'morality' over another, unless we think there is a 'universal morality' against which moralities are judged.

Are you suggesting that you are a moral relativist?

djbt wrote:
We can, of course, look at the assumptions that underpin a morality, or the steps taken from these assumptions, for inconsistencies, or too great leaps. I favour the system I outlined, because it seems to me that the assumptions and steps are reasonable.

Well, I'm not convinced that you've outlined any system of morality, but do you favor your "system" because it is the correct system for everyone or just for you?

djbt wrote:
Certainly my position is consequentialist. It is quite possibly utilitarian. However, I say this wearily, because their are of course numerous forms of utilitarianism, and many bad arguments for it as well as good ones. I don't want to be faced with a straw man argument!

I'm just trying to figure out what your position is. If it is similar to something that has a traditional label (such as utilitarianism), so much the better.

djbt wrote:
To sum:

My position is a system of the principles regarding right and wrong conduct, a 'morality'.
Experience, in my morality, is morally important, because it is integral to how the morality differentiates between right and wrong. In fact, experience is not just the only thing that is morally important in this system. It is the only thing that is important at all! Everything else is important only insomuch as it affects experience.

Thoughts?

Would you say, then, that we owe no duties to something that is incapable of having experience?
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Mar, 2005 12:31 pm
dj, Would you say your personal experience is more important than your family's, your church's, your community's, your state's, or our federal government?
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Mar, 2005 12:31 pm
dj, Would you say your personal experience is more important than your family's, your church's, your community's, your state's, or our federal government? If everybody thought like you did, we would have chaos.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Mar, 2005 06:18 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Are you suggesting that you are a moral relativist?


Much as I wish I weren't, I fear that I am, at least partly. Not believing in a god, and believing that life has no inherent purpose, means that either life has no purpose, or we have to decide one for it. As I outlined in my first post, I do not believe that morality is just the result of culture/society, I believe is it also the product of the way our brains and emotions were shaped by evolution. To that extent, I believe we have certain universal 'feelings' (to simplify, say things like 'benevolence', 'jealously', 'vengefulness', etc.)that might be called 'morals', but is not implying ought, I wouldn't say these 'morals' are any more important than culturally constructed ones. Also, they can be, and are, frequently reshaped/reapplied by cultural factors.

Expect... being able to differentiate between different 'experience', while a product of evolution (probably), is not a culturally shaped factor. And my experience would be of central importance to me, I think, whatever evolution and culture had done to it. Note that, even if I believed that I was totally unimportant, and was generally self-sacrificing, it would still be the case that my brain/beliefs were shaped in such a way that made this the most 'positive', or perhaps least 'negative' way to affect my experience, which is why I would act in this way.

For this reason, even seduced as I am by moral relativism, I still think experience (at least, mine) is of central, universal importance. This is why, I'm sure, that neither you nor I are confident my position is a moral one. It becomes a moral system one when I say I should take others experiences into account, but here it becomes vulnerable to the attack of moral relavativists... I wish I could convincingly argue that, for some reason, everyone must believe as I do, but I cannot. I'll keep trying though... If you have some good arguments against moral relativism, perhaps you could help me with this?

The other reason I depart from moral relativism is, as I said, to do with the self-consistency of a moral position. If a morality is based on assumptions of fact that are false, or contains contradictions, I would say that it is a less strong morality that one that doesn't. I guess I'm saying that I can't say whether a knife is better than a fork, but I can say both are better than a broken spoon!

joefromchicago wrote:
I'm just trying to figure out what your position is. If it is similar to something that has a traditional label (such as utilitarianism), so much the better.


OK, then, yes, let's say my position is utilitarian. This shouldn't cause us problems until we get onto how positive/negative experience could be weighed against each other.

joefromchicago wrote:
Would you say, then, that we owe no duties to something that is incapable of having experience?


Yes, I would say this.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Mar, 2005 06:31 am
cicerone imposter wrote:
dj, Would you say your personal experience is more important than your family's, your church's, your community's, your state's, or our federal government?


Yes I would. My 'family', 'church' (not that I have one), 'community', etc. don't have their own experience (or consciousness, if you prefer). They are, I think, just abstract concepts constructed by things that do have experience/consciousness.

That is not to say that I think my experience is more important that the experience of the experiencing beings (human or otherwise) that make up my family, or your state or federal government. I say that the experience of every being is equally important (not to say that it is equal, clearly experience differs from being to being, but equally important).

cicerone imposter wrote:
If everybody thought like you did, we would have chaos.


I don't see why. If in some magical other world everyone truly did think as I have outlined, wouldn't all devote their time and reason to making experience as enjoyable as possible for all? Chaos would seem like a most unattractive option.

By the way, could you call me David? I'm not very up with the whole net-alias thing...
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