2
   

Morals & Ethics, Nature of Actions

 
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:35 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
But then Russell described Kant as 'a mere misfortune' which seems eminently sensible to me...

Well, ol' Bertie was certainly full of himself, wasn't he?

But you gotta love 'im 'cause he's so darn funny...

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I'm honestly not certain. If we define 'a morality' as 'a system of beliefs about how one ought to behave', then clearly morality is subjective. If we define morality (or perhaps, for clarity, Morality) as 'the system of laws about how one ought to behave', then we have something objective, which may or may not exist.

I am content with the first definition, although I'm not sure if there is any significant difference between the two.

It seems to me the difference between the two is highly significant. The first implies that morality is arbitrary, the second that it is universal.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
Morality (capitalised or otherwise) is certainly worth talking about, whether it exists or not, since it affects, or belief that it exists affects, things (like my own experience) which I am confident do exist.

It might be worthwhile to discuss, but it wouldn't be a philosophical discussion. It would be psychology or sociology or anthropology or religion, perhaps, but not philosophy.

Fair point, but I tend to think philosophy umbrellas all of these.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
You say that morality can be discovered by reason.

I would say that morality, if it can be discovered at all, can be discovered only by reason.

I agree with you to the extent that I can't see how anything other than reason would have a chance. But how? How do you go about discovering morality by reason? We'll argue around in circle with abstracts, so could you give me an example of a moral principle defensible by reason?

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
This implies that morality is something separate, or external, to us. So would morality exist if there were no people? No living things at all? Are there universal moral laws which, applied in the context of humans become human moral laws? Or were moral laws created with humanity? If so, how?

Asking whether morality would exist without humans is somewhat akin to asking whether mathematics would exist without numbers. Without humans, there is no need for morality, and thus no cause to ask if morality exists or not.

So the moral laws relate to/are shaped by the specific qualities of the human brain. Lying is wrong only because we can lie. But why? Why not lying is right because we can lie? To what end does morality aspire? What is it for? Or is my consequentialist thinking clouding my judgement?
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 03:03 pm
Reason is fine. But it does not impress me that much.

A lot of crime & death and insanity has been rained down on humanity in the name of "Reason."

Whose version of "Reason" do we live by?

Whoever has the biggest guns and/or atomic weapons?

Yes.

That is reason for you. Weaponry.

So I guess if some aliens come along with weapons that outdo atomic weapons badly, and they control us with their superior reason and intellect, that is fine.

Its all quite reasonable. Or is it?

_____

Should mentally retarded serial killers be exterminated or simply put in asylums to rot with insane crimminals? What is reasonable?
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 03:48 pm
extra medium wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
Seeing none, however, I am left with the conclusion that the fault is entirely yours.


Exactly. The fault is entirely mine, and your morality and ethics are utterly flawless. How simple!

Morality is easy! If anyone wonders what is moral, just ask you. Yay! Razz


I don't think this was quite what Joe meant. He was saying you were wrong in your interpretation of his post, which you were, not that you're wrong in your morality generally (although he may also think that). He has not yet put forward his morality, let alone said that his is right. All he is saying is that there may be a moral position that is right, not that he necessarily knows it.

I feel you are making a straw man of joe, and of reason. Reason is a way of thinking. Yes, reason has been used to do dreadful things, and wonderful things, but that does not make reason morally good or bad. It is a tool. We use reason to attempt to discern truths in science, so perhaps we can use it in morality. At the very least, it can show that certain positions are unreasonable.

extra medium wrote:
This is a central part of my point: Who defines reason? You?

Plato was a master of reason and found slavery reasonable.

The Nazis argued they were reasonable to practice genocide.

Some slave owners thought they were quite reasonable in owning slaves.

Plato may have been wrong. Newton was, and he was a master of reason. Same for the Nazis, and slave owners. They may say they were being reasonable, but we must examine their reason to see if it holds up. After all, I could argue that I have used reason to prove 2 and 2 make 5, but I would be wrong.

Quote:
What is reason? Who defines it?

Ask 100 people what is reason, and you may get 100 different answers.

I don't think this is the problem with joe's position. I am confident I could agree with most people on what reason is. It is logical thought. It is not 'being reasonable', which means something slightly different.

The problem, as I see it, is that while reason is tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises. Therefore, it can be used to show a morality is wrong (self-contradictory, or reliant on fallacies, etc.) but not show that a morality is right.
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 04:06 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
Quote:
Seeing none, however, I am left with the conclusion that the fault is entirely yours.


djbt,

Okay, re-reading everything, I can see your interpretation.

If thats the case, I apologize to you joefromchicago.

Its just when we are having a debate regarding morals and ethics, and someone makes a statement that "the fault is entirely yours" that indicates to me that this person is condescending and believes that they are somehow faultless.

In the world I live in, I see very little areas of black and white. A lot of shades of gray.

It is very rare that in an area of contention, one person is 100% right, and you can honestly say to the other person "the fault is entirely yours."

Doesn't seem like a debate then.

Seems like preaching or a lecture or "I know-it-all---the fault is entirely yours."

Those are some pretty strong words.
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 04:10 pm
djbt wrote:

The problem, as I see it, is that while reason is tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises. Therefore, it can be used to show a morality is wrong (self-contradictory, or reliant on fallacies, etc.) but not show that a morality is right.


I agree with this all the way.

That is an issue.

Reason cannot prove that a morality is right. Yes.

____

To be clear: I am not saying we should get rid of reason and morality.

What I am saying is: we must always be aware of the weaknesses of reason and morality, and be looking to improve them.

Otherwise, we end up in an Orwellian world where the leaders "know the best Morality for All of Us" and it is all supported by their "Impeccable Reason."

And if you dare question it, you are an insane troublemaker to be exterminated or locked up.
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 04:20 pm
djbt wrote:
The problem, as I see it, is that while reason is tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises. Therefore, it can be used to show a morality is wrong (self-contradictory, or reliant on fallacies, etc.) but not show that a morality is right.


To be more precise with my problem on the issue of reason:

as djbt says: "I don't think it can create initial premises."

Yes. That is the issue.

Reason is great for logical thought. No problem there.

But reason cannot create initial premises.

That is the crux of the problem in my mind.

We can all create our generally accepted morals and ethics and all that. Fine. But we have to remember, they are all just relative and kind of gray. They are all built on this house of cards that we have agreed on.

Reason cannot create initial premises.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 May, 2005 05:08 am
extra medium wrote:
What I am saying is: we must always be aware of the weaknesses of reason and morality, and be looking to improve them.


But how, without referring to reason and an objective moral standard would we know if it were an improvement? In fact, without an objective moral standard, we could not say they can got worse or got better, they would merely be different.

Quote:
Reason cannot create initial premises.

Be careful, extra medium, I said that "I don't think it can create initial premises", not that it definitely cannot. To go back to my authority of the week, Berty said that most thought is cock-sure, vague and self-contradictory, while philosophical thought should be tentative, precise and self-consistent. We should be tentative here, I suspect joe may have reasons to disagree.

My comments were based on the way I think about morality, which is to decide on a initial set of premises, and use reason to build upon them. joe seems to be talking about using reason in a different way, to 'discover' morality. So my question is, where would we look?
0 Replies
 
Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 May, 2005 06:06 am
If moral principles can be deduced from reason, an example doesn't seem too much to ask. Because frankly, I don't see how you can get from underlying principle A to specific application B without making value judgements that are non-logical. I don't even see how you can arrive at underlying principle A in the first place.

I believe moral judgements are more akin to traffic laws than they are to laws of nature. We can, for example, demonstrate that people are safer when we all stop at red lights. What we cannot demonstrate is why we wouldn't be as well off if we stopped on green lights instead. It is the consensus of opinion, rather than the opinion itself, that allows for the efficacy of what are essentially arbitrary rules.
0 Replies
 
escvelocity
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 May, 2005 07:49 am
Re: Morals & Ethics, Nature of Actions
Gouki wrote:
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics? Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong? Question

Sad

To the first question...yes, if you are a hermit...no if you choose to live in society and interact with others.
ethics, moral_philosophy
the philosophical study of moral values and rule.
To the second question...yes if you are a hermit and its wrong or right to you, yes if the society you choose to live in says so, lol.

Quote:
I believe moral judgements are more akin to traffic laws than they are to laws of nature. We can, for example, demonstrate that people are safer when we all stop at red lights. What we cannot demonstrate is why we wouldn't be as well off if we stopped on green lights instead.


I think you are confusing mores with morals, i'm sorry if i am wrong.
Mores are treated as "harmless customs," where "harmless" means that failure to follow the custom may result in a negative reaction, but not a serious one.
Morals involve more serious aspects of how we behave and how we treat others.

Moral judgments i believe do reflect what we value, but not all expressions of what we value are moral judgments. Basically the latter applies to alot material things.

Quote:
What I am saying is: we must always be aware of the weaknesses of reason and morality, and be looking to improve them.

Otherwise, we end up in an Orwellian world where the leaders "know the best Morality for All of Us" and it is all supported by their "Impeccable Reason."


I don't see that in America, or anywhere that has a democracy. One thing about morals and values is that they are gained and learned through life, its what builds our character. I think we as humans by learning from history, and has experienced a better way, would do everything in our power to prevent such a thing from happening.

Majority didn't rule with Hitler, Majority didn't rule with Saddam, these people were ruled by fear.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 May, 2005 08:15 am
djbt wrote:
It seems to me the difference between the two is highly significant. The first implies that morality is arbitrary, the second that it is universal.

I don't think the first definition you offered implies that morality is arbitrary. If morality is a system of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct, there is no reason to conclude that the definition allows for many equally valid systems of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct.

djbt wrote:
I agree with you to the extent that I can't see how anything other than reason would have a chance. But how? How do you go about discovering morality by reason? We'll argue around in circle with abstracts, so could you give me an example of a moral principle defensible by reason?

I can give you many: they're not difficult to find. Kant's categorical imperative is, perhaps, the most famous.

djbt wrote:
So the moral laws relate to/are shaped by the specific qualities of the human brain.

No, I never said that. My point is that morality is inconceivable outside of human society. Take humans out of the equation and you're not left with morality, you're left with nothing.

djbt wrote:
Lying is wrong only because we can lie. But why? Why not lying is right because we can lie? To what end does morality aspire? What is it for? Or is my consequentialist thinking clouding my judgement?

If you think that morality must serve some purpose apart from "the good," then your consequentialist thinking has indeed clouded your judgment.

djbt wrote:
The problem, as I see it, is that while reason is tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises. Therefore, it can be used to show a morality is wrong (self-contradictory, or reliant on fallacies, etc.) but not show that a morality is right.

I doubt even you believe this statement. But, in case you do, please provide the non-rational initial premise for the following assertion: "while reason is a tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises."
0 Replies
 
val
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 May, 2005 05:37 am
joe from chicago

I accept the socratic perspective of Moral being the science of the Good.
But I also accept the perspective of some sophists like Protagoras, regarding not the definition of Good but the moral rules we create.
In fact, any civilization and culture, has it's moral rules. They were based in a conception of Good. But, since the moral rules are always different from culture to culture, does that means that the concept of Good also changes?
I don't think so. In any culture Good has no other definition as the ideal relation between individuals. No matter it is based in a God's will, in reason, in the platonic Forms, Good is always an ideal, and that is common to all societies.
That means that we are moral beings.

But moral rules change. We bury our deads, hindus burn them, some ancient tribes described by Herodotus eat them. They all have the notion of the Good, but different ways to reach it in this earth.

So moral rules are not subjective, since any of us is educated since birth in a language system where moral rules are implicit or explicit. Our mind is made according to the moral values of a given society and culture.
The difference stays not in the desire of the Good but in the ways to reach it. Those ways are defined in each society and culture and they reflect religious, economical, scientific and philosophic influences.

Epicurus, who I admire as the greatest moralist in philosophy, would never be accepted in our present western society.
Our society, for the good or the bad - to me, for the worst! - has the utilitarian criteria as definition of moral rules. But I was raised, since my childhood - here in Portugal we lived then in a dictatorship, 50 years old -in a conflict between the religious based moral imposed by the state and the moral relativism that I am proud to have received from my parents.

What I mean is this: it is possible a moral relativism, according to different cultures, influences. But a moral relativism is absolute in the conditions of time and space that allow it's domination. The mistake is in the fact that we think that our moral values are the right ones and those of other cultures are wrong.
The validity of a moral depends on it's adequacy to the cultural, economical, historical bases of a society. When they enter in conflict, moral rules are no longer valid.

But the desire of an ideal Good is present in any society, in any historical period.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2005 05:05 am
joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
It seems to me the difference between the two is highly significant. The first implies that morality is arbitrary, the second that it is universal.

I don't think the first definition you offered implies that morality is arbitrary. If morality is a system of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct, there is no reason to conclude that the definition allows for many equally valid systems of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct.

I suppose that definition allows for many systems of belief, not necessarily many equally valid systems of belief. But anyway...

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I agree with you to the extent that I can't see how anything other than reason would have a chance. But how? How do you go about discovering morality by reason? We'll argue around in circle with abstracts, so could you give me an example of a moral principle defensible by reason?

I can give you many: they're not difficult to find. Kant's categorical imperative is, perhaps, the most famous.

But Kant didn't set out to prove that morality was discoverable by reason, he started from that assumption:
Kant wrote:
As my concern here is with moral philosophy, I limit the question suggested to this: Whether it is not of the utmost necessity to construct a pure moral philosophy, perfectly cleared of everything which is only empirical, and which belongs to anthropology? for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral law
(My italics)
Here it seems to me that Kant is mistaken. As a point of fact, I do not think there is a common idea of moral law, and I suspect that socio-biologists and psychologists would have little difficulty in explaining the general feeling of 'duty' without reference to any metaphysic of ethics.

In fact, though he attempts to squeeze out of it, Kant recognises this himself:
Kant wrote:
It might be objected to me that I take refuge behind the word respect in an obscure feeling, instead of giving a distinct solution of the question by a concept of reason

He goes on, I'm sure you know, to argue that the feelings of respect or duty is distinct from feeling such as fear or inclination, because it is 'self-wrought by rational concept". While I can agree that what we feel duty bound to do may be self-wrought by rational concept, it seems to me plain wrong to say that the feeling of duty is self-wrought by rational concept.

With weak foundations such as these, it seems to me that Kant's attempts at a rational morality are doomed to crumble. Further, he asserts that, since reason is not a tool for bringing about the happiness of the reasoning individual, therefore "nature recognises the establishment of a good will as its highest practical destination". Well, in my understanding of evolutionary theory, nature has no highest practical destination, it has no destination at all. Furthermore, the evolution of reason is rather better explained as a means for the survival of an organism's genes, rather than by happiness (where Kant is right) or a metaphysic of ethics (where Kant is wrong).

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
Lying is wrong only because we can lie. But why? Why not lying is right because we can lie? To what end does morality aspire? What is it for? Or is my consequentialist thinking clouding my judgement?

If you think that morality must serve some purpose apart from "the good," then your consequentialist thinking has indeed clouded your judgment.

What do you mean by "the good"?

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
The problem, as I see it, is that while reason is tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises. Therefore, it can be used to show a morality is wrong (self-contradictory, or reliant on fallacies, etc.) but not show that a morality is right.

I doubt even you believe this statement. But, in case you do, please provide the non-rational initial premise for the following assertion: "while reason is a tool which can be used once certain initial premises are accepted, I don't think it can create initial premises."

I was specifically talking about initial moral premises, so in this case: "We ought to use reason to tackle logical problems". Incidentally, it seems to be quite clear that reason is never used to create initial premises in physics, rather it is use to attempt to discover them.

I'm not sure we actually disagree here, since you are claiming moral premises can be discovered, I am saying they cannot be created. Although Kant seems to say they must be "constructed", but simultaneously pre-exist that construction in "the conceptions of pure reason", which seems contradictory to me.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2005 05:14 am
val wrote:
In any culture Good has no other definition as the ideal relation between individuals.

I don't think this is true. Kant thought of the Good being 'a Good Will', and acting according, whatever its affects (whether it leads to ideal relations between individuals or not). I'm sure other can think of moral positions which define Good other than 'the ideal relation between individuals'.

val wrote:
The validity of a moral depends on it's adequacy to the cultural, economical, historical bases of a society. When they enter in conflict, moral rules are no longer valid.

How do we judge its adequacy? What must it adequately achieve? An ideal relationship between individuals? But surely what is regarded as 'ideal' is equally variable, so every moral system would be equally valid and invalid.
0 Replies
 
val
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2005 05:43 am
Quote:
I don't think this is true. Kant thought of the Good being 'a Good Will', and acting according, whatever its affects (whether it leads to ideal relations between individuals or not). I'm sure other can think of moral positions which define Good other than 'the ideal relation between individuals'.


Yes, I think you are right. Plato's moral had nothing to do with ideal relations between individuals.
Let's just say: all individuals are moral beings.


Quote:
How do we judge its adequacy? What must it adequately achieve? An ideal relationship between individuals? But surely what is regarded as 'ideal' is equally variable, so every moral system would be equally valid and invalid.[/[/quote]

We don't judge it's adequacy. We live it.
See the case of "debts of blood". Homer's heroes believed in the debt of blood. Any murder must be followed by the death of the murder, no matter his motives were. This moral rule shows an adequacy with the greek world in Homer's time. Kings were, in fact, lords of war, in a agrarian society. Virtue (arete) in this case had to do with social status and bravery.
300 years later, greek societies, specially Athens were very different. Aeschylus show us the difference of moral rules in his tragedy "Oresteia". The debt of blood is no more a moral rule, the murderer must be given the possibility of explaining the reasons that lead him to the crime.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2005 07:55 am
djbt wrote:
But Kant didn't set out to prove that morality was discoverable by reason, he started from that assumption:
Kant wrote:
As my concern here is with moral philosophy, I limit the question suggested to this: Whether it is not of the utmost necessity to construct a pure moral philosophy, perfectly cleared of everything which is only empirical, and which belongs to anthropology? for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral law
(My italics)
Here it seems to me that Kant is mistaken. As a point of fact, I do not think there is a common idea of moral law, and I suspect that socio-biologists and psychologists would have little difficulty in explaining the general feeling of 'duty' without reference to any metaphysic of ethics.

You're confused. First of all, Kant showed that morality is discoverable by reason by using reason and rational methods to discover it. To require Kant to prove first that morality is discoverable by reason is unnecessary: his proof satisfies the requirement.

Second, when Kant talks of a "common" idea of morality (gemeinen Idee der Pflicht), he is not referring to a "universal" idea of morality. "Common," in this context, simply means "commonplace" or "widespread."

Third, the fact that sociobiologists or psychologists could explain the general feeling of "duty" in some other terms is completely irrelevant: scientific conclusions are inductive; Kant's conclusions are deductive. As Hume pointed out, you can't prove anything by induction, you can only disprove something by it.

Fourth, from the context of the quotation you cited, what Kant was clearly attempting to state is that the "common idea" of duty or moral law must give rise to a philosophy of morality because "law" implies a universal obligation (what Kant calls an "absolute necessity"). As he states:
    Everyone must admit that if a law is to be morally valid, i.e. is to be valid as a ground of obligation, then it must carry with it absolute necessity. He must admit that the command, "Thou shalt not lie," does not hold only for men [i.e. adult males], as if other rational beings had no need to abide by it, and so with all other moral laws properly so called. And he must concede that the ground of obligation here must therefore be sought not in the nature of man nor in the circumstances of the world in which man is placed, but must be sought [i]a priori[/i] solely in the concepts of pure reason; he must grant that every other precept which is founded on principles of mere experience -- even a precept that may in certain respects be universal -- insofar as it rests in the least on empirical grounds -- perhaps only in its motive -- can indeed be called a practical rule, but never a moral law.
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, preface. In other words, because laws are not contingent but are, by definition, universal, any philosophy of morality must be universal as well. Thus, we cannot rely on any empirical (inductive) process for ascertaining the nature of morality, since such processes do not yield universal results. Only reason can yield those results, and thus morality is only discoverable through reason.

djbt wrote:
In fact, though he attempts to squeeze out of it, Kant recognises this himself:
Kant wrote:
It might be objected to me that I take refuge behind the word respect in an obscure feeling, instead of giving a distinct solution of the question by a concept of reason

He goes on, I'm sure you know, to argue that the feelings of respect or duty is distinct from feeling such as fear or inclination, because it is 'self-wrought by rational concept". While I can agree that what we feel duty bound to do may be self-wrought by rational concept, it seems to me plain wrong to say that the feeling of duty is self-wrought by rational concept.

With weak foundations such as these, it seems to me that Kant's attempts at a rational morality are doomed to crumble.

I'm not sure what "weak foundations" you're talking about. Perhaps if you could give some references to your quotations, that might help.

djbt wrote:
Further, he asserts that, since reason is not a tool for bringing about the happiness of the reasoning individual, therefore "nature recognises the establishment of a good will as its highest practical destination". Well, in my understanding of evolutionary theory, nature has no highest practical destination, it has no destination at all. Furthermore, the evolution of reason is rather better explained as a means for the survival of an organism's genes, rather than by happiness (where Kant is right) or a metaphysic of ethics (where Kant is wrong).

You're even more confused. Why bring "evolution" into a discussion of Kant at all? Kant's notion of "good will" as the "highest practical destination" isn't some teleological formula for mankind's evolution; it is not something that we move toward, it is something that is already there.

djbt wrote:
What do you mean by "the good"?

I use it the way most philosophers use it: that which is the end of morality.

djbt wrote:
I was specifically talking about initial moral premises, so in this case: "We ought to use reason to tackle logical problems". Incidentally, it seems to be quite clear that reason is never used to create initial premises in physics, rather it is use to attempt to discover them.

Once again, you're confusing induction and deduction.

djbt wrote:
I'm not sure we actually disagree here, since you are claiming moral premises can be discovered, I am saying they cannot be created. Although Kant seems to say they must be "constructed", but simultaneously pre-exist that construction in "the conceptions of pure reason", which seems contradictory to me.

I'm not willing to concede that we may agree until I get a better sense of what you're talking about. I don't understand your distinction between "discovered" and "created" in this context. It seems to me that you think anything that is not already "discovered" is necessarily "created." With that I cannot agree.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2005 09:40 am
Let me begin by admitting my lack of expertise regarding Kant. Have the patience to educate me where I am mistaken.

joefromchicago wrote:
You're confused. First of all, Kant showed that morality is discoverable by reason by using reason and rational methods to discover it. To require Kant to prove first that morality is discoverable by reason is unnecessary: his proof satisfies the requirement.

Your point is a fair one, I mentioned this not as proof that Kant was wrong, but that he was biased.
joefromchicago wrote:
Second, when Kant talks of a "common" idea of morality (gemeinen Idee der Pflicht), he is not referring to a "universal" idea of morality. "Common," in this context, simply means "commonplace" or "widespread."

This is the sense in which I was interpreting the word, and I still think he was mistaken. The reason this thread exists is because we are undecided on whether there is moral law, not what moral law is correct, so clearly the idea of moral law is not commonplace.

joefromchicago wrote:
Third, the fact that sociobiologists or psychologists could explain the general feeling of "duty" in some other terms is completely irrelevant: scientific conclusions are inductive; Kant's conclusions are deductive. As Hume pointed out, you can't prove anything by induction, you can only disprove something by it.

"for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral law" - surely Kant is being inductive here? He is using empirical evidence, not deductive reasoning, to attempt to prove that a a 'pure moral philosophy' is possible. So surely it is legitimate to suggest alternative inductive explanations for Kant observations? (Preface to the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics).

joefromchicago wrote:
Fourth, from the context of the quotation you cited, what Kant was clearly attempting to state is that the "common idea" of duty or moral law must give rise to a philosophy of morality because "law" implies a universal obligation (what Kant calls an "absolute necessity").

Why must it? The common idea of the history of the Star Wars universe does not give rise to Star Wars universe really having a history, just because of the implications of the word 'history'.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
In fact, though he attempts to squeeze out of it, Kant recognises this himself:
Kant wrote:
It might be objected to me that I take refuge behind the word respect in an obscure feeling, instead of giving a distinct solution of the question by a concept of reason

He goes on, I'm sure you know, to argue that the feelings of respect or duty is distinct from feeling such as fear or inclination, because it is 'self-wrought by rational concept". While I can agree that what we feel duty bound to do may be self-wrought by rational concept, it seems to me plain wrong to say that the feeling of duty is self-wrought by rational concept.

With weak foundations such as these, it seems to me that Kant's attempts at a rational morality are doomed to crumble.

I'm not sure what "weak foundations" you're talking about. Perhaps if you could give some references to your quotations, that might help.

First Section, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, footnotes. Kant seems to build his position on the assumption that feelings of 'duty' or 'respect' are created by reason, which seem to me to be mistaken, and is thus a weak foundation.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
Further, he asserts that, since reason is not a tool for bringing about the happiness of the reasoning individual, therefore "nature recognises the establishment of a good will as its highest practical destination". Well, in my understanding of evolutionary theory, nature has no highest practical destination, it has no destination at all. Furthermore, the evolution of reason is rather better explained as a means for the survival of an organism's genes, rather than by happiness (where Kant is right) or a metaphysic of ethics (where Kant is wrong).

You're even more confused. Why bring "evolution" into a discussion of Kant at all? Kant's notion of "good will" as the "highest practical destination" isn't some teleological formula for mankind's evolution; it is not something that we move toward, it is something that is already there.

I think you are confused here. Reread the First Section of the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, paragraph beginning "In the physical constitution of an organized being..." onwards. Kant clearly states that there is a purpose to life, and that since reason does not lead to happiness, the purpose cannot be to obtain happiness, but instead must be the formation of a 'Good Will'.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I was specifically talking about initial moral premises, so in this case: "We ought to use reason to tackle logical problems". Incidentally, it seems to be quite clear that reason is never used to create initial premises in physics, rather it is use to attempt to discover them.

Once again, you're confusing induction and deduction.

djbt wrote:
I'm not sure we actually disagree here, since you are claiming moral premises can be discovered, I am saying they cannot be created. Although Kant seems to say they must be "constructed", but simultaneously pre-exist that construction in "the conceptions of pure reason", which seems contradictory to me.

I'm not willing to concede that we may agree until I get a better sense of what you're talking about. I don't understand your distinction between "discovered" and "created" in this context. It seems to me that you think anything that is not already "discovered" is necessarily "created." With that I cannot agree.

The difference between us is that you are thinking deductively, and I inductively. I do not think that anything that is not already "discovered" is necessarily "created".

You seem to be saying that moral law has necessary existence, and working from that. If that is not what you are saying I cannot see how you can approached this deductively. If you are saying this, then please explain to me why you think moral law necessarily exists.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 May, 2005 06:12 pm
djbt wrote:
This is the sense in which I was interpreting the word, and I still think he was mistaken. The reason this thread exists is because we are undecided on whether there is moral law, not what moral law is correct, so clearly the idea of moral law is not commonplace.

Of course the idea of moral law is commonplace: that's why people debate about morality.

djbt wrote:
"for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral law" - surely Kant is being inductive here? He is using empirical evidence, not deductive reasoning, to attempt to prove that a a 'pure moral philosophy' is possible. So surely it is legitimate to suggest alternative inductive explanations for Kant observations? (Preface to the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics).

No, he's not being inductive, he's merely pointing out that the possibility of a universal morality is evidenced by common ideas of morality. In other words, if most people think there's something called "morality," then that's a good indication that a universal morality is thinkable.

djbt wrote:
Why must it? The common idea of the history of the Star Wars universe does not give rise to Star Wars universe really having a history, just because of the implications of the word 'history'.

There's a difference between "history" and "law." A "law" must, by definition, be universal and prescriptive. A "history" is specific and descriptive.

djbt wrote:
He goes on, I'm sure you know, to argue that the feelings of respect or duty is distinct from feeling such as fear or inclination, because it is 'self-wrought by rational concept". While I can agree that what we feel duty bound to do may be self-wrought by rational concept, it seems to me plain wrong to say that the feeling of duty is self-wrought by rational concept.

Why?

djbt wrote:
First Section, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, footnotes. Kant seems to build his position on the assumption that feelings of 'duty' or 'respect' are created by reason, which seem to me to be mistaken, and is thus a weak foundation.

Explain.

djbt wrote:
I think you are confused here. Reread the First Section of the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, paragraph beginning "In the physical constitution of an organized being..." onwards. Kant clearly states that there is a purpose to life, and that since reason does not lead to happiness, the purpose cannot be to obtain happiness, but instead must be the formation of a 'Good Will'.

The "good will" isn't a purpose in life, in a teleological sense. The "good will" is the measure of morality, not the goal.

djbt wrote:
The difference between us is that you are thinking deductively, and I inductively. I do not think that anything that is not already "discovered" is necessarily "created".

Do you think that any kind of morality can be founded on an empirical basis?

djbt wrote:
You seem to be saying that moral law has necessary existence, and working from that. If that is not what you are saying I cannot see how you can approached this deductively. If you are saying this, then please explain to me why you think moral law necessarily exists.

Because morality cannot be founded on any other basis.
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 May, 2005 06:23 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Of course the idea of moral law is commonplace: that's why people debate about morality.

There seems to me to be a difference between 'morality' and 'moral law', principally that the first is more vague. Most people I know talk about morality without believing in the kind of absolutes that, you rightly point out, the word 'law' implies.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
"for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral law" - surely Kant is being inductive here? He is using empirical evidence, not deductive reasoning, to attempt to prove that a a 'pure moral philosophy' is possible. So surely it is legitimate to suggest alternative inductive explanations for Kant observations? (Preface to the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics).

No, he's not being inductive, he's merely pointing out that the possibility of a universal morality is evidenced by common ideas of morality. In other words, if most people think there's something called "morality," then that's a good indication that a universal morality is thinkable.

Well, still looks pretty inductive to me, but I'm happy to concede he showed universal morality is 'thinkable' by this evidence, but not that it is proven to exist.
joefromchicago wrote:
Kant was clearly attempting to state is that the "common idea" of duty or moral law must give rise to a philosophy of morality because "law" implies a universal obligation (what Kant calls an "absolute necessity").
djbt wrote:
Why must it? The common idea of the history of the Star Wars universe does not give rise to Star Wars universe really having a history, just because of the implications of the word 'history'.

There's a difference between "history" and "law." A "law" must, by definition, be universal and prescriptive. A "history" is specific and descriptive.

This misses the point I was trying to make. Let me clarify; my point was that just because there is a common conception of the existence of something that, in order to actually exist, must be absolute, does not mean it actually does exist. Another Star Wars analogue, just for fun: there is a common conception of the laws governing the operation of the light and dark side of the Force, we might call it Force law, or Jedi law. In order to exist, this Force law must be absolute, but this fact does not prove that it actually does exist.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
He goes on, I'm sure you know, to argue that the feelings of respect or duty is distinct from feeling such as fear or inclination, because it is 'self-wrought by rational concept". While I can agree that what we feel duty bound to do may be self-wrought by rational concept, it seems to me plain wrong to say that the feeling of duty is self-wrought by rational concept.

Why?
djbt wrote:
First Section, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, footnotes. Kant seems to build his position on the assumption that feelings of 'duty' or 'respect' are created by reason, which seem to me to be mistaken, and is thus a weak foundation.
Explain.

It seems to me that all our feelings (emotions/desires) are wrought by the form of our brains (which, in turn, are wrought by the process of evolution). The application of these feelings can be manipulated by reason (and culture, education, religious feeling, etc.) but the feeling itself was not wrought by reason.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I think you are confused here. Reread the First Section of the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, paragraph beginning "In the physical constitution of an organized being..." onwards. Kant clearly states that there is a purpose to life, and that since reason does not lead to happiness, the purpose cannot be to obtain happiness, but instead must be the formation of a 'Good Will'.

The "good will" isn't a purpose in life, in a teleological sense. The "good will" is the measure of morality, not the goal.

I was not saying that Kant said that a 'good will' was the goal of morality, but rather that moral reasoning was the goal of nature when she/it endowed mankind with reason. Again, the above passage seems to be saying this pretty clearly.

joefromchicago wrote:
Do you think that any kind of morality can be founded on an empirical basis?

Not really, no.

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
You seem to be saying that moral law has necessary existence, and working from that. If that is not what you are saying I cannot see how you can approached this deductively. If you are saying this, then please explain to me why you think moral law necessarily exists.

Because morality cannot be founded on any other basis.

I agree. That leads to two possible conclusions:
(1) That moral law necessarily exists.
(2) That objective morality doesn't exist.
Which is, of course, the point of this thread.

I agree with you that morality, if it exists at all, must be universal, and must be founded on reason. However, not seeing how it can be founded by reason, I do not see that it can exist. That fact that morality cannot be founded on any other basis than reason no more proves that morality exists than the fact that use of the Light or Dark side of the Force must be founded on knowledge of Force law proves that the Force exists. Or less flippantly, the fact that Christianity exists, and Christianity is founded on God, does not prove that God actually exists.

I wish I had a reason to disagree with this, I really wish I could see a strong argument for a universal, absolute morality, but I do not. In the absence of this, I have formed what I perhaps inappropriately call my 'moral' position out of things which undeniably do exist, and are important. This is why, in the ethics/animals thread, I wasn't particularly worried about proving my position was 'morally important' once you had agreed it was 'important'.

I have in mind a goal; reducing pain and increasing pleasure. It is near impossible for me to convince someone who disagrees with this goal by use of reason. However, once the goal is assumed, reason can kick in, and do a lot of, er, 'good'.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 May, 2005 08:34 am
djbt wrote:
This misses the point I was trying to make. Let me clarify; my point was that just because there is a common conception of the existence of something that, in order to actually exist, must be absolute, does not mean it actually does exist.

And Kant never makes that mistake. According to him, absolute moral laws exist because reason proves that they exist. You are dangerously close to creating a strawman argument here.

I'll ignore your second Star Wars analogy as just so much wasted effort.

djbt wrote:
It seems to me that all our feelings (emotions/desires) are wrought by the form of our brains (which, in turn, are wrought by the process of evolution). The application of these feelings can be manipulated by reason (and culture, education, religious feeling, etc.) but the feeling itself was not wrought by reason.

How do you know that?

djbt wrote:
I was not saying that Kant said that a 'good will' was the goal of morality, but rather that moral reasoning was the goal of nature when she/it endowed mankind with reason. Again, the above passage seems to be saying this pretty clearly.

I think it's time that you read more of Kant than just a couple of sections from the Grundlegung in order to get a fuller picture of his philosophy of morality.

djbt wrote:
I wish I had a reason to disagree with this, I really wish I could see a strong argument for a universal, absolute morality, but I do not. In the absence of this, I have formed what I perhaps inappropriately call my 'moral' position out of things which undeniably do exist, and are important. This is why, in the ethics/animals thread, I wasn't particularly worried about proving my position was 'morally important' once you had agreed it was 'important'.

I have in mind a goal; reducing pain and increasing pleasure. It is near impossible for me to convince someone who disagrees with this goal by use of reason. However, once the goal is assumed, reason can kick in, and do a lot of, er, 'good'.

Just to clarify: do you believe that there is anything which may be called "morality?"
0 Replies
 
val
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jun, 2005 05:31 am
joefromchicago


Quote:
Everyone must admit that if a law is to be morally valid, i.e. is to be valid as a ground of obligation, then it must carry with it absolute necessity. He must admit that the command, "Thou shalt not lie," does not hold only for men [i.e. adult males], as if other rational beings had no need to abide by it, and so with all other moral laws properly so called. And he must concede that the ground of obligation here must therefore be sought not in the nature of man nor in the circumstances of the world in which man is placed, but must be sought a priori solely in the concepts of pure reason; he must grant that every other precept which is founded on principles of mere experience -- even a precept that may in certain respects be universal -- insofar as it rests in the least on empirical grounds -- perhaps only in its motive -- can indeed be called a practical rule, but never a moral law.[/list]Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, preface. In other words, because laws are not contingent but are, by definition, universal, any philosophy of morality must be universal as well.


Remember Russell's objection: you live in Berlin, 1940, and you are the only person who knows that your neighbor is a jew. Men of the Gestapo ask you if you know any jew in your neighborhood. You say no and you are lying. You say yes and you are telling the truth, and your neighbor goes to Auschwitz.

I think Kant never understood that even in juridic laws, there are conflicts of rights (or obligations). This is the problem of Kant's moral philosophy, he cannot accept what Plato had discovered 2.400 years ago: that when moral rules enter in conflict - in this case, the moral rule of telling the truth and the moral rule of saving an human life - those moral rules have different levels of relevance. In fact, this is very obvious in the example that Kant took from Plato: must we pay the money that someone loaned to us? Even if it is going to be used to hire a killer in order to murder someone?
The fact that we answer, like Plato, "no", doesn't mean that we have not the juridic and moral obligation of paying that money. It means that life is a value much more important, and, facing the conflict of values, we must choose the most important value and therefore submit to the most relevant obligation.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
 
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.05 seconds on 09/26/2020 at 01:13:27