back to the beginning: morality

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:45 pm

"Moral Relativism Is Unintelligible"
Julien Beillard argues that it makes no sense to say that morality is relatively true.
From Philosophy Now magazine.

The argument for moral relativism from moral diversity is not especially convincing as it stands. If the mere fact that people or groups disagree over some idea were enough to show that that idea has no objective truth value, there would be no objective truth about the age of the universe or the causes of autism.


Sure, going back to a definitive explanation for everything, conflciting goods may well be on par with physics and human biology.

No one is able to demonstrate that this is not the case.

Just as no one is able to demonstrate that conflicting goods are not merely the biological imperatives of a brain able to generate the illusion of free will.

But to equate the objective biological imperatives embedded in autism with an alleged objective argument that determines if autistic fetuses ought or ought not to be aborted is, in my view, the difference between a "truth value" in the either/or world and one in the is/ought world.

Hoping to ward off that counter-argument, relativists usually claim that these other disagreements are unlike moral disagreements in some relevant way. For instance, writing in this magazine, Jesse Prinz claimed that scientific disagreements can be settled by better observations or measurements, and that when presented with the same body of evidence or reasons, scientists come to agree, but the same cannot be said of thinkers operating with different moral codes.


Exactly. Or has there been an argument constructed that does in fact pin down whether, given a diagnosis of autism in the unborn, rational parents are obligated either to abort it or give birth to it.

Even if we grant this distinction, however, it is still doubtful that moral disagreement is a good reason for accepting moral relativism. After all, there is deep and apparently irresolvable disagreements in philosophy as well as morality. For instance, some philosophers think mental states such as pain or desire are just physical states; others deny this, and yet both camps are familiar with the evidence and reasons taken to support the opposing point of view. Should we say, then, that there is no objective truth about how mental states are related to the physical world? That seems deeply implausible. For that matter, many philosophers deny the moral relativist’s claim that moral truth is relative to what a given society believes. Does it follow that there is only relative truth and no objective truth about moral relativism itself – that moral relativism is true relative to the outlook of Jesse Prinz, say, and anti-relativism no less true relative to mine?


All this suggests is that while answers to questions like these are ever and always being debated, we should [in the interim] just take leap of faith to one side or the other. As though the leap itself need be as far as we go. We can't definitively substantiate, prove and establish the answer, but, here and now, my answer is the one I am sticking with.

In other words, Beillard starts with one set of assumptions and claims them as a "truth value", while Prinz starts with a conflicting set and claims them instead.

So, you tell me: what has actually been demonstrated here to be the truth value?

On the one hand, in relation to autism as a medical condition given a set of biological imperatives, and, on the other hand, in relation to aborting autistic fetuses given a set of moral imperatives.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Sun Aug 18, 2019 7:48 pm

"The Moral Case For Nihilism"
By Shane Fraser in Aero magazine

Since it became part of the zeitgeist of nineteenth-century Europe, nihilism has been blamed for virtually every atrocity committed by an unsound individual. This “philosophy of nothing” concludes that our universe, if agentless, is without intrinsic meaning. Thus morals and values are not objective, God-given truths but temporary human inventions. In recognizing that they are fictions, a person becomes a nihilist and is fated to confront the emptiness of existence.


Yeah, this pretty much sums it up in the broadest sense. No God means no foundation, no underlying knowledge that we can turn to in order to establish the optimal answers to questions derived from conflicting value judgments...or from out on the very end of the metaphysical limb.

It doesn't dispense with meaning and purpose altogether, it merely concludes that in a No God world, both are cobbled together existentially given the choices we make in the act of actually living out lives.

While nihilism is rationally sound, the philosophy runs counter to the needs of a society that relies on such fictions to maintain order. Traditionalists reason that if people lose the basis of morality, nothing will stop them from committing acts of baseless cruelty—and God help humanity if the cruelty spreads.


Here's the thing though. If it is decided that nihilism is a reasonable manner in which to understand the "human condition", how then do you make arguments of this sort go away?

Well, you can't, can you? So, as with God, it may well be that even if "objective morality" does not exist, it is "for all practical purposes" necessary to act as though it did exist.

Or, again, to suppose that, given the reality of nihilism in a No God world, the "best of all possible worlds" is probably going to revolve around one or another rendition of the "democracy and the rule of law".

These suspicions seem to be confirmed by the fact that the most evil figure of the twentieth-century admitted nihilistic influence, as did the century’s most infamous cult leader, and as have serial and rampage killers from Ian Brady to Eric Harris. Nihilism has begun to be ascribed to any person who kills, or orders killings, without good reason. Nihilism has become a catch-all description of violent hedonism.

This is a misunderstanding. An inherently nonaggressive point of view is misperceived as a rally cry for school shooters. We need to pry the philosophy away from the legacies of Hitler, Charles Manson and the Columbine massacre and put it where it belongs: nowhere. Any somewhere is far away from the nihilist ethos. Somewhere entails going out and acting. Mass murder entails acting. No nihilist is, has been, or will ever be, a mass murderer.


Arguments like this will go back and forth...probably forever. Yes, nihilism can be used to rationalize/justify any and all behaviors, however appalling they are seen to be by those who reject nihilism. It just comes down to how sophisticated the arguments are.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:08 am

"Moral Relativism Is Unintelligible"
Julien Beillard argues that it makes no sense to say that morality is relatively true.
From Philosophy Now magazine.

Need it be self-defeating to hold that moral truth is relative, and that that truth about moral truth is itself merely relatively true too? Happily, we do not need to consider this question with much care, since I think the core problem with moral relativism is not that it is false, implausible or self-defeating, but simply that it is unintelligible. I mean by this that there is no intelligible concept of truth that can be used to frame the thesis that moral truth is relative to the standards or beliefs of a given society.


In my view, this is a classic example of a philosopher exploring moral relativism up in the clouds. Are there objective moral truths able to be encompassed in examining, say, the political policies of President Trump in regard to immigration and the building of a wall along the border with Mexico?

Okay, what are the "intelligible concepts of truth" and the "unintelligible concepts of truth" we can all agree on when it comes to actual behaviors that we ourselves choose in becoming politically active with regard to his policies?

And while there may well be no "intelligible concept of truth that can be used to frame the thesis that moral truth is relative to the standards or beliefs of a given society", when you move from the thesis to an actual description of human interactions down through the ages there are any number of examples of this. Both historical and cultural.

Let me try to clarify this objection by introducing some truisms about truth. First, a statement is true only if it represents things as they really are. The statement that I’m wearing blue socks is true only if I really am wearing socks, and they really are blue.

The same general principle surely holds for moral statements. Suppose I say that suicide is immoral, yet that in objective reality there is no such thing as moral wrongness. That is, suppose that nothing that anyone does really is morally wrong, although some actions seem wrong to us. Then my assertion of immorality is simply false, for it attributes to certain acts a property that nothing has. It is like an assertion that my socks were made by Santa’s niece. Nothing has the property of being made by Santa’s niece, and any statement that represents my socks as having it is therefore false.


Okay, okay, technically this may or may not be true. But what does it really have to do "for all practical purposes" with the distinction between "John committed suicide while wearing blue socks" and "whatever the color of the socks John wore, committing suicide is immoral?"

What the hell am I missing here in his argument?

Santa's niece?!

A little help with that please.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:23 pm

"Moral Relativism Is Unintelligible"
Julien Beillard argues that it makes no sense to say that morality is relatively true.
From Philosophy Now magazine.

Those attracted to moral relativism might object that I am simply presupposing an objectivist concept of truth: a concept that relates what is said or thought about the world to the way that the world really is, independent of these thoughts. What they have in mind instead is a different concept of truth – one that does not involve any such relation between subjective points of view or representations and something independent of those points of view.


From my frame of mind, the "objectivist concept of truth" seems reasonably in sync with the manner in which I have come to understand the either/or world. In other words, among other things, the laws of nature carry on with or without us.

Just as the facts able to be established relating to a context in which value judgments come into conflict do not change because someone embraces what they construe to be their own set of facts -- facts that are in fact at odds with clearly established facts.

But when this "objectivist concept of truth" is ascribed instead to clearly subjective assessments of right and wrong behavior, where is this truth independent of subjective thoughts?

Then [of course] for some it's straight back up into the clouds that are the abstract "general descriptions" of this predicament.

I admit that I am presupposing an objectivist conception of truth, but what’s the alternative? Do we have any concept of truth that does not involve that kind of relation? To be sure, people sometimes say that a statement is true for one person but not another – meaning that the statement seems true to the first person but does not seem true to the second. But just as seeming gold is not a kind of gold, seeming truth is not a kind of truth.


What concept of truth relating to what actual relations? What statement is being assessed as true regarding what behaviors in conflict over moral narratives at odds?

Something either is or is not gold. But who is to say whether it is right or wrong for a government to forbid its citizens to own gold?

Consider:

...in 1933, Executive Order 6102 had made it a criminal offense for U.S. citizens to own or trade gold anywhere in the world, with exceptions for some jewelry and collector's coins....By 1975 Americans could again freely own and trade gold. wiki

Objective facts and subjective value judgments. Seeming truths and actual truths.

What is meant by this way of speaking (if anything), is simply belief. To say that it is true for some children that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, if that means merely that to some children it seems true that he does, is really just a way of saying that they believe it. But believing doesn’t make it so. Similarly, if moral relativism is just the claim that what seems true of morality to some people (what they believe about morality) seems false to others, this is true but philosophically trivial, and consistent with objectivism about moral truth.


From my frame of mind, this turns everything upside down. If what you believe about morality takes precedence over what you can in fact demonstrate to be moral or immoral behavior, it is the belief itself that matters more than the proof that the belief reflects an objective truth value. The trivial pursuit [for me] revolves around substituting a world of words [as a philosopher] for the world as it actually is [a cauldron of conflicting goods].

I must be misunderstanding his point.

It is also worth noting that, interpreted in this trivial way, moral relativism could not be supported by the argument from disagreement. The gist of that argument was that moral relativism is a good explanation of the moral disagreements we observe. Yet the claim that some moral statements seem true to some people and false to others merely restates the fact of moral disagreement that is supposedly explained by relativism, it cannot explain that fact.


A classic example in my view of a "general description" of human interactions relating to value judgments.

Note to those who share his assessment:

Relating to a specific context in which value judgments do come into conflict, what is he attempting to convey here regarding "triviality", "the argument of disagreement" and moral "claims".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:08 pm

When all is reduced to a question of morality, then the criteria, it is hoped, of what is more and what is less probable are corrupted by an emotionally self-serving components.


First of all, all is not reduced to a question of morality. Think about your day to day interactions with others. How many times do you stop and think, "is this the right thing to do?" Most of what we do revolves around behaviors that allow us to pursue those things we want and need. And here the question "for all practical purposes" comes down to this: how do I attain them? It is strictly a collection of more or less rational choices that lead us to our accomplishing the tasks in the shortest amount of time. It's life unfolding in the either/or world.

Only when what we want and need results in a conflict with others, does the "is/ought" world come into play. You want or need something that others insist that you ought not to want or need. Drugs, for example. You want to get high. And you are able to choose behaviors that result in your getting high or not. But when you get high there are consequences. And sometimes those consequences rub others the wrong way. They want you to stop. They think and feel that it is wrong that you get high. They give you their reasons. You give them your reasons why you think and feel you have the right to get high.

Okay, which "emotionally self-serving components" here are most in sync with "the right thing to do"? Such that the interactions between the parties will result in the least "corrupted" relationship?

All becomes subjectivized, exploiting the human desire to escape an indifferent and uncertain reality - the objective world.


No, there are any number of factors -- facts -- clearly shown to be in sync with the objective world. There are things that we do and consequences that result from the things that we do that all reasonable people can agree with.

But: What constitutes the "objective world" when two or more people disagree regarding the consequences of a particular set of behaviors? Thus entailing a discussion of moral narratives and political agendas that may or may not be in conflict.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:11 pm

"Moral Relativism Is Unintelligible"
Julien Beillard argues that it makes no sense to say that morality is relatively true.
From Philosophy Now magazine.

The relativist’s theory of moral truth explicitly denies that moral statements are ever true (or false) in the familiar sense; but if it is interpreted in the second way, relativism collapses into absurdity or triviality. The relativist needs a third kind of truth, midway between the familiar and the bogus: not just an appearance of truth, but not a truth that depends on objective reality. But there is no such thing. At least, I am unable to imagine what this special kind of truth would be, and relativists are strangely silent on this core issue.


The first way. The second way. The third way.

You know, theoretically.

But this is only of interest to me given the extent to which these ponderous intellectual "ways" are intertwined in flesh and blood human interactions such that the "way" individual men and women think about morality results in behaviors that bring about actual consequences.

Remember that moral relativism has two ingredients: there is the denial of any objective moral truth, and the assertion of some other kind of moral truth.


Yes, there are no doubt those moral relativists who argue that. But this moral relativist [me] does not deny the existence of objective morality, only that no one has been able to demonstrate [of late] that their own rendition of it is applicable to all rational and virtuous men and women.

And the only "other kind of moral truth", that I aim to explore here is in discussing and debating the three components embedded in my own rendition of moral nihilism.

Again [so far] he doesn't even seem to need an actual context in which to demonstrate his own point. It's all "theoretical".

Suppose that moral disagreement does raise doubts about the objective truth of any moral code. Does it follow that moral codes are true in some other sense? No, for perhaps it means that no moral statements are true in any sense. Perhaps people disagree here because they have been acculturated in different moral cultures, but all the moral beliefs or standards of all cultures are simply false. So the argument from disagreement might be an argument for moral nihilism rather than for moral relativism.


It's the argument that makes the most sense to me. But only given the assumption that we live in a No God world. We all come into the world with the same genetic code. And, as folks like Satyr like to point out, that is no small thing.

But we are the only species on this planet that, presuming some measure of free will, have, down through the ages, amassed an extraordinary accumulation of memetic variables in turn.

And while we can debate endlessly how the exact interaction of genes and memes works given any particular context, I merely "raise doubts" regarding any moral narrative -- God or No God -- that is not embedded in an actual context. And that does not take into account the "objective truth of any moral code" given the three components that are imprtant to me.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby promethean75 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:37 pm

And while we can debate endlessly how the exact interaction of genes and memes works given any particular context


nah its not an 'endless' debate because its over pretty quickly. memes don't interact with genes. they interact with gene carriers, but not the gene units themselves. which means, there is no code-script through which they can pass. furthermore, the manner in which they interact with carriers makes them extremely unstable... in the sense that because the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures.

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a "pseudoscientific dogma" and "a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution". As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a "code script" for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.


so it's rather inaccurate to speak of memes as replicating units synonymous to genes. there is replication in the form of behaviors that imitate, but imitation does not modify a physical gene and is in this context an epiphenomena; it has no causal effect on physical genes.

you gotta watch out when you see philostophers talk about genes and memes, man. better to stay in the sciences and consult a biologist.
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:49 am

promethean75 wrote:And while we can debate endlessly how the exact interaction of genes and memes works given any particular context


nah its not an 'endless' debate because its over pretty quickly. memes don't interact with genes. they interact with gene carriers, but not the gene units themselves.
Which would mean that the interact with genes via the carriers. Memes which lead the carriers to thrive, would affect the transmission of the genes of those carriers in that they would continue in future generations. I would bet that memes have epigenetic effects also, since they would affect stress levels, emotional reactions, coping patterns, which would then affect offspring and how genes are expressed, just as in other epigenetic factors.


which means, there is no code-script through which they can pass. furthermore, the manner in which they interact with carriers makes them extremely unstable... in the sense that because the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures.
Except where there are quick changes in environments, such as many species are experiencing now and at other junctures in the past.

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a "pseudoscientific dogma" and "a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution". As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a "code script" for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.


which comes precisely before....

This, however, has been demonstrated (e.g. by Daniel C. Dennett, in Darwin's Dangerous Idea) to not be the case, in fact, due to the existence of self-regulating correction mechanisms (vaguely resembling those of gene transcription) enabled by the redundancy and other properties of most meme expression languages, which do stabilize information transfer. (E.g. spiritual narratives—including music and dance forms—can survive in full detail across any number of generations even in cultures with oral tradition only.) Memes for which stable copying methods are available will inevitably get selected for survival more often than those which can only have unstable mutations, therefore going extinct. (Notably, Benitez-Bribiesca's claim of "no code script" is also irrelevant, considering the fact that there is nothing preventing the information contents of memes from being coded, encoded, expressed, preserved or copied in all sorts of different ways throughout their life-cycles.)
So, there is controversy and he is correct.

so it's rather inaccurate to speak of memes as replicating units synonymous to genes.

Analogous, not synonymous.

you gotta watch out when you see philostophers talk about genes and memes, man. better to stay in the sciences and consult a biologist.....
....who is not going to be an expert on memes. Nor are they going to be an expert on the interaction between ideas on the physiology of gene carriers, the survivability of gene carriers, the epigenetic effecs of memes and so on.

One should, basically, always watch out, regardless.
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:34 pm

promethean75 wrote:
And while we can debate endlessly how the exact interaction of genes and memes works given any particular context


nah its not an 'endless' debate because its over pretty quickly. memes don't interact with genes. they interact with gene carriers, but not the gene units themselves. which means, there is no code-script through which they can pass. furthermore, the manner in which they interact with carriers makes them extremely unstable... in the sense that because the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures.


True, scientists who actually explore the human brain have not burrowed into one and discovered little genes interacting with little memes.

But over millions of years of life evolving on planet earth, the genetic material that became the human brain was able to invent [compelled or otherwise] countless number of memes given human interaction historically, culturally and interpersonally.

So "for all practical purposes" I think most folks will get my point about the connection.

On the other hand, if we do indeed live in a wholly determined universe, this part...

"the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures"

...is not actually the case at all. What appears to the human mind to be sudden and ambiguous change is merely but one more manifestation of the only possible reality.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby Meno_ » Mon Aug 26, 2019 10:24 pm

iambiguous wrote:
promethean75 wrote:
And while we can debate endlessly how the exact interaction of genes and memes works given any particular context


nah its not an 'endless' debate because its over pretty quickly. memes don't interact with genes. they interact with gene carriers, but not the gene units themselves. which means, there is no code-script through which they can pass. furthermore, the manner in which they interact with carriers makes them extremely unstable... in the sense that because the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures.


True, scientists who actually explore the human brain have not burrowed into one and discovered little genes interacting with little memes.

But over millions of years of life evolving on planet earth, the genetic material that became the human brain was able to invent [compelled or otherwise] countless number of memes given human interaction historically, culturally and interpersonally.

So "for all practical purposes" I think most folks will get my point about the connection.

On the other hand, if we do indeed live in a wholly determined universe, this part...

"the meme unit is as idea, it is open to sudden and ambiguous change, unlike genes which are subject to relatively stable selection pressures"

...is not actually the case at all. What appears to the human mind to be sudden and ambiguous change is merely but one more manifestation of the only possible reality.



The idea of the one and the many has had quite a long run. It has come to the point of realilizing that structural change is at dead center between current, remembered and forgotten lines , some more general some specific
The interconnectedness between general and specific connections uses available connections, the quantification of appropriate sets may not be validated in terms of qualifying the most appropriate set.
Whatever is uploadable in availability can form some kind of connection to recolle tion, be at close or remote to an original..

Stasis is maintained arou a fully compensative teleological and ontological l variables, but with AI be- coming the leading pole around which memes and genes organize. The parallel reality may fit this schema.
This goes hand in glove with a temporal/spatial-less reality, that leads to absolutely limited versions in a matrix.


This reductivity consists by inclusion of the moral imperative , to make sense of it, above all.The return to moral sense is always inadequate, but it infers a moral absolute.

I believe that moral absolutes are a form of midlife crisis, where either the beginnings or the endings of the moral compass experience sudden changes of the rates.of it's change.
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby promethean75 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:44 pm

apologies for the delay, karpT. i'm reading what both supporters and critics of memetics are saying, and i tend to agree with the critics. on one hand the type of meme that isn't defined as a learned behavior through imitation - the 'idea' meme - is not analogous to the gene. take a typical idea... religious for instance. two people share this meme, it is said. now separate them and ask each one what they think the idea means. ask them to explain what the idea is... to express it 'in other words'. you'd find that the two interpretations would increasingly deviate from one another as the idea was expounded on. in this sense, the initial idea meme isn't discrete, unlike the gene. and as a unit of language, it is subject to all the complexities inherent to the practice of language games and has no original form in the first place. again, unlike the gene.

i also think the concept is redundant and used so much to describe human behavior patterns, that it's become an arbitrary abstraction almost. if everything people do is memetic, then nothing they do is memetic. see what i mean?

about the only things that could be meaningfully described as memetic are actual observable behaviors that influence fitness level; tool making and use, for instance. and such behavior would not be culturally exclusive. anything else is either a vestigial behavior (neither increasing or decreasing adaptive ability), or so ambiguous it doesn't constitute a stable, discrete entity in the first place.

before dawkins coined the word 'meme', everything anyone has since called memetic has always been called ideological. that general title has worked just fine. but the difference is, these guys are using biological evolution as a template for modeling something that is only analogous to genetics in a very abstract way.

but the easiest way to shut down the meme theory is to simply claim that mental content is epiphenomenal; thoughts and ideas don't 'cause' behavior, but rather emerge in tandem or post-hoc. if such content can't cause behavior, it can't be responsible for being either advantageous or detrimental to adaptation and fitness level. memes of this kind would be analogous to scenes in a cartesian movie, so to speak.
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:18 pm

"Moral Relativism Is Unintelligible"
Julien Beillard argues that it makes no sense to say that morality is relatively true.
From Philosophy Now magazine.

How do relativists hope to establish their positive thesis, that moral statements are sometimes true without being objectively true? I am not aware of any compelling arguments for that idea. On the contrary, relativists tend instead to argue in great detail for the negative thesis, that morality is not objectively true, as if that alone were sufficient for their relativistic conclusion.


Of course it is not my own intention "here and now" to argue that moral statements are "sometimes true". Only that within the arguments themselves there are facts that can be established as true for all of us and reactions to those facts that precipitate value judgments that are rooted more subjectively in dasein than in any deontological assessments that philosophers and scientists can themselves demonstrate to be true for all of us.

And I agree that to the extent that moral relativists portray their own arguments as true objectively, they are certainly far removed from my own conclusions.

Or, again, rather, no assessments that I have come upon.

Thus Prinz says that “moral judgments are based on emotions”, that “reason cannot tell us which values to adopt”, and that even if there is such a thing as human nature, that would be of no use, since the mere fact that we have a certain nature leaves it an open question whether what is natural is morally good.


Also, there are the factors pertaining to the "subconscious" and the "unconscious" mind. And the manner in which all of this is related to more "primitive" components of the human brain: instinct, biological drives, libido, psychological defense mechanisms, etc.

Let us grant all of this, and grant for the sake of argument that it does raise a real doubt about the objective truth of moral beliefs. In the absence of any account of the special kind of truth that is supposed to lie somewhere between mere belief and accurate representation of objective reality, why then should we think of moral judgments as truths of any kind? Why not simply say that all moral codes are false? It would seem reasonable for a philosopher who thinks of moral reasoning in this way to view moral beliefs in the same way that atheists view religious ones – as false.


Sure, "for the sake of argument" any number of assumptions might be made here. But how to bring those assumption into sync with arguments into sync with what can in fact be demonstrated to be wholly true regarding all of these relationships given a particular context.

Let's face it, out in the real world it's not whether moral codes are true or false, but how "for all practical purposes" they actually work to provide different people with different levels of acceptance and satisfaction.

I suspect the reason few philosophers have been willing to draw this nihilistic conclusion is simply that, like most people, they have some strongly-held moral beliefs of their own. They think that it is morally wrong to rape children, for example, and so they do not want to say that that belief is false. For how could they continue to believe it, while also believing that what they believe is not true? This unhappy compromise is not tenable. If there is no objective moral truth, there can’t be some other kind of moral truth.


That's how it works alright. If moral nihilism precipitates reactions that appall particular people then it is not likely that anything I might argue here is going to change their mind. They just know that certain behaviors are right or wrong.

But, really, beyond this what behaviors can they in fact demonstrate [philosophically or otherwise] that all rational and virtuous people are obligated to embrace and defend?

My only assumptions here is that 1] we live in a No God world and 2] that some measure of free will does in fact exist.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby promethean75 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:42 pm

friedrich from the philosophy cafe used to try to pull the same shit with his relativism as 'self-referential paradox' crap. remember that? guy wrote a whole essay on it. he busted out the kant and rawls and everything. i wuz like 'dude, claiming that morality is subjective is not a moral claim in itself, but a statement of valueless fact. DUH.'
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby promethean75 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:45 pm

you need to check out hare's 'prescriptivism', biggs. i think you could get down with something like that because it's a generically different approach to the effort to save morality from relativism. it's pretty solid, because hare's coming from the non-cognitivist camp, so he makes no claim to there being objective moral facts out there in the world.
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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:24 pm

"Our Morality: A Defense of Moral Objectivism"
After our recent ‘Death of Morality’ issue, Mitchell Silver replies to the amoralists.

Philosophers who aspire to describe reality without resort to myth, too often remain in thrall to the myth of absolute neutrality. Myths are not without their proper uses, and belief in absolute neutrality can be a useful, even an indispensable premise in the practices of science, jurisprudence, sports refereeing, and a host of other activities in which we want to discourage corrupting biases. Still, absolute neutrality is a myth, one memorably formulated by Thomas Nagel as ‘the view from nowhere’. There is no ‘view from nowhere’, and any philosophical practice which pretends to occupy that mythical perspective sows confusion.


And nowhere, in my view, is this myth exposed better than in discussions of conflicting goods amidst human social, political and economic interactions. The closest we come to it is embodied in democracy and the rule of law. But that is basically a historical component embedded in the capitalist political economy. Prior to that, various combinations of might makes right [sustaining empries] and right makes might [sustaining God] prevailed.

And, then, in more "primitive" communities -- nomadic, slash and burn, hunter and gatherer -- there was the part given over to "the gods" and the part given over to the biological imperatives that sustained particular gender roles in keeping the community going.

There simply wasn't enough "surplus labor" around back then for a community of philosophers to pop up in order to grapple "intellectually" with things like "neutrality".

Something worked to keep the community going -- fed, clothed, sheltered and defended -- or it didn't. And that generally revolved around there being a proper place for everyone and everyone being in their proper place. No laws or courts around to actually be neutral.

In this article I will describe and defend my kind of moral viewpoint (not my specific viewpoint). The label I will use for this kind of viewpoint is ‘moral objectivism’, because this creates a stark contrast with ‘moral subjectivism’ and ‘moral relativism’ – the views that no coherent morality is better than any other coherent morality, which along with ‘moral nihilism’ – the denial of any morality – present the most philosophically popular moral perspectives that are not of my kind.


Okay, so the first thing we will need to look for here is the extent to which this age-old "general description" of human morality is brought out into the world of very real conflicting behaviors revolving around actual conflicting goods. And, in particular, when those who share his view that morality is objective go after others [sometimes viciously, ruthlessly] who refuse to embrace their own set of precepts and behaviors.

And, it should be noted, the author will consider all of this given the assumption that we live in a No God world.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:25 pm

"Our Morality: A Defense of Moral Objectivism"
After our recent ‘Death of Morality’ issue, Mitchell Silver replies to the amoralists.

Moral objectivism, as I use the term, is the view that a single set of principles determines the permissibility of any action, and the correctness of any judgment regarding an action’s permissibility. Does this view deserve the label ‘moral objectivism?’ I think it does. Although it doesn’t claim that moral principles exist independent of the people who hold them, or that moral properties such as justice exist independently of moral principles, it forthrightly states that some actions are right and some are wrong, regardless of the judgments others may make about them.


Okay, moral principles are intertwined historically, culturally and interpersonally in an actual community of people out in a particular world confronting particular contexts. And the "for all practical purposes" embodiment of such things as social, political and economic justice, are derived from the principles.

In making that claim, I am in conflict with the relativists and nihilists, both of whom assert that moral objectivism is poorly grounded compared to alternative metaethics. (A metaethic is a view about the nature of morality. It is not a particular moral view.) These philosophers maintain that moral objectivism requires that we can only validate an action’s moral status or a judgment’s moral correctness by resorting to some beyond-human authority – some moral reality external to people which serves as the source of whatever set of principles a moral objectivist believes determines moral values and correctness. These relativists and nihilists claim that objectivism needs something like God, but they disbelieve there is anything like God, so they conclude that moral objectivism requires something which does not exist.


Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Particular people out in particular worlds validate or invalidate particular behaviors in particular contexts based on one or another transcending font: God, reason, political ideology, assessments of nature etc.

But: I then point out that even this discussion and debate itself is predicated on two fundamental assumptions:

1] that we possess some measure of free will
2] that anything we might conclude here and now seems embedded in the yawning gap between what any particular "I" thinks he or she knows about human morality and all that can be known about it going back to a definitive understanding of existence itself
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: morality

Postby iambiguous » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:19 pm

"Our Morality: A Defense of Moral Objectivism"
After our recent ‘Death of Morality’ issue, Mitchell Silver replies to the amoralists.

I share the relativist/nihilist rejection of any form of supernaturalism. I do not believe in God, or in any other external authority that grounds moral objectivism. Indeed, I do not think morality can be grounded in any external source.


This is an important admission for me because my contention is that in the absence of a transending font [which most call God], mere mortals acquire a moral narrative existentially through the course of accumulating experiences that encompass their lives. Out in particular worlds.

Yet I am a moral objectivist, and I think there is a good chance you are too. In what follows I do not defend the content of my moral beliefs, nor make any presumptions about the content of yours. I do, however presume that many of you take the content your moral beliefs as seriously as I do mine.


Is this the criteria then? Not that you are able to demonstrate that your own moral values reflect the most rational frame of mind, but only that you take them seriously?

I will seek to persuade you that moral objectivism is at least as rational, as well-grounded, and as consistent with reality, as any alternative metaethic. The fundamental error of relativist and nihilist arguments against objectivism is the implicit claim that morality can be judged from nowhere.


Again, there may be those who argue that, in the absence of a transcending font from which to forge an objective moral narrative, you might just as well be plucking down values at random from trees. But that is certainly not my own contention.

On the contrary, my argument is that any number of moral objectivists come into conflict precisely because they are able to construct coherent arguments containing any number of facts to support political agendas from all along the ideological spectrum.

Just choose a particular conflict, a particular context and let the rational assessments flow.

But: Who then is to say what the most rational assessment is? The one able to demonstrate that they take their own values the most seriously of all?

Like, for example, the Nazis?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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