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ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 5:21 am
by PavlovianModel146
(As posted by Sangrain)

Ladies and gentlemen, for our next instillation in these, our very titillating debates, is the following debate question:

Is there a universal morality that applies to all human beings?

ILP argues No.

ILO argues Yes.

Everyone knows the rules: no eye gouging, only ever go below the belt if it is absolutely necessary.


ILP goes first.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 4:49 pm
by Xunzian
There are a variety of different conceptions of what “universal human morality” means, all of them involving varying degrees of absurdity. The perhaps the simplest definition would be an innate morality which all human beings share. This concept is utterly nonsensical, since every code of morality that has been articulated has excluded populations. This is most clearly demonstrated when morality is codified as law, where there are law-abiding and law-breaking individuals as well as entities for which the law does not apply. If a universal morality existed in this sense, these distinctions would be impossible without appealing to gradations of humanity. While a seemingly elegant solution, all this accomplishes is kicking the can a little further down the street since what constitutes a “person” (or, to borrow from Rawls’, a “reasonable person”) is often precisely what is in dispute when it comes to moral questions. It is, however, still possible to argue for a universal human morality taking this into account. Human beings are social creatures and so while individuals may vary, perhaps the universal human morality exists at a societal level. An example of this would be a prohibition against murder. Every culture throughout this history of the world has had a prohibition against murder, right? While a pleasant hypothesis, this view is ultimately naïve. The cult of Kali, commonly associated with Thuggees, is a clear example of where a group lacked this prohibition. However, this seemingly rare point of departure can be readily expanded upon – thugs were simply an Indian version of organized crime, a phenomenon which can hardly be described as isolated to India. As expected, in most (if not all) iterations of organized crime, many seemingly universal prohibitions are at least ignored and, in some cases, inverted. Since societies have and do exist where seemingly universal rules are violated, universal human morality cannot be said to exist at the societal level either. That is, unless one wants to try and place kick-the-can as per the previous example only this time societies are being compared. Aside from invoking images of White Man’s Burden, this position also concedes the issue since there exist not merely individual humans but entire societies for which the universal human morality does not apply. Without resorting to linguistic gymnastics surrounding the word “universal”, the issue is a non-starter.

Absent a creator deity, the concept of a universal human morality remains unfounded according to both the best empirical and philosophical evidence we have available. Empirically the concept has not been sufficiently demonstrated in psychological and sociological studies while philosophically a coherent framework for a universal human morality remains undeveloped.

In pointing out examples of violations of a universal human morality during the introduction, I covered many of the sociological reasons as to why a universal human morality does not exist. That is the nice thing about the soft sciences is that all one need do is point out a few examples and the issue resolves itself. But what about the harder sciences? Is there a psychological or evolutionary justification for a universal human morality, counter-intuitive as that may seem? Again, at first glance, there does appear to be one. Perhaps the strongest of these is the seeming existence of a universal moral grammar. Moral grammar was proposed after it was noticed that people tend to respond similarly when given simple moral queries. A classic example of these deals with degrees of removal. In the first question, a train is heading towards ten people and you can pull the level making it change tracks so that it kills one person. Almost everyone thinks making this choice is the moral thing to do. The next question deals with the same train headed towards the same ten people, only now instead of pulling a leaver so the train changes tracks, you push the single individual onto the tracks and stop the train that way. Almost no one thinks making this choice is the moral thing to do. There are a few problems with this scenario and ones like it. First, you’ll notice that it is “almost everyone” and not “everyone”. In establishing a universal morality this is very important because otherwise we are back where we started arbitrarily assigning degrees of humanity. The next, and more serious, problem is that these examples are incredibly theoretical and very clean. Morality in the real world is anything but clean, that is the point. If the world were clean and clear, moral cultivation would be redundant. So the sort of “thinking through the gut” reaction that these questions promote is alien to the actual practice of morality. And it is precisely that sort of gut-logic that also creates the third problem, which is that over time our gut logic has changed. At one point in history, it was morally permissible on a gut-logic level to own slaves. Pretty much every culture in the history of humanity has permitted slave ownership at some point. But now in our modern, Western enclave, nothing could stand as a greater anathema to what constitutes a moral position on a gut-level. So it shouldn’t surprise us that simplified questions given to mostly white, middle-class-and-above, American twenty-somethings enrolled in a college study provide shockingly similar answers! All that demonstrates is that within a relatively homogeneous group, moral conceptions are similar. But we already knew that, since similar moral conceptions are one of the things which provides structure around which groups operate!

So what about evolutionarily? Concepts like group-selection would seem to argue in favor of a universal human morality. Except that this approach also fails to recognize deviations from the defined behavior. A classic sociobiological experiment involves using the slime mold Dictyostelium (which is one of the most primitive social organisms but it has been used as a model for human social interaction). During times of plenty, this creature exists as a colony of individual amoeba-like creatures. But when resources become scarce, the individual organisms aggregate to form a stalk. The organisms on the top of the stalk form spores that are transported to a new location where they can thrive; all the other organisms die. This seems to be a wonderful representation of altruism and how morality is encoded in our very genes! Except that it doesn’t really make sense. If this is the foundation for universal morality, the lesson would seem to be: morality exists so that immoral individuals can exploit the moral to better their position. That is a paradox, since the universal morality here serves to further immoral ends. As such, it can hardly be called a moral system. It can be argued that the universal human morality doesn’t work that way . . . but examples would need to be provided. Not stealing works well for those who aren’t stealing. After all, they aren’t having their stuff stolen so they don’t steal. Everybody wins! Until a thief arrives and begins stealing with impunity. Others won’t steal from him because stealing is immoral but he can steal to further his own ends. While this may seem somewhat fanciful, the organized crime groups I talked about earlier essentially work in this manner. They are protected by the morals of the society which they exploit, thereby necessitating a class of people who can disregard moral edicts and still be considered moral/just as in the case of vigilantes as well as law enforcement. If this is the universal morality and universal morality creates self-defeating ends, then the universal morality would destroy itself.

Philosophically, it is an even bigger mess. There is no clear philosophical grounding for morality that is present in most traditions and what serves as a foundation in various traditions contracts that which is found in others! In the liberal tradition, you see isolated individuals creating morality as a matter of enlightened self-interest. Confucians say society is a moral institution and that conforming to it allows for the cultivation of morality. Daoists say that society is a corruptive institution and that breaking from it allows for the cultivation of morality. It goes on-and-on like that, with so many contradictory points that detailing them is a fool’s errand. If a universal human morality were to exist, why all the disagreement? There should be a clear and concise path that most people agree with. People reproduce in a universal manner, and while ideas on non-reproductive sex-acts abound, there is universal agreement on how humans procreate. And if only one of these views is correct, then it cannot be universal since there is such a plurality of ideas. Morality, sure. Universal? I don’t think so.

There is no universal human morality. Even the best empirical cases fail to demonstrate a clear causal relationship between widely-shared sentiments and a universal sentimentality. Further examination in this area demonstrates that what may at first appear to be a universal human morality promotes self-defeating ends. And philosophically it is such a hodge-podge of assertions that even trying to present a coherent universalist framework leads to more contradictions than solutions.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 10:51 am
by PavlovianModel146
First of all, my thanks to the Judges, my Teammates and the Opposition, whose hard work and dedication to this cause has brought us to the final (and conclusive) ILP v. ILO Debate.

I should like to start by reviewing Xunzian's points against there being a Universal Morality, and his examples which attempt to disprove Universal Morality.

1.) Example: Morals Codified as Law

Point: People break laws, ergo, laws are not Universal Morals.

Team ILO Response: Yeah, that's pretty much right. Laws aren't Universal Morals.

2.) Universal Prohibitions (Murder)

Point: These Universal Prohibitions were also broken in some cases, or did not exist at all.

Team ILO Response: Yeah, pretty much the same point as was made with laws, he could have just kept it with laws and it would have been covered.

3.) Psychological Morality (Train Example)

Point: Almost everyone makes the, "moral," decision, but not everyone.

Team ILO Response: (Yawn) Already knew that.

4.) Evolutional Morality

Point: There are still deviations from the group at-large.

Team ILO Response: Yep, sure are.

5.) Philosophical Morality

Point: There is no Philosophical consensus regarding morality.

Team ILO Response: No Philosophical consensus, perish the thought! Imagine the astronomical odds against Philosophers not being able to agree on such a matter!

In short, we pretty much agree with everything that Xunzian has stated so far.

Except nothing he said has anything to do with Team ILO's concept of a Universal Morality.

We at Team ILO already know that people have raped, stolen, murdered, kicked puppy dogs, hell, some woman even stuck her kid in a microwave! Morals are hopeless, people are just going to do whatever they want to anyway...

Oh wait...

The Universal Morality, in short, is to do what satisifes your wants and your needs on an individual basis.

If we are hungry, we try to find a way to eat, unless we have some sort of Psychological reason for not wanting to eat in which event not eating satisifes the psyche'. (Anorexia)

In the same sense, even suicide can be argued as a decision moral on the individual level, the person consciously decided that they did not want to live anymore and satisfied a want which was termination of their own life.

Acts of altruism are even people simply acting on their wants or needs. Some people have a psychological need to do whatever they can do help others. Some people do it because they want to feel good about themselves. There are others still that commit altruistic acts because they want to, "Make-up," for previous wrong they have done to other people.

Obviously, there are going to be certain parameters to acting in a way to most satisfy our wants or needs. For instance, someone that is incarcerated might want to get out of prison, but they may not try to break out of jail because they are either unable to, or have a greater fear of getting caught. What they might try to do is become actively involved with a prison gang who can help them get what they want, either that or they may just lie low and try to prevent a bigger man from anally raping them because being raped is something that they do not want.

Even if someone is being tortured, that person might not give the torturer information that he wants because his psychological concept of loyalty is such that he would rather satisfy his need to be loyal to his country. Other people might talk to avoid torture, simply because they want not to be tortured.

Of course, not wanting something to happen is the same as wanting something to happen just in a different way. You are wanting for X thing not to happen.

Sometimes wants and needs contrast with one another. Sometimes, by acting on our wants, we act against our needs, but the Universal Morality is not that we act on both one and the other; it is that we will either act on one or the other.

There are confines to what we are able to do, but that does nothing to disprove the theory. I might want to strip naked and fly around above the State of Ohio wearing a huge cape that proclaims, "Screw Ohio State University," but I can't because I am not able to fly.

So, the Universal Morality is that we do whatever we can (within our confines) to satisfy our individual wants or needs. We are moral; we do what is right for us.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:27 pm
by Carleas
By shifting the argument from what people should do, to what people do do, PavlovianModel146 has tacitly accepted that it is impossible to define a universal statement of what people should do, i.e. that there is no universal human morality. For whatever Team ILO has described, it can be sure that it is not morality.

In some sense the meaning of morality was exactly what's at stake here. Mr. Model146's post makes that sense the salient one, by defining what Team ILO take to be the only possible candidate for universal human morality, or at least the only one that they are willing or able to defend. He has drawn a line in the sand: as we certainly can't attempt to argue that this concept isn't universal, the argument from here on out must consist of ILO attempting to pass their statements off as morality. But it is plain to see that these observations are not morality.

However else morality has been defined, one criteria that has always been present is that a certain set of actions will fall afoul of its prescriptions. A system which does not allow for any action, in any context, to be excluded, simply cannot be called morality. Morality must entail immorality. Morality isn't description.

And certainly, Team ILO's attempt at morality is nothing more than description. "To do what satisifes your wants and your needs on an individual basis" is how people do, in fact, act. It cannot be morality because it is no more than an observation of human decision making. It leaves no room for immorality, because all human actions are attempts to satisfy wants and needs. Team ILO goes as far as to include acting for irrational reasons or mental illness (such as anorexia) as moral because it satisfies personal wants and/or needs.

The only way that something could be considered immoral in this system would be to point out that it did not satisfy a person's wants or needs, and yet someone did it anyway. But when wants and needs are defined broadly enough to include altruism, which satisfies some secondary emotional want or need, and mental illness, which turns improper conclusions into legitimate needs -- when wants and needs are defined so broadly, human actions will always satisfy the criteria of being motivated by possibly obscure wants or needs, possibly justified by an outlandish non-sequitur. Humans are things that act to satisfy their wants and needs; morality is not that action, but rather the object of one of the wants or needs which people try to satisfy.

It may seem strange to disprove universal human morality by appeal to universal characteristics, but the criterion provided is a minimal necessary condition on morality, not a sufficient condition. "Some things are immoral", though universal, is not a morality.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:38 am
by PavlovianModel146
As Posted by Gobbo

Alright, describing morality in the confines of prescribed (non)action is not the only way to look at universal morality. What is action? Carleas' point is false because the premise doesn't necessitate the conclusion. One can argue this a large number of ways, and by placing it on the line in saying that we can't, ILP made a mistake.

Morality isn't 'what people should do' or 'what people shouldn't do.' That is, it is not necessarily the combination. Morality is an abstraction related to human existence. Let us examine Camus for our purposes. If what Carleas says is true, and simply describing action, instead of looking at what everyone should or shouldn't do, is absurd in a moral context, then why does the description of doing your own thing seem so universal? What else can one do? To say free will in the face of complexity automatically proves there are no universals seems a bit hasty. Absurd complexity connects all of us universally, and how much do we really know?

Now it may seem like I'm just trying to just call existentialism morality, so let me reinforce this a bit with some logic. A subjective stance towards morality, just like truth, means that it is itself subjective. If you look carefully you're just claiming you're just seeing too many incongruities, but it is not logically impossible for there to be a universal morality, and that is essentially where you have gone wrong here. This is not a square circle argument. The debate would be a lot shorter.

It could be our limited understanding makes a possible universal system of reality appear random when in fact it is not. Randomness is awfully hard to achieve for long. When reading one of the points someone made about universal grammar being inconclusive I was reminded of all the esoteric schools of thought that claim inflection and tonal utterance is indicative of the dance of reality itself. I know of one group who claims every alphabet and language in existence corresponds to the geometric elegance of the platonic solids. In the science realm this comes in the form of things like Cymatics. It is interesting that the universe shows so much complexity and elegance, and undeniable order, because we haven't been able to figure out parts of it, some are quick to claim there a lack instead of a possible unity.

What the OP actually asked for is 'Is there a universal morality that applies to all human beings?" and we're saying, essentially, yes, doing what you want in the face of absurdity and complexity. By describing what people do we catch the aforementioned hints of the objective grace. But regardless as to whether there is some singular divine truth, we have offered up a universal morality, and this fits logically in accordance with the judges' opening question.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:56 am
by Tab
Hey OG, everybody,

Old Gobbo, in the last thrilling episode wrote:In the science realm this comes in the form of things like Cymatics. It is interesting that the universe shows so much complexity and elegance, and undeniable order, because we haven't been able to figure out parts of it, some are quick to claim there a lack instead of a possible unity.

Cymantics. Well, that was a new word for me. So, underlying order in the macro-cosmic chaos hmm..? Sexy. But I think the opposite - that we are lured into nonsensical concepts like universals with regard to human behaviour exactly because of our infatuation with (and general misapplication of) mathematic principles in the broader world. We long for the sense of finality they lend, the stability; a panacea for the troubled human condition.

I mean sure, no-one's going to overly dispute the validity of things like the universal laws of motion for example - even if things do get a little screwy at relatavistic levels, they remain perfectly good for a huge class of masses and velocities.

Thus intuitively, as OG demonstrates above, we go on to think "Ah - so if we can find universal principles governing things so astronomically huge as planets or as tiny as quanta - it shouldn't be so difficult to sort out a few universals for a bunch of retarded homo sapiens."

Afterall, though it's hard to measure a planet's mass and velocity, it's comparitively easy to measure or own - all we have to do is stand on the bathroom scales and carry a stop watch while we move. Surely then, intuitively, human behaviour, in comparison to astrophysics, must be child's play..?

:lol: You wish. We wish.

It's all about variables. Universal laws in the mathematic world only work because phyicists have reduced the number of variables a particular formula deals with down to the absolute minimum. In the case of motion/gravitation - mass and velocity and distance of separation.


Now, imagine if Newton had also had to take into consideration how many moons a planet had. How old they were. If that planet was in a commited relationship with a comet, or liked pepperoni on it's pizzas, or was molested as a dust cloud, or was orbitting in a dreary, monotonous solar system with no possibility of promotion to somewhere interesting. If that planet was depressed or on medication perhaps.

That would make his lovely short equation into something very weird indeed:


I think it must be accepted that human behaviour is an infinitely more complicated process than any of the situations we have so far managed to successfully find and apply universal principles to.

Firstly - each of us are pretty much unique beyond a certain threshold of resolution - look at even Siamese twins closely enough and you'll discern differences of temprement and will - and as such cannot really be catagorized as being uniform in property as we would say, a given mass, a chemical element or particle.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, no two situations to which the wannabe universal-izer may wish to apply a universal morality are the same either.

Let's take as an example something so mundane and everyday as "aquire food".

How would we begin reducing the elements of this scenario to a small enough array of behavioural variables to ever extract some sort of universal - "works for everyone - no matter what" - Kantian moral laws..?

I mean, for a start, how many ways are there of aquiring food..? How many fingers do you have..? Enough..?

Take one extreme. Self-canibalization. You could take a quick course in surgery, another in local anaesthesia, lop off a leg, fry it up and eat it. There you go, your belly is full, you aren't dead, and no other lifeform was exploited or damaged in any way. Super. Moral as hell.

But then, what about those who are dependent on our newly peg-legged friend - his selfish unselfish action has perhaps damaged his ability to look after his children, perhaps emotionally scarred his wife, decreased his usefulness to his colleagues at work... Blah blah ad infinitum.

The other extreme, bop someone on the head and eat their liver. The Hannibal Lector option. Surely that is pretty cut and dried. Immoral. But then, what if we're on a lifeboat, starving to death, one of us is in a coma, dying, and I take it upon myself to hack the guy up into cutlets and fricassé his ass for dinner. Not only have I saved my fellow survivors from starvation, but also, in shouldering the burden of conscience entailed by this act of 'murder', saved them from a mental/spiritual trauma POV. too.

I'm a fucking hero.

Any attempt to universalize human behaviour into black and white "this action is moral, this is not" equations - ones suitable for any individual, in any situation - are doomed simply because for all intents and purposes there are no sets of standard humans, nor sets of standard situations to which to apply morality to.

Now to move onto something else that's been bugging me thoughout the whole debate so far:

This whole "Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" version of morality that ILO are proposing. I always had morality down as a thing that required more than one to play.

I don't get this 'individualized morality' bit at all. I'm getting flashbacks of ILO's anarchist arguments, but this time substituting morals for law/governence. I mean, it didn't even sound convincing the first time.

Trolling around the net to find if indeed there have been *any* real-life examples of such a minimilist morality the best I can do is Aleister Crowley and Thelema.
I mean, actually now I've seen the picture, I'm convinced. He looks like a deeply moral man.

In abstract, and purely in the rarefied and unemotional medium of text, it's easy to declare 'morality is X.' but when we get down to cases and start comparing real individuals... It becomes a no-brainer:


Equally moral..?

Morality and the designation of moral act/immoral act, is, like most of human observation and judgements, a process of comparison, and as such, needs at least two to play. Declaring a morality of one is like expecting to meet new, fun people by playing solitaire.

It's a catch 22 situation - a 'universal morality of one' is a meaningless concept, but expanding it to encapsulate two with any maintainance of rigor is equally impossible to achieve, without equally matched sets of people, and identical situations.

Universals, schmoonivershalz.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:45 pm
by Tab
Posted by WC. Over at ILO.

"Absinthe is a great drink. I started on vodka, beer, wine - as one coming of age does, I suppose - and as I grew, I moved on to scotch, to tequila, to liquors, to absinthe... You find so many variants of drinks which have their own special kick; that particular flavor or effect; that smokey scotch, that energy kick of a tequila, that, lucid thought giving absinthe. Of course, in a certain religion, one must abstain, and in another, one just drinks cow piss; but perhaps I'm being too subtle. Allow me to elaborate, and enter myself properly into this debate of ours, if you will.

The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva (1861–1928)

I am W.C., veteran from one other debate, who many take as a Churchill wannabe, a W.C. Fields or a Water Closet. I only ask, that you take me as I appear to you, however that may be.

Now then... Mmh, you know, Tab is quite the rhetoric master if one reads him carefully enough; and if one doesn't, one generally becomes lured by the rhetoric he displays - and it is genius, mind you. I actually asked that whatever occurs in this debate, that I do go after Tab; simply for the uttermost respect I have for him, for the drive I have for myself, or, as the Fundamentals of Chess states; one can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent.

As peculiar a man others find me to be, I find myself to be quite normal given the experiences I've had. Perhaps others may have dealt with them differently, but there it is, as it is... and I think back; there is this time in human history which I particularly admire above all others. It's a forgotten time now, or almost is, at least. Mankind's memory is quite short in the scheme of it apparently. Anyway, back in this time, a great man said, 'a man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality'. And the man that said this, was assassinated in one of the most ambiguous circumstances modern history has provided. John F. Kennedy, was his name. And if you're paying attention still, you'll note he said all human morality; a Universal Morality then. Mmm. Sounds right enough, but is it?

Tab would have you believe, initially, that it's all about maths, about variables; and I would ask what this matters to a Universal Morality of one doing what one wants, what one needs on an individual basis, which is, what one must, in spite of...

Tab goes on to imply in his Hannibal example that, what is right for the many is moral. Good, perhaps; but moral to whom? Lets say that guy in a coma which Tab cuts up is the young husband of a young, relatively newly wed pregnant wife, who still holds great hope for the mans recovery. Lets say Tab cut him up in front of the wife, in opposition to the wife's wishes. Is it still good? Is it moral to the young pregnant wife? Is Tab a hero?

In any instance, there is a solid example of Universal Morality which, as my compatriots have implied this whole debate, transcends any idea of good, of evil, and reinforces the Universal Morality of doing what one wants, what one needs, what one must on an individual basis. And who would have even thought such a thing possible in reading our oppositions arguments, but here it is.


Love, which happens to refute Tab's argument of the Catch-22, of a 'universal morality of one' as 'a meaningless concept [...] without equally matched sets of people, and identical situations.' People love nature, objects, colors, ideals... people do what they want, what they need in any given environment, because people do what they must. People hold the concept of love as one of, if not the highest moral, above any indication of good and evil outside themselves; and people do what they think they want, need, must for love.

So yes, there is a Universal Morality that applies to all human beings, even if team ILO lacks the pictures, pop culture and hoo-daa which Tab's post alone more than makes up for."

ILP to post a final shot across the bows.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:44 pm
by Mr Reasonable
Ok guys. Here's what I'm thinking....

It seems like the debate started off with Xunzian explaining some of the problems that accompany assertions of a universal morality.

Then Pav came in and gave us a definition intended to make logical the conception of "universal morality" that ILO intended to argue for.

The problem that I noticed was that the definition of morality given was one that I'm almost completely unfamiliar with. I mean, of course I've heard something along those lines before, as much time as I spend at ILP but usually when we talk about morality, we're talking about something far more complex than just people making actions to suit their desires. I think several of my teammates from ILP, (especially Tab), noted some things about this as well.

We could call the whole idea of people simply acting in a way that satisfies their desires "universal morality", or we could just call it what it is, (hedonism), and admit to ourselves that the definition of morality given by ILO is either completely false, or so convoluted and disconnected from what we typically consider morality to be that it discredits the very point that the logical argument seems to make, because it's a deductive argument that's made from an obviously flawed foundation.

It seems like ILO says something like, "there are actions, there are desires, all people have desires which they act according to, therefore there is a universal morality."

I'm not going to go into any hyped up examples to try and illustrate the falsehood of the above statement. If this debate weren't being judged, I'd probably just leave a statement like that alone and wait for it to be discredited on it's own.

I mean, people simply acting according to their desires doesn't seem to have much to do with morality at all. I've always thought of morality as being something that evaluated and categorized the differences between actions which were good or evil. The conception of it we're looking at here, as I think Carleas pointed out, is one which leaves no room for immorality. I agree with Carleas that a description of a conception of morality which doesn't entail immorality is at the very least an incomplete one, and possible one which has no standing at all when compared to the actual nature of what we observe to be the case in the world.

Now we're down to the most confusing part of all, (at least to me). Love? That's what ties everything together? Even if I agreed with that, it wouldn't necessitate my agreeing with the notion that there's a universal morality. Just like all things objective contain subjective elements, and just like no two polar opposites are ever really completely disconnected, love can't survive without hate. You may find an instance of something which seems to be purely lovable, and everyone in the world may all hold hands and walk across the planet singing songs about love and goodness and how this newfound universal morality is some fine shit, but thinking of a trick that was used earlier in the debate, I have to consider if while everyone is loving this new thing, they might also be simultaneously hating it's opposite. Sure love is grand, but hate is just as grand. There's no loving x without hating -x. There's no getting rid of -x either. The two are dependent on one another, and thus there are two, and not one, and the universality is already starting to get a bit diluted.

I don't really know what else to say here. Maybe in some thought experiment we could envision a world where possibly every action taken is one that suits the emotive temperaments of everyone there, but in the real one, it's never going to happen. If we can throw out the bogus notion that morality is just a description of what people do, and get back to something resembling our common sense understanding of what morality even is, then we can see clearly that there is nothing universal about it. In this world, morality is based in gut feelings, things like joy, or repulsion, or some other emotivist garbage, and those feelings will never be actually quantified because of the very limits of theorizing itself. I'd love to see someone coordinate the whole thing and organize everyone on the planet according to each person's moral intuitions, then come up with a set of actions which satisfy all of them all the time. I just don't think it's possible.

The bottom line is that even if the point ILO is trying to make were to be provable in some theoretical way, or according to some arbitrary application of logic, it simply doesn't describe the way things are as most people can see very clearly. They may be able to come up with a broad definition and make a logical deduction from it, but if that definition is bogus then so is the conclusion. It's a proposition for which the antecedent never holds. There is no universal human morality, and the more broadly you have to define what you're trying to sell as universal morality, the less likely it is that your definition will match up with what's actually happening on the ground.

So to summarize...
People acting according to their own desires is not morality per se.
Broad definitions lend themselves well to logic, but not to reality.
It is theoretically impossible to quantify the emotions of all the people in the world, and since these are the basis of true conceptions of morality, (individual ones), any idea that you could possibly prove that there's a universal morality is misguided and incorrect.
You can't have morality without both good and evil.
Evil isn't just what happens when you fail to satisfy your desires.
Just because everything is connected by love doesn't mean that there is a universal human morality.
Just because we're all human beings with finite lives who share a common situation, or fear of death or the unknown, just because some of the motivating factors which give rise to morality exist universally doesn't mean that there is a universal morality.

Thanks to everyone on both teams. It's been fun.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:41 am
by PavlovianModel146

My thanks to everyone for their patience and my apologies to both teams for the delay.

Let's begin with Xunzian: For starters, Xunzian mentions that he pointed "out examples of violations of a universal human morality". Truthfully, he did no such thing (he mentioned that violations occur, but provided no specific examples). There were two parts to Xunzian's statement: the true part, that part that Pavlovian essentially said 'ah-duh': people break laws; laws are not universal morals. However, the part that my brother Pav left for me to cover is that a violation of a law does not affect the law's universal applicability. Similarly, the mere fact that there can, theoretically, be violations of morality does not affect the universality of any particular moral. Why is this important? POINT 1: It is important because while we concede that laws are not universal morals we do not concede that the violation of any given moral harms the universality of that given moral.

Xunz also mentioned that "a universal human morality remains undeveloped". While we do not concede that this is accurate (discussed by Pav), I will debate it as if it were and take a cue from my teammate Pav and reply with: so what!

In quantum physics, scholars continue to look for a unified field theory precisely because they believe (and have evidence) that a theory that unifies all fields exists and can/will be developed. It is therefore no jump to suggest that philosophers too continue to search for and believe that a universal human morality does exist and can be developed. So, while team ILP may reject our team's conception of universal morality, their rejection of it by no means suggests that one such morality cannot be developed AND/OR does exist. This is important because the questions is "is there a universal morality...?" Is there one? Is there? Perhaps. Perhaps team ILO stumbled upon it. Regardless, the question, to me, is about potential or possibility. POINT 2: The potential for a universal morality exists, the possibility exists, and in scientific terms, it is a safe bet that there is such a universal morality.

Xunz's next point about universal moral grammar, while interesting, is ultimately uncompelling. Here's why: Tabula Rasa claims that the universal mathematical laws only work because the formula is reduced to its absolute minimum; POINT 3: that is not only wrong but blatantly false and misleading; it is because those formulas were reduced to their absolute minimum that they are not universal laws.

The classic view of gravity is an example of something that is seemingly universal, something that was reduced to near formulaic perfection; however, it breaks down at the quantum level and therefore it is not a universal law. This is not to say that a model that almost works on every level isn't useful--the fact that we have international laws between countries and peoples despite their inapplicability at a universal level goes to show that it is a useful tool much the way gravity is used for standard calculations of objects on earth. However, there are models of gravity that attempt to be all inclusive; that are immense in their complexity and that attempt to be applicable universally. But back to Xunzian: he points out in these universal moral grammar tests that there are different responses to different scenarios that vary by degrees of separation; the results are typical (there are different responses and not everyone has the same reaction). Here is where I think it is fair to accuse Xunzian (and the researchers of moral grammar) of what Tabula Rasa ALMOST got right (point 3): it is not universal because it has been reduced to the absolute minimum. Just as more complex models of gravity have and are being developed so too would theories of universal moral grammar need to be developed into much more complex 'formulas'. Afterall, the complexity of even gut level decision making cannot be reduced to a simple: right and wrong in every scenario; universal formulas are rarely, if ever, this simple. Or to use Xunzian's point against him: "Morality in the real world is anything but clean." POINT 4: Morality, examined at this depth, should be anything but a matter of simplicity and the minimum inputs/outputs; rather it should be a matter of intense and continued examination and exploration.

On to evolutionary morality. Xunzian presents us with slime/mold/spores; demonstrates their altruism; and then somehow twists the altruistic act into a case where immoral individuals profit over moral ones. Well, not so fast there. How exactly did Xunzian determine that the surviving slime spores were immoral? Oh wait, they apparently were thieves stealing with impunity. The slime spores have not violated any code that I am aware of because it has not been established that these 'immoral' spores were the ones that survived (that bettered their position). Xunzian assumes that a moral system would not punish "immoral" bacteria; this cannot be assumed (Pav discussed incarceration in his post). In human terms, imagine that we put all of Earths children in a vessel and provided them with the tools to survive and thrive elsewhere? Where is the violation of morality suggested by Xunz? Is Xunz suggesting (without evidence) that those children were immoral? It may seem like overkill to add that even in the example of human slime, err thieves, whereby universal morality implodes that it implodes because Xunzian again resorts to point 3 and reduces his model into the absolute minimum--by excluding punishment, evolution, and many more issues, the altruistic act seemingly leads to immoral implosion. I must also refer to POINT 1 - that the breaking of law or the breaking of a moral (and profit therefrom) does not affect that law's or that moral's applicability at a universal level.

I won't touch Carleas' post; I would merely echo Gobbo's counter to it. On to Tabula Rasa where there isn't much to say. I think Tab is a real magician. He's pretty good at making you watch the right hand while his left does all that master debating. His sleight of hand is fantastic and quite entertaining but in the end, it's not truth you have witnessed its trickery. I've already mentioned that he got it wrong on the "absolute minimum" formula thing in my Point 3. At the end of the day, the most complex, all encompassing formula, will have a solution that equates to, for example, a universal human morality; a unified field theory, or whatever.

Now, Carleas, Tab, and Smears all touched on this so this next segment can be considered a counter to all three:

None of the arguments made by ILP actually claimed that our conception is not a "universal human morality"; rather, they argued that it did not include its opposite. Well, first I will; echo the sentiment of the team that POINT 5: 'immorality' is a word describing the actions of an other that does not suit one's wants/needs. All actions are moral.

Next, this "x and -x" thing. Let me get this straight: the argument is "there is something so there must be nothing too" or closely resembling "there is nothing because there cannot be something without the nothing." The whole thing reeks. It reminds me of Plato's dialogue between Parmenides and Aristoteles whereby they "consider the consequences which follow on the supposition either of the being or of the not being of one?"

What ensues from that dialogue is utterly bizarre and fascinating. I'll summarize: the one cannot have any parts, nor be a part of a greater whole (as that would make it many) and that it cannot be round nor straight, nor have a beginning, nor a middle, nor an end. Yikes! POINT 6:OK, I would suggest that something to grasp from this dialogue is that the existence of one in no way necessitates any other thing, object, quality, opposite, etc.

To delve just a bit deeper, a similar version of this argument: "if there is x, there must be a y." The argument is that if there is morality there must be immorality; if there are moral actions, there must be immoral actions; if there is God, there must be Satan; if there is a peach, there must be a nectarine. However, POINT 7: the existence of the one does not essitate the existence of the other.

Below is Smears summary countered:

A. Smears: People acting according to their own desires is not morality per se
A. Kawaki: Per se? I'll take that as a concession that it is morality; especially since he pretty much defines it as such himself under "C".

B. Smears: Broad definitions lend themselves well to logic, but not to reality.
B. Kawaki: this is a version of tab's absolute minimum formula. Smears is taking all broad definitions and stuffing it down to an absolute minimum formula that works for him and concludes that it therefore is 'x'. Don't be fooled by this one, see POINT 3 and POINT 4.

C. Smears: It is theoretically impossible to quantify the emotions of all the people in the world, and since these are the basis of true conceptions of morality, (individual ones), any idea that you could possibly prove that there's a universal morality is misguided and incorrect.
C. Kawaki: Smears is saying, that if it were possible to quantify all emotions, then there is a true universal conception of morality. Hence, people acting according to their desires (emotive or otherwise) constitutes morality. Team ILO surely did quantify it; the conception is universal and all encompassing.

D. Smears: You can't have morality without both good and evil.
D. Kawaki: again with the x; -x or if x, there must be y. This is nonsense Please see POINT 6 and POINT 7; besides, our conception leaves room for what is 'considered' good and evil.

E. Smears: Evil isn't just what happens when you fail to satisfy your desires.
E. Kawaki: See POINT 5; also, of course it is... Ever had an evil piece of ass or a wickedly bad cock?

F. Smears: Just because everything is connected by love doesn't mean that there is a universal human morality.
F. Kawaki: In a way, this is team ILP's concession that our POINT 6 and POINT 7 are correct. Smears is saying that "x" exists, but that it does not necessitate "y". That's great. However, our argument was not that because "x" (love) exists there must be "y" (universal human morality) but instead it was a comment that love controverts Tabula Rasa's "Catch-22" scenario. Don't be confused by this one.

The last thing I will touch on is the absurdity of moral relativity. Embracing moral relativism is much like embracing anarchy; surely our opponents don't wish to concede a previous (undeserved) victory, right? Our conception of a universal morality is not only valid but poetic. Sure, love as a bind to all things is a bit corny; but it is not simple. It may be elegant, it may even be easy, but simple it is not. Or, to quasi quote G.K. Chesterton: 'Poetry floats easily in an infinite sea.'

This debate has been an interesting one and I had the honor of concluding it. Team ILP put together a hell of a debate and it's been fun. Hopefully we can do this again... no seriously. To conclude, bravo to all participants and readers and judges and thank you for your time and consideration.


- Kawaki.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:07 pm
by Kriswest
Fine work to all. ILO and ILP brought out their finest. Hard choice for me, its almost a split decision. On technical ILP has it, on thought provoking ILO has it. It comes down to who convinced me. That is a tie between Kawaki and Xunzian.
Almost coin flipping worth. One can't go with emotion on this debate you have to see what is laid out. Xunzian as always is darn darn good. Kawaki though has the last post and so was able to counter very well. I have to give it to ILO due to that last counter post. If it stretched on probably it would have gone to ILP.
Vote favor of ILO
No losers here though, you all are extremely impressive. Pat yourselves on the back and do the banana dance :banana-dance:

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:56 am
by Phaedrus
I got in pretty late tonight (actually just got home) so I'll have to get thru this tomorrow. I really look forward to it and am glad to be back at ILP.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:08 pm
by Tab
So, which hospital is Phaedrus in..? I want to send roses. And chocolates, and grapes. Because obviously he got run down on the way to the internet cafe or something.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:21 pm
by Mr Reasonable
I just knew after not logging on for a week or so that I'd come back to a final, triumphant win for the ILP team, and

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:15 am
by Tab
Bump, bump, bump bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump.

Diz iz gettingk, ow-you-say, ree-dick-you-louse.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 2:14 am
by Phaedrus
I am preparing my verdict right now.

Re: ILP v. ILO Final Debate

PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am
by Phaedrus
Alright, I'm am prepared to render my verdict. First off, I'd like to apologize for the extreme delay in attending to the debates. My schedule has been brutal, but setting aside any discussion of the specifics I'll allow that it was inexcusable to keep you all hanging for so long. I offer my apologies to all the debaters and spectators of ILO & ILP.

Next, I want to congratulate everyone on a great job. The debates may have been the brainchild of Pav but it took a lot of hard work by lots of folks to pull it off. To everyone who put in the work I offer my thanks- the debates have been a resounding success, and one that I hope to see again. Perhaps I may even doff my judges robes (er, I'm wearin' clothes underneath them!) and join in the debate.

Okay, down to brass tacks. This was a very difficult debate to judge for me. Ultimately a big part of it comes down to definitions, and I had to consult the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on it: ILP delivered body blows right out of the gate and it seems to me that theirs is the only position that really discusses what morality actually is. I am unconvinced that simply following ones desires for gratification constitutes morality.

Xunzian fires some impressive salvos in his opening barrage. The point that what might seem universal has been consistently violated does imply that it might not be universal after all. The notion that one might do an immoral thing yet know it's immoral even as one does it isn't really mentioned; pointing this out would have gone a long ways towards negating Xun's argument but this wasn't really done effectively so the points basically are allowed to stand.

Pav countered by conceding most of Xun's points; normally not a very effective debating technique. But he had a sly motivation for doing so- to substitute a different definition of morality. But while the strategy was cunning, ultimately I didn't see a lot of support for just why we should accept that what one desires is by definition, moral. My thought was that the whole notion of the debate was to resolve what type of deontological basis there was for morality; isn't morality by definition descriptive and/or proscriptive? That would seem the case bases on Stanford's definition. Obviously one is free to redefine it but I didn't feel there was any argument made for this notion, just an unjustified assertion. Also, the last sentence really seems to undermine that position: by definition something that's universal must apply to all, or at least most. Certainly it can't mean just you yourself.

Carleas' arguments were succinct but effective. The rebuttal to Pav's definition is made very clearly and to good effect. I find myself agreeing that describing how people act (ie selfishly) has nothing to do with morality (eg how they should act). It's as if ILO, agreeing they can't support the idea of universal morality, has decided to argue for something else. But that's not really the point.

I give Gobbo credit for vigorously attempting to support a definition he may not have anticipated having to defend. Ultimately I don't think he succeeds, however. The whole house of cards collapses into an ethereal morass of meta-ethics. Interesting points are made, such as the idea that the idea of right and wrong are perhaps absurd when viewed thru the lense of human experience in our universe, but that only seems to reinforce the idea that a universal morality isn't realistic. Doing what you want in the face of absurdity is certainly an option, but it doing what you desire isn't convincingly shown to be moral nor immoral- it simply is.

I always have to give Tab the benefit of the doubt, mostly because I never know what the hell he's saying. :wink: As always, very entertaining prose. At first I took it as sound and fury, signifying nothing, but eventually I grasped the way a situation can be moral and/or immoral at once, depending upon the situation. Uh, you were arguing against, right? :lol:

W.C. makes a compelling emotional argument as to there being a Universal set of principals that guide everything, even if we don't know the specifics. That's a valid point, well within the definition of Morality, but as well crafted as the post is there isn't a lot of evidence offered in support. By that I don't mean to imply evidence must be hard & cold, it can be subjective. We end up in the same spot again; we do what we want, what we must, what we love... But is that moral? I'm offered no criteria by which to answer that.

I'm again surprised by how much Smears have evolved in his time at ILP. Here he does a good job of extending the strongest arguments of his teammates and attacking ILO on their definition of Morality. And I found this to be compelling. The point is put forth by ILO that morality may be no more than doing what one desires, but up til this point no concerted effort has been made to rationally defend that unsupported statement. As he says, "Evil isn't just what happens when you fail to satisfy your desires." Well said.

To be frank, I was ready to call it by this point. But the tide was very nearly turned in my mind by Kawaki. He's really the only one to point out compellingly that the fact that humans violate moral tenets doesn't invalidate those tenets. I put it another way- just because you exceed the speed limit doesn't mean there isn't one. All across the board Kawaki brilliantly refuted some of ILP's best arguments, including the idea that the previous example of spore morality. In fact, most of the arguments were compelling enough that I almost allowed them to refute all of ILP's posts. He even brings interesting new arguments into the mix (although since no one had a chance to rebut them I didn't feel it was fair to consider them). Ultimately though, one assertion just wasn't sufficiently supported: that what is desired by the individual is by definition moral.

If I desire to punch you in the mouth, and do it, I'm acting in accordance with my desires- but am I acting morally?

My scorecard is as follows:

Xunzian: 9
Carleas: 8.75
Tab: 8.5
Smears: 8.75

Total: 35

Pavlovianmodel146: 8.0
Gobbo: 8.25
W.C.: 8.5
Kawaki: 9.25

Total: 34

Winner: ILP

This one really came down to the wire and couldn't have been much closer. I think mine is the dissenting verdict; it would appear ILO has won the overall debate. Congratulations to both teams on a hard fought debate!