• Isaac
    4.2k
    Because there are supposedly rational people (thousands of years of professional philosophers) who give arguments for why that's supposedly the right way to do thingsPfhorrest

    I think you might be getting the wrong impression of what I meant here. I don't mean the likes of Lane-Craig or some such arguing the rationality of god's existence. I mean having accepted that, they don't then question god's instructions on the basis of whether they think he's doing a good job or not. If you want to argue God doesn't exist then fine, but when arguing that ethics should be based on X, you're never talking to the religious who do not question the ethical proscriptions of their chosen divinity.

    Lots of supposedly smart, reasonable people believe some really wacky shit.

    SEP also has a list of arguments against hedonism with names if you like.
    Pfhorrest

    I wasn't after opposition to Hedonism, that's not quite as general as your claim, you include suffering of all sorts over all timeframes, to all people and without even taking their own word for it. that's a much wider definition of 'suffering' than most hedonism and thus would simply be encompassed in those arguments.

    The non-necessity arguments would all just be subsumed under more long-term or esoteric versions of 'pleasure' rather than the short-term, visceral type more commonly associated with traditional hedonism. Most insufficiency arguments are simply voicing the same long-term approaches, or taking a wider societal view of non-suffering. I'm not here saying that these are frames that the proponents of these positions would use, only that it's a trivial matter to re-frame them in terms of hedonism if you widen the definition of 'pleasure' and 'suffering' sufficiently. But in doing so you've simply re-defined the same dilemma, not solved it.

    someone who was philosophically unsure could agree in general that people feeling good rather than bad is probably the only thing that really matters, as an end in itself, but be undecided about whether the ends justify the means, or whether we should trust authority, etc.Pfhorrest

    That's self-contradictory. If they were concerned about justifying means and libertarian concerns about authority, then they would be performatively contradicting a belief that people feeling good rather than bad is probably the only thing that really matters.

    I think my novel contribution to the problem is mostly in taking parts from those different well-known views and connecting them together into a form that escapes their common arguments against each otherPfhorrest

    You do realise that the humble use of the word "mostly" there does nothing to cover the fact that what you're claiming is to have resolved the common arguments against all philosophical positions.

    suppose a starting point of absolute radical doubt where you don't even know what there is to know, or how to know it, or if we can know it at all, or if there is even anything at all to be knownPfhorrest

    Impossible right off the bat, so anything done from here is going to be a pretence

    there is some such answer or other to whatever question is at hand (because if you assumed instead to the contrary, you'd have no reason to try out any potential answers)Pfhorrest

    The question could be ill-formed, meaningless or nonsensical. assuming there's an answer ignores those possibilities.

    Elaborating the chain from those core pragmatic assumptions to every other specific position is what all the text I've already written in all those other threads is for, so I'm not going to repeat it all here.Pfhorrest

    Which exemplifies the point I made earlier. there were massive issues with that exposition. virtually everyone taking part in that particular thread raised an issue with your approach. Citing it now as a premise without acknowledging those issues is what comes across as oddly 'authoritarian'. We're the same people who read that previous thread you know. why would you think we'd follow on through the project as if it hadn't happened?
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    Actually, it is trivially false that all commonly held moral beliefs can be construed as being aimed at minimizing suffering. (I am including the "commonly held" qualification in deference to your social/semantic take on ethics.) Take, for example, the imperative to punish offenders. While it can be argued that just punishment, on the whole, tends to reduce suffering (by way of deterrence, for example), this is not so in every particular case. And in any event, minimizing suffering is not what motivates the imperative in the first place, even if it happens to have that side effect - on the contrary, what matters to those who adhere to it is that the offender does suffer.SophistiCat

    I understand what you're saying, but the manner in which I meant it is the manner in which your first proposition is undermined by your second. You say it is false that all commonly held moral beliefs can be construed as being aimed at minimising suffering and then give an example of exactly that. "it can be argued that just punishment, on the whole, tends to reduce suffering (by way of deterrence, for example)". Whilst I completely agree that to do so would be to miss entirely the motivation and social purpose of punishment, I merely wanted to point out to pfhorrest the triviality in attempting to give such a wide definition of 'suffering' that every position could be viewed through that frame. I shouldn't want to be seen as suggesting that do to so would capture all, or any, of the nuances that other frameworks have to their credit (or demerit), only that such a thing could be done.

    Essentially I was trying to say what you've said here with your example of punishment. We could frame it as a long-term suffering reduction method but to do so doesn't get us anywhere because the issues that retributive justice deals with are not captured by such a framing.

    What I'd be looking for, if you still think I've missed the mark, is an example of a moral position which cannot be (not just is not) construed in some super-widened sense of reducing suffering. If that makes sense? It's the banality of widening 'suffering' to the point that it just means the same as 'bad' (in a secular sense) and then arguing that this proves suffering is bad.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    If we survey current and past moral attitudes, we can find plenty of examples of moral imperatives that are not aimed at the reduction of suffering. I take it that Pfhorrest and a number of others would not support such attitudes.SophistiCat

    :up:

    So people disagree about right and wrong. What else is new? What are we discussing here? What's the point of all these threads and polls? To identify like-minded members?SophistiCat

    Well my threads all have different points, as elaborated in response to Isaac two (of my) posts ago. They're just all about parts of the same (my own) philosophical system, so of course they're all compatible with my hedonistic views, but only one of them is actually supposed to be arguing for those views.

    This poll is because I was surprised at the apparent total lack of agreement in an earlier discussion, so I thought I would just ask explicitly who does or doesn't agree, to see if maybe there are like-minded people who just aren't commenting because people only comment when they have an objection.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    Except knowing what will bring pleasure and what will bring pain may be a matter of maturity and may depend on education for good moral judgment.
  • god must be atheist
    2.7k
    Maslow's pyramid of needs comes to mind. Unsatisfied needs to the extreme are painful.
  • Tom Storm
    714
    Do you think you would be able to summarize your ethical system in 5 or 6 dot points or a syllogism?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    I’m not sure what you’re responding to there? I don’t have any disagreements with what you wrote.

    Do you think you would be able to summarize your ethical system in 5 or 6 dot points or a syllogism?Tom Storm

    Sure thing.

    - The meaning of ethical claims is to impress (get someone to adopt) an intention (which is the same thing that might otherwise be called a “moral belief”).

    - The criteria by which to judge whether to adopt an intention (to think something is good or bad) are hedonic experiences: pleasure, pain, enjoyment, suffering, etc. Everyone’s such experiences are relevant to such judgement.

    - Will is the process of forming such intentions, and freedom of will is having them be effective in the direction of your behavior, i.e. it’s the power to cause yourself to do what you think you should do.

    - The method by which to conduct that will, to form such intentions, to decide what is good or bad, is to initially think whatever you are just inclined to think even if you can’t name a good reason to, and to agree to disagree with anyone who thinks differently (i.e. to live and let live, to respect liberty), until one of you can show reason — grounded in those criteria above — why someone or other’s intention is bad. That still doesn’t conclusively settle what is good, but it narrows in on it gradually.

    - The social institutes responsible for resolving conflicts about the above process should be non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical, a global cooperation of independent people working together voluntarily; basically a form of anarchism, or libertarian socialism.

    - The way to get people to form such institutions is basically to help them, to help them help themselves, to help them to help others, to help them to help others to help themselves, to help them to help others to help others, etc.

    There’s a lot more detail that can go into each of those points, which is why I did (or will soon do) a thread on each one, and I haven’t given here any of my arguments for them, just outlined what they are.
  • Tom Storm
    714
    Thank you. It's a lot easier for me to understand when it is put this way.

    I'd suggest a few tweaks to the language because it is a bit unclear. I am unable to understand what below means. Too many ideas running together with double negatives for my brain to decipher.

    he method by which to conduct that will, to form such intentions, to decide what is good or bad, is to initially think whatever you are just inclined to think even if you can’t name a good reason to, and to agree to disagree with anyone who thinks differently (i.e. to live and let live, to respect liberty), until one of you can show reason — grounded in those criteria above — why someone or other’s intention is bad. That still doesn’t conclusively settle what is good, but it narrows in on it gradually.Pfhorrest

    Maybe this paragraph needs to be in 3 or 4 dot points of itself.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Maybe this paragraph needs to be in 3 or 4 dot points of itself.Tom Storm

    I can probably just trim out a lot of redundancy and external reference to make it better:

    The method by which to decide what is good or bad is for everyone to do whatever they like, unless one of them can show reason why another’s intention would hurt someone. That still doesn’t conclusively settle what is the most good, but it narrows in on it gradually by eliminating the bad.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    I understand what you're saying, but the manner in which I meant it is the manner in which your first proposition is undermined by your second.Isaac

    Not entirely undermined. I said that one could try to argue that retributive punishment is conducive to the reduction of suffering, but it wouldn't be a perfect fit, even extensionally (it doesn't always reduce net suffering), not to mention intensionally (it isn't aimed at reducing suffering). Trying to fit examples like punishment into the reduction-of-suffering paradigm is just as you said earlier:

    like packing for camping and leaving the poles behind because they're longer than the box you had for the tent.Isaac

    What I'd be looking for, if you still think I've missed the mark, is an example of a moral position which cannot be (not just is not) construed in some super-widened sense of reducing suffering.Isaac

    Being a naturalist about morality, i.e. believing that moral intuitions and norms are the outcome of biological and cultural evolution, social dynamics, and other such natural factors, it seems reasonable to expect that common moral principles would be at least somewhat aligned with the imperative to reduce suffering. But by the same token, it wouldn't be reasonable to expect the alignment to be perfect.

    Of course, I am not proposing a naturalistic moral principle (moral = natural) in opposition to @Pfhorrest's principle of reducing suffering. But if he is trying to start with widely shared, uncontroversial premises in building up his argument, he has to contend with the fact that, right out of the gate, people's moral intuitions aren't in alignment with his principle.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    I mean having accepted that, they don't then question god's instructions on the basis of whether they think he's doing a good job or not.Isaac

    My point (on this specific issue) is not "God doesn't exist therefore this other thing must be the source of morality", but rather "it doesn't matter what God does or doesn't say, if he even exists". And I'm far from the first one to argue either for or against this: philosophers as far back as Socrates (who did not deny that gods existed, nor that they at least sometimes commanded good things) have argued for it, and many philosophers from then up to some still living today (like Robert Adams) still argue against it.

    While writing the above it also occurred to me that there's a much more secular common kind of anti-hedonism: Kant's ethics make no appeal to divine commands, nor to any experience, but to some kind of abstract reasoning. On which note, see also the aforementioned Plato, who didn't directly appeal to any of the gods he believed in (being the one to record the aforementioned argument from Socrates), though later Christians transmuted his "Form of the Good" into just a synonym for their God.

    That's self-contradictory. If they were concerned about justifying means and libertarian concerns about authority, then they would be performatively contradicting a belief that people feeling good rather than bad is probably the only thing that really matters.Isaac

    Not so. Just agreeing that people feeling good rather than bad is all that matters doesn't tell you anything about, for example, whether or not it's okay to cause a little suffering now to spare a lot of suffering later, or whether or not it's okay to cause a lot of suffering for a few people so as to spare the suffering of a disproportionately huge number of people. In either case you'd be trying to do good by hedonistic criteria, but is it wrong to do some bad by hedonistic criteria even to achieve that good? Is it obligatory? Just agreeing on the criteria alone doesn't tell you that.

    Nor does it tell you whether or not it's wrong to disregard the claims of some particular authority figure about what causes the most or the least suffering, or whether or not it's wrong to disregard the majority opinion about what causes the most or the least suffering. In either case you'd still be aiming to do good by hedonistic criteria, and avoid the bad by hedonistic criteria that you think the alternatives would allow, but the others think the same about you, and do you get to take that responsibility into your own hands? Do they? Just agreeing on the criteria alone doesn't tell you that.

    The only point of agreement at that point is that if somehow everything could magically and reliably be instantly made such that everyone felt good and nobody felt bad, that state of affairs would be good without qualification, necessarily and sufficiently. How it's permissible to actually get to that state, and who's responsible for ensuring that that happens, are additional questions on top of that. And then how it's practically possible, within those constraints, to make progress in that direction, is yet another question.

    I know you hate these analogies, but it's exactly like how generally agreeing about empiricism doesn't resolve any disagreement between (hypothetico-deductive) confirmationists and falsificationists. Both of them agree that what is real is what conforms to all possible observations, but they disagree on the methodology by which to apply that criterion. Also, agreeing on empiricism wouldn't answer any question about whether it's (epistemically) wrong to doubt scientific authorities, or to doubt observational "common sense", etc. All of those are additional questions on top of empiricism. And even once those questions are answered, that still doesn't tell us any particulars about what is real; it just gives us a method to figure that out. Actual scientific questions are additional on top of even all that.

    Impossible right off the bat, so anything done from here is going to be a pretenceIsaac

    It doesn't have to be possible to actually get to that state of mind in order for it to be useful in an argument. We've all had the experience of having things we believed thrown into doubt, usually more than once. We can imagine where that might lead, if that kept happening without end -- to the aforementioned epistemic darkness -- and then think about how we'd go about finding a way out of there, as a means of preemptively keeping from getting anywhere close to there.

    The question could be ill-formed, meaningless or nonsensical.Isaac

    Then it's not actually a question, but a sentence in the grammatical form of a question which nevertheless asks nothing. Just like "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" expresses no proposition, despite being a grammatically correct sentence. There's nothing actually being claimed, and likewise "Do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?" isn't actually asking anything.

    I already foresee that you'll reply "What if all moral sentences are categorically like that?", which is just non-cognitivism, and that's why I have an account of moral semantics that defends a kind of cognitivism and explains what moral sentences categorically mean, though of course it's still always possible to construct a specific meaningless one, like "Colorless green ideas ought to sleep furiously".

    why would you think we'd follow on through the project as if it hadn't happened?Isaac

    I wouldn't think you would. I would think you would drop out as soon as it became clear that we're not going to reach a resolution on something that will be foundational to everything else to come.

    If someone was doing a bunch of discussions expounding on a kind of theist philosophy, I might (but probably wouldn't both to) engage in the first one to point out how whatever that topic is rests on something I think is a faulty premise -- the existence of God -- and when it became clear that they were unconvinced by my arguments against that premise, I wouldn't bother following along to remind them that I disagree with their theism every time they posted.

    I'm aware that there have been objections along the way in my series of threads. I think I've adequately addressed them. I'm aware that you don't think that. I don't think it's worth the time trying to convince you about them, because I still don't think you're arguing in good faith. (You only ever adopt a position so as to argue against someone else's and never positively endorse any position yourself, making you always playing offense and everyone else always play defense, which is a classic type of bad-faith argument style).

    So I expect that, like a reasonable person, you will abandon the argument against what you perceive as an incorrigible interlocutor. And yet you keep showing up to remind me that you still disagree. Yeah. I know. Move on. I don't care to convince anyone in particular in practice, only to have an argument that is sound so far as I can tell -- even after listening to objections and looking for anything new in them -- and if others are unconvinced by it for what seem to me to be bad reasons, oh well, I didn't convince someone, who cares, move on.


    But if he is trying to start with widely shared, uncontroversial premises in building up his argument, he has to contend with the fact that, right out of the door, people's moral intuitions aren't in alignment with his principle.SophistiCat

    The point of that Russell quote on that topic I quoted earlier is pretty much that in doing philosophy, we're always going to start out appealing to some intuitions people have, and showing that other of their intuitions are contrary to the implications of those. If we're doing it well, we'll pick deeper, broader, more fundamental things, the rejection of which would be even more catastrophic, as premises, and show that other less foundational but still common views are incompatible with those, for our conclusions.

    People's intuitions of particulars about both reality and morality can be all over the map, and I'm trying to appeal to far broader and deeper things like "there's such a thing as a right answer" and "any answer might be a wrong one" (neither of those only specifically about ethics, just in general) to establish, not even answers about those particulars, but merely a reliable method of finding such answers.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    I said that one could try to argue that retributive punishment is conducive to the reduction of suffering, but it wouldn't be a perfect fit, even extensionally (it doesn't always reduce net suffering), not to mention intensionally (it isn't aimed at reducing suffering).SophistiCat

    Now that's an interesting difference. I was speculating that one could capture the extensional features of retributive justice in a sufficiently wide definition of 'suffering-reduction', only that to do so would be trivial as the definition thereby allowed would be so wide as to just be synonymous with 'morally bad' anyway. Am I right to think you're suggesting here that no such definition could be made of even the extensional features alone?

    If so, what features of retributive justice do you think fall into that category? I tried thinking along lines of your example of ensuring the perpetrators suffer, but even then could frame that as easing the suffering of the victim by schadenfreude. I thought of 'justice served' as a virtue, but any 'virtue' is subject to the argument that it's absence causes psychological 'suffering' - being in an ignoble state. I basically drew a blank, anything 'Good' by definition seems to be open to having its absence framed as a kind of suffering.

    Being a naturalist about morality, i.e. believing that moral intuitions and norms are the outcome of biological and cultural evolution, social dynamics, and other such natural factors, it seems reasonable to expect that common moral principles would be at least somewhat aligned with the imperative to reduce suffering. But by the same token, it wouldn't be reasonable to expect the alignment to be perfect.SophistiCat

    Yes. This chimes very nicely with my favoured semantic approach. Regardless of my previous niggle about what 'could' be done with ambiguous definitions and re-framings, I'm in broad agreement with you here. What we actually count as 'morally good' is too dynamic, too socially-mediated, too prone to feedback to be aligned with anything permanent and external to that system.

    This is my main gripe with any kind of hedonism. It ignores the basic psychological fact that our affects are fabricated, in part, from social cues. Part of why we feel good about some things and bad about others is because we interpret physiological states that way as a result of the models we've learnt from our culture.

    If a culture's morality helps define what we feel good and bad about (and it unequivocally does), then it's pointless trying to define a culture's morality on the basis of what we feel good and bad about.

    But anyway, I'm re-covering what you've already said really.
  • baker
    1k
    I think I already clarified this earlier, but establishing a scale against which to compare the morality of situations where one end of that scale is nobody suffering and the other end is abject misery for everyone doesn't mean that I expect (who?) to make that good end the case or else (who?) is a criminal or something. It's a scale. It's just how we compare things. Suffering bad. More suffering worse. Less suffering better. No suffering best. It's not a complicated thing.Pfhorrest
    Define "suffering".
  • baker
    1k
    This is my main gripe with any kind of hedonism. It ignores the basic psychological fact that our affects are fabricated, in part, from social cues. Part of why we feel good about some things and bad about others is because we interpret physiological states that way as a result of the models we've learnt from our culture.Isaac
    Yes, and "hedonism" can mean so many things, to the point that the term becomes useless.

    There are Buddhist and Hindu dharma teachers who looking at pictures like these would say that those ascetics are practicing "sense indulgence". There are cultural systems where "sense indulgence" can mean a great variety of things, from overeating, getting drunk, to never sitting down or holding up one's arms for years.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Define "suffering".baker

    A phenomenal experience with negative world-to-mind fit.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    Kant's ethics make no appeal to divine commands, nor to any experience, but to some kind of abstract reasoning.Pfhorrest

    What I'm struggling to understand here is how you're forming an argument that hedonism is the only alternative to "...because X said so", yet also arguing that alternative philosophies exist which do not amount to "...because X said so". If Kant's framework relies on reason - ie, only act according to that which you could at the same time wish were a universal law (or something like that), then it seems that the only two conclusions you could draw from that are either a) there exists a non-hedonistic means of judging that which is moral that does not amount to "...because X said so", or b) morality captures more than hedonism and no matter how accurate your measurement of it you'd be missing something if you didn't also measure 'reasonableness' (or somesuch). If you agree that Kant's moral philosophy is based on something no-hedonic, yet also non-authoritarian, then your argument about hedonism being required in order to avoid having to resort to "...because X said so" falls apart.

    Just agreeing that people feeling good rather than bad is all that matters doesn't tell you anything about, for example, whether or not it's okay to cause a little suffering now to spare a lot of suffering laterPfhorrest

    If that were an issue then temporal nearness or hyperbolic discounting would also 'matter'. Something else other than feeling good or bad would matter - how far removed the feeling is in time.

    whether or not it's okay to cause a lot of suffering for a few people so as to spare the suffering of a disproportionately huge number of people.Pfhorrest

    Again, that just means that something else matters. Here it's the number of people who share in the pleasure/displeasure. That's unarguably something else mattering other than just whether people feel good or bad.

    do you get to take that responsibility into your own hands? Do they?Pfhorrest

    Once more, now something else matters - justness of personal responsibility. Just good/bad are no longer all that matter, but additionally the rightfulness of the authority of the judge.

    How it's permissible to actually get to that state, and who's responsible for ensuring that that happens, are additional questions on top of that.Pfhorrest

    Questions which cannot be judged on the basis of reducing suffering. Yet they're still moral questions. One of them even contains the term 'permissible' as you've phrased it. The other implies permissible behaviour (who ought to judge and who ought not). If you're denying that these are moral questions, then on what grounds? If not then there are clearly moral questions which cannot be resolved by reference to hedonic values.

    We can imagine where that might leadPfhorrest

    Maybe, but your argument relies on us being right about that. We'd 'imagine' it, but replete with all the hard-wired beliefs which we just can't shift still as firmly in place as they ever were. For citation see... every psychological experiment ever. 'Imagining' that you're building your beliefs up from some blank slate is no different to 'imagining' you're an alien from Mars and using it to claim you now have some insight into what Martians think.

    I already foresee that you'll reply "What if all moral sentences are categorically like that?"Pfhorrest

    I was more thinking of "what if some moral sentences are like that?".

    that's why I have an account of moral semantics that defends a kind of cognitivism and explains what moral sentences categorically meanPfhorrest

    Which I've no doubt already disagreed with, you've already claimed I'm merely misunderstanding you on, and thus you use, as if flawless, as a prop... I'm only trying to see if the argument has more to offer than "these are the things I think". One of the reasons your posts bug me - and you're not the only one - is that this a public forum. Forum being the key word. It's not your personal blog, you can publish that yourself anytime you like, curate responses if you want to, edit, or not, as you see fit. But here is not the place to do that. Here is a forum for public debate, we're here to discuss, not accumulate a database of "stuff people on the internet reckon".

    That you think your account of moral semantics "defends a kind of cognitivism and explains what moral sentences categorically mean" is utterly irrelevant here. Great material for your personal website. Publish it, stick it on YouTube, shout about it on your street corner... whatever. But here what matters is what other posters think it defends or explains. It taken as given that you think it does, that's presumably why you posted it. If you publish it here then it becomes the topic for debate, we're not your editors, nor your peer review board. We're not to be dismissed with "thanks for the input but I don't agree so your services are no longer required"

    I wouldn't think you would. I would think you would drop out as soon as it became clear that we're not going to reach a resolution on something that will be foundational to everything else to come.Pfhorrest

    As above, why on earth would I do that? The aim is not to reach a resolution on something such that if that's not possible the project might as well be abandoned. What you're doing is the conversational equivalent of ignoring your interlocutors with "yes, that's all very interesting, but stop interrupting...now, as I was saying..."

    I don't think it's worth the time trying to convince you about themPfhorrest

    It's really not about convincing me of anything. Again, we're a discussion forum, we're not a policy think tank either, we don't have to come up with the answer any time. It's about having a decent amount of respect for weight of human thought that's previously gone into these issues.

    I still don't think you're arguing in good faith. (You only ever adopt a position so as to argue against someone else's and never positively endorse any position yourself, making you always playing offense and everyone else always play defense, which is a classic type of bad-faith argument style).Pfhorrest

    Is it? what would be the 'bad' in that approach - It seems again to confuse a discussion forum with your personal blog. The entire point of posting something on a discussion forum is as a topic for discussion (critical, if need be). To say that people who then discuss such an offering are doing so in bad faith is really weird.

    Yeah. I know. Move on.Pfhorrest

    Move on to what? You seem to be confusing the forum with a Gallup poll now. "here's my idea", "I agree", "I disagree", "great discussion guys...next". The argument about moral realism probably extends to several hundred thousand pages in philosophical literature...and it's still not resolved. Do you expect Rosalind Hurthouse to object to Robert Louden’s 'application problem' criticism with a paper just entitled "Yes, I get it, you don't agree, move on!" in which she just complains about his constant interjections that non-virtuous agents cannot learn virtue without rules? Of course not. and the debate already spans several thousand words. We've barely exchanged more than couple of hundred on this, yet a handful of posts in you're already wanting to shut down the discussion and move on as if it never happened. You put the ideas out there ostensibly for debate, but you don't seem at all interested in getting into the debate, you just want a quick round of applause so you can move on to post the next in your grand edifice for the same purpose.

    We're here to discuss. The issues with your theory (as yet unresolved) are as good a topic as any, there's no good reason at all to 'move on'. Hell, we still haven't 'moved on' from debating Platonic realism and that debate started 2000 years ago. You've fundamentally misunderstood how philosophical discussion works if you think a couple of exchanges is a good reason to ignore the issues and carry on regardless.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    Maslow's pyramid of needs comes to mind. Unsatisfied needs to the extreme are painful.god must be atheist

    Okay, and people don't just naturally know how to get to the top. They may never get off the bottom. What needs to be done for people to move up the pyramid?
  • Athena
    1.3k
    The social institutes responsible for resolving conflicts about the above process should be non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical, a global cooperation of independent people working together voluntarily; basically a form of anarchism, or libertarian socialism.Pfhorrest

    What is a social institute? Would that be a school?
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    There are cultural systems where "sense indulgence" can mean a great variety of things, from overeating, getting drunk, to never sitting down or holding up one's arms for years.baker

    Yes, indeed. @Pfhorrest's system is like fitting a line to series of data points (the hedonic affects of each person in each circumstance). It relies on there being such a line. But as I've pointed out several times, the empirical evidence is against him on this. All that we know about affect (which is a cold hard biological feature) is that it is a dynamically modelled state, where things like cultural mores can affect the output of that model. As such the 'data points' are not only not fixed (and so can't have any line of fit put to them), but they are actually moved by the very act of trying to fit a line to them.

    Your ascetics there would actually feel differently about their experiences in a culture which viewed them differently.
  • Gregory
    2.8k
    There are Buddhist and Hindu dharma teachers who looking at pictures like these would say that those ascetics are practicing "sense indulgence". There are cultural systems where "sense indulgence" can mean a great variety of things, from overeating, getting drunk, to never sitting down or holding up one's arms for years.baker

    Western oral tradition held for many centuries that there were four personality types (even some of the Church Fathers mention this): Melancholic, who were more earthly, obsessive, conscientiousness, and cautious. Phlegmatic (water dominated) who were steadfast and supportive, but had a temptation to become hermits. Then there are Sanguine (ruled by the Air element) who are socially useful and inspiring but who can tend to hysteria. Finally there is the Choleric who is ruled by "fire" and like dominance and ruling. They can easily be depressed.

    Heraclitus said that fire in the soul was best. The dryer the better

    Now I've compared the idea of the "basic elements" among cultures and found that exceedingly contradictory. What China might call wind India might call fire. So trying to learn from ancient civilizations on these matters is thorny. There perhaps is some wisdom in saying there are four fundamental personality types however. This has made some sense to me. But with morality, although it's hard not to generalize, saying anything is objectively wrong confuses people because conscience does not really bear this out. The intellect is weak and can't consistently grasp for sure what is right. Everyone's consciences, likewise, are saying different things. So for me when I see someone say "that is wrong" what they are doing is trying to change someone's behavior, and the Platonic status of the statement is irrelevant
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    What is a social institute? Would that be a school?Athena

    A school is a kind of social institute, but in this case I was referring to a government, though I do draw parallels between education and governance in my overall philosophy.

    What I'm struggling to understand here is how you're forming an argument that hedonism is the only alternative to "...because X said so", yet also arguing that alternative philosophies exist which do not amount to "...because X said so". If Kant's framework relies on reason - ie, only act according to that which you could at the same time wish were a universal law (or something like that), then it seems that the only two conclusions you could draw from that are either a) there exists a non-hedonistic means of judging that which is moral that does not amount to "...because X said so", or b) morality captures more than hedonism and no matter how accurate your measurement of it you'd be missing something if you didn't also measure 'reasonableness' (or somesuch). If you agree that Kant's moral philosophy is based on something no-hedonic, yet also non-authoritarian, then your argument about hedonism being required in order to avoid having to resort to "...because X said so" falls apart.Isaac

    Two common critiques of Kantian ethics are, on the one hand, that it does actually appeal to hedonistic criteria even while it claims it doesn't (Mill himself argued that), or, on the other hand, that it amounts to "I think this should be a universal rule, I would agree to be bound by this, therefore this is a universal rule, and everyone is bound to it, because I think they should be". I agree with both of those critiques, and think that Kantian ethics either amount to endorsing something because the agent is imagining it would be more pleasurable / less painful for everyone if that something were a universal law, or else (and possibly even simultaneously) saying that its a universal law "because I said so". Of course Kant himself would argue that it's neither of those things, but just because he says it's not doesn't mean it isn't.

    The "reason" aspect of Kant's theory basically amounts to non-hypocrisy, which is more or less the same as my universalism; and non-consequentialism like his is also an indirect consequence of universalism, on my account. None of that runs counter to hedonism, but see below for more on that point.

    If that were an issue then temporal nearness or hyperbolic discounting would also 'matter'. Something else other than feeling good or bad would matter - how far removed the feeling is in time.Isaac

    Again, that just means that something else matters. Here it's the number of people who share in the pleasure/displeasure. That's unarguably something else mattering other than just whether people feel good or bad.Isaac

    Questions which cannot be judged on the basis of reducing suffering. Yet they're still moral questions. One of them even contains the term 'permissible' as you've phrased it. The other implies permissible behaviour (who ought to judge and who ought not). If you're denying that these are moral questions, then on what grounds? If not then there are clearly moral questions which cannot be resolved by reference to hedonic values.Isaac

    Once more, now something else matters - justness of personal responsibility. Just good/bad are no longer all that matter, but additionally the rightfulness of the authority of the judge.Isaac

    Temporal nearness, hyperbolic discounting, number of people, and so on, are all aspects of a concern about suffering, about which one could decide one way or another without changing that the concern is still about suffering.

    My view isn't just hedonism simpliciter: that's a very broad category of views, there's room for a lot of disagreement within hedonism. Hedonism could be egotistic, but mine isn't. Hedonism could be consequentialistic, but mine isn't. Hedonism could be authoritarian, but mine isn't. All of those would still be hedonism though, as is mine.

    My total ethical view is the intersection all of my four core principles as applied to ethics. Phenomenalism is one of those principles, and applied to ethics that's hedonism. Universalism is another one of those principles, which narrows in to only a specific subset of hedonism. Criticism and liberalism are two more principles, which narrow in on an ever more specific subset of hedonism.


    Is it? what would be the 'bad' in that approach - It seems again to confuse a discussion forum with your personal blog. The entire point of posting something on a discussion forum is as a topic for discussion (critical, if need be). To say that people who then discuss such an offering are doing so in bad faith is really weird.Isaac

    Critical discussion is not necessarily bad-faith argument, it's just argument simpliciter. What makes your argument style bad faith is that you don't seem to be engaging in a cooperative pursuit of the truth with anyone, since you never even state what your own stance is, much less look into whether or not it might be right. You just look for any way that someone else might be wrong. Looking for ways that a position might be wrong is not in itself bad faith, but if you're just here to tear other people's views down no matter what they are, and (act as though) you don't actually have any views of your own and aren't engaging in the same figuring-out-what-might-be-right mission as others, just a figure-out-how-someone-else-is-wrong mission, then that's not arguing in good faith.

    Which I've no doubt already disagreed with, you've already claimed I'm merely misunderstanding you on, and thus you use, as if flawless, as a prop... I'm only trying to see if the argument has more to offer than "these are the things I think". One of the reasons your posts bug me - and you're not the only one - is that this a public forum. Forum being the key word. It's not your personal blog, you can publish that yourself anytime you like, curate responses if you want to, edit, or not, as you see fit. But here is not the place to do that. Here is a forum for public debate, we're here to discuss, not accumulate a database of "stuff people on the internet reckon".

    That you think your account of moral semantics "defends a kind of cognitivism and explains what moral sentences categorically mean" is utterly irrelevant here. Great material for your personal website. Publish it, stick it on YouTube, shout about it on your street corner... whatever. But here what matters is what other posters think it defends or explains. It taken as given that you think it does, that's presumably why you posted it. If you publish it here then it becomes the topic for debate, we're not your editors, nor your peer review board. We're not to be dismissed with "thanks for the input but I don't agree so your services are no longer required"
    Isaac

    As above, why on earth would I do that? The aim is not to reach a resolution on something such that if that's not possible the project might as well be abandoned. What you're doing is the conversational equivalent of ignoring your interlocutors with "yes, that's all very interesting, but stop interrupting...now, as I was saying..."Isaac

    It's really not about convincing me of anything. Again, we're a discussion forum, we're not a policy think tank either, we don't have to come up with the answer any time. It's about having a decent amount of respect for weight of human thought that's previously gone into these issues.Isaac

    Move on to what? You seem to be confusing the forum with a Gallup poll now. "here's my idea", "I agree", "I disagree", "great discussion guys...next". The argument about moral realism probably extends to several hundred thousand pages in philosophical literature...and it's still not resolved. Do you expect Rosalind Hurthouse to object to Robert Louden’s 'application problem' criticism with a paper just entitled "Yes, I get it, you don't agree, move on!" in which she just complains about his constant interjections that non-virtuous agents cannot learn virtue without rules? Of course not. and the debate already spans several thousand words. We've barely exchanged more than couple of hundred on this, yet a handful of posts in you're already wanting to shut down the discussion and move on as if it never happened. You put the ideas out there ostensibly for debate, but you don't seem at all interested in getting into the debate, you just want a quick round of applause so you can move on to post the next in your grand edifice for the same purpose.

    We're here to discuss. The issues with your theory (as yet unresolved) are as good a topic as any, there's no good reason at all to 'move on'. Hell, we still haven't 'moved on' from debating Platonic realism and that debate started 2000 years ago. You've fundamentally misunderstood how philosophical discussion works if you think a couple of exchanges is a good reason to ignore the issues and carry on regardless.
    Isaac

    My issue with the way that you engage, including the way you frame the issue above here, is that you act like the fact that you made an objection and then were not satisfied with my response is a reason why I should shut up. I don't have a problem with you having objections in the first place, or anyone else; I'm happy to consider them and offer responses. But if I think they're bad ones, and I say why, and you think my reasons why are bad in return, and we're go back and forth and then around and around in loops over and over without making any progress toward settling anything, that doesn't mean that I have to completely stop talking about anything else, just because you are still unconvinced. Nor does it oblige me to keep going around and around in circles with you until one or the other of us is convinced.

    Picture this as a literal forum, a physical space. Someone starting a discussion thread is like someone standing up on a soapbox to say something, and then others can come listen and respond and so a conversation happens. It's not the obligation of the person who stood up on the box and started that conversation to devote all of their attention to one heckler in the crowd who won't shut up and satisfy them completely before they're allowed to continue with anything else that they've come to say. Okay, heckler, I get that you don't agree with the things I have to say, but you are not the entire forum, and maybe someone else might be interested in hearing me continue despite the fact that you disagree already. If you continue standing there shouting your disagreement with earlier points, then you're just being disruptive.

    I'd ask how you'd like it if someone did that to you in your discussions, but you never state your own opinions, so that's not possible. You're just here to heckle everyone else. That's why you're arguing in bad faith.

    The way a good-faith argument works is that everyone agrees to disagree unless reasons to change the other person's mind can be presented, and then everyone states their opinions and their reasons for holding it, and their reasons to discard the other's opinions, and after everyone's done sharing what they think and why, if there isn't total agreement then whoever still disagrees can continue disagreeing in peace until someone has something new to say.

    It is not the case that anyone must respond to all objections to the satisfaction of the objector or else be compelled to change their mind or at least shut up.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    The point of that Russell quote on that topic I quoted earlier is pretty much that in doing philosophy, we're always going to start out appealing to some intuitions people have, and showing that other of their intuitions are contrary to the implications of those. If we're doing it well, we'll pick deeper, broader, more fundamental things, the rejection of which would be even more catastrophic, as premises, and show that other less foundational but still common views are incompatible with those, for our conclusions.Pfhorrest

    And how can you argue that some moral beliefs are broader and more fundamental than others? How can you even argue that there is such a hierarchy of moral beliefs without assuming your conclusion at the outset?

    Now that's an interesting difference. I was speculating that one could capture the extensional features of retributive justice in a sufficiently wide definition of 'suffering-reduction', only that to do so would be trivial as the definition thereby allowed would be so wide as to just be synonymous with 'morally bad' anyway. Am I right to think you're suggesting here that no such definition could be made of even the extensional features alone?Isaac

    Seeing that retribution and reduction of suffering have different ends, it should be surprising to find that they never pull apart in specific instances. It is a common assumption that as an institution, criminal punishment serves to deter crime, but that is actually a questionable thesis. It is far from clear whether, how much and in what circumstances punishment has that effect. And what about private, non-institutional retribution?

    If so, what features of retributive justice do you think fall into that category? I tried thinking along lines of your example of ensuring the perpetrators suffer, but even then could frame that as easing the suffering of the victim by schadenfreude.Isaac

    Well, one could say that doing what one believes is right satisfies an "appetite" and thus falls under the hedonism, but I wouldn't want to interpret Pfhorrest so uncharitably.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    Two common critiques of Kantian ethics are, on the one hand, that it does actually appeal to hedonistic criteria even while it claims it doesn't (Mill himself argued that),Pfhorrest

    Then why on earth did you bring it up as a counter-example to the claim/query...

    You've not quoted a single philosopher who doesn't agree with the basic points you take as premises here. That suffering (when assessed hedonically at the affect level, and in the long term, recognising that it might change over time, and including future generations, plus an afterlife if there is one, including any 'higher' senses like art and music and love...) that long and complicated definition of 'suffering' is a bad thing and we shouldn't impose it on others. Find me a philosopher, scientists, any public academic who disagrees with that.Isaac

    I've still yet to pin down who you're arguing against here. Now you're saying...

    My total ethical view is the intersection all of my four core principles as applied to ethics. Phenomenalism is one of those principles, and applied to ethics that's hedonism. Universalism is another one of those principles, which narrows in to only a specific subset of hedonism. Criticism and liberalism are two more principles, which narrow in on an ever more specific subset of hedonism.Pfhorrest

    ...which seems to bring even more ethical positions into the fold. I'm struggling to see who you're arguing against here with the specific point you raise.

    Where there are massive differences is not in the existence of any of these four 'core principles' of yours, it's in their interpretation - the nitty gritty of it that you don't want to get your hands dirty with. Even something as divisive like apartheid was not couched in terms of non-universalism, it was presented as treating everyone equally but that because of their various 'natures', the best way to do that was to keep then separate. As FW DeClerk said "What I haven't apologised for is the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states.". If you've ever read the Area Handbook for South Africa in which Apartheid was outlined to world, the whole thing is justified in terms of peace, prosperity, justice etc - a lot of it based on racial pseudo-science, but also on principles of justified colonial expansion and seeing resistance to that as criminal activity. The point is the likes of Botha and DeClerk do not claim to disagree with universalism, they claim multiple contextual details which support their policies. You can't argue against them simply by appeal to these trivially obvious broad brush approaches - everyone will just agree and fit their own agendas to it.

    What makes your argument style bad faith is that you don't seem to be engaging in a cooperative pursuit of the truth with anyone, since you never even state what your own stance is, much less look into whether or not it might be right.Pfhorrest

    Looking for ways that a position might be wrong is not in itself bad faith, but if you're just here to tear other people's views down no matter what they are, and (act as though) you don't actually have any views of your own and aren't engaging in the same figuring-out-what-might-be-right mission as othersPfhorrest

    You seem to have two contradictory narratives going on with regards to the process of discussion in this context.

    First you have this 'quest for truth' approach which (if it's anything like your epistemology with morality and empirical matters) I take to be a kind of fitting of lines to data points - seeking that theory which fits all observations.

    Then you have this 'political project' narrative where it's all about your ability to persuade me and mine you. Here, lines of fit and data points go out of the window and it's some kind of race to gain as many supporters as you can in the most efficient way - "don't waste precious time on the difficult ones when you could be gathering up support from less recalcitrant quarters".

    These two narratives a diametrically opposed. If you want to search for 'truth' and consider it to be that theory which best fits all observations, then the main area of focus should be those observations which do not fit. Those which fit quite closely already are the least of your concerns. If there's an observation which doesn't fit right at the heart of your theory, resolving that should be priority number one. And, most importantly, you thinking you've resolved it is completely irrelevant because that's just more of your observations. We already know they fit your theory. It's the observations of others not fitting it that's a problem for it's 'truthiness'.

    What I find to be 'bad faith' (not that I'm a fan of that expression) is the pretence that you're on a quest for 'truth' when you're actually on a quest to drum up support for your pet theory, hence the profusion of polls asking for agreement and the skipping over of dissent the moment it can't easily be accommodated into your existing framework. Is it really any wonder that people are concerned about an authoritarian overtone to this 'find a objective which matches everyone's hedonic feelings' when we can see exactly what happens to the observations of those that don't match your pet theories - they're 'misunderstandings', 'bad faith', 'uncharitable', 'questionable motives' and so on... The fear with these systematising of morality approaches is exactly what we see here. You claim a system which attempts to just unbiasedly universally fit all experiences, but what we'll end up with is the preferred morality of whoever proposes the model and anything that doesn't fit is 'misguided', 'dishonest', 'mentally disturbed'...or whatever else you can come up with to explain why the data point isn't matching the line you prefer.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    It is a common assumption that as an institution, criminal punishment serves to deter crime, but that is actually a questionable thesis. It is far from clear whether, how much and in what circumstances punishment has that effect. And what about private, non-institutional retribution?SophistiCat

    Yeah. I agree that deterring crime doesn't at all capture the objectives of criminal law. My concern (clearly very badly expressed) was with a style of argument which seems to get all of that to fit simply by widening the terms. It's a technique I've seen used elsewhere perhaps more than in this thread, but relevant here, I think.

    What I see happening is... one proposes a moral theory based on hedonism... the obvious counters are given -

    Virtues and values other than pain/pleasure. "Ah, but those are all about deferred pain/pleasure - they value stuff that's best for everyone in the long run".

    Authority of external judgements. "Ah, but those are separate questions, not directly to do with the definition of moral good".

    The role of reason and reasonableness. "But that's about how we find out what's in those categories, not what their definitions are"

    ...and so on.


    What we end up with is a re-framing of ethics, presented as if it were an answer. No actual work's being done to resolve any of the issues the previous ethicists have raised, only to re-frame them to fit the language of the new model.

    The reason I brought up schadenfreude as an example was to show how pointless the approach is. If we want to defend the retributive justice system within a hedonistic ethic we can do so using schadenfreude (and other wider 'pleasures/sufferings'). If we wanted to attack the retributive justice system within a hedonistic ethical system we could do so too by invoking the suffering of criminals (as you mentioned). Nothing has actually been resolved about the rightness or wrongness of retributive justice. We've just changed the names.

    Well, one could say that doing what one believes is right satisfies an "appetite" and thus falls under the hedonism, but I wouldn't want to interpret Pfhorrest so uncharitablSophistiCat

    As above. I don't think it's uncharitable. I think it's what's happening.

    The reality is that we interpret affects within a model which itself is informed by our past experience, culture, language etc. What one believes is right not only satisfies an appetite, it directly plays a role in determining what those appetites are.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    And how can you argue that some moral beliefs are broader and more fundamental than others? How can you even argue that there is such a hierarchy of moral beliefs without assuming your conclusion at the outset?SophistiCat

    I'm not even talking about specifically moral beliefs at the level of detail we're talking about here: narrowing it down to just morality in particular is already less broad than something that has implications on morality and also on other subjects.

    But in any case, the breadth or fundamentality I'm talking about here is relative to the sets of intuitions we're discussing, and is basically a measure of how interconnected that intuition is to all the others, as in, how many others depend on that being true, and would have to be rejected along with it if we rejected it.

    Again, this isn't anything about morality specifically, but just about how philosophy, or even all argument perhaps, is done in general. If you don't start with something someone will agree with, you'll never get any argument off the ground. But if you don't conclude with something they don't already agree with, you haven't shown anything of note. So you're always just showing some inconsistency in their beliefs. That will then require them, for the sake of consistency, to either reject the premises (that they already believed) or accept the conclusion (that they didn't already believe), in either way changing their beliefs.

    People generally won't choose to change most of their beliefs if they could instead only change a few, so if you start from a relatively superficial premise and disprove something fundamental from it, you're probably going to fail; they'll just reject the premise to avoid the catastrophic conclusion. So you've got to start from premises that are really fundamental, really depended upon by everything else, and from those argue that something much more superficial, much more easily rejected without many further consequences, is inconsistent with that.

    That's arguments generally. Philosophical arguments more specifically are dealing with relatively deep things even as their conclusions, so you've got to start from something even deeper in order to disprove something itself still pretty deep, which is why it's starting with "something so simple as not to seem worth stating" (such deep premises no one even considers the possibility of their falsity, so never even bothers to talk about them), to conclude "something so paradoxical that no one will believe it" (something not quite as deep as that, but still a cherished belief that many of their more superficial beliefs depend upon).

    Then why on earth did you bring it up as a counter-example to the claim/query...Isaac

    Because, as I said even in the bit you just quoted, Kant denies the accusation that his theory does appeal to hedonism after all; which, on my analysis, does in fact leave him appealing to a form of "because ___ says so". But the ___ in his position is not God (it's whoever's doing the ethical judging in question), so Kant (and also Plato, as I mentioned before) are anti-hedonists who aren't just religious fundamentalists, at least not in the same fashion you were talking about, divine command theorists.

    ...which seems to bring even more ethical positions into the fold. I'm struggling to see who you're arguing against here with the specific point you raise.Isaac

    My point with bringing those up is that ethical positions can be divided up along many different axes, and hedonism vs anti-hedonism is only one of those axes. Two positions that are both on the hedonist side can be completely opposite each other on a different, orthogonal axis, and yet still both be equally hedonists. Having a position on one of those different issues doesn't make one less of a hedonist. If I need to remind you why I'm talking about this it, it's because you were saying that having a position on those different orthogonal axes (like altruism vs egotism, or liberty vs authority) made a position somehow not entirely hedonist.

    The point is the likes of Botha and DeClerk do not claim to disagree with universalism, they claim multiple contextual details which support their policies.Isaac

    This ties in to what I was just saying above. Those "contextual details" they appeal to can only be relevant given certain positions on other axes orthogonal to that of universalism vs relativism. In this case, it's liberalism vs authoritarianism: those details are irrelevant on a liberal account, because the white people don't get to make the decisions about what's best for the other races, even in terms of "best" that are universalist and hedonistic as I would agree; everyone gets to make that determination about what's best for themselves, limited only by not harming others. It's when we get to making that determination of when another has been harmed that the universalist and hedonist criteria apply most, but then who gets to make that determination still has to comply with liberalism, and now we're getting into the very complex ground of political philosophy that I'm not going to go into in depth in this thread.

    The point is just that one position can be in different places along different orthogonal axes, and just because apartheidists agreed in principle with me on a few axes doesn't mean that their position is broadly within the same range as mine and just differing in little details, because on another axis we're very far apart. It'd be like saying that because New Zealand and Siberia are at about the same longitude they're basically in the same neighborhood, ignoring that they're very very far apart in latitude.

    You seem to have two contradictory narratives going on with regards to the process of discussion in this context.Isaac

    That's because I'm talking about two different axes there as well. Since my overall philosophy is basically all about how to conduct investigations into things, or discussions aimed at figuring things out, it's no surprise that it's pretty directly applicable to the discussions here on this forum.

    On the one hand there's an axis about whether there is any truth we are capable of figuring out or not. On this I say yes, there is, and we should be here because we're interested in figuring out what it is, not just to score cheap points or something.

    On the other hand there's an axis about whether anybody has a burden of proof against anyone else or not. On this I say no, there isn't, as in, nobody is obliged to prove themselves right or else shut up and quietly accept some alternative, we're all free to hold our separate thoughts about what that truth is until someone says something that changes our minds.

    You act like you disagree on both of those points, neither seeming like you're here to figure out what is or isn't true, nor like you're okay to agree to disagree. You seem to be here just to throw a supposed burden of proof at anyone who dares to have any opinion and shut them down, for what I can only imagine is your personal satisfaction. You say it's intellectual curiosity, but it really doesn't come across that way: you don't seem like you just want to know what people think and why they think that, you seem like you want them to 'know' (to accept your judgement) that they have no good reason to think it and should therefore shut up.

    If there's an observation which doesn't fit right at the heart of your theory, resolving that should be priority number one. And, most importantly, you thinking you've resolved it is completely irrelevant because that's just more of your observations.Isaac

    This talk of "observation" here has to be metaphorical in this case because we're only exchanging thoughts about things, not verifying actual empirical experiences. In any case, verification is important in actual observational science, and the analogue of it is important in this metaphor as well.

    If you say you've made an observation that proves Einstein wrong, physicists are going to have to follow through your observational setup and see if they see the same thing. If they don't see it, too bad for you; they don't have to accept your claim to have observed something and throw out all of physics because you say you saw a problem with it. You've got to show them the problem with it, so they can see it with their own eyes. Then, yes, they're absolutely going to care about this observation going against a core part of their theory and there will be exciting new physics to be done. But of course, in practice, they're not always going to go to a lot of effort trying to figure out why they can't replicate the claimed observations of some kook on the internet.

    In this metaphor, times when I've actually had to make major changes to my philosophy have been exciting for me in the past. I'm not looking to avoid those. I'm eager to learn new things! But you share your "observations" and I take a look for myself and see nothing unexpected by my theory. Perhaps sometimes I see how you could think that something I can actually "observe" for myself would be contra to my theory, but it doesn't look that way to me: what I'm seeing, when I "replicate your observation", is still the same thing I expect by my theory. And in practice, it's not worth the effort of trying to figure out how I might just not be "replicating your observation" properly; you claimed to see something, I looked, I didn't see it, this isn't a high-stakes matter of life and death and I don't trust you as a source of reliable observations anyway, so I'm not going to drop everything and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to prove to myself that you're right. And I don't care at all if you're wrong, so I'm not going to spend that time trying to change your mind either.

    Is it really any wonder that people are concerned about an authoritarian overtone to this 'find a objective which matches everyone's hedonic feelings' when we can see exactly what happens to the observations of those that don't match your pet theoriesIsaac

    Translate this metaphor back out to a discussion about actual actions to see why those concerns are unfounded.

    Say I'm doing something that effects only me, and I'm encouraging others to join in and try it too. (:: I'm having an opinion, and encouraging others to share it). Someone objects that that thing I'm doing isn't the optimal thing to do by altruistic hedonistic standards. (:: Someone thinks my opinion is incorrect.) I consider their objection but ultimately disagree. And I'm not forcing anything on the objector; I'm just doing what I think is best (:: thinking what I think is correct), within my own domain, and encouraging others to try doing (:: thinking) likewise. If those others don't want to do (:: think) likewise, that's fine with me, I'm not making them, just giving a suggestion, and reasons why they might like to take it. On my account of ethics (:: discourse), that's how these kinds of disagreement should go, and I'm not in any way obligated to change my behavior (:: opinion) just because someone else thinks it's sub-optimal and I can't persuade them otherwise, nor to stop encouraging others to do likewise. That doesn't in return obligate the objector to do (:: think) like I'm am, if he thinks it's not the optimal choice. We're free to disagree, even though ultimately at least one of us is wrong. Neither of us has the burden to prove to everyone's satisfaction that we're not wrong; the burden is on whoever thinks someone is wrong.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    Kant denies the accusationPfhorrest

    What Kant does and does not deny is not the same category as we were discussing. The point is that when you rebut arguments against hedonism's ignoring values and virtues (such as reason) you do so by appealing to what those values and virtues 'really' mean (long term hedonistic value. So one might argue against hedonism by saying that suffering can actually be character forming and so focussing on virtues would better capture that. You'd respond (actually have responded, in fact If I recall) that 'character building' just ensures a greater lack of suffering in the future, and so virtue ethicists are not capturing anything here hedonism cannot account for. the virtue ethicists themselves would obviously deny that, but you don't take their denial as as indicator that their position is not actually hedonic. that is the sense in which I claimed it was trivially true that positions could be framed that way. what Kant 'says' is irrelevant, his position can be framed as hedonic (Mill, did exactly that). My claim is that all such positions can be likewise framed and so hedonism (in the sense you use it) doesn't resolve and moral dilemmas, merely renames the terms in them.

    In this case, it's liberalism vs authoritarianismPfhorrest

    No. Same would be true there too. I bet both would be able to frame their approach as libertarian, allowing people to be as free as possible - just their definition of 'as possible' would contain restriction they think necessary but we don't. You just don't seem to respect the basic level of intelligence most humans have - we've already thought of all this, we already know 'libertarianism' sounds better than 'authoritarianism', no-one's going to turn down 'liberty'. People's arguments are framed such as to make them sound like they're on whatever axis appeals most to their audience, and mostly that things like freedom, prosperity, etc.

    we should be here because we're interested in figuring out what it isPfhorrest

    contradicts

    nobody is obliged to prove themselves rightPfhorrest

    If we have an obligation of sorts to be pursuant of truth, then that obligation can only be met by ensuring that one attempt to prove themselves right (or rather not-wrong, since neither of us are verificationists). If someone is potentially wrong, but avoids dealing with that by assuming it's their interlocutor who is mistaken, then they are demonstrably not as interested in 'figuring out what it [truth] is' as they are in avoiding stumbling block to the progress of their presentation.

    The only way round this that I can see is to make the argument that the pursuit of 'truth' is an internal quest, one in which the opinions of others don't figure. But then you'd undermine your narrative where the forum acts as a joint quest.

    Basically, you're saying you get to ignore fundamental issues with your theory, on the grounds that you think they're irrelevant/misinterpreting, but still don't thus fall foul of your own requirement that we collectively pursue truth. Yet you want also to say that if I don't present my theories for analysis I do fall foul of such a requirement. I can't see the difference.

    You seem to be here just to throw a supposed burden of proof at anyone who dares to have any opinion and shut them downPfhorrest

    Where have I even suggested anything of the sort. It's the exact opposite of what I'm talking about. I have never, nor would ever, suggest that anyone should be 'shut down'. I want people to address the issues. It's intriguing that you should accuse me of wanting to 'shut' people down when we're talking here about engaging further (not less), and you yourself are one of the handful of people here who've expressly said that my contributions are not welcome on their threads. Who exactly is try to shut whom down?

    you don't seem like you just want to know what people think and why they think that, you seem like you want them to 'know' (to accept your judgement) that they have no good reason to think it and should therefore shut up.Pfhorrest

    Again, in our exchanges you are the only one who has told me to 'shut up', never vice versa. I've only ever wanted to discuss the issues further, so how you're developing this displacement fantasy that I want to shut people down is truly intriguing.

    we're only exchanging thoughts about things, not verifying actual empirical experiences.Pfhorrest

    But my main contention with your model is based on the entirely empirical observations of how affect is generated in the brain, so we are talking about observations. I've looked at fMRI scans, lesion studies, experimental results... and I've seen evidence which contradicts your model.

    in practice, it's not worth the effort of trying to figure out how I might just not be "replicating your observation" properly; you claimed to see something, I looked, I didn't see itPfhorrest

    I think that sums it up perfectly. We've worked out the simple stuff already. If the only effort you're willing to put in is to see that which was obvious at first glance then you'll only ever confirm your own theories. None of them are going to be so wrong that the issues aren't apparent at first glance.

    Say I'm doing something that effects only mePfhorrest

    ...contradicts

    encouraging others to share itPfhorrest
  • baker
    1k
    But as I've pointed out several times, the empirical evidence is against him on this.Isaac
    Likewise.
    But he doesn't seem to care whether his theory of morality actually has the potential for ever being applied by humans.
  • Athena
    1.3k
    A school is a kind of social institute, but in this case I was referring to a government, though I do draw parallels between education and governance in my overall philosophy.Pfhorrest

    Well, Pfhorrest, it is my understanding there are two ways to have social order, law and authority over the people, or culture. All mythologies give people cultures for conduct. Culture a good person behaves this way and not that way. With culture, it is social pressure that keeps people in line.

    I am reading a book that might say hedonism before the time of Socrates would be different than after the period of Socrates, because of how people, in general, thought, fundamentally changed. When the god Apollo became part of Athenian consciousness, culturally there was much more reasoning. This demand for reasoning followed a period that was chaotic and with much uncertainty.

    Without the word generosity, we can not exactly have the virtue of generosity. We might be moved to give but it is not with a perceived idea that we should be giving. With reasoning, hedonism is the result of reasoning, not just impulsive reactions.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    So one might argue against hedonism by saying that suffering can actually be character forming and so focussing on virtues would better capture that. You'd respond (actually have responded, in fact If I recall) that 'character building' just ensures a greater lack of suffering in the future, and so virtue ethicists are not capturing anything here hedonism cannot account for. the virtue ethicists themselves would obviously deny that, but you don't take their denial as as indicator that their position is not actually hedonicIsaac

    Just taking this as an example case for principles to apply more broadly: my objection to the virtues ethicist would be if they claim that virtuous character is the thing that is intrinsically valuable rather than positive hedonic experiences. I concede to the virtue ethicist that virtuous character is instrumentally valuable toward the end of ensuring better experiences, so as to be clear that I am not entirely discounting that virtue matters; but I would argue against it being taken as intrinsically good.

    This is just like SophistiCat’s excellent example of retributive “justice”. I could in principle entertain an argument that retribution is instrumentally valuable toward the end of reducing suffering (I still object to that conclusion but the argument is at least trying to appeal to things I agree are good reasons). But plenty of people see retribution as an end in itself. That is where I principally disagree with retributivism: it’s counter to hedonism to value retribution as an end in itself, even if I might possibly agree that it could be instrumentally valuable toward hedonistic ends.

    Same would be true there too. I bet both would be able to frame their approach as libertarian, allowing people to be as free as possible - just their definition of 'as possible' would contain restriction they think necessary but we don't.Isaac

    Then the argument would be that they have an incoherent conception of liberty, exactly as I (and most anarchists / libertarian socialists) argue against so-called “anarcho”/“libertarian” capitalists. They can try to frame their positions any way that they want but that doesn’t mean it will hold up to scrutiny as being actually consistently in favor if that. (E.g. capitalists who think the poor being dependent on and so subservient to the rich is not “authoritative” just because it’s not the government commanding them to do something, it’s only the government keeping them away from the necessities of life unless they obey the commands of those deemed the owners of those necessities).

    The only way round this that I can see is to make the argument that the pursuit of 'truth' is an internal quest, one in which the opinions of others don't figure. But then you'd undermine your narrative where the forum acts as a joint quest.Isaac

    I conceive the quest for truth to be both an independent and a cooperative venture. We’re here to share our different views and our reasons for holding them, so that others can examine those various possibilities and the arguments for and against them, thus giving each other food for thought with which to further examine and shape our own views in pursuit of truth. But none of us is in any way wrong for being unpersuaded by someone else’s reasons, nor for failing to persuade anyone else. Because there is no urgent practical matter that we need to reach agreement on here, just casual conversation, there’s nothing wrong with differences of opinion persistent however long they do. It’s still a long-term goal that eventually everyone reaches the truth, and therefore agreement, but there’s no deadline on that, so nobody is at fault for not making progress fast enough on either updating their own views or convincing others to do so.

    Yet you want also to say that if I don't present my theories for analysis I do fall foul of such a requirement. I can't see the difference.Isaac

    The difference is that I share my views, thus making an opening for others to share reasons against them. What I do with those reasons is then on me, but at least I’m subjecting myself to responses about what I believe, and so the possibility of something that might change my mind. By never stating your own views at all, you’re hiding yourself from any possibility of being given reasons to change, of having to decide what to do with those reasons, whether to accept them and change or else on what grounds to reject them. That makes it look like you’re just here to fight, not to learn. I am here to learn (as well as teach; it’s a two-way street), even if I’m really disappointed in the quality of teaching material on offer so far.

    Where have I even suggested anything of the sort.Isaac

    You complain that I move on to talk about other topics over your continued objections on an earlier topic, which sounds to me like you think I shouldn’t talk about anything else until you’re satisfied about the first thing. Whereas I don’t see much hope in satisfying you without way more effort than it’s worth, and there are other things I also want to talk about, so I want to disengage from the unproductive back-and-forth with you and move on to other more pleasant discussions.

    Because I’m here for casual philosophical discourse, to share my thoughts with anyone to whom they are new and interesting, and to find out if there are any related things that are new and interesting to me that I can mull over and evolve my own thoughts with. I don’t care to fight interminable fights with people who are saying nothing new to me and who find nothing I’m saying new to them, when there’s nothing on the line that we must reach agreement on soon.

    The reason why I don’t want to engage with you is not to shut you down, but because every engagement with you becomes that same kind of unproductive fight that goes nowhere, so it seems pointless and merely disruptive to just get into that again and again.
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