• Zophie
    176
    You may like to know that everything is circular eventually. For ethics this happens rather quickly since ethics is a discipline in which the object of study apparently has no known location.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Is this thread still active?
    I want to bounce this off you. It's my suspicion that either "good" doesn't mean anything i.e. it's meaningless or "good" is just another word for, taking a utilitarian standpoint, happiness. The difference then between good and happiness is the same as that between couches and sofas to wit, none at all. Is this, in your opinion, a case of "bewitchment by language"? After all, an entire branch of philosophy - ethics - has been established on the words "good" and "bad" and if these are nothing more than synonyms for happiness and sorrow respectively, ethics is akin to launching a ship on a mirage. I maybe wrong about this and would like some help in clearing up my confusion.
  • baker
    1k
    If the good is, as you said earlier, neither definable nor analyzable, then a great many moral philosophers have been merely spinning their wheels. How can they be so wrong?


    I'd like some clarification as well, because people have tried to define "good" and "happiness". Some even come up with supposedly objective, universal standards of those. Clearly, those people don't think that the good is undefinable and unanalyzable as Banno does.
    Both camps can't be right.
  • Yun Jae Jung
    16
    I'm not sure - I kind of lost interest after people started saying Good can't be definable only described because I don't buy Moore's argument. In my eyes, once you define Good correctly and it becomes a closed question as opposed to an open one then Moore's second premise that's required for his argument ends up becoming false so his conclusion never arrives. I think peoples' relations regarding happiness or otherwise is just a wrong definition which violates Moore's first premise but causes his second premise to become true which is why people think Moore's argument makes sense. I mean obviously if you put out a definition you think the definition is true and so you assume Moore's first premise is true, but for me if Moore's second premise that it's a open question is true then you should just assume that your definition is wrong and that's why it falls through.

    Premise 1 & Premise 2 referred throughout according to : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-question_argument#:~:text=That%20is%2C%20Moore's%20argument%20attempts,is%20good%3F%22%20is%20meaningless.

    Actually I just read through his argument again, he probably has a point. Alas, a description of what makes something good is probably just as good as defining good.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    It seems that your scale works off an ideal as opposed to changes in the status quo like mine so that's interesting.Yun Jae Jung
    On the contrary, my ethical concept does address "changes to the status quo" but implicitly in this formulation
    Moral Right indicates judgments, conduct or relationships for preventing or reducing harm and/or injustice (i.e. misery) — 180 Proof
    This provides an ethical motivation for politics (e.g. mass struggle, human solidarity, ... as well as 'just governance') which is the arena for, as you say, Yun, "changes to the status quo" (assuming you mean normative, or everyday, injustices). And also I bring up "evil" which inherently demands – calls for – resistance like (e.g.) plague, famine, predation, etc.

    Indeed, the definition of good and bad itself can be said to be good or bad (in a moral sense).TheMadFool
    Nonsense. Definitions of "moral good & bad" are evaluated for how adaptive they are for 'prosocially coexisting'. There's nothing "meta" or circular going on. In other words, a morality language game works adequately for the form-of-life (e.g. social commons) within which it's embedded or it does not work adequately thereby requiring further development (i.e. playing that language game differently, so to speak).

    That said, Fool, assuming my objection is without warrant, tell me where I go wrong – e.g. trip over Moore's "indefinability" canard – defining "moral good and bad"

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/518912

    which I follow-up on a bit here

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/519090
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Pretty much. yes, it is an extraordinary insight, undermining much of what passes for moral theorising hereabouts.

    Try using it next time someone tells us what it good and what is right. Or on 180.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    How can they be so wrong?baker

    Well, there's an interesting question for them.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Pretty much. yes, it is an extraordinary insight, undermining much of what passes for moral theorising hereabouts.

    Try using it next time someone tells us what it good and what is right. Or on 180.
    Banno

    I'm having second thoughts about what I said earlier. Allow me to explain.

    Suppose I define good as maximizing happiness. as utilitarians do. Call this definition of good, U. Is U itself good? Does U maximize happiness just as it demands thoughts, words, and deeds do exactly that? Either it does or it doesn't. If it does, well and good, case closed and there's nothing to discuss - the definition itself is good. If it doesn't, then what we have on our hands is a paradox - an immoral/bad definition that determines what moral/good is. That would be like asking a man what it's like to be a woman? The man wouldn't have the slightest clue.

    So, ok, U has to be good. One way for that to happen is if U itself does what it demands viz. maximizing happiness. Does U maximize happiness? Does it fulfill the criterion of goodness that it sets? How would we answer this question. We would have to check the hedonic effects of a moral theory based on the definition, good is maximizing happiness i.e. the impact utilitarianism has had in societies that adopt it as their moral theory. I have no idea how we might get down to doing that. Any ideas?
  • Razorback kitten
    100
    If your "short book" is already low in content, my advice would be, don't bother writing a book.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    There's an article in Philosophy Now this month on this topic...

    I don't think that when someone says "Charity is good" they mean exactly the same thing as "Charity maximises happiness". I don't think that when someone says "Charity maximises happiness" they mean "Charity is good". I think it is clear that "Is maximizing happiness good?" is an open question.

    None of which is to say that it is not good to be charitable.

    Further, is someone were to insist that "maximising happiness" is exactly what they do mean by "Good", then all that can be done is to point out that their ethics is only about maximising happiness, and has nothing to do with the good.

    So yes, it is not a knock-down argument.

    But let me ask, what do you think? Does TheMadFool believe that the good is just maximising happiness?

    Edit: worth relating this back to the OP:

    Good is anything that raises an individual's quality of life;Yun Jae Jung

    Is the question "Is it good to raise an individual's quality of life?" a question to which you and I could give some thought? Couldn't we have a discussion, weighing the pros and cons, and deciding what to do in each case?

    But if Good is exactly anything that raises an individual's quality of life, then "Is it good to raise an individual's quality of life?" would be the very same question as "Is it raising an individual's quality of life to raise their quality of life?" - a mere tautology.

    It isn't, so it ain't.
  • baker
    1k
    Well, there's an interesting question for them.Banno
    You're the one implying that they're wrong.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Nonsense. Definitions of "moral good & bad" are evaluated for how adaptive they are for 'prosocially coexisting'. There's nothing "meta" or circular going on. In other words, a morality language game works adequately for the form-of-life (e.g. social commons) within which it's embedded or it does not work adequately thereby requiring further development (i.e. playing that language game differently, so to speak).

    That said, Fool, assuming my objection is without warrant, tell me where I go wrong – e.g. trip over Moore's "indefinability" canard – defining "moral good and bad"
    180 Proof

    What do you mean "nonsense"? To me, it's obvious that the definitions of good and bad - the foundations of any moral theory - must themselves be judged by the same criteria they employ to sort thoughts, words, and deeds into moral and immoral which is the very purpose of building a moral theory.

    I mentioned to Banno that if we go down the utilitarian path as per which good is maximizing happiness (and/or minimizing suffering), the definition itself must do the exact same thing which it stipulates our thoughts, words, deeds must do to wit, maximize happiness. If this wasn't the case and the definition either did nothing or did the exact opposite i.e. decreased happiness or increased suffering, it would be a morally bad definition and, more importantly, it would render utilitarianism pointless.

    Coming to the issue of the definability of good, let's see whether that can be done or not. Let's stick to utilitarianism according to which good is maximizing happiness. Clearly, this definition of good has been formulated based on some reason(s) i.e. it ain't arbitrary. In my book that means the "definition" of good as maximizing happiness is actually in need of a proposition which requires and is supplied with justifications.

    What would such justifications for the definition proposition, "good HAS TO BE DEFINED AS maximizing happiness" look like? A utilitarian would probably begin by pointing out the many instances of happy consequences that people, for some reason, refer to or label as good. As you can see, there are two things to consider here viz.

    1. Good HAS TO BE DEFINED AS maximizing happiness
    2. Good is maximizing happiness

    1 is what we might call a proposition and 2 is a definition. To get to 2, the definition of good, we need to justify 1, the proposition regarding how good has to be defined.

    Returning to the problem at hand which is whether the definition of good js itself good or not [it has to be good]?, one obvious route to an answer is by testing the definition against itself - does it satisfy the condition of maximizing happiness it itself stipulates? It seems I've already mentioned that at the outset but is it acceptable?

    It may seem that the obvious choice mentioned above is a reasonable one but, like it or not, luckily or unluckily, it bears the hallmark of a petitio principii, a big no-no which someone as knowledgeable as you should be more than familiar with. Why? The first step is to justify the proposition, 1. good HAS TO BE DEFINED AS maximizing happiness and unless that's accomplished, we can't do anything with the definition 2. good is maximizing happiness. Ergo, testing the definition against itself amounts to skipping a step - it begs the question, SHOULD good be defined as maximizing happiness? That, my friend, take us back to square one - what is GOOD?.

    A similar argument may hold for other moral theories.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    What do you mean "nonsense"? To me, it's obvious that the definitions of good and bad - the foundations of any moral theory - must themselves be judged by the same criteria they employ to sort thoughts, words, and deeds into moral and immoral which is the very purpose of building a moral theory.TheMadFool
    Well, you're obviously mistaken, my friend. A definition of "moral good & bad" is not either 'morally good or bad' but rather either instrumentally good (useful) or bad (not useful) for "building a moral theory". A good cup of coffee, for instance, is not "morally good" – that's language gone on holiday.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Well, you're obviously mistaken, my friend. A definition of "moral good & bad" is not either 'morally good or bad' but rather either instrumentally good (useful) or bad (not useful) for "building a moral theory". A good cup of coffee, for instance, is not "morally good" – that's language gone on holiday.180 Proof

    You're missing the point or, more probably, given your vast knowledge, ignoring it. Suppose X is the definition of good and furthermore, suppose X were morally bad. Would this situation not be akin to committing hara kiri? Reminds me of Useless Machines (Marvin Minsky)
  • jorndoe
    1.2k
    What good is a definition of good, when, in some given situation, you still have to figure out if following it is the right thing to do?

    Sure, we can come up with things like the golden rule, yet, from there to have them be universal and unconditional doesn't seem right.

    It's easier to come up with examples than definitions.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    You've lost me. I addressed your non-point, exposed and disposed of it, to wit: X can be good without being "morally good" as per my definition & follow-up here. Agree or not; any objection to it that (or any other) definition proffered by me I'm interested in considering. Semantic nonsense not so much.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    You've lost me. I addressed your non-point, exposed and disposed of it, to wit: X can be good without being "morally good" as per my definition & follow-up here. Agree or not; any objection to it that (or any other) definition proffered by me I'm interested in considering. Semantic nonsense not so much.180 Proof

    Ok, let's come at the issue from a different angle. I mentioned in one of my posts above that "...thoughts, words, and deeds..." are the kind of things that can be good (moral) or bad (immoral). I'm sure you'll find no cause for disagreement on that score. Now, ask yourself, what's a definition, in this case a definition of good? Is it not, at the end of the day, a thought? If it is, and it is, it not only can but has to be good or bad. That's what I'm trying to get across but, oddly, you seem reluctant to buy into what is essentially a very simple idea. By the way you're well-acquainted with this phenomenon. When thoughts, definitions, go bad, we find ourselves in hot water like slavery, racism, religious fanaticism, etc.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    "...thoughts, words, and deeds..." are the kind of things that can be good (moral) or bad (immoral).TheMadFool
    They are also the kinds of things that can be "good" (instrumental, or functional, useful) or "bad" (instrumental, or dysfunctional, not useful). A good steak, Fool, isn't "morally good" ... Furthermore, a physician and an auto mechanic give diagnoses: they aren't diagnoses for that apply to both human health & automobiles; they are diagnostic methods applied to different, respective, domains & tasks. That's because it all depends on the language game we're playing, Fool, and depends on the forms-of-life within which we play them; mixing them (e.g. category error) creates nonsense such as yours. Besides, 'definitions for moral arguments or systems' are not also moral, any more than a barrel of apples isn't an apple.

    Read my my definition & follow-up (scroll down to my links) and show me the err of my ways. This should be pretty easy iif you're right (and quite edifying for me to boot!) :chin:
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Nonsense. Definitions of "moral good & bad" are evaluated for how adaptive they are for 'prosocially coexisting'. There's nothing "meta" or circular going on. In other words, a morality language game works adequately for the form-of-life (e.g. social commons) within which it's embedded or it does not work adequately thereby requiring further development (i.e. playing that language game differently, so to speak).

    That said, Fool, assuming my objection is without warrant, tell me where I go wrong – e.g. trip over Moore's "indefinability" canard – defining "moral good and bad"

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/518912

    which I follow-up on a bit here

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/519090
    180 Proof

    I followed your link and here's the deal - you define morality as "how adaptive they are for prosocially coexisting" but is this, your, definition of morality itself, and I quote, "...adaptive for prosocially coexisting..."? You will need to demonstrate that if your moral theory is to not fall at the first hurdle. Right? However, that amounts to presupposing your definition is correct but that's precisely what you haven't done. In other words, to prove your definition is itself morally good, you will need to justify why your definition is the right one but, demonstrably, your definition will be either too broad or too narrow or if not that too vague. I suspect it's the last one - too vague - for the simple reason that you've attempted maximum generalization and that usually becomes possible with vague definitions.
  • baker
    1k
    I followed your link and here's the deal - you define morality as "how adaptive they are for prosocially coexisting" but is this, your, definition of morality itself, and I quote, "...adaptive for prosocially coexisting..."?TheMadFool
    He's welcome to demonstrate that "how adaptive they are for prosocially coexisting" doesn't amount to "going with the crowd" or "as the wind blows".

    For example, ideas in favor of slavery were very adaptive for prosocially coexisting when living in a society where there was slavery. Were they therefore, morally good?

    - - -

    , how do you determine the relevant point at which you measure "how adaptive for prosocially coexisting" something is?

    We can easily point to a time and place where, for example, ideas in favor of slavery were very adaptive for prosocially coexisting, and another time and place where they were not.

    (We can also point to a time and place where ideas contrary to slavery were not adaptive for prosocially coexisting, even though they were elevated to the level of law.)
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    He's welcome to demonstrate that "how adaptive they are for prosocially coexisting" doesn't amount to "going with the crowd" or "as the wind blows".

    For example, ideas in favor of slavery were very adaptive for prosocially coexisting when living in a society where there was slavery. Were they therefore, morally good?
    baker

    Good point but I have a feeling that 180 Proof's idea of morality as "adaptive for prosocially existing" is nuanced enough to tackle this objection. I'm not sure though. Thanks.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    The issue is about defining "morally good" not about defining "morality". Don't move the goal posts.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    At any point in a 3 or more data-point history (curve) of observations.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    The issue is about defining "morally good" not about defining "morality". Don't move the goal posts.180 Proof

    My bad. I must've failed to maintain that distinction. It's a jungle of concepts out there. To get lost is more the norm than the exception for a novice like myself. That out of the way, let's return to the issue of the definition of morally good. Suppose such a definition exists, call it X. The question then is, is X itself morally good. This line of inquiry is far from obvious and that's why so many have failed to examine it.

    How do we, given morally good is defined as X, answer the question, is X itself good? Why does this even matter? one might ask. Well, if the definition X itself weren't morally good that would mean, in moral consequentialist terms, X causes suffering. That's not acceptable, right? After all, if that were the case, the definition would fail to satisfy its own criterion for morally good. That's why I feel the definition of morally good itself must be morally good. Of course there's no reason why a definition of morally good can't fulfill the conditions that decide whether something is morally good but that's a step that can only be taken if we already know what morally good is. In other words, we have to know what morally good is and that's nowhere close to being an open and shut case, right?
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    Again, you're way off. I asked you to apply your analysis to my links in this post. Show me that your argument makes sense by using it to show me – which you haven't yet – that my definition of "moral good" doesn't make sense. Anything else, Fool, is just noise I've no interest in.
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Again, you're way off. I asked you to apply your analysis to my links in this post. Show me that your argument makes sense by using it to show me – which you haven't yet – that my definition of "moral good" doesn't make sense. Anything else, Fool, is just noise I've no interest in.180 Proof

    I'm beginning to think you're right after all but I still have this nagging doubt about the morally good being definable in a way that's free from controversy. By the way I replied to that post you provided a link for.

    Let's go through this together step by step.

    X = the definition of good [any definition, yours and classic ones like utilitarianism, Kantian ethics will do]

    My contention is that the question, Is X itself good? is as reasonable, as meaningful, as the question, is killing a defenseless person good?

    What say you?
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    Sorry. More noise. My definition please.
  • baker
    1k
    ↪baker At any point in a 3 or more data-point history (curve) of observations.180 Proof
    How far apart are the points, and how do you determine what a relevant interval is?
  • TheMadFool
    9.1k
    Sorry. More noise. My definition please.180 Proof

    It seems we've reached an impasse. Quite unfortunate. Have a good day.
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    I'll try again taking a more direct tact.

    ↪180 Proof, how do you determine the relevant point at which you measure "how adaptive for prosocially coexisting" something is?baker
    I don't know what "something" pertains to so I can't answer. The paragraph from which you quote me out of context should suffice in showing what I'm talking about there.

    (re: In so far as X definition in X language game satisfies or sustains Y form-of-life in comparison to how Z definition, from Z language game but used in X language game, does not (as well) satisfy or sustain Y form-of-life, X definition is evaluated as more adaptive than Z definition in X language game.)
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