• Leontiskos
    1.5k
    I don't understand the question. :confused:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_utilitarianism (I interpret this reducing harm-caused-by-personal-conduct / judgment as normative morality ↪180 Proof)
    180 Proof

    When I heard about negative utilitarianism I thought of that clause in the Hippocratic Oath, "First, do no harm..." But this implies that there is a "second," and I am wondering about that "second." I am wondering why only harm considerations are moral considerations. From your Wikipedia article:

    Negative utilitarianism is a form of negative consequentialism that can be described as the view that people should minimize the total amount of aggregate suffering, or that they should minimize suffering and then, secondarily, maximize the total amount of happiness.Wikipedia | Negative Utilitarianism

    So apparently some negative utilitarians think there is a "second," namely, to "maximize the total amount of happiness." The question could then be rephrased: why choose the first form of negative utilitarianism over the second form?

    From a 2023 thread Convince Me of Moral Realism, by 'harm' (in some of its various forms) I mean this...

    And by 'injustice' I mean harm to individuals as a direct or indirect consequence of a social structure, or lack thereof, reproduced by customs, public policies, legistlation, jurisprudence or arbitrary violence. Thus, utilitarianism is a kind (or subset) of consequentialism.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_consequentialism (I interpret this reducing injustice (i.e. reducing harm-caused-by-social-structure / violence) as applied morality ↪180 Proof)
    180 Proof

    Okay, this is helpful. :up:

    Leontiskos – Assuming you intend to reply, I've just edited my previous post so that (hopefully) my statements are clearer.180 Proof

    Sounds good.

    ---

    Because the word "quality" here is often up to personal preference, as I note: If I am shooting someone, I am making them lose qualities (health) that we hold universally as desirable. However, if I offer someone drugs, there will be wide disagreement about whether I am harming or helping them because what the drug is supposed to counteract may or may not be held positively, or may or may not be held more negatively than the other effects of the drug.Lionino

    Okay, sure.

    Well, being fat would not be a quality — so would everybody say prior to 2013.

    In most cases no, because being addicted is something that (almost) all would agree is not a quality but the inverse of it.
    Lionino

    When you were using the word "quality" earlier I assumed you were using a value-neutral term, because that is how that term is often used. In that sense to possess something, such as weight or alcohol, would be a quality. But it now seems that by "quality" you mean "good quality," such that an alcoholic cannot have the quality of "possessing a bottle of alcohol," because the alcohol is not good for him. Yes?
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    - Good post. I am pressed for time so I will just offer a short response.

    I can think of one reason to preference the reduction of the negative over the maximization of some positive principle (e.g., pleasure for J.S. Mill).Count Timothy von Icarus

    Sure, and as I told @Lionino a few times: I accept that harm is more potent than benefit.

    Minimizing harm seems to be less likely to fall into the "min/max" trap. We are inclined to think of disease, dysfunction, etc. as a variation from some stability point or harmony.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think much of what you say makes good sense. Still, I think one of your implicit premises is that harm correlates to a disruption of harmony or a deviation from homeostasis, and I am not convinced that this premise is sufficiently developed. It seems to involve a specialized meaning of harm. In my opinion, in these debates the crux is to somehow introduce objective normativity, and this is where things always get difficult. Your post focused on this idea quite a bit.

    However, when it comes to the acquisition of positive things, we often tend to look to maximize the good. For example, Mill wants to maximize pleasure (and we might consider here Plato's distinction of which pleasures are better than others in the Philibus or Aristotle's in Book X of the Ethics as counter examples). This makes a certain sense to me, because when it comes to the acquisition of external goods, food stores, money, etc., it is always nice to have more as a sort of "backup." More won't hurt, we can always just not use a resource we have "extra," of, or share it in exchange for some other good.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Actually I think the maximization of pleasure will be detrimental to organisms, and this seems like an important problem in Mill's view. More really can hurt, and the classical virtue of temperance will to some extent simply curb an excessive desire for pleasure simpliciter. The Philebus enters into the "objective normativity" question, attempting to refine the manner in which we ought to desire pleasure (and Mill tries to do this too, in his own way). So at first glance your argument does seem to hold, given that negative utilitarianism seems to favor homeostasis more than classic utilitarianism does.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    So apparently some negative utilitarians think there is a "second," namely, to "maximize the total amount of happiness." The question could then be rephrased: why choose the first form of negative utilitarianism over the second form?Leontiskos
    Harm, or suffering, is not merely subjective (as I've sketched previously ) whereas "happiness" is whollly subjective (e.g. hedonic set-points are not the same for everyone or constant through time for each individual); the latter, therefore, is not as foreseeable, or reliably known, as the former such that reducing harm / injustice is a more realizable and effective moral strategy than trying to "maximize happiness" (whatever "happiness" means).

    However, it's my position that on avarage – all things being equal – we optimize well-being, or "happiness", in any situation where harm / injustice has been prevented and/or reduced as much as possible such that it's not a binary choice but rather is a matter of priority whereby the "secondary" consideration (positive utility/consequence (e.g. more sex)) is a function, or opportuned by, the "primary" (negative utility/consequence (e.g. less illness)) and yet not the other way around (e.g. health-wealth-fame-power-pleasure "maximizing" itself cannot prevent or reduce suffering, misery or (self)harm).

    Some primary influences on my moral thinking are Epicurus, Spinoza, K. Popper, D. Parfit & P. Foot.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Yes?Leontiskos

    :up:

    Which is why I say that harm seems to push the issue back and leave it up to subjectivity, as "harm" begs for "goodness", and so harm is not objectively defined. But then again, in utilitarianism, welfare isn't objectively defined either.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    harm is not objectively definedLionino
    Really? Name a kind of harm that you have undergone and yet, because it's not "objective" phenomenon, no one else is vulnerable to it or can recognize it as harm. (Some of the kinds I have in mind I've described here .)
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Really? Name a kind of harm that you have undergone and yet, because it's not "objective" phenomenon, no one else is vulnerable to it or can recognize it as harm.180 Proof

    if I offer someone drugs, there will be wide disagreement about whether I am harming or helping them because what the drug is supposed to counteract may or may not be held positively, or may or may not be held more negatively than the other effects of the drugLionino

    If I am shooting someone, I am making them lose qualities (health) that we hold universally as desirable.
    However, if I offer someone alcohol, there will be wide disagreement about whether I am harming or helping them.
    Lionino
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    With all due respect, I didn't ask for hypothetical dilemmas; rather I asked for your experiences of kinds of harm which no one else is vulnerable to or can recognize as harm because such kinds are "not objectively defibed". Have you had such an experience? If not, then isn't it more reasonable than not to conclude that everyone is vulnerable to and can recognize the kinds of harm you've experience because they are objective phenomena? :chin:
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Harm, or suffering, is not merely subjective (as I've sketched previously ↪180 Proof) whereas "happiness" is whollly subjective (e.g. hedonic set-points are not the same for everyone or constant through time for each individual); the latter, therefore, is not as foreseeable, or reliably known, as the former such that reducing harm / injustice is a more realizable and effective moral strategy than trying to "maximize happiness" (whatever "happiness" means).

    However, it's my position that on avarage – all things being equal – we optimize well-being, or "happiness", in any situation where harm / injustice has been prevented and/or reduced as much as possible such that it's not a binary choice but rather is a matter of priority whereby the "secondary" consideration (positive utility/consequence (e.g. more sex)) is a function, or opportuned by, the "primary" (negative utility/consequence (e.g. less illness)) and yet not the other way around (e.g. health-wealth-fame-power-pleasure "maximizing" itself cannot prevent or reduce suffering, misery or (self)harm).

    Some primary influences on my moral thinking are Epicurus, Spinoza, K. Popper, D. Parfit & P. Foot.
    180 Proof

    Okay, thanks. That makes good sense, and I think I agree with you that happiness is more subjective than harm. I certainly agree that safety from harm provides a strong condition for the seeking of happiness.

    Regarding your idea that happiness is "wholly subjective," there seems to be an interesting counterargument at hand:

    Have you had such an experience? If not, then isn't it more reasonable than not to conclude that everyone is vulnerable to and can recognize the kinds of harm you've experience because they are objective phenomena? :chin:180 Proof

    @Lionino has posited that both harm and benefit are somewhat subjective, and in response you challenged him to provide a kind of harm that is not recognizable by others. Could the same be said of happiness? Could we say that the kinds of happiness that I experience are also recognized by others as kinds of happiness? (For example, food, sex, comfort, knowledge, etc.)
  • javra
    2.4k


    I’ll for now address the following last portion of your first reply since I see this as pivotal to most all of the other replies I might myself give. I know there is a lot left for me to address, but, before I do, please let me know if the following is something that you find fault with. If this leads to an insurmountable difference of perspectives, then I doubt you’d find any of my other further replies cogent.

    Regarding your X, Y, Z analysis, I would want to say that if X is necessary to achieve Y and Y is necessary to achieve Z, then X is necessary to achieve Z. In fact this would seem to prove that it is false to claim that, "[X] does not allow for the ultimate achievement of Z." Or am I underestimating the work that your term "optimally fitting" is doing? (Note that if, as you seem to say, Z precludes X, then it cannot simultaneously be true that X is necessary to achieve Z)Leontiskos

    Via one analogy (which as analogy can only go so far), say that one strives to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible so as to win a prize. Were it at all possible to do so, one would then rationally follow a straight path from point A to point Z, this being the shortest path to travel. But there is an intractable obstacle in the way at point K.

    The ideal means of arriving at Z remains that of traveling a straight path. A straight path toward Z then remains the ideal right, or ideally correct, or the ideally good means of arriving at Z in optimally short time—this in ideal circumstances. Anything that deviates from this ideal right, or correct, or good means of arriving at Z will, then, by default not be the ideally right/correct/good means of arriving at Z: In and of itself, traveling perpendicular to the ideal path will never allow one to arrive at Z—for if one perpetually so travels perpendicularly one can only ever-further oneself from the sought destination. Because of this, traveling leftward/rightward will, in and of itself, be a wrong/incorrect/bad means of arriving at Z in ideal conditions.

    Still, now the conditions are not ideal due to the obstacle. If one dutifully maintains one’s ideal path, one will thereby fail in one’s attempts to win the prize. So now one must travel perpendicularly for a while, thereby engaging in what will in ideal terms be a wrong/incorrect/bad means of arriving at Z in optimal time. One, instead, must now do what is not ideally right, or correct, or good: one must circumvent the obstacle by being antithetical to that which is ideally right/correct/good and now distance oneself from Z by traveling leftward or rightward along the obstacle’s boarder till the obstacle ends.

    Traveling straight toward Z is nevertheless necessary for arriving at Z. It’s just that due to the obstacle in the way, one must now do otherwise that travel straight toward Z till the obstacle is circumvented, thereby furthering oneself from Z, subsequent to which one then again proceeds to travel straight toward Z. Given the obstacle, only by so doing will one arrive at one destination of Z and win the desired prize.

    Is it wrong/incorrect/bad to not travel straight toward Z at all times? In an idealized setting, it is: for so doing will at the very least always increase the amount of time it takes to arrive at Z, thereby making the time span less than optimal, and at the very worst so doing will make arriving at Z logically impossible.

    Yet, given the less-than-ideal reality of the obstacle in the way, is it then wrong/incorrect/bad to deviate as little as possible from traveling straight toward Z at all times so as circumvent the obstacle? No: it is right/correct/good to so deviate as little as is required to circumvent the obstacle. This even though one will be disgruntled (rather than take pleasure) in so doing, for one knows that so doing furthers the time required to reach Z.

    That which is right/correct/good in an idealized setting is then that which I previously termed “ultimately right/correct/good”—here, traveling straight toward Z—for it is that which is ultimately required to obtain Z. And from this same vantage of ultimate right/correct/good (which might also be termed “the ideal good”), traveling perpendicular to this trajectory is an ultimate wrong/incorrect/bad way of going about things—this as far as ideals go—again, because it can only further one form one’s desired destination irrespective of quantity or degree to which it is done.

    Yet, sometimes this very same distancing from Z—i.e., that which is ultimately bad or wrong—will be the only possible way of further approaching Z when the scenario is less than ideal, and this only unlit this same ultimate bad can be dispensed with and that which is ultimately good or right can once again be implemented toward arriving at Z.

    In so being, this “means of optimally approaching Z by minimally furthering oneself from Z so as to circumvent the obstacle” will not be that which is ultimately good (going toward Z in a straight path) but, instead, that which I will for now term “pragmatically good”. Of note, though: for something to in fact be pragmatically good it must still best approximate—or else minimally deviate from—that which is ideally good so as to obtain Z given the less-than-ideal circumstances to be had.

    Now equate Z with (here a fully non-deontological notion of) Kant’s Kingdom of Ends. If this is too obtuse, then a yet to be global society wherein people don’t commit violence against each other of their own free accord—a yet to be global society I will here for brevity term “utopia”.

    In ideal settings, violence will here always be a wrong (i.e., the wrong/incorrect/bad means of obtaining ends)—for violence will always further one from this Kingdom of Ends / utopia, i.e. from one’s destination of Z. Furthermore, one can never (not even in principle) actualize Z in perfected form via violence’s application. This because one cannot actualize a loving peace of mutual understanding amongst mankind via the use of violence (e.g., placing a gun to a person’s head and telling them you’ll shoot if they don’t become your best friend, which would at minimum be psychological violence, will not result in the other’s genuine friendship toward you).

    Nevertheless, when someone unjustly attacks your personhood or those of fellow Kingdom-of-Ends/utopia-aspiring others, not stopping the assailant(s) via force when needed—and hence via use of some measure of violence—will further everyone from an actualization of the Kingdom of Ends / utopia. Wherein stopping the assailants, though antithetical to Z’s occurrence due to the very violence required, will however optimally allow for closest proximity to Z in long-term appraisals for those concerned.

    Yet violence is here still not that which is ultimately right; it is still something that in ultimate, or else ideal, terms is a wrong—this as determined by Z itself. But the application of this means—given the obstacles that befall one in less than ideal circumstances—can yet be that which is the only pragmatic good to take. This so long as that which is pragmatically good optimally approximates—else minimally deviates from—the ideal good of never engaging in violence.

    To then ask whether violence is moral or immoral will depend on the vantage taken: relative to the very actualization and thereby eventual actuality of Z, it will always be immoral. Yet relative to what is on occasion pragmatically needed to best approach the actualization of Z, it will in certain circumstances be moral. As was illustrated, this strictly contingent on—not its application per se—but the intention(s) with which it becomes applied. (edit: Hence, were the intention to be that of optimal approach toward the non-violent utopia of Z, then the application of violence as means toward the end of Z (if ever needed) will strictly occur with maximal self-constraint against any and all unneeded violence—this, in short, because the means used shall themselves be in large part teleologically determined (or else driven) by the end which is pursued. Much like wanting to arrive at location Z of itself as telos determines that in ideal setting one ought to travel a straight path toward Z, and that one optimally approximates this ideal whenever obstacles in the way require one to travel perpendicularly to this same ideal straight path.)

    --------

    I’ve already written a fair sum. So I’ll stop short for now to see if you find fault with what was just mentioned.

    For what its worth, it might be cumbersome to explain, but I all the same so far find it conformant to the living of a virtuous life (this as best one can, with the occasional mistake granted).
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    I’ll for now address the following last portion of your first reply since I see this as pivotal to most all of the other replies I might myself give. I know there is a lot left for me to address, but, before I do, please let me know if the following is something that you find fault with. If this leads to an insurmountable difference of perspectives, then I doubt you’d find any of my other further replies cogent.javra

    Okay, thanks.

    I want to say that there are two ends or a twofold end rather than just one. First let's take your analogy:

    Via one analogy (which as analogy can only go so far), say that one strives to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible so as to win a prize. Were it at all possible to do so, one would then rationally follow a straight path from point A to point Z, this being the shortest path to travel. But there is an intractable obstacle in the way at point K.javra

    What are the two ends?

    1. Strive to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible.
    2. Strive to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible, in ideal circumstances.

    Obstacles only present a problem if I am doing (2) instead of (1). This is in many ways related to hypothetical and non-hypothetical ought-judgments. "If there were not a rock in my path, then I would not need to use precious time circumventing it" (hypothetical judgment). "There is a rock in my path, therefore I will need to go around it to achieve my goal" (non-hypothetical judgment). More precisely, "as short a time as possible" increases each time you encounter an obstacle, and therefore the obstacle does not impede (1). But "as short a time as possible, in ideal circumstances," does not change when you encounter an obstacle, because an obstacle is a non-ideal circumstance. So the question is: Are you trying to do (1) or are you trying to do (2)? Or perhaps you are trying to do both? Or perhaps the more pertinent question is, "What happens when we encounter unforeseen obstacles or dilemmas?"

    To then ask whether violence is moral or immoral will depend on the vantage taken: relative to the very actualization and thereby eventual actuality of Z, it will always be immoral. Yet relative to what is on occasion pragmatically needed to best approach the actualization of Z, it will in certain circumstances be moral. As was illustrated, this strictly contingent on—not its application per se—but the intention with which it becomes applied.javra

    Again, I see two ends, and in this case I think both are simultaneously aimed at:

    1. Do not commit violence (because violence requires treating the object as a means)
    2. Survive as a community

    These are both involved in the goal to, "Arrive at a Kingdom of Ends."

    But in this case it seems that (2) is given precedence over (1), and I'm not sure if it is possible to arrive at a "Kingdom of Ends" so long as (2) is given precedence over (1). When would you ever "get there"? Obviously the alternative would be strict pacifism: giving (1) precedence over (2).

    Secondly, in light of (2) does (1) need to be revised to (1a): "Do not commit violence except in extremis"? It seems like this is the rule that is actually in play, although there is simultaneously a desire or telos towards (1).

    For what its worth, it might be cumbersome to explain, but I all the same so far find it conformant to the living of a virtuous life (this as best one can, with the occasional mistake granted).javra

    Yes, and I want to try to be respectful of the fact that you are giving analogies, which will of course limp. Hearkening back to the OP, my difficulty is the way that you are apt to class exceptions as non-human acts. I want to stress that the exceptional act of violence is still a human act, and by recognizing it as a human act we are able to recognize its rationale, namely (2). Moral systems almost always come up against this problem of exceptions, and the case is sometimes termed "in extremis" (at the point of death).

    Still, to class exceptions as "amoral" does make sense in a certain way, but I think I would stick with my analysis in terms of what is "understandable" as opposed to what is amoral ().

    More generally, I think moral systems that do not take account of obstacles or dilemmas are to that extent poor moral systems. For example, in sanctioning certain legal forms of violence I think your community should have already considered the relation between (1) and (2). In speaking to J about a similar topic in private, I sent him a book review, "Moral Dilemmas in Medieval Thought from Gratian to Aquinas." Our difference seems to be over whether moral "perplexity" (simpliciter) is possible.* For older thinkers like Aquinas perplexity is not possible, whereas for thinkers in the modern period perplexity seems to be unavoidable.

    If you wish to continue, it seems to me that we would need to discuss this issue of moral perplexity. It seems that on theories such as your own, which admit of perplexity, one must either transgress duties or else redefine those duties as being in some way non-obligatory. Still, I think the question of ends is intrinsically bound up in these taxonomies, for the possibility of perplexity seems to depend on the ends in play.

    I hope this reply makes sense. I was a bit tired when I wrote it, so hopefully I didn't run roughshod over the analogous nature of the analogy. It's possible that to parse the ends separately is to lose their essential cohesion.

    * "An agent is perplexed if she is unable to avoid acting against an obligation" (404).

    P.S. The other elephant in the room is something that the modern tradition often overlooks: akrasia. But I will leave it be for now.
  • javra
    2.4k
    Or perhaps the more pertinent question is, "What happens when we encounter unforeseen dilemmas?"Leontiskos

    I see that I was addressing many presumptions which are not shared. This for instance. By "obstacle" I naturally assumed that that which stands in the way and thereby impedes is/was unforeseen. Otherwise I'd simply view it as part of the terrain to be traveled. If I see a house between me and the house's backyard to which I want to get to, I don't then discern the house to be an obstacle in my path. But if I expect the backyard gate to be unlocked when in fact it is, this I might then consider something that impedes my intended progress.

    What are the two ends?

    Strive to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible.
    Strive to arrive at destination Z from location A in as short a time as possible, in ideal circumstances.
    Leontiskos

    Every voyage toward a destination is, consciously or unconsciously, idealized to go as expected or planed, i.e. for the circumstances to be as one best foresees, and thereby idealizes, them. If I take a flight from A to Z, unexpected weather conditions might have it that I get detoured and delayed. Or that I never arrive. Nevertheless, I will take the flight expecting to arrive on time as per the ideal circumstances of so arriving as scheduled.

    So I so far disagree with this division into two ends where considering the analogy I've provided.

    Again, I see two ends, and in this case I think both are simultaneously aimed at:

    1) Do not commit violence (because violence requires treating the object as a means)
    2) Survive as a community


    These are both involved in the goal to, "Arrive at a Kingdom of Ends."

    But in this case it seems that (2) is given precedence over (1), and I'm not sure if it is possible to arrive at a "Kingdom of Ends" so long as (2) is given precedence over (1). When would you ever "get there"?
    Obviously the alternative would be strict pacifism: giving (1) precedence over (2).
    Leontiskos

    "Do not commit violence" holds no meaning or significance in the complete absence of agents. In order for violence to not be committed, there must be agents present which do not commit violence. So I again find the presented dichotomy of ends to be inappropriate.

    Aside from which, as stated (1) gives the impression of an absolute commandment. ... Whose goodness or rightness as such would be itself justified in which manner?

    Moreover, the "strict pacifism" mentioned would leave all peace aspiring people to die at the hands of violent people, thereby resulting in nothing but violence-loving people to populate the world in its entirety. How might this bring about or else be in the service of a "Kingdom of Ends"?

    Hearkening back to the OP, my difficulty is the way that you are apt to class exceptions as non-human acts.Leontiskos

    Aside from certain parts of the second counterexample I've provided, where have i done so?

    If you wish to continue, it seems to me that we would need to discuss this issue of moral perplexity. It seems that on theories such as your own, which admit of perplexity, one must either transgress duties or else redefine those duties as being in some way non-obligatory.Leontiskos

    I am now getting the sense that you might uphold a moral code of duties via systems of deontology that traditionally have made little sense to me. Namely, those which uphold a strict duty or obligation to absolute oughts and ought nots irrespective of consequence. If so, I would rather not continue this conversation, being fairly confident that it will result in disagreements without resolution.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    I see that I was addressing many presumptions which are not shared. This for instance. By "obstacle" I naturally assumed that that which stands in the way and thereby impedes is/was unforeseen. Otherwise I'd simply view it as part of the terrain to be traveled. If I see a house between me and the house's backyard to which I want to get to, I don't then discern the house to be an obstacle in my path. But if I expect the backyard gate to be unlocked when in fact it is, this I might then consider something that impedes my intended progress.javra

    On the contrary, in charting a path to a destination one will be apt to identify obstacles. So if I chart a path that must cross a river, and I look for a bridge, I am already considering the river as an obstacle which must be overcome. Obstacles are not necessarily unforeseen. Often we consider obstacles before deciding whether to "travel."

    Every voyage toward a destination is, consciously or unconsciously, idealized to go as expected or planed, i.e. for the circumstances to be as one best foresees, and thereby idealizes, them. If I take a flight from A to Z, unexpected weather conditions might have it that I get detoured and delayed. Or that I never arrive. Nevertheless, I will take the flight expecting to arrive on time as per the ideal circumstances of so arriving as scheduled.javra

    It is only idealized within certain parameters, and your "idealization" was straight-line travel. Straight-line travel is never expected, except in the case of air travel, and most forms of transportation are not air travel. If you had stipulated that you were talking about air travel then this would make more sense, but you did not do so and there was nothing in your analogy that would cause one to conclude that you were in an airplane or helicopter. Thus the obstacles to straight-line travel should have been, at least in a certain vague sense, foreseeable (partially foreseen and partially unforeseen). Whenever I go somewhere I try to go in a straight line (the ideal), and I know with certainty that it will not be possible unless I am flying (or perhaps traveling by water).

    "Do not commit violence" holds no meaning or significance in the complete absence of agents. In order for violence to not be committed, there must be agents present which do not commit violence. So I again find the presented dichotomy of ends to be inappropriate.javra

    On this reading you must think that the pacifist could not agree to the rule, "Do not commit violence," which is of course strange to say the least. "Do not commit violence" simply does not mean, "Do not commit violence unless your survival is threatened." People do not generally say, "In order to not-commit violence we must be alive, so therefore in order to obey the rule 'Do not commit violence' we must use violence against this aggressor who is trying to kill us." I don't think this is plausible at all. It strikes me as common sense that use of violence will be contrary to a rule against violence.

    Aside from which, as stated (1) gives the impression of an absolute commandment.javra

    It was not absolute. The rationale was provided: "because violence requires treating the object as a means." The idea was <We are not to treat others as a means; violence treats others as a means; therefore we are not to use violence>.

    Moreover, the "strict pacifism" mentioned would leave all peace aspiring people to die at the hands of violent people...javra

    Pacifists are vulnerable, yes. That's part of what it means to be a pacifist. You seem to think that pacifism is logically impossible...? Part of my difficulty with your examples is that they erect false dilemmas. The pacifist has an option other than fight or die: it is to run. The German has an option other than tell the truth or give up the Jews: it is to mislead, or to fight, or to equivocate; etc.

    How might this bring about or else be in the service of a "Kingdom of Ends"?javra

    It won't, but neither will your approach, as I already noted, 'I'm not sure if it is possible to arrive at a "Kingdom of Ends" so long as (2) is given precedence over (1). When would you ever "get there"?' The problem is that your system contains internal contradictions, and framing Kantianism in terms of consequence-ends is already a contradiction that Kant would not have accepted. These contradictions are producing further contradictions, such as the idea that violence is compatible with a "Kingdom of Ends." Again, the ends with which one begins will determine whether contradictions (and perplexity) are possible.

    The problem of using violence to achieve a violence-free society is the Marxist problem of having to "Break a few eggs to make an omelette." It is paradoxical, and for those who adhere to the classical doctrine wherein the end does not justify the means, it doesn't work.

    Aside from certain parts of the second counterexample I've provided, where have i done so?javra

    It happened in both counterexamples, the evil genius and the tyrant king. In the case of the evil genius (which example I initially raised) you said that the attribution-footstep was not a moral/human act.

    I am now getting the sense that you might uphold a moral code of duties via systems of deontology that traditionally have made little sense to me. Namely, those which uphold a strict duty or obligation to absolute oughts and ought nots irrespective of consequence.javra

    Rather, I think duty/obligation is built in to your attribution of "immorality," which you refuse to forfeit even in cases of necessity. Given that you hold that there are immoral actions which are necessary (and therefore permissible), I conclude that you are working with a form of moral perplexity. You explain this in terms of "departing from the ideal," but it seems clear that there are conflicting duties at play when, say, a quasi-pacifist must resort to violence. I thought this was the very point of your analogy; that it was meant to highlight the tensions that must be worked out.

    So if we wanted to tailor-fit the definition of perplexity to your own verbiage we could say that "An agent is perplexed if she is unable to avoid acting immorally."

    If so, I would rather not continue this conversation, being fairly confident that it will result in disagreements without resolution.javra

    That's fair enough. Thanks for the interesting conversation. :up:

    I hope I didn't give the impression that perplexity-views such as your own are beyond the pale. I think they make a certain amount of sense given the complexity of the moral landscape. Beyond that, following Aristotle and Aquinas, my style is much more terse than your own, but that doesn't indicate a lack of effort. I just think that many of the relevant arguments can be said in few words.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    your experiences of kinds of harm which no one else is vulnerable to or can recognize as harm because such kinds are "not objectively defibed"180 Proof

    That doesn't follow. I don't need to have a private harm experience for harm not to be objectively defined. I gave you examples where people will disagree whether something is harmful or not.

    1 – Harming is defined as making something lose its qualities (virtues).
    2 – A virtue is not objectively defined.
    3 – We can be quite confident that what's a virtue in a person is up to the aesthetic preferences of the one judging — being introverted may be judged as a virtue or a vice.
    4 – To make someone lose that quality is harm.
    5 – Since the object of the action is not objectively defined, neither is the action.

    I think you are approaching the word "harm" from a physical and psychological perspective (suffering). I am approaching it from the dictionary.

    As an example, I may incentive a quiet person to speak more. Being talkative is seen by some as a virtue, others as a vice. So, depending on who you ask, I am or I am not harming the person.
  • javra
    2.4k
    These contradictions are producing further contradictions,Leontiskos

    I hope I didn't give the impression that perplexity-views such as your own are beyond the pale. I think they make a certain amount of sense given the complexity of the moral landscape.Leontiskos

    To keep things short, I don't find that my account of ethics would make any sense whatsoever were it to in fact incorporate "contradictions", which I do not find my account to incorporate: At no juncture in my account can there ever be something that is both right and wrong at the same time and in the same respect. I instead find that the nuances (in respect to ends pursued) in my account make these “different respects” sufficiently evident. But I have little doubt that disagreements would yet continue, and, at the end of the day, maybe this is neither here nor there.

    Thanks for the interesting conversation. :up:Leontiskos

    Ditto!
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    Certainly what is considered a virtue is filtered through different contexts, but there are also threads that seem to run through almost all contexts.

    But something doesn't need to apply in every context to be "objective." There are many variants of chess, but what constitutes a legal move in a given chess tournament is still objective. Likewise, in Homer and Hesiod's world, what constitutes virtue is quite objective.

    Of course, you're correct that what constitutes harm is, to at least some degree, bound up in the virtues, and the virtues are bound up in a given context, but I'm not sure how this leads to their not being at all objective.

    If I raise my child to be a craven, licentious, covetous, and vicious glutton there is a sense in which people in my community can point to what I've done and talk about a "harmful upbringing," without having much difficulty agreeing with one another.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    is still objective.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yet, arbitrary (in the sense needed to be accounted for here, i think). You can't index harm to an arbitrary set point to evoke 'objectivity'. That's kind of a demonstration of begging the question no? Its objective because you chose that as a quality in its description.

    Of course, you're correct that what constitutes harm is, to at least some degree, bound up in the virtues, and the virtues are bound up in a given context, but I'm not sure how this leads to their not being at all objective.Count Timothy von Icarus

    This smells like talk about primary and secondary intensions ala Chalmers.
    The concept 'harm' seems to only pick out that which is subjectively held to be the case in the real world. Some think 'harm' can consist in discomfort, or dislike. This is where trigger warnings appear. Some think 'harm' can only come from some arbitrary line in the sand about losses and gains in a utilitarian sense. Harm certainly doesn't have a rigid referent in the actual world. This says to me, it couldn't conceivably have a secondary intension that picks out anything analogous. So, i say it's implausible to suggest that harm has an objective meaning, other than from a subjective pov (i.e experiences, for me, will either meet, or not meet my internal benchmark for having received harm). 180's explication here merely lists some subjective factors that can go to that internal benchmark in a subject.

    I think I would need to see that the word 'harm' has some a-level intension that referred categorically to something - which it doesn't seem to.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Of course, you're correct that what constitutes harm is, to at least some degree, bound up in the virtues, and the virtues are bound up in a given context, but I'm not sure how this leads to their not being at all objective.Count Timothy von Icarus

    The problem is that I had to replace "quality" with "virtue". Using quality originally, there will be qualities that are completely up to the aesthetic preferences of someone:

    Being talkative is seen by some as a virtue quality, others as a vice not a quality.Lionino

    The fact that the definition of something no longer depends only on outside objects that may be referenced should be enough to say something is not objective.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    Begging the question is when you assume your conclusion. E.g., something like: "our perception of objects is indirect because we don't perceive things directly."

    I am saying the virtues are relatively objective in many contexts because virtually any adult member of the culture can point to them, allowing that there will be more difficult borderline cases. This is less true today in the West due to multiculturalism and the adoption of post-modernism, but it's still fairly true. No one watches a Disney movie and is confused about who the villain is for instance.

    The concept 'harm' seems to only pick out that which is subjectively held to be the case in the real world.

    On the one hand, you could say this about every fact, since all facts are known through the frame of consciousness. On the other, that taking fish out of water or running over turtles in a car harms them is about as obvious of a fact as you can get in the life sciences.

    So, i say it's implausible to suggest that harm has an objective meaning, other than from a subjective pov (i.e experiences, for me, will either meet, or not meet my internal benchmark for having received harm).

    I'm really not sure how you're using the term "objective," here. It seems like we can say, in quite objective terms, that the victim of an aggravated assault has been harmed, even if they can't wake up from their coma to give us their subjective take here. When juries are selected for homicide cases, none of the jury members feel the need to ask the judge, "but are we sure any harm has occured? We'd really need to ask the victim to have any idea."



    The problem is that I had to replace "quality" with "virtue". Using quality originally, there will be qualities that are completely up to the aesthetic preferences of someone:

    That makes more sense. Although, consider the examples above. It still seems like harm is fairly obvious in many cases, and these will also tend to be the more important cases (e.g., offending someone with a joke versus setting their home on fire).

    The fact that the definition of something no longer depends only on outside objects that may be referenced should be enough to say something is not objective.

    I'm not sure how this definition is supposed to work. For instance, in chess, the thing being referenced is the game itself, but the rules of chess are objective. How a word is spelled correctly is also an objective fact, but it's the language that is referred to for this.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    It still seems like harm is fairly obvious in many cases, and these will also tend to be the more important cases (e.g., offending someone with a joke versus setting their home on fire).Count Timothy von Icarus

    In most cases. The problem is the few cases where it isn't:

    If I am shooting someone, I am making them lose qualities (health) that we hold universally as desirable. However, if I offer someone drugs, there will be wide disagreement about whether I am harming or helping themLionino

    For instance, in chess, the thing being referenced is the game itself, but the rules of chess are objective.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I am not sure about rules, since rules are things that we keep inside our heads and agree with.

    How a word is spelled correctly is also an objective fact, but it's the language that is referred to for this.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes, and language is a phenomenon, which linguistics studies. It is objective therefore. Harm is not always an object, sometimes it is a feeling.
  • Barkon
    112
    I have recently changed my view of morality, from good being outright beneficent and evil being outright maleficent to accepting some neutrality between the two. Evil - 'eve all' - "bring a clean ending to everything coming upon me". We commit evil all the time, when we speak up to defend our argument, on this forum, is an example. We attempt to stop the thoughts of a hypothetical third party representing all peers(who read our words), from being against us, and we try to turn them to supporting what we have said. My version of evil, is controlled impulse. Good on the other hand is twisting the forces that makes up our experience in order to have them boost us, whether in a progressive or digressive way, and anyone can/may affect anyone with a boost, and boosts can be maleficent to any other. My version of good, is a personal universe(in some way it reflects the progressing forwards your own creation in the manner to boost yourself, or boost or neglect others - your own universe).

    This makes morality simple, it's how you are ordered in your application of good or evil forces, whether you are completely criminal, using good and evil to be maleficent to other subjects or objects, or supporting yourself, and thus being a moral person, a friendly of all or an outright enemy of all.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    Begging the question is when you assume your conclusion. E.g., something like: "our perception of objects is indirect because we don't perceive things directly."Count Timothy von Icarus

    That is what I pointed out you did.

    There are many variants of chess, but what constitutes a legal move in a given chess tournament is still objective.Count Timothy von Icarus

    You have assumed objectivity by saying that which chess moves are legal moves is objective. Yet, your job was to show this to be the case, not state it. There's no description of why that's the case.

    If your position boils down to your further paragraphs, then I simply reject that you've done anything at all to outline objectivity in these cases. They were weakly related, in any case, but they do no nothing but illustrate collective opinion.

    BY eg, this would apply equally to your claim that:

    If I raise my child to be a craven, licentious, covetous, and vicious glutton there is a sense in which people in my community can point to what I've done and talk about a "harmful upbringing," without having much difficulty agreeing with one another.Count Timothy von Icarus

    There is nothing, whatsoever, objective in this, other than a statistical fact about agreement among members of a community. If this is what you take objective to refer to, alrighty. Not I.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    I don't understand the merit of your argument. There is the potential for someone to interpret any act as right-or-wrong with the right context, but why use that to create a category? Acts and things should not gain as intrinsic characteristics the possible ways that people can interpret them.

    The term "moral act" gives us one bit of information about the act, and that is that the act is "moral", and you should need to justify this. There's no communication benefit and the act, in fact, may have as its only connection to anything moral be the "susceptibility" to being interpreted as such. You could see the absurdity if I proposed that all acts are "sexual acts" because "they may potentially arouse", or that all objects are "small objects" because "we may see them that way when viewing them from afar". It's a misleading way to categorise things.

    If the thesis is rephrased to "all acts have the susceptibility to being interpreted as being right-or-wrong", would that work? If so, then I agree with the thesis. Almost anything can be interpreted as being right-or-wrong.

    There are different motivations for writing this thread, but one of the primary motivations is to address a common claim. The claim is something like, “You should behave in such-and-such a way, but this has nothing to do with morality.” Our culture is filled with non-hypothetical ought-claims that masquerade as non-moral claims, and this seems to be nothing more than a mendacious technique for controlling other peopleLeontiskos

    If I say someone "should" do X but not for a moral reason, then I must believe it's for some other kind of reason. If one could argue X be done for a moral reason, or if X is susceptible to moral reasoning or if moral reasoning could be applicable to X, so what?

    Say I've got the option to buy a new phone to replace my old one, but don't wish to, and claim "It's not due to financial reasons". Though the act of buying a phone is clearly related to my finances and would be a financial decision, I'd have meant that my decision was motivated instead by other factors. Would you consider my claim reasonable?

    You could have knowledge that leads you to doubt my sincerity or believe my financial circumstances could be playing a role in my decision-making even if I claim otherwise. I'm almost always deeply suspicious when it comes to morality, that people do not say what they mean or mean what they say and instead have hidden agendas. Suspicion is one thing, but you seem to be going somewhere with the notion that acts are moral acts, that all "ought's or discussion of acts are the subject matter that lies within "breadth of the moral sphere". Buying a phone falls into the "sphere" of my personal finances, but I can still choose to buy a phone or not for reasons that fall outside of the sphere of their personal finances. And similarly think others should do X or Y for reasons that fall outside the sphere of "morality".

    Even despite the "breadth of the financial sphere", being grounded, set by hard rules and easily understandable as part of our daily lives, it'd still just be a single sphere. As decisions or acts can lie within many such spheres, it is possible, and happens everyday that decisions are made about matters which fall within this sphere and yet are motivated by matters that do not. "I don't buy a car because I can't drive, it has nothing to do with money", for example, seems reasonable to me.

    To allow you the opportunity to clarify yourself, I ask you, what's your purpose in defining the "breadth" of the "moral sphere"?
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    To keep things short, I don't find that my account of ethics would make any sense whatsoever were it to in fact incorporate "contradictions", which I do not find my account to incorporate: At no juncture in my account can there ever be something that is both right and wrong at the same time and in the same respect.javra

    Here is what I said:

    The problem is that your system contains internal contradictions, and framing Kantianism in terms of consequence-ends is already a contradiction that Kant would not have accepted. These contradictions are producing further contradictions, such as the idea that violence is compatible with a "Kingdom of Ends."Leontiskos

    So, for example, on your scheme violence is simultaneously right and wrong. It is right qua survival and it is wrong qua using-another-as-a-means. The problem is that your principles are not necessarily in sync, and in certain cases they oppose one another (and lead to perplexity). So you could do what most perplexity-views do and weight your principles, but before that you would need to admit that you have two principles in the first place (i.e. that "survival" is distinct from a prohibition on violence).

    It doesn't matter that something is not right and wrong in the same respect; such is not needed to produce perplexity. It only matters that something be simultaneously right and wrong.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Say I've got the option to buy a new phone to replace my old one, but don't wish to, and claim "It's not due to financial reasons". Though the act of buying a phone is clearly related to my finances and would be a financial decision, I'd have meant that my decision was motivated instead by other factors.Judaka

    The question is then whether one can say that, "My decision was instead motivated by non-moral factors," which according to the OP would entail that it involves no non-hypothetical ought-judgment.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    The question is then whether one can say that, "My decision was instead motivated by non-moral factors," which according to the OP would entail that it involves no non-hypothetical ought-judgment.Leontiskos

    If we agree that indeed, wanting to buy a phone for non-financial reasons may lead to the financial decision of buying a phone, then we can apply that to "moral judgements" defined in the OP. "Moral judgements" are non-hypothetical ought-judgements, and would parallel with the financial decision of buying a phone. If we non-financial motivations can lead to a financial decision, can't non-moral motivations lead to us making a "moral judgement"?
  • javra
    2.4k
    Here is what I said:

    The problem is that your system contains internal contradictions, and framing Kantianism in terms of consequence-ends is already a contradiction that Kant would not have accepted. These contradictions are producing further contradictions, such as the idea that violence is compatible with a "Kingdom of Ends." — Leontiskos
    Leontiskos

    Am I mistaken in understanding the quote to conclude that my arguments make use of contradictions? And does not a contradiction require that incongruent givens simultaneously occur in the same respect?

    As to Kant’s Kingdom of Ends not being an intent (hence: aim, end, or else intended consequence) that Kant endorsed via his system of deontology … I do find great difficulties in accepting this position as true, rather finding this very position as contradictory to Kant’s very affirmations.

    So, for example, on your scheme violence is simultaneously right and wrong. It is right qua survival and it is wrong qua using-another-as-a-means. The problem is that your principles are not necessarily in sync, and in certain cases they oppose one another (and lead to perplexity). So you could do what most perplexity-views do and weight your principles, but before that you would need to admit that you have two principles in the first place (i.e. that "survival" is distinct from a prohibition on violence).

    It doesn't matter that something is not right and wrong in the same respect; such is not needed to produce perplexity. It only matters that something be simultaneously right and wrong.
    Leontiskos

    Perplexity does not equate to the occurrence of contradictions, which is what I addressed. Moreover, most who will uphold that the use of violence is in an ultimate sense wrong/bad will be in no way perplexed when watching an action movie as to whether it is right/good for the police officer or soldier to rescue the innocent captive from the terrorist via the controlled use of violence or threat of violence. In parallel, this just as most will not find anything perplexing about a firefighter setting controlled fires so as to combat an arsonists fire. Furthermore, neither of these two examples require competing goals, instead being quite possible to accomplish via the one intent of minimizing harm.

    I’ve already explained how this can occur, but you so far seem to deem those explanations to invoke contradictions. Yet an affirmation of X does not of itself justify X being true. And I so far find no contradictions in what I’ve previously stated: Again, given the exact same distal intent of, say, minimizing harm and maximizing harmony, the use of violence as means of obtaining this very same distal intent can be simultaneously right in proximal application (wherein far greater harm/disharmony is thereby avoided) and yet remain wrong in distal terms (for an absolute harmony cannot be of itself produced via violence); therefore being simultaneously right and wrong but in different respects.

    And again, I so far don’t see much point to further debates on this matter due to the impasses between us just expressed.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    If we agree that indeed, wanting to buy a phone for non-financial reasons may lead to the financial decision of buying a phone, then we can apply that to "moral judgements" defined in the OP. "Moral judgements" are non-hypothetical ought-judgements, and would parallel with the financial decision of buying a phone. If we non-financial motivations can lead to a financial decision, can't non-moral motivations lead to us making a "moral judgement"?Judaka

    The question at hand is whether your analogy is apt. Perhaps you should attempt to give an example of a non-moral decision.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Perplexity does not equate to the occurrence of contradictionsjavra

    Sure it does. "An agent is perplexed if she is unable to avoid acting immorally" (). It is to find oneself in the situation where what is right and what is wrong converge into one thing, and given that "right" and "wrong" are mutually exclusive this produces a contradiction. The very fact that your system results in perplexity shows that it involves contradictory principles.

    Yet an affirmation of X does not of itself justify X being true.javra

    On the contrary, to affirm X is to say that X is true.

    And I so far find no contradictions in what I’ve previously stated: Again, given the exact same distal intent of, say, minimizing harm and maximizing harmony, the use of violence as means of obtaining this very same distal intent can be simultaneously right in proximal application (wherein far greater harm/disharmony is thereby avoided) and yet remain wrong in distal terms (for an absolute harmony cannot be of itself produced via violence); therefore being simultaneously right and wrong but in different respects.javra

    You have two ends: to survive, and to not-use violence. To use violence as a means to survival is to contradict your second end.

    Now if you rewrite your system and say that you're only trying to "minimize harm and maximize harmony," then these two things which were formally ends now become means. You are of course free to retract your earlier system and do this, but on your earlier system you claimed that do-not-use-others-as-a-means was an ultimate end. Given that you transgressed this ultimate end (with violence), you were contradicting yourself. Note too that the rewriting dissolves the perplexity along with the contradictions.

    Am I mistaken in understanding the quote to conclude that my arguments make use of contradictions? And does not a contradiction require that incongruent givens simultaneously occur in the same respect?javra

    To never-use-violence and to use-violence-as-a-means contradict one another in the same respect. If they don't then I would suggest that on your view such contradiction is logically impossible, and could not occur in any circumstance. Similarly, the perplexity-contradiction is a contradiction of non-hypothetical ought-judgments, and two contradictory non-hypothetical ought-judgments contradict one another "in the same respect."
  • javra
    2.4k
    Now if you rewrite your system and say that you're only trying to "minimize harm and maximize harmony," then these two things which were formally ends now become means.Leontiskos

    OK, If indeed now only means, means toward what?
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    - Means toward the end of "minimizing harm and maximizing harmony."

    (I added an edit to my last post to try to more directly address your question about contradictions.)
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