• Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    I foresaw this in my argument look closer at the types of harm.Sam26
    Is it this? "All immoral acts cause harm to the one committing the act, or to the one who is the object of the act, or to both." Why do you say that an immoral act can cause harm to the one committing it? Note, I don't necessarily disagree, I just want to go further into the analysis.

    If you have good reasons to cut the arm off, then obviously it's not immoral, which is why I differentiate between having good reasons for the harm as opposed to not having good reasons.Sam26
    But you said in your previous post that the three factors you mentioned served to judge if an act was immoral. My point is that if these three factors are present in both cases when the act is moral and immoral, then they cannot serve to judge if the act is moral or not.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    But you said in your previous post that the three factors you mentioned served to judge if an act was immoral. My point is that if these three factors are present in both cases when the act is moral and immoral, then they cannot serve to judge if the act is moral or not.Samuel Lacrampe

    Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. The three factors I pointed out are what make an immoral act objective, and not subjective. There is probably no definition that will fit every single case of what constitutes an immoral act. However, one thing that seems to be a property of all immoral acts is the harm done, that is, harm without good reason. Of course here I'm talking about moral agents, as opposed to the harm of natural disasters, or accidental harm which also involves a moral agent.

    It's true that the three objective factors are also present in cases of some moral actions. What distinguishes the two is having good reasons for one as opposed to not having good reasons for the other.

    So what makes it immoral is the lack of justification, the harm done, and the objective nature of the act. And even in natural disasters or in the case of an accident there is also harm done. So the defining property of all immoral acts or evil (natural or otherwise) is harm. This is not to say that all harm is immoral, it's only to say that wherever you find immorality or an evil of a sort, you'll find harm.

    You pointed out, and rightly so, that if a spouse cheats on you and you never find out, then where's the harm. Now as I pointed out, sometimes is very difficult to discover the harm, which is why in courts of law people bring forth evidence to show the harm done. So sometimes we will disagree about whether there was harm done; and if it can be demonstrated that there was no harm, then it would seem to follow that there was no immoral act on the part of the agent.

    In your example I do believe that there is harm done to the relationship, even if the one spouse doesn't know about the harm. I also said that in any immoral act there is harm done either to the one committing the immoral act, or to the one on the receiving end, or to both (it's probably both in most if not all cases). It's my belief that anyone who commits an immoral act does harm to himself or herself. Sometimes the harm isn't clear as in the case you cited, but I believe there is psychological harm done to the person who committed the infidelity.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    There is probably no definition that will fit every single case of what constitutes an immoral act.Sam26
    Conventionally, the "Golden Rule: Will (or intend) unto others as you want them to will unto you" is the absolute criteria to determine if an act is moral or not (between humans). As you will try to defend that harm is an essential property of an immoral act, I will defend the test of the Golden Rule.

    What distinguishes the two is having good reasons for one as opposed to not having good reasons for the other.Sam26
    I agree about the necessity of a good reason, but what determines a reason as 'good'? We still need to find the criteria for that.

    and if it can be demonstrated that there was no harm, then it would seem to follow that there was no immoral act on the part of the agent.Sam26
    Excluding the harm done to oneself (because it is a bit ambiguous), what about the case of attempted murder? There was no harm done to the victim because the attempt failed, and yet it is evident that the act is immoral.

    It's my belief that anyone who commits an immoral act does harm to himself or herself.Sam26
    I agree. Not from a psychological standpoint but from a metaphysical standpoint. If the purpose of our existence is to be morally good and we go against it, then we harm our very existence. But this topic is beyond the scope of this discussion so we should save it for another time.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Conventionally, the "Golden Rule: Will (or intend) unto others as you want them to will unto you" is the absolute criteria to determine if an act is moral or not (between humans). As you will try to defend that harm is an essential property of an immoral act, I will defend the test of the Golden Rule.Samuel Lacrampe

    I definitely wouldn't characterize the Golden Rule as an absolute. Some people really don't care what happens to themselves, for whatever reason or cause. This rule also depends on what someone's moral code is, it assumes that we all think alike in terms of what's moral or not. For example, what if I grew up in a culture that believed that one should sacrifice children to the Sun god? One could imagine someone thinking this is a good thing, thus, not only wishing it upon themselves as the ultimate sacrifice for the good of all, but also wishing it upon others. Appeasing the gods for whatever good one thinks might come of it.

    The Golden Rule itself is dependent on a particular view of morality, so it can't be the test of what's moral or immoral. Therefore, I would suggest to you that it can be very subjective. I'm not saying that it has no value, because generally it's a good rule to apply, but it can be dependent on cultural or subjective beliefs, making it vulnerable to a kind of relativistic view of what's moral or not.

    Given what I've just argued, the argument in favor of your position would seem to be circular. It's as if you're saying the Golden Rule is moral because it's moral. We want to know why it's moral, or what's makes something moral or not moral. What is the essential objective property (if there is one), objective being the operative word, that makes all immoral acts wrong, whatever your intention or motive. I'm making the claim that all immoral acts cause harm, even if we can't always see the harm, which is why it's not always easy to determine if a particular act is wrong or not. However, generally we are able to see the harm, as in my example above. Moreover, my example (cutting the arm off e.g.) shows that morality is objective in most cases, that is, in most cases we are able to ascertain the objective nature of the harm.

    I didn't address everything, but I think this is a good place to start.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    So you object to the Golden Rule being the absolute criteria to determine morality, on the grounds that individuals may have different ways of how they want to be treated. I dispute the underlined point. It is inherent to human nature that all humans seek justice and avoid injustice, at least to themselves. I doubt that the victims of the sacrifices to the sun god ever did this willingly, or that the priests picking the victims ever picked themselves; because how can one willingly choose a condition for themselves if they think the condition is unjust? Same for suicidal people; they do not see suicide as a good thing in itself, but as a last resort to minimize the injustice that would otherwise happen to them if they kept on living.

    Thus, if everyone inherently seeks justice and avoids injustice to them, then the golden rule is fitting because it results in seeking justice and avoiding injustice for all; and justice is another term for the moral good.

    The Golden Rule itself is dependent on a particular view of morality, so it can't be the test of what's moral or immoral.Sam26
    This statement begs the question: If the Golden Rule is truly the test for what is moral, then it is not itself dependant on any moral views; and if it is dependant on a moral view, then it cannot be the test for what is moral. To escape the circle, you would need to back up the claim that the Golden Rule is dependant on a particular moral view. What view would that be?
  • BlueBanana
    900
    Do people intend to do evil?Banno

    Yes. I'm working on a graph that shows the relationship between morality and some other factors. I'm using paint and intend to represent my theories as a function in a 5-dimensional v,w,x,y,z-space, but I'll update that material as soon as possible.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    So you object to the Golden Rule being the absolute criteria to determine morality, on the grounds that individuals may have different ways of how they want to be treated. I dispute the underlined point. It is inherent to human nature that all humans seek justice and avoid injustice, at least to themselves. I doubt that the victims of the sacrifices to the sun god ever did this willingly, or that the priests picking the victims ever picked themselves; because how can one willingly choose a condition for themselves if they think the condition is unjust? Same for suicidal people; they do not see suicide as a good thing in itself, but as a last resort to minimize the injustice that would otherwise happen to them if they kept on living.

    Thus, if everyone inherently seeks justice and avoids injustice to them, then the golden rule is fitting because it results in seeking justice and avoiding injustice for all; and justice is another term for the moral good.
    Samuel Lacrampe

    "It's inherent to human nature that all humans seek justice and avoid injustice, at least to themselves." Excuse me, but have you been living on planet Earth? People believe all kinds of crazy things, even when it comes to how they treat themselves. Just look at those who believe that blowing themselves up will win them a place in heaven. As for the example I gave, why would you doubt that people would do this willingly, people do all kinds of things willingly in the name of religion. I agree that there were some, maybe even a majority who probably didn't sacrifice willingly, but even a cursory examination of how people have behaved in the past, toward themselves and towards others leads me to conclude you are as wrong about this as you can get. Besides you doubting that something is the case is not reason enough to believe it's true.

    "The Golden Rule itself is dependent on a particular view of morality, so it can't be the test of what's moral or immoral."
    — Sam26

    This statement begs the question: If the Golden Rule is truly the test for what is moral, then it is not itself dependant on any moral views; and if it is dependant on a moral view, then it cannot be the test for what is moral. To escape the circle, you would need to back up the claim that the Golden Rule is dependant on a particular moral view. What view would that be?
    Samuel Lacrampe

    That's MY point, that's exactly what you're doing? Thus, it's your argument that's circular. You didn't read my point carefully enough.
  • Hanover
    4k
    If objective morality exists, then its knowledge must be innate.Samuel Lacrampe

    Why can't objective morality be learned through experience and reason like the rest of objective reality? Why can't I know it's wrong to kill just like I know there are rocks?
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    I agree Hanover, as I pointed out earlier, one can observe the objective nature of morality apart from any innate knowledge. Besides how does one separate innate knowledge from any other kind of knowledge? In other words, what is the criteria by which we understand that a piece of knowledge is innate?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Excuse me, but have you been living on planet Earth? People believe all kinds of crazy things, even when it comes to how they treat themselves. Just look at those who believe that blowing themselves up will win them a place in heaven. As for the example I gave, why would you doubt that people would do this willingly, people do all kinds of things willingly in the name of religion. I agree that there were some, maybe even a majority who probably didn't sacrifice willingly, but even a cursory examination of how people have behaved in the past, toward themselves and towards others leads me to conclude you are as wrong about this as you can get.Sam26
    I admit I misspoke when I said that nobody sacrifices themselves willingly. You may be right that some may willingly blow themselves up, and others with them, in the name of some religion. Having said that, I want to clarify my claim about human behaviour, and show that the above fact does not harm it:

    Everyone seeks justice for themselves (not necessarily for others), and avoid injustice against themselves (not necessarily injustice that works in their favour). In other words, everyone is inclined to do good to themselves.

    Now, in the case of people blowing themselves up, either they see the act as (1) just or (2) unjust. (1) If they see it as just, then it fits my claim, and their error is only an error in facts about the given situation. E.g., they may sincerely believe that the people they blow up are evil people, like Nazis, where as in fact, they are not. (2) If they see the act as unjust, then it is nevertheless seen as unjust in their favour, because as you said yourself, it is likely done to "win them a place in heaven". But, it cannot be that some people willingly accept a condition that they perceive to be unjust to themselves, if a more just option exists. If you disagree, then I challenge you to find one. ;)

    That's MY point, that's exactly what you're doing? Thus, it's your argument that's circular. You didn't read my point carefully enough.Sam26
    My argument was not circular, because the Golden Rule was my starting point; a premise to judge if events are moral or not. I think you are now asking where the premise comes from. It is based on the metaphysical principle that all humans have equal ontological value. I made a post to defend this claim here, but I think most people will agree, simply by agreeing that slavery is immoral. So if all humans have equal ontological value, it follows that they ought to be treated with the same level of respect, and the Golden Rule is merely a practical way of ensuring it is done correctly in a given situation.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.
    What criteria that is learned from experience can be used to judge if an act is moral or not? It cannot be the harm caused by the act, because, as discussed with @Sam26, an act causing harm can still be moral if it is done for good reasons. We yet have to discover the criteria to judge if the reasons are good or not.

    Besides how does one separate innate knowledge from any other kind of knowledge? In other words, what is the criteria by which we understand that a piece of knowledge is innate?Sam26
    In the case of morality, the raw sense data is called Conscience. Otherwise, in general, you can search within yourself to discover undoubtable principles, such as "All humans ought to be treated with the same level of respect", or "1+1=2", or "If A is B, and B is C, then A is C".
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Now, in the case of people blowing themselves up, either they see the act as (1) just or (2) unjust. (1) If they see it as just, then it fits my claim, and their error is only an error in facts about the given situation. E.g., they may sincerely believe that the people they blow up are evil people, like Nazis, where as in fact, they are not. (2) If they see the act as unjust, then it is nevertheless seen as unjust in their favour, because as you said yourself, it is likely done to "win them a place in heaven". But, it cannot be that some people willingly accept a condition that they perceive to be unjust to themselves, if a more just option exists. If you disagree, then I challenge you to find one. ;)Samuel Lacrampe

    There are at least two points that I want to make. First, an action is just or not just, not because of what someone believes, but because of objective criteria that we recognize as just. For example, we recognize that if someone murders another human, then they deserve to be prosecuted. If they are declared innocent when the evidence shows otherwise, then most people would agree that justice wasn't done. So justice is not dependent upon what one believes is just, it's dependent upon the facts. This fits your statement about an error in factual information.

    The second point, and I believe this is what makes your argument fallacious, is the following: Your argument is self-sealing. Why? Because it doesn't matter whether they seek justice or injustice, because both can be subsumed under what they believe is just, not what really is just. So if what they seek really is just your conclusion is correct, but note that even if your conclusion is false, that is, it can be shown that what they sought wasn't just (i.e., what they believed was factually false), then your conclusion based on the criteria you've given is still correct. Self-sealing arguments are arguments that are not falsifiable, that is, no piece of counter-evidence would qualify as evidence against the argument. Your argument is not dependent upon facts, but upon subjective beliefs, that is, it only matters what the person believes, not what is just or unjust.

    You said, "...it cannot be that some people willingly accept a condition that they perceive to be unjust to themselves, if a more just option exists. If you disagree, then I challenge you to find one. ;)" Really, all you're saying is that people don't willingly harm themselves. After all when an injustice is done, whether it's an injustice to oneself or to another, then one is harming oneself or the person to whom the injustice is done. Thus, the real question is "Do people do harm to themselves intentionally?" The answer is quite obviously yes. People smoke knowing full well that they are harming themselves, not only do they smoke knowing this, but they do a myriad of things knowing that they're harming themselves. If they do these kinds of things, why wouldn't they do things to themselves that they perceive to be unjust? All your doing is making the claim that they believe they're seeking justice for themselves, but the error of this thinking can be seen if we understand that being unjust is the same as any wrongdoing. We know that people make all kinds of immoral decisions, knowing that that their actions are immoral, and knowing that it will cause harm to themselves, or harm to others.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    It's as if you're saying the Golden Rule is moral because it's moral. We want to know why it's moral, or what's makes something moral or not moral. What is the essential objective property (if there is one), objective being the operative word, that makes all immoral acts wrong, whatever your intention or motive.Sam26

    Why can't objective morality be learned through experience and reason like the rest of objective reality? Why can't I know it's wrong to kill just like I know there are rocks?Hanover

    I think there's a big issue lurking here with respect to the nature of 'objectivity' and it's application to ethical questions. It's a hard idea to articulate but I will give it a try.

    I think Hume's 'is/ought' problem is relevant. To briefly recap, this is the observation that claims concerning what we ought to do, and claims concerning what is the case, are of a fundamentally different kind.

    I would be inclined to say that 'objectivity' is mainly defined in terms of what is measurable, what can be made subject to quantification. That of course encompasses the vast domain of the natural sciences, the aim of which is to analyse and understand objective fact and to elicit data in a manner which is reproducible by any third party; which is practically the definition of objectivity.

    But the issue that lurks underneath this, is that scientific judgements are by their nature made in the absence of consideration of ethical facts. To put it graphically, there is nothing scientifically wrong with the act of killing; the scientific analysis of an act of killing would be generally comprise something like a forensic analysis of a murder. As Russell said in his epilogue to History of Western Philosophy, science is silent on whether it is moral to use science to develop weapons of appalling destructive power. Whether it should or should not, are political and ethical questions; consider the shocking uses to which science was put by the Nazis. But scientific method itself is in important sense ethically neutral - in line with Hume's observation, in that it is concerned with the understanding, or at least measurement, of what is the case, not with what ought to be done.

    That is not to say that science or scientists are intrinsically evil - but that is not the point. Detached from a normative framework, the best science can offer is objectivity, but objectivity itself does not provide a decisive criterion for an ethical philosophy. Having made an ethical decision, we may or may not use scientific means to pursue the consequences, but the decision itself might be made on some grounds other than it being 'objectively correct'.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    We want to know why it's moral, or what's makes something moral or not moral.Sam26

    As to why something is or is not moral, I don't think the question can be meaningfully answered outside of a meaningful normative framework, whether that be Christian, Kantian, Aristotelian, Confucian, or some other variety. At the end of the day, ethical philosophies have to underwritten by some concept of there being a real or ultimate ethical good, a summum bonum of some kind, towards which the 'good life' ought to be directed, and without which all such efforts are pointless. And it is the predicament of modernity that nearly all such frameworks have been thrown into question in the aftermath of Nietzsche's 'death of God'; nowadays the common-sense alternative is ethical naturalism, but that often simply amounts to a form of Darwinism, i.e. survival of the most economically capable, which is certainly reflected in the current political atmosphere in the US, for example.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    I don't think it's that difficult generally to have a good understanding of what makes something moral or immoral. I pointed this out a few posts ago. Moreover, I don't think you need to have some ultimate good to point too, as for example, a lawgiver.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    If you're referring to this:

    However, one thing that seems to be a property of all immoral acts is the harm done, that is, harm without good reason.Sam26

    Then I would dispute that, as being too weak. There might be the ethical equivalent of victimless crimes, that is, acts which are immoral but in which no-one is obviously harmed. A moral realist might argue that such acts as illicit sexual relationships, or taking advantage of the ignorance of others in the pursuit of personal gain , and other such acts, are immoral, without there being any obvious harm.

    Furthermore, in ethical systems based on karma, there might not be any concept of a lawgiver, but they would still be regarded as moral realists. In other words, an ultimate good may not necessarily require a theistic faith.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Then I would dispute that, as being too weak. There might be the ethical equivalent of victimless crimes, that is, acts which are immoral but in which no-one is obviously harmed. A moral realist might argue that such acts as illicit sexual relationships, or taking advantage of the ignorance of others in the pursuit of personal gain , and other such acts, are immoral, without there being any obvious harm.

    Furthermore, in ethical systems based on karma, there might not be any concept of a lawgiver, but they would still be regarded as moral realists. In other words, an ultimate good may not necessarily require a theistic faith.
    Wayfarer

    A moral theory is a bit more complicated than what I stated. My main point is that all immoral acts cause harm to someone, and I'm going to stick with that. Moreover, not all crimes are immoral, so saying that there are victimless crimes doesn't do anything to weaken my point. So for a lie to be immoral it would have to cause harm to someone, if it doesn't cause any harm, then I would contend that it's not immoral. On the other hand, it's very difficult to sometimes ascertain the harm done, in such cases in may take knowledge of psychology to fully appreciate the harm to an individual. The harm that's done can be very subtle, and its affects might not be seen for months, years, or even decades.

    The example you give of taking advantage of others in the pursuit of personal gain, will in the long run cause harm to a society, so I don't think that's a good example. However, to be fair, and it's a good point, it might not cause "obvious harm." In any ethical theory there are going to be actions that will be disputed in terms of whether they're immoral or not, or whether they cause harm or not. However, if we concentrate on those acts we do know to be immoral, I think we'll discover that what's common to them all is the harm done. Unless you can give me a counter-example, that is, an obvious immoral act that doesn't cause harm.

    All of us can come up with examples where it's not clear that an immoral act has been committed in terms of harm, but that in itself doesn't hurt the argument. It says one of two things, either the harm is difficult to determine, or there was no harm. And if it can be determined that no harm was done, again, it's not immoral. I don't see how any act can be deemed immoral if it doesn't cause harm. I would say that it's analytic to any immoral act that it causes harm. The harm has to be done to an individual or individuals (e.g. a society).

    I agree with your last paragraph.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    First, an action is just or not just, not because of what someone believes, but because of objective criteria that we recognize as just.Sam26
    Agreed. But just to clarify, the current argument is not whether or not justice is objective (it is), but whether all humans seek justice to themselves (even if they could be wrong about what true justice is).

    Your argument is self-sealing.Sam26
    I don't think so. All we need to do to falsify it is to find a case where a man is faced with two options with similar outcomes, but the first one is just to him, and the second one is less just; and the man picks the less just option (assume no false perceptions). But I claim no such case exists: Who in their right mind would pick the less just option when all else is equal?

    But external facts aside, the question is what do you, Sam26, observe within you? Do you not find an inclination to seek justice at all times, at least for yourself?

    Really, all you're saying is that people don't willingly harm themselves. After all when an injustice is done, whether it's an injustice to oneself or to another, then one is harming oneself or the person to whom the injustice is done. Thus, the real question is "Do people do harm to themselves intentionally?" The answer is quite obviously yes. People smoke knowing full well that they are harming themselves, not only do they smoke knowing this, but they do a myriad of things knowing that they're harming themselves. If they do these kinds of things, why wouldn't they do things to themselves that they perceive to be unjust?Sam26
    Harming oneself is not synonymous to injustice. Take martyrs, or even people who practice self-flagellation. They willingly harm themselves, but do so precisely in the name of justice. As for smokers, it is explained by one of the following three reasons: (1) addiction, (2) they don't truly believe it causes harm, (3) they may believe it causes harm, but do so because they perceive that not doing so would result in a greater harm (e.g. peer pressure). None of these reasons implies injustice done to oneself.

    All your doing is making the claim that they believe they're seeking justice for themselves, but the error of this thinking can be seen if we understand that being unjust is the same as any wrongdoing. We know that people make all kinds of immoral decisions, knowing that that their actions are immoral, and knowing that it will cause harm to themselves, or harm to others.Sam26
    Maybe my position is not yet clear, because I agree that unjust people know they are unjust. This follows from the title of this discussion, that moral knowledge is innate. I am just arguing at the moment that they have no inclination to do injustice to themselves.

    My main point is that all immoral acts cause harm to someone, and I'm going to stick with that. [...] So for a lie to be immoral it would have to cause harm to someone, if it doesn't cause any harm, then I would contend that it's not immoral.Sam26
    Would you then say that the morality of an act is determined by the consequence? I.e., If it results in harm, then immoral; if not, then not. It would seem to follow that attempted but failed murder is not immoral because no harm was done. Do you agree?
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    I’m practically in agreement, my only caveat being that ‘harm’ has to amount to something more than pain or injury, otherwise the principle amounts to little more than hedonism. But if it comes down to harm being the privation of the good, then it will turn out that a notion of a ‘real good’ is still required.
  • Deleted User
    0
    If objective morality exists, then its knowledge must be innate.Samuel Lacrampe

    Unless I have misunderstood your application of terminology, you seem to have constructed an argument in meta-ethics, but applied it in normative ethics and this may be the cause of some of the confusion. The nature of the properties of 'Good' and 'Evil' (properties such as whether we are born with an awareness of them) are meta-ethics, they say something about good and evil, but say nothing about how to go about achieving either. Normative morality attempts to discern how to achieve good, given that we've established in meta-ethics what 'good' actually is.

    So one might be an Ethical Naturalist in terms of meta-ethics - that the truth of ethical statements is contained within features of the world outside of human opinion (although not necessarily outside of human biology), but still a utilitarian in terms of normative ethics - that the best way to achieve a state of the world (or some fixed community) that is objectively 'good', is to predict the consequences of each action and compare them.

    It is possible, therefore, that determining whether an action is moral, can only be only be done in the context of the perpetrator's acquired knowledge of morality (in the normative sense) because although innately born with the concept of what is 'good' and what is 'evil', they may have no moral knowledge at all i.e. have no clue as to whether their actions will achieve or frustrate the achievement of that state.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Agreed. But just to clarify, the current argument is not whether or not justice is objective (it is), but whether all humans seek justice to themselves (even if they could be wrong about what true justice is).Samuel Lacrampe

    I understand, but it's an important part of my view of ethics, there are many who view ethics as subjective and/or relative. Subjectivity which is either based on one's personal view, or ethics based on a societal view, tend to reflect a view of ethics that can be subject to change without good reason. So it's my view when talking about justice that we have a view of justice that's has some objective standard.

    I don't think so. All we need to do to falsify it is to find a case where a man is faced with two options with similar outcomes, but the first one is just to him, and the second one is less just; and the man picks the less just option (assume no false perceptions). But I claim no such case exists: Who in their right mind would pick the less just option when all else is equal?

    But external facts aside, the question is what do you, Sam26, observe within you? Do you not find an inclination to seek justice at all times, at least for yourself?
    Samuel Lacrampe

    Your response to the self-sealing fallacy is not sufficient. If I make the claim that is often claimed by some people, even philosophers, that "All human action is selfish," and someone replies, that that claim is false because some people sacrifice themselves without concern for themselves, thus it's a selfless act. But the one making the argument can still reply that even that action is motivated by the selfish desire to be heroic. One can always point to a subjective X that makes their argument seem reasonable, that is, a product of the mind that can't be tested. Your argument does the same thing, some internal idea that seems reasonable (everyone seeks justice for themselves or innate knowledge), but has at its very core the same problem. The one putting forth such an argument could claim, as you do, that it's not self-sealing because of a "two option" choice. However, the problem is that whatever they choose, it can be shown to fit the outcome they want. Especially considering that you said earlier, that even if they choose the wrong answer, it's because they have made a factual mistake, that is, thinking something is just when it's really not. Thus, because of the way your argument is framed, it's self-sealing as far as I can tell. Sometimes it's very difficult to see that an argument is self-sealing. Your argument has all the hallmarks of this fallacy.

    Harming oneself is not synonymous to injustice. Take martyrs, or even people who practice self-flagellation. They willingly harm themselves, but do so precisely in the name of justice. As for smokers, it is explained by one of the following three reasons: (1) addiction, (2) they don't truly believe it causes harm, (3) they may believe it causes harm, but do so because they perceive that not doing so would result in a greater harm (e.g. peer pressure). None of these reasons implies injustice done to oneself.Samuel Lacrampe

    I never said "harming oneself is synonymous with injustice." I said that all immoral actions involve harm, including injustice. However, it's not the case that all harm involves an immoral action or an injustice. So they are not equivalent.

    As for the smoking example, it's true that people get addicted to nicotine, so I agree this is the primary factor which keeps people from quitting. However, this does not explain why people, even older adults, start smoking when they know it's not good for them. I don't agree that all people who start smoking, even when they know it can kill them believe there is a greater harm that would result if they don't start (peer pressure, etc.). It's hard to know what would be a greater harm than suffering with cancer and dying. So again, I disagree with your premise.

    Maybe my position is not yet clear, because I agree that unjust people know they are unjust. This follows from the title of this discussion, that moral knowledge is innate. I am just arguing at the moment that they have no inclination to do injustice to themselves.Samuel Lacrampe

    I don't think it's true that necessarily all unjust people know their unjust (you seem to be basing this on the idea of innate knowledge). It's only true if you argue in a circle. What is the evidence that we have innate knowledge, as opposed to knowledge gained in some other way. Your earlier examples can be explained in other ways. Besides knowledge as I understand it involves a justification, that is, good reasons or good evidence for the knowledge. How do we differentiate between what someone claims to be innate knowledge, as opposed to knowledge of mathematics. What's to keep people from making claims that their particular brand of knowledge is innate? For example, I might ask them, how do you know that you know that X is true, and thus a piece of innate knowledge? Or, how does one discover a piece of innate knowledge?

    I do think the idea that there are innate beliefs may have some merit, but this only because of my study of NDEs, but I don't think we have innate knowledge. I'm not sure what counts as evidence of innate knowledge. If you point to your idea of injustice as an answer, then your in danger of arguing in a circle.

    You also claimed that you're argument is only that people "have no inclination to do injustice to themselves" - this seems a bit of a departure from what you said earlier (but maybe not). I would agree that people in general want to see justice done, but that's a far cry from what your saying.

    Finally, it seems to me that much of this is coming from a religious point of view, at least it seems so. I know that in the past when I was very much inclined to believe certain religious points of view, this was a belief that I heard from time-to-time, that is, the idea of innate knowledge. Even then, though, I found it questionable.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    it seems to me that much of this is coming from a religious point of viewSam26

    The Catholic definition of conscience:

    The judgment of the practical intellect deciding, from general principles of faith and reason, the goodness or badness of a way of acting that a person now faces.

    It is an operation of the intellect and not of the feelings or even of the will. An action is right or wrong because of objective principles to which the mind must subscribe, not because a person subjectively feels that way or because his will wants it that way.

    Conscience, therefore, is a specific act of the mind applying its knowledge to a concrete moral situation. What the mind decides in a given case depends on principles already in the mind.

    From here. It does seem at least implicit in this conversation.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    All codes of conduct are man-made. If morality is a code of conduct, then all morality is man-made.creativesoul

    All morality is man-made. All men are nature-made. Therefore all morality is nature-made.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    I've often thought that this is a weird way of looking at knowledge, or what it means to know. What does it mean, do you think, for the conscience to have knowledge? And how is knowledge expressed apart from language? I know what it means, at least I think I do, to have a belief apart from language, but not knowledge.

    Many Christians, I believe, have incorporated this kind of thinking into their beliefs about God. For example, some Christians believe their beliefs about God are innate, that is, they know that they know that God exists. This seems to be a perverted view of what it means to have knowledge. They'll also use terms like objective, but it's purely subjective.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    What does it mean, do you think, for the conscience to have knowledge?Sam26

    Actually if you look at the Platonic dialogues, that is their main concern; they're often concerned with knowledge of virtue, justice, courage and other such qualities. In other words, they're generally concerned with what we would nowadays regard as moral or ethical issues. But in that context, the 'is-ought' distinction I mentioned above has yet to be articulated, so they have no compunction debating the 'true knowledge of virtue', and how hard it is to attain, which I don't think you would see in modern philosophy. I think that is because the ancients didn't carve up or compartmentalise knowledge in the way we do now.

    For example, some Christians believe their beliefs about God are innate, that is, they know that they know that God exists. This seems to be a perverted view of what it means to have knowledge. They'll also use terms like objective, but it's purely subjective.Sam26

    Well, again, in Plato, the whole idea of 'anamnesis' was that the soul had knowledge of the Good before it 'fell' into worldly life. The idea of the pre-existence of the soul was anathematised by the early Church, but a similar principle could be found in their teaching of 'Imago Dei' i.e. that this was innate in humans, but obscured or disfigured by the Original Sin, but could be restored through faith in Christ.

    I would also be wary of the apparently natural distinction between 'objective' and 'subjective'. For Christians, the 'revealed truth' is neither subjective nor objective, but supernatural, so neither part of the natural world (objective) nor a matter of individual opinion (subjective). In a secular culture, most of us are acculturated to naturalism, within which the division of objective and subjective is taken for granted; everything is felt to be either 'out there', in nature, objective, amenable to scientific analysis, or 'in here', subjective, a product of the evolved intelligence. But the problem with that, is precisely the one which Hume articulated, i.e. the 'is/ought problem'.

    And that then gets into the whole territory of naturalistic vs religious ethical systems. There are some interesting essays on these topics currently in The New Atlantis (in a section called The Decent of Man) and also in Aeon.

    Suffice to say, my general philosophy is what might be called 'pan-religious', i.e. I believe that there is a true 'domain of value' to which the moral compass is naturally drawn. Which is why such ideas as the Golden Mean, doing good to those that harm you, and so on, occur in many different cultural traditions and sources.
  • javra
    609
    And if it can be determined that no harm was done, again, it's not immoral. I don't see how any act can be deemed immoral if it doesn't cause harm. I would say that it's analytic to any immoral act that it causes harm. The harm has to be done to an individual or individuals (e.g. a society).Sam26

    As a general rule I agree. Still, as regards intention and the outcome of harm in relation to the philosophy of ethics:

    There’s the abstract, hypothetical scenario of a bad/evil intention inadvertently resulting in a good outcome for the individual(s) toward which the intention was directed. The question then being, was the willed act moral, immoral, or morally neutral?

    I grant that this occurring would be exceedingly rare. As to concrete examples, the only one that now comes to mind is as follows: person A violently shoves person B to the ground out of malice resulting from unjustified envy; unknown to either, person C a moment prior shot a gun with intention to assassinate person B (insert bad/evil reason for the attempt to assassinate person B here); due to being shoved to the ground, person B’s life has been saved (say, for which person A then takes credit for). Has person A engaged in moral/good behavior?

    One can also present the converse where the intention is wholly good but inadvertently results in a bad outcome.

    I'll admit that I presume we all have a guttural answer to both, that the bad intention makes the person guilty of wrong and the good intention makes the person not guilty of wrong. To me this speaks in favor of innate awareness of right and wrong in relation to will, from which action is commonly upheld to proceed.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Under my ethical view, person A has harmed person B, so person A has committed an immoral act. The harm can be objectively established, the act of pushing the man to the ground. Admittedly it isn't a great harm, but harm nonetheless. Person A has no reason to take credit for saving person B regardless of the accidental outcome. Person C has committed an immoral act by intending to murder person B, the intention was carried out by the firing of the weapon in order to murder person B, and as such has harmed his/her character. Admittedly the harming of one's character takes a bit of showing, that is, if challenged one might have to explain in detail how this might be the case. I believe it can be done, but would take an involved theory of ethics to demonstrate.

    For me this isn't a difficult question to answer, at least in theory.
  • javra
    609

    Under my ethical view, person A has harmed person B, so person A has committed an immoral act. The harm can be objectively established, the act of pushing the man to the ground.Sam26

    Hmm, think of the same scenario of perceivable behavior but with a different set of imperceivable intentions: Person A violently shoves person B to the ground (this being the exact same act with an identical degree of harm upon person B in crashing to the ground) but, in this version, the act is performed with the intention of saving person B’s life from the assassination attempt of person C. The discernable outcome of harm (and of a saved life) remains the same; the sole difference now is in the private intentions with which the act of shoving person B is performed by person A.

    Here, I presume, we’d both uphold the same outcome of harm to person B in being violently shoved to the ground to be a moral act on the part of person A—this solely due to a different intention, and not in outcomes of harm.

    To me, then, the justification for ethical or unethical behavior does not reside in the behavior and its outcome but, rather, in the realm of willed intention in carrying out any given act. Though, I again acknowledge, typically the two (the intention and the physical act) are associated; hence, we typically discern the imperceivable intention(s) of another via the perceivable behaviors that they engage in.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Suffice to say, my general philosophy is what might be called 'pan-religious', i.e. I believe that there is a true 'domain of value' to which the moral compass is naturally drawn. Which is why such ideas as the Golden Mean, doing good to those that harm you, and so on, occur in many different cultural traditions and sources.Wayfarer

    For me much of the nature of ethics is dependent on the nature of being human, or the nature of the reality in which we live. I believe that persons have intrinsic worth, and it naturally follows that they have intrinsic value. I do agree, if I understand you correctly, that generally we do have a moral compass, but we might disagree with where this originates. At least two possibilities come to mind - first, we learn by interacting with others within a culture of value what constitutes an immoral act; or two, who we are at deeper level (metaphysical level of being) shapes our morality along with the learning that takes place within a culture. I'm not religious, so my metaphysics isn't shaped by a religious view. However, I do believe that the essence of who we are isn't confined to a body. You would have to read my thread on consciousness to get a better perspective of my view, and how it would impact morality. But in some ways, my view is even more complicated because some or all of the harm we experience in this reality isn't harm that is carried into the next.

    I also don't associate immoral acts with sin, that is, sin is a religious word that carries religious connotations. In fact, I don't believe in sin in terms of an act against God, which is deserving of punishment, or that it's something we need to be saved from. In the sense that evil is equated with sin, I would disavow evil too. However, in general terms evil as I use the term is just another word for the harm done to others, whether by an agent (accidental or intentional), or that which occurs via natural disaster.
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