• Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    If there is no harm done when one acts, then I don't see how an act can be called immoral, i.e., what would make it immoral other than the harm done? [...] Since I believe that all immoral acts have the property of harm, that is, that harm is necessarily a property of an immoral act. Thus, both your questions, ("...is the act immoral because the person harms themselves, or do they harm themselves because the act is immoral?") are answered in the affirmative. I've already explained how intention isn't necessarily a feature of an immoral act. The latter part of your question is essentially the same as the former. It's the same as A=B and B=A.Sam26
    There is an error. 'Because' has the word 'cause' in it. My question could be rephrased as "Does harm cause immorality, or does immorality cause harm?". "A causes B" is not the same as "B causes A". But from what you said, it sounds like you mean "harm causes immorality".

    Also, in an earlier post I showed how intent is not necessarily a feature of an immoral act, the example being an accident where one didn't intend to cause harm, but harm happened nevertheless. Most immoral acts that people commit are intentional, but not all, is what I'm saying. This is the point of calling some immoral acts accidental, it's an accident because someone didn't intentionally set out to harm someone, as opposed to intentionally doing something to harm someone. This is clearly seen in a drunk driving example, or even in an example where someone is not paying sufficient attention to what their doing. In each example one is held accountable for their actions in spite of not intentionally harming others. [...] Another important point of what makes something both immoral and accidental is responsibility, I'm held responsible for the act of driving drunk and causing harm to someone or myself, because of what I could have reasonably foreseen in terms of my actions. Thus it not about intention, but about what one should have known about certain actions, and thus we are responsible for actions taken that could lead to harm.Sam26
    I see your point, but want to show you that intention is still the root cause of all immoral acts, including immoral accidental ones. Let's consider the example of harm caused by drunk driving. Yes, the person did not directly intend to harm the victim by driving drunk. But did he have the intention to avoid harm? Logically, either the driver (1) intended to avoid harm as the end goal, or (2) he did not.

    (1) The driver had the intention to avoid harm as the end goal: If he could foresee the act of drunk driving as having a harmful outcome, then he could not have made the decision to drive drunk, because this would contradict his intentions. Conversely, if he could not have foreseen the act of drunk driving as having a harmful outcome, then he could still make the decision of driving drunk without contradicting his intentions. But then he is not responsible, because as you said, immorality necessitates responsibility; and responsibility necessitates being able to reasonably foresee the outcome. Therefore the act is not immoral.

    (2) The driver did not have the intention to avoid harm as the end goal: If he could foresee the act of drunk driving as having a harmful outcome, then he could still have made the decision to drive drunk, without contradicting his intentions. Then he is responsible; then the act is immoral.

    Conclusion: although the person may not have the direct intention of causing a harmful outcome, the intention of avoiding harm or not as the end goal is still the necessary root cause to an act being immoral or not.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    I haven't worked out how to reply to multiple people yetInter Alia
    Hit 'Reply' on several posts from different people.
  • javra
    609


    It looks like we’re at an impasse.

    As you reaffirm grounds for doubting that we can ever be aware of each other’s intentions/will, I again reaffirm that our interactions—including our capacity to in any way communicate on this forum via words—is in part always continent on our ongoing awareness of each other’s intentions/will. And, at this point, I don’t much know what else to add to the conversation.

    I’ve not addressed your statements of not believing in freewill because I’ve so far found the issue of the will’s metaphysical freedom to be irrelevant to the issues at hand—though, of course, as with most everything, it is in some ways interconnected.

    Also, (for what its worth) wanted to mention that in my own experience the official term for lack of belief in freewill is one of “(causal) determinism”, this being an incompatibilist stance.

    Lastly wanted to mention that--to my mind at least--you seem to be spot-on about my own internal will/intentions in regard this this issue of will’s metaphysical freedom: I due uphold that both (limits-bound) freewill and (a less then absolute) causal determinism co-occur, and my intentions are those of arguing in manners that conform to my current beliefs regarding the reality of freewill. To me this is due to our innate abilities of awareness regarding other’s will/intentions; and is not a mere coincidence.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    I've reached a point where there's not much more to say, and you don't seem to be following my point. I never said "harm causes morality," which can be seen in many of my posts. But that's okay, it was a good discussion, and it gave me a chance to flush out a bit more of my thinking.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Sorry we couldn't come to an understanding. I thought you meant "harm causes immorality" when you said the following:
    what would make it immoral other than the harm done?Sam26
    I.e., if harm makes an act immoral, then harm causes immorality. I understand you don't mean "harm causes immorality every time", but maybe that "harm is a necessary cause for immorality".
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    I think he means that unjustified harm IS immorality.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Ah! yes, thank you. In other words, unjustified harm is an essential property of immorality. I got confused when he said that it was both, that harm causes immorality and immorality causes harm, where as in this case, it is actually neither.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    Aye, another way of stating it is that if something does not cause any harm, then it cannot be considered immoral.

    I really like this simplification (ive made a post about it before) as it cuts through so much pseudo moral chaff and clarifies moral dilemmas.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    It sounds like you equate 'will' or 'intention' to 'desires', 'inclinations', 'emotions'. But if this was the case, then the term 'courage' would be meaningless, because is means "the will to do something that goes against one's inclinations."

    It also sounds like you equate moral success with the success of a society to survive. But does it follow that a society built on slavery is morally successful, so long that everyone survives?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Does it follow that attempted murder is not immoral?
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    The intent to murder is itself potentially harmful (the impending kind). Attempted murder wouldn't be immoral if successful murder wasn't harmful.

    I would say attempting to murder someone is immoral because of the possibility of harm it entails (which is why we morally and physically police it).
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    No, I'm saying that what makes something immoral is the harm done. Here's where you go wrong, namely, you think that if I say "harm is what makes an act immoral," that that somehow equates to "harm causes immorality." That doesn't follow, all I'm saying is that in every act of immorality, there is harm done. If what you were saying were true, that is, that harm causes immorality, then if I accidentally cut my finger, then that would be immoral, but that's obviously not true.

    I've tried explaining this several ways, but it doesn't seem to get through.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Got it. What about a case that involves no harm, either potential or actual, such as this?
    Two employees have the same skills and seniority. I give a big raise to one, and none to the second one. This seems unjust; and yet I did not harm anyone.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    I understand. So your view is that harm is an essential property of immorality. But this still does not explain how an attempted murder, causing no harm, is immoral. I think you have answered previously that harm is always done to the immoral person, but what reasons do you have to believe that?
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    Is giving nobody a raise also unjust?

    What right do we have to be treated equally by our employers? So long as an equitable minimum standard is met, giving a random unearned raise to someone seems morally praiseworthy even though whoever missed out might feel some emotions about it.

    The "seems unjust" bit comes from the jealousy and anguish that a person feels when they have less than those around them or less than they expect/want. It's a peculiar and somewhat light manifestation of "harm" but it's pretty much hard-wired into us. It's even manifests in monkeys..

    If the employer gave a raise to one person and not the other, and the person who did not receive an unearned raise never found out, there would be no harm and so it wouldn't be immoral (in fact you could call it charity/praiseworthiness on the part of the employer).
  • Deleted User
    0
    It sounds like you equate 'will' or 'intention' to 'desires', 'inclinations', 'emotions'. But if this was the case, then the term 'courage' would be meaningless, because is means "the will to do something that goes against one's inclinations."Samuel Lacrampe

    Yes, I do, but that doesn't cause any problems for the definition of courage if you also accept the point I've made about multiple desires competing, Courage is when the desire to help out-competes the desire to remain safe.

    It also sounds like you equate moral success with the success of a society to survive. But does it follow that a society built on slavery is morally successful, so long that everyone survives?Samuel Lacrampe

    This, however, is not a fair characterisation of what I've said, nowhere have I mentioned mere survival as the measure of a society's success, in fact I've specifically stated the exact opposite, that everyone already knows what is a 'Good' society as an evolved instinct (in exactly the same way as we know what 'Good' food looks like and are disgusted by the opposite) so a society built on slavery is something everyone would recognise as wrong. ask the next five year old you meet whether they think chaining someone up and making them do what you tell them is wrong, then ask them if they think unemployment benefit should be reduced. I guarantee they will have a definite idea of where we want to be, and be very uncertain about how to get there. Morality in a nutshell.
  • Deleted User
    0
    If the employer gave a raise to one person and not the other, and the person who did not receive an unearned raise never found out, there would be no harm and so it wouldn't be immoralVagabondSpectre

    This is basically the case that I'm trying to make against consequentialism. From where did we acquire the crystal ball with which we determine that the other employee "never" finds out. Never can be an awfully long time when it comes to the consequences of some actions. Given that there are no crystal balls in the real world, what is the use of a moral code which requires one. We must judge the morality of the Boss's action on the basis of what might happen? Well, who the hell knows what might happen, the employee might find out, he might not, he might spend the money on drugs and become addicted, he might go to the pub to spend his raise and get run over on the way there.

    Looking for the actual harm done by each individual act sets up an impossible task in the real world. Every action will result in a vast number of consequences stretching far into the future, some will cause harm, others will be of great benefit to society, are we going to weigh them all each time we make a moral choice?
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    Looking for the actual harm done by each individual act sets up an impossible task in the real world. Every action will result in a vast number of consequences stretching far into the future, some will cause harm, others will be of great benefit to society, are we going to weigh them all each time we make a moral choice?Inter Alia

    We weigh as many as possible. Similar to chess strategy, due to emergent complexity we cannot make confident predictions far into the future (we cannot be certain that the strategy we choose will be successful in the long run). And yet, playing chess is all about accounting for as many variables as possible, to devise the best strategy we are able to devise. This, I posit, is the essential moral game that in the end all moral agents and frameworks (read: broad strategic approaches to moral concerns) attempt to play.
  • Deleted User
    0


    Yes but chess strategies are hardly ever in the form of "when the Queen is here, move you pawn here" they are in the form of generalised strategies exactly for the reasons you give, chess is complicated.

    Real life is even more complicated and so requires even more generalised strategies like virtue ethics, or prima facae duties, assessment of individual actions by reference to our 'best guess' as to the consequences or intentions of the perpetrator are doomed to be forever mired in ambiguity.

    We face a choice at each moral dilemma, try to work through all the possible consequences of my actions and sift through all my competing desires to see which one is genuinely motivating me, or rely on the millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of culture (to which I have previously applied my rational criticism) to provide me with a guide as to the sort of behaviour that might work.

    Maybe you have a much greater faith in your ability to rationalise thousands of variables in an instant, but I'd choose the latter any day.
  • Brianna Whitney
    18
    The solution to this conundrum lies in the peasant’s intentionsSamuel Lacrampe

    Objective morality, if it exists, does so without care to people’s intent.

    I’m hearing, If you believe in objective morality, than you believe in God, and you believe in predestination. (Including being created with innate morals and intentions). So the question isn’t if it’s true, but if it fits into Christian context to be without innate morality.

    Is that what Christians believe? Some? All? Is it a sin to sin if you didn’t know? Isn’t this a theological question?

    Referencing Christian dogma to argue if Christian dogma exists is circular logic. Literally.

    From another POV I think of indigenous people who believe laws (morals) came from a diety (dieties) and are meant to be taught to children; because it’s assumed they don’t know.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.2k
    Yes but chess strategies are hardly ever in the form of "when the Queen is here, move you pawn here" they are in the form of generalised strategies exactly for the reasons you give, chess is complicated.Inter Alia

    Specific moral dilemmas though, they are analogous to specific situations on the chess board. We make broad rules of engagement as heuristics, but we also analyze specific situations to improve our outcomes still. The best strategic approach is a comprehensive one.

    We face a choice at each moral dilemma, try to work through all the possible consequences of my actions and sift through all my competing desires to see which one is genuinely motivating me, or rely on the millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of culture (to which I have previously applied my rational criticism) to provide me with a guide as to the sort of behaviour that might work.

    Maybe you have a much greater faith in your ability to rationalise thousands of variables in an instant, but I'd choose the latter any day.
    Inter Alia

    If you create a hierarchy of desires as a main moral heuristic, I won't say it seems ineffective, but it's still a strategy with human welfare as an inexorable end goal. If I could in fact calculate and prove the most robustly moral course of action in a given case, would you not adhere to that course of action?
  • Deleted User
    0
    If I could in fact calculate and prove the most robustly moral course of action in a given case, would you not adhere to that course of action?VagabondSpectre

    Absolutely, I just doubt your ability to do so better than the general prescription that thousands of years of cultural and biological evolution plus a good long reasoned decision about general virtues would give. No offence, I'm sure you're very clever, but it takes more computing power than either of us have just to see a few moves ahead in something as simple as chess, let alone real life.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    I have partially dealt with the problem of immoral acts that don't seem to cause harm in previous posts. Let's take the example of attempted murder, I plan out how I'm going to do it, say an assassination, but the rifle misfires, and other circumstances keep me from carrying out the murder. I agree, that in cases like these it's more difficult to ascertain the harm, but I would contend that there is harm done. For example, if you're caught and go to prison you have done harm to yourself, that is, your freedoms have been taken away, and your loved ones are also harmed by your removal from society and from their lives. However, let's consider an act of attempted murder where you're not caught, that is, you get away with it. In this case is there harm done? I would contend that there is harm done to your character and/or to your psyche, that is, any normal thinking human being would know and understand that since they were willing to take the life of another that that diminishes them in some way. Over time, I think any normal functioning person, would be affected by the memory of such an act.

    Let's take another example, let's say that the person is incapable of feeling empathy, and as such there character and/or their psyche is not affected by this act. Moreover, there is no detectable harm done, then I would say that the act was not immoral. It's not immoral, not only because there was no detectable harm, but it's probably not immoral because this person's brain is not normal, that is, they're impaired in some way. It's still a crime, but the person may not be morally responsible (at least in theory).

    Finally, it would take a lot more writing to flush this out completely, but I think my point is made.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    If everything is determined, that is, all of our acts of free will are simply a delusion, and if we are not free to choose otherwise, then it would follow that there would be no right and wrong, moral or immoral actions. You would simply be something akin to a programmed thing doing this or that based on deterministic forces or influences. In fact, nothing you do would be worthy of praise or criticism, no more than you could praise or criticize a robot for acting the way it's programed to act. A complete removal of freedom of choice completely destroys the idea what's moral. It completely destroys the idea of any act being the right course of action. There would just be acts, that's it - finito. Even our arguments in this thread would be completely meaningless, because what you believe would also be determined, nothing would change in terms of what you believe unless it was determined to be so.
  • Deleted User
    0
    I would contend that there is harm done to your character and/or to your psyche, that is, any normal thinking human being would know and understand that since they were willing to take the life of another that that diminishes them in some way. Over time, I think any normal functioning person, would be affected by the memory of such an act.Sam26

    But that's what virtue ethics is. Planning to murder someone would harm your character because the sort of person who would murder someone isn't the sort of person we want our society to be comprised of. But how do we know this? Not by measuring the harm of the situation in question, we've just ascertained that even if all the would-be murderers were completely incompetent we wouldn't want our society made up of them. We 'know', because millions of years of evolution and cultural education have taught us that would-be murderers are not good people to make a society with.

    Given that we just 'know' that being a would-be murderer is bad we now no longer need to know whether murdering your business rival would do any harm, we do not need to predict the outcomes, we do not need to assess our motive, being a would-be murderer is bad, planning to murder your business rival is the sort of thing a would-be murderer would do so don't do it. Moral dilemma solved without recourse to any crystal ball gazing or psychoanalysis.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    But you've made my point, why wouldn't you want them in your society? Why, because of the harm done to the society. How do you know it's bad, what is the reasoning that makes it bad if it's not that people are harmed? You're are simply saying we know it's bad because we have evidence it's bad, but what's the evidence other than the harm done to societies and cultures? Your argument is a bit circular.
  • Deleted User
    0
    How do you know it's bad, what is the reasoning that makes it bad if it's not that people are harmed?Sam26

    It is that people are harmed (or rather society's well-being is harmed) I completely agree with your definition that immoral behaviour has to produce some harm, I would even go further and say that it must harm some other person (the suicide of a friendless individual with no family would not be immoral despite the harm done to themselves.)

    What I disagree with is the notion that it is advisable (or even possible) to work out the net harm that some action or other might bring about in order to determine its morality. We must instead rely on general rules (my preference is cultivating virtues, but there are others) which have evolved over thousands of years to provide us with a good guess as to the net harms from "that sort of behaviour"

    This means that for any individual action its morality is judged, not by the harm that might be caused, but by the extent to which it cultivates and expresses the sort of virtues we think might be good.

    It's like a shortcut, if you will, one necessitated by the complexity of individual circumstances.

    Individual actions are moral because they express virtues, virtues are what they are because they avoid harm (or do good, whichever way you want to look at it).
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    However, one thing that seems to be a property of all immoral acts is the harm done, that is, harm without good reason.

    Sounds like utilitarianism, JS Mill variety. Is it?
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    No, definitely not. It's closer to a duty or rule based ethic.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    Yes, I agree that the harm done is expansive, and may include others. I'm sure that it would be difficult to work out the net harm, but in courts of law they often do this in civil cases, or in other kinds of cases.

    I definitely agree with the idea of cultivating virtues. There is much more to the story than what I've written, I was just having a hard time demonstrating that harm is a property of immoral acts. Moreover, in terms of harm, moral action is different altogether, so we're closer than you might think. I also agree that moral action is much more than just avoiding harm.
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