• Moliere
    1.2k
    If the third person is sincere, then his error is not a moral but rational one. We appeal to the principle of a just punishment: A punishment is just if (1) it restores justice when possible, and (2) prevents further injustice. Also, if numerous punishments accomplish these ends, then we ought to choose the one that is the least harmful.

    Killing a criminal does not restore justice to the victims. It does prevent further injustice from the criminal, but then jail time accomplishes this too and is less harmful.
    Samuel Lacrampe

    Justice can be interpreted in this manner, but it doesn't need to be. What I refer to here is retributive justice -- an old form of justice, by all means, but one which people do believe in.

    What is more rational about a punishment that simply prevents further injustice? What in reason makes this so?

    I'd say nothing. Upon accepting one form of justice or another then reason can tell us what we must do. When attached to some interpretation of justice then I'd say that it even appears that this attachment is a kind of fact of reason, to borrow a phrase.

    But there wouldn't be a way to differentiate your commitment here from our third man's commitment on the basis of which is more rational.

    Our third interlocutor would simply say that a man who murders a million deserves a million deaths. That being impossible to do he deserves the most that we can give him -- one death.

    And if there were no sinners, then we would all be saints. Can't disagree with that logic, but it says nothing about how to deal with current warriors and sinners. I am not sure how extreme pacifism or 'mercy' as we have defined it, can stop current wars or injustice. As such, I claim rational error again, because the means does not meet the end.Samuel Lacrampe

    But sometimes it isn't so much about the means and ends. Sometimes commitments are motivated by good will alone -- it isn't the results of actions, but what they intend to accomplish which compels persons to adopt a particular moral position.

    There's nothing more rational about consequentialist reasoning. Consequentialist and deontological reasoning are both two forms of thinking through moral problems. You'd have to have some third way of reasoning that was somehow able to lay claim to being more rational to decided between the two before you could claim that the pacifist here is simply making an error that reflects their irrationality.

    They certainly have reasons.

    Unequal treatment among men for a given situation. And this is evaluated objectively.Samuel Lacrampe

    So far "objective", though, has just been fleshed out as a test in the imagination -- what someone is able to conceive of as being possible or impossible, in the same manner that a triangle cannot have anything but three sides.

    If math is the metric for necessity, then I'd say that it's fairly obvious that people can imagine different things -- things which are no more or less rational than one another. In fact, once thought through, they are sort of a founding principle of rationality in making moral decisions.

    Indeed there are. I will exclude rational errors here. We all know what is morally good and bad, but free will entails we have the choice to be morally good or bad. Why decline the moral good if we know it to be good? To prioritize other kinds of good such as physical good (e.g. unfaithful sex) or emotional good (e.g. merciless revenge). Now why should we prioritize the moral good over the other kinds of good? By definition of the moral good which is "what we ought to do". In other words, to say "we can do something else than we what ought to do" is a contradiction.Samuel Lacrampe

    It goes deeper than mere temptation. All that happens after having determined what is good or evil.

    But there are those who disagree on those terms. Rationality isn't the basis for deciding between good or evil -- people can be consistent and supply reasons for why they think this or that is just.

    Really, it's in the competition between moral goods that you see this -- so in the above, we have kinds of justice or interpretations of justice. Before, acts of mercy from God to man or between men. Or in the case of the pacifists a conflict on how to reason about moral goods, whether it be measured by the outcomes of our acts or the motives and purity of our acts.

    Each story is about a person who is good, and people who are good disagreeing with one another on what that means in particular circumstances.
  • sime
    198
    I think the underlying problem is that our concept of 'other minds' straddles the subjective-objective distinction and cannot be categorised as either. As a result it seems inappropriate to speak of ethical principles as being either subjective or objective.

    To my mind the subjective-objective distinction is only applicable to practical situations in which there is a verifiable criterion of truth that is independent of one's feelings about the matter. For example, when betting on the outcome of a football match.

    Ethical judgements do not fall into this category, since one's feelings are the ultimate arbiter of truth here.
  • Moliere
    1.2k
    Ethical judgements do not fall into this category, since one's feelings are the ultimate arbiter of truth here.sime

    I'd put it differently. Truth is invariant of feelings. Action and choice aren't, but the truth is.

    Actions coupled with motivation are the bearers of the terms "good" or "evil". So "Helping people in need is good" describes the property which attaches to the action which is the subject of the sentence. Sometimes motivation is an important aspect in evaluating the truth of some sentence which describes. So helping people in need is good, but "Taking donations for the needy out of a desire to help the needy is good" differs from "Taking donations for the needy out of a desire to keep a non-profit afloat is good". Some may argue that the motivation is irrelevant, but we sometimes do care about the motive, and some people only care about motive in certain cases, so I think it's important to add that in there. Plus it fits well enough with the notion that actions are the bearers of the terms "good" or "evil".

    These sentences, to all appearances, look no different from statements like "The grass is green" -- they follow a subject-predict form and attribute some property to some subject. Further, people argue as if certain norms are true or false, so it seems sensible to admit that such kinds of statements are truth-apt. On their face, at least, they appear to have that sort of semantic meaning and function.

    It's just that, when we look how such values are used in practice we see that people choose differently using the same values within the same circumstances. So it is reasonable to infer that there is no fact to the matter. Hence, all such sentences are false.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    Our third interlocutor would simply say that a man who murders a million deserves a million deaths. That being impossible to do he deserves the most that we can give him -- one death.Moliere
    As previously mentioned, the Golden Rule is derived straight from justice. Thus anything that breaks the golden rule is necessarily unjust. Our third person observes the rule "Do unto others as they do unto you", which is different than the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you". Killing a man breaks the Golden Rule, unless it is done to prevent a yet greater harm, such as killing more people. Our third person breaks the Golden Rule, and is therefore not just.

    Sometimes commitments are motivated by good will alone -- it isn't the results of actions, but what they intend to accomplish which compels persons to adopt a particular moral position.Moliere
    Agreed. But if you truly intend to accomplish a thing, then you would necessarily try to find the correct means to accomplish that thing, and discard the means that don't. Say I intend to help people, and find out the means to do so which is in my power to do. Then I will necessarily do it. If I don't do it, then it is either because I don't believe the means to be correct, or because my intentions were not true.

    Same for the pacifists. If their intentions is to bring peace and justice, and pacifism does not provide the means to do so, then they will necessarily find another means, or else their intentions were not truly to bring peace and justice.

    Unequal treatment among men for a given situation. And this is evaluated objectively.
    — Samuel Lacrampe

    So far "objective", though, has just been fleshed out as a test in the imagination -- what someone is able to conceive of as being possible or impossible, in the same manner that a triangle cannot have anything but three sides.
    Moliere
    I think you are mixing up two topics here. The test of imagination only served to determine if there is a case that is morally good yet unjust. But my above quote concerns justice only. 'Objective' means "Independent on the subject of thought, the observer". Two treatments are equal or not, independent on the observer; and therefore justice is objective.

    All that happens after having determined what is good or evil. But there are those who disagree on those terms.Moliere
    It is simpler than you think. To summarize my position so far: Criteria for moral judgements are Justice and the Golden Rule (aside from religious authorities, but these only add and don't reduce the previous criteria). Then all humans, due to human nature, know what is good and evil. E.g. Respect, honesty, and health are good. Disrespect, dishonesty, and harm are bad. With that, we have all the ingredients we need to make moral judgements for a given situation. Then if there are disagreements, these can only come from errors of facts or reason.

    We can test this with particular examples if desired.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    To my mind the subjective-objective distinction is only applicable to practical situations in which there is a verifiable criterion of truth that is independent of one's feelings about the matter. For example, when betting on the outcome of a football match. Ethical judgements do not fall into this category, since one's feelings are the ultimate arbiter of truth here.sime
    Hello. I dispute the claim that what comes from our feelings is necessarily subjective inasmuch as what comes from our physical senses is necessarily objective (we could be dreaming). I agree that if we believe the criteria to be objective, then the thing the criteria is applied to is objective. But how do we judge the criteria itself to be objective? This seems to result in infinite regress.

    First, let's group physical senses and feelings in the same category, because they both serve to convey information about the outside world to the subject. The information they convey may be either objective, that is, attributed to the object, or subjective, that is, merely coming from the subject. Since all info we perceive must necessarily come through our senses and feelings, how do we tell which is objective and which is subjective? By checking if many subjects perceive the same info. E.g., if I see a unicorn and nobody else does, then it is likely not real; but if all subjects present see the unicorn, then it is reasonable to judge it is real, that is, objective.

    Same goes for moral senses. If I sense that Mother Teresa's deeds are morally better than Hitler's deeds, and a large majority agrees with this, and although some may be indecisive (due to possible moral blindness), nobody senses Hitler's deeds to be morally better than Mother Teresa's deeds, then it is reasonable to judge that morality is objective.
  • SherlockH
    73
    You can justify any deed if it fits within your own code. Which is entirely based on your personal ideals, goals and priorities. So even if everyone around you thought you were in the wrong even if it makes sense to stop you can try to justify why you personally are right. I think most morality and ethics that are enforced though are based on least amount of damage. So fall under the idea of utilitarianism. Which in my opinion is the most logical.
  • Cabbage Farmer
    157
    I agree. Inasmuch as if the human eye sees an object, it is likely that the object seen is real, so it can be that if humans have a moral feeling, it is likely that it points to a real morality. That said, I do not use this argument in the OP.Samuel Lacrampe
    Fortunately our conversation is not constrained to repeat the thoughts expressed in the OP, but only to reflect on them along with some of the remarks that followed in their wake.

    You omit that equality in treatment in all men includes the very man treating others too. If the man wouldn't want others to treat him the way he treats others, then he is not just, because he treats himself differently than he treats others.Samuel Lacrampe
    Add that he assaults himself every time he catches himself looking at him crooked, and wants others to behave likewise.

    See example 2 in the OP. Justice can be relative to the factors that determine the act. Those factors are found rationally. As long as for a given rational factor, everyone is treated equally, then justice is done.Samuel Lacrampe
    See my initial reply to the OP: Rationality and fairness are not in general sufficient to resolve the issue.

    In example 1, you omitted the phrase "all else being equal". This example was intentionally over-simplified to introduce the concept. Example 2 gets more complex and introduces the factors you mention. If you have a valid argument to introduce a factor that makes justice relative to it, then the acts remain just as long as everyone involved is treated equally relative to those factors.Samuel Lacrampe
    I've already provided a counterexample to disrupt your position. You might try addressing it responsibly instead of merely repeating yourself and pointing at the OP. Perhaps you can even apply the problem raised by my example to your own thoughts, by problematizing the distribution of profits in your Example 2 in a manner analogous to that in which I problematized the distribution of cake in my initial reply.

    If you're not willing to take that sort of hint, there may be hardly any point in our continuing this conversation.
  • Marcus de Brun
    142
    Why do you believe morality is subjective?

    Because to do otherwise, is to have a subjective belief about morality.

    M
  • Moliere
    1.2k
    Your whole position seems to me to just be by fiat, in that case. Justice is objective, in your view, because it is not dependent on the subject. But you define justice in a manner which people clearly do disagree with -- there are people who believe the death penalty is just, for instance. There are people who also don't think that justice is the most fundamental value. When confronted with those counter-examples, you say they don't really disagree on values, but rather are making mistakes in reasoning. Why? Because justice is the equal treatment of people, and what they propose violates justice.

    It's a bit circular. Of course if what you say is true then what you say is true. But the same could be said for the man who believes in the death penalty -- in which case it is you who wish to spare a man's life who justly deserves death, to use your reasoning, that is falling to an error in fact or reasoning.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650

    And so to answer my question, if I am unjust to you, e.g. I am your employer and pay you less than the others for the same work, you would not say "it is wrong", but say "I disagree with your choices, inasmuch as I disagree that blue is the best colour". Is that correct?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    Add that he assaults himself every time he catches himself looking at him crooked, and wants others to behave likewise.Cabbage Farmer
    People in their right mind do not want to be assaulted. This behaviour does not make him immoral but crazy. We do not send this type of person to jail but to a mental hospital.

    See my initial reply to the OP: Rationality and fairness are not in general sufficient to resolve the issue.Cabbage Farmer
    Add human nature. All men want respect, health, and honesty, and dislike disrespect, diseases, and dishonesty (excluding the aforementioned crazy person). Combined with human nature, this justice-based morality is no longer an empty equation but a system with substance.

    I've already provided a counterexample to disrupt your position.Cabbage Farmer
    Let's stick to the cake example. You write: "Another says the size of the cake should be proportionate to the weight of the consumers." You can claim that if it was true, but you must justify why it would be true. Is the end goal of sharing the cake survival or pleasure? If survival, then maybe it is true that one must eat an amount proportionate to one's weight, and therefore the just act is indeed relative to weight. But if pleasure, then I see no reason why the claim would be true.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    Why do you believe morality is subjective? Because to do otherwise, is to have a subjective belief about morality.Marcus de Brun
    Hi. Let's use the same logic for a different topic:
    "Why do you believe math is subjective? Because to do otherwise, is to have a subjective belief about math".
    Math is clearly objective; therefore there is a flaw in the logic.
  • SherlockH
    73
    well legally I can sue you becuase you have broken the law. I wouldn't care how right thought you were or were not. Unless you have a legal justification for not paying me that much.
  • Marcus de Brun
    142
    Math is clearly objective; therefore there is a flaw in the logic.Samuel Lacrampe



    'Clearly objective' to whom?

    M
  • Anguis Ex Caelo
    1
    All men want respect, health, and honesty, and dislike disrespect, diseases, and dishonesty (excluding the aforementioned crazy person).Samuel Lacrampe

    I disagree with this point, as it excludes the "crazy person" as being someone to which a code of justice or morals would not apply to. If there is someone who likes disrespect, diseases, and dishonesty it does not make them separate from morality, if morality is truly objective. If morals are objective, they would have to apply to everyone regardless of mental state.

    Math is clearly objective; therefore there is a flaw in the logic.Samuel Lacrampe

    Math, being a system of defining the world invented by humans, is not necessarily objective. It could be argued that the things that math defines are objective, but it does not make math itself objective. Similarly, the things that language defines may be objective, but language itself is not.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    But you define justice in a manner which people clearly do disagree with -- there are people who believe the death penalty is just, for instance.Moliere
    There are people who disagree on the shape of the earth. It does not make the topic subjective. And if objective, then some people are necessarily in error on the topic.

    There are people who also don't think that justice is the most fundamental value.Moliere
    One of the most anyways. I would like to meet such a person who don't think so, and see how they react when experiencing injustice from others.

    When confronted with those counter-examples, you say they don't really disagree on values, but rather are making mistakes in reasoning. Why? Because justice is the equal treatment of people, and what they propose violates justice. It's a bit circular.Moliere
    Do you claim that not everyone values respect, honesty, and health? If that is not what you claim, then I don't see what else you dispute in my position.

    But the same could be said for the man who believes in the death penalty -- in which case it is you who wish to spare a man's life who justly deserves death, to use your reasoning, that is falling to an error in fact or reasoning.Moliere
    If they are correct, then yes, I am the one in error in this case. But the very fact that there can be an error proves the objectivity of the topic. There cannot be any error on subjective topics, for it is by definition only a matter of opinion.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650

    Say that my "legal justification" is that the law is corrupted. Would you not find this legal system wrong?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    'Clearly objective' to whom?Marcus de Brun
    To all that understand the concept. Do you believe "2+2=4" is right, and "2+2=3" is wrong? If so, then you too believe math to be objective, because only things which are objective can be either right or wrong. On the other hand, subjective things are neither right nor wrong, but only a matter of opinion.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    650
    I disagree with this point, as it excludes the "crazy person" as being someone to which a code of justice or morals would not apply to. If there is someone who likes disrespect, diseases, and dishonesty it does not make them separate from morality, if morality is truly objective. If morals are objective, they would have to apply to everyone regardless of mental state.Anguis Ex Caelo
    Hello Mr Ex Caelo. Morality indeed should apply to everyone if objective. But the necessary ingredient to a moral act is intentions. I.e., if good intentions, then morally good; and if bad intentions, then morally bad. E.g., accidental killing is not immoral, but intentional killing is, despite both acts resulting in the same amount of harm to the victims.

    Our crazy person, liking disrespect, may in turn give disrespect to others with complete sincere intentions of doing the good. As such, the act would not be immoral, albeit crazy and dangerous. Note that a crazy person can still be immoral if his intentions are still bad. It's just harder to tell from the outside.

    Math, being a system of defining the world invented by humans, is not necessarily objective. It could be argued that the things that math defines are objective, but it does not make math itself objective. Similarly, the things that language defines may be objective, but language itself is not.Anguis Ex Caelo
    Agreed about language; disagreed about math. Numbers are man-made, but the concept they point to are not, and these are still part of math. We can change the numbers 2 and 4, but we cannot change II+II=IIII.
  • SherlockH
    73
    ReplySamuel Lacrampe

    You have no legal justification. Something can be ethically or morally wrong but legal or vice versa. You seem to not understand the difference between morals and laws. Laws are enforced rules, what you find morally wrong and write does not matter in the slightest.
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