• Theologian
    104

    Now this is turning into pure nonsense.Echarmion

    Hmm... Okay.

    Allow me to speak with equal candor. Deep in your own nonsense (I shan't speculate on whether it's willful or not), you do actually have me on one point. Kant's maxims are indeed expressed - or at least can be expressed - in the form of "if X then Y." You got me.

    But...

    1. This is very different from
    whether you can add as many conditions as you like to a “maxim.”Theologian
    which is what I was actually arguing against; and

    2. At times Kant's "X" value is so general that it's virtually absent. For example, take two maxims that Kant does consider (for the purposes of rejecting):

    "to increase my wealth by any safe means" (Critique of Practical Reason, Mary Gregor trans.)

    "When I think myself in want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know that I never can do so." (from the same link Mww gave that I referenced before).

    The first is not expressed in the form "if X then Y," but I acknowledge it can be. "By any safe means" may be transformed to the X value as "if it is safe to do so." But this seems such a general condition as to be a virtually absent "X" to me.

    Similarly so an X value that is "being in want of money," when the Y value is to go get some money.

    So if you want to pull me up on
    absolve yourself of all responsibility for the actions of all other rational beingsTheologian
    ...not being a maxim because it is not of the form "if X then Y," then fine.

    IF it is safe to do so, THEN I will absolve myself of all responsibility for the actions of all other rational beings.

    There you go. Now it's a maxim. :smile:

    You are right about this, I acknowledge the fact, but I don't think this has any real effect on anything I actually said.

    Otherwise... I think we may perhaps have reached the point where we may each agree that the other's posts speak for themselves, and require no further comment.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    What is assumed about good and bad by starting from the fact that we are human beings that live together in a society?Echarmion

    It's more about good or bad about what a society should do and the relations of people in that society. That is an assumption inherent in the ideas of property, trustworthiness, etc.

    Kant doesn't say this when he talks about the CI, though he did write about property and I don't think he ever questioned the idea of property. Whether or not Kant was correct in assuming that individual property is moral is a different question from the question of whether the CI is the correct standard to assess morality.Echarmion

    No that's the point, he doesn't say that, but it is implicit in the ideas of property in the case of stealing.

    So, what is behind it? How does it get in?Echarmion

    Views about what society should feel is important- like property.
  • Echarmion
    383
    But...

    1. This is very different from
    whether you can add as many conditions as you like to a “maxim.”
    — Theologian
    which is what I was actually arguing against
    Theologian

    How is it "very different"? Could you provide a clear rule as to what conditions are and are not allowed?

    The first is not expressed in the form "if X then Y," but I acknowledge it can be. "By any safe means" may be transformed to the X value as "if it is safe to do so." But this seems such a general condition as to be a virtually absent "X" to me.

    Similarly so an X value that is "being in want of money," when the Y value is to go get some money.
    Theologian

    Perhaps Kant simply did not want to choose overtly complex examples. What makes you think there is a restriction to the kind of conditions that a maxim can have?

    IF it is safe to do so, THEN I will absolve myself of all responsibility for the actions of all other rational beings.

    There you go. Now it's a maxim. :smile:
    Theologian

    The reason it's not a maxim is not because you did not put it in the proper form. The reason is that it can not determine a will. You cannot will yourself to be absolved of responsibility. You can perhaps wish it to be so, or argue that it is so, but it's not something you can act on.

    Otherwise... I think we may perhaps have reached the point where we may each agree that the other's posts speak for themselves, and require no further comment.Theologian

    So, you spend considerable effort to write these posts, yet you do not want to engage with my main criticism? I have repeated it in three different posts now, you have neither acknowledged it, nor even claimed I am wrong. What gives?

    It's more about good or bad about what a society should do and the relations of people in that society. That is an assumption inherent in the ideas of property, trustworthiness, etc.schopenhauer1

    But these are assumptions that the acting people have. They are not inbuilt into the CI. The thief assumes something about property, the oathbreaker something about oaths. People have assumptions, and so their maxims will include them.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    But these are assumptions that the acting people have. They are not inbuilt into the CI. The thief assumes something about property, the oathbreaker something about oaths. People have assumptions, and so their maxims will include them.Echarmion

    So the thief who revels in a society of treachery, and the oathbreaker who wants a world of untrustworthiness...
  • Theologian
    104

    Yay! Chaotic Evil! :grin:
  • Mww
    723


    Interesting.

    “A” for effort.
  • Theologian
    104

    Interesting.Mww

    You know, a former lecturer of mine, who was himself a former student of Noam Chomsky's, once told me that Chomsky "Played academic hardball, in which it was more important to be interesting than right."

    I may yet have a great career ahead of me! :wink:
  • Echarmion
    383
    So the thief who revels in a society of treachery, and the oathbreaker who wants a world of untrustworthiness...schopenhauer1

    Yes, as I have already mentioned above there are maxims that concern anti- social behaviour yet do not lead to a self-contradiction. The most famous one is actually killing for personal gain.

    These maxims result in societies no sane person would want to live in though, hence they still fail the CI. Of course there are persons who'd genuinely want such circumstances, but they would not be accessible to morality, no matter how convincing.
  • Mww
    723


    Perhaps. Far be it from me to deny the possibility. Nevertheless, Herr Kant seems to have his own misgivings:

    “.....Here then we see philosophy brought to a critical position, since it has to be firmly fixed, notwithstanding that it has nothing to support it in heaven or earth. Here it must show its purity as absolute director of its own laws, not the herald of those which are whispered to it by an implanted sense or who knows what tutelary nature. Although these may be better than nothing, yet they can never afford principles dictated by reason, which must have their source wholly a priori and thence their commanding authority, expecting everything from the supremacy of the law and the due respect for it, nothing from inclination, or else condemning the man to self-contempt and inward abhorrence. Thus every empirical element is not only quite incapable of being an aid to the principle of morality, but is even highly prejudicial to the purity of morals, for the proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists just in this, that the principle of action is free from all influence of contingent grounds, which alone experience can furnish. We cannot too much or too often repeat our warning against this lax and even mean habit of thought which seeks for its principle amongst empirical motives and laws; for human reason in its weariness is glad to rest on this pillow, and in a dream of sweet illusions (in which, instead of Juno, it embraces a cloud) it substitutes for morality a bastard patched up from limbs of various derivation, which looks like anything one chooses to see in it, only not like virtue to one who has once beheld her in her true form....”
    ———————-

    and scrolling down a bit lower, we find:Theologian

    Are you noticing a pattern here?Theologian

    I would ask you a similar question: when scrolling a bit lower, do you find a commonality in the four given examples? There is one, and its importance is significant.
    ——————-

    What do you think the “it” stands for in the primary rendition of the categorical imperative?
  • Theologian
    104

    Okay, I'm about to nod off, so this will be my last post for a bit.

    And somehow, I feel I'm playing Euthyphro to your Socrates, and my answer to this question is going to set me up for something! But hey, I'll play on...

    Beyond the commonality I previously noted for the purposes of the argument I was making at the time, I think the one of which you speak is that all four:

    1. Point to what we might call some "natural" inclination towards immediate personal satisfaction (relieving pain or want, avarice, or self indulgent idleness);

    2. Asks the question "what if acting in said way became a universal law?" (This of course being the connection to the first formulation of the categorical imperative);

    3. Then comes to the conclusion that a world in which everyone gave in to this inclination became a universal law is simply not possible.

    I could leave it there, but the quote with which you lead in makes me wonder if you aren't also looking for a "1(b)" where one could also see the commonality that empirical observation (or at least, short term observation, or observation only within the scope of our individual lives) might lead us to the conclusion that acting on what I previously called "some 'natural' inclination" would actually make the world, or at least our own lives better.

    Now, your second question:

    By "it" I take it you mean the "it" in "will that it become a universal law."

    I take that "it" to refer to the maxim on which you would be acting.

    (I was tempted to say "would hypothetically be acting," but in this context that could be construed as confusing!)

    I'm wondering if where you're headed with this is a view of maxims as referring to, or at least more concerned with motives (those "'natural' inclinations" I spoke of earlier).

    Given that all revolve around reducing pain or want; or increasing pleasure and prosperity, one could also see in these examples Kant setting up ethical problems where he can show (or attempt to show) that a utilitarian response ultimately breaks down.

    Anyway, bedtime for me. Over to you, Socrates!
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    These maxims result in societies no sane person would want to live in though, hence they still fail the CI. Of course there are persons who'd genuinely want such circumstances, but they would not be accessible to morality, no matter how convincing.Echarmion

    Okay, so this is my point. Morality is then not really to do with the CI but something else beyond it, or prior to it. You seem to be positing either some sort of moral sense, or socially-constructed agreement, or list of values that we all share and THIS becomes the source of the moral framework, not the CI itself. In fact, the CI presupposes that we already have a sense that hypocrisy is wrong. The CI does not therefore provide any of the actual morality, it's the values that we already have when we are applying the CI. This is where then we should focus it would seem to me. He can then admit that really it is more of a hypothetical imperative- "If we want to maintain a certain type of society, and we do not want to be hypocrites about maintaining that society, then the standard of CI would apply". But again, the type of society, and not being hypocritical would have to be addressed and examined first as to why that counts as moral in the first place.
  • Echarmion
    383
    Okay, so this is my point. Morality is then not really to do with the CI but something else beyond it, or prior to it.schopenhauer1

    Well the CI is based on reason, so reason is prior to it.

    You seem to be positing either some sort of moral sense, or socially-constructed agreement, or list of values that we all share and THIS becomes the source of the moral framework, not the CI itself. In fact, the CI presupposes that we already have a sense that hypocrisy is wrong. The CI does not therefore provide any of the actual morality, it's the values that we already have when we are applying the CI.schopenhauer1

    I can kinda see where you are coming from here. Yes the CI is not like a moral code, e.g. the ten commandments. It's purely a method to arrive at such rules. The "source" of the moral rules is human reasoning about the (hypothetical or actual) situation under consideration. This is not a flaw in my opinion though. Rather, this is what sets the CI apart from codes of rules which always have trouble finding solid ground to stand on.

    This is where then we should focus it would seem to me. He can then admit that really it is more of a hypothetical imperative- "If we want to maintain a certain type of society, and we do not want to be hypocrites about maintaining that society, then the standard of CI would apply". But again, the type of society, and not being hypocritical would have to be addressed and examined first as to why that counts as moral in the first place.schopenhauer1

    But the CI, being a fully general method, does not rely on us first establishing a certain type of society. It works on any possible society. So long as the members of that society have shared interests, it will end up providing a framework to further those interests. That's the idea, anyways. All that you need to do is the ability to put your self in other people's shoes, as the saying goes. If everyone does that, and everyone's minds work roughly the same way, the result is that everyone ends up with roughly the same rules.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    But the CI, being a fully general method, does not rely on us first establishing a certain type of society. It works on any possible society. So long as the members of that society have shared interests, it will end up providing a framework to further those interests. That's the idea, anyways. All that you need to do is the ability to put your self in other people's shoes, as the saying goes. If everyone does that, and everyone's minds work roughly the same way, the result is that everyone ends up with roughly the same rules.Echarmion

    Yes, in that case the CI really has little to do with the actual morality itself, and certainly cannot be said to be a grounding for it. If anything, it is a clever heuristic. Even duty itself is not much of a ground in itself, because the question becomes, "duty to what?". I think we would be getting closer if we mentioned the actual things that people value- relationships, physical pleasure, aesthetic pleasure, etc. The heuristic to see if one is violating a principle by which people obtain these things can be useful, but only if we understand what it is that people value, if that can even be ascertained. But then it is really a theory of value that comes first before talk of how a value may be contradicted.
  • Mww
    723


    We’ll never know whether Euthyphro‘s arguably inconclusive definitions of piety actually left ol’ Socrates defenseless, or whether Socrates was doomed from the beginning regardless of whatever defense he may have mounted. While it may seem your Euthyphro is being surrepitously investigated, I just want to make some effort in understanding where you’re coming from.
    ———————

    Yes, it is the maxim, as sustained by numerous references.
    ——————-

    The commonality is the impossibility of conformity as a universal law of nature. If the myriad of hypothetical imperatives are dismissed as not abiding as universal laws of nature, but the categorical imperative demands accordance “as if” a universal law is actually possible....what kind of law is it? It may indeed be the case, that the categorical imperative only has any meaning for those rational agents that think themselves in possession of a transcendental causality.
  • tim wood
    2.5k
    “.....Here then we see philosophy brought to a critical position,...Mww
    Kant in his own way must have been one very tough individual.
  • Mww
    723


    Tough mentally, no doubt. Between pissing off the clergy (busted on his Master’s thesis by Piest academia) and being somewhat contrary to Newton (the reigning God of Science), what ducks he had he must have kept well-lined.
  • Theologian
    104

    It may indeed be the case, that the categorical imperative only has any meaning for those rational agents that think themselves in possession of a transcendental causality.Mww

    I can't deny that we have the kind of experience we do because, at least in part, our minds are constructed a certain way. But I also don't think that accepting this much leads to a literal acceptance of transcendental causality as understood by Kant. One may, perhaps, see Kant as paving the way for something like modern "cognitive" science; which itself seems to offer a more recursive rather than strictly "top down" way of understanding the relationship between mind and experience.

    You can't "do science" without taking positions that are inherently philosophical, and which certainly don't seem to be subject to immediate empirical verification. That realization was what got me interested in philosophy to start with. But at the same time, having taken the necessary positions and "done some science," I also can't deny that that seems to lead to a far more sophisticated and and better justified understanding of the mind than we could ever have arrived at a priori. As I said, a recursive relationship.

    And while I'm not going to attempt to prove it in this post, I am far from convinced that where this understanding ultimately leads includes a distinction between transcendental and natural causes.

    Though not completely dismissive of the idea either...

    Oh, PS:

    Here are a couple of questions you might like to consider:

    Does what starts off as epistemologically fundamental necessarily have to wind up as ontologically fundamental?

    Does it necessarily have to wind up in your final ontology at all?
  • Theologian
    104
    I think we would be getting closer if we mentioned the actual things that people value- relationships, physical pleasure, aesthetic pleasure, etc. The heuristic to see if one is violating a principle by which people obtain these things can be useful, but only if we understand what it is that people value, if that can even be ascertained. But then it is really a theory of value that comes first before talk of how a value may be contradicted.schopenhauer1

    But then, dear schopenhauer1, you're plunging directly into the unseemly waters of... utilitarianism!

    :gasp: :gasp: :gasp:

    ...or at least paddling at their edges!!!
  • Theologian
    104
    Damn. I meant to make
    Post one hundred a haiku.
    The chance lost, I weep.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    But then, dear schopenhauer1, you're plunging directly into the unseemly waters of... utilitarianism!Theologian

    Yes, or a general axiology/value theory. It would revolve around the values themselves. I refer back to the Nussbaum thread, for example. Even though I was critiquing it there, it makes much more sense to acknowledge what most humans value first. It may be justified through social construction, or simply a rough idea that we can get through reflecting on our own moral sensibilities. Similar to how "rights" are agreed upon, ethics can then proceed to what would would be in violation of its own principles, something like the CI. But, of course, being a pessimist and antinatalist, these values themselves would not take precedent over suffering which in the context of procreation, can be prevented for future individuals without any actual consequence to a particular individual- a case I was making with @Banno in the Nussbaum thread. But again, I still think the Nussbaum approach or other like-approaches of mining for what we value would be where to start over the CI which seems more about heuristics of how to judge if the values that were listed as important were violated.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k

    Let me add.. even having a common framework of values, would still be debated on a granular level, still giving the CI problems in everyday situations.
  • Theologian
    104

    Sorry, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "the Nussbaum thread."

    EDIT: Oh, found it.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6046/nussbaum
  • Mww
    723


    I don’t think about ontology that much; whatever I want to know about empirically presupposes the existence or possible existence of it, whatever its nature. When drilling down into the metaphysics of human knowledge, on the other hand, one may have to assume existences without their proofs, or even propose them outright including their proofs, in order to justify a particular theory, but that’s ok as long as he maintains logical consistency.

    Besides......wouldn’t it be better to understand how knowledge is possible before professing the ability to know something? But then, of course, we stand in danger of being immersed in an inevitable circularity; as you say.....it’s the way our minds work. Or brain, as the materialists would insist.
  • Theologian
    104

    I might as well come clean as to the limits of my own understanding. While I did a couple of philosophy units in my undergraduate degree way back when, I've only been seriously studying philosophy for a bit over a year. I said what I said in the OP because it seemed to me, rightly or wrongly, that the implication I drew was fairly self evident in the first formulation of the CI itself. But the deeper we go into the details of Kant (or any other philosopher) the more likely I am to say something that is purely and simply wrong.

    But hey, I can live with that if everyone else can! :wink:

    At this stage in my philosophical development, I think I would call myself a monist. But I am far from convinced that distinguishing between idealism and materialism actually gets us anywhere, or even has any meaning.

    As I think you grasp, what I was getting at with the questions I put to you was that every human activity, inquiry included (scientific, philosophical, or otherwise) presupposes something. And you gotta start somewhere! Call that practical reasoning, if you will. But to treat what is presupposed by your starting point as a fundamental part of what is may be like committing to stay in kindergarten your whole life. I fear treating Kant's distinction between transcendental and natural causes as absolutely hard and fast may be falling into this trap. I prefer a more recursive approach in which which our presuppositions are continually open to reexamination in the light of our most recent round of discoveries.

    I have often been struck by the thought that the activity of writing letters to Santa Clause presupposes the existence of Santa Clause...
  • Mww
    723


    I can live with it. These are, after all, just philosophical musings, with no life or death or similarly catastrophic implications. Not to mention.......what other choice is there but to go with the flow, so to speak, if the interest be of a continuous dialectic.

    The human cognitive system is complementary: up/down, left/right, yes/no, ad infinitum. That is to say, relational; knowledge only has any standing when it avails itself to comparison. This relates to the idealist/materialist dichotomy, insofar as one need not chose one over the other, but he is nonetheless well advised to comprehend their inherent distinctions and what each distinction actually does for us. Thus far in our human intellectual evolution, it is quite apparent, in keeping with the complementary system with which we’re saddled, we require both parts of that modality relation in order to understand our world and our place in it. If for no other reason than each half of the complementary pair is in itself insufficient to explain the totality of the human condition. That being said, I find it hard to accept a strictly unqualified monist paradigm.

    I would agree without hesitation we must have a fundamental assumption, no matter what we’re investigating. I personally go with perception, in its common understanding, being passive and therefore not the cause of whatever difficulties we have with reason in general and knowledge in particular. I will admit to not knowing what other fundamental assumptions would serve the same purpose, mostly because I guess I never thought much about it.

    The distinction between natural and transcendental causality is necessary. Simply put, natural causality is phenomenal, transcendental causality is merely thought, the former subject to sense and thereby intuition, the latter subject to understanding and thereby mere conception. If the objects of sense have a cause, it is logical to suppose objects of pure reason must also have a cause. One we may measure and justifies experience, the other we will not but nevertheless justifies logical possibilities. The human complementary cognitive system writ large.

    It’s fine to think writing letters to Santa presupposes Santa’s existence. Right up until one knows with apodeictic certainty he doesn’t. Then it’s still fine as long as one acknowledges he doesn’t and writes to him anyway, perhaps to laugh at himself, or even to hold a faint hope. A problem, in the form of a logical inconsistency, may arise when you write to him, knowing he doesn’t exist and intuit/cognize him as if he does. Otherwise known as .........wait for it........

    ............the transcendental illusion!!!!!!
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