• RW Standing
    58
    Reductionism in ethics is a total folly. Asking a person if he believes in Freedom, for instance, is bound to be tendentious. Values describe the human condition and all of them are valid. But any one value is modified or limited or directed by another. There is no point in discussing values until the whole is portrayed graphically. End-values or elemental forms of society then show themselves. In the ultimate analysis we simply have a choice between them, or do as we must do. Keep your replies in plain English.
  • tim wood
    3k
    and all of them are valid.RW Standing

    Even the invalid ones?
  • RW Standing
    58
    If they are ethical values, and not some other irrelevance, then they all valid for the purpose. They describe the human condition, or ethics as a whole. They all relate together, and can therefore be portrayed graphically. We may then realize what the choice is. Answer the question of whether the opposite of something simple is something complex, or compound?
  • tim wood
    3k
    Values describe the human condition and all of them are validRW Standing

    If they are ethical values,.. then they all valid for the purpose. They describe the human conditionRW Standing

    What are your criteria for describing the human condition. And since you use the term, what is "the human condition"?

    "Values describe"; is that what they are, descriptions? Or is their being descriptions merely incidental to what they are, that they are something else?

    Valid for what ? And what purpose?
  • RW Standing
    58
    Food is not a value. But it is efficacious for keeping us alive. There would be no ethical values without sapient creatures such as ourselves being alive. But it is in life that ethics exists. Naturally, most people in health wish to be alive so as to enjoy it. Life as against chaos and extinction may be considered the bedrock of ethics. The interesting question is how we define ethics from that point forward. That requires a knowledge of all the possible or understood values that exist, and the choice they exhibit, in forms of society.
  • RW Standing
    58
    To answer my own question. The opposite of simple is compound. It my firm contention that there are simple values, which are therefore opposed to compound values. They are also as everyone would understand opposed in meaning.
  • T Clark
    4.1k
    Values describe the human condition and all of them are valid.RW Standing

    I can imagine a, somewhat, objective standard for ethics. As a possible example - an ethical standard should promote a stable society that provides security and adequate resources for the members of that society.

    Keep your replies in plain English.RW Standing

    Yeah, well, demanding a particular type of response is not really the way things work around here. Seems a bit tendentious to me.
  • RW Standing
    58
    It is my contention, that simple values are such, because they do not actually exist, other than as concepts. On the other hand, compound values do exist as forms of or expressions of society, or community, or personal relationships.
  • T Clark
    4.1k


    Seems to me that at least some of our values can be traced back to inborn physiological reactions. One of the definitions I found for "values" on the web is "judgment of what is important in life."

    This comes from the Stanford Children's Health webpage:

    Newborn-Reflexes

    What reflexes should be present in a newborn?

    Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions. Some movements are spontaneous, occurring as part of the baby's usual activity. Others are responses to certain actions. Reflexes help identify normal brain and nerve activity. Some reflexes occur only in specific periods of development. The following are some of the normal reflexes seen in newborn babies:

    • Root reflex. This reflex begins when the corner of the baby's mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn his or her head and open his or her mouth to follow and "root" in the direction of the stroking. This helps the baby find the breast or bottle to begin feeding.
    • Suck reflex. Rooting helps the baby become ready to suck. When the roof of the baby's mouth is touched, the baby will begin to suck. This reflex does not begin until about the 32nd week of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. Premature babies may have a weak or immature sucking ability because of this. Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that goes with rooting and sucking and may suck on fingers or hands.
    • Moro reflex. The Moro reflex is often called a startle reflex because it usually occurs when a baby is startled by a loud sound or movement. In response to the sound, the baby throws back his or her head, extends out the arms and legs, cries, then pulls the arms and legs back in. A baby's own cry can startle him or her and trigger this reflex. This reflex lasts about 5 to 6 months.
    • Tonic neck reflex. When a baby's head is turned to one side, the arm on that side stretches out and the opposite arm bends up at the elbow. This is often called the "fencing" position. The tonic neck reflex lasts about 6 to 7 months.
    • Grasp reflex. Stroking the palm of a baby's hand causes the baby to close his or her fingers in a grasp. The grasp reflex lasts until about 5 to 6 months of age.
    • Babinski reflex. When the sole of the foot is firmly stroked, the big toe bends back toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out. This is a normal reflex up to about 2 years of age.
    • Step reflex. This reflex is also called the walking or dance reflex because a baby appears to take steps or dance when held upright with his or her feet touching a solid surface.

    I don't think it's a stretch to say that at least some of these actions reflect the babies "judgement" of what is important in life.
  • RW Standing
    58
    A survivalist community requires only a minimal ethic. Anything more, if badly constructed, may be dangerous. Vegans do not survive where there is only meat. A survival ethic would be similar to the well known Decalogue. Not to later offshoots of more sophistication that may not be understood even today. It is where society evolves and affluence makes niceties possible that something more than our current binary or single-dimension model is possible, and even required.
  • RW Standing
    58
    There appears to be a useful broad definition of the term Goods in economics. Ultimately ethics relates to the way we use these goods, including ourselves. Culture is perhaps the principal Good we have in a stable society. Its difference from other Goods is that it is what defines people in their community, differently from other communities. It is the basis of Diversity, which may be considered a prime value. How we value or undermine diversity is a prime feature of ethical choice.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Core Values that are being employed here are those that are irreducible, and not expressed in the form of rules. Freedom is a value. Equality is a value. We will tell the truth in all situations is a very dubious rule. Culture, as previously mentioned, is about things like arts and crafts, fashion, folk customs, and ethical values should be kept outside it as entirely as possible. Pragmatism in the sense of practicality is a value.
  • RW Standing
    58
    There are naturally popular ethical values, with perhaps a plethora of variations in terminology. Freedom or Liberty, Equality, Tolerance, all mean something slightly different, but they all stand together. They stand opposed to various forms of tyranny, bigotry and hierarchy. Or, the divine right of kings, for instance.
    But there is nothing intrinsic in the term, freedom, to say what kind of freedom and for what purpose it may be used.
    Tyranny on the other hand is not ambiguous, it represents forms of absolutism that may yet be realized in the coming world of surveillance.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Nom doubt ethics as we understand the same, has evolved in various interesting ways. It is how we might use and improve our ethic that is the present point at hand.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    So here's what happens in my head when I read your post:

    Reductionism in ethics is a total folly.RW Standing

    I think, "Hmm . . . okay--I'm not sure exactly what you'd call 'reductionism in ethics' or why you think it's a 'total folly,' but I'm sure that's about to be explained in the rest of this paragraph." (That last part, due to experience on this board, I think a bit facetiously, unfortunately.)

    Asking a person if he believes in Freedom, for instance, is bound to be tendentious.

    I think, "Okay, I'm not getting what this has to do with defining what you consider to be 'reductionism in ethics' or why you think it's a 'total folly' . . . but okay, I'll work with it for what it is for a moment," and then I think, "Sure, asking people if they believe in x is bound to be tendentious, especially in a philosophical context, but that's pretty much true for all x, isn't it?"

    Values describe the human condition and all of them are valid.

    Here I just think, "Huh?? 'Values describe the human condition'? . . . I'm not sure what the heck that would be saying/what it would amount to. And 'valid'? I don't really use the term 'valid' that way . . . but in any event, what would make values valid or not, and why would they all be valid???"

    And then in the back of my mind, I'm also both saying:

    "What does this have to do with 'reductionism in ethics,' whether that's 'total folly,'?" AND "What does it have to do with 'believing in freedom' and whether that's bound to be tendentious?"

    I start getting annoyed that we've had three sentences in a row that don't really seem to be connected to each other, and that are all vague or so obvious as to be kind of pointless to say (the tendentious thing).

    But any one value is modified or limited or directed by another.

    Again I think, "Huh??" You'd have to explain and try to support what you're claiming here because it strikes me as very dubious.

    There is no point in discussing values until the whole is portrayed graphically.

    I think, "Displayed graphically???? What in the world?"

    End-values or elemental forms of society then show themselves.

    "End-values??" "Elemental forms of society???"

    My eyes just kind of start glazing over at this point.

    In the ultimate analysis we simply have a choice between them,

    "We have a choice between values" is like "Do you believe in x is bound to be tendentious."

    By now, I'm wondering why the title of the thread and the first sentence promised to be about "reductionism in ethics," because none of the rest of the post seemed to be about that.

    Keep your replies in plain English.

    That I got a laugh out of at least.



    So that's what happens when I read posts like this.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    As a possible example - an ethical standard should promote a stable society that provides security and adequate resources for the members of that society.T Clark

    What's objective about that?
  • RW Standing
    58
    Our parliament is excellent with MPs who extol liberty and tolerance quite unreservedly. Except at the end they drop in a note, ‘within the law’. Nobody would reject the rule of law. But it is exactly what China affirms today, as in Hong Kong, and we know how draconian Chinese law is. The rule of law, duty, responsibility, and no doubt more values, stand together. They also stand opposed to what I would conveniently call Anarchism, as a society of personal autonomy. In economic terms the free market let loose.
  • RW Standing
    58
    There are a number of diagrammatic representations of how ethical values relate - supposedly. Any such, or a new version or description, would be useful. I am not finished yet!!!
  • RW Standing
    58
    Religions across the world today tend is to extol various forms empathy and fraternity, or altruism, but usually do so on the basis of obedience to their ‘god’. More extreme perhaps is the idea that we were ‘made’ by god, and therefore serve him and whatever he wants of us. A peculiar mixture of values.
    It might be thought that egoism or self-interest, although not exactly egotism, is opposed to altruism. However, some philosophers appear to believe in it as a foundation of morality, or at least in its outcome. There is nothing more odd than people.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Long lists of ‘core values’ have been assembled, but it is obvious that they are seen more as ‘core virtues’ which is not the same statement. Sensibly, the opinion of what is virtuous must be based on an assembly of values, including antonyms. These cannot be seen as existing independently, but form a whole structure that portrays moral choice. In reality that choice, so far as any exists, will be prejudiced by our own individual nature – from infancy no doubt.
    After all, we live in a world today in which illogical good nature can be a danger to society and human survival.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Anarchism in the sense of a society based autonomous individuals, may be an ideal for many people. It is derived from a belief in the ambiguous value of Freedom [Equality etc] and in the ambiguous value of Egoism or even Egotism. It does not believe in anything more than minimalist law. The egalitarian freedom of individuals and their possessions.
    Tyranny or at least Authoritarianism, as a form of society, is based on the same egotism allied to a belief in law and order or duty. It and those who belong to it do not believe in individual liberty. Their society or state may be personified as a law-making god.
    Altruism as a form of society, is based on the previous idea of freedom and also of corporate responsibility and duty. It does not believe in more than a sufficiency of self-interest. The freedom of thought and shared benefit.
    All three forms of society are obviously opposed to social breakdown and unnecessary war, or environmental destruction.
    All of which can be expanded and be made more particular, in the contrast of one form of society with the others. It may be evident, for instance, that altruist society will have rights and reciprocal duties, whereas the authoritarian state will have minimal rights, and the anarchistic society will have little but individual rights.
    It may be remarked that some people may well believe Jesus of Nazareth was a rebel altruist.
  • T Clark
    4.1k
    What's objective about that?Terrapin Station

    I can think of lots of measures that could act as a metric for social well-being - life expectancy, unemployment rate, crime rate, distribution of wealth, .... Here's a link to map purporting to show the distribution of happiness in the world.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report#/media/File:Happiness_score_of_countries_according_to_the_World_Happiness_Report_(2018).png
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k


    What I'm asking is not what's objective about life expectancy, etc.

    I'm asking what's objective about "we should have x (re life expectancy, for example) as a goal."
  • RW Standing
    58
    There has been a division between politics and ethics that is probably the product of a semi-authoritarian government. Politicians may well keep their domestic life private, but it depends on what form of society we espouse and have, to what degree it is private. Anything that is truly private, is barely more than personal fad. Where there is effect on society then it is a matter of social ethics and not entirely private.
    Authoritarian government and society would be extraordinarily totalitarian for it to control all aspects of domestic life. As long as citizens know their place and serve as required.
    Anarchistic society would indeed have autonomous citizens and their families, left to live or die as they please. No doubt these citizens believing themselves highly moral, and tolerant.
    Altruistic society, not defining that as any form of self-sacrifice in normal circumstances, would quite logically treat the family and marriage as the bedrock of society. Anything else would be open to debate and highly contentious.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Natural and legal rights are a great invention, the former a protection against the divine right of kings, perhaps. The great feature of natural rights is that every philosopher has had his own version, no doubt serving his natural prejudices. It is perhaps more logical to accept human rights as the product of society, as against individuals and government. The modern folk lore. The problem goes away if it is accepted that are three [?] essential forms of society, above that of the animal world or a state of moral chaos. Authoritarian society is biased towards duties. Anarchism to the right of self-interest. Altruism to the rights of social responsibility. What is ‘right or wrong’ is confined within each of those sources. The idea that the natural world has either duties or rights is absurd – other than the inbred ‘right’ or impulse for survival. There are no doubt passions and sentiments in animal life, and particularly sapient life. It is how those disparate feelings are controlled and channelled that is the stuff of ethics. This does leave open the one great question of existence, that of the explanation rather than the cause for the conscious mind, as against the mechanics of life
  • RW Standing
    58
    On the basis of Freedom and associated values with their antonyms:
    This would form a three sided figure
    1 Altruism < Freedom > 2 Anarchism < Ego > 3 Tyranny < Duty > 1 Altruism
  • RW Standing
    58
    As an average individual with a natural interest in ethical-political matters. Not a student of philosophy. It barely surprises me that our world has long been in chaos and conflict. It only requires a cursory view of the subject in Wiki and elsewhere to realize that philosophers themselves are in chaos. The reason for this may perhaps be immediately deduced. Ethical pronouncements of almost every kind, and Values in particular, are couched in the form of Rules or complex statements that assume more than one thing, often many, and often entirely unclear. In fact at worst very little is said that is not in the form of a personal prejudice and vanity that determines the purpose of the rule.
    To be entirely cynical, nature probably has not the slightest interest in human beings, and fundamental ethics might give us the boot.
    The first step might better be to take the empty and arid words that are employed as ethical and other values and use them as concepts that can be related to the world, as a whole and eventually more specific parts of the natural world, and determine what sense these core values make when viewed as a whole.
  • RW Standing
    58
    1 Harmony < Equality > 2 Anomie < Discord > 3 Elitism < Diversity > 1 Harmony
    Harmony versus Discord
    Elitism versus Equality
    Anomie versus Diversity [Uniformity versus Diversity]
    It may be considered that it is mere chance that values can be selected so as to link together. Illustrating core values that combine so as to indicate social conditions. Such a coincidence beggars belief.
    Obviously, the terms used in this example may be improved.
    Anomie may be thought a condition of deconstructed uniformity.
  • RW Standing
    58
    It is evident enough that moral rules need to be made applicable to classes of subjects. Men, women, children, antelopes and zebras – or broadly nature other than humanity. But the core values, such as equality, freedom, diversity, are all universals. However they have their antonyms or opposites as universal values also. It is the way they relate that defines their limitations. Forms of society exist within those universal values. Such as altruism, which is a combination of values.
    It would be absurd to employ equality so as to portray all people as morally equal. Even anarchist society will have its criminal law, while tending to provide equality to a wide and disparate range of person. Extreme authoritarian society has little truck with freedom and equality. Altruism relates together such values as freedom and social responsibility, including diversity, but that diversity only inclusive of ethical deviations so far as they are tolerable.
    And whereas altruism logically accords many rights to its citizens, they must be balanced by duties. Young people with the right to education and the duty to employ it for social good, with self-interest secondary.
  • RW Standing
    58
    What are ethical values? On no basis is it a species of animal out there that can be examined and described. Therefore it is not a human being that can be dissected as a material body. It would be a mistake to simply take our own existing prejudices and build on them. The starting point is the whole gamut of human [and other] behaviour and interaction, and that also of communities and their behaviour. This provides us with a chaos of activities, and motives deriving from our internal mental world. At that point we, as often rational beings, find it necessary to classify all that activity in order to manage it. We then take a term such as ethics with its generalised root or customary meaning. We can employ this against other convenient terms to define the boundaries between one sort of behaviour and another. There is at least one other term that is important and that is culture. We might even get tediously particular and use the term politics. Before long, the danger is, that we have so finely particularised and narrowed meanings to suit prevailing prejudice, that we will have lost the whole picture. In fine, it is better to describe ethics as distinct from culture, as to do with behaviour that appears to cause damage or otherwise as against innocuous behaviour as culture. We then take such words as there are available for this description and determine how they relate together and if any pattern emerges. In short, it may be contended, there are antonyms which describe a presence or absence, or which suggest simple motives as against social conditions. On the basis that anything simple is logically opposed to something compound. Therefore we will find a number of sets of key values that bring some clarity to the subject. We may take the term Freedom as a simple value or motive, that merely suggests the absence of its antonym as a social condition, which last we tend to call authoritarianism or even tyranny. If tyranny is a social condition, then it is described or suggested by at least two simple values. These in their turn have their antonyms as forms of society. A simple web of values would be triangular as a start. The implication of this is that Freedom is not a particular form of society, and merely provides us with a question as to what positive society we espouse, as against tyranny.
  • RW Standing
    58
    Catch 22: Politics in Action: On the assumption that politicians accepted a fundamental three way split in social-ethics, as against a break down in society and conflict, or chaos. It is unlikely that they would employ names for their parties and philosophies quite the same as I have used. They need to attract the electorate, or gull them, as may be. And the fundamental extremes will be toned down considerably.
    Popular names will be employed. The anarchist wing will vaunt its belief in freedom and liberalism. The authoritarian wing will vaunt its belief in law and order. And the altruist wing will perhaps speak of social justice. In any case they will all justify themselves as providing the best for the national future. More subtly perhaps the authoritarian wing will manipulate social convention so as to convince people they should accept the established authority – China and Russia spring to mind for some reason.
    At the heart of any manipulation of opinion would presumably be the way people are permitted ‘freedom of speech’. This can mean anything from unfettered rampant freedom, to polite freedom of discussion, to freedom only in politically respectable subjects. The latter instance can mean nothing more than using the suffix ‘phobia’ so as to preclude criticism of various ‘cultures’. The use of the term ‘culture’ to cover almost anything is dangerous – for altruists. Especially where a very inexact category of ‘religion’ is included as culture. It is surely obvious that religions, as they exist, include within them, cosmology, ethics, and culture of an innocuous kind. Ethical values include the term ‘diversity’ but this is directed at culture and does not signify rampant hedonism – as the way anarchism is most likely to be used.
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