• Maximus
    35
    Desiring Good

    Morality only has to do with intention, or desire. Desiring good makes us good. Desiring bad makes us bad. Outcomes can be preferable or not. They can be painful or pleasurable, but they say nothing of intention and so say nothing of morality.

    Levels of Desire

    Compulsive - These are probably not subject to a discussion of morality. We all have base compulsive desires. Merely having them wouldn't make one bad or good. It would have more to do with how we satisfy or resist these desires and what harms are caused in the process.

    Reflective - These are desires that when we contemplate we see a vision of what we think we ought to be. We can feel the value of being honest and of good character. Of resisting compulsive desires when they are harmful.
    In this way we can desire to be more like a model person who displays these attributes in abundance. Reflective desires are aware of consequence.

    So there is a choice to be made. We can be ruled by our compulsive desires or by our reflective desires. Which I believe is the basis for free will and the third level of desire. This one is harder to explain, or to prove for that matter, but there is the desire of the self. The self chooses to either battle the compulsive desires and
    be a slave to the reflective ones, or to be a slave to the compulsive desires and ignore the reflective.

    Desiring good requires one to be a slave of the reflective desires. You have to reflect on who you want to be, what legacy of yourself you will leave behind. If you are willing to hurt others in the process of becoming whatever it is you will become. Or if you will chose to help others. What you will do with abundance if you have it.

    With our free will, we can choose to be a slave to one or the other. Which one we desire to be a slave to, that is who and what we are. So lets be clear. Living entirely for pleasures for yourself is compulsive. Living in indifference is compulsive. Inaction against wrong doing is compulsive. Not making a choice is choosing to be compulsive, so no one is truly on the fence here.

    Being reflective is a choice that has to be made. It has to be made daily. We will always be prey to our compulsive desires where ever we let our guard down. It is the act of keeping your guard up that makes you good. It is the self deciding what the body will be. I agree we are a product of our environment but the self can chose the environment. Maybe not when we are born, but responsibility can not be pushed off forever.

    These thoughts are brand new to me after wanting to respond to arguments made by Sam Harris (and many others) on morality and free will. I wanted to take him seriously and find a way out of his line of thinking. I don't think misery and well being define morality. I don't think free will is entirely an illusion.

    Any thoughts on where I may have gone wrong here?
  • verbena
    6

    We all have different life experiences and visions, thus the words "good" and "bad" can be analyzed differently by everyone. I agree with most of your thoughts, my only question is - who decides if something is good or bad?
  • Maximus
    35
    That is definitely the logical next question and to be honest with you I will have to do some more thinking on this. I feel like it may have something to do with with being honest with yourself about your intuitions. I think a lot of the bad is done by people who use world views or religion or something of the sort to rationalize actions that go against their intuition. But again, I feel I need to spend more time contemplating this.
  • verbena
    6
    a lot of the bad is done by people who use world views or religion or something of the sort to rationalize actions that go against their intuition.Maximus

    I agree with this statement. Using things like religion in order to manipulate people doesn't seem ethical to me. I also believe that people should be free to act upon their desires but shouldn't violate the rights of other people while doing so.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    Morality only has to do with intention, or desire. Desiring good makes us good. Desiring bad makes us bad. Outcomes can be preferable or not. They can be painful or pleasurable, but they say nothing of intention and so say nothing of morality.Maximus

    I don't agree with this premise. Morality has to do with both intentions and actions, where actions can be contrary to intentions. Killing someone where one had no intention to isn't as bad as killing them where one had an intention to, in my opinion, but it's still bad, and that's why we have categories and punishments for things like negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter, etc.

    Also, in my view, no intentions sans actions are morally problematic.
  • Maximus
    35
    I can't disagree with what you have written there. That is the purpose of law and order. To keep us free to act on desires, except when it violates another person's rights. However, I am discussing morality. I'm worried about the loss of personal responsibility as well as the loss of the ability to make value judgments. I want to say two things in the end.
    1. We have free will so we are responsible.
    2. Some practices can be held with contempt regardless of the culture they stem from.
  • Maximus
    35

    This is a crucial point of disagreement.
    I think its a language problem more than anything. Killing someone with out the intention is bad, no doubt. But morality in my own opinion is about the agent and not the action. One is bad, the other is morally bad.
  • verbena
    6
    Morality has to do with both intentions and actionsTerrapin Station


    I agree. One can desire to kill another but can also choose to not to do so. In my opinion, desiring is in the nature of our kind but so is thinking reasonably and acting upon our intentions.
  • Maximus
    35
    I should probably clarify that I think the law should prevent bad in terms of outcomes. We don't want thought police, so we don't want someone to be punished for being bad if they haven't committed a crime.
    I did say that compulsive desires couldn't be considered morally bad in themselves. But the moral person chooses to be in control of his compulsive desires.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    One is bad, the other is morally bad.Maximus

    There's no classification for the first? Morally bad for the latter in your view, and _____ bad for the former?
  • Maximus
    35
    So intending to kill is morally bad. Intending to kill and also committing the act is morally bad.
    Not intending to kill and killing is bad and subject to the law, but not morally bad.
    Bad - Suffering
    Morally Bad - Bad Intentions, apathy ..
  • Maximus
    35

    "Also, in my view, no intentions sans actions are morally problematic."

    In my opinion ill will for someone, caused by jealousy lets say is morally bad on its own.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    Not intending to kill and killing is bad and subject to the law,Maximus

    It just doesn't make sense to me what sort of bad this is if not morally bad.
  • Maximus
    35


    Its bad in that it caused suffering. Suppose someone is stabbed with a knife still stuck in them and another person trying to save him removes the knife. The man dies. It is later determined that this man would have lived if the knife was left alone. This is a bad outcome. However, I find no grounds for saying that the man who removed the object was being immoral.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    I'd need to change the example to a situation where it couldn't be reasonably known by the average person that performing some action put someone's life in jeopardy (and in that situation, it wouldn't be negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter). But, I'd also not think it makes any sense in that situation to say that the action of the surviving person was bad. It would certainly be unfortunate, a non-desired outcome, but I can't make sense of calling his action "bad" in that case.
  • Maximus
    35

    We seem to be agreeing somewhat, but having a problem with the words we are using. If you like lets say there is:

    Bad - Immoral

    And then there is unfortunate or undesirable or whatever else you would want to put here

    Then bad , if it is defined to be immoral, would be a judgement of intention, and the other words a judgement of outcome.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    Morality only has to do with intention, or desire. Desiring good makes us good. Desiring bad makes us bad. Outcomes can be preferable or not.Maximus

    Jesus said if you hated your brother, you were already a murderer. He placed quite a bit of stock in our intentions. Eventually I came to doubt intention-defined morality. What we do is more important than what we intend--and this is the basis of the final judgement described in Matthew: "I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me..."

    I have no way of assessing your intentions, since I can rely only on your version of what you intended. What you did, however, is observable. So if you do good actions, (however we define good) you have done moral actions. If you do nothing in the face of need, or if you perform bad actions (however we define bad) then you have done done nothing or you have done immoral actions.

    You and I can worry about our own intentions, but as a basis of morality, it doesn't work that well.
  • Maximus
    35


    Saying that intentions are not a practical thing to try and judge someone by is correct.
    However using that fact to prove that it is not the basis of morality is an incorrect leap in my opinion.
    You may not be able to know my intentions and therefore not know how moral of a person I am.
    Your judgement of me has to be based on my actions. Your judgement may or may not be correct.
    Certainly actions are a good way to make an educated guess, but that is all it is.

    More clearly intention is not a good basis for you to judge me because you can't possibly know my intentions. Intention, however can still be a basis for morality and self reflection.

    In fact by my actions you are trying to guess my intent and my morality. But actions are not morality.
  • Gooseone
    107
    These thoughts are brand new to me after wanting to respond to arguments made by Sam Harris (and many others) on morality and free will. I wanted to take him seriously and find a way out of his line of thinking. I don't think misery and well being define morality. I don't think free will is entirely an illusion.

    Any thoughts on where I may have gone wrong here?
    Maximus

    I've watched Sam Harris his Ted talk on morality and I would laud it, I'm all for gaining some more objectivity to negate moral relativism. His lecture on free will though.... couldn't get through it.

    What appears to be bothering you (and me to some degree) is the degree in which our social environment counts as information which we can use to inform our decision making. In your case this appears to come out as seeing merely having "wrong" intentions already suffices to be accused of low morality. This does not seem like a worthwhile approach seeing this "moral righteousness" could be defined as being your specific idea of well being which negates your intuitive objections towards his train of thought in the moral sense (where I could agree with Sam Harris, based on what I've learned so far).

    Would your objections be better articulated if I were to state that, what we have become familiar with in our socio cultural upbringing counts as information which is intelligible enough to use as the information we base our decisions on?

    I would agree in free will not existing absolutely in the sense of direct agency yet a lot of proponents for this view make some weird leap to come to something which still includes morality and these weird leaps are what bug me personally. Daniel Dennett comes to "the free will worth having" without ever hinting at emotional engagement and Sam Harris appears to leap to physical well being as the main criteria for being morally responsible (I couldn't take his lecture any more). Both seem to forsake the idea that our emotional inclinations respond to an environment which is not (obviously) physically present (while still using this observation as being relevant to become able to respond favourably towards moral inclinations). Sam Harris acknowledges our consciousness / self awareness as the ability to suffer and states that we should try and prevent needless suffering, which I agree with.

    A big part of our consciousness consists of being able to see our environment in an abstract way and respond to it as such, there is no physical theory (yet) how this works exactly but it's detrimental to our capacities to pretend we are only responding to a physical environment. As such, we can be aware of causes which are only conceivable to ourselves yet still count as 'valuable' information. Assuming this layer does not exist and does not inform the choices we appear to make does not necessarily lead to fatalism, but it does negate a large part of the experience we are most intimately familiar with.

    In my view it's childish to use this conscious experience on the one hand to prove we're capable of realising the harm we might do to other (conscious?) entities while on the other hand negate our capacity to use such abstract information to make decisions, it makes no sense whatsoever to my mind.

    To quote the Sam Harris in his lecture where I feel he makes a wrong turn in assessing where the line is between holding people responsible and where not: "These are differences that relate to the global properties of the mind and what's reasonable to expect of those minds in the future"
  • Maximus
    35

    I'm going to have to give this response another read when I'm off work. I I just started my evening shift. It seems like we have some common ground though.
  • Maximus
    35

    In some respects I think your articulating some thoughts about Sam Harris' work that I haven't been able to get out in words. Sam will talk about the importance of intentions, but he proposes a basis for morality that really doesn't consider them.
    Your right it is this abstract information of emotion and intuition about the inherent wrongness of things that I don't think we should explain away or lose.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    I'm all for gaining some more objectivity to negate moral relativism.Gooseone

    I find myself sounding like I support moral relativism, which I don't like, and can't seem to avoid. "Respect for individuality" or "individuals have a right to free expression of their personality", "Individuals have a right to reach their own conclusions about..." and so on. Western democracies pay more than lip service to these positions on the proper respect due individuals, (but sometimes they are not at all enthusiastic about some individuals who are just plain annoying). There are a number of regimes around the world who do not give a rat's ass about respecting individuals, and there are some regimes (really big ones) that not very long ago shot people for being too individualistic.

    Were I a loyal member of the repressive regimes, I would probably think it quite proper to suppress individuality. I recognize that, it is a relativistic POV, and I don't like that. I recognize that many people find homosexuality wrong, perverse, intrinsically disordered, and so on, and in a pluralistic society, we are expected to grant respect to the individuals holding these views. I think they are dead wrong, however.

    We seem to be fine with objective values as long as our moral objectivities are consistent with western democratic values (which I vastly prefer to repressive, oppressive regimes). But other people's moral objectivities are often considered immoral by us, and visa versa.

    In other words, we all tend to be relativists. Maybe we should just admit we are relativists, like our own values better than theirs, we're right, they're wrong, fuck them, and be done with it.
  • Gooseone
    107
    In other words, we all tend to be relativists. Maybe we should just admit we are relativists, like our own values better than theirs, we're right, they're wrong, fuck them, and be done with it.Bitter Crank

    It might sound like circular reasoning but in my opinion, admitting to this would do more for creating common values then claiming moral high ground by considering each value to be equal.
  • Maximus
    35

    This isn't going to be a very clear response, but I I'm just brainstorming here.
    I think it's interesting that our American values today are actually more closely related to the ideas put forth by the founders than the values the founders had themselves.
    We have gone much farther in treating everyone equally. We have gone much farther toward religious freedom.

    So somehow they had the ideas right and the values wrong. And whatever culture that shows moral progress will either have to do something similar or have an outside influence. The cases that are most interesting is when change is affected from within the culture.

    If our culture was to be objectively morally better it might be because of starting with the right idea. It maybe that we need is Leo to incept the right ideas into other cultures so they can fix themselves.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    I don't buy that there are any objective moral values or that there is such a thing as objective moral progress.
  • Maximus
    35

    Well i guess there are two things going on. One do they exist, and two how would they be defined if they do exist.
    I would say there are dangers that have been well written about in rejecting objective moral value.
    I'm not however saying that the dangers prove moral value. The dangers are not about truth as much as they are about what is good for us to know.
    I would imagine your not a fan of CS Lewis, but I feel like he explains the dangers much better than I ever could in "The Abolition of Man". He is only talking about the reaches of science and not arguing for religion. The warning at the end CS Lewis gives is that we have to be careful explaining these intuitions away like the intuition that some things (for instance rape) are just wrong no matter what,
    He says that we don't want to go on explaining everything away and that eventually when we have explained humanity away we won't be human any longer. Hence the abolition of man.
    The analogy which I love and I'm paraphrasing:
    The point of looking through the window is to to see the garden on the other side. What good would it be if the garden were also transparent. And if we are able to see through all things, that would be the same as to not see at all..
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k


    It's not that one is "explaining away" moral judgments, or that we're getting rid of things like an intuition that rape is wrong. It's that we're recognizing that what that intuition is is simply the way we feel about rape. That doesn't imply that one will stop feeling how one does about it. That's not the case any more than realizing that one's like of a particular flavor of ice cream is simply how one feels about it makes one stop liking that flavor of ice cream.
  • Gooseone
    107
    It's that we're recognizing that what that intuition is is simply the way we feel about rape.Terrapin Station

    The warning at the end CS Lewis gives is that we have to be careful explaining these intuitions away like the intuition that some things (for instance rape) are just wrong no matter whatMaximus

    @ Terrapin, I guess for you an 'objective' moral value would have to be an empirical fact outside of human experience? Seeing that is unlikely to happen, how about a lower boundary on which preferences we tolerate from each other then?
  • Maximus
    35
    That's not the case any more than realizing that one's like of a particular flavor of ice cream is simply how one feels about it makes one stop liking that flavor of ice cream.Terrapin Station

    I suppose your right, however it seems like comparing our "taste" in morals to our taste in ice cream is still dangerous. I can't make laws about what ice cream should be made, but we do try to legislate against what is wrong. We have to be able to tell somebody that there taste for rape is wrong even though they might not think so.

    Its not saying that your feelings go away, but it is devaluing them.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    how about a lower boundary on which preferences we tolerate from each other then?Gooseone

    I'm not sure what you're asking. As I said, we certainly make moral judgments. Realizing that they're ways that we feel about interpersonal behavior doesn't make them disappear.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    I can't make laws about what ice cream should be made,Maximus

    I don't understand the sense of "I can't" you're using there. Of course you could make food laws, or art laws, or anything like that. Those sorts of laws exist in some places.

    At any rate, one of the crucial differences is that our moral judgments are about interpersonal behavior--that is, behavior that is done to other people. So naturally we want to make laws about behavior that we strongly disapprove of.

    It's only devaluing moral judgments if one thinks that there's something inferior about something only being the way one feels about things. But why would one think there's something inferior about that?
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