• Bert Newton
    24
    In which I argue that an ought can be derived from an is, that such an ought claim may be correct or incorrect, and that such evaluation of a claim may be subjective or objective provided the circumstance. The argument therefore bridges both the gap between is-ought claims and the gap between the subjective-objective moral claims.

    It all begins with getting an ought from an is. The first premise is this:

      Human beings have no choice but to act on the desire they are convinced will bring the most pleasure and least pain.

    Consider Hume's Law with this example:

      Your hand IS in the fire therefore you OUGHT to pull it out

    One can see how ridiculous this is, the ought is inherent in nature, what Steven Woodford has loosely coined an “axiomatic ought”. Human beings don't have a choice when it comes to acting on the desire that they believe will give the most happiness, it's a neurological function of the brain; taking action is predicated on the brain convincing you (via dopamine) that you’re on the right path. That behind all of our behaviour is the pursuit of happiness has long been debated but I ask you to consider this yourself. If you can think of an action that isn’t motivated by the belief that it will bring pleasure then please comment.

    Because we naturally and inexorably value wellbeing it is always implied in is-ought statements. That we will do what we believe will give us the most pleasure is so intuitively known that linguistically we forgo the if by way of assumption:

      It is raining outside therefore [if you believe it would give you pleasure] you ought to take an umbrella

    In Philosophy Vibe’s presentation of the is-ought problem they use the example of a bottle of poison:

      There is a bottle of poison therefore (if you want to stay healthy) you ought not to drink it

    They say this is a valid statement because it is a non moral fact. Then they apply the same scenario but with the involvement of another agent:

      There is a bottle of poison therefore you ought not to put it another persons drink (it’s morally wrong)

    But why is it morally wrong? How can a natural fact about the world - what is, tell us what ought to be? The problem here is that they are asking the wrong question. Reframing the question with our axiomatic ought it appears so:

      There is a bottle of poison therefore [if you believe it will harm (wellbeing value)] you ought not to put it in another persons drink

    The value of wellbeing is inherent in the situation. Here is the all important point though: The is-ought is still valid not because it is morally right or wrong but because it is simply predicated on the belief (of the agent) that it is right or wrong, and as importantly, such belief is rooted in the value of wellbeing. Whether it is actually morally right or wrong in this situation would require an investigation. The is-ought gap is bridged by understanding that all oughts relate to the fact that humans value wellbeing – we inexorably derive an ought from an is because nature, the physiology of the brain, compels us so. Whether your belief the ought is right or wrong morally speaking is a separate issue. Therefore, there is only one axiomatic and inexorable single is-ought:

      [is statement:] One can not help but act on the desire they believe will bring the most pleasure and the least pain (one values wellbeing) therefore,
      [ought statement:] One ought to know if such a belief will bring the most pleasure and least pain is right or wrong

    Isn't this just hedonism? Human beings are a collective, the maxim applies to all; we value wellbeing. Studies in Positive Psychology tell us that we may derive more pleasure when we consider the wellbeing of others, possibly because of empathy born of the reasoning that others are the same as me. Is this not utilitarianism? Because the masses may hold erroneous beliefs about what will actually give themselves and others the most wellbeing (slavery, circumcision, burning witches, etc.) In some circumstances treating the individual as an end, the rights of the individual, may end up being the better path to wellbeing for all. Which brings us to bridging the subjective-objective gap and our second premise:

      What is it about a moral claim that makes it different to any other?

    If I told you that placing crystals on your head was better for relieving the pain of your headache than paracetamol would you accept it? It wasn’t so long ago you might have heard a parent say, “It’s immoral not to spank your children, if you don’t they will grow up to be a menace to themselves and society!” This is a moral claim. Is it subjective or objective? Such a claim can be investigated like any other using empirical methods. It turns out, after numerous scientific studies and decades of research, corporal punishment in the home is a terrible detriment to the wellbeing of a child and has largely only a negative affect on their future. Such a moral claim can be debunked, objectively debunked.

    What about the case of four men lost at sea who have to make a decision on who will be killed first so that the others may live? (R v Dudley and Stephens, 1884) A strict objectivist may argue there is always a right and wrong answer but for must of us I think we can agree such a situation is highly subjective. It draws on the conflict of Kant’s categorical imperative, the rights of the individual, and utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number.

    In short therefore I am making the claim that whether ethics is subjective or objective depends on circumstance. There is a spectrum on the bridge with subjectivity and objectivity lying at either end. Moral claims and behaviour require as much empiricism as they do reason and sometimes the answer as to whether they are justified will be a fact as clear as day, and sometimes it will be grey and relative.

    Whatever way you come at it, the simple fact is this: humans value wellbeing. Working together, and getting our beliefs correct about how to achieve the greatest wellbeing for all, is the grand project of morality.

    Thoughts?
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    Thoughts?Bert Newton

    Meh, this is basically epiphenomenalism.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    An ought can be gotten from an is.Bert Newton

    In principle, but not without support. Hume said so himself:

    “...For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it....”
    (THU 3.1.1, 1739)
    —————

    It draws on the conflict of Kant’s categorical imperative, the rights of the individual, and utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number.Bert Newton

    What is “it”, and how do rights, utilitarianism and greatest good relate to the Kantian C.I.?
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    how do rights, utilitarianism and greatest good relate to the Kantian C.I.?Mww

    I think he’s equating deontological ethics with individual rights, and equating utilitarianism with the greatest good.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    I think he’s equating deontological ethics with individual rights, and equating utilitarianism with the greatest good.Pfhorrest

    Hmmm.....I sure hope not. I’m ok with utilitarianism equating to the greatest good, but I reject Kantian deontology, which is technically a metaphysical misnomer anyway, equating to individual rights or utilitarianism/greatest good.

    Something else must be in the offing, in order for all those to fit together, seems like. Depends on what “it” is, and the conflict with the c.i.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    I don’t think he’s trying to fit them all together, but rather pairing individual rights with Kant (the CI), and greatest good with Mill (utilitarianism). And I think saying he’s got some bridge between those two “sides”: the Kant/rights side and the Mill/greatest-good side.
  • Bert Newton
    24
    I don’t think he’s trying to fit them all together, but rather pairing individual rights with Kant (the CI), and greatest good with Mill (utilitarianism). And I think saying he’s got some bridge between those two “sides”: the Kant/rights side and the Mill/greatest-good side.Pfhorrest

    Correct. Well, I'm saying it is a conflict of moral interests in the case of the boatmen and why the case is so subjective. The orphan's rights as an individual conflict with the greater good.

    In principle, but not without support. Hume said so himselfMww

    Yes. Hume was critical of moralists who jumped the is-ought gap without explanation. However, we know what that gap is. You can get an an ought from an is if you include the missing link of what you believe will give you the most pleasure. Therefore, strictly speaking the is-ought is actually an is-belief-ought.

      It is raining outside therefore [if you believe it will bring you pleasure] you ought to take an umbrella
      Is is poison therefore [if you believe it will not bring you pleasure] you ought not to poison others
      He is suffering a headache therefore [if you believe it will bring you pleasure] you ought to give him medicine

    We know that the gap is people acting on what they believe will give them the most pleasure. Of course most people have empathy born of reason, others are just like you, so what gives us pleasure is what gives others pleasure. There is only one ought:

      you ought to do what gives you and others the most wellbeing

    The point is you could be wrong about what gives you and others the most pleasure, and there can be a conflict of interests in who's pleasure should succeed, therefore we can get an ought from your belief about what is. That ought could be objective or highly subjective depending on circumstance.

    Meh, this is basically epiphenomenalism.SophistiCat

    Yes, and some.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    we can get an ought from your belief about what is.Bert Newton

    An ought is possible from an is, yes, but not by means of beliefs. But if you wish to see it that way, have fun with it.
  • Bert Newton
    24
    Why ought you do anything?

    All oughts can be reduced to the belief they will lead to wellbeing.

    There are better and worse ways to be. We ought to find the best ways to be. This means checking our beliefs.
  • Pinprick
    335
    We ought to find the best ways to be.Bert Newton

    Why?
  • Bert Newton
    24
    Because we value wellbeing, which we might be wrong or right about.

    Why take pain relief medicine to relieve a headache instead of placing crystals on your head?
  • Mww
    1.7k
    Why ought you do anything?Bert Newton

    Wrong question. Should be....to what ought my actions, comply?
    —————

    All oughts can be reduced to the belief they will lead to wellbeing.Bert Newton

    Not in this neck of the woods. That to which the acts given from my moral disposition belong, are known to me, but there is no promise they lead to wellbeing, even if they are indisputably morally good in themselves. To be moral is to be true to one’s self, the effects be what they may.

    I suppose, though, there is a sense of wellbeing for the agency that adheres to his moral disposition even at the expense of another’s. Still, such adherence is a form of knowledge given from pure practical reason and the principles in support of it, without any reduction to mere belief.
    —————

    We ought to find the best ways to be. This means checking our beliefs.Bert Newton

    This presupposes both that there is a best way, and that it can be found, which implies both always seeking after it, and at the same time, never finding it, which in turn implies disregard for innate personal identity. No need for any of that, nor any need for beliefs, when one already knows what kind of person he is. And if he knows that, he consequently knows his moral inclinations, that is, what his response will be to any given moral dilemma.
    —————-

    There is only one ought: you ought to do what gives you and others the most wellbeing.Bert Newton

    Which makes explicit no possible moral action is determinable, if the wellbeing of the acting agent and wellbeing of those being acted upon, are not congruent. On the other hand, to give the “most wellbeing” is an altogether contingent criteria, requiring arbitrary compromise, which is anathema to morality itself. One cannot will according to mere desire, especially desires for which he is not responsible, but must remain a willful moral agent within the bounds of his own personal identity. Hence, the legislative authority of the categorical imperative in conjunction with respect for the principles of law.

    You’re talking about not much more than just being nice, so sure....one ought to be nice, which reduces to mere etiquette. Or perhaps plain ol’ manners. My friends may very well say, awwww...how nice of you, when they hear I took the time to help the proverbial lil’ ol’ lady cross the street, but I dare say not a one of my friends will repeat the missive, upon hearing I intentionally put my arm between a child and a rabid dog’s teeth.

    I think you’ve got a fairly decent preliminary examination of general human conduct, but I also think some ground for a strictly moral conduct, is missing. Maybe you hadn’t intended a true moral examination to begin with, in which case your “only one ought” may well hold. But for me, general conduct is governed by judicial code, in which the “only one ought” is simply ought to obey the law, whereas in moral conduct, there are no oughts at all. There is only and ever.....will this according to that obligation......oughts derived therefrom being irrelevant.
  • Bert Newton
    24
    But for me, general conduct is governed by judicial code, in which the “only one ought” is simply ought to obey the law, whereas in moral conduct, there are no oughts at all. There is only and ever.....will this according to that obligation......oughts derived therefrom being irrelevant.Mww

    Isn't the moral conduct of everyday life and what goes on in the highest supreme court based on the same basic premise of wellbeing though? Isn't the law rooted in justice? Aren't our concepts of what is wrong and right based on harm?

    I also think some ground for a strictly moral conduct, is missing.Mww

    I agree. I skimmed the surface. I have been reworking it and now think there is actually only one complete axiomatic is-ought statement regarding morality. I think the maxim holds:

    [is statement:] One can not help but act on the desire they believe will bring the most pleasure and the least pain (one values wellbeing) therefore,
    [ought statement:] One ought to know if such a belief will bring the most pleasure and least pain is right or wrong
    Bert Newton

    ..but I didn't go into any lengths about how this is applied other than using empiricism and reason. I think if I made more of a point of "empathy born of the reasoning that others are the same", or as Joe Rogan puts it: "everyone else is yourself, living a different life." and direct you to the studies in Positive Psychology that show we are happier for helping others, I think then, people might swallow this better.

    The fact is: humans value wellbeing. Working together, getting our beliefs about that correct, is the grand project of morality.

    Thanks. :)
  • Pinprick
    335
    Because we value wellbeingBert Newton

    Not exclusively, or absolutely. Why pick out this one value out many others?
  • Gnomon
    814
    In short therefore I am making the claim that whether ethics is subjective or objective depends on circumstance.Bert Newton
    Yes. There are two "Oughts", the subjective conscience of each person, and the objective "Shoulds" of their community standards. Ancient divine Moral Law was essentially a formalization of traditional communal Ethics. :smile:
  • Pinprick
    335
    Community standards aren’t objective. Otherwise they would be universally applied.
  • Gnomon
    814
    ↪Gnomon
    Community standards aren’t objective. Otherwise they would be universally applied.
    Pinprick
    True. But only God's universal laws would be completely Objective & unbiased. So "community standards", such as those of empirical Science, are as close to objectively ethical as we can get. In effect, via the statistical effect of "The Wisdom of Crowds", impersonal collective standards tend to average out the various subjective biases of each citizen of a given culture. :smile:

    Objective : not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.; impartial, non-partisan.

    Wisdom of Crowds : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds
  • Janus
    9.2k
    To be moral is to be true to one’s self, the effects be what they may.Mww

    This seems like a meaningless formulation to me. Morality is intrinsically concerned with others; that's basically what it's all about. I'm not including all imposed moral norms in my conception of morality; the kind that condemn difference, for example; such prejudices are actually immoral because they are more concerned with protecting the self from what it fears than with the welfare of others.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    The fact is: humans value wellbeing. Working together, getting our beliefs about that correct, is the grand project of morality.Bert Newton

    :up:
  • Mww
    1.7k
    This seems like a meaningless formulation to me.Janus

    As you are entitled.

    So, what....being true to one’s self is meaningless, or, being true to one’s self is a valid concept but just needs a different name?

    If morality is intrinsically concerned with others, what is the intrinsic concern of ethics?
  • Janus
    9.2k
    "Being true to yourself' could mean many things. You might have a rigid concept of duty and see being true to yourself as being true to that, for example. So, I think more context is needed to make it meaningful.

    As I see it morality is concerned with how we ought to behave in relation to the impact we think our behavior will have on others. Ethics is more broadly concerned with how to live, but given that we are generally social animals then others will most likely come into that.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    As I see it morality is concerned with how we ought to behave in relation to the impact we think our behavior will have on others.Janus

    So I should act according to what won’t piss you off (or will please you), rather than doing what I think best? What about the fact I may not know what angers/pleases you, in which case.....I shouldn’t act at all? But then, maybe not acting at all pisses you off. Or, if not you, the guy next to you.

    Normative ethical behavior instructs me to stay on my side of the road, step aside for the guy with his arms full, keeping my mouth shut when others are speaking. Morality instructs me to accept a payment plan when selling my car to a desperate young mother as well as some mouthy, punk-ass dude.

    Ethics: wherein the judgement of the quality of one’s extant conduct, what he has done, is other than his own because of what it is;
    Morality: wherein the judgement of the quality of one’s possible conduct, what he is going to do, is his alone regardless of what it is.
    No act can be judged by others before it has occurred, which means no act can be judged by others before it is judged by the actor himself. And any act can be judged as proper or improper by any number of other people, according to each of their respective moral standards, but any act of a single moral agent judged by himself, will always be proper only, for otherwise he is immoral, or, which is the same thing, he is untrue to himself.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    So I should act according to what won’t piss you off (or will please you), rather than doing what I think best?Mww

    No, you ought to act in a way which doesn't injure me, or detract from my well-being in some considerable way. Pissing me off doesn't count; it won't significantly affect me.

    There are no certain rules which cover all cases, the point is merely that morality involves caring about how my actions affect others. Hegel wrote, if I remember correctly, that where there are rules, there is no morality; morality consisted, for him, in moral intuition. It's a subtle, not a rule-bound business, more like an art than a science. The basic thing is that you have to care.
  • Pinprick
    335
    the point is merely that morality involves caring about how my actions affect others.Janus

    Not necessarily. It doesn’t have to. It can be primarily concerned with how my actions affect me. If the broad goal of ethics is to live the good life, then assessing how one’s actions affect oneself is perfectly reasonable.

    Additionally, it could also be argued that those moralities that give precedence to the affect our actions have on others only do so out of a desire for others to consider us, a fear of retaliation, so that it will benefit us, or some other sort of selfish/egotistical desire.

    The basic thing is that you have to care.Janus

    Yes, you have to care, but only about what you consider “good.” You can choose to care about yourself more than others if you believe doing so is good, or that it will enable you to live the best life possible.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    There are no certain rules which cover all casesJanus

    Granting that there are no rules covering the cases themselves, which implies an inductive approach, there can still be rules from a deductive approach, covering the determination of acts in general, no matter the case to which particular acts apply. Deontological and virtue-based normative theories are predicated on rules, or indeed, law itself, however not covering the vast plurality of cases themselves, but covering moral actor himself, in his responses to cases. The focus then becomes not the act, which is always contingent on circumstance, but the ground for the determination of the act, which, if considered to be moral, can never be merely contingent.
    ———————

    The basic thing is that you have to care.....(...).....the point is merely that morality involves caring about how my actions affect others.Janus

    This almost looks like two different kinds of caring. I grant “the basic thing is you have to care”, which is reducible to a moral feeling seemingly inherent in autonomous willful agency. Not subscribed to so wholeheartedly, is the kind of caring concerning my actions with respect to their affect on others, for the impact on others may well conflict with the impact on myself. And if I am to remain moral in its truest sense, inward feelings must take precedence over outward, otherwise I become susceptible to conflicting with myself, which is the same as conflicting with my own moral constitution, which in turn relieves me of being a true autonomous agent moral, which in its turn, contradicts the predicates of Nature herself, for having evolved me into thinking myself as being one in the first place.

    Still.....you know.....awful lot of unsubstantiated assumptions involved in moral philosophy. Nature of the apparently rational, thus ultimately subjective, human beast, I guess.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    Not necessarily. It doesn’t have to. It can be primarily concerned with how my actions affect me. If the broad goal of ethics is to live the good life, then assessing how one’s actions affect oneself is perfectly reasonable.Pinprick

    Sure, but as I said earlier I draw a distinction between moral thinking and ethical thinking; where moral thinking is concerned with the effects of action on others and ethical thinking is not necessarily confined to that.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    Still.....you know.....awful lot of unsubstantiated assumptions involved in moral philosophy. Nature of the apparently rational, thus ultimately subjective, human beast, I guess.Mww

    I agree, and also have no problem with the rest of what you say. My only (simple) point is that the ground of moral thinking is concern for others. This ties in with the OP as saying something like "If I care about others, then I ought to consider, and be concerned about, how my actions might affect them". The corollary of this is that if I don't care about others, then I am amoral.
  • Mww
    1.7k


    I suppose I can live with that. If morality stands as personality regulation, in which I do care about others, so then would amoral stand as a personality disorder, much as does psychopathy, sociopathy, narcissism, and the like, in which I do not.

    Still....metaphysics of the normative human condition on the one hand, psychology of the deranged human condition on the other. Not sure how much they should overlap.
  • Pinprick
    335
    Gotcha. So you could be ethical, but also amoral in your distinction.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    Still....metaphysics of the normative human condition on the one hand, psychology of the deranged human condition on the other. Not sure how much they should overlap.Mww

    It doesn't seem to me to be a matter of metaphysics, but of phenomenology. So, I would view it as phenomenology of what you are terming the "normative" and "deranged" human conditions, respectively. Regarding the latter not being a psychological claim; I say that because it is not an attempt at explanation, but merely a noting of behavior. How do we know someone doesn't care about others? Even if they tell us they don't care we likely won't believe them unless their behavior manifests a lack of care.
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