• Pinprick
    528
    So aside from outcomes and intentions, what kind of action also seems to matter.ChatteringMonkey

    Agreed. I suppose whether or not the act actually has the potential to cause harm is the determining factor when evaluating intentions? Using a voodoo doll hasn’t been shown to have the potential to cause harm, whereas being shot obviously has.

    The football example is actually an interesting one, because in football (and I'm talking about soccer here) they have very clear rules about what kind of tackles are allowed and which are not. Intentions usually are not considered in determining whether the player has made a fault. Either way such a tackle usually isn't considered morally wrong, even if it was a fault. But if you were to tackle someone outside of a football-field then it would be considered morally wrong. Intention to harm is assumed because why would you be tackling someone otherwise. So here we have basically the same actions that are judged completely differently because context matters.ChatteringMonkey

    I was referring to American football, but either one illustrates the point, I think. The context being that all parties involved in the game have consented to play it with the full knowledge that certain physical contact is allowed and could cause injury (I’m referring to legal tackles here, which could still lead to injury).

    However, I wonder if there have been any cases, in any sport, where legal charges were filed due to excessive or malicious use of force (think fights in hockey where actual weapons (hockey sticks) have been used)? I know in American football, some illegal hits carry the additional burden of being judged as immoral as well. These are hits that are obviously done to intentionally injure a player.

    One example:

  • ChatteringMonkey
    782
    I was referring to American football, but either one illustrates the point, I think. The context being that all parties involved in the game have consented to play it with the full knowledge that certain physical contact is allowed and could cause injury (I’m referring to legal tackles here, which could still lead to injury).

    However, I wonder if there have been any cases, in any sport, where legal charges were filed due to excessive or malicious use of force (think fights in hockey where actual weapons (hockey sticks) have been used)? I know in American football, some illegal hits carry the additional burden of being judged as immoral as well. These are hits that are obviously done to intentionally injure a player.
    Pinprick

    There definitely have been in soccer, and in other sports like cycling too I think. Consent typically doesn't overrule criminal law if lack of consent isn't part of what constitutes the crime (whereas it does overrule civil law) because it isn't deemed a matter between the parties only, but also a matter of the state... which is why you have a public prosecutor.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.8k
    I think of intentions as whatever it is you want to do, regardless of whether or not you have the means to do them, or are capable of doing them, etc.Pinprick

    Ah. "I cannot swim so will not swim but intend to swim." To me that's erroneous. An intention to me is an intent to act. I think that's typical.
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    In certain cases we do think intent to harm isn't necessary for something to be immoral, like say in case of doing harm because of drunk driving or negligence.ChatteringMonkey

    I'd consider drunk driving a case of negligence. And what makes negligence what it is is your failure to act according to your duties before the outcome is unavoidable.

    Using the drunk driving example: if there is a chance you'll end up drunk driving, don't drink in the first place.

    For example, is it wrong for me to shove pins in a Trump voodoo doll because I’m intending to do him harm?Pinprick

    But if you're certain that this cannot work, you're not actually intending harm - you're just pretending to. And if you think there's a chance it might work, it seems to me that it would be wrong.

    You're right that intentions and outcomes cannot be looked at separately though, because intention, in the moral sense, is selecting an action based on a desired outcome and given ability to bring it about.

    So here we have basically the same actions that are judged completely differently because context matters.ChatteringMonkey

    But is this a sign of different moral approaches or merely of different factual information? We always have to infer the intentions of others from outcomes.

    Football players also agree to a specific game with specific written and unwritten rules. Which is why things that would otherwise be considered assault aren't if they can still be considered part of the game.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782


    In certain cases we do think intent to harm isn't necessary for something to be immoral, like say in case of doing harm because of drunk driving or negligence.
    — ChatteringMonkey

    I'd consider drunk driving a case of negligence. And what makes negligence what it is is your failure to act according to your duties before the outcome is unavoidable.

    Using the drunk driving example: if there is a chance you'll end up drunk driving, don't drink in the first place.
    Echarmion

    This was an example to illustrate that intention doesn't always matter. Maybe you intent to drive while drunk, but you don't intent to harm somebody. The harm done is an accident, made more probable because you are drunk but still an accident. Unless you are going to say that it is driving drunk itself that is immoral, regardless of whether you hit someone or not. But I don't think that's how we typically look at it, it does seem to matter that you hit someone or not.

    So here we have basically the same actions that are judged completely differently because context matters.
    — ChatteringMonkey

    But is this a sign of different moral approaches or merely of different factual information? We always have to infer the intentions of others from outcomes.

    Football players also agree to a specific game with specific written and unwritten rules. Which is why things that would otherwise be considered assault aren't if they can still be considered part of the game.
    Echarmion

    Yes I agree, maybe it wasn't a good example for the point being discussed. I though it interesting because it illustrates the complexity of judging a certain situation in todays world. You have the rules of the game, you have the law,... and then you also have morality? Makes you wonder where morality actually comes into play.
  • Outlander
    859


    It is best illustrated by the events that unfolded earlier today in the U.S. Capitol. One person, unfortunately, was killed. I would compare these to hypothetical (some not) numbers of fatalities that would arise if others in another country decided to encroach their government buildings, numbers amounting to human lives lost that will never be heard of.

    In most modern societies, you have a right to insult and make just short of literal death threats toward elected leaders. You can oppose the government openly, vehemently, and on occasion, successfully. Your ancestors, whether you know or accept it or not, were more than likely highly dependent and faithful toward religion, or their idea of a god or supreme being. They considered all their successes, gains, etc. as solely from said entity. So much so they allowed "the reigns to be loosened" so that us modern folk can live as we more or less please, provided basic decencies or at least egregious crimes
    are recognized as they are.

    Perhaps they were wrong, god did not exist and all successes and contingent rewards or gains were and are based solely on human endeavor, be it moral or otherwise. Perhaps not. You seem to have made your choice. Let others make theirs.
  • Philosophim
    527


    Look at it in terms of probabilities. A good man is trying to do good. While sometimes they may do evil, it is unintentional and therefore less likely. Further, if they realize they've done evil, a good man will correct it.

    Take the opposite view with an evil man. An evil person will attempt to do evil. While sometimes they may do good, it is unintentional and therefore less likely. Further, if they realize they've done good, an evil man will correct it.
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    This was an example to illustrate that intention doesn't always matter. Maybe you intent to drive while drunk, but you don't intent to harm somebody. The harm done is an accident, made more probable because you are drunk but still an accident. Unless you are going to say that it is driving drunk itself that is immoral, regardless of whether you hit someone or not. But I don't think that's how we typically look at it, it does seem to matter that you hit someone or not.ChatteringMonkey

    I'd most definetly say that driving drunk is immoral regardless of whether or not you have an accident. It's also illegal in most countries, I'd wager. The immoral intention here is not to cause harm, but rather to intentionally ignore a rule that ensures everyone's safety for your own benefit. A case might be made for a situation where you didn't expect to get drunk but honestly miscalculated the effect the drinks would have, but that's a rather fringe case.

    You have the rules of the game, you have the law,... and then you also have morality? Makes you wonder where morality actually comes into play.ChatteringMonkey

    I'd say on all levels, more or less. The rules of the game could itself be immoral, and so might the law. But the law might also be based on morality, but be less exacting.

    I consider morality the principle according to which we individually choose our actions in accordance with reason. Rules we make - for games or in the form of laws, should conform to morality insofar as they do make provisions, but they do not need to (and arguably shouldn't) require fully moral actions. I.e. not everything that's immoral should be illegal, but by and large everything that is moral should also be legal.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782


    Ok, I think I agree with most of your points.

    Just to clarify though, you say

    I consider morality the principle according to which we individually choose our actions in accordance with reason.Echarmion

    I take it that you mean that, even though we choose individually, the principle according to which we choose is the same for everybody, universal?
  • Brian Gomes
    9
    A man who desires to do evil and does good is not a good man. Just a failure.
  • Outlander
    859
    A man who desires to do evil and does good is not a good man. Just a failure.Brian Gomes

    Where caution should be heeded is acknowledging the circumstance or trials in which the failure occurred. Not everyone goes through the exact same things under the exact same circumstances.
  • Pinprick
    528
    Ah. "I cannot swim so will not swim but intend to swim." To me that's erroneous. An intention to me is an intent to act. I think that's typical.Kenosha Kid

    So you mean if you’re incapable of performing the act, for whatever reason, then you cannot intend to do it? I’m just not quite understanding how you differentiate between desiring to do something, and intending to, unless you’re just saying intention is a specific type of desire to act; one where the agent is actually capable of doing so.

    If so, that seems odd to me, because I can start off simply desiring to, let’s say, swim, which is something I currently cannot do. Then, once I learn how to swim, the same internal feeling of desiring to swim becomes an intention, simply because I now know how to.
  • Pinprick
    528
    And if you think there's a chance it might work, it seems to me that it would be wrong.Echarmion

    But what is there to make it wrong? There’s essentially no outcome, and no one is harmed, so why call it wrong?
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.8k
    So you mean if you’re incapable of performing the act, for whatever reason, then you cannot intend to do it?Pinprick

    If you know you are incapable of the act, then it is logically impossible to intend to do it, yes. Intent is teleological.
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    I take it that you mean that, even though we choose individually, the principle according to which we choose is the same for everybody, universal?ChatteringMonkey

    Well we assume it is. We cannot really know, since we only have access to our own reasoning. So the principle would have to be something universal according to our own reasoning.

    But what is there to make it wrong? There’s essentially no outcome, and no one is harmed, so why call it wrong?Pinprick

    This requires answering the question why we call anything "wrong". I'd argue that, insofar as "right" and "wrong" have a unique purpose, that purpose is to tell us how we should act. And since we're neither omniscient nor omnipotent, it follows that what is wrong can only be an intention - something aimed at an outcome for a given reason - not the outcome itself.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782
    I take it that you mean that, even though we choose individually, the principle according to which we choose is the same for everybody, universal?
    — ChatteringMonkey

    Well we assume it is. We cannot really know, since we only have access to our own reasoning. So the principle would have to be something universal according to our own reasoning.
    Echarmion

    Ok, I expected you to make a stronger claim to universality because of the next sentences you wrote :

    Rules we make - for games or in the form of laws, should conform to morality insofar as they do make provisions, but they do not need to (and arguably shouldn't) require fully moral actions. I.e. not everything that's immoral should be illegal, but by and large everything that is moral should also be legal.Echarmion

    The idea that the rules we make and laws we vote should to be in accordance with morality, only really makes sense if there is one universal morality, right?
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    Ok, I expected you to make a stronger claim to universality because of the next sentences you wrote :ChatteringMonkey

    I mostly wanted to distance myself from the idea of a "divine logos" or similar. I only have access to my own reasoning. The best I can do is vet my reasoning by having other look for flaws. But even if all humans agreed to a principle, we could not technically be sure that it's universal in the ontological sense.

    Some alien might come along with entirely alien reasoning. Our principles wouldn't be universal to them.

    The idea that the rules we make and laws we vote should to be in accordance with morality, only really makes sense if there is one universal morality, right?ChatteringMonkey

    Universal among the moral subjects, yes. But since it's unlikely we'll ever all agree on just what that universal morality is, we'll always have to hope we're not mistaken.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782
    I mostly wanted to distance myself from the idea of a "divine logos" or similar. I only have access to my own reasoning. The best I can do is vet my reasoning by having other look for flaws. But even if all humans agreed to a principle, we could not technically be sure that it's universal in the ontological sense.

    Some alien might come along with entirely alien reasoning. Our principles wouldn't be universal to them.
    Echarmion

    You derive the universality from a shared biology then? While I would agree that we have many more similarities than differences because of our shared biology, there are differences too... so it seems to me that could only make for a tentative universalism at best.

    The best I can do is vet my reasoning by having other look for flaws.Echarmion

    Universal among the moral subjects, yes. But since it's unlikely we'll ever all agree on just what that universal morality is, we'll always have to hope we're not mistaken.Echarmion

    So you think differences in moral evaluation can only be a matter of flawed reasoning? To me it does seem like there are also differences in moral evaluations not because of flawed reasoning, but because of genuine different values.
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    You derive the universality from a shared biology then?ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, you could say that. Though my metaphysics skew constructivist, so I'd say shared mental faculties.

    While I would agree that we have many more similarities than differences because of our shared biology, there are differences too... so it seems to me that could only make for a tentative universalism at best.ChatteringMonkey

    I think our shared reasoning is pretty fundamental. Pretty much everyone agrees with the scientific method, for example, even those who completely disagree with some of it's commonly accepted findings. The concepts we represent by basic propositional logic or algebra are accessible to anyone who we ordinarily consider sane.

    So you think differences in moral evaluation can only be a matter of flawed reasoning?ChatteringMonkey

    Yes. Though I would qualify this by saying that no-one has flawless reasoning all the time, so I'd nevertheless expect there to always be different moral evaluations.

    To me it does seem like there are also differences in moral evaluations not because of flawed reasoning, but because of genuine different values.ChatteringMonkey

    People have genuinely different values, but I consider the aim of a moral philosophy to moderate the expression of these values so that they can coexist.
  • Brian Gomes
    9
    If you set out do something with specific intentions, and fail to accomplish your goals, you are technically a failure. Doesn't matter what you've been through or what you set out to do, if you can't do it, you are a failure. It may not be your fault and one does not have to stay a failure forever. If you want to do evil and end up doing good, you failed. Same goes vice versa.
  • Sapien
    23
    Reminds me of a line from Faust
    "Who are you then?"
    "I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good".
  • Outlander
    859
    If you set out do something with specific intentions, and fail to accomplish your goals, you are technically a failure.Brian Gomes

    A bit one dimensional. It makes you nothing other than you were before said endeavor, with the exception it can be said you indeed "failed" in the scope of that one specific endeavor. If I experience an injury it doesn't make me "an injury", now does it? Granted, some words used today are useful for grounding a person in the spirit of improvement and betterment of one's self as well as encouraging them to gain more knowledge and better understanding of said failed endeavor before attempting it again. We've all lost or otherwise failed in something or another. We've also all won or otherwise succeeded in other things. Why should one or even many failures or successes be internalized as a defining characteristic of one's true self? What if I lose a game of chess, yet win two. Or even lose five and win five. Is it a matter of numbers of occurrences or simply the most recent outcome you believe, technically, defines a person.

    Besides, there are instances of non-completed endeavors (with the exception of time-sensitive, numerically measurable goals ie. losing 20 pounds before Christmas or being able to add 50 pounds to one's weightlifting max before the end of Summer) that are far from failure. For example, perhaps I inspired others who will accomplish said goals in a way better than I could or would be comfortable risking at the time. Perhaps I discovered said goals were not as useful in the long term as was first believed or that they were even detrimental.

    Perhaps, the only true failure in life is failing to learn from one's failures. And perhaps the only true success in life is learning to take one's inevitable losses gracefully when they do occur, and one's successes with a sense of gratitude absent of all pride. Not everybody can do it, you know. For does all success in this life not come with a poisoned chalice of complacency, dooming all would partake from it to an even greater and insidious failure? One that disguises and manifests itself as the opposite? Perhaps these are just mere words of encouragement for all who may benefit from them- the afflicted, the downtrodden, those without hope. Perhaps not. Who's to say.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782
    You derive the universality from a shared biology then?
    — ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, you could say that. Though my metaphysics skew constructivist, so I'd say shared mental faculties.
    Echarmion

    I'd call myself a moral constructivist, and I'd say the 'local universalism' comes from shared culture and shared values, more than any shared attributes we may have, although those are probably a prerequisite for having a shared culture to begin with, sure.

    While I would agree that we have many more similarities than differences because of our shared biology, there are differences too... so it seems to me that could only make for a tentative universalism at best.
    — ChatteringMonkey

    I think our shared reasoning is pretty fundamental. Pretty much everyone agrees with the scientific method, for example, even those who completely disagree with some of it's commonly accepted findings. The concepts we represent by basic propositional logic or algebra are accessible to anyone who we ordinarily consider sane.
    Echarmion

    Yeah I'm not so sure about that, I think history would beg to differ. I came to this thread having just listened to a podcast about WEIRD-biases. And if we put some belief in that research, it seems like a lot of our reliance on reason and our moral way of looking at things is historically contingent. Myth and tradition were for the largest part of history what determined morality, not reason... although reason played a role there too, no doubt.

    So you think differences in moral evaluation can only be a matter of flawed reasoning?
    — ChatteringMonkey

    Yes. Though I would qualify this by saying that no-one has flawless reasoning all the time, so I'd nevertheless expect there to always be different moral evaluations.

    To me it does seem like there are also differences in moral evaluations not because of flawed reasoning, but because of genuine different values.
    — ChatteringMonkey

    People have genuinely different values, but I consider the aim of a moral philosophy to moderate the expression of these values so that they can coexist.
    Echarmion

    Ok but then you don't have one morality, right? Unless you think different values need not imply different moral evaluations.
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    Yeah I'm not so sure about that, I think history would beg to differ. I came to this thread having just listened to a podcast about WEIRD-biases.ChatteringMonkey

    Sounds interesting. Can you point me to it? I have read a bit about common cognitive biases on Eliezer Yudkowsky's blog. The fact that there are biases that pretty much everyone has points to a significant amount of shared mental machinery. Yudkowsky also argues that from an evoltionary perspective, you would expect all brains to be very much alike in terms of hard-wired logic, since it's more or less impossible that a mutation would lead to a different but viable system.

    And if we put some belief in that research, it seems like a lot of our reliance on reason and our moral way of looking at things is historically contingent. Myth and tradition were for the largest part of history what determined morality, not reason... although reason played a role there too, no doubt.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, it's true that we can never be actually sure whether or not what we think is reason is not just a rationalisation of myth or tradition. It probably often is. But this seems to be one of those dilemmas that you can only get out of by asserting a solution. And morality is a practical field. So it makes sense to me to say that, insofar as we are all capable of reason, we should try to find universal principles to base our actions on. This will have the highest likelyhood of giving us true - if no necessarily objective - results.

    Ok but then you don't have one morality, right? Unless you think different values need not imply different moral evaluations.ChatteringMonkey

    To be honest, after writing my first reply I noticed I was confused about the concept of value in the first place. What are examples of the kind of values we talk about here? Something like a specific religious creed, or something more abstract?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    782
    Sounds interesting. Can you point me to it? I have read a bit about common cognitive biases on Eliezer Yudkowsky's blog. The fact that there are biases that pretty much everyone has points to a significant amount of shared mental machinery. Yudkowsky also argues that from an evoltionary perspective, you would expect all brains to be very much alike in terms of hard-wired logic, since it's more or less impossible that a mutation would lead to a different but viable system.Echarmion

    Sure, it was the mindscape podcast, with guess Joseph Henrich. He has written a few books on the topic I saw.

    The question then presumably is how much is hard-wired and how much is left to culture? One of the interesting things about us humans is that we do have that ability to transmit idea's that are not hard-wired in our genes, which could in turn have played a role in our evolution by replacing some of the traits that were hard-wired.... making us generally more adaptable. From what I've gathered it's quite common in evolution that new developed traits can make older traits obsolete and disappear, because they are not selected for anymore if the new traits fulfills a certain function better.

    Well, it's true that we can never be actually sure whether or not what we think is reason is not just a rationalisation of myth or tradition. It probably often is. But this seems to be one of those dilemmas that you can only get out of by asserting a solution. And morality is a practical field. So it makes sense to me to say that, insofar as we are all capable of reason, we should try to find universal principles to base our actions on. This will have the highest likelyhood of giving us true - if no necessarily objective - results.Echarmion

    Yes ok, I agree with this insofar reason definitely plays and should play a role, but that role is I think ultimately only instrumental and not the bases of our valuations. So if you value X, then by way of correct reasoning you would get an objective answer to the question of how to act. But that value X is not objectively derivable from the world or reason alone, but comes from our affects. I'll try to explain what I mean with value below...

    To be honest, after writing my first reply I noticed I was confused about the concept of value in the first place. What are examples of the kind of values we talk about here? Something like a specific religious creed, or something more abstract?Echarmion

    I do tend to throw that word around semi-consciously.... but they are indeed something more general and abstract. Examples would be something like freedom, security, quality of life etc. These are general ideas that capture the things we find the most important, and we use them as standards to measure other things by... and we also weight them against eachother to order them in some kind of hierarchy. That's where people typically will have different opinions, one person will value security over freedom, and another the other way around.
  • Pinprick
    528
    I'd argue that, insofar as "right" and "wrong" have a unique purpose, that purpose is to tell us how we should act.Echarmion

    Right, but intentions aren’t acts, so how can the be called right/wrong?
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    Right, but intentions aren’t acts, so how can the be called right/wrong?Pinprick

    Intentions are what determines your actions though. You have a principle (or maxim) by which you select outcomes, and then you select a specific path for you to take from the current status quo to the outcome, and that is the intention.
  • Pinprick
    528
    Intentions are what determines your actions though.Echarmion

    So which is it that’s wrong, our actions, or their causes?
  • Echarmion
    1.9k
    So which is it that’s wrong, our actions, or their causes?Pinprick

    The two cannot be disentangled for the purpose of morality, but if we're talking about selecting a moral course of action, then right and wrong must already apply to the selection process.
  • Pinprick
    528
    The two cannot be disentangled for the purpose of morality, but if we're talking about selecting a moral course of action, then right and wrong must already apply to the selection process.Echarmion

    I think I’m fine with that, but this doesn’t imply that if you intend to do harm, but aren’t successful, that you’ve still done something wrong, because that would mean that intentions, even in isolation, are wrong in and of themselves.
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