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Thread: RETRIBUTIVISM

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.
    But it does not depend on whether it is nutritious or poisonous, but rather, on whether it has other properties that usually go together with those things, and prompted the evolution of our sense of taste. Let me put it this way: you can get a very nutritious food, put it a disgusting artificial flavor, and it will be disgusting even if not poisonous and very nutritious. Of course, it is also possible to make things that taste very well - to all normal humans - but are lethal.
    I did not want to explore this because I am not sure if morality and gustatory taste are equivalent issues. But it won't do any harm if I explore with that caveat.

    Ok, so, what might be happening there (where non-harmful food is disgusting because of artificial flavours or where harmful food is appealing) is that there is a flaw in our imperfect systems.

    How do you think that might translate to morality?

    I am going to guess that you might say that there is an objective truth about a particular moral judgement just as there is an objective truth about the harmfulness of a particular food. Hm. I'm not sure. I think it's just a claim. An interesting one, I'll give you that. I have a feeling that even if it were true, there might be so many varied, complicating factors in so many varied situations that it is almost impossible to find the kernel of truth. Iow, there may be a multitude of kernels, even in one situation (real life situations are arguably infernally complicated and humans extremely capricious). That may be where the analogy (with food) is effectively lacking.

    I should warn you that If I come to agree, it will likely be on the basis of my newly-discovered consequentialism (the version I have recently been using).

    It may be very interesting to note that disgust and morality are related feelings/emotions, we seem to find many disgusting things immoral, raising the possibility that they are deemed immoral because they disgust ('offend') us. This has been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. I believe the neural correlates are at least in some cases similar for both, though I would need to read up on that.

    I want to say one more thing, even though we disagree (which is mostly what we have been doing) and sometimes that we don't agree is very frustrating, for both of us I'm sure, I am nonetheless finding the discussion very interesting and thought-provoking, and sometimes that is all one can expect, and people (including myself) don't tend to change their minds so as to agree, especially on the internet perhaps. Tammuz has recently started a thread on this entitled "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length" which links to a short article entitled, "We don't change our minds as often as we think we do".

    And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct. So, thanks for your inputs, and indeed those of anyone who has posted, whether they be in opposition to or in agreement with my own views. For those who disagree with me where they are incorrect, I forgive you. For those who disagree with me where I am incorrect, I forgive myself.

    That's probably just part of my strategy.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-12-2020 at 01:56 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Yes, we could say that if it is immoral to do it, it should be as immoral even if there are no actual adverse consequences in a particular case, and we might even say that if we are going to punish, the punishment should be the same. But as you say, it doesn't seem to work like that. It may be because of the things you suggest. Personally I would think that what's happening is that laws treat actual and potential consequences (in this case actual and potential damage or harm) differently. When there is actual damage or harm resulting from a particular act, this is seen to be worthy of more severe punishment. In some ways, the distinction makes sense. And in the end it's all consequence-based (whether actual or potential consequences).
    But it is not worthy of more severe punishment. Consider this: suppose Ahmed and Ahmad want to blow up a train full of people. They learn how to do it in the same manner. They independently acquire materials from the same places. They do all of the same stuff (not connected to each other). They plant the bombs. At that point, their participation ends. What happens later cannot retroactively make them any more or less guilty. And what happens later is that Ahmed's bomb goes of killing 200 people, whereas Ahmad's bomb fails to go off due to a defect in a circuit which was exactly the same model as that used by Ahmed, and even bought in the same place, with the same degree of care, etc.

    The point is: they are both equally guilty, because events that happen after their guilty behavior cannot retroactively change the degree of immorality of said behaviors.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Possibly, I'm not sure. The prefix seems to imply that that sort of retribution is necessarily just, which is the claim we are disagreeing about. If we say 'just retribution is just' it's merely a tautology. So because I think it might be confusing, I'm going to use the term retribution. I understand that there could be both just and unjust types. I'm not sure what word I would prefer for the type you are calling 'just'. Perhaps 'accurate retribution', in that it punishes the person who did the act in question, not someone else? We could also bring in whether it's proportionate or not but I think that's slightly secondary, albeit related.
    The reason I oppose to use the term 'retribution' only is that I do not thing all retributions are a good thing in and of themselves. Only just retributions are.

    As for 'accurate retribution', that does not work, either. If Bob nonviolently stole a coke from a store for fun, and in retribution, the guards beat him up to death, they got the right person, but the retribution was very unjust: Bob deserved punishment, but definitely not that degree of punishment. I don't want to be seen as supporting what you describe 'accurate retribution' in general, as that is way too broad.

    Now, if you do bring in whether it's proportionate, then maybe: by that, do you mean 'just'? If so, good to me. Else, what do you mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I think I'm ok with saying 'retributive justice' instead of 'justice' because that doesn't seem to imply that the justice is in fact just. Or maybe it does. I'm a bit confused. You could even merely say 'justice' so long as we both know you mean what it claims to be rather than what it necessarily is. In the main, our justice system is retributive (or has that component) so it's understandable to colloquially equate the two, but bear in mind that our system is not necessarily the best one possible, though I am not claiming it does not work well, only that it might hypothetically work better, perhaps. Iow, ours might be too retributive.
    To avoid ambiguity, I call that system the judiciary system. When I talk about justice, I mean something else.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not sure I need to get into things like maximising or minimising good. Isn't that more like Utilitarianism?
    Sometimes they are used interchangeably, and sometimes, utilitarianism can be seen as the paradigmatic case of consequentialism, and the latter is broader (terminology is variable). However, in any case, it's also about bringing about the consequences that are - in one sense or another - the best. I do not believe we have that obligation.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not sure I'm following that. It seems to be a scenario in which even the king himself feels that retribution would be the morally right thing to do. So it's merely not acting on a moral judgement (for whatever reasons) rather than not making the judgement regarding the essential rightness of retribution.
    The point is that what makes the act of retribution wrong is not the fact that it is an act of retribution nor the form the retribution takes, but rather, that the person acting knew of the terrible consequences this action predictably would bring, and went for it anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?
    Probably neither. If he had no moral obligation to steal the food (because he needed it to survive and no one would suffer any serious loss as a result of the theft), then retribution would be unjust, and forgiveness out of place - nothing that can be properly forgiven.
    If he had a moral obligation not to steal, why was that? How wrong was it? What are the predictable consequences of retribution vs. forgiveness, based on the info available to the person making the decision? I need more information.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I also mentioned Gordon Wilson, the man who, apparently immediately, forgave the terrorists who killed his daughter. He even used the term 'dirty words' to describe what he was eschewing (retibution). There are other cases of forgiveness like that. It is as if those doing the forgiving believe it is a virtue, a good and right thing to do, of itself.
    Maybe forgiveness is a good thing for him, psychologically, if something is wrong with his head - which might very well be, as a result of the trauma. I'm not criticizing the man.
    However, the terrorists still deserve to be punished and it would be just that they get punished. On this, the law (in the UK) gets it right: the parents of a murder victim is not allowed to prevent prosecution of the murderer. Prosecution goes on, even if the parents chooses to forgive. So, here, forgiveness is not an alternative to retribution. It's something else that happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?
    What makes a person with cancer ill are some properties of some of that person's cells. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about illness.
    What makes a person an evil person are some mental properties of that person. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about evil.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that?
    Sure, but I'm not following. How is that related to my points? You were questioning my assessment of the moral judgment that it was not consequentialist. How does whether people forgive have to do with it?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I think I'm on the brink of calling myself a type of consequentialist. I'd be willing to be the subject of an attempt to falsify that.
    Before I go on, I would need to know more about what you mean by that. I was talking about the theories that I know of and are classified as such. But I'm not sure you're talking about the same thing here.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I don't think it's a conflation. I'm making a distinction. There are the actual consequences that result in any one case and there are (or rather were) the actual consequences that formed the morality. As regards a particular moral judgement, the latter are encoded (whether perceived consciously or not) as 'potential consequences' that the system (your brain) factors in during its processes. Your moral sense is the output of those brain processes.
    See my illness example above.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Exactly. And the moral senses we have are effectively the moral judgements, so they are the result of actual consequences that happened.
    The moral senses are not the moral judgments. The moral sense is what we use to make moral judgments. The moral judgments are, well, the judgments we make.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I disagree, the assessment of whether M acted immorally is in the brain of the assessor(s) of M, and the way their brains work in that regard is a physical manifestation of the outcome of all the consequences that happened in evolutionary terms, and possibly to some extent personal history terms. Now, a caveat might be that M also has a brain, so that brain is also making judgements (assessing itself) by the same processes.
    That seems irrelevant. When people assess whether he behaved immorally, they consider factors such as what information he had, what he believed, what he intended to do, and so on. Again, what happened millions of years ago is not a factor as to whether the behavior is immoral. It is a causally contributing factor to our having the moral sense we have, but that's a very different matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I agree that M is probably judging his own actions, but to say that all the relevant factors are in his head seems very odd.
    No, I wasn't saying that he is doing that. Probably he is, but was not my point. The relevant factors are things like what he intended to do, what he believed he would accomplish, what he believed about other people involved, the information available to him, whether he was careful in studying that information before acting, and so on. All mental properties of M.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    All ('non-defective') humans do what sometimes? Seek retribution for it's own sake, because they feel it is good of itself?
    Seek retribution for its own sake (even if they seek it also for other secondary reasons). Well, I guess people who are never wronged and never see a wrongful behavior would not, but that's not realistic.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    That would leave us with the claim that retribution is (or is deemed, which would be a lesser claim, and probably more correct, imo) good/right of itself except when it isn't.
    Sure, unjust retribution is not good. And acts of just retribution might be not good, but in that case, what makes them not good is not the retribution but other factors (see my example of the king).


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I know you don't think forgiveness is a good on its own, and that you think (accurately-targeted) retribution is a good on its own, but at the moment, both of those just seems to be merely your personal claims, albeit shared by other people, but not all people in all circumstances.
    But that is always the case. If I claim that humans and fruit flies had a common ancestor, you can say that that is the personal claim of a gazillion people who other gazillion people do not share. Evidence? It does not logically imply that there is a common ancestor. I would say deniers are on the wrong, but of course, I can do also an intuitive probabilistic assessment to say that.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Let me sum up my claims. Human morality exists in the brains of humans. It consists of the moral judgements those brains make. As such they are things that are deemed (regarded or considered by human brains) to be, not things that have an independent existence. Those brains, and therefore the moral judgements they make, are the results of both evolutionary and personal history, which consisted (past tense) of actual outcomes (consequences) and consists (present tense) of the responses of physical brain structures to certain situations. The capacity to punish and the capacity to forgive are both capacities that have evolved and/or been learned, and are widespread (exist in all 'properly-functioning' humans, temporarily assuming there is such a thing*). They are two 'tools in our toolbox'. They will manifest at different times in different scenarios. One is as intrinsically as valid as the other, but there may be far fewer situations in which forgiveness is and has been the more useful tool. But it is likely that both are adaptive as part of complicated, nuanced strategies that either work well or don't work well. In the end, the relative success or failure of all strategies is subject to blind processes such as natural selection. There is no independent or non-naturalistic moral right or wrong beyond that.
    You're conflating a bunch of things here, but let me go with an analogy:

    You might as well make the same claims about mental illnesses. But of course there is a fact of the matter as to whether a lunatic in an asylum is mentally ill, and those who say otherwise are in error. I say the same goes for morality.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    * On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation.
    Not really. That would require a difference in terms of judgments - what they deserve, etc. -, not about what to do. That would be a matter of motivation, which only comes into play as an example of disagreement when they disagree about whether there is an obligation to punish or forgive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Ok, so, what might be happening there (where non-harmful food is disgusting because of artificial flavours or where harmful food is appealing) is that there is a flaw in our imperfect systems.
    The person who finds the disgusting food disgusting does not have a flawed system...unless you say our systems are flawed in the sense they fail to detect all poisonous or nutritious foods? If that's what you say, sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I am going to guess that you might say that there is an objective truth about a particular moral judgement just as there is an objective truth about the harmfulness of a particular food. Hm. I'm not sure. I think it's just a claim. An interesting one, I'll give you that.
    Well, it's like the interesting claim that other humans have minds, that they can and sometimes feel pain, that humans have the power to move small objects around them, etc. (save for malfunction).

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I have a feeling that even if it were true, there might be so many varied, complicating factors in so many varied situations that it is almost impossible to find the kernel of truth. Iow, there may be a multitude of kernels, even in one situation (real life situations are arguably infernally complicated and humans extremely capricious). That may be where the analogy (with food) is effectively lacking.
    If that were true, human society would have collapsed. Disagreement is salient, but it happens over a background of massive agreement. For example, I go to the supermarket, and I put the groceries in the cart, but then someone at the supermarket reckons it's very immoral to put bananas next to yoghurt, so he punches me in retribution! Well, that does not happen normally. In general, we do not go after each other for behaviors that other people do not expect to be problematic. That is because the massive background of agreement.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I should warn you that If I come to agree, it will likely be on the basis of my newly-discovered consequentialism (the version I have recently been using).
    Well, maybe it's an improvement. Or maybe not. I would need more info on that version.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    It may be very interesting to note that disgust and morality are related feelings/emotions, we seem to find many disgusting things immoral, raising the possibility that they are deemed immoral because they disgust ('offend') us. This has been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists.
    Yes, and the claims that were made could not be replicated iirc, but look it up if you like. At any rate, that would suggest something akin to an optical illusion. It happens (like with your colored squares example, but on paper).


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I want to say one more thing, even though we disagree (which is mostly what we have been doing) and sometimes that we don't agree is very frustrating, for both of us I'm sure, I am nonetheless finding the discussion very interesting and thought-provoking, and sometimes that is all one can expect, and people (including myself) don't tend to change their minds so as to agree, especially on the internet perhaps. Tammuz has recently started a thread on this entitled "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length" which links to a short article entitled, "We don't change our minds as often as we think we do".
    Interesting yes, though somewhat frustrating because I keep repeating the same points I thought had worked.

    But yes, people usually do not change their beliefs, though in case of disagreement, one of the sides is definitely mistaken.
    I did change my beliefs on this matter long ago. I thought the argument from disagreement to no fact of the matter was very strong, but now I realize it is not. I had misunderstood both the massive agreement in the background and the usual causes of disagreement.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct.
    But if you do not know that you are correct in your belief that X, and you know that you do not know, then it would be puzzling that you kept believing X. (in this case, X=there is no fact of the matter when it comes to moral assessments).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But it is not worthy of more severe punishment. Consider this: suppose Ahmed and Ahmad want to blow up a train full of people. They learn how to do it in the same manner. They independently acquire materials from the same places. They do all of the same stuff (not connected to each other). They plant the bombs. At that point, their participation ends. What happens later cannot retroactively make them any more or less guilty. And what happens later is that Ahmed's bomb goes of killing 200 people, whereas Ahmad's bomb fails to go off due to a defect in a circuit which was exactly the same model as that used by Ahmed, and even bought in the same place, with the same degree of care, etc.

    The point is: they are both equally guilty, because events that happen after their guilty behavior cannot retroactively change the degree of immorality of said behaviors.
    I agree it's an interesting question. Yes, they do seem equally guilty, and yet in most cases the punishment is more severe if the actual consequences are more harmful.

    But here's a thing. We might say there is what you have called 'massive background agreement' that adverse consequences deserve greater punishment. Why are you then not bound by your own approach to treat that as a fact?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The reason I oppose to use the term 'retribution' only is that I do not thing all retributions are a good thing in and of themselves. Only just retributions are.

    As for 'accurate retribution', that does not work, either. If Bob nonviolently stole a coke from a store for fun, and in retribution, the guards beat him up to death, they got the right person, but the retribution was very unjust: Bob deserved punishment, but definitely not that degree of punishment. I don't want to be seen as supporting what you describe 'accurate retribution' in general, as that is way too broad.

    Now, if you do bring in whether it's proportionate, then maybe: by that, do you mean 'just'? If so, good to me. Else, what do you mean?
    If I were to say 'accurately-targeted (properly attributed) and proportionate' it would still say nothing about whether, in a certain situation, the retribution was the right thing. To me there is no objective or independent right thing, of itself, other than what is deemed to be the right thing, and there is disagreement about that. I am offering forgiveness as an alternative to retribution. Of course, that would not be the objective or independent right thing either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    To avoid ambiguity, I call that system the judiciary system. When I talk about justice, I mean something else.
    Ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Sometimes they are used interchangeably, and sometimes, utilitarianism can be seen as the paradigmatic case of consequentialism, and the latter is broader (terminology is variable). However, in any case, it's also about bringing about the consequences that are - in one sense or another - the best.
    Ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    I do not believe we have that obligation
    And there we have it. That is what you believe. Others believe differently. Who is right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?
    Probably neither. If he had no moral obligation to steal the food (because he needed it to survive and no one would suffer any serious loss as a result of the theft), then retribution would be unjust, and forgiveness out of place - nothing that can be properly forgiven.
    If he had a moral obligation not to steal, why was that? How wrong was it? What are the predictable consequences of retribution vs. forgiveness, based on the info available to the person making the decision? I need more information.
    I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Maybe forgiveness is a good thing for him, psychologically, if something is wrong with his head - which might very well be, as a result of the trauma. I'm not criticizing the man.
    Forgiveness is not that unusual, so the idea that it happens because of a mental defect is not a strong claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    However, the terrorists still deserve to be punished and it would be just that they get punished.
    In our opinion and in the opinion of most, in that case, yes. In other cases, not so much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    On this, the law (in the UK) gets it right: the parents of a murder victim is not allowed to prevent prosecution of the murderer. Prosecution goes on, even if the parents chooses to forgive. So, here, forgiveness is not an alternative to retribution. It's something else that happens.
    Yes, in that case it's something else that happens. But in many cases it is the only thing that happens, for example wrongs that are forgiven and not reported to authorities, such as theft of my food by a starving person. And in many other cases where one person eschews retribution for a harm and forgives the other person instead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    What makes a person with cancer ill are some properties of some of that person's cells. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about illness.
    What makes a person an evil person are some mental properties of that person. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about evil.
    The evolutionary facts are, I am saying, what causes us to label something wrong (or a person evil).

    As to an analogy with illness, it could be that there are facts about that but not about morality. That is what we are debating.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that?
    Sure, but I'm not following. How is that related to my points? You were questioning my assessment of the moral judgment that it was not consequentialist. How does whether people forgive have to do with it?
    My point was that you observe retribution and you observe forgiveness. How are they not both equally morally valid options?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The moral senses are not the moral judgments. The moral sense is what we use to make moral judgments. The moral judgments are, well, the judgments we make.
    It's very debatable whether at least in many cases there is a difference between having a moral sense about something and making a moral judgement about it. When it comes to instincts and intuitions, they are effectively the same thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Again, what happened millions of years ago is not a factor as to whether the behavior is immoral. It is a causally contributing factor to our having the moral sense we have, but that's a very different matter.
    But what is immoral is what we deem to be immoral, so it's not a different matter.

    And by the way it doesn't have to be millions of years ago, it could be thousands, hundreds or even just years. Possibly less, I don't know. But we are a social species of learning machines. Morality has demonstrably changed over time and across cultures and zeitgeists. That is evidence that morality is relative. Rape seems a good example. Until very recently, marital rape was not considered a wrong, and still isn't, in many cultures. Slavery might be another example. Perhaps also sodomy. And that's only to do with humans. On such things as animal rights (by which we mean other animals) there is still much disagreement. That said, I know you are only doing human morality about humans. I'm not sure why.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    No, I wasn't saying that he is doing that. Probably he is, but was not my point. The relevant factors are things like what he intended to do, what he believed he would accomplish, what he believed about other people involved, the information available to him, whether he was careful in studying that information before acting, and so on. All mental properties of M.
    Those are things that would make him responsible, they are not necessarily things that would make the act immoral, or more to the point make retribution the right thing. The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    .... I guess people who are never wronged and never see a wrongful behavior would not, but that's not realistic.
    People can see a transgression and still forgive it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Sure, unjust retribution is not good. And acts of just retribution might be not good, but in that case, what makes them not good is not the retribution but other factors (see my example of the king).
    The king did not forgive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But that is always the case. If I claim that humans and fruit flies had a common ancestor, you can say that that is the personal claim of a gazillion people who other gazillion people do not share. Evidence? It does not logically imply that there is a common ancestor. I would say deniers are on the wrong, but of course, I can do also an intuitive probabilistic assessment to say that.
    Again, whether there is a moral fact just as there are facts about other things, such as fruit flies, is what we are debating. Analogies with things where there are facts does not necessarily advance the case that there is a moral fact about something.


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    You might as well make the same claims about mental illnesses. But of course there is a fact of the matter as to whether a lunatic in an asylum is mentally ill, and those who say otherwise are in error. I say the same goes for morality.
    In the first instance I would not say it is in fact easy in many cases to be able to say that someone who is in a mental institution is in fact mentally ill or not. Sanity is a slippery concept.

    But let's say there are clearly mentally ill people (they see things which are not there), again whether mental illness is a good analogy for morality is up for debate.


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    * On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation.
    Not really. That would require a difference in terms of judgments - what they deserve, etc. -, not about what to do. That would be a matter of motivation, which only comes into play as an example of disagreement when they disagree about whether there is an obligation to punish or forgive.
    I don't understand what you are saying there. Yes, it would be a difference about the judgements about deserts. Is that not what we are mainly talking about?

    So, that there are gender differences about moral judgements would mean that under your explanation, one gender has defects in certain situations. That seems dubious.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-13-2020 at 12:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The person who finds the disgusting food disgusting does not have a flawed system...unless you say our systems are flawed in the sense they fail to detect all poisonous or nutritious foods? If that's what you say, sure.
    Yes that's what I meant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    If that were true, human society would have collapsed.
    Many human societies have collapsed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Disagreement is salient, but it happens over a background of massive agreement.
    So what? That would only say that morality is what people agree it is. And that has changed in many ways over time and across cultures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Yes, and the claims that were made could not be replicated iirc, but look it up if you like. At any rate, that would suggest something akin to an optical illusion. It happens (like with your colored squares example, but on paper).
    I have looked it up and there does not seem to be a problem with replication. I'm not sure what you mean about it being an illusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Interesting yes, though somewhat frustrating because I keep repeating the same points I thought had worked.
    Me too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct.
    But if you do not know that you are correct in your belief that X, and you know that you do not know, then it would be puzzling that you kept believing X. (in this case, X=there is no fact of the matter when it comes to moral assessments).
    Beliefs can have different strengths. We could say that in this case I am more skeptical of one claim than of another.


    Angra, in all of this, it seems to me that your claim that there are moral facts is still questionable. You have not advanced it, except by repeating it and using analogies that may or may not be relevant.

    Can you cite one moral fact?

    If "retribution ('properly attributed and carried out with proportion') is a moral good" has been the one you are citing, then that there is in many cases the binary alternative, forgiveness, and that it is widespread (exists in all 'non-defective' humans) would seem to undermine it.

    Do you have another?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-13-2020 at 11:14 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I agree it's an interesting question. Yes, they do seem equally guilty, and yet in most cases the punishment is more severe if the actual consequences are more harmful.

    But here's a thing. We might say there is what you have called 'massive background agreement' that adverse consequences deserve greater punishment. Why are you then not bound by your own approach to treat that as a fact?
    By 'massive background agreement' I mean that on the vast majority if issues, there is nearly (human) universal agreement on whether something is wrong, very wrong, etc. This is an argument against the claim that disagreement is so prevalent. It is not an argument supporting the idea that the majority got it right. It is easy to find examples of majorities getting some moral facts wrong (as evidenced by the fact that majorities in different places and/or times sometimes have mutually incompatible moral beliefs), though of course, those are a tiny minority of moral facts.

    That aside, when it comes to moral assessments, our assessments are intuitive (we use our moral sense), but that does not mean our intuitions after considering the matter carefully will be the same as the immediate ones. I don't think the majority of the people who have considered scenarios such as the one I presented, believe that greater consequences deserve greater punishment.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    If I were to say 'accurately-targeted (properly attributed) and proportionate' it would still say nothing about whether, in a certain situation, the retribution was the right thing. To me there is no objective or independent right thing, of itself, other than what is deemed to be the right thing, and there is disagreement about that. I am offering forgiveness as an alternative to retribution. Of course, that would not be the objective or independent right thing either.
    But then, what do you mean by "proportionate"? If it's something like 'in proportion to the consequences', then no, I definitely do not want to be seen as saying that that is a good thing in general.
    I'm afraid I do not have a term to describe my view other than saying that just retribution is a good thing in an of itself - though an act that involves just retribution might be wrong because of other factors; I provided examples.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    And there we have it. That is what you believe. Others believe differently. Who is right?
    I am.
    The thing is, any moral theory needs to be tested against moral intuitions - how else would you go about testing it? And those theories do not pass the test, even by the very intuitions of the people supporting them. So, they amend them, or say that some particular subset of our moral intuitions is faulty, etc., but I think it's pretty much debunked (I'm thinking of addressing the matter in the other thread, though time is limited).

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?
    No, the choice was not binary. You asked " Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?". A proper response is: neither of them would be right. Let me give you an example. I offer the following scenario: "Joe's son Adam has consensual sex with Bob". Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case? Neither of them, because there was no wrongful behavior involved.

    But I say 'probably', because the scenario is under determined.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Forgiveness is not that unusual, so the idea that it happens because of a mental defect is not a strong claim.
    Forgiveneess for the evil murderers that murdered his son is, I'm pretty sure, very unusual. But in a population of billions, no doubt you will find cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    In our opinion and in the opinion of most, in that case, yes. In other cases, not so much.
    It's the correct opinion. As for other cases, which ones? (I was considering your example).


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Yes, in that case it's something else that happens. But in many cases it is the only thing that happens, for example wrongs that are forgiven and not reported to authorities, such as theft of my food by a starving person. And in many other cases where one person eschews retribution for a harm and forgives the other person instead.
    If the person truly is starving, I do not think that that is a wrong, at least as long as the person had no good reason to suspect it would inflict significant hardship on you, and as long as it is a nonviolent theft.

    But sure, there is plenty of cases of forgiveness. What is your point? I think the perpetrators still deserve punishment, unless the forgiveness happens after the perpetrators have changed significantly (no longer the same guilty mind). But I'm not saying people generally have an obligation to punish, just as I am not saying that we generally have an obligation to maximize good things, including just retribution.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The evolutionary facts are, I am saying, what causes us to label something wrong (or a person evil).
    That is true, but then again, some other evolutionary facts are also what causes us to label something 'ill' (those facts among other causes one can pick).
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    As to an analogy with illness, it could be that there are facts about that but not about morality. That is what we are debating.
    You are missing my point, which is that your argument against moral facts apply to illness just as much as it does to morality. Why then, do you keep accepting the fact that there are illness facts, but not moral ones? Do you have an argument that works against moral but not illness facts?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    My point was that you observe retribution and you observe forgiveness. How are they not both equally morally valid options?
    Morally valid? What is that, morally permissible? Well, it depends on the case. Sometimes both are permissible. Sometimes, only one. Sometimes, neither. It's a matter to be assessed on a case by case basis, as always. That is not a problem for my position. I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself, but not that we have an obligation always to bring about that good. Not even that it is always permissible. I've given examples of all of this already.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    It's very debatable whether at least in many cases there is a difference between having a moral sense about something and making a moral judgement about it. When it comes to instincts and intuitions, they are effectively the same thing.
    We do not have a moral sense "about something", just as we do not have a color vision-visual processing system "about something", or a probabilistic sense "about something". We have systems with which we make assessments about morality, color, probability, etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    But what is immoral is what we deem to be immoral, so it's not a different matter.
    No, we can be mistaken, so conceptually they are different. Moreover, what we deemed to be immoral is also not what happened millions of years ago (or thousands, or just years, whatever).

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Possibly less, I don't know. But we are a social species of learning machines. Morality has demonstrably changed over time and across cultures and zeitgeists. That is evidence that morality is relative. Rape seems a good example. Until very recently, marital rape was not considered a wrong, and still isn't, in many cultures. Slavery might be another example. Perhaps also sodomy. And that's only to do with humans. On such things as animal rights (by which we mean other animals) there is still much disagreement. That said, I know you are only doing human morality about humans. I'm not sure why.
    Well, again, I disagree about the degree of disagreement. You say marital rape was not considered a wrong. Well, was it not considered a wrong by whom? By the women getting raped? I'm pretty sure it was considered a wrong by most of them. But to the extent it was not considered a wrong, why was it? If you take a look at the arguments, what they had was:

    1. Disagreement about nonmoral facts. You would not say that there is a difference in people's color vision because one sees red and the other green if the latter looked 1 second later when the light had changed. That's because their visual systems got different inputs (different light, in this case). Disagreement about nonmoral facts often results in disagreements about morality but that's not because of differences in the moral senses, but because of different inputs.

    2. Improper instrument. Instead of their moral sense, they use religion, at least in part, or some ideology, etc. We already know that these things are not conducive to truth - we can see that in nonmoral matters too -, but additionally, their moral senses can be damaged through indoctrination from childhood in many cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Those are things that would make him responsible, they are not necessarily things that would make the act immoral, or more to the point make retribution the right thing.
    Yes, those are the things that would make the act immoral, and the proper retribution a good. Whether the retributive act is the right thing is another matter. Sometimes it is not right to bring about a good (e.g., when it is predictable a much bigger bad will come alongside it).

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.
    I need more information, but I think forgiveness is the wrong response, as it assumes there is something to forgive in the first place, but there isn't if, by hypothesis, he was starving - with some caveats.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    People can see a transgression and still forgive it.
    Sure, but it is unrealistic that a human never seeks retribution, barring incapacitating illness.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The king did not forgive.
    The king was not explicitly mentioned and had nothing to forgive. I'm not getting your point. The king may well be as evil as his son.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Again, whether there is a moral fact just as there are facts about other things, such as fruit flies, is what we are debating. Analogies with things where there are facts does not necessarily advance the case that there is a moral fact about something.
    The analogies show that your argument apply as much to moral facts as they do to the other things. What they do is debunk your arguments against moral facts.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    In the first instance I would not say it is in fact easy in many cases to be able to say that someone who is in a mental institution is in fact mentally ill or not. Sanity is a slippery concept.
    Okay, so sometimes, the facts of the matter are difficult to figure. However, in other cases, they are pretty easy to figure: there are examples of people in mental institutions who are very, very obviously mentally ill. And the fact remains that there is a fact of the matter about those things.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    But let's say there are clearly mentally ill people (they see things which are not there), again whether mental illness is a good analogy for morality is up for debate.
    What I'm doing is presenting analogies to show that your arguments do not apply to morality any more than they would apply to cases where you accept that there are facts of the matter. My goal is to get you to stop making those arguments (if you realize they are not good), or at least get readers to realize they're not good.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I don't understand what you are saying there. Yes, it would be a difference about the judgements about deserts. Is that not what we are mainly talking about?
    Would there be? I do not know about that. What is your evidence? That some want to punish, other forgive? But do the latter not believe that punishment is deserved? Again, what is your evidence?

    But if there is a difference about the preliminary judgments, what of it?

    Those are not the judgments after considering the matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    So, that there are gender differences about moral judgements would mean that under your explanation, one gender has defects in certain situations. That seems dubious.
    Assuming the results exist (about what they deserve, not about whether to punish or forgive, which is a very different matter), it might mean that in some cases, the moral sense of people of one sex is on average more accurate than the moral sense of the people of the other sex when it comes to making fast judgments with no time to think about the situation. Moreover, it might be that females are better at fast judgments overall in some cases, and males in some other cases. It does not tell us of course that judgments would not converge after pondering the matter.

    But what of it? There are differences between the brains of females and those of males. It might be that, on average, females are better at verbal communication, and males better at spacial reasoning. It might be - though, again, I would like to see your evidence, as this is suspect given how you seem to be interpreting the evidence - that females are on average better at making fast moral judgments about some situations, and males about others. While I am skeptical without seeing the evidence and given that you seem to be misinterpreting it, this certainly would be much less dubious than the entire species having a sense that is completely faulty, and does nothing but lead us to false beliefs all the time . That is the really extraordinary claim here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Many human societies have collapsed.
    No, I mean that human social structures would just crumble, or not even be formed. Humans could not be social animals like that. They would be fighting each other all the time (and fighting is salient, the reality is that the vast majority of human interactions are not fights).


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    So what? That would only say that morality is what people agree it is. And that has changed in many ways over time and across cultures.
    So, the argument from disagreement is very weak. And 'many' is a relative term. Morality is still mostly agreement across cultures.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I have looked it up and there does not seem to be a problem with replication. I'm not sure what you mean about it being an illusion.
    Link?


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Angra, in all of this, it seems to me that your claim that there are moral facts is still questionable. You have not advanced it, except by repeating it and using analogies that may or may not be relevant.
    As I have repeatedly argued, I do not need to advance it. I do not need to advance my claim that other humans have minds too and are not P-zombies, or my claim that there are color facts, or the claim that humans can and sometimes do feel pain (save for illness, etc-), or that humans can move small objects in their vicinity (save for illness, etc.), and so on.
    Those are default beliefs based on ordinary human experience. There no burden on my side.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Can you cite one moral fact?
    Sure, plenty:


    1. Jack the Ripper was a bad person.
    2. Luis Garavito was a bad person.
    3. Gary Ridgway was a bad person.
    4. Ted Bundy was a bad person.

    I can make a very, very long list. But if you like a more general one:

    5. It is always immoral for a human being to kill another for fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?
    No, the choice was not binary. You asked " Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?". A proper response is: neither of them would be right. Let me give you an example. I offer the following scenario: "Joe's son Adam has consensual sex with Bob". Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case? Neither of them, because there was no wrongful behavior involved.
    I even included that the thief physically injured me during the theft.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But I say 'probably', because the scenario is under determined.
    I think you are dodging. Forgiveness is the fly in the ointment of your claim that retribution is good and you are pretending it isn't there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But sure, there is plenty of cases of forgiveness. What is your point? I think the perpetrators still deserve punishment....
    We already knew what you think.


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    You are missing my point, which is that your argument against moral facts apply to illness just as much as it does to morality. Why then, do you keep accepting the fact that there are illness facts, but not moral ones? Do you have an argument that works against moral but not illness facts?
    There is a biological fact about whether there is a physical illness. There do not seem to be any moral facts. Even if there were not, in the end, objective facts about a physical illness it still would not show that there are facts about morality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself....
    We already know what you think.


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.
    I need more information, but I think forgiveness is the wrong response, as it assumes there is something to forgive in the first place, but there isn't if, by hypothesis, he was starving - with some caveats.
    I think your trying to claim there was no transgression is only a way to dodge the issue around forgiveness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    People can see a transgression and still forgive it.
    Sure, but it is unrealistic that a human never seeks retribution, barring incapacitating illness.
    It is not unrealistic at all. People eschew retribution and forgive each other all the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The analogies show that your argument apply as much to moral facts as they do to the other things. What they do is debunk your arguments against moral facts.
    I'm not seeing that.

    It would help a lot if you went beyond the vague claim 'there are moral facts' and cited one. Until you do, there is nothing to apply an argument to, about moral facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    What I'm doing is presenting analogies to show that your arguments do not apply to morality any more than they would apply to cases where you accept that there are facts of the matter.
    Your analogies all seem to be about things for which there are facts. It is at this point only your (vague) claim that there are moral facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But if there is a difference about the preliminary judgments, what of it?

    Those are not the judgments after considering the matter.
    The differences are not because of brain defects, that is the point. This goes for disagreements also. You have been suggesting that the opposite of retribution is the result of some sort of defect, or is a mistake.

    (In any case, I would very much doubt that people who forgive only do it without considering the matter).
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 10:41 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    No, I mean that human social structures would just crumble, or not even be formed. Humans could not be social animals like that. They would be fighting each other all the time (and fighting is salient, the reality is that the vast majority of human interactions are not fights).
    Your point eludes me. A functional level of agreement might be needed, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    So, the argument from disagreement is very weak. And 'many' is a relative term. Morality is still mostly agreement across cultures.
    Disagreement is nonetheless common, and morality varies across history and culture.

    "Mostly agreement". Is that your basis, about things such as facts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    It is always immoral for a human being to kill another for fun.
    Now at last we're getting somewhere. That is similar to the one I myself offered quite a while ago ("It is wrong to kill (or harm) another human without justification").

    Either version is a good candidate for being a moral fact, imo.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 10:45 AM.
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    Angra, this may be a good time to make an important distinction or two.

    A. Retributive urge: the urge to retribute.
    B. Retribution: the carrying out of retribution.

    Which one is it that retributivists (or you) claim is right? I had been assuming the latter, in the final analysis. In fact it must be, because you said, "I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself."

    Also bear in mind that retribution (the OP topic) is a response to what is deemed an immoral act, so that is another important distinction, because it is slightly separate from the question of whether the act is immoral or not.

    1. It is a fact that X is immoral.
    2. It is a fact that retribution is the right response.

    Two different, albeit related claims.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 12:34 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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