Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Moral Consequentialism

  1. Top | #1
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19

    Moral Consequentialism

    Claim: morality is consequentialist.

    To elaborate:

    What is moral or immoral is what is deemed to be either of those, nothing more. Our brains deem it. Moral and immoral are brain preferences.

    Our brains have been shaped by evolution over historical time. History consists of things that actually happened. Outcomes. Actual consequences. The brains of biological machines such as humans are therefore the physical manifestation (via encoded information, possibly genetic) of those historical preferences for actions for which the outcomes (consequences) have been adaptive (that help an organism to maximise its reproductive success) and the traits heritable.

    To add to which, we are conscious and sentient, so we experience sensations (about some things) and these accompany some of our actions. One of these is a sense of morality, or intuitive/instinctive moral preferences. Which is why in the end there is literally only a 'sense' (or senses) of morality, and my claim might better be 'our sense(s) of morality is/are consequentialist'. By our I mean human, because we are only doing the human sense(s) of morality.

    Further, a (human) sense of morality is a particular type of subjective feeling, it has what psychologists call affect and valence. In some ways, a sense of morality could be labelled an emotion. That might be going too far, I'm not sure. I would say that I think it is at least partly an emotion. We are not, I don't think, emotionally neutral about morality. With possible exceptions, sociopaths and psychopaths perhaps. But we might say that if lacking a sense of morality (that was at least partly emotive) was adaptive, those would be more than outliers.

    There may also be environmental factors, a mix of nature and nurture. We can learn, so the timescales involved do not necessarily have to be only very long ones such as are normally described as evolutionary timescales. Effects over shorter timescales might however be expected to be smaller.

    To add a further consideration, we are a very social species, so agreement about moral preferences among members of the species (or more often, group or culture) will factor in also. In some important ways, we don't get to individually decide what is deemed moral or immoral. Note that this would allow for 'moral facts' (if we define those as being preferences overwhelmingly existing in all humans) but that issue would be separate from the OP claim here. Nor am I discussing the morality of possible responses to what are deemed moral or immoral actions (reward, punishment, forgiveness, etc) at least not whether the responses are morally right or wrong. That they merely happen would be relevant to the OP, because they are consequences.

    I could go on, but if anyone wants to post, I can try to clarify further.

    I should say one thing, I am including possible, potential and/or probable consequences (and the 'encoding' of information about them in our brain structures over time) not just whatever consequences actually result in a particular instance. I would claim that as part of their normal function, our brain processes include computations, including predictions (conscious or otherwise) about outcomes, using the evolved brain structures (which themselves are the net result of historical consequences over evolutionary time) in their assessments and decisions, including therefore about moral preferences, which as I say we can experience consciously.

    What I mean by consequentialism may differ from what a different type of consequentialism claims.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-13-2020 at 01:31 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  2. Top | #2
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19
    One issue that has been bothering me about the above claim is rape. I am wondering if it undermines the OP claim. Rape (perhaps better called coerced sex) is something that, on the face of it, would seem to help maximise an organism's reproductive success (be adaptive). So why would it become proscribed and/or deemed immoral?

    If coerced sex is not to undermine the claim, then there would need to be, I think, some reasons that it does not help maximise reproductive success. I have been trying to think what those reasons could be.

    I read that for most of human history, as far as can be ascertained or reasonably assessed (sometimes by studying extant primitive tribes) going back hundreds of thousands and possibly millions (I don't know, but in any case as long as there have been social groups of humans) the females of our species were treated as property, either the property of the father or of the husband. As such, fathers and husbands exercised control (or tried to) over what male reproduced with 'their' female (and in the case of fathers had certain suitability criteria for that male). And given historical levels of patriarchy, that social power to exercise that social control could have been substantial, over very long timescales. We have always been a deeply social, and indeed mostly patriarchal species (historically speaking) and our sense of morality will likely reflect that.

    Rape then (coerced sex) it seems, could have been (and in some societies I believe still is) considered a wrong against a father or husband (not against what is/was considered their property) because the rapist might not (probably wouldn't have*) met the criteria. If so, fathers and possibly also husbands (though there might be distinctions to be made, marital coerced sex may have been deemed something of an exception) would have reason to find it wrong and by extension proscribe it, at least within their domain (they might not consider the rape of a female from a rival tribe or one defeated in war to be proscribed, though the men in that other tribe would have). This proscription, where it existed, may have had an effect on consequences for rapists (including those consequences that adversely affected their chances of either personal survival and/or their chances of successfully finding a mate), therefore behaviours, and the gradual passage of them into preferences, including morally.

    Tangentally, I read that in some species, coerced sex is a norm, or at least very common.

    The OP claim could be discussed with or without reference to that particular example. It was just the first one that occurred to me that might undermine the claim.





    * I say that because if a male had what were considered suitable criteria, he might typically not have had to have sex by coercion.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-13-2020 at 01:43 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  3. Top | #3
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    California
    Posts
    3,907
    Archived
    4,797
    Total Posts
    8,704
    Rep Power
    62
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    One issue that has been bothering me about the above claim is rape. I am wondering if it undermines the OP claim. Rape (perhaps better called coerced sex) is something that, on the face of it, would seem to help maximise an organism's reproductive success (be adaptive). So why would it become proscribed and/or deemed immoral?
    The evolutionary psychology approach to explaining what caused morals to be what they are isn't about maximizing the perptrator's reproductive success. It's about maximizing the reproductive success of the selfish genes that cause judgmental people's brains to have moral feelings.

    Rape then (coerced sex) it seems, could have been (and in some societies I believe still is) considered a wrong against a father or husband (not against what is/was considered their property) because the rapist might not (probably wouldn't have*) met the criteria.
    An old Scottish ballad...

    ... Down came her father and he's standing by the door
    Saying, "Jeannie, you're trying the tricks of a whore
    You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee
    You must marry Lord Sulton and leave Anachie
    For Anachie Gordon, he's barely but a man
    Although he may be pretty, but where are his lands? ...

    Come to bed now, Jeannie, me honey and my sweet
    For to style you my mistress, it would be so sweet
    Be it mistress or Jeannie, it's all the same to me
    But in your bed, Lord Sulton, I never will lie
    And down came her father, and he's spoken with reknown
    Saying, "You, that are her maidens, go loosen off her gowns" ...

    http://www.celticlyricscorner.net/black/anachie.htm

  4. Top | #4
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    California
    Posts
    3,907
    Archived
    4,797
    Total Posts
    8,704
    Rep Power
    62
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Claim: morality is consequentialist.

    To elaborate:

    What is moral or immoral is what is deemed to be either of those, nothing more. Our brains deem it. Moral and immoral are brain preferences.
    Why do you say that? It's perfectly possible for your brain to prefer for someone to do something your brain deems immoral. For example, a cop will often catch a criminal by tempting him into thinking he can get away with some immoral act we've prohibited. The cop prefers that the criminal commit the wrongdoing -- that way she can arrest him. If the criminal chickens out and/or has an attack of conscience and decides not to go through with the crime, the cop will be disappointed. How is this possible, unless her moral judgment is something other than a preference that the guy not do it?

  5. Top | #5
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    The evolutionary psychology approach to explaining what caused morals to be what they are isn't about maximizing the perptrator's reproductive success. It's about maximizing the reproductive success of the selfish genes that cause judgmental people's brains to have moral feelings.
    As I understand it, that could be the case, and it could be the case that it could also maximise the gene-vehicle's reproductive success and that of the species of gene-vehicles. I had thought of them as different things, but all the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    An old Scottish ballad...

    ... Down came her father and he's standing by the door
    Saying, "Jeannie, you're trying the tricks of a whore
    You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee
    You must marry Lord Sulton and leave Anachie
    For Anachie Gordon, he's barely but a man
    Although he may be pretty, but where are his lands? ...

    Come to bed now, Jeannie, me honey and my sweet
    For to style you my mistress, it would be so sweet
    Be it mistress or Jeannie, it's all the same to me
    But in your bed, Lord Sulton, I never will lie
    And down came her father, and he's spoken with reknown
    Saying, "You, that are her maidens, go loosen off her gowns" ...

    http://www.celticlyricscorner.net/black/anachie.htm


    I'm not sure I understand the scenario. Is coerced sex or the threat of it part of it? Is the father threatening to coerce his daughter to have sex with the (in his eyes) suitable male?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 10:14 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  6. Top | #6
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Claim: morality is consequentialist.

    To elaborate:

    What is moral or immoral is what is deemed to be either of those, nothing more. Our brains deem it. Moral and immoral are brain preferences.
    Why do you say that? It's perfectly possible for your brain to prefer for someone to do something your brain deems immoral. For example, a cop will often catch a criminal by tempting him into thinking he can get away with some immoral act we've prohibited. The cop prefers that the criminal commit the wrongdoing -- that way she can arrest him. If the criminal chickens out and/or has an attack of conscience and decides not to go through with the crime, the cop will be disappointed. How is this possible, unless her moral judgment is something other than a preference that the guy not do it?
    The cop deems the act immoral in the first instance. The cop might have secondary reasons for wanting it to happen, or at least start to happen. Catching someone in the act of doing it would be a good reason, provided the criminal does not get away with it.

    Do you have an example?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-14-2020 at 10:16 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  7. Top | #7
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    An old Scottish ballad...

    ... Down came her father and he's standing by the door
    Saying, "Jeannie, you're trying the tricks of a whore
    You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee
    You must marry Lord Sulton and leave Anachie
    For Anachie Gordon, he's barely but a man
    Although he may be pretty, but where are his lands? ...

    Come to bed now, Jeannie, me honey and my sweet
    For to style you my mistress, it would be so sweet
    Be it mistress or Jeannie, it's all the same to me
    But in your bed, Lord Sulton, I never will lie
    And down came her father, and he's spoken with reknown
    Saying, "You, that are her maidens, go loosen off her gowns" ...

    http://www.celticlyricscorner.net/black/anachie.htm
    Do you mean that in that case the father's strategy was not good at helping to maximise the chances of the passing on of his genes?

    If so, yes, but a strategy would never be 100% effective in each case.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  8. Top | #8
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    California
    Posts
    3,907
    Archived
    4,797
    Total Posts
    8,704
    Rep Power
    62
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I'm not sure I understand the scenario. Is coerced sex or the threat of it part of it? Is the father threatening to coerce his daughter to have sex with the (in his eyes) suitable male?
    Yes, exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Do you mean that in that case the father's strategy was not good at helping to maximise the chances of the passing on of his genes?
    I wasn't actually making an argument, just providing an illustrative example of your point about cultures where women are regarded as property and where rape is regarded as a crime against the father or husband. Jeannie's father had no problem with the rape of his daughter, because Lord Sulton met his suitability criteria.

    If so, yes, but a strategy would never be 100% effective in each case.
    Well, it wasn't 100% effective in this case...

    But she fell down to the floor so close down by his knee
    Saying, "Father, look, I'm dying for me love, Anachie"

    The day that Jeannie married was the day that Jeannie died
    And the day that young Anachie came home on the tide...

    [ETA: Shameless Mary Black plug] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN2tAU5J0mg
    Last edited by Bomb#20; 02-14-2020 at 08:06 PM.

  9. Top | #9
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northern Ireland
    Posts
    7,245
    Rep Power
    19
    Further thoughts......

    Claim: mortality is consequentialist (in the specific way described) and also pragmatic. In other words, the consequences in question are/were 'practical consequences'.

    Brains aren't moral truth machines, in fact they aren't objective truth machines about anything, I'm saying. No matter how complete and accurate the independent, external input information is, brains play a very complicated and nuanced active role in interpreting, processing and acting on that information.

    Factor in that no two brain-machines are likely to be identical (even if both are still within the domain of what might be called 'normally functioning') and indeed may differ considerably in terms of what are called the key personality traits, temperaments and dispositions (of varying stability, changeability and consistency among individuals and across time) and indeed degrees of other intrinsic (evolved or learned) biases, and possibly the occasional illusion or two, then throw in cultural/historical/zeitgeist/gender variations just for good measure, and you have a recipe for outputs, including moral outputs, which generally or often vary to at least some degree (and are thus often essentially relative to at least some degree, especially for non-general 'rules').

    And what works, surely tends to survive and thrive (and reproduce, if heritable).

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Caveat regarding that last statement: I'm aware of the fundamental limitations of evolutionary psychological explanations, for example that they are very often 'just so' accounts, the results of long-term evolution having already happened. So they can, I think, only ever be robust explanations or not, or somewhere in between.

    When it comes to short-term developments (which seem to play a role also), whether natural or environmental/learned, there is more scope to test and demonstrate the robustness or otherwise of the claims against alternatives.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A specific example would be to say that if killing another human for fun (or alternatively, without justification other than pleasure) was a practical and adaptive strategy, it probably (using an explanation from evolutionary psychology) wouldn't be a possible candidate for being a moral fact (by which I mean a non-external/independent, human moral sense that is intrinsic to humans, with exceptions for outliers).

    Or, a more general one that isn't necessarily or only to do with long-term evolutionary explanations, and is therefore more amenable to testing, would be that urges for and judgements about retribution as an option for responding to moral wrongs might generally be prone to vary as a result of differing personality traits, temperaments and dispositions, and indeed the relative stability and consistency of these in individuals (allowing for varying degrees of changeability of temporary moods, for example, or changes during a lifetime)

    Regarding possible illusions, the human sense of self may be a useful/adaptive feature, while still being an illusion. The sense of agency may also have illusory aspects to it. Both senses may affect moral judgements. Those are possibly among the more controversial examples, and I probably don't want to detour exclusively or extensively into either, partly because of that, partly because they do not seem to vary greatly between humans, albeit there are differences of emphasis or strength of belief involved, and partly because they do not seem to be among the strongest or most relevant influences when it comes to morality in particular.

    As for relevant biases (relevant to morality I mean), an example might be the strength/weakness of our propensity for othering, our differing attitudes about, 'like me and not like me', or 'us and them' in group terms. This might (or might not) vary between sexes, if for example males are generally more competitive, territorial or aggressive and less cooperative and compromising than females. That said, I think all humans 'other' in ways that affect their moral judgements.

    I hope anyone reading all this this realises that while I'd enjoy input and challenges from others, I'm mostly writing it for myself.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-16-2020 at 06:12 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •