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Thread: The is/ought issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    In other words, no matter how you make the is/ought objection, one can mirror it for the color case, or the illness case, or the science case, and so on.
    But not other human value judgements such as aesthetics. I see. You are sticking to conveniently dodgy comparisons instead. Why not do aesthetic beauty?

    Put it this way, surely human moral judgements are value judgements. It would therefore seem most appropriate to compare them with other human value judgements, rather than something else.

    Who knows, perhaps there are what you would call independent, objective facts about beauty? I would not be surprised. Perhaps if we discussed that, we might see better the limitations of it, chiefly that, as with gustatory taste, even if there are, it will not sort out the majority of cases where humans disagree.
    I already explained why aesthetic beauty is a bad idea, and why my comparisons are not at all dodgy.

    But suppose I reckon that a landscape is beautiful (very, very probably), using as a evidence that ordinary human faculties say that. Unlike the moral case, I do not know that ordinary human faculties would hold this independently of who makes the assessment, but let us say that I reckon they do (whether I am right about that empirical issue is not relevant to the logical issue). So, again, am I incurring some sort of fallacy? What is it? Is it because even if human ordinary faculties say the landscape is beautiful, it does not follow that it is? If you think that that is a fallacy, then I would contend the same happens to color assessments, scientific assessments, etc.

    A difference here is of course that it is not clear to me that ordinary human judgments say that the landscape is beautiful and those who deny it are in error. For all I know, that might or might not be the case. But that is a difference in the evidence about an empirical fact regarding human ordinary assessments, not a difference in whether something follows from something.

    So, there you have your beauty comparison. In case you want to raise an is/ought-like objection to aesthetic assessments.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But suppose I reckon that a landscape is beautiful (very, very probably), using as a evidence that ordinary human faculties say that. Unlike the moral case, I do not know that ordinary human faculties would hold this independently of who makes the assessment, but let us say that I reckon they do (whether I am right about that empirical issue is not relevant to the logical issue). So, again, am I incurring some sort of fallacy? What is it? Is it because even if human ordinary faculties say the landscape is beautiful, it does not follow that it is? If you think that that is a fallacy, then I would contend the same happens to color assessments, scientific assessments, etc.

    A difference here is of course that it is not clear to me that ordinary human judgments say that the landscape is beautiful and those who deny it are in error. For all I know, that might or might not be the case. But that is a difference in the evidence about an empirical fact regarding human ordinary assessments, not a difference in whether something follows from something.

    So, there you have your beauty comparison. In case you want to raise an is/ought-like objection to aesthetic assessments.
    First, I would not claim it is a fallacy, because fallacies are not necessarily the crucial point, ditto for colour, illness, water, gustatory taste, morality and so on. Because in the end you can't explain, justify or understand these things with just logic, even if it is sometimes helpful to apply it.

    Second, you seem to be willing to accept something for morality that you do not accept for aesthetics. Why is that? I disagree that you know that ordinary human faculties hold anything independently of who makes the assessment, because for such things there is always an assessor (most of the time it's you). Now, you did this with gustatory taste, so don't shy away from it. You claimed, if I recall, that gustatory taste was a good comparison with morality. But gustatory taste has essentially the same issues as aesthetic beauty, chiefly that the judgements about it are largely relativistic (with perhaps a few exceptions, which are only species-wide or not even that, only apply to so-called normal properly-functioning humans). And that is where your moral theory is. And it is very limited. It is non-controversial to say that there are human norms. That, at best, is what your moral 'facts' are. Norms that are sufficiently widespread that we can call them standard human features. Here's another, Humans dislike pain. Whoopee. Oh except for most cases where everyone has a different threshold, even in terms of when stimulus X is even painful. In other words, even if you are right, you are not saying very much.
    "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
    Second, you seem to be willing to accept something for morality that you do not accept for aesthetics. Why is that?
    Because the evidence is different. You see, to make aesthetic assessments, I use my own faculties and also evidence from the assessments of others. However, that evidence also indicates that people often do not behave as though they believe that aesthetic facts are independent of the person making the assessment. And also I do not have that intuitive impression myself. How common that is, I do not know, so I remain undecided in many cases in which the evidence is not clear-cut.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I disagree that you know that ordinary human faculties hold anything independently of who makes the assessment, because for such things there is always an assessor (most of the time it's you)
    Again, we can say the same about color, or about science. There is always an assessor. But that is the wrong way to look at whether our faculties say that it's independent of who makes the assessment. The right way is to test what our faculties say in case people make different assessment that would be incompatible if the statements were independent (e.g., A says the landscape is beautiful, B says it is not). Is the reaction that one of them is in error, or that each of them is talking about their own tastes?

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc
    That's my starting place. That's my definition of "immoral," of what one ought not do.
    Words have meanings that are given by usage in a linguistic community. The meaning of 'immoral' is not 'that which decreases happiness'.
    True. For a definition, we'd be closer to say something like, "The immoral is that which ought not be done."

    But then we come to questions like, "What sort of thing ought not to be done?" As a utilitarian, my answer is something like, "Things that decrease happiness."

    Others will offer alternative answers. Some will say, for instance, that doubting and disobeying gods is what should be avoided.





    But also, suppose others - like me - disagree with your definition. How would you go about figuring out that evidence or arguments to support it?
    Question A: "What is morality about?" Answer A: "It is about what things one ought and ought not do."

    Question B: "What ought one to do or not do?" My oversimplified utilitarian answer to question B: "One ought to do things expected to increase happiness. One ought not do things expected to decrease happiness."

    I assume you're asking about question B. Suppose I meet a virtue theorist who claims that honesty is always in-and-of-itself good. How do we decide what's right?

    We do two things: First, we try to work thru our moral reactions in various circumstances, seeing which theory matches up better, and which causes more cognitive dissonance.

    Second, we look for end points, ultimate sources. I ask the virtue theorist what is good about honesty. What is it good for? Isn't honesty good because it tends to make people happy?

    And the virtue theorist asks me things like, "What's so great about happiness?" and, "What if I don't approve of happiness?"

    And then we see who feels stupider.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc
    I assume you're asking about question B. Suppose I meet a virtue theorist who claims that honesty is always in-and-of-itself good. How do we decide what's right?
    Yes, that is my question.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc
    We do two things: First, we try to work thru our moral reactions in various circumstances, seeing which theory matches up better, and which causes more cognitive dissonance.
    Cognitive dissonance? You mean the theory does not match the intuitive assessment?
    If so, yes, that sounds like the right way to test it. Use the usual instrument to find moral truth: our own moral sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc
    And we see who feels stupider.
    lol, well not exactly, but close enough



    Blast from the past.

    https://talkfreethought.org/showthre...l=1#post760368

    Imagine that Bob and Jack people are marooned in a deserted island. There is no hope for them to return to civilization, and they both know it (it happened in the year 500 and they are in the middle of nowhere, in a place no one goes to where they got by accident in a freak storm, or they are from our time but were taken by aliens to another planet and abandoned on that planet, or whatever). Jack is a serial killer.

    Scenario 1: Jack takes Bob by surprise. He hits him in the head, and when Bob is trying to get up, Jack stabs him repeatedly, and cuts him in many places. He laughs as Bob dies in a pool of his own blood. Jack lives the rest of his days on the island, alone. But he likes being alone - he hates people - and he enjoys recalling how he murdered his victims, the last one of which was Bob.

    Scenario 2: Like Scenario 1 until Bob is dying in a pool of blood. But Jack did not know that Bob also had a knife - he just hadn't had time to grab it before Jack fatally wounded him. So, Bob knows he is dying and has no hope of returning. But Jack is very close, so Bob makes an effort and manages to stab Jack once before he loses consciousness, never to recover. But now Jack is fatally wounded, and a few minutes later, he dies as well.

    In Scenario 2, Bob reduces happiness by killing Jack, as he prevents all the future happiness of his murderer. But it is not the case that Bob has a moral obligation not to stab Jack.

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    In Scenario 2, Bob reduces happiness by killing Jack, as he prevents all the future happiness of his murderer. But it is not the case that Bob has a moral obligation not to stab Jack.
    I suspect we've been here before.

    I'm a rule utilitarian. You can contrive a situation in which the rule doesn't satisfy, but that doesn't make it a bad rule generally.

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    In Scenario 2, Bob reduces happiness by killing Jack, as he prevents all the future happiness of his murderer. But it is not the case that Bob has a moral obligation not to stab Jack.
    I suspect we've been here before.

    I'm a rule utilitarian. You can contrive a situation in which the rule doesn't satisfy, but that doesn't make it a bad rule generally.

    Are you the justice guy? You think justice is a real thing, that can be identified, that is good of itself, that is the goal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc View Post
    ...
    Second, we look for end points, ultimate sources. I ask the virtue theorist what is good about honesty. What is it good for? Isn't honesty good because it tends to make people happy?
    Hasn't worked for me.

    And the virtue theorist asks me things like, "What's so great about happiness?" and, "What if I don't approve of happiness?"

    And then we see who feels stupider.
    Happiness per se is vastly over-rated, IMHO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    One of the objections often raised in these forums is that one cannot derive a moral 'ought' from an 'is'. Technically that is false, because once the meaning of the words is considered, from 'It would be immoral for agent A to do X' it follows that 'Agent A ought not to do X'.

    Your premise of "It is immoral to do X" has no semantic meaning other than "I feel that people ought not to do X." Thus, you are not deriving an "ought" from an actual "is", but an ought from and ought. An "is" is a statement about the objective world that does not depend upon how any mind subjectively feels about it. It is something that would be true even in the absence of any minds to feel anything.

    "Immoral" has no referent other than how the thing relates to way some mind feels about it. Contrast it with "X is further from the Earth than Mars.", which is an idea that is either accurate or not depending on whether it logically corresponds to some state of to some physically objective state of the world. And note that whether their are minds to verify such correspondence is logically distinct from whether subjective states of mind are themselves the thing to which the idea corresponds.

    The only way your argument makes sense is if you use the word "is" to mean "ought", which is the same as using "implies" to mean "is". So, by the same abuse of meaning, I can say "X implies Y, therefore X is Y."

    As for "seeing red", yes that is completely subjective experience, like morality. Thus, there is no objective truth to "that is red" without reference to such subjective experience. Just like you and many use sloppy language to say "That is immoral" to mean "Someone doesn't subjective think that ought to happen.", people often say "that is red" to mean "I subjectively expereince that as red." or "I experience that as similar in color to other things people label "red".

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiploc View Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    One of the objections often raised in these forums is that one cannot derive a moral 'ought' from an 'is'. Technically that is false, because once the meaning of the words is considered, from 'It would be immoral for agent A to do X' it follows that 'Agent A ought not to do X'.
    You've got the word "immoral" in there, so you are already dealing with oughts rather than is's.

    At least that's how I define morality: Something like, "Morality is what one ought to do." So the move from X is immoral to one ought-not do X is not a deduction but a mere rephrasing.
    The point is that the statement does not contain an 'ought', but 'is immoral', which is an 'is'.

    To claim that X is immoral is the same as saying you ought not do X
    The ought is structurally embedded and implicit in the claim that something is immoral.

    It's not a case of what follows from a proposition that X is immoral. It's just circular reasoning and a tautology to say we ought no do things that ought not be done...because they are 'immoral'.

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