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Re: philosophy

Postby Chris » Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:44 am

zilch wrote:Much as I respect most philosophers for their contributions to clear thinking, I must say that most of what they say about morality is fatally incomplete at best because it's not usually informed by a knowledge of evolution. They might as well philosophize on why we get hungry while ingoring the fact that we need food to survive.

Of course there are many exceptions, especially nowadays. Daniel Dennett comes to mind.


Keep in mind zilch that many of the ethical systems were formulated before the Darwinian theory of evolution was first postulated or shortly after. Hardly their fault then that they didn't take it into account.

But let's examine the repercussions of this in a bit more depth. Dawkins argued that evolution is an amoral process and we should NOT fashion a society around such a process. Any natural process is, by definition amoral but can it encourage morality? According to some biologists the evolution of our species may well have led to the development of empathy in humans. Just as evolution has led to the impulse to help others of their species [or in some cases another species]. However motivation does not tell us what to do, it merely impels us to do something. It could be argued therefore that all ethical systems are merely the result of us responding to our empathetic impulse.
Last edited by Chris on Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: philosophy

Postby Chris » Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:18 pm

Ok. Let's look at Natural Law Theory in a bit more depth. Aristotle proposed two guiding principles. The first was that extremes of behaviour should be avoided. Aristotle gives the example of war. We are in the midst of battle. Running away would be one extreme, rushing at the enemy another. The middle course -which Aristotle calls 'the golden mean' - is 'considered bravery'. In other words to recognise the dangers of the situation but respond anyway.

The second guiding principle was that a virtuous person was someone who sought long term fulfillment. How did he justify this? Let's see. Aristotle argued that a knife has a function to perform [i.e. cut] and is judged a good knife when it fulfills that function well. Likewise a human has a function to perform [i.e. be fulfilled] and may be judged virtuous when he or she fulfills that function.

If this is the case then it follows that any action which leads to our long term fulfillment is a good. Any action which leads away from our long term fulfillment is an evil.

Let's look at theft. If I steal something I am guilty of violating two principles [extreme behaviour and short term fulfillment at the cost of long term fulfillment]. Thus we can see that theft is an evil and should be avoided.
Last edited by Chris on Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: philosophy

Postby zilch » Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:27 pm

Oh, I agree with you completely, chris, and also with Aristotle (to some point anyway): we certainly do ground our morals to some extent on rational considerations. But it's still necessary to understand the biology and evolution behind the things we want, if we want to understand morality.
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Re: philosophy

Postby Chris » Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:36 pm

zilch wrote:Oh, I agree with you completely, chris, and also with Aristotle (to some point anyway): we certainly do ground our morals to some extent on rational considerations. But it's still necessary to understand the biology and evolution behind the things we want, if we want to understand morality.


Agreed.
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Re: philosophy

Postby BaldySlaphead » Tue Mar 15, 2016 1:27 pm

Chris wrote:Ok. Let's look at Natural Law Theory in a bit more depth. Aristotle proposed two guiding principles. The first was that extremes of behaviour should be avoided. Aristotle gives the example of war. We are in the midst of battle. Running away would be one extreme, rushing at the enemy another. The middle course -which Aristotle calls 'the golden mean' - is 'considered bravery'. In other words to recognise the dangers of the situation but respond anyway.

The second guiding principle was that a virtuous person was someone who sought long term fulfillment. How did he justify this? Let's see. Aristotle argued that a knife has a function to perform [i.e. cut] and is judged a good knife when it fulfills that function well. Likewise a human has a function to perform [i.e. be fulfilled] and may be judged virtuous when he or she fulfills that function.

If this is the case then it follows that any action which leads to our long term fulfillment is a good. Any action which leads away from our long term fulfillment is an evil.

Let's look at theft. If I steal something I am guilty of violating two principles [extreme behaviour and short term fulfillment at the cost of long term fulfillment]. Thus we can see that theft is an evil and should be avoided.


How does a person learn what gives them fulfillment? If one person's fulfillment by moderate means comes at a cost to another, not necessarily as a direct ill to them, but indirectly in the form of opportunity costs, how is this accounted for? Do we redefine that moderate activity as extreme?
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Re: philosophy

Postby Chris » Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:42 pm

BaldySlaphead wrote:How does a person learn what gives them fulfillment? If one person's fulfillment by moderate means comes at a cost to another, not necessarily as a direct ill to them, but indirectly in the form of opportunity costs, how is this accounted for? Do we redefine that moderate activity as extreme?


How does one learn what gives them fulfillment? Answer: That is different for each individual and would have to rely upon self-knowledge. For instance you are the only one who could possibly know what exactly provides you with long term fulfillment. Remember, to Aristotle ethics can only provide approximate guidance. A sort of general direction. To Aristotle life was far too messy a business to expect anything else.

As to your second question...I must admit you stumped me. I've never been asked this before. Well done. The nearest I can get to an answer is a principle proposed by Thomas Aquinas called the doctrine of double effect. Essentially it goes like this: If I am engaged in a virtuous act and I inflict harm [or in this case opportunity cost] to another, as long as said harm could not be avoided and was not intended then the act can only be judged by the intended effect. Said intended fulfillment must also be greater than the opportunity cost I have inflicted. For instance if I have achieved a small measure of fulfillment at a huge opportunity cost to another then, if I could see the likelihood of such an occurrence, then what i have done is evil.
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Re: philosophy

Postby zilch » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:25 am

Considerations such as this, baldy, are why I say that morals are a can of worms. I'll go along with Aristotle too when he admits that moral principles, of whatever kind, can only be a rough guide to action. There's got to be slack, because we cannot know all outcomes, nor judge them objectively.
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Re: philosophy

Postby BaldySlaphead » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:07 am

Chris wrote:
BaldySlaphead wrote:How does a person learn what gives them fulfillment? If one person's fulfillment by moderate means comes at a cost to another, not necessarily as a direct ill to them, but indirectly in the form of opportunity costs, how is this accounted for? Do we redefine that moderate activity as extreme?


How does one learn what gives them fulfillment? Answer: That is different for each individual and would have to rely upon self-knowledge. For instance you are the only one who could possibly know what exactly provides you with long term fulfillment. Remember, to Aristotle ethics can only provide approximate guidance. A sort of general direction. To Aristotle life was far too messy a business to expect anything else.


OK, but then my response to that is that self-knowlege inevitably requires self-discovery, during the process of which the individual will surely investigate potential routes to fulfillment, many of which will not provide it. Necessarily then, non-virtuous behaviours are required to arrive at it.

Chris wrote:As to your second question...I must admit you stumped me. I've never been asked this before. Well done.


Yay me!

Chris wrote:The nearest I can get to an answer is a principle proposed by Thomas Aquinas called the doctrine of double effect. Essentially it goes like this: If I am engaged in a virtuous act and I inflict harm [or in this case opportunity cost] to another, as long as said harm could not be avoided and was not intended then the act can only be judged by the intended effect. Said intended fulfillment must also be greater than the opportunity cost I have inflicted. For instance if I have achieved a small measure of fulfillment at a huge opportunity cost to another then, if I could see the likelihood of such an occurrence, then what i have done is evil.


This raises interesting questions for things such as how our lifestyles in pursuit of fulfillment impact on something like climate change.
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Re: philosophy

Postby BaldySlaphead » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:07 am

zilch wrote:Considerations such as this, baldy, are why I say that morals are a can of worms. I'll go along with Aristotle too when he admits that moral principles, of whatever kind, can only be a rough guide to action. There's got to be slack, because we cannot know all outcomes, nor judge them objectively.


I would agree with you and Ol' Ari!
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Re: philosophy

Postby zilch » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:37 am

BaldySlaphead wrote:
zilch wrote:Considerations such as this, baldy, are why I say that morals are a can of worms. I'll go along with Aristotle too when he admits that moral principles, of whatever kind, can only be a rough guide to action. There's got to be slack, because we cannot know all outcomes, nor judge them objectively.


I would agree with you and Ol' Ari!

Good on both of you! See you both in Hell!
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