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Another question for nihilists.

Eitan_Zohar
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2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying option?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
YYW
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2/25/2013 12:00:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying option?

That depends on what kind of nihilism one embraces. I used to be a sort of passive nihilist, but I digress. I think the only truly nihilistic answer, though, is that it would make no difference, in either case described above. I'll await others to correct me.
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1Devilsadvocate
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2/25/2013 12:25:43 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I don't think too many people are nihilist in practice, it's more theoretical than practical.
Kind of like determinists that don't believe in free will, even if it's true in theory, it's hard to actually live that way.
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Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2013 12:39:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 12:25:43 PM, 1Devilsadvocate wrote:
I don't think too many people are nihilist in practice, it's more theoretical than practical.
Kind of like determinists that don't believe in free will, even if it's true in theory, it's hard to actually live that way.

I think that's a misunderstanding. Nihilism, for me, is less about what you do and more about why you do it. While nihilism is typically associated with "bad" activities, e.g., bombing buildings, eating babies, it is unclear to me why nihilism requires radically different behavior. A nihilist could return a lost wallet just as easily as a "moral" individual, not because he thinks it's the right thing to do, but because he's an independently benevolent person and likes putting smiles on others' faces. I think the principal error is stereotyping nihilists as both unconstrained in behavior and very narrowly self-interested (hence the archetypical question to the nihilist about why he wouldn't, given the opportunity, murder a baby for a dollar). Or, more succinctly, the error is associating a belief in moral realism with certain categories of activity.

Certainly, the behavior of moralists and nihilists may differ in some ways--the nihilist may not share the moralist's qualm with lying, for instance (utilitarianism notwithstanding)--but I think it's fundamentally mistaken to suppose that "nihilism in practice" necessarily entails particular--to some, unsavory--lifestyle choices.
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2013 12:43:18 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
If anything, I think that people often behave in precisely the opposite fashion: they are theoretical advocates of some moral code, but nevertheless ignore its prescriptions when convenience requires. It's similar to wrichcirw's thesis that, championed moral codes aside, states will behave as they see fit in times of pressing adversity.
Eitan_Zohar
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2/25/2013 1:04:49 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 12:43:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If anything, I think that people often behave in precisely the opposite fashion: they are theoretical advocates of some moral code, but nevertheless ignore its prescriptions when convenience requires. It's similar to wrichcirw's thesis that, championed moral codes aside, states will behave as they see fit in times of pressing adversity.

Yeah, that's pretty obvious. But you haven't answered the real question here- would you operate under the assumption that moral axioms are valid and do the right thing according to it, or would you do the thing you would want most?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
Noumena
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2/25/2013 1:06:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 12:39:54 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2013 12:25:43 PM, 1Devilsadvocate wrote:
I don't think too many people are nihilist in practice, it's more theoretical than practical.
Kind of like determinists that don't believe in free will, even if it's true in theory, it's hard to actually live that way.

I think that's a misunderstanding. Nihilism, for me, is less about what you do and more about why you do it. While nihilism is typically associated with "bad" activities, e.g., bombing buildings, eating babies, it is unclear to me why nihilism requires radically different behavior. A nihilist could return a lost wallet just as easily as a "moral" individual, not because he thinks it's the right thing to do, but because he's an independently benevolent person and likes putting smiles on others' faces. I think the principal error is stereotyping nihilists as both unconstrained in behavior and very narrowly self-interested (hence the archetypical question to the nihilist about why he wouldn't, given the opportunity, murder a baby for a dollar). Or, more succinctly, the error is associating a belief in moral realism with certain categories of activity.

Certainly, the behavior of moralists and nihilists may differ in some ways--the nihilist may not share the moralist's qualm with lying, for instance (utilitarianism notwithstanding)--but I think it's fundamentally mistaken to suppose that "nihilism in practice" necessarily entails particular--to some, unsavory--lifestyle choices.

This.
: At 5/13/2014 7:05:20 PM, Crescendo wrote:
: The difference is that the gay movement is currently pushing their will on Churches, as shown in the link to gay marriage in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Inquisition ended several centuries ago.
Noumena
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2/25/2013 1:09:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 1:04:49 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
At 2/25/2013 12:43:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If anything, I think that people often behave in precisely the opposite fashion: they are theoretical advocates of some moral code, but nevertheless ignore its prescriptions when convenience requires. It's similar to wrichcirw's thesis that, championed moral codes aside, states will behave as they see fit in times of pressing adversity.

Yeah, that's pretty obvious. But you haven't answered the real question here- would you operate under the assumption that moral axioms are valid and do the right thing according to it, or would you do the thing you would want most?

This kind of puts one in a weird situation. Embracing nihilism doesn't mean that you're going to subjectively prefer something over subjectively preferring something else (which under this scenario you've claimed is the "right" course of action). You can basically turn it on any other moral theory. For instance, on utilitarianism, would you rape a baby to death if it satisfied a higher level of aggregate utility. Or on Kantianism, would you rape a baby to death if the action could be universalized consistently. It's a no win for anyone when you just lambast someone with an existentially improbable scenario like that. Most Kantians and utilitarians would likely elect not to do the things mentioned and likewise most nihilists are probably off-put by the thought of letting a bunch of people die.
: At 5/13/2014 7:05:20 PM, Crescendo wrote:
: The difference is that the gay movement is currently pushing their will on Churches, as shown in the link to gay marriage in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Inquisition ended several centuries ago.
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2013 1:15:01 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 1:04:49 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
At 2/25/2013 12:43:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If anything, I think that people often behave in precisely the opposite fashion: they are theoretical advocates of some moral code, but nevertheless ignore its prescriptions when convenience requires. It's similar to wrichcirw's thesis that, championed moral codes aside, states will behave as they see fit in times of pressing adversity.

Yeah, that's pretty obvious. But you haven't answered the real question here- would you operate under the assumption that moral axioms are valid and do the right thing according to it, or would you do the thing you would want most?

Do you suppose that the only scenario in which I would rescue the children is one in which I commit to certain moral axioms?
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2013 1:17:57 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 1:15:01 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2013 1:04:49 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
At 2/25/2013 12:43:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If anything, I think that people often behave in precisely the opposite fashion: they are theoretical advocates of some moral code, but nevertheless ignore its prescriptions when convenience requires. It's similar to wrichcirw's thesis that, championed moral codes aside, states will behave as they see fit in times of pressing adversity.

Yeah, that's pretty obvious. But you haven't answered the real question here- would you operate under the assumption that moral axioms are valid and do the right thing according to it, or would you do the thing you would want most?

Do you suppose that the only scenario in which I would rescue the children is one in which I commit to certain moral axioms?

To clarify, consider the intersection of competing moral theories--despite obvious conflicts on some problems, there are also cases in which these theories agree, albeit for different reasons, on the right course of action. Similarly, I think a nihilist could, by coincidence, behave in a manner conforming to the prescriptions of a given moral theory without committing to its axioms.
Eitan_Zohar
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2/25/2013 1:33:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
*sigh*

OK, I'm asking a personal question. Would you do the right thing or the thing that you would want the most, and would the fact that moral axioms have no basis affect your decision?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2013 1:50:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 1:33:46 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
*sigh*

OK, I'm asking a personal question. Would you do the right thing or the thing that you would want the most

I dunno. That depends on unknown variables. It's also mildly presumptuous to call them "the right things" and "the thing you want most", given that there are both moral codes and lifestyle choices according to which those labels are inaccurate.

and would the fact that moral axioms have no basis affect your decision?

I'm confronted with the death of a handful of children or the death of my lover--do you think I, or anyone in my position, would make their decision on the basis of some philosopher's formulaic calculus? All those moral principles influence my decision by not influencing my decision. If, as I argue, conformity to moral principles is not the only reason for behaving in a manner consistent with those principles, then their baselessness is irrelevant to how I make my decision--I could choose to save the kids, not because I think I'm being virtuous, but because I don't want a bus full of kids to die, or because my lover demanded that I choose them over her.
tvellalott
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2/25/2013 5:22:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying option?

So we're going for the ol' Green Goblin dilemma are we?

It's hard to say how I would actually feel about it, but I'm almost certain I would save those personal to me. The 'blame' is on the person who orchestrated the situation, not me. It's only natural to save those I have a personal relationship with. I would sympathise with those who love their loved ones, but I really don't care if they hold it against me.

At least that's how I think I would feel. I'm not Spiderman after all.

HOWEVER, I don't see how this quandary is any different for nihilists or moralists. You may sprout uselessly about how you think of the greater good but in that situation, your moral code is likely to fall apart, replaced by the same selfishness that you incorrectly ascribe to nihilists. As Cody excellently laid out, simply because we don't believe a thing is 'good' or even that the word 'good' has any value, doesn't mean we wouldn't partake in charitable deeds for our own pleasure.
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Eitan_Zohar
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2/26/2013 12:42:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 5:22:47 PM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying option?

So we're going for the ol' Green Goblin dilemma are we?

It's hard to say how I would actually feel about it, but I'm almost certain I would save those personal to me. The 'blame' is on the person who orchestrated the situation, not me. It's only natural to save those I have a personal relationship with. I would sympathise with those who love their loved ones, but I really don't care if they hold it against me.

At least that's how I think I would feel. I'm not Spiderman after all.

HOWEVER, I don't see how this quandary is any different for nihilists or moralists. You may sprout uselessly about how you think of the greater good but in that situation, your moral code is likely to fall apart, replaced by the same selfishness that you incorrectly ascribe to nihilists. As Cody excellently laid out, simply because we don't believe a thing is 'good' or even that the word 'good' has any value, doesn't mean we wouldn't partake in charitable deeds for our own pleasure.

All I'm asking is if the fact that morality is baseless would ever affect your actions in real life. Not a complicated question.
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
jambone
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2/26/2013 2:18:55 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying options.

It is a very murky thing this definition of Nihilism I often find. It is however something no one can not deny that all meaning is relational in nature and the property of a conscious subject. It is never the property of the world as object, thus the physical world is indeed meaningless in the absence of consciousness or a conscious subject. That established, those very difficult choices that involve the head and the heart will always be decided by the individual subjects emotional constitution and worldview.
tvellalott
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2/26/2013 7:17:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/26/2013 12:42:46 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
At 2/25/2013 5:22:47 PM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2013 11:31:57 AM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
If you had to decide between letting something bad happen (busload of children getting killed) or something subjectively worse happen (letting the love of your life die), which would you choose? Would you operate according to a moral axiom, or would you say, "Screw this, it's meaningless anyway," and choose the more emotionally gratifying option?

So we're going for the ol' Green Goblin dilemma are we?

It's hard to say how I would actually feel about it, but I'm almost certain I would save those personal to me. The 'blame' is on the person who orchestrated the situation, not me. It's only natural to save those I have a personal relationship with. I would sympathise with those who love their loved ones, but I really don't care if they hold it against me.

At least that's how I think I would feel. I'm not Spiderman after all.

HOWEVER, I don't see how this quandary is any different for nihilists or moralists. You may sprout uselessly about how you think of the greater good but in that situation, your moral code is likely to fall apart, replaced by the same selfishness that you incorrectly ascribe to nihilists. As Cody excellently laid out, simply because we don't believe a thing is 'good' or even that the word 'good' has any value, doesn't mean we wouldn't partake in charitable deeds for our own pleasure.

All I'm asking is if the fact that morality is baseless would ever affect your actions in real life. Not a complicated question.

That isn't the question you originally asked and also your new question is, in fact, quite complicated.
Here's the thing; (inb4 Cody b!tch slaps me) I think discussions about moral nihilism are usually purely semantics and too often, when I've discussed it with Cody, we get caught up with definitions and loaded words.
The argument I try to make is that I can be both a moral nihilist and have a 'moral code' simultaneously. Moral nihilist is simply my philosophical position. It is not a practical position. The fact is, I think child rape is bad, wrong, undesirable... whatever synonym is acceptable if we're trying to be intellectually honest.
So the fact that I think subjective morality is a useless measure of anything and objective morality doesn't exist is irrelevant. I will act according to my own desires. It just so happens that I desire a lot of positive things, like making people happy.

I don't know if I answered your question though. :/
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